Friday, December 31, 2010

GDAE Podcast - Episode 40

Episode 40 - December 30, 2010

The Right Critiquing the Right?

Part of the series on the left and right joining forces to challenge the establishment (See Below).
  • Libertarian Critique of Republicans: "The Persistence of Red-State Facism," by Anthony Gregory.

  • Prosecute Bush: Scott Horton on State Department cables that expose US
    obstruction of justice in Spain and Germany to suppress their
    investigations of extraordinary rendition, torture and illegal
    activities associated with the Guantanamo prisons.






Click to Download Episode 39.

Recent Series: Can the Populist Left & Right Unite to Challenge the Establishment and Regain Control of Our Republic?

The answer is "yes," as history has proven. Check out the 9-part GDAE Podcast series that explores how common people across the political spectrum can come to the aid of our democracy.

GDAE Podcast Episode 29
  • Motivation for reaching out to the conservatives, from a progressive perspective

GDAE Podcast Episode 30
  • The Power of Ordinary People

GDAE Podcast Episode 31
  • Left & Right Populists Working Together: to fix our flawed democracy
  • What is a "principled" conservative: Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine has some thoughts
  • Audit the Fed: Bernie Sanders leads the Left & Right to push for Senate Unanimous vote on Amendment to "audit the Fed."

GDAE Podcast Episode 32
  • Left & Right Populists: The American Populist movement of the 1800s with Jim Hightower (Bill Moyer's Journal).
  • Left & Right United: The Tenth Amendment with Michael Boldin (Mother Jones Magazine).

GDAE Podcast Episode 33
  • Principled and Unprincipled Conservatives: Will Bunch, Author of "The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama," on the Tea Party movement and the recent primary elections.
  • Principled and Unprincipled Liberals: Glenn Greenwald, former constitutional and civil rights litigator now writer and blogger.

GDAE Podcast Episode 34
  • Conversation with Vince Tola: Perspectives on the potential of principled people on the left and right to join forces and reassert the power of the people over our democratic institutions. Vince is a public school teacher and Maryland Green Party organizer.

GDAE Podcast Episode 35
  • Case-study from Electoral Politics: David Sirota on Tea-party-backed candidate for US Senate in Colorado, Ken Buck.
  • Shared Left/Right Populist Anger: CNN interview with David Sirota explains Bush & Obama failure on Financial Bailout.

GDAE Podcast Episode 36
  • Motivation for Reaching out to the Political Right on Issues of Common Concern: Preventing the Drift toward "Barbarism".
  • Right-Wing TV/Radio Incitement: The case of Byron Williams who attempted to murder eleven people in San Francisco after listening to Glenn Beck and others.
  • Walden Bello: A historical perspective on the Drift toward "Barbarism" and its relation to the Moviation to reach out to genuine conservatives.
  • 2006 Conservative Essay: "Now Is the Time for a Left-Right Alliance: A rebel alliance already exists that could stop Bush administration attacks on the Constitution."

GDAE Podcast Episode 37
  • History: Demagogues take advantage of bad economic times for political gains including the use of government to enrich themselves.
  • Three economists see three futures: Pretty Bad, Very Bad and Absolutely Catastrophic.
  • Call for unity among principled conservatives and progressives: Unite to counter-act dangers of demagogues during the coming hard times.

Source:

GDAEman.Com

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Eroding Justice

Many western foreign ministers, including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, are voicing concern about the equal application of justice in Russia after the conviction of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. They say it's retribution for Khodorkovsky's funding of opposition political candidates to Putin and his resistance to a Russian oil pipeline monopoly, both of which are true.

But, if I'm not mistaken, Khodorkovsky gained his position through organized crime, and he is not alone. Many years ago Putin cut a deal with powerful organized crime figures; they stay out of politics and the Kremlin looks the other way. Khodorkovsky reneged on the deal and now he's paying the price. Sounds like big boy street justice to me... he could have simply been shot or blown up.

That aside, the US has an eroded moral foundation for its criticism of Russian justice. The US was just caught obstructing German and Spanish justice systems by using extortion tactics to stop their investigations into illegal renditions and torture at Guantanamo... all of this thanks to leaked State Department cables.

But we didn't need the cables to know that the US beacon of justice is eroding. Guantanamo itself is right in our faces... so big and obvious it's easy to forget. The, the irony.... Bradley Manning, the army private presumed to have leaked the cables, is being held without charge in conditions designed to erode his senses. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, is facing very uneven treatment by the western justice system, there is even talk of retroactively creating a law to go after Assange; we've recently seen laws that retroactively erase crimes (war crimes, privacy crimes by ATT and other telecom corporations) but creating a law to make a past act illegal... that rings new to me. Meanwhile very serious criminal behavior, by George Bush and his cohorts, can't be addressed because we have to look forward, not backwards. Never mind the Wall Street tycoons who walk free and the litany of other examples.

WARNING: Step back and look at the big picture. The world is loