6 posts already today. Ya know, I think I forgot to specify DECAF at Peet's this morning. Can ya tell? D'ya think? Yee-haa!

What They're Hearing

Check out what the right-wingers are saying.

As I said a few days ago, "Sometimes it is hard for me to figure out what Bush and his crowd are really trying to say. I've learned over the years that when the message isn't clear to you, it can help to find out what the listener - who the message is intended for - is hearing. I think these comments are a good indicator of what Bush's "base" is hearing."

Are the Natives Restless?

This story about voters in mid-Michigan is backed up by a message I received from my Aunt here in California:
I attended a Foothill-sponsored current events discussion yesterday and was astonished at the comments - when asked what they were there for, every single participant said things like, "because I'm scared - angry - disillusioned - about what the administration is doing". A woman with a very heavy French accent said this is going to be an "a - pok -o leepse." A Japanese American woman who grew up in Japan in the 30's said she could see the similarities between the US now and Japan then - loss of civil liberties, imperialism. Even a Texan participant was angry. The moderator said he thought we were on the verge of a breakdown of civilization!

This is vox populi - why isn't anyone in Congress or the administration listening?

A Real Must-Read Today!

Frank Rich in the NY Times just says it all today!
But this administration no longer cooks the books merely on fiscal matters. Disinformation has become ubiquitous, even in the government's allegedly empirical scientific data on public health. The annual federal report on air pollution trends published this month simply eliminated its usual (and no doubt troubling) section on global warming, much as accountants at Andersen might have cleaned up a balance sheet by hiding an unprofitable division. At the Department of Health and Human Services, The Washington Post reported last week, expert committees are being "retired" before they can present data that might contradict the president's views on medical matters — much as naysaying Wall Street analysts were sidelined in favor of boosters who could be counted on to flog dogs like WorldCom or Pets.com right until they imploded.


The New York Times has an important article about unemployment.
Once these statistical nonpersons are counted, the labor market of today looks all too similar to those of supposedly bleaker past decades, according to a number of recent studies by economists. Even when the unemployment rate was near a 30-year low in 1999 and 2000, men from the ages of 18 to 54, as a group, spent 11 percent of the year not working, roughly the same as in the late 1970's and late 80's, according to one study.
Some of the figures in the article, "Since 1990, the number of people receiving disability pay has nearly doubled, to 5.4 million..." and, "The growth of the prison population — to about 2 million today, up from 1.1 million in 1990 and 500,000 in 1980....

These people don't show up in the official unemployment rate but they are not bringing in enough money to buy those important consumer goods - bagel toasters, Cheese-Wiz, etc. - that contribute to our economic growth. So while they keep saying prosperity is just around the corner things are actually much worse than the numbers show. For example, because the government doesn't think unemployment is as bad as it is they haven't extended unemployment benefits. AND benefit extensions require a certain level of official unemployment - 7% (I think) - before they kick in anyway. Yet this article shows that 5% unemployment today is equivalent to 7% during the last recession - so things have to be much much worse than last time before the government will help out.

To make matters even worse, don't forget that welfare reform means that option is less available, and runs out after (I think) 2 years. We've got the elements in place for a really, really bad situation in this country.

Bush, Water and Fish

Counterspin Central writes about Bush and the Klamath River water controversy. "It pitted a small klatch of farmers against, supposedly, "government regulators." I was working in Portland, Oregon last year so I was following this story closely. There wasn't enough water to go around, and the Dept. of Interior wanted to release water from reservoirs so fish can spawn and the fishery won't be decimated. The farmers said they should get the water instead. The Republican Machine cranked out propaganda about how this was environmentalists trying to hurt farmers. The usual...

Water, logging and fishing illustrate my seeing trees vs. seeing forests metaphor. The Republicans cast it as environmentalists against businesses & farmers. In my metaphor those are just trees and are therefore a waste of your time and energy. You should try to see through it and see the bigger picture (the forest). You can go crazy arguing specifics (trees) with right-wingers - they are typically just lies and diversions.

