My Economic Plan

Here's my plan to fix the economy for 2003, from a comment I posted over at Lean Left.

I would put a wealth tax of 10% on people with assets of more than $1 million (OK, $10 million then), and redistribute that through a big jobs program to retrofit homes and buildings to be energy efficient. (Get the money FROM where the money WENT.) That would fix the jobs/demand problem, and it would make the economy so much more efficient because of the resulting lower energy costs. I'd use the savings from that to pay off the Social Security retirement obligation for the boomers, by paying down debt now.

While we're fixing things, go read this and the three entries following, in case you didn't just do that.

Update - I just did that. The Social Security one is one of my favorites. Plus the next one down, from the previous day, about populists. And then a little further down, the stuff about the Iraq war already started because we're bombing, which we're still doing, every day. That was all two days in August. Wow. It started with my very favorite piece, The Retirement Plan of the Unemployed Man. (Be sure to click where it says, "The Man".) (Did Terminus get a job or is he still in law school?)

Attack Us Now, Please

Read this, and tell me if Bush isn't saying here, "Attack us now, please! If you attack us NOW you can knock out our whole economy. Don't wait!"

"This economy cannot afford to stand an attack." I don't understand how right-wingers can put up with this fool. YES, I'm pissed off!


Einstein wrote,
"Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights."
This is BY NO MEANS a summary of Einstein's essay. Please go read it. If you pressed for time I recommend skipping to the paragraph that begins, "I have now reached the point".

In case this is hard to read, there are quite a few links here.

Great Quote

I found this great quote over at Byrd's Brain.
"Spending is more subdued because for three years, economists have been telling people that the situation would get better. And instead, it got worse."
-BURT FLICKINGER III, of Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting firm.
Prosperity is just around the corner.

Who Makes Things Better?

I saw this in the NY Times this morning, "More People on Welfare After Years of Declines". It got me thinking about P.L.A.'s "Just For The Record" series - Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI (and it says there's a Part VII but there isn't a link.) This series compares the record of Democratic and Republican administrations for things like deficits, job growth, economic growth, inflation, government spending, and number of government employees. This series should win P.L.A.'s Koufax Awards but it can't because P.L.A. disqualified itself.

I'd like to see figures for stock market, crime, poverty/people on welfare, average income gains, number of people with health insurance, education, and any other quality of life issue you can think of. (In fact I was working on a book on this in the 80's but eventually had to go do my job instead...) I hope I'll get the time to contribute to this. In the meantime go read at P.L.A. and thank them!

Update - Also see CalPundit.


Politics not Policy - Party over Country

As I wrote in the previous entry, the Bush administration is entirely about moving he right-wing agenda. Then the always-excellent weblog The Sideshow pointed me to this article in The New Republic.
"Indeed, the simple rule for understanding Bush's economic policy is that in virtually every instance, whether tacking right or left, the president sides with whatever interest group has the strongest stake in the issue at hand. The result is an administration whose domestic actions persistently, almost uniformly, fail to uphold the broader public good."
Go read it. There's a lot more there.

I've always said listen to Republican accusations to understand what the Republicans are doing. i.e., They accuse others of what they are actually doing. They accused Clinton of selling the White House.

Clear-Cutting 100-Year-Old Sequoias

LA Times commentary by Chad Hanson, executive director of the John Muir Project and a national director of the Sierra Club.
"This month, the Bush administration announced its draft management plan for the 329,000-acre monument, which proposes a commercial logging program that includes patch clear cuts within the sequoia groves and large-scale removal of big, green trees. Even century-old giant sequoias would be logged.

That the Bush administration would target such a revered refuge for logging raises a serious question: If the Giant Sequoia National Monument isn't safe under this administration, what is?"
Never mind that scientists say cutting old-growth makes fire danger WORSE! This administration is entirely about furthering the right-wing agenda, and not about policy or the good of the country.

The damage just keeps on coming.

Says It All

DailyKOS has something that just says it all, so I'll quote it all (with permission):
"Southern anti-Americanism
At a time when any criticism of Bush's war effort is met with charges of anti-Americanism, how do Southerners get away with celebrating the Confederacy?

What can be more un-American than wearing the symbol of the rebel group that sought to destroy the United States, and build a new nation based on the subjugation of an entire race?

Put a little differently -- what is the difference between wearing a Confederate flag, and wearing a t-shirt with Osama Bin Laden's mug on it? Or, to be ultra contemporary, an Iraqi flag? All three represent enemies of the United States.

So once again, how do Dixie lovers get away with it? "
Go there to comment and follow links in the piece.


Tort Reform

The Washington Post has a good story on Republican efforts to sneak "tort reform" - legislation to block people from suing corporations, limiting the amount they can sue for, or limiting what lawyers can make from such suits - into Federal laws without us noticing, GOP Plans New Caps on Court Awards.
"While Democrats and Republicans disagree about the merits of curtailing lawsuits, this much is indisputable: Corporations stand to benefit financially, while individuals may lose the opportunity to win significant jury awards if they are harmed by certain products."
Tort reform is another of the corporate right's long-term "think tank" projects, where you start hearing about "studies" that point out a a "problem," over and over, until it becomes accepted "conventional wisdom." How long have you been hearing about how court awards are out of control? Why do you think the misleading story of the McDonald's spilled coffee lawsuit is repeated so often, through all the usual outlets - Paul Harvey, Rush Limbaugh, all the "pundits", etc...?

You hear about someone filing a ridiculous suit, but you never hear when it gets thrown out of court. Or you learn later that actually the merits of the case were good - you only heard one distorted side of it, twisted to make it sound like a bogus suit to bolster the claims that lawsuits are out of control. Or you hear phony stories about the cost to insurance companies, etc. It's "conventional wisdom" at this point, but it's also bullshit.

But instead of my going on about it here, P.L.A. wrote a good piece on tort reform, and you can read it here.

Bring Back the Draft

The price of not having a draft. (Thanks Michael for pointing out the link over at Antiwar.com.) But, of course, if we did have a draft that would change the whole military-adventure-for-political-popularity equation. The public (and the Congress) might not be so ready for war if their kids - or the kids of anyone they knew - were the ones facing danger.

Let me be clear on this. I was against the draft during VietNam. I've come to realize that the public's participation in the draft was the reason why VietNam finally ended rather than expand into Cambodia and Loas and beyond. I am in favor of a draft now because it would democratize the decisions of our leaders and would likely end their current taste for military adventure with imperialistic overtones. The public might even be inclined to conserve fuel and subsidize energy alternatives if it is THEIR kids who have to go fight in the Middle East.

Save Your Pensions

In today's San Jose Mercury News I came across this column by Kathy Kristof warning (still employed) people to pay attention to what their companies are doing with their pensions.

I wrote about how the shift from company pensions to 401Ks screws workers and transfers pension money from workers to the already wealthy here, with a very important follow-up from a reader here.


Trickle Down

Richard Reeves had a good one yesterday, "What trickles down today: underpaid, no-benefits jobs". Here's a taste:
"Investment now, at least in the reign of Bush, is about cutting taxes on the rich, who will, presumably, then hire us as wrappers, trainers, secretaries, drivers, nannies and dog-washers and -walkers. The money to pay us -- which we must spend immediately -- will come from eliminating or cutting the taxes on high incomes, investments, dividends, and the estates of what the president's father liked to call the ``investing classes.''

The rest of us can be a nation of servants. Actually, in this new age, we will be less than servants. The code of old-time servitude meant that the more marginal classes were sort of adopted by the rich, provided with some security in terms of medical care and old age. That has changed. You're on your own, buddy! The new servers are, more often than not, independent contractors -- ``independent contractors'' is usually a euphemism for ``no benefits'' -- who are, more often than not, paid in cash. Many in the investing classes hate government interference in the workplace, but demand government responsibility for the health and maintenance of the serving class."
Personal responsibility, meaning you're on your own after they've chewed you up and spat you out.

