Dean Meetups Wednesday

The next Howard Dean for President Meetup day is this coming Wednesday, June 4. If you have heard about Governor Dean and want to learn more, or already know enough and want to get more involved, or just want to go spend a couple of hours with other people who feel the way you do, then this is your chance.

When you arrive at your Meetup location you'll probably see a sign or someone with a Dean t-shirt on, maybe a sign-in table. Often these days you'll see a crowd. Usually they're at a coffee shop or somewhere that serves beer and can accommodate enough people. Usually Dean Meetups involve spending a bit of time mingling with other Dean supporters, then one or two people making a few announcements, and then showing a Dean speech or other video. After they finish people are asked if they want to join a committee to work on organizing, or perhaps to have a house party.

You can find out where your nearest meetup is at Dean2002.Meetup.com. At this website you can sign up, find a local Meetup, read messages from other local Dean supporters and learn more about the Meetup process. Meetup is not part of the Dean campaign, it is a commercial service that the Dean campaign is using for this purpose. Dean is currently the largest of Meetup's clients.

Go. You'll enjoy it and you'll feel like you are helping the country.

Bush Lied People Died

Bush Lied
People Died


Getting Our Message Out

I have a piece at Smirking Chimp today. It's an improved version of a recent piece posted here. (Edited to make me look better.)

Go leave a comment.


Voting Machines Petition

Working For Change has a voting machines petition.
Stop the Florida-tion of the 2004 election
Computers threaten accountability of voting system

Today, there is a new and real threat to voters, this time coming from touchscreen voting machines with no paper trails and the computerized purges of voter rolls.

You can join SCLC President Martin Luther King III and investigative reporter Greg Palast in opposing the "Florida-tion" of the 2004 Presidential election by signing this petition. A complete copy of the petition will be delivered by Working Assets to Attorney General John Ashcroft.
I think it's more about publicizing the problem than getting anything done. Imagine - giving a petition to Ashcroft and thinking anything is going to get done! But publicizing is good, so sign the petition and pass the word.

Nothing But Lies

I'm loaded down today reading weblogs and pundits complaining about hypocrisy from the Bush administration on one issue after another. Altercation writes, "The hypocrisy of this administration is absolutely mind-boggling and the mainstream media are its unindicted co-conspirators." because the Bushies have been claiming they're doing a lot of help AIDS in Africa, when they are actually doing nothing. Tbogg is upset that the Bushies are lying about WMD, contracting out the federal workforce, saving Private Lynch, etc. Democratic Veteran says they say they want to win the "Hearts and Minds" of Iraqis but aren't DOING that, and saying we won in Iraq when we're still fighting, and going after Iran, etc. In the New York Times Bob Herbert writes about the Bush tax bill saying it's about job growth but having nothing in it that will grow jobs. And I just heard someone on a ieAmericaRadio.com show say "and it just turns out that everything they were saying was lies."

Come on! Don't you get it? This is not hypocrisy or stupidity or incompetence - this is laying down a smokescreen of words to cover their real agenda. Get used to it - they just lie. Everyone gets worked up about the illogical arguments they make, and spends so much time and energy arguing with what the Bush people are SAYING and not much time effectively fighting what they are DOING. Gosh, do you think that's part of their plan for getting things done?

Eschaton shows that he has a clue when he writes today, "At what point will our media just accept that they get nothing but lies?"

I'll be writing about the influence on the right wingers of philosopher Leo Strauss soon. He taught that deception is necessary in politics - leaders should tell the people what they need to tell them to keep them calm and then do what they think is best. Oh yeah, there is a lot more. Here's a good place to study up: Leo Strauss' Philosophy of Deception

Corporate Share of Cost of Government

I was looking into what has happened to the share of taxes paid by corporations, and came across this interesting article, The 50-Year Swindle. Here are a few excerpts:
Year by year during the last half of the twentieth century, Congress and the Internal Revenue Service have shifted the national tax burden away from corporations and onto the backs of individuals and families.

The numbers are painfully simple. After World War II, corporations and individuals carried the tax burden together. Year by year, this has been altered until the corporate-individual split is now closer to 20-to-80--and guess who pays the 80 percent?

