31 March 2011

Les Leopold: winning against Wall Street

Please read Les Leopold's piece in Alternet, How to Take on Wall Street and Win.

Huckabee: dangerous extremist

In case any of my intrepid readers (all three of them?) have not yet realized it, Mike Huckabee's cultivated image as a relatively moderate Republican is completely phony. The man is a total extremist, who buys into David Barton and others' falsified "Christian Nation" history and other Rightist claptrap.

See this. Be sure to follow the link to the actual video where Huckabee, only half-jokingly, says Americans should be "forced at gunpoint" to watch Barton's "tutelage."

30 March 2011

Obama's popularity is slipping and the reason is simple: he's not being a Democratic leader

I've noticed since January that the president's approval ratings have been slipping. They were in actually net positive territory for a while after the first of the year, but are now down to (mixed poll averages) something on the order of 49-45 disapproval

I can't prove this scientifically, but I am convinced the reason for this is the president's anemic support for working people in the Wisconsin Wave and his over-readiness to cave in to Republicans in their demands, based on their promulgation of the Great Fiscal Myth, to cut, specifically, only certain kinds of spending, which almost invariably harms lower middle class, working people, and the poor (including the long term unemployed) the hardest. Earth to President Obama: these are your constituents. You know, the folks who got you elected.

President Obama needs to change course and start supporting a progressive agenda immediately, or he could actually lose in '12, when all the signs are indicating that the reactionary reversal in '10 has already played out and the opportunity for a major restoration of Democratic power in '12 is emerging. But the president needs to lead, not oppose, the new awakening on the part of millions of working people and others in the less privileged classes that it is the Rightists, not the left, who is waging class warfare, and that the war is against them. Why the president doesn't seem to get this I can't figure out, in all truth.

I also fear that the Libyan military incursion could well backfire, and that the president's popularity will suffer as a result. And if that happens, there's no way around it: it will have been self-inflicted.

Financial Martial Law in Michigan

I find the sweeping, almost Stalinesque, powers appropriated by the governor in Michigan under that state's "Financial Martial Law" legislation, to be all but beyond belief. Can this really be happening in America? The Rightists think they can pass a law that gives the governor the right to dissolve duly elected local governments? Just stunningly unAmerican, I'd say.  See this.

Rightists openly defy the Rule of Law

In the 1950s and 60s we had a few segregationist governors who at least feinted at defying court orders, mostly with regard to Federal law. But even in the shadowy realms of nutcase McCarthyism and blatantly racist southern governors in those days, I am not aware of a case where the extremist dominated legislature and governor openly defied an order of their own state's court of proper jurisdiction to implement a law found to have been passed illegally.

Yet this is precisely the situation today. Not in Alabama or Mississippi, but in Wisconsin. See this.

29 March 2011

Impending Government Shutdown

Of course, I could be wrong, but I really, really think that if the Republicans overreach again, and allow a government shutdown to take place in April, it will inure almost entirely to the benefit of Democrats in the next election cycle.

So be it. We'll get through it; it's happened before.

Sad News: Joe Bageant died of cancer this past weekend.

A fitting remembrance from Daily KOS.

Corporate Tax Crisis ... a symptom of a faltering world economic order in grave need of reform

Here's a short piece on the "race to the bottom" in terms of corporate tax rates as part of a global process of shifting wealth to the rich and powerful.

The solution to this problem, unfortunately, is probably out of the hands of any one country. We need a new Breton Woods type international agreement whereby nations will have the ability to impose realistic taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals, and prevent the sheltering of assets and profits in low or no-tax havens. There is absolutely nothing sacred about the present system that allows private corporations and individuals to engage in what amounts to racketeering at the expense of the public welfare of the nations of the world.

I am increasingly convinced that the post-WWII regimes that we've held on to since the end of the Cold War, both geopolitical and economic, are faltering and leading our whole world into a path of environmental ruin and economic collapse. Our country can be a leader, forging bold new approaches, or it can just let the situation fester, while the new economies of India and China develop without realistic environmental checks and balances, and while private wealth becomes increasingly sheltered and concentrated, to the detriment of the national interests of the developed countries including the US. The issues are not simple, not well known to the public, and will require some very significant changes of policy direction to properly address. What is needed is strong leadership, and so far, at least, I have seen no evidence of it from the Democratic party.

The Republican Party, of course, is fully committed to ruinous decline, so they are hopeless.

Spitzer AND Obama: far too timid on economy, fiscal matters

Eliot Spitzer urges the president to allow the government shutdown threatened by the Rightists, in Slate today. Here.

This is my response. I don't even address the idea that the shutdown should be allowed to happen. Of course it should. But Spitzer's vision, and the president's, of what progressives should be doing and saying is far, far too timid.

This article starts from a false premise, which is the result of Rightist framing of the issues from the inception. The very term "entitlements" is a right-wing concept. What are we actually talking about? Providing MINIMAL retirement security and health care to seniors and the poor. These are not ENTITLEMENTS, they are NECESSITIES of civilization. Secondly, although by some technical markers the so-called Great Recession is "over," tell that to one of the 22+ million long term unemployed in this country. No, I reject entirely the Great Fiscal Myth that our nation is broke and we have to cut, cut, cut. If we follow that prescription, we will simply slide into long term decline, and the rich will stay rich while the poor get poorer and the middle class disappears entirely into the working poor and worse.