A question to ponder - Who is our economy for?

More Clipper

Thomas Leavitt has posted a couple of responses on his weblog along with some e-mail discussion we've been having, to my Clipper Chip piece of the other day. (Here, as well as the entry following it.) I'll post my replies in his comments section. Go take a look and join the discussion.


SURE They'll Surrender II

As I wrote the other day in my entry, SURE They'll Surrender,
So the Iraqi soldiers have pretty good reasons to be afraid to surrender to Americans. Gosh, I KNEW there was a reason we shouldn't have denied all rights to Afghan prisoners.
Now there are reports of mistreatment of prisoners.

So the Iraqi soldiers have MORE pretty good reasons to be afraid to surrender to Americans. Gosh, I KNEW there was a reason we shouldn't torture prisoners or hand them over to those that do.

(Also posted at Stand Down.)

That Secret Poll

If you've been reading a few weblogs today you might already know about the secret poll (Liberal Oasis) - also here (Thinking it Through). Skippy has a few things to say about it.

I just don't understand this. I've never seen them miss announcing a poll before - polls aren't cheap and this is truly newsworthy. The spin on the wording - people think Bush's advisors, not Bush, are behind what credit they give him becomes "Bush advisers get favorable marks". Wow.

Is it a cover-up? Is it a conspiracy? Is it the smoking gun demonstrating conclusively that the media is under control of the right? Leave a comment.

Update - Atrios links to a page-scan of the poll.

Getting Rolled

I came across a piece that I wrote in September, called "Getting Rolled", and it's still relevant (maybe even more so), so I'm sort-of reposting and hoping you'll read it.

Update - At the end of Getting Rolled I point to several articles. Now there is a collection of these articles, and more, available at the Commonweal Institute.

How Far to the Right is Bush?

PFAW - People For the American Way, has a report available, The Right-Wing Affiliations of Bush Administration Officials.

Also, over at Cursor's Media Transparency there's a report titled, Conservative Movement Moves In. From the preface,
"Since the selection of Republican George W. Bush as president by the US Supreme Court, the sponsored conservative movement, holed up in think tanks, universities, and sponsored media institutions across the country have appeared like Jackals at a fresh kill to pounce on our bloodied democracy and are now populating the new administration."
When Cursor says "sponsored" they mean funded by the usual crowd.

A Great One

There's a new one up at Take Back The Media.

Drudge is LYING

The Drudge Report has this headline, "TAXING: $314.9 million Powerball win turns into $111 million lump sum payout for W. Virginia man..."

This sure makes it seem like TAXES took away $214 million! But anyone who buys lottery tickets knows that you choose "payments," where the money is paid in full over a period of years, or "cash," where you get the present value of those payments which usually comes to a little more than half. The winner had chosen the cash option and received $170 million.

This is how they stir up anti-government sentiments. Are Drudge's Republican readers stupid enough to be tricked by this?


Corporation not a "Person"

Here's an interesting article. Porter Township, Pennsylvania declared
"Corporations shall not be considered to be 'persons' protected by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania within the Second Class Township of Porter, Clarion County, Pennsylvania."
The article gets into the implications of this. It is worth reading and it is certainly worth getting active locally to get similar legislation passed in your area! (Thanks, Michael!)

An Important Weblog at an Important Time

Webloggers - I've noticed that Stand Down: The Left-Right Blog Opposing and Invasion of Iraq has been a bit slow recently. (I'm at fault, too.) Yet this seems the very time to become more active.

I recommend all readers take a look at this important weblog. I recommend all webloggers renew your efforts to contribute to this important weblog.

Webloggers, reporters, editors, and columnists - I recommend recommending this important weblog to your readers.

(It ain't me - blogspot is acting up again. I do not have any HTML for making characters bold anywhere in this message. Or maybe blogspot is emphasizing my recommending all webloggers renew your efforts... It's really strange how just this line is hilited by the bug at blogspot.)


SURE They'll Surrender!

The Bush Administration is counting on Iraqi soldiers surrendering as soon as the war starts. But maybe not, if they've been told about this.
"The documentary alleges that U.S. troops watched as opposition Northern Alliance troops killed between 1,500 and 3,000 Taliban prisoners in November last year - an allegation flatly rejected by the U.S. government."
As well as the problem of the prisoners that will be held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, while we claim they are not POWs.

So the Iraqi soldiers have pretty good reasons to be afraid to surrender to Americans. Gosh, I KNEW there was a reason we shouldn't have denied all rights to Afghan prisoners.

(Thanks to Take Back the Media for the link.)

The New Bush America

Read this if you want to know what to expect in your own future in the new Bush version of America. It's only going to get worse, and worse. (Thanks to Bartcop).


Blog Visiting

I discovered Quest for Balance today.


Uppity Negro is finally added to my Essential Links.

Oh My God!

I apologize that I don't remember which weblog pointed me to The Beast's 50 Most Loathsome People in America 2002. I opened that page for later reading. Now I've read it, and please go scroll down to number 16 and read the one about Ari Fleischer. Here's a taste:
"He is a brazen challenge from the tri-laterals and Bildenbergs, etc., that they know that we, as the TV umbilical-cable-dependent, won't do anything to jeopardize our little no-compulsory-military-service, double-mocha-under-a-self-contained, climate-controlled indoor-suburban-shopping-theme-park-with-a-Botox-safety-net dream."
Read the rest. Read the whole list. #1 is ... well, of course.

Clipper Chip

The Bush Administration is now proposing a plan to monitor your internet use and enabling them to more easily intercept your e-mail messages.
"The official compared the system to Carnivore, the Internet wiretap system used by the F.B.I., saying: "Am I analogizing this to Carnivore? Absolutely. But in fact, it's 10 times worse. Carnivore was working on much smaller feeds and could not scale. This is looking at the whole Internet."
Check out this 1997 speech by then-Senator Ashcroft. The reason I'm writing now is that this speech was a flat-out lie. It was part of the ongoing right-wing campaign to discredit President Clinton among groups that would be his natural supporters - in this case discrediting him among internet users by claiming the Clinton Administration wanted to read their e-mail. In the speech Ashcroft says,
"The Clinton administration would like the Federal government to have the capability to read any international or domestic computer communications. The FBI wants access to decode, digest, and discuss financial transactions, personal e-mail, and proprietary information sent abroad -- all in the name of national security. To accomplish this, President Clinton would like government agencies to have the keys for decoding all exported U.S. software and Internet communications."
Let's look at what was going on. At a time when anyone could listen in on any phone call or e-mail message because no one was using encryption, the Clinton Administration was proposing to implement a universal encryption chip, called the "Clipper Chip," into all phones and computers, so that our phone and computer communications would be secure and no one could listen in except law enforcement - with a warrant. The Republicans intentionally spread the ridiculous lie that this was an attempt to listen in on our communications. Because of the cynical, suspicious anti-government environment that Republican messaging had created this lie caught on.

The basis for the Republicans' smear was that the Administration had a plan to allow law enforcement officials to break the code if they obtained a warrant. (Nothing would stop people from using their own encryption if they wanted to.) Ironically, this was specifically so they could listen in on potential terrorists. This is what the Republicans claimed was Clinton planning to listen in! Now remember, without the chip the government theoretically could listen in on any communications, because no one was using encryption. Clinton's plan to keep people from being able to listen in was described as a plan to listen in, and people bought it.

And because they were able to block this chip, no one is encrypting now. In fact, this is the very reason why the Bush plan is so dangerous! This new Bush plan to monitor all of our internet activities is possible BECAUSE they blocked Clinton's universal encryption chip. It just makes you want to scream.