Here's what I mean. The Klamath story, as Counterspin Central shows, is really about farming vs. fishing - the water either goes to the farms or it goes to the rivers for fish to spawn and maintain the fisheries. Other times it's logging industry against fishing industry because clear-cutting forests ruins the streams so the fish can't spawn. (The history of the logging industry vs environmentalists story goes back to the S&L bailout.

In the Klamath dispute it came down to a better propaganda angle casting it as liberal environmentalists hurting farmers (trees) - when it was really the fishing industry and farming industry both needing the water. And THAT's really about who is paying the The Republican Crony Club more that week.

Jay Leno put it so well. In the 1996 election, Bob Dole said, "We know it (cigarette smoking) is not good for kids, but a lot of other things aren't good. Drinking is not good. Some would say milk is not good." That night Jay Leno said, "I guess the milk industry forgot to put their check in the mail."

Great Poster

There's a great poster over at BartCop! Since I can't link directly to it, scroll down to the "Be A Good American!" poster.


Another Recent Exchange

Read the previous exchange here.

"Thursday, September 26, 2002 Getting Rolled"
Sir, you said it all right there. Plain, simple language that any thoughtful person can read and understand. Thank you very much. I don't think there's the slightest bit of hope for "progressives" in the next 50-100 years other than to find another country to call home, but thanks for having the wisdom to write this and the courage to post it. I'll pass it on - XXXX

Dear XXXX,

I don't agree with you on that. There's a simple solution - do what they do. I'm talking about building up a network of "think tanks" etc, that work together, and reach the public with a coordinated "communications engine." This is why I'm always pushing people to understand how the right is making all of this happen for them - so that eventually people will suddenly say, "Duh!, Why aren't WE doing that, too?" It took time, but we have the advantage of using what they have built up as a model - they've been through 30 years of trial-and-error. Also we have the advantage of having the truth on our side. WE aren't trying to convince blue-collar workers to give up their health care and pensions so that rich white guys can have bigger private jets - THEY are. So our task is not monumental.

It can be done. The money exists on our side; there are huge amounts of money for environmental groups, etc., not to mention the amounts that the Democratic and Green Parties have been able to raise every 2 years. Add to that moderate Republicans - even they are under attack from the right now and an appeal to them to join up could bring needed resources. (Check here, here, here and here.)

And there are already a number of great organizations on our side. The research I've been doing is looking at the right, but I'll be researching and publishing what does exist on the moderate/progressive side. But what is missing is the coordination - the right actually has weekly coordination meetings - and the awareness that we need to work to build a "movement" just like the right has done since the early 70's.



If They Really Have Weapons of Mass Destruction, We'll Need the Draft

If Carl Rove wants to use a war to manipulate an election, maybe the Democrats should wake up the country with a dose of reality. The Democrats should point out that if we're really going to start a war in the Middle East, we had best get the draft in place first. War is serious business and unpredictable things can happen. War is not a TV show.

If things go wrong, like if Iraq really DOES have the "weapons of mass destruction" that are the justification for this war, we're going to need the draft to replace the tens of thousands of troops that could be lost. That's why they're called "weapons of mass destruction," and that's supposed to be why we're going in. If that's the reality of the reason we're going in we need to be ready for the reality of their use. Best to go in prepared, having the draft in place. (It's unspoken that this war isn't really going to be a big deal, which means it's unspoken and accepted that Iraq doesn't REALLY have or wont really use these weapons! It seems to be accepted that this is just a pretext - we certainly aren't ready for the reality.)

I think that a dose of reality, and the whisper of the need for a draft, might just change the "Bush advantage" on war issues. There's a reason war used to be considered a bad thing.


Getting Rolled

How often have Congressional Democrats been rolled by the Republican machine, voted for something they shouldn't have, and then been blamed by the Republicans for the drastic consequences?

The events typically follow a pattern. The extremely powerful Republican media machine sets up an environment that convinces the Washington politicians that it will be very difficult politically to vote against them, and makes sure that the vote happens quickly - before opposing forces have time to realize what's going on and rally enough real people on the other side to demonstrate that there really is support for non-Republican positions.

How many times have we seen this process at work? It is the careful creation of a local environment calculated to maximize pressure on the legislators at the best possible moment. The phony Republican news events, the "independent" media playing along & following their script, the AM radio 24-hour-a-day Republican drumbeat pounding out the lies, the slurry of misleading or blatantly deceitful op-ed pieces filling the editorial pages, the dittohead letters to the editor (or "astroturf" - phony grassroots letters generated by a marketing firm), the pack of columnists writing according to instructions FAXed over from the Heritage Foundation (follow the NEA smear for an example) (second NEA smear link here), pretty soon all the news stories reflect the Republican line and repeat the Republican falsehoods.

It becomes a drumbeat of constant repetition of the same lines over and over and over until they become "conventional wisdom." "Everybody knows that" so-and-so is true so there's no point wasting your energy trying to say it ain't so. Polls then show that the public (deprived of any contrasting information) solidly favors the Republican position. Calls and letters flood in to Congressional offices (from Christian Coalition phone banks). Democrats start to worry about their chances of holding office if they oppose the Republicans on this one vote.

Then the vote comes up in the Congress, and enough Democrats - afraid that Rush Limbaugh will say something bad about them, and mired in a Washington "bubble" environment cut off from their constituents - vote with the Republicans to get the issue through and out of the way. Tax cuts, budget cuts, right-wing judges, "compromises" on health care or welfare or energy... and Bush slides it past the voters as a "bipartisan" win for the Republicans.

I call this process "The Forest." We have now seen it happen enough times that we can recognize what's happening and even predict the next move. What's unfortunate is how the Democrats in Washington fall into the same trap every time. Now it's happening on the ultimate issue - war and peace, life and death.

Democrats need to remember that the judges who voted Bush into office were there because they were put onto the bench with Democratic votes. Democrats need to remember that the Judges who sent Starr after Clinton were put there with Democratic votes. Democrats need to remember that the tax cuts and policies now ruining the economy were passed with Democratic votes. The corporate domination of the media happened with Democratic votes. The erosion of constitutional liberties happened with Democratic votes. So many of the tools now in the hands of the right were handed to them with Democratic votes. Trying to get along. Trying to be bipartisan. Trying to keep them from saying too many bad things about them.

I've got news for these Democrats. They might think they are being "bipartisan" and "compromising" and participating in good government but that is not what is happening here. Rush Limbaugh is going to say bad things about them anyway. In fact he's going to say worse things about the Democrats who come part way over to the other side. These guys are not about "good government" - they hate the government and they are engaged in a process of altering the power structure until the government is irrelevant and they are running the show. These guys don't even tolerate moderate Republicans. They don't even tolerate conservative Republicans like John McCain if they dare to speak out against the Party Line even once. They will make WORSE fun of you when they know you're scared of them.

The Republicans today are not the same as the Republicans of the past. These are "movement conservatives." They are the Libertarians and far-far-right-wing Christians who have taken over the Republican Party of the past. The closest thing historically would be the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which they have modeled themselves after. They do not compromise. They do not tolerate differences. They rule through intimidation and bullying. They have only one place for opposition - OUT. They will say and do anything to gain and hold power - including accusing the opposition of saying and doing anything, as they did during the 2000 campaign. Anyone who speaks out even once is banished. (Please read David Brock's book, Blinded By the Right. The guy was inside of this and writes about it.)

Bush comes straight out of this movement. His staff and appointees have all come from the Newt-wing of The Party. The behind-the-scenes people who specialized in smearing Clinton are now government officials making policy.

There is only one way to save the country from this crowd, and that is to stand up to them and expose what they are doing. The public needs to know how this web of wealthy right-wing foundations and their think-tanks and organizations are accomplishing so much, and what their long-term agenda really is! These guys are not fooling around! Today the fight is literally over war-and-peace and it's for keeps, and tomorrow we could be at end-of-democracy. It looks like they are capable of that and it won't be the first time this has happened to a civilized country. And why wouldn't they? Running the world is the oldest prize in humanity's playbook.

Here are some articles to read that trace how they have formed this "conservative movement" and how it is funded: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here (click on the links on the left of this last linked page for more). I'll keep researching and posting. As you can see there has been quite a bit written about how they have been accomplishing so much - yet the public knows almost nothing about this.

I've written a few things about this. Here is a good start. Here. Here. Here.


Thin Line Between Company and Party (Part 3)

(Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.)

Take a look at this story, "Major GOP Donor Receives Federal Oil Contract."

This company isn't JUST a "major GOP Donor." David H Koch is one of the prime funders of the whole right-wing movement. (See my How They Do It series.) Koch played a role in founding the Cato Institute, which pumps out anti-government Libertarian propaganda. The Koch family had given Cato $21 million as of 1999. He was also involved in founding Citizens for a Sound Economy, another anti-government propaganda outlet. Contributions, again as of 1999, totaled $10 million. Koch also is a major funder of the Reason Foundation, yet another outlet for right-wing anti-government propaganda.

So now the U.S. Department of Energy's has selected Koch Supply & Trading, LP, to supply oil to the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). This is a HUGE contract!

This isn't just a quid pro quo. This government money will be pumped straight back into the Republican machine.

Some source info here, here, here, here, here.


Interesting story in yesterday's San Jose Mercury News about how to deal with bullies.
"Bullies can't stand to be confronted," Namie said. "They usually back down."

Confrontation is particularly effective when done as a group, he said.

"A group can challenge her power and refuse to accept the intimidation, and plus you have all these witnesses," he said. "The more people don't stand for it, pretty soon the bully won't have anyone to pick on."
On the same subject, Senator Daschle spoke out today, demanding an apology from President Bush for Bush's remark that Democrats in the Senate are, "not interested in the security of the American people."

Working to Maintain the Peace - Or Not

I'm reading an excellently well-written piece by John Balzar in today's LA Times, "Is Bush a Brawler or a Bluffer?" I came across this paragraph,
I'm no foreign-policy scholar, but I've spent enough time overseas in trouble spots to have lost my hope in reason and goodwill. Hoping to sit down and working things out when the other fellow is drunk, whether on whiskey or fanaticism, amounts to wishful thinking. Tensions in much of the world today resemble those in a sweaty, back-alley saloon more than those in an air-conditioned conference room.
Tensions in much of the world today... I've been thinking lately about tensions in the world and how they have increased. Do I remember right that at the end of 2000 tensions in the world were MUCH lower? It seems so long ago. To illustrate the difference between then and now, Clinton was even trying for a last-minute completion of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. What a difference between then and now!

Then Bush came in and changed the game. He said that the U.S. would no longer act as a peacekeeper in the world, no more "nation building," would no longer mediate between Israel and the Palestinians. Then he changed the U.S. position of neutrality and sided entirely with Israel, blaming the Palestinians.

It didn't take long for the who world to fall apart, did it?

I thought that Israel voted for Sharon knowing full well it meant war, and they got war out of it, and they shouldn't be so surprised. I often think that maybe they'll realize that OBVIOUSLY Sharon's policies have not reduced the dangers that Israel faces. But it seems that there is a strong appeal to "it didn't work so we should do more of it." (Look at the Bush tax cuts.) Maybe we should step back and see the difference in the world and think about whether the Bush foreign policy approach is actually working, making us safer, making the world more peaceful. Maybe we should think about looking at what actually HAPPENS in the world instead of how the world would be if only people followed this or that ideology or religion.

Agrees With Me, Must Be Brilliant

Daily Howler follows the same theme I followed in my entry yesterday on coverage of Gore's speech. He calls it "motive journalism" - speculating on the motives of the newsmaker rather than doing their job and reporting on what the person did or said.
“Motive journalism” is easy and dumb. That seems to be why your pundits love it. After all, you can’t be proven wrong when you mind-read a pol’s naughty motives. But there’s an obvious downside to motive journalism. As long as you stick to mind-reading motives, you can’t help the public decide the life-and-death issues with which we are currently faced.
Going after motives instead of issues happens to play right into the Republicans' favorite campaign tactic - character assassination. Attack the credibility of the opponent instead of the issues. (Motive is a tree. Credibility is a tree. See the forest.)


Bush's Message

Atrios at Eschaton has posted some comments on yesterday's Gore speech from various right-wingers. Take a look at what they're saying.

Sometimes it is hard for me to figure out what Bush and his crowd are really trying to say. I've learned over the years that when the message isn't clear to you, it can help to find out what the listener - who the message is intended for - is hearing. I think these comments are a good indicator of what Bush's "base" is hearing.

Gore Speech

Most news stories that I have seen covering Gore's speech yesterday focus on the politics. As The Note put it, "The questions that arise are: 1) did he serve himself well? And 2) did he serve the Democratic party well?" (I'm aware that The Note covers politics, I'm using this quote because it sums up what I've seen of the news coverage as well. In fact, the Note is one place that does get into the content and merits.)

What about the country? What about war? What about the people who are going to die, and the region that might be destabilized? What about the effect an Iraq adventure might have on our efforts to prevent terrorism at home?

I think that Gore is trying to stop the country from making a serious mistake. I think that is more important than the politics of it. I think that Gore has done the country a great service. I think that any news outlet that doesn't spend time discussing the MERITS of the CONTENT of what Gore said shouldn't call itself a news outlet. I think that the people working in the news business don't even know what the word "news" means. I fear they also don't care.

Social Security

I came across this great article responding to some Social Security misconceptions from July, 1998 in The Atlantic. Just thought I would pass this along.


Important - Read or Listen to Gore's Speech

I've just read Al Gore's speech today to the Commonwealth Club, on the subject of Iraq. (Thanks to Eschaton.)

It is an important speech and I highly recommend reading it.

It will be broadcast tonite at 9pm (PDT) on KQED. Outside of the Bay area you can pick this up on the internet. Click on "Listen Live."

What Else Are They Capable Of?

As the election approaches I'm sure we all feel steamrolled by events. It's clear that the Democrats are having great difficulty coming up with a way to counter this Iraq situation arriving just exactly in time for the election. Iraq is dominating the news, the Congressional agenda and the election campaign. On top of that, the Republican "machine" of TV pundits, newspaper columnists, op-ed writers, radio talk show hosts and wholly-owned subsidiaries like the Fox Network and the Washington Times are marching at full speed in a coordinated and well-planned attack painting Democrats as obstructing the "President's war effort", less-than-patriotic and even somehow treasonous.

It's also clear that the Republicans have been planning exactly this situation for some time. There is no reason for the immediacy of war with Iraq - it isn't an imminent national security emergency, there's no new news, there's nothing but the election to explain what's going on. Labor Day is the traditional start of election campaigns and Labor Day is the very day that they rolled out this "marketing campaign" as they themselves referred to it.

Imagine - a war planned just in time for the election campaign - it appears that the Democrats just did not anticipate what the Republicans are capable of. The Democrats did not imagine the current scenario and consequently did not plan for it.

So let's imagine another scenario. It's late October and the polls show that the Democrats are pulling out of this and appear to be ready to gain a number of seats in the House and Senate. I think we should ask the question now - What are the Republicans capable of between now and the election if it looks like they're losing? It's called an "October Surprise" and we all ought to be thinking ahead.


Who's On the News

Found on Bushwatch-- FAIR has a study out, looking at network news sources.
A study of ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News in the year 2001 shows that 92 percent of all U.S. sources interviewed were white, 85 percent were male and, where party affiliation was identifiable, 75 percent were Republican.
Big surprise. The whole study is here.

Dear Economists,

From now on when you do studies concluding that government regulations cost the economy please remember to factor in the costs of not having regulations, like the cost of the depression in the 30's, and the depression of the next 10 years, the S&L crisis, all the disability paid to people with carpal tunnel syndrome, the cost of (or the costs not of) cleaning the CO2 out of the air, jobs lost when all the large trees in an area get cut down in a few years, and all the other costs of this nature.


Seeing the Forest

Everyone Should Read This

Over at Counterspin Central, beginning with the words, "LET ME EXPLAIN SOMETHING."
I am enough of a student of history, particularly the Roman Republic, to see this as the first step toward a troubling future for our country.

The slippery slope metaphor tends to be overused, but in this case, I think it is not a cliche.

Think long and hard about this one. It may be the beginning of the end of our Republic. It may take decades, and the transition may go slowly enough that we hardly perceive it until it is too late. But...I think this is a dangerous path.
And I'm proud to add Counterspin Central to my list of Essential Links.