Our nation faces economic and environmental challenges over the next ten or twenty years that are truly comparable, in Carter's then-unfortunate phrase, to the "moral equivalent of war." What President Obama really needs to do is to make the case for infrastructure development and investment (transportation, renewable energy including solar thermal, wind, and power grid modernization), and significant increases in taxes on upper incomes (very large increases on multimillionaires and up), eliminating corporate tax evasion and loopholes, and making significant cuts in Cold War and "projection of power" military expenditures that no longer make sense for America. Our country needs massive public investment, not massive cuts in domestic spending, to become prosperous again. The case must be made, that it's like WWII, a great challenge, that requires sacrifice from all, but ESPECIALLY from those who have so much from the policies of the past.

Spitzer's suggestions are weak, ineffectual, and really just a variant of the Great Fiscal Myth being perpetrated by the Right Wing.

28 March 2011

Reports: Deal in Indiana, National Republicans may force shutdown in April

Reports today: Democrats win concessions from Rightists in Indiana. 

But, House Republicans prepare to reject final WH budget offer (April Gov't shutdown likely). 

I see both of these developments as BIG negatives for the Republican party.

I believe that momentum is shifting away from the Rightists, but that they (and unfortunately the White House as well), haven't woken up to the fact yet.

Trump now "full birther"

Report that Donald Trump has gone "full birther"....

I don't see why this is even news. Donald Trump went "full clown" some time ago.

Talbott in Huffington Post: how Obama is missing the boat in ignoring his progressive base

John R. Talbott has a very good piece in Huffington Post about how Pres. Obama is missing the boat in ignoring his progressive base. I think Talbott has it just about right. Here.

My letter to Bob Herbert

Dear Mr. Herbert:

I read your last NYT column with a growing sense that you had written a classic of American commentary. You hit each of the key points of our current dilemma squarely and with clear-eyed accuracy, including the strange disconnect whereby the people most affected by the changes in our economic and political outlook over the last 30 or 40 years are mostly unaware of what has happened, still less of what they could be doing to change it.

What disturbs me most is that we had the collective wisdom to elect President Obama, based on his statements that he understood these issues; but now, he seems to have become almost tone deaf. Forget about the mistakes made in rallying the "base" during the first two years; even just starting from the debacle in November, it seems to me to be a tale of one opportunity after another missed. A few months can be an age in American politics, and it's clear to most people of a progressive bent that there has been a huge amount of buyer's remorse and very possibly a real sea change in American political trends since November, yet the president seems to think tacking to the ever-rightward drifting "center" is the lesson learned, and that working out with the Republicans the details of just how much the Democrats will give in to their Great Fiscal Myth will have to be the main thrust of his agenda for the next two years.

Good luck with your efforts to work to change these developments. I hope to follow your career going forward and that you will have great success... because what you're talking about is renewing and preserving the very essential idea of our country, without which we will be just another failed empire headed for long term decline. I hope you somehow have the answer to how the message of your fine column can be really communicated to our president, before it's too late.

Thank you.


»Losing our Way« • Bob Herbert's last column for NYT

Mark I. kindly sent me a link to Bob Herbert's last column for the NYT, called »Losing our Way«. This is a truly excellent piece of writing, with penetrating insight into what's gone wrong with the "big picture" in America, and at least some suggestions about how we could start finding our way back to the promise our country once represented (however imperfectly), not only to the World but to our own people.

PLEASE read. (Link above).

26 March 2011

Rightists usurp court's authority and publish anti-union law in WI.

Wisconsin Republicans defy court order and publish union busting law. Here.

Which seems to clinch it, as far as I'm concerned. The Rightists in this country care nothing about the Rule of Law or the Constitution they falsely tout with such glee. All they care about is raw power.

25 March 2011

WI Republicans target UW Prof. Cronon for op-ed, blog posts

I linked in a previous post to the NY Times op-ed Wisconsin's Radical Break by UW Prof. William Cronon. (here).

This has created a huge shitstorm in Wisconsin, where the WI Repub Party has tried to use the state's FOIA law to intimidate Prof. Cronon. Read about it here, and be sure to link to Prof. Cronon's own thoughtful blog posts on the subject, from his new blog Scholar as Citizen.

Report that a prosecutor in Indiana advised Gov. Walker to fake an attack on himself to discredit protesters... unbelievable!

See this.

No one likes to be tarred with the same brush as criminals who happen to agree with them (even when those criminals are officeholders in their same political party). But I find these kinds of shameless dirty tricks, which are outright crimes, (including Walker's own mention during the punk phone call, of using agents provacateurs in the crowds), come more often from the Rightists than from the sensible Left. The punk David Koch phone call is an example. It was a trick, yes, but somehow it totally lacks the insidiousness of this prosecutor's suggestion that a sitting governor should fake an assassination attempt or attack on himself, to discredit legitimate protesters. The two are just not comparable.