Knowing that The Bush Administration is now proposing a plan to monitor our internet use, and even to monitor all of our e-mail messages, and this is possible because he was able to block Clinton's plan to get us all using encryption, read the rest of his speech. It's almost comical if only it weren't so terrible.


Thanks, CalPundit

for pointing me to this at D-Squared Digest: (scroll to Thursday, Dec. 18 - the links there are not working)
"Wouldn’t the political case for free trade be strengthened if one, just one American university took the opportunity to sack its professor of Economics and replace him with an Indian professor of Economics on half the wages? Just to sort of show willing, really."
Kind of hits home here in Silicon Valley.

Just Around the NEXT Corner

Echoing all the other predictions over the last couple years of a coming recovery: Prosperity is just around the NEXT corner.

Except for this,
The department said first-time jobless claims during the week ended Dec. 14 totaled 433,000. While that was down 11,000 from the prior week, it handily topped Wall Street economists' forecasts for 408,000 claims and remained above the 400,000 level that economists say signals stalled job prospects.
Saying it a different way, 400,000 is roughly the line where more jobs are being lost than gained in our economy.

And then there's this,
While consumer optimism strengthened, new orders for capital goods fell last month, which implies a recovery in the manufacturing sector will be delayed into next year amid a generally lackluster economy, he said.
Well, maybe the corner after that.


There's an article over at AlterNet, U.S. Intervening Against Democracy in Venezuela

Race and Republicans

Former Republican Rep. Pete McCloskey, writes about the history of the Republican "Southern Strategy," in today's SF Chronicle.

Voting Machines

I hope everyone got the point of this piece by Atrios the other day. Extreme partisan right-wing "Christian Nation" fanatics have been buying up the companies that make the voting machines.

Read this too, and get scared - and pissed off.

Here's a whole collection on this topic.


I want people to read "Don't Blame the Democrats" so in the left column I set it apart, put stars around it, and made it red. Read the earlier "Funding Progressives and Moderates" piece that is points to, as well.

I think it's important to all of us that we understand how to get out of this mess the right has us in. My recommended formula: Learn how the right became so effective, and then do that.


Carter's "Malaise" Speech

By now you've probably figured out that I'm not 25 because I'm old enough to remember some things. I remember Jimmy Carter. Today I was thinking about Carter's famous "Malaise Speech." (He actually never used the word "malaise," that was spin attached later.) Two sources I have located for reading the speech are here and here.

To understand the speech you've got to understand the times. (There's a good writeup on the context and background here.) The country had gone through the assassinations of JFK, RFK and King and the race riots. Also VietNam, Watergate, the Nixon Pardon, the "Church Committee" revelations of CIA assassination and government overthrow plots, and FBI spying and covert actions (more here) against Americans for political (always pro-right-wing) reasons. And, of course, the energy crisis.

But there's another thing that, looking back now, it is much easier to see than it was at the time. Carter was being attacked in a new way, by the newly-formed web of right-wing organizations funded by a few extremely wealthy individuals, corporations and foundations, and employing many of the CIA's covert-government-destabilization experts that Carter had fired following the Church committee hearings that exposed so much CIA wrongdoing. On top of the turmoil of the previous years the country was being subjected for the first time to a well-funded campaign of well-crafted anti-government and extremely partisan anti-Carter messaging. This kind of mean-spirited, harsh, extreme, cruel, mocking, ridiculing partisan attack that we're so familiar with today was not something that the public had been exposed to on such a scale in the 1970's. Until this time the country held together and worked with their leadership - you can feel so much of that attitude in Carter's speech.

In the speech he says,
"As you know, there is a growing disrespect for government and for churches and for schools, the news media, and other institutions."
Later, smug commentators would call Carter "naive."

One of Carter's areas of major legislative accomplishments was his comprehensive energy policy, and getting the Crude Oil Windfall Profits Tax passed to finance it. This made him some serious and wealthy enemies.

I discovered a great source for info on Carter here,
"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."
We know now where "perception problems" come from, huh? Especially when you go up against entrenched interests like the oil companies.

They're Trying so Hard

The "Kerry haircut" story didn't fly. Now they're trying this - pointed to by Drudge with the headline, "Columnist Recounts Objectionable Kerry Quips..."

You'll see these daily soon, looking for something that will stick. And something will - that's how it works - and they're really good at it. People will remember the headlines and say, "I can't vote for Kerry, he says objectionable things."

Remember how they did it to Clinton? A new accusation almost every day. Remember the one accusing him of "selling Arlington Cemetery plots," and how, when it was revealed as yet another lie, one columnist defended the story because it "sounded like something Clinton could have done."


Bringing Back the Violence of the Past

The history of U.S. interference in Latin America is not good. I'm talking about a reign of torture and murder.

After Nixon and Kissinger helped Pinochet to take over in Chile there was a reign of terror. In Argentina's "Dirty War" it was the "Disappeared." Terrible human rights abuses in Honduras. In El Salvador it was the "Death Squads." In Nicaragua the Contras killed thousands of civilians! And there is so much more that happened.

Now we're at it again, and it's being run by the same people, (more here, and here,) involved in the terrible violence of the 80's.

It's time to become informed on events in Venezuela. Start by learning about the history of the "secret wars" of the 80's. And don't forget Iran/Contra (more here). This is a horrible chapter of America's history and it looks like the Republicans are bringing it back. Remember, Ollie North is a hero to this crowd!

A personal note - researching this brought back memories of this period. I'm sick to my stomach now, thinking about the horrible crimes these people committed and got away with. (Some pardoned by Bush 1.) To think that events like these could happen again is terrifying.

Update - another story here about Bush giving jobs to people involved in past crimes in Central and South America.

More Venezuela

A comment following the entry below referred me to El Sur, which is an excellent source of info on the situation in Venezuela. In addition to Through the Looking Glass, The Watch has also been following events in Venezuela. It's time to pay attention to this story.



I've been thinking about Venezuela, and then I come across this at Through the Looking Glass. My thoughts? This looks like a classic CIA destabilization operation, coming right on the heels of the recent clumsy US-backed coup attempt.

Update - I had the wrong link posted for this. Some bloggers put their links at the start of entries, some at the end, and I grabbed one from the end which was really the start of the next piece.


Free Pie writes that Iraq isn't likely to use smallpox as a weapon because they aren't vaccinated.

Think about this. In a few months WE WILL be vaccinated.

Lefty Weblog Awards

P.L.A. has launched the Koufax Awards "for the best of left of center blogs".
"We will accept votes by comment or email. A Blue Ribbon panel consisting of Arthur Anderson, Katherine Harris and Ken Lay will tabulate the results. Ari Fleischer will announce the winners shortly after the turn of the year. If we can locate one, each winner will receive a free link to Sally Fields’ Oscar acceptance speech (“you like me, you really like me…”).

If you have any categories you think should be included, please send them along with your votes by email or comment."


I hope everybody regularly reads The Hamster!

The Poor Should Pay More

Instead of commenting myself on the Washington Post story about the Bush Administration saying how the poor should pay more taxes, I'll let this guy say it.


Rich against Poor

I came across this excellent analysis, Rich against Poor by Douglas Rushkoff.
"But I think what the US current regime exposes through its policies and actions is a much less complex and more typical struggle: rich against poor. The Bush regime's economic, environmental, and military adventures can all be understood quite easily as the maintenance of the short-term interests of the wealthy over the long-term interests of the poor."
Really worth reading! Go check it out.

Update! - Oops, the link is fixed now.

The Party of the Confederacy

There's an informative May 15 BuzzFlash piece about the Republicans becoming the Party of the Confederacy here.

Don't Blame the Democrats

Everyone is blaming the Democrats for not offering voters a clear vision of their policies and programs. But I don't think that the entire burden should rest on the politicians.

The Republicans have in place a broad "idea development and communication infrastructure" that has successfully moved the public to the right. This involves "think tanks" like the Heritage Foundation supplying position papers, talking points and commentary that goes through a marketing department and are endlessly repeated to the public through so many channels, from Rush Limbaugh to Fox News to the Washington Times. This communications machine has been called "The Mighty Wurlitzer."

After the public has been barraged with the messaging from The Mighty Wurlizter, the Republican politicians step in and harvest the results.

Here's how the right manages to have such an infrastructure in place, while progressives and moderates are left struggling with each other and barely getting their messages out to the public. There's a lot of money out there on the right, but there's also a lot of moderate and progressive money out there. The difference is that the right uses its money to provide general operating funding to organizations that exist to come up with ways to convince the public to vote Republican. The moderates and progressives have traditionally provided money for specific programs with the intent of doing good in specific ways. This is a huge difference. The idea is that this program money is more results oriented, but look at the results. The right uses this machine to get politicians elected that carry out their agenda, which involves dismantling almost everything that the moderates and progressives have been funding. When this happens, the moderate and progressive money is wasted.

Return on investment. So this difference can be looked at as an ROI problem. The return on investment of moderate and progressive program funding is low, because it was not designed to counter the current destructive opposition from the right. Moderate and progressive funding needs to start taking this into account, and building an infrastructure that reaches the general public with messaging that moves underlying attitudes back toward moderate and progressive principles. This would provide an environment where moderates and progressives can get public support to protect the programs that are so important to all of us.

It's not up to the Democrats (or the Greens) to build this infrastructure. It's up to US. Of course, go here to find out more about how this can be done.

Update - I posted a previous entry on this topic here.



How many of you heard Washiongton Post's EJ Dionne Jr. mention BuzzFlash on NPR's All Things Considered today?


Mike Finley writes about finding work after are 50. Go read it, and then come back and tell me what "exhortative" means.


I was going to write a piece about watching the news on Friday afternoons because that's when the Republicans announce things that they don't really want to be big in the news cycle. Then I heard that Kissinger resigned from the 9/11 commission. He was going to have to disclose his business relationships. I wonder what he's hiding. Like I said, Fridays.


Situation Room writes about a Moonie Times column calling Bush a coward for not attacking Iraq sooner and then the article gets weird.

Alas, Talk Radio

Alas, a Blog is talking about talk radio, with links to some other good comments on the subject.

News Flash

Instapundit has mentioned Commonweal Institute, and blogger Will Wilkinson has picked up on this with two pieces commenting from the right. (Wilkinson's site has a place to leave comments - feel free to participate.) Commonweal's guest book has received its very first "Jesus will return and then you will be very, very sorry for what you are doing" comment. More later.


A Blog to Visit

Musings & Meanderings of an unabashed Liberal

Media Bias

P.L.A. has discovered Eriposte, who is doing a public service documenting evidence of media bias.


Kerry came through!

How Far Left?

Kevin Phillips describes just how far left the Democrats would have to move to catch up traditional REPUBLICAN economics:
Consider just how far left serious reform would have to go to catch up with earlier Republican economics. For example, the federal inheritance tax that conservatives are trying to scuttle, principally on behalf of the 300,000 families with assets greater than $5 million, was imposed by wartime Republican presidents Lincoln and McKinley and urged for peacetime by Theodore Roosevelt. In 1953, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower declined to support GOP congressional legislation to reduce the top federal income tax rate of 91%, and on leaving office in 1961 he warned against the rise of the military-industrial complex. Contempt for the politics of money, in turn, has more recently been best expressed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).This is how far left the Democrats have to go.
Next time you hear someone complain about the Democrats moving left, think about this. FIRST they have to move as far left as Eisenhower. Maybe after that we can talk about where is too far to the left.

Today's Google Experiment

Today let's learn about what happened to Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago. Click here to search for these names.

THEN think about whether it is a good idea for Republicans to have this kind of power to abuse civil rights.

Point by Point

Sometimes you just gotta do it, line by line.

Tax cuts benefit economy is a recent example right-wing propaganda piece put out by their think tanks, and published in USA Today. It says it's "by" Grover Norquist. You gotta know who this guy is - and USA Today doesn't provide the info.

“Because of bizarre budget rules, the 2001 tax cut is good for only 10 years.”
Actually, they did this because holding it to 10 years masked the real long-terms costs. It was a trick to win support.
“The reduction in the unfair marriage-penalty tax will evaporate unless Congress acts. Lower marginal tax rates will shoot back upward to Bill Clinton levels.”
Gotta get that Clinton lie in there. Clinton did raise taxes on the very rich, but lowered them at the bottom. The middle class got a tax cut toward the end of his term.
“And while Congress abolished the ''death tax,'' it comes back in 2011. Congress should follow the president's lead and put a stake through the heart of this destructive and unfair tax on money already taxed."
“Money already taxed.” What the hell does that even mean? ALL money is “already taxed.” When you pay your plumber you pay with money that you made and paid taxes on. But is SOUNDS GOOD, and their focus groups show that it helps trick people into supporting repealing this tax, even though it funds programs that benefit them.
“The death tax breaks up small businesses, family farms and benefits only a handful of expensive probate lawyers.”
This is an established lie. Do I have to go into this? It is NOT a death tax, it is a tax on income that is inherited. NO family farms have been broken up. NO small businesses. This is an INCOME tax on the recipients of income from the deaths of approx. 13,000 extremely, extremely rich people. Why should the kids of rich people be the only people who DON’T pay taxes on their incomes?
“There are several good ideas now before the president. One is legislation introduced by Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to strengthen IRAs and 401(k)s so that more Americans can save tax-free for their retirement and have greater freedom on how and when to withdraw funds from their portable pension accounts.”
This is just another benefit for the rich. In the last few days I’ve been writing (here, here and here) about the 401K scam and who benefits and who doesn’t.
”Someday, when we reform Social Security, every single American will have the opportunity to save in a portable personal pension account. Bush wants all Americans to have that choice.”
He's talking about privatization of Social Security. Is privatization back? Actually Republicans have been denying they ever even thought about this. Oh wait, the election is over, they can go back to this, after denying to the voters that they want to do this. This scam has all the disadvantages of the 401Ks - including the need to save much more because the money is not pooled - but it also is incredibly costly to the government, promises reduced benefits, and so many other problems... They tried to foist it on us, the public was upset so they lied and said they never wanted to change Social Security. Now it's back again.
”Another good idea is to end the double taxation of dividend income. Today, when you invest in a business -- as 70% of voters do -- the government takes a chunk out of your investment in corporate income taxes and then taxes dividends that are paid out to you as an investor. That dividend is taxed twice -- once at the corporate level and once at the individual level. The stock market would shoot upward if that unfairness ended.”
Here's that old "taxed twice" argument again. This would be another huge benefit to the top few rich people who own most of the stock, while draining the treasury of funds to pay for programs that benefit the rest of us. And the stock market shooting up, when the S&P Core Earnings PE ratio is around 50? Shooting up smack maybe.
”Congress should move quickly to reduce taxes and strengthen the economy.”
Tell me again how huge deficits, leading us to have to pay interest of more than $300 billion per year helps the economy? It sure helps the people who are receiving that $300 billion each year.

The Word is "Sanity"

I've been trying to write about my trip to England. Between work and jet lag and other things I've been writing about and everything else I've realized I'm going to write a very short piece about this.

The word is "sanity."

In Europe they take actual vacations from work; I think 4-6 weeks is considered a basic right. The work week in England is 35 hours. They get real pensions. Their CEOs do not steal all the money and then lay everyone off. British news covers actual news about what is going on in their country and the world. (Compare that to American television and newspapers.) If you are unemployed you don't lose your house or starve. Their TV shows aren't saturated with commercials and sex and violence. You don't have to worry about getting shot. And they have HEALTH CARE - don’t even get me started on that! THEIR COUNTRY IS FOR THEM! THEIR ECONOMY IS FOR THEM!

But the most obvious difference is on the roads. All the cars are so much smaller, and, of course, that's immediately obvious and overwhelming as soon as you leave the airport. I think I saw maybe four SUVs in a week. If a car is larger than an American Honda Civic it stands out. I really think that if a person said they wanted an SUV they would be referred to a mental health clinic -- by the dealer!

So thinking about that it came to me - the word is "sanity." Coming back from England and comparing the two countries, America really does seem to have gone insane.

No Trees

Bush is implementing the "stop fires by getting rid of the trees" scam to reward logging company campaign contributors, even though Congress rejected the plan. He's going ahead anyway, challenging opponents to take it to the courts, which he is packing with Federalist Society ideological zealots (like the one who this week dismissed the lawsuit asking Cheney to reveal exactly how many Enron lobbyists formulated the Bush energy policy.)

"The administration said the rules, rejected by Congress this fall, would reduce bureaucracy and speed projects to thin brush and trees over more than 190 million acres of national forests and rangelands -- an area twice the size of California."
The key words are "rejected by Congress this fall". Here's some more key words:
"On Nov. 22, the Environmental Protection Agency announced changes to the Clean Air Act that would allow older factories, oil refineries and power plants to refurbish without having to install modern air-pollution technology. Five days later, the Forest Service announced that it would no longer require environmental impact statements for the 15-year plans that govern logging, mining, ski resorts and grazing on the nation's 155 national forests."
"But critics said the timber industry and the Bush administration are forcing through rules with loopholes that will allow large trees -- more fire resistant and worth more money when logged -- to be removed instead of the more flammable and problematic brush and young, thin trees."
Never mind the law, never mind public opinion, we're going ahead. We'll have the old-growth trees cut before you can rally to stop us, and then they won't be a problem anymore.

No Jews

Bush is implementing the "Faith-Based" scam to fund the religious right, even though Congress won't pass it. He's going ahead anyway, challenging opponents to take it to the courts, which he is packing with Federalist Society ideological zealots (like the one who this week dismissed the lawsuit asking Cheney to reveal exactly how many Enron lobbyists formulated the Bush energy policy.)

Here's the latest part:
President Bush (news - web sites) is enacting by executive fiat key pieces of his divisive "faith-based initiative," including one that lets federal contractors display religious favoritism in their hiring.
What this comes down to is No Jews Required, coming from the guy who says that Jews can't get into Heaven.


Defense Spending

Please read William Burton's piece on defense spending.


Has Bush released the Harken files yet? Has the S.E.C. released their files? Will the new S.E.C. nominee be asked during his upcoming confirmation hearings to investigate all of this? Maybe if webloggers make enough noise before those hearings, some Democratic Senators will speak up.

Count Them

P.L.A. on the type of people running our government.

Do Blogs Matter?

Nathan Newman is asking if the blogoshphere matters.

Here's what I think: Please contact people you know and let them know that this alternative source of information exists.

Every blogger should be regularly reminding readers to contact others and let them know about blogs. That's how we can grow our readership - and widen the number of informed people. We need to expand the reach of this important alternative to the "librul media."

Lotta Opinions

Nathan Newman on Gore, Lott:
At this point Kerry or Dean or Edwards will have to do something pretty damn dramatic to pull my support. That they have sat on the sidelines as this controversy has unfolded says volumes about their potential leadership, or lack thereof. Any politician who can not deal with racism straight on won't get my vote. Period.
I'm actually going to see Kerry at a reception Saturday. Maybe I'll get a chance to ask him about this. But keep in mind that those of us reading these things are living in "internet time." Lott only said it a few days ago. I don't fault Kerry for being quiet so far. AND DailyKos has a different take on this:
So in retrospect, perhaps Daschle was on to something when he gave Lott a pass. I still think Daschle should've passed on the issue ("I certainly hope he didn't mean what he said! Segregation was horrible, yadda yadda..."), rather than make excuses, but it's clear Daschle's job as minority leader is easier vs. Lott than against any number of more competent (and diplomatic) GOP senators.
Meanwhile, Daschle isn't giving Lott a pass, after all. Which might be a strategy to rally Republicans around Lott, which keeps Lott in place. Is it intrigue, or is it just life in internet time?

More on Screwing Workers

I received the following from a reader this morning, making an excellent point:
I think that one of the biggest untold problems with 401k's is rarely ever discussed (in reference to your posting Screwing Workers). I read an article in the Stanford Alumni magazine a while ago (wish I had kept the copy!) that said that one of the worse problems with our current focus on individual 401K's was that this ties up so much more money in savings than what really would be needed for covering our retirements. The difference between a pension plan and a 401K savings plan is that one is a pooled plan and the other is an individual plan. If we go fully to an individual savings plan, then everyone must save every penny they would need for their maximal retirement lifetime (eg: I might live until I'm 100 years old, and therefore, I must save enough to cover 35 years of retirement -- based on retiring at the age of 65). However, there are very few people that will actually live that long -- and in fact, most people will not. In this scenario, if you bet you won't live that long, then don't save enough, and end up doing so -- you are really out of luck! The other alternative is to join into a pooled insurance plan (what used to happen in a company pension plan), where you pool your savings with lots of other people. This allows you all to set aside some money to cover your retirement, but not as much as you would need to cover a full 35 years of retirement. Because some people die earlier and some die later, this balances out nicely for everyone as long as everyone's combined share is enough to cover the whole pool's requirements.

The important thing about pooling vs individual savings is that the amount of money that needs to be set aside is significantly lower than if each individual saved the entire amount they would need "just in case". The article also pointed out that if this unnecessarily large amount of money was not set aside in personal accounts, then it could be used to cover other things we deem important -- schooling, roads, etc.

There is something very strange about our latest love affair for private accounts. What is it about a society that decides that everyone much supply their own needs and scorns anything where we work together to solve problems? (And where does it end? When each of us is responsible for providing our own security, school, health?)

Thanks for your blog -- it really has some very interesting and important topics.


Technical Difficulties

Go see Technical Difficulties.

Stimulate the Economy

Yeah - what he said.

(If the link doesn't take you directly there, scroll down to KEYNESIAN ECONOMICS....THE SEQUEL!...)


"How can anyone reasonably suggest to our fellow Americans that the way to get the economy moving today is to cut taxes 8 years from now?

And as for fairness, we’re not calling for redistribution - what we want is for average, middle class Americans who work hard to be able to get ahead just like their parents did. 20 years ago, the average CEO made 42 times what the average worker made. Now it’s 531 times more. It’s out of whack. Yet 40 percent of Bush’s tax giveaway oes to that very top 1 percent. I think that’s an attack on the fundamental fairness that holds this country together.

And perhaps most outrageous if the violation of generational responsibility -- The largest cost of the Bush tax giveaway will not be born by any of us here today - it will be paid for by our children. That’s right - we’re borrowing from Social Security and Medicare to put money in some peoples’ pockets today - and sticking our children with the bill."
Now, how about saying something about Trent Lott's racism?!

(Thanks to Free Pie for this.)

Take Back The Media!

Take Back The Media! is hereby added to Essential Links.

Saying It!

E. J. Dionne Jr. SAYS IT!
"The first lesson is that if you're a Democrat in the House or Senate, it doesn't matter how you vote or what you say or how patriotic you try to be. The Bush machine will try to smash you anyway. Consequently there is no percentage in making nice with this administration, especially after it showed its willingness this fall to politicize security issues."

