Huge Media Scandal
The news that President Bush has been rewarding campaign donors with sleepovers at the White House has generated a major media scandal reminiscent of the Clinton years, with special reports on all network news broadcasts, hour upon hour of talk radio discussion, front-page newspaper headlines, nonstop coverage on the cable news channels, congressional hearings and a Justice Dept. investigation. Not.


Brad DeLong, says the financial side seems to make buying a Toyota Prius "nearly irresistible."
Fix It
It's not about whether the recession started under Clinton, it's what the current administration is going to DO ABOUT IT!! (From a year ago.)
Job? Me?
skippy the bush kangaroo has a good piece titled, "of course i don't have a job, that's why i can spend all day blogging"

I'm in Silicon Valley, living a few blocks from the empty Excite@Home campus. Somewhere between 20% and 30% of all office space in this area, including San Francisco, is vacant. (How does that square with unemployment being only 7.6%?) Quite a few people I know are unemployed. Of course, that's why I go on morning walks with them and spend so much time blogging myself. ;-)

I wonder if one of those friends writes an anonymous blog? I wonder if they wonder that about me? Is one of them skippy? Do we need a blogTIPS program?
Bush Income Tax Evasion?
Long ago I read about Ed Meese (Reagan's Atty General) receiving $200,000 "loans that he didn't have to repay." Since then I've wondered whether he ever paid the taxes. The rule is that if you get a loan and don't repay it, it must be reported as income, and you must pay taxes on it. Because it really IS income and really ISN'T a loan. (This also happens when you default on a loan that you can't pay, but you can get out of that to the extent you can prove you really were insolvent.) Also, if you get a loan with very low interest, the difference between that interest and current market interest rates must be reported as income.

You read about corporate executives getting these "loans" and not having to repay them, but you never hear whether they paid taxes on the income. I've always wondered if they're paying the taxes.

Finally someone else is wondering the same thing. Democrats.com asks the question, "So the question we ask is this: did George W. Bush report the full value of his forgiven Harken loans as income on his 1993 tax return?"

Bush has not released his tax returns for that year, which tells me that maybe there's something there he doesn't want us to know. He refused to release the SEC records of the Harken insider trading probe. He refuses to release the Harken Board minutes that will show to what extent he took part in the Aloha Petroleum scam sale. And he hasn't released the tax returns that will show if he engaged in income tax evasion.

From the Democrats.com story, "The very core of Mr. Bush's presidential campaign was to "restore honor and integrity" to the White House. Without that promise, Mr. Bush would never have left Texas. This promise requires Mr. Bush to not only talk about "honor and integrity," but to prove it."
The cable modem was down all day yesterday.


Multiplier Effects
If consumers are holding on to record debt (stories here and here and here) how are they going to spend us out of this economic trouble? Maybe it isn't really over. But if not, are current policies causing a multiplier effect if the economy does dip back to recession?

From what I read, the economy is currently being propped up by what most people seem to agree is a "bubble" in housing prices. So far this housing bubble has allowed consumers to keep spending just enough to keep the economy afloat for now. But if refinancing houses rather than rising incomes is the source of funds to keep up the spending binge, won't this have a multiplier effect on any downturn? (Economy propped up by housing bubble, spending slows, economy slows, pops the housing price bubble, people stop spending, economy slows more, many lose houses, economic drop accelerates.)

Multiplier effects are worrying me lately. We have had a period where stock prices rather than the underlying strength of the companies became an underpinning of the economy. For example, the pension problem - pension funds invested in stocks, stocks rise, companies don't have to make contributions, AND their books look better because the pension funds are claimed as assets. As long as the market was going up everyone's books looked great but now underfunded pension plans will have to drain cash out of companies, lower that previously claimed asset, all lowering earnings, eventually causing the market to go even lower, accelerating any downturn. Same thing with insurance companies - reserves in the stock market, market drops, not enough reserves to cover obligations. As I said, many companies were propped up by their stock prices not their own strength. So when the market drops it multiplies the effect.

By the way, I'm not an economist or an expert, just a worrier. Take a look at this chart and decide for yourself if we are past the stock bubble.


Wait. Later he said "We're working hand in hand to see to it that Congress finally gets the message that we need a terrorism insurance bill to get American hard hats back to work. (Applause.) People say, does it matter? Of course it matters. There's over $8 billion of commercial construction that has been suspended last year. That means $8 billion worth of projects in which somebody is going to be able to work and put food on the table for their family."

So he at least understands that if the government spends money on construction, that means construction jobs putting money into the hands of American families. Did I read it right? Or is he saying that if the government bails out big insurance companies that will lead to construction? I'm confused. If the government spends it means money in the hands of the big insurance companies which leads to construction of insurance company buildings? (The big insurance companies had their money in the stock market and now don't have the cash to cover their obligations. It might be as big as the pension problem story) but that's another story.
I saw Bush on TV saying "More money spent in Washington means less money in the hands of American families and entrepreneurs; less money in the hands of risk-takers and job creators." Read the transcript here.

What? The guy who signed the farm bill said this? Does he think that the money the government spends disappears into outer space? (And into the hands of large corporate farms.)

That comment has cost me any last bit of hope I was holding on to that the economy is going to recover. Not as long as this guy's in the White House.


Thin Line Between Company and Party (Part 1)

I know that Enron has fallen off of the front pages lately but I think looking back with hindsight might offer insight into the “corporate responsibility” problems.

A few months back I was reading about all the cash that Enron had been giving to the Republicans. Then I learned that Enron was also making significant indirect contributions to The Party. That got me tracing campaign money in general, and the question occurs to me, “Where does the company end, and "The Party" begin?”

Here’s an example of Enron company money indirectly used to benefit The Party. Perhaps you remember reading that Enron employed Ralph Reed while he really worked for the Bush campaign. Enron payroll -> Bush campaign employee. Here’s four stories about this – one, two, three, four.

Now take a look at Ed Gillespie, former communications director at the RNC and a top communications advisor to the Bush campaign. He was paid at least $525,000 from Enron for "lobbying" immediately after the campaign ended. This sounds a lot like the Reed arrangement. This year-old story (from before Enron's collapse) seems very relevant today. From Page 2:
In May, Gillespie launched the 21st Century Energy Project, financed by such pro-Bush conservative groups as Americans for Tax Reform and Citizens for a Sound Economy. Ostensibly, the group's aim is to advance Bush's energy plan. But its other mission is to kill any attempt by Democrats to institute price caps to alleviate the energy crisis in the West. Which also happens to be the main goal of one of Gillespie's newest clients, Enron--the energy behemoth with closer ties to the Bush administration than perhaps any other corporation. (The company's employees and executives have given more to Bush than has any other single company.) Last week the project ran its first round of ads, which will neatly complement the series of town meetings the White House is conducting on energy policy. With the energy project, which expects to spend $500,000, Gillespie not only helps Enron but also serves as the "bad cop" attacking the Democrats on energy policy while the White House remains above the partisan fray.
We can get into Citizens for a Sound Economy and Americans for Tax Reform later. (There’s a lot there.)

This leads us into Enron “lobbying” cash that is really just more indirect cash to The Party. Here's an article that tracks $1,785,000 of "lobbying" money that Enron spent just in the first half of 2001. How much of that money really went to activities to benefit The Party?

Yet another path for Enron corporate contributions to The Party is the so-called “think tanks.” There are several supposedly independent think tanks that are really just extensions of The Party. Here's a story.

OK, OK, you get the point, Enron found lots of ways to give a LOT of money to the Republicans. Where am I going with this?

I'm only writing about Enron tonite. There's much more. (In Part 2) Amway, tobacco companies, drug companies, and many others are operating as if they are the funding arm of The Party! Where does the company end and The Party begin?

How does it benefit the shareholders of a company when the executives are pouring untold millions into The Party rather than to shareholders as profits? We might cynically say that they are buying government benefits, tax breaks, etc. that increase profits, but it's ILLEGAL to donate money with the expectation of political favors, isn't it? And if they don't KNOW they'll be granted favors they're pissing away shareholder money. So either they're acting unethically by donating with the understanding that it's a bribe or by pouring shareholder money into The Party. It is one or the other.

“Corporate Reform" reforms nothing if it does not address the freedom with which Boards and Executives are working hand-in-hand with the Republicans! Independent Boardmembers are not independent at all if they are merely ideological soldiers of The Party, infiltrating our corporations to carry out Party funding missions. Fat Chance the Congress will address this, but the shareholding public needs to be made aware of this additional way that their Boards and Officers have their hands in the till.
Bush's PR Summit
Bush is holding a PR summit tomorrow, and Demcorats are not invited.

It seems to me that if the Democrats were smart about PR, they would have a few Democratic members of Congress camping outside, occasionally banging on the doors, for the benefit of the news cameras.
Why the Dems?
Nathan Newman has a good piece titled WHY THE DEMS? He looks at California where the Democrats got control of the Assembly, Senate and Governor's office in 1998 (except for issues that require 2/3 votes), and what they have since accomplished. Greens, please go read it.
On the Radio
I had to drive my wife to work. On the radio Paul Harvey said that Saddam Hussein "blew the top off of New York." I wonder how many of the right's audience even knows the difference between Bin Laden & al-Queda, Afghanistan and Iraq. Or even knows that there IS a difference. I think the Bush people are counting on them not knowing. And they'll use the "don't you hate those know-it-alls" against anyone who does know the difference.

Sean Hannity says Time Magazine made up their big story, that Time is just lying, this is all just the Liberal Media working to defeat Bush, don't believe them, etc. Hannity says that the Clinton people not only didn't put together a plan to go after al-Queda and present it to the new Bush administration, but that the Clinton people didn't do anything to try to get al-Queda and even rejected offers from several countries to hand Bin Laden over.

The Bush people are really scared that people are going to find out they sat on their hands and ignored the terrorist threat, so they're pulling out the stops on this one. They seem really afraid of the consequences of the Time article.
Over at Blah3 there's a boint-by-point rebuttal to a letter from a Rush fan. It's a fairly long piece, he does a good job rebutting each point. But this is what I've been saying about trees. A lot of energy went into this. And each point made by the letter-writer was just a repeat of a Republican lie. What's worse, you'll see all of these points repeated over and over and over by this letter-writer, Rush, right-wing pundits, candidates, etc. for years. See the forest -- It's what they do.

Blah3's piece starts with the dittohead writing, "Last year on January 20 we said good bye to 8 years of crime, cover-ups, and smokescreens." Never mind that President Clinton was cleared of every single accusation except that he got a blow job. Every single accusation was a phony made-up lie that was part of a coordinated attempt to destroy a presidency - and which led to the election of Bush with all of its consequences. And of course the complete and utter lack of evidence is proof there was a massive cover-up, right? But there I go arguing trees. It's hard not to get into it when you see that kind of nonsense repeated. It's hard not to try to refute each lie. But it wastes energy. We need to find ways to more effectively fight this. I think that getting people to see when they're being bombarded with lies might help.

By the way, Clinton didn't "play golf with" Enron's Ken Lay. The true story will tell you how far the Republicans go to make up these lies. Check out this Daily Howler piece. Here's what the Republicans use as the basis of their claim that Clinton "played golf with" or was a "golf partner with" Ken Lay: "Clinton began his vacation with a bipartisan golf match Saturday at the Country Club of the Rockies in Vail, Colo., teaming up with fellow Democrat (and golf pro) Jack Nicklaus to take on the Republican duo of former president Gerald Ford and Houston businessman Ken Lay." THAT becomes "golf partner."

Understand what they do - that is the forest.
I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle's Op-Ed pages this morning and came across this, about Al Gore. It contains the following:
This from a man who was raised in a Washington hotel penthouse by Sen. Al Gore Sr., who groomed him for the presidency.
Gore blames his loss not on a faux populism, but on too many high-priced consultants telling him to wear brown suits.
The op-ed piece reads like a parady of Daily Howler. If you're not familiar with Daily Howler please go take a look. Bob Somerby has spent at least 2 years looking into how the press covers politics, particularly the coverage of Al Gore during the election and the lies and how they were started by the Republicans and endlessly repeated by the press.

Gore was not raised in a Washington penthouse, and Somerby has gone into great detail about how the Republicans planted that, and how the press continues to repeat the lie. In fact, Somerby has done such a good job going into this, and his work, or similar debunking of the Republicans lies, has been written about in enough places that it is inexcusable to think that any journalism professional would STILL be writing these lies. The SF Chronicle should not have allowed this lie to (again) get into print.

Here's something I wrote a month ago on a similar subject.