In 1953, if you count only income taxes, not various other excises, sales taxes, and special duties, individuals and families paid 59 percent of federal revenues and corporations 41 percent, according to The Statistical Abstract of the United States. By the latest confirmed figures in the Abstract, the corporate share has dropped from 41 to 20 percent, while that of individuals has increased from 59 to 80 percent.

On the flip side, it has made corporations steadily larger and more powerful. This has led to the "legal corruption" of huge campaign contributions that accelerated the ability of corporations to avoid more and more of their responsibility for keeping the country's civic system in decent economic health.

The half-century of stealth attacks have had the insidious effect of conditioning most of the public to accept seemingly unconnected annual changes that, with time, look like acts of God or some force of economics beyond human intervention.

The big swindle that shifts taxes from corporations to individuals is concealed by another myth that politicians keep drumming into the American consciousness: The citizens of the United States are being crushed by ever-rising tax burdens. We are told that we're all taxed to the eyebrows and this must be changed. It is almost mandatory rhetoric in every election campaign.

But, according to the Century Foundation (formerly the middle-of-the-road Twentieth Century Fund) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), of all the industrialized democracies, the United States is near the bottom in paying taxes when calculated as a percentage of the country's total wealth, its Gross Domestic Product. Our total taxes as percentage of our GDP are 29.7 percent, Britain's are 33.6 percent; Canada's are 33.6 percent; Germany's are 39 percent; and Sweden's are 49.9 percent. If that makes us feel lucky, we need to add that all those other countries provide health, housing, and other services we do not.
Some ammunition for any of you who still bother to argue with right-wingers instead of just realizing that what they do is lay down a smokesreen of lies to cover what they are really doing... Much of this article does that -- it refutes the arguments of the right-wingers point by point. Of course, by the time the article had been written all the arguments had shifted, because they were never meant as serious arguments at all.

Anyway, the article has some good numbers to help you understand what has been happening to the tax structure over time, and some good stories. A good read.



Welcome BadGimp.

The Mood of Intimidation In Bush's America

Here's a story about a teachers being punished for not supporting Bush enough. One was suspended for not taking down posters done by students - the pro-war posters were not "pro-war enough." Another was suspended because a student on the school's poetry-slam team read an anti-war poem. The poetry-slam team has also been disbanded. Four more were suspended for having anti-war posters in their classrooms. Most are terminated as of the end of this school year. All have letters inserted in their files which will make it difficult to find another job. And this is just in Albuquerque.
"Meanwhile, pro-war, militaristic signs, posters and bumper stickers abound at many Albuquerque and Rio Rancho schools."
Has Bush spoken out condemning these violations of people's rights? Has he spoken out against the mood of intimidation that is spreading across America? After you're done spitting your coffee out of your nose and laughing, please remember to read the rest of Seeing the Forest.

As I wrote below in Agents of The Party, "This is not a man condemning thuggery, this is a man gratefully utilizing it."

Space - For Americans Only

tendentious brought to my attention that the U.S. is now talking about denying all other countries the use of space for intelligence gathering satellites. They're talking about total military domination of the planet.
If allies don't like the new paradigm of space dominance, said Air Force secretary James Roche, they'll just have to learn to accept it. The allies, he told the symposium, will have 'no veto power.'

Another Stealth Bill

It looks like the new Defense Department authorization bill has a hidden surprise in it - it ends civil service protection for Pentagon employees! This means the loss of almost half the civil service union jobs in the country! Apparently the House has passed this but the Senate has not yet passed it. The American Federation of Government Employees has more information.

Please visit their website, and then call your Senators right away!


"Starving the Beast"

Read this, Stating the Obvious from Krugman today.
It's no secret that right-wing ideologues want to abolish programs Americans take for granted. But not long ago, to suggest that the Bush administration's policies might actually be driven by those ideologues — that the administration was deliberately setting the country up for a fiscal crisis in which popular social programs could be sharply cut — was to be accused of spouting conspiracy theories.
Then read this, Taxing Credibility by Bruce Bartlett from the LA Times Sunday, arguing from the right that yes this is exactly what they are doing, and for good reason.
Neoconservatives thought that attacking massively popular spending programs was both counterproductive and politically hopeless. Congress would never vote to cut such programs directly, and would not even restrain their growth unless under enormous political pressure.

And so, they approached things differently. First, they concluded that it is the relative size of government, not its absolute size, that is most important. In other words, government spending as a share of the gross domestic product was what mattered. For neocons, increasing the GDP is as important as lowering spending. Earlier conservatives had concentrated almost exclusively on controlling spending, assuming that increasing GDP was beyond government's grasp.

Second, neoconservatives absorbed the insights of Public Choice, an economic school led by Nobel Prize winner James Buchanan. One of Buchanan's theories, developed in academic papers and books during the mid-1970s, held that the size of government is better controlled on the tax side than the spending side. Cutting spending directly, while desirable, was often impossible in the absence of special circumstances, because the beneficiaries of spending were well organized and motivated, while those favoring lower spending were disorganized and diffused.

Neoconservatives saw tax cuts as a single solution to both problems. Lower tax rates would spur economic growth. If growth increased faster than spending, then spending's share of GDP would fall without the necessity of cutting spending directly. At the same time, they reasoned, budget deficits resulting from lower taxes would mobilize movements advocating reduced spending.

When California's Proposition 13 came along in 1978, Kristol saw another way in which tax cutting was useful. By denying government its fuel, tax cuts forced politicians to cut spending. In this sense, supply-side economics echoed the thinking of conservative economist Milton Friedman, who wrote in a 1978 column that "the only effective way to restrain government spending is by limiting government's explicit tax revenue — just as a limited income is the only effective restraint on any individual's or family's spending."

Starving the beast and increasing incentives for work, saving and investment are still good reasons to cut taxes today.
Yes, it's obvious, especially when they clearly say that their intent is to bankrupt the country IN ORDER TO get rid of Social Security and Medicare They call it "starving the beast" and they are proud to be bankrupting the country, because that brings the desired goal of getting rid of all of our pensions and health care.

If you asked the average Bush voter if they think Bush is trying to get rid of Social Security or Medicare they'll look at you like you are a crazy conspiracist. But how do you get through to them, when all of AM radio is a 24/7 Republican party ad, the TV networks replace Phil Donahue with Michael Savage, and most people won't go near a newspaper? Well, I've been writing about how to do that.

Search is Gone

I got rid of the search capability becuase it sucked too much. One of these days Blogger will have its search working.

Update - Maybe one of these days Blogger will get Blogspot working, too!

So Much for That Idea

The huge Bush tax cut was supposed to immediately lift the stock market, creating a "wealth effect" which would then boost consumer confidence and revive the economy.

Well, the tax cut passed Friday night. This is Tuesday morning (markets were closed yesterday), and the stock market opened ... down. Down 45 as I write, 5 minutes after the open.

Oops. Oh well, so much for that idea. Sorry about that HUGE increase in the deficit.

Update -The market went up later, because of consumer confidence and housing numbers. But the initial movement, in response to passing the tax cut bill, was down.


Who Is Responsible?

I'm reading this NY Times story about the Democrats trying to find a message, etc. I don't agree that the problem is that the Democrats don't have a message, or that it is their responsibility to develop one. Politicians RESPOND to the public. That's their job. A while back I wrote a piece about this, Don't Blame the Democrats. I'm going to repeat and expand on that piece here, and tell you who I blame - who I challenge to step up to the plate and fix this problem.

I have written about how the right has in place a broad, extremely well-funded "idea development and communication infrastructure" and how this has successfully moved the public to the right. This infrastructure consists of think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute (the people who brought you the Iraq war) to develop and refine their ideology, and a communications infrastructure that pumps their message out. This is the "message amplification infrastructure." Some of the communication channels are Rush Limbaugh and all of AM radio, Fox News and most of the TV pundits, the Washington Times and other newspapers, various magazines, various book publishers, and numerous organizations endlessly repeating the ideological messages to the public.

As I wrote before: "After the public has been barraged with the messaging from The Mighty Wurlizter, the Republican politicians step in and harvest the results." In other words, politicians respond to the public. To change the country don't rely on the politicians, instead you must change the public. This is how the right has accomplished so much. They have been pumping their ideological message to the public, following a long-term strategy, and over time succeeded in moving the public to the right. Only then would the public vote for their candidates.