Stocks are Up

Stocks are up today. Perhaps because of this story.
Sales at U.S. chain stores faltered last week as many consumers, worried by a weak economy and scarce jobs, stayed away from shopping malls, two separate reports said. Icy weather in parts of the country also kept shoppers away.

The drop in sales was viewed by some as a worrying omen for the remainder of the crucial holiday shopping season.

"Unless sales pick up in the next two weeks, we will fall short of the weak holiday results recorded in 2000 and 2001," said Dana Johnson, chief economist at Banc One Capital Markets in Chicago.

A separate government report showed stocks on wholesalers' shelves fell for the first time in half a year in October, down 0.3 percent after rising 0.4 percent in September and confounding expectations for a 0.1 percent rise.
Prosperity is just around the corner.

More on Pensions

I just found this NY Times article from April tracing the history in the change in American retirement pensions that I wrote about earlier today.
American workers now put more money into pension and retirement savings plans sponsored by their employers than the companies themselves do.

That remarkable milestone, determined by pension researchers reviewing the most recent data, shows just how far companies have moved away from the system of decades past, in which employers alone financed the retirement savings of their workers, and toward 401(k) and similar retirement plans financed mostly by workers.

The milestone is all the more remarkable because 401(k)'s and similar retirement accounts were never intended to be the main way for an employee to save for retirement. They were originally expected merely to supplement company-financed pension plans.

The new-style plans lack the protections of the old pension plans, like a guaranteed benefit and federal insurance to protect retirees if the company goes bankrupt.
The newer plans, known as defined contribution programs, shifted to employees the burden of investing the money to cover their living expenses at retirement, thereby saving companies the cost of managing that money over an employee's entire life, as well as the cost of premiums for federal pension insurance.

Companies also found that they could trim costs further by cutting the amount they contributed. Now, on average, companies put up less than 50 cents for every dollar set aside by employees, and many companies make their contributions in the form of their own shares, rather than cash.
It's fun looking at an article from back in April. Here's how it ends:
Though Congress is preparing to take up the subject in coming weeks, there is considerable doubt that substantive change will come out of the Enron collapse. "I don't think that we'll get more than a Band-Aid or two," said Pamela Perun, a pension lawyer who works as a consultant for the Urban Institute.
Yeah, right, substantive change resulting from the Enron collapse. Right. Duh.



Screwing Workers

I'm STILL planning on writing about the trip to England, as the jet lag recedes. But in the meantime I just saw this.
The Bush administration has proposed sweeping new pension rules that will encourage companies to adopt a type of retirement plan that has been under attack for three years for what critics call a tendency to strip benefits from older employees.
One thing (of many) that's great about England (and Europe) is generous pensions. But here we have the Bush Administration proposing changing pension rules to allow companies to further screw workers, especially those who are near retirement and have limited options for recovering from the blow.

Let's look back a little further in time. Corporate pensions used to be much more common for American workers. But in 1981 Congress passed the 401(k) retirement plan scam. (Let's see, what ELSE did Congress do in 1981, that led to trillion of dollars of debt?) The 401(k) is a "defined contribution" plan, instead of a "defined benefit" plan. The primary "advantage" to workers is they don't pay income taxes on money they set aside in a 401(k), plus employees can set aside a higher amount per year than an IRA - both of which of course primarily benefit higher-paid workers who have the money to set aside, and who pay higher tax rates. Another "advantage" is that workers decide for themselves where to invest the money - which is why everyone lost so much in the market crash. The benefit to employers is that workers think they have a retirement plan. Meanwhile, instead of setting aside money to provide pensions for workers the employer MAY contribute to the 401(k) (or contribute NOTHING, and can even contribute company stock instead of cash). So instead of the COMPANY setting aside money for the worker's retirement, the WORKER now shoulders the burden of setting aside the money. 401(k)'s aren't even insured by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

401(k) plans were sold to the Congress as a way to get people to save more for their retirement. What really happened was that many corporations now offer 401(k) plans INSTEAD of pensions! The money many corporations had been setting aside for workers' retirements instead became corporate profits, which increased the value of their stock, which benefited stockholders, which primarily means the top few percent of the economic ladder - the rich and the very rich.

This is of course the simplified version. But think about it - companies could stop setting aside money for their workers' retirement, with the workers instead being responsible for setting aside a portion of their income, all couched in language that made people think this would BENEFIT the workers! Meanwhile the money previously going to workers' pensions instead finds its way to the top of the economic ladder.

I found a good article on this subject here.


I'm Back

I'm back from England. Before I write anything about that, I just noticed that a Federalist Society judge has dismissed the lawsuit challenging the secrecy of who met with Cheney's energy task force. (Judge Bates was previously deputy independent counsel in the Washington Office of the Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.) More info on the judge is here and here.
As a deputy to Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr in 1997, Bates was a key figure in a case called Office of the President v. Office of Independent Counsel. Bates tried fervently to get the release of White House documents, winning the case when the Supreme Court refused to reconsider an appellate court ruling in Starr's favor.
I see here that he was nominated by Bush in June, 2001 so I assume that this obvious right-wing operative was confirmed with at least some DEMOCRATIC Senators' votes. (Gore voted for HOW many of the Supreme Court judges who later appointed Bush? Is there a LESSON here, perhaps?)


Can't Wait - More Fuming

I can't wait until I return, and have to brave dial-up hell to post this. The John Kerry Haircut character assassination story that I wrote about a few days back has been making the rounds and I'm sure you're been reading about it. But, thanks to Talking Points Memo, I noticed this in a CNN transcript,
And you may remember Cristophe from the $200 trim that he gave Bill Clinton on board Air Force One while it sat on the tarmac at LAX in Los Angeles.
Well, wait a minute. I've written about this before, in a piece titled A Lie Repeated, and Repeated, and Repeated!, and in a piece titled More Fuming, and in a piece titled What the Republicans Think They Can Get Away With.

Clinton did NOT get a $200 haircut while his plane sat on the tarmac at LAX. This was a lie, a smear job, part of a carefully coordinated character assassination campaign, and at this point there is no excuse whatsoever for CNN to be continuing to perpetuate this smear. More than that, there is no excuse for them to not KNOW it was a smear, and part of their JOB ought to be knowing when something like this is part of a smear campaign and NOT REPEAT IT! The whole issue of the Republican character assasination machine is enough of a topic of discussion now that they have to be aware of this issue.

In fact they have a duty to the public to filter out this kind of thing and I think it is time that we, the public, started to hold them accountable for repeating smears rather than protecting the pubic from them. I mean, what the hell BUSINESS do they think are they in. anyway? The news business or the smear perpetuating business. It's high time they make a choice!


Similar Idea

Here's a column, "Republicans Get Bonus From War on Terrorism", saying something similar to the Alternet column I pointed to Wednesday (the piece just below this one), that discussed people's images of the ideal family helping determine their political leanings.
"...images of Republicans as the "Daddy" party offering strength and security against the Democrats' nurturing "Mommy" mission."
Go read it. Different people coming to similar conclusions.


Strict Daddy Bush

Exposing the Right clued me in to this Alternet article, Grappling With the Politics of Fear. This is an absolute must-read article, delving into the psychology behind progressive and right-wing thinking, and how the way we think of family helps determine our political perspective.
"According to George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley University cognitive scientist and author of "Moral Politics," the anxiety-provoking anti-terrorism actions and messages of fear of the Bush administration fall into the category of the "strict father" mode of communication.

Lakoff concludes that the country is dramatically split between two ways of understanding the world. Some see this division as political – conservative vs. liberal. But Lakoff argues that it is ultimately a moral division, one derived from how people envision the right kind of family. Hence it is also a personal division.

Lakoff believes that the "strict father" mode is at the bedrock of conservative ideology. This morality "assigns highest priority to such things as moral strength ... respect for and obedience to authority [and] the setting and following of strict guidelines of behavioral norms." Nurturant parent morality, by contrast, "requires empathy for others and the helping of those who need help. To help others, one must take care of oneself and nurture social ties." This morality provides the basis for progressive/liberal ideology.

Clearly, in this post-Clinton period, where a fundamental assumption is that the world is a dangerous place, and people must be protected, the strict-father worldview is in ascendance. And the conservatives know it, and they know how to use it.

As Lakoff underscores, "Over the past thirty years conservatives have poured billions of dollars into their think tanks. They have articulated the system of moral and family values that unifies conservatives; they have created appropriate language for their vision; they have disseminated it throughout the media; and they have developed a coherent political program to fit their values." Lakoff argues that this infrastructure of ideas and values is the essential reason "for the success that conservatives have been enjoying, despite the fact that they appear to be the minority."
Please go read this article. There is much more. I spent actual money and braved a dial-up connection (ugh!) to post this.


Back in December

I'm leaving for a week and a half. I'll try posting - we'll see. I have
to try dialing AOL in England.

This is a test of posting to the weblog via e-mail. If you DO NOT see this,
please let me know.


The Fairness Doctrine. The good old days. Why, when I was your age, radio and TV stations,
were "public trustees," and as such had an obligation to afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial issues of public importance.
This doctrine grew out of concern that because of the large number of applications for radio station being submitted and the limited number of frequencies available, broadcasters should make sure they did not use their stations simply as advocates with a singular perspective. Rather, they must allow all points of view.
Currently, however, there is no required balance of controversial issues as mandated by the fairness doctrine. The public relies instead on the judgment of broadcast journalists and its own reasoning ability to sort out one-sided or distorted coverage of an issue.
and from FAIR (1994)
The Fairness Doctrine doesn't require that each program be internally balanced, or mandate "equal time": It would not require that balance in the overall program line-up be anything close to 50/50. It merely prohibits a station from blasting away day after day from one perspective, without any opposing views.
Oh how far we have come, now that AM radio is 24-hours-a-day-7-days-a-week nothing more than a continuous Republicans Party advertisement, spewing hate and ridicule and nastiness and propaganda and insults and character assassination and slime.

Oh for the good old days. Reagan eliminated the Fairness Doctrine by executive action in 1987. Congress tried to restore it. Reagan and then Bush vetoed restoring the Fairness Doctrine after the Congress overwhelmingly voted to restore it, and then in 1993 the Republicans filibustered it to prevent it from passing. For SOME reason, the Republicans seem to think they benefit from there being no Fairness Doctrine.



Crisis Papers

The Smirking Chimp article led me to The Crisis Papers. Worth checking out. Good stuff.

Voting Machines

Bernard Weiner, at Smirking Chimp yesterday,
This makes two elections, the one in 2000 and now in 2002, where the results are suspicious; in the first case, the Supreme Court summarily ended the re-counting of citizens' ballots, in effect installing Bush into the White House. (And, as we now know, had the Florida recount proceeded, Gore, who won the national popular vote by more than a half-million ballots, would have been President.) In the 2002 midterm election, touchscreen computer-voting in key states -- where, just days prior to the balloting, Dems were either leading in the polls or neck-and-neck against their GOP opponents -- may have, could have, been tweaked in enough close elections to tip the scales to the GOP; there were no ways of re-counting ballots, since there were no ballots to double-check against, and, at the last-minute, there was no exit polling, so again nothing to check the computer results against how people said they voted. He who controls the computer-software in the voting machines has potential control over the numerical results, and only three companies control that technology.
Naw, he couldn't be saying THAT, could he?

Corporate Responsibility

Body and Soul is asking how DynCorp can get lucrative government contracts after employees - on government contract - have been caught at things like running a sex slave trafficking ring (buying and selling girls as young as 12), screwing up and helping shoot down a plane full of Baptist missionaries, narcotics trafficking and killing peasants by spraying them with toxic chemicals.
"I know I don't have much of a head for business, but I grew up believing that prostitution, drug dealing and reckless disregard for the lives of others were the kinds of things that got you into a whole lot of trouble.

When did that change? "
Maybe this will help answer the question.
"The Bush administration Friday ordered the suspension of a Clinton rule that would have significantly strengthened the government's ability to deny contracts to companies that have violated workplace safety, environmental and other federal laws."
Click here for details.

Space Waitress

Space Waitress Gate A.

Get Active

This BuzzFlash story about coverage of anti-war protests is encouraging. It says that getting active can WORK. Lots of people contacted NPR and the New York Times, and this caused them to issue corrections of their coverage of the Washington, DC anti-war marches. Get active.

Get active. It's time to be talking to everyone you know about what is going on. Word-of-mouth counts with people. It is difficult at first. It can feel embarrassing, because we are so primed to think of activists as "whacko liberals," or "aging hippies," or so many other negative, ridiculing images. I had this problem when I started registering voters earlier this year. I had a card table and a chair and a sign, and I set up in a public place, and I felt ridiculous. But after I sat down at that table and started talking to people I got over it and I felt GREAT about what I was doing because I knew how important it was and because so many people were telling me they were very glad to see "someone" out there doing this important work! ( It hadn't occurred to them to be out there doing this important work. No one seems to see themselves as someone who can get things done.)

If you are reading this, then you are probably concerned about the things going on with the government. I think they are too important to just sit back and quietly let them continue. I think it is time to speak up, even if you risk feeling foolish. You should be talking to people, e-mailing them, and asking them to get active as well.

Slept On It - Still Scared

Sometimes lately - since Bush v Gore - I imagine I'm looking at current events as if I am a future historian, tracking the record of "what happened" - sort of like how we now look back at Germany in the 30's, trying to understand how it happened.

I used to wonder, if I was in Germany in the 30's, at what point would I have seen what was happening, and gotten out? Now I wonder if John Poindexter being brought back into the government - not to mention being placed in charge of this Information Awareness thing! - is a sign I should be paying that kind of attention to. (I know - To which I should be paying attention. I just can't write that.)


And Get Really Scared

Read this over at Toby's Political Diary and get REALLY scared.

True, Too

Over at Ironic Times:
Air of Optimism Pervades Wall Street
Better-than-anticipated sales of gas masks, survival kits, radiation pills buoys markets.

Go Get Scared

Go read DEBKAfile and get scared.
"In the last few hours DEBKAfile counter-terror sources report a heightened volume of traffic over the Arabic Internet forums frequented by al Qaeda and its partisans. Most of the last messages end: “The zero hour has come.”
I'm getting on a plane to New York Wednesday, and London Friday. Great.


Check out Situation Room. Be sure to scroll down to this, about John Poindexter. Be prepared to lose sleep.

Take the Poll

There's a poll at the Lou Dobbs site, asking if you think the media is liberal or (what they call themselves) conservative. Scroll down and it's on the left. (Thanks to Busy, Busy, Busy.)

Update - It's a new poll now. Never mind.


I just discovered High Water.


I Will Be Out of the Country For About Two Weeks

Beginning Wednesday I'll be out of the country for about two weeks due to a family illness. I'll be posting a few things via e-mail if I can get online. I'll try to check in with some blogs to see what's going on, but it's expensive and 'll be pretty busy. I'll try to ask people what's their take on events and share the persepctive with you all.

Now I know some of you are going to take this pretty hard, so I'm going to try to post a list of some services that are available. There are some good online depression sites, and I'll see if I can get a list of links together. I'll also see if there are online suicide hotlines. But mostly, remember, I'll be back pretty soon.

Media Defending Rush!

We've reached the point where the "liberal" media is defending Rush Limbaugh over Tom Daschle.

I want to ask the "journalists" defending Rush this week, do you actually listen to Limbaugh, and the others? If you do, what does that say about your credibility as a mainstream journalist? If not, considering what you wrote, what does that say about your credibility as any kind of journalist?

(My thanks to Atrios.)


More on Rush

Spinsanity has lots of Limbaugh, as well as lots on attacks on Daschle.
"Yet Limbaugh, especially, is guilty of extremely vicious rhetoric. Consider just a few examples from his frequent diatribes against Daschle over the last two years. On Nov. 15, he asserted that Daschle's criticism of the conduct of the war on terrorism amounted to "an attempt to sabotage the war on terrorism," called him "Hanoi Tom" and suggested that he is " a disgrace to patriotism." On other occasions, Limbaugh has suggested that "In essence, Daschle has chosen to align himself with the axis of evil" and has drawn an extended analogy between Daschle and Satan."
There are links in this, but you have to go to their site to follow them.


A lot of people tell me they never, ever listen to Rush Limbaugh. I think it is important to tune in once in a while. It's important to know what the Republicans are saying to their audience.

Daily Howler quotes Rush Limbaugh at length today, talking about Tom Daschle. It is truly worth reading, to remind us all of how Bush has "changed the tone." And as you read this, remember this is just a few minutes of the stuff Rush spews out for three hours a day, five days a week. Please go read it. Be reminded just how important it is that we get active and get other people informed and involved.

Blogger Tip Jar Controversy

Skippy has started all the bloggers talking about tip jars - asking readers to donate some money to keep the effort going. I'm going to take a different tack on this.

I think it's great if some bloggers ask for a donation. More power to ya! I don't ask readers for cash, but I don't object when others do. (Voice from wife in background, "What do you mean you aren't asking for cash. You can do that? Why aren't you doing that?")

What I want is for all of us "lefty" bloggers to more actively encourage our readers to go out and recruit more people to discover what's available online. If the country is divided down the middle politically that should mean that about 140 million people agree with us. We need to start getting them to "OUR" information sources - BuzzFlash and weblogs! It's not just to get us more readers, this is important. There really is better information here than people are getting from newspapers and TV. And jeeze, don't even mention radio!

I haven't seen other bloggers asking readers to send e-mails out to others. That's how you get people to try something - you ask them! So all you bloggers, start asking your readers to send e-mails to people they know, telling them that the mainstream information sources are not being straight with them! If you're reading these weblogs and other online sources you KNOW this is a fact!

For you bloggers who are asking for some cash, think about this. Suppose you're getting $1 a day now. Suppose that a serious outreach effort can get 100 times as many people getting their info online... do the math.

There are somewhere up to 140 million people on our side in this country - go tell them to start reading BuzzFlash and discover weblogs.

Thank You

Thank You to Ruminate This for posting this.

As I said the other day, the way to fight back is to learn how the right was so successful, and then do what they did.


More Scary

Here's some more about that scary agency.

Shadow of the Hegemon (the links aren't working right, so scroll down to the one that starts with, "I'm not sure if it's because the site popped..."), commenting on a Thinking it Through piece, comparing McCarthyism with what's going on today,
"The key, I suppose, is where small "l" libertarians will come down on this if this becomes a hallmark of the Republican party. While I'm sure they like those Republican tax cuts, the prospect of an agency whose members are politically appointed, socially conservative and damned near omniscient has got to be somewhat alarming."
THAT'S what is bothering me so much about this new agency - it will be managed by political appointees who are loyal to The Party, not the country. And the new rules allow The Party to bypass civil service rules and purge non-loyal Party members.

Doesn't anyone else out there remember Nixon? Do you remember wondering if you were being wiretapped because you opposed Nixon? Wondering if the FBI was going to break into your house? They were using the power of government to go after their political opposition.

It isn't just paranoia to think that Republicans do things like this - it's memory.

Wealth Bondage

I found the Wealth Bondage site because they are referring people to the Commonweal Institute. But can someone explain this site to me, please? What?


Check out GeekPol.

Bush the Liar

Thanks to Planet Swank for pointing to this Eleanor Clift article about Bush being such a liar.


I'm listening to Talk of the Nation on NPR. They have a guy from the Heritage Foundation on, talking about why the huge "Information Awareness" database is a good thing and nothing to worry about. This is the Pentagon database that will track everything you purchase, every bank and credit card transaction, and who knows what else.

The Heritage Foundation is the core of the far-right "movement." It's the Rush Limbaugh of think tanks. It is where the most partisan, right-wing propaganda comes from. Why would someone from the Heritage Foundation be sent out to talk up this database of info on Americans? The Heritage Foundation is about REPUBLICAN CHRISTIAN RIGHT POLITICS! The Heritage Foundation would not be interested in this if it were not about furthering the right-wing movement.

They put John Poindexter in charge of it, and they send people out from the Heritage Foundation to defend it. That tells you everything you need to know. A hard rain's gonna fall.


Rubbing Our Noses In It

John Balzar, in the LA Times today, talking about a:
"...rub-their-noses-in-it statement offered recently in a court case brought by the Center for Biological Diversity. In a feather-brained brief, the administration argued that conservationists should consider the upside of bird deaths at a remote Navy live-fire range. "Bird-watchers get more enjoyment spotting a rare bird than they do spotting a common one." Besides, the government added, Navy bombardment keeps away people who might otherwise disturb the birds."
It's GOOD to kill birds because birdwatchers get more enjoyment spotting rare birds. What's left to say here? Go read the whole thing.

How They Do It 4

Michael Finley has a piece today describing in detail one example of how right-wing propaganda is developed and disseminated. His piece also points to a CalPundit piece.

Both weblogs earn a place in Essential Links.

Recommended Read

I recommend reading William Burton's Putting People First.

An E-mail I'm Sending Out

Here is an e-mail I am sending out to friends who I know forward things like this:
Please forward this.

I have found that people who get their news from "alternative" sites on the Internet are so much better informed about what's going on in the world and the country than people who rely on newspapers and TV news.

You might agree with me that the information that most Americans receive comes from a rightist to centrist corporate perspective. Example - when is the last time you saw a labor leader interviewed on TV, talking about why people should join unions? This is because you wouldn't expect a corporate-controlled news source to give people information about the advantages of joining unions, and they don't.

20 years ago the right believed they had a similar problem with media access for their message. What they did was to set up their own channels of communication - starting with speeches broadcast on C-SPAN, and then talk radio. The was ability to widely distribute information from their perspective is part of what led to their success.

Progressives and moderates need a central place where they can get information from a progressive/moderate perspective. I suggest that we start by visiting the news website BuzzFlash. I've looked around, and BuzzFlash offers the best daily roundup of news from a variety of sources. I am not associated with BuzzFlash in any way. BuzzFlash is located on the web at http://www.buzzflash.com.

Common Dreams -http://www.commondreams.org/ and AlterNet - http://www.alternet.org/ - are other good sites, but not as news-intensive as BuzzFlash.

There is also a new phenomenon called "weblogs", or "blogs" for short. These are "diaries" where people post information and opinion, and many of them are very good. To discover these weblogs, visit The Lefty Directory at http://newleftblogs.blogspot.com/. Some good professional weblogs are Tapped at http://www.prospect.org/weblog/, and Altercation at http://www.msnbc.com/news/752664.asp.

So I recommend checking in at BuzzFlash every day, and also discovering the world of weblogs. Try it for a few days, and you will see that there is a whole other world of information available. I also recommend letting as many others as possible know about this problem and why they should check a site like BuzzFlash every day.
If you have made your way to this weblog, you are likely a well-informed person who gets a lot of info from the web. And you know there is a difference in the information you get on the web from the info that most people are getting. We need to make an effort to grow the number of people visiting progressive/moderate news-sites and weblogs. So I recommend telling people to check in at BuzzFlash every day, and helping others discover the world of weblogs. Feel free to copy the above letter and using it as a base for a letter you send to others.