On Wisconsin! I am proud of the Peoples' Party. Join the protests against union-busting, against the Great Fiscal Myth, against the Republican War on the Middle Class! These Rightists are the class warriors, and they care for no one but themselves.

Libyan Intervention and Risk of Fiasco

Very good discussion (audio files from Background Briefing) here.

While I believe the justification for intervention in Libya (however ill-timed) is, on the face of it, certainly much better than any possible justification for the second Iraq invasion in '03, I, like many other Americans, am deeply troubled by three things in particular:

1.  The notion that our country is somehow responsible to maintain order and prevent atrocities in other countries. This is a slippery slope, that has mostly had very counterproductive and negative outcomes in the past, especially with regard to the TWO wars in the Middle East in the last decade, NEITHER of which is over yet! (Yes, Afghanistan's original justification was to retaliate against and prevent further attack on the U.S., but that's long since crept into something entirely different, more like "nation-building").

2.  The concept that, even with the "cover" of U.N. or NATO mandate, the president can or should commit any part of the U.S. military to an action that is other than a direct defense against an attack on U. S. territory without the consent and participation of Congress. Yes, I am old fashioned. Yes, there's lots of precedent. But, look, the Constitution is clear, and Dennis Kucinich is right. This is unconstitutional, it is a usurpation by the executive of a power reserved to the Congress, and I find it deeply, deeply objectionable, regardless of whether it is a Democratic or a Republican president who does it.

3.  The double or triple standard for the "humanitarian" justification. It is unquestionable, to any sane person, that the humanitarian justification for intervention in the Congo right now, or the Sudan at any time in the last few years, is far better than any justification for intervention in Libya. Why, then, is it the U.S.'s responsibility, when even the Arab League and neighbor Egypt, which has F-16s and a standing army, stand idly by and criticize us, to intervene in yet another Middle Eastern country? I see this as more likely than not to end badly.

Moreover, although the history of these events has yet to emerge, it is widely reported that the president was persuaded to do this by Hillary Clinton, Samantha Powers, and Susan Rice, against the advice of the military advisors and Sec'y Gates. I don't claim to be an expert on geopolitics, but it seems to me if your military advisors and your S.O.D. are telling you, don't do this, you probably should think it over many times, and be very, very reluctant to do it, because they have a pretty good idea what's likely to happen if you do it, and they don't like it.

I hope and pray this ends quickly and well, but I fear that President Obama has made a terrible mistake getting our country involved in what is obviously poorly planned, lacking in a clear strategic objective or end game, and something that amounts to little more than a Hail Mary play when it was obvious the so-called rebels were about to be trounced.

22 March 2011

New Chart Shows How Taxing Millionaires Would Save Billions More Than Cutting Education and Other Programs


Thanks to Greg R. for this.

I admire Jan Schakowsky, who's introduced a plan to create 2 new tax brackets, starting at a 45 percent rate for people whose income is $1 million. Her bracket would impose the highest rate — 49 percent — on billionaires.

I think this is fine, as a starter, but it really doesn't go far enough. I would put in at least four or five new upper income brackets,* with 45% starting at $250,000; at least 55% at $1 million; 70% at $20 million, and a top bracket of at least 85% on incomes over $100 million. Anyone who takes in $100 million in a year should be giving back a helluva lot, and anyone who doesn't think so is someone I have no use for.

The whole concept of "flat tax," or "limited taxes," or whatever you want to call it, is just a rationalization for legalizing racketeering. Taxes are the price of civilization, and from those to whom so much has been given, more must be received in return. This is just common sense, and there's no way around it if you want to have a functional society that treats its people decently. Which many of these people don't care one whit about, in truth.

* In actuality, I've long advocated using a progressive curve to determine tax rates. With present day computer technology, it would be a simple matter to have tax on income determined by a formula that would graph as the left half of a bell curve, with incomes under $30,000 or so normalized to zero, and a cap of 85%.  This would be the most fair tax possible, if you accept the simple premise that the rich should pay more, because they have made their wealth from the mostly-unearned advantages bestowed upon them by the existence of the civilization into which they were born. Taxes could be set so that few deductions were necessary, and rates would, for most working people, actually be somewhat lower than they are now for the modestly higher revenues needed to address our legitimate needs and the need to address the long term debt to a reasonable degree.

The real reson oil and other commodities are spiking

Here we go again. Here's a piece on the real reasons why oil (and other commodity) prices are spiking right now.

There is some component of normal supply/demand, but excessive (and illegal but tolerated) speculation in commodities-based derivatives (as opposed to legitimate hedging by trading in actual futures) is the main engine of price hikes. These derivatives are much like the CDO's and CDS's that violated the primary rules of honest finance (trade in ownership, not mere bets; insurable interest and reserves for guarantors; many times reasonable levels of leverage)... and caused the meltdown in 08. The financial reform law in 2010 was supposed to make this kind of thing illegal, but the regulatory function is simply not working.

18 March 2011

Ann Coulter, Idiot.

Ann. Coulter. Is. An. Idiot.  •    Link.

Oh, wait, though. If you've been alive in the 21st century and pay any attention at all to the meeja, you already knew that.

My letter to a medical lab corporation

I am writing to express my grave concern, as a citizen, about the enormous disparity between what for-profit medical providers such as ** charge uninsured vs. insured patients. I believe that this is a serious problem that adversely impacts our nation and its citizens, and that it is your duty as corporate citizens to redress this problem, which is in large measure caused by your misconduct, as soon as possible.

I intend to use the above-referenced bill as an exemplar in correspondence to my congressman to point out this disparity. For-profit companies, such as **, are charging, as this bill demonstrates (in many cases) as much as eight times as much to uninsured patients as to insured patients. This is one of the reasons that health care has become so unaffordable in this country, with the most adversely affected being those least able to afford it. I can scarcely think of a better definition of corporate immorality. I will also point out that it is one of the reasons why the time has come to institute single payer (Medicare for All) with strict cost control regimes, to ensure affordable health care for all.

When (not if) this finally becomes the law in this country, the greed, systemic inefficiency, and disregard for the moral mission of caring for the sick, which has for years characterized what I choose to refer to as the illness exploitation industry in America, will have compelled the reform; in other words, you will have brought it on yourselves. When that happens, everyone will be better off. Nonprofit health systems such as operate in most of the rest of the civilized world actually provide lots of employment and gainful economic activity for millions of people; just not ridiculous and immoral disparities that cause huge suffering to millions of uninsured people and outsize profits to a few.

16 March 2011

Pro-nuclear spin... unbelievable.

This just beggars comment:
Nuclear advocates counter that if the radiation from the crippled reactors is contained and injuries are minor, the disaster could turn out to help the industry.
"If containment holds on these units, that is something that can be considered a success story," says Paul Murphy, who works in nuclear business development for the law firm Millbank. "The quake was so strong that the earth's axis moved, and this old technology withstood it."

Lesson of the Crisis: No more nukes • Phase out Nuclear Power

It is increasingly clear that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi is really, really bad. The earthquake and tsunami, both of which were especially severe but hardly outside the realm of foreseeability, caused damage that the design  of these (unfortunately American-designed) power plants simply cannot cope with. The first and second back up systems have failed, and there are no good options. 

Experts say the crisis will not abate for weeks, and that difficult and extremely dangerous operations will be necessary during that time to avoid total catastrophe.

Just what would that mean? I.e., a total melting event in all four reactors (plus 2 more possible). From what I can gather, it would be multiples of Chernobyl; a swath of one of the most populous countries in the world rendered uninhabitable for generations. This hasn't happened yet, but from what I can gather there is no realistic assurance at this point that it can be prevented.

Already, it seems to me the world must conclude that nuclear power is just too dangerous, and too expensive, to even consider. We must first help the Japanese in any way we can to resolve this crisis with the best possible outcome. Then we must, ourselves, resolve to abandon all plans to build nuclear power plants and put into effect a program to rapidly decommission and replace all existing nuclear power plants with renewable energy generating plants.

As one formerly pro-nuclear expert engineer recently said on Ian Masters's Background Briefing: if this had been a solar plant, or a wind plant, or even a coal plant or a natural gas plant, you wouldn't be talking to me. They would have shut them down, and that would've been that. But nuclear power plants can't just be shut down; when an event outside their design plan occurs, they are deadly and very, very difficult to control. That has to be taken into account in any assessment of the costs of nuclear power, and the conclusion is pretty clear: it's just not worth it. 

Draft Bachmann movement / TPM

Report here

Please, nice mentally challenged delusional lady, do run for President! Yes, please do! Your good buddina Caribou Barbie can run too! Won't it be fun!

15 March 2011

Good for Sen. Gillibrand

When she was first selected to replace Hillary Clinton, there was considerable grumbling from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party (as we like to call ourselves), that Kirsten Gillibrand might be too safe, too centrist, etc. etc. But her announcement today calling on the Obama administration to present a clear plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan gets my kudos.

I'd pretty much come around to being a fan anyway, because of New York's 2 senators, she's easily the more progressive.

14 March 2011

Ian Masters' revamped website and blog

The redoubtable Ian Masters, whom I have touted before as the most intelligent and insightful national and international political commentary/interview show host on all of radio, has revamped his website and added a blog. An excellent resource, especially for information about current content and web access to his excellent radio shows, now broadcast five days a week (KPFK-FM, 90.7 in L.A.; KPKF.org, or):


The time has come to allow states to collect sales tax on internet commerce

I am a "Prime" Amazon.com customer. I buy a lot of stuff from them; and not just books. 

The convenience is amazing. BUT, while the tax holiday of not having to pay sales tax for stuff bought through this and other commercial websites that carefully manage their properties to avoid having to charge sales tax in big states like California may be attractive, I have come to the conclusion that this situation is untenable.

See this article. I am in favor of allowing states to collect sales tax on all internet purchases for delivery to customers in-state. It's the only thing that really makes sense, and with states having moderate to severe (Calif. = severe, of course) budget problems, now is the time to change this policy.

Technically, consumers are responsible to keep track of "out of state" purchases and pay use tax on their state income tax returns, but few do.

We need to return in this country to a popular recognition that taxes are the price of civilization. The policymakers could certainly help by doing a better job of managing expenditures for the public good, but the Rightist-propaganda influenced and now unbelievably pervasive idea that all taxes are bad, and should be avoided, evaded, and reduced wherever possible, has wrought a great deal of destruction in our society and needs to change.

Nuclear Power just does not make sense

Example of special interest induced mental illness in Washington: defending nuclear power against all reason.
See this.

Look, I've heard it all. It just doesn't add up. Here are some simple, irrefutable facts.

Nuclear power has never been built anywhere in the world without massive government subsidies. When (better, if) made to pay the true costs, including any even close to realistic assessment of the costs from inevitable clean up of contamination, environmental degradation of contaminated lands, and storage of long lived nuclear waste, nuclear electric power is the most expensive form of electric power there is.

France, a seismically quiescent country for the most part, has managed to defer these problems, in the main, and so is cited as the great counterexample. But even France has built its nuclear power systems at enormous subsidized cost, and only because the readily available cheaper alternatives (apart from new renewable technologies, which they are beginning to adopt), have not been available to them.

A similar situation prevailed in Japan, which built some of the best, most regulated, and best run nuclear plants in the world, at huge government expense. But, as one of the most seismically active countries in the world, the events since Thursday have proven that policy to have been a disaster.

I am not opposed to nuclear power in principle. I am opposed to it because it just does not make either economic or environmental sense. You would think the very real prospect of a double meltdown, which will render a large region of Japan uninhabitable for a very long time, would be enough to make that obvious to everyone by now; but special interests have a way of distorting even the clearest realities.

13 March 2011

P. J. Crowley resigns after telling the truth about Bradley Manning

P. J. Crowley probably knew he was on his way out as State Dept. spokesperson when he decidedly to freely criticize the illegal and inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning (the Wikileaks accused). But the fact remains, he was absolutely right. This situation is quite clearly yet another black mark on the Rule of Law in this country (along with the Administration's failure to reverse the unconstitutional holding of prisoners without trial that the Bush Administration initiated, and their abysmal and disgusting failure to prosecute a single one of the perpetrators of the greatest financial fraud in history).

For Japan

Please pray or aspire for the people of Japan, and in particular that they can avert a nuclear disaster.

11 March 2011

One thing that IS like the 1990s... if the Republicans force government "shutdown," THEY will take blame

I commented below that Robert Reich is right that the White House is taking the analogy between the present situation and Bill Clinton in '94-'95 too seriously, since there are significant differences that mean that "moving to the Center," and siding with the Republicans on budget cuts is precisely the wrong thing to do, both in terms of policy and politics.

But one thing I think IS similar to that time is that if the Republicans are dumb enough to go ahead with a "government shutdown," it is they and not the Democrats in Congress or the President, who will be blamed by the majority of the electorate.

Cut the debt? Some ways to raise revenue short of straight tax increases, to be followed by increased taxes on the richest Americans

The Republicans have tried to convince the American people that we are in a budget crisis, and that we absolutely have to cut the deficit/long term debt or we'll disappear like the Wicked Witch of the West. I find the logic of this claim extremely dubious, but for reasons discussed here and elsewhere before, cutting spending on social programs, infrastructure investment, and other "necessaries" is the worst thing we could possibly be doing in the midst of a recession. So the only way to cut debt and deficit that makes any sense is to increase revenue, and to craft the revenue increases so the burden falls on those whose increased tax burden will least harm the recovery of our economy and take the least money out of the hands of the middle class and working people. 

Here are some simple ways to raise revenue without (yet) increasing marginal tax rates, consistent with those principles: 
  • Eliminate mortgage deductions except for one home, lived in by the taxpayer, and maximize the amount of the deduction itself at $3,000 for individual; $5,000 per couple; with no deductions for anyone with incomes over $200,000/400,000.
  • Eliminate oil and gas tax breaks
  • Eliminate corporate tax "loopholes," so that corporations actually pay taxes on incomes and profits
  • Tax excessive oil and gas profits (Windfall Profits Tax)
  • Eliminate most agricultural subsidies
  • Increase capital gains tax to 20%; and only up to portions of incomes up to $100,000 individual; $200,000 couple; above that level all income taxed at marginal rate.
  • Impose FICA taxes on all income, regardless of source; with no cap
  • Eliminate deductions for local taxes over a certain threshold 
  • Tighten up on corporate taxes to eliminate tax havens overseas for corporations doing business here
  • Impose modest transaction tax on securities trades (also discourages extremely short term trading, which makes markets more volatile)
Then, after these kick in and start getting deficit under control, we can do the following:

  • Preemptively eliminate Bush tax cuts effective 2013 for everyone earning over $125,000 individual; $250,000 joint filers
  • Create several new, much higher tax brackets for those with incomes over $400,000, with dramatically higher taxes on those earning over $1 million 
These have to be SOLD to the American people, using a whole new rhetoric of "fair share sacrifice from those who can most easily afford it" as opposed to "trying to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class, working people, and seniors." This is winning rhetoric if presented correctly. If there is enough protest and demand from the people, the Republicans will not be able to resist these changes forever.

Robert Reich is absolutely right

Robert Reich is absolutely right that Pres. Obama needs to stop comparing himself to Bill Clinton in 1994-95 and change direction immediately, embracing the "People's Party," fighting Republican attempts to deepen the recession and destroy the employment recovery through excessive budget cuts, and making the case for (1) more revenue by eliminating corporate tax breaks and most deductions for the very richest; and, even more importantly (2) NOT cutting vital social spending; and (3) more stimulus and infrastructure investment to get production and job growth going.

He needs to make the case that this is the way both to recover from the Great Recession, which was caused by the greatest debt bubble in history, AND, ultimately, to address the public debt, which can only be reduced by a combination of growth in the economy and increases in revenue.

David Broder dies

I wish his family well and whatever peace there may be, but I note the passing of David Broder primarily as a marker for journalists of what not to become: a self-serving and self-important pedant who ends up being an apologist for ideologues.

10 March 2011

Wisconsin Wave • The People's Party • My letter to my Congressman Today

My letter to my Congressman, Howard Berman, today:

Congressman Berman, I call upon you to stand with the protesting state workers and their supporters in Wisconsin, who, as Robert Reich and Michael Moore have correctly pointed out, are the vanguard of a new People's Party, to counter the Tea Party. As Michael Moore told the crowd last Saturday, "We have had it!". We are tired of the BIG LIE from the Right that America is "Broke" and that we can't and shouldn't spend the money to fix our economy, and bring jobs back to 22 million jobless in this country. You'd think Herbert Hoover had come back to life and was running both parties in Washington. Have we learned nothing from the experience of the Great Depression? We must NOT give in to the Republican procyclical budget demands, which will only make the Recession worse. We must NOT allow the Republican Class War on the Middle Class to succeed. We must oppose them, with every Democrat standing with us if they expect us to support THEM in the future. We must fight them, in the streets, in Congress, at the ballot box. And Democratic Congress members and Senators had better make clear whose side they are on, and NOW, if they expect our support.

Thank you.

Letter to NYT editor about Erica Chenoweth Op-Ed on nonviolent struggle

My letter to the editor of the NYT re: Erica Chenoweth's op-ed on nonviolent struggle.

Erica Chenoweth's op-Ed "Give Peaceful Resistance a Chance" (Mar. 9) fails to mention the most influential thinker on the means and effectiveness of nonviolent struggle, Gene Sharp. Prof. Sharp (Emeritus, U.Mass. Dartmouth), who heads the Albert Einstein Institution, is the author of

The first of these is the "bible" of nonviolent struggle, historically and in terms of practical methods; and the second is a handbook version which had a documented influence in Kosovo, Tunisia and Egypt, to name just a few venues of recent nonviolent liberation movements.

By failing to even mention this key element in these recent historical developments, Chenoweth's piece is of questionable value.

David Studhalter


I also happen to think that writing a piece on this general topic that fails to mention the connections with what is happening right here in America right now is very curious and oddly unengaged, to say the least.

WI State Sen. leader ADMITS it's ALL ABOUT defeating Obama in '12

Raw Story reports that proto-Fascist (and no, that's NOT too strong) WI State Senate leader Fitzgerald admitted on Fox News  that the Right Wing power grab to eviscerate public worker collective bargaining is all about defeating Obama in '12.
[Thanks to Greg Reece for link]
Stand with Michael Moore!
Support the People's Party!
Support Working Peoples' Rights --
Say HELL NO to Rightist Power Grab!

Read Reich on Gov. Walker's Coup d'état

Well worth a read: Gov. Walker's Coup d'état by Robert Reich in today's Huffington Post.

07 March 2011

Zakaria: It's the Investment Deficit, Stupid

I've occasionally been unimpressed by some of the arguments of Fareed Zakaria, who has seemingly bought into the budget-cutting mantra of the Republicans, when most rational, progressive economists understand that "procyclical" (i.e., tending to reinforce economic trends, whether positive or negative) budget cutting in time of recession makes recessions longer, deeper, and more likely to do permanent damage to the economy. What is needed is investment, and if we have to run deficits to do it, it's just necessary.

I liken it to a small business that has suffered a setback. They can cut back on spending, close down segments of their business, lay off workers, and shrink everything; or they can (1) figure out a viable strategy to recover the business; and (2) borrow to invest in growing out of their hole. The latter strategy is risky, but it's businesses that take those risks that recover from downturns and end up growing.

On a national level, we can't really go bankrupt; we will still exist no matter what happens. But we can create a long term decline and destroy what's left of the middle class. We can do that, and it looks depressingly like we are doing it. But we don't have to. We can pursue a strategy of infrastructure investment, economic security spending to make sure that demand doesn't collapse, and addressing the budget shortfalls from the revenue side, to begin to reverse some of the gross income inequality that has led to a lower multiplier effect from investment in this country for years now.

Turns out our friend Mr. Zakaria does get this, more or less: 

See this post from The Washington Note [Permanent Link]: "It's the Investment Deficit, Stupid" by Steve Clemons. (Commenting on Fareed Zakaria's piece in this morning's Washington Post titled "America's Grim Budget Outlook."

Clemons comments that Zakaria's "argument is less about budget cutting than the investment deficit America's future faces compared with other periods of its history."
 "Simply slashing the programs that build out America's innovation capacity and human capital and thinking all will be well flies in the face of America's past investments in itself. As I have written previously, President Obama's call for a five year, non-defense discretionary freeze in spending forfeits America's future to China."
I recommend following the link to read all of Clemons's short piece.

Where is the President? Time for huge change in direction on economy, jobs, fiscal & tax policy: AMERICA IS NOT BROKE

My message to the White House today.

Where is the President? Michael Moore gave the "America is NOT Broke" speech in Madison on Saturday that Pres. Obama should have been there to make.

The President is in danger of being left behind as a movement to RESIST THE RIGHT WING CLASS WAR on the Middle Class is finally underway! 

The President must choose and choose now! He must choose the people, against the uberrich oligarchs. He must say, hell no, we're not going to make massive cuts in jobs and investment in destructive procyclical budget cuts just because the Republicans are obstructionist.

The whole fiscal restraint meme is not going to work for this president, because it is completely nonsensical economically. Talk to William K. Black, Bush 4I's task leader on the S&L Crisis, and get the right course straight. FIRE Geithner already! Get with it before fiscal disaster overtakes this administration completely.

You people totally missed the boat in prosecuting the worst inside job fraud in US History, and ceded the wrath of the people to the Tea Party. THAT's why the November elections were lost. You did it to yourselves. It's almost too late, but if you get some decent PROGRESSIVE economic advice, and formulate a message and SELL, SELL, SELL it to a newly energized "We've had it!" electorate, the Democratic party can come roaring back in '12 and beyond.


Please, Mr. President, WE'RE BEGGIN' YA.

Thank you.

---Your Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party BASE.

06 March 2011

Wisconsin Wave: Michael Moore tells the crowd "America is not broke."

I'm taking the liberty of posting the entirety of Michael Moore's speech to the crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, yesterday. Video here

I believe (and hope) that this really is the beginning of a great backlash against Money Politics hypocrisy and Class War on the Middle Class (unfortunately, while mainly coming from the Republican Party, also having roots and adherents in the Democratic Party as well).

Speech delivered at Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, March 5, 2011
America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you'll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It's just that it's not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.
Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer "bailout" of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can't bring yourself to call that a financial coup d'état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we'd have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic -- and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

I have nothing more than a high school degree. But back when I was in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate. And here's what I learned: Money doesn't grow on trees. It grows when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs. It grows when we provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new generation of inventers, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and thinkers who come up with the next great idea for the planet. And that new idea creates new jobs and that creates revenue for the state. But if those who have the most money don't pay their fair share of taxes, the state can't function. The schools can't produce the best and the brightest who will go on to create those jobs. If the wealthy get to keep most of their money, we have seen what they will do with it: recklessly gamble it on crazy Wall Street schemes and crash our economy. The crash they created cost us millions of jobs.  That too caused a reduction in revenue. And the population ended up suffering because they reduced their taxes, reduced our jobs and took wealth out of the system, removing it from circulation.

The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. It's part of the Big Lie. It's one of the three biggest lies of the decade: America/Wisconsin is broke, Iraq has WMD, the Packers can't win the Super Bowl without Brett Favre.

The truth is, there's lots of money to go around. LOTS. It's just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates. They know they have committed crimes to make this happen and they know that someday you may want to see some of that money that used to be yours. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them. But just in case that doesn't work, they've got their gated communities, and the luxury jet is always fully fueled, the engines running, waiting for that day they hope never comes. To help prevent that day when the people demand their country back, the wealthy have done two very smart things:

1. They control the message. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day – this is America, where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart -- because you -- yes, you, too! -- might be rich/president/an Oscar-winner some day! The message is clear: keep your head down, your nose to the grindstone, don't rock the boat and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.

2. They have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. It is their version of mutually assured destruction. And when they threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in September of 2008, we blinked. As the economy and the stock market went into a tailspin, and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi scheme, Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into the ground. Fork it over or it's Goodbye savings accounts. Goodbye pensions. Goodbye United States Treasury. Goodbye jobs and homes and future. It was friggin' awesome and it scared the shit out of everyone. "Here! Take our money! We don't care. We'll even print more for you! Just take it! But, please, leave our lives alone, PLEASE!"

The executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain their laughter, their glee, and within three months they were writing each other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a nation full of suckers. Millions lost their jobs anyway, and millions lost their homes. But there was no revolt (see #1).

Until now. On Wisconsin! Never has a Michigander been more happy to share a big, great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant know as the working people of the United States of America. Right now the earth is shaking and the ground is shifting under the feet of those who are in charge. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone tells us America is broke and broken. It's just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and, yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have, through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still crave what we all crave: Our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! The United States of America. NOT the Corporate States of America. The United States of America!

So how do we get this? Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.

Thank you, Wisconsin. You have made people realize this was our last best chance to grab the final thread of what was left of who we are as Americans. For three weeks you have stood in the cold, slept on the floor, skipped out of town to Illinois -- whatever it took, you have done it, and one thing is for certain: Madison is only the beginning. The smug rich have overplayed their hand. They couldn't have just been content with the money they raided from the treasury. They couldn't be satiated by simply removing millions of jobs and shipping them overseas to exploit the poor elsewhere. No, they had to have more – something more than all the riches in the world. They had to have our soul. They had to strip us of our dignity. They had to shut us up and shut us down so that we could not even sit at a table with them and bargain about simple things like classroom size or bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force or letting a pilot just get a few extra hours sleep so he or she can do their job -- their $19,000 a year job. That's how much some rookie pilots on commuter airlines make, maybe even the rookie pilots flying people here to Madison. But he's stopped trying to get better pay. All he asks is that he doesn't have to sleep in his car between shifts at O'Hare airport. That's how despicably low we have sunk. The wealthy couldn't be content with just paying this man $19,000 a year. They wanted to take away his sleep. They wanted to demean and dehumanize him. After all, he's just another slob.

And that, my friends, is Corporate America's fatal mistake. But trying to destroy us they have given birth to a movement -- a movement that is becoming a massive, nonviolent revolt across the country. We all knew there had to be a breaking point some day, and that point is upon us. Many people in the media don't understand this. They say they were caught off guard about Egypt, never saw it coming. Now they act surprised and flummoxed about why so many hundreds of thousands have come to Madison over the last three weeks during brutal winter weather. "Why are they all standing out there in the cold? I mean there was that election in November and that was supposed to be that!
"There's something happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you...?"

America ain't broke! The only thing that's broke is the moral compass of the rulers. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on. Never forget, as long as that Constitution of ours still stands, it's one person, one vote, and it's the thing the rich hate most about America -- because even though they seem to hold all the money and all the cards, they begrudgingly know this one unshakeable basic fact: There are more of us than there are of them!

Madison, do not retreat.  We are with you. We will win together.

05 March 2011

Time to pull out of Afghanistan

I heard a brief radio interview the other day with former Marine commander and counterinsurgency expert, Bing West, author of The Wrong War; Grit, Strategy and the Way Out of Afghanistan. No liberal, Mr. West, but his thesis is that the strategy of counterinsurgency and buying off the Pashtun tribesmen in Afghanistan is a miserable failure, and that, moreover, the war is fatally flawed in that it has no coherent objective.

This is exactly right, it seems to me, and is a powerful case for the most rapid withdrawal and disengagement, consistent with safety of our troops, feasible. West presents other options, but the objectives of nationbuilding in Afghanistan that these strategies presuppose is, I believe, not in our national interest.

03 March 2011

Gingrich? Are you kidding?

Deep thought: is it really possible that Newt Gingrich is so delusional that he actually thinks there's a proverbial snowball's that he could ever be elected president? I mean, really?

Today's Electronic Epistle to the White House

I sent this to the White House today:

Boy, it sure would be nice FOR ONCE if the White House would show a tiny modicum of courage and reflect the CLEARLY PROGRESSIVE views of most of the populace, as reflected in the latest NBC/WSJ poll.

Such as, when asked how they would like the government to address the debt/deficit:

81% said impose higher taxes on millionaires.

Similar high percentages said to end Bush tax cuts, end tax breaks for oil and gas corporations, and, cut weapons systems even the Pentagon says it doesn't want, and, interestingly, PRESERVE public employee collective bargaining rights.

At the same time, less than a third supported cutting Medicaid, and only about 20% thought it would be a good idea to cut either Medicare or Social Security, or K-12 education.

Listen up, Mr. President. The mood of the people has already changed dramatically since November, and YOU ARE IN DANGER of being left behind. The message is clear:

FIGHT THE REPUBLICAN ATTEMPTS to cut essential services. FIGHT to eliminate corporate tax breaks (and agricultural subsidies). Fight to end Bush tax cuts. Come out with a tax reform program that asks for more sacrifice from the richest Americans, then go on TV and sell it to the public, and ask them to support you. They will.

NBC/WSJ poll: Large Majorities favor LIBERAL fiscal solutions

I've been surprised before by what the majority of Americans will sometimes say they believe in. But I was much more impressed by this NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing that large majorities, when asked what they would favor doing to address the deficit and long-term debt favor taxing millionaires more, eliminating Bush tax cuts, eliminating funding for weapons the Pentagon doesn't even want, eliminating "earmarks," and eliminating oil and gas tax breaks, while preserving public employee collective bargaining, than I was by Ron Paul's comments about his gut feeling that the public agrees with him that "medical care and education aren't a right, they're something you earn."

Don't think so, Ron. Pollsters? 

Incidentally, the same poll showed that the least popular ideas for addressing the debt and deficit were: cutting funding for Medicaid, the federal government health-care program for the poor (32 percent said that was acceptable); cutting funding for Medicare, the federal government health-care program for seniors (23 percent); cutting funding for K-12 education (22 percent); and cutting funding for Social Security (22 percent). Now this doesn't equate to people thinking that education and health care are "rights" like the right of free speech, but it sure does show that the Republicans are way off base in thinking the majority are with them in thinking that budget cuts in these areas are acceptable.