As one example of this process, let's look at the right's movement to get rid of public schools. For so many years the right-wing infrastructure has been pumping out the message that "public schools are failing." After some time, hearing this message over and over, a consensus grows that there is a problem with public schools. Right-wing politicians can then promise "solutions," like vouchers, and their message resonates with a public that is primed to believe there is a "problem" requiring a solution. This public is also primed, through repetition of other messaging, to believe that private companies are more effective than government, etc. So the environment for accepting private schools as a "solution" to the "problem" of failing public schools has been set up. (It doesn't matter if there really is a problem, as long as a large enough share of the voting public believes there is.)

Now contrast this with the progressive approach to the health care problem. A progressive politician can come to the public saying we need "single-payer health insurance" or even the shorter "universal health care." The response from the public is going to be, "What?" because so few of the public have heard of these terms, much less been pounded with progressive messages about the problems with the health care system. So the way things work now, progressive politicians have to come in explaining from scratch the problems, and trying to educate the public with their detailed solutions. This is because the support base for their ideas was not developed in advance by a comparable ideological infrastructure.

Do we blame the Democrats for this? The Republican Party "harvests" the environment set up by the well-funded "idea development and communication infrastructure." But it wasn't the Republican Party that set up this infrastructure. So I don't think we can blame the Democratic Party for the absence of a comparable infrastructure on the left. The right-wing infrastructure was set up by a few right-wing philanthropists with a vision and not by the Republican Party.

So when looking for someone to "blame" perhaps we should look to someone other than Democratic politicians. Perhaps we should look to the people who FUND moderates and progressives. Let me explain what I mean.

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 "advocacy" organizations that exist to come up with ways to convince the public to vote Republican. The organizations on the right are funded just to exist, and the money continues year after year, so they do not have to spend so much of their time raising money, instead concentrating on effectively carrying out their ideological objectives.

On the other hand, moderate and progressive philanthropists have traditionally provided money for specific programs with the intent of doing good in specific ways. This system of "program funding" evolved as the best way to apply scarce resources to projects with goals for which there was a general public consensus of support. This system evolved at a time when helping the poor, protecting the environment were all widely supported by the public.

But now the right's ideology machine has eroded that public support, and the programs funded by this system are less effective. The right uses their machine to get politicians elected that will carry out their agenda of dismantling almost everything that the moderates and progressives have been funding. When this happens, the moderate and progressive money is wasted. The example I like to use is a program to protect a redwood grove, costing $500,000 a year for the last 10 years. But now an elected official issues a decree that the best way to protect forests from fire is to remove the trees, or an ideological judge rules that trees are better used for industry -- and just like that the redwood grove is gone, and the $5,000,000 spent over 10 years is completely wasted. AND on top of that the local radio stations are mocking the funders as "evironmental whackos" or "eco-terrorists," and perhaps people are picketing their offices with signs saying they are "anti-capitalist."

Program funding was not designed to counter the current destructive opposition from the right. Moderate and progressive funding must start taking this into account, and start 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.

Moderate and progressive philanthropists must step up to the plate. As with anything that has been in place for a long time, program funding is an entrenched system, with bureaucracies in place, and lots of careers depending on the system staying just the way it is. But moderate and progressive philanthropists and foundations must recognize that this is no longer the most effective use of their money. Moderate and progressive philanthropists and foundations must step up to the plate and begin providing general operating funding to advocacy organizations who will work to move the public back away from this right-wing ideological nonsense that we have been subjected to for so long! This will provide an underlying base of support for the programs we all care about. This will help persuade the public to elect candidates who will protect the programs they care about. This will persuade the public to support the organizations that are trying so hard to protect the environment and help the poor and all the rest. We all need the work done to strengthen the underlying public attitudes of support for these goals, to strengthen and build the base of support upon which the organizations and programs rest.

If you are fortunate enough to have possession of so much of the resources, you have the responsibility to use them in the best possible way. You have the duty to see that there is a threat from the right that must be countered. It is not the job of a political party - politicians respond to the public. It is your job to use your resources to educate the public, to move them back from the right, to counter the ideological propaganda that the right is bombarding us with, to defend the programs we all care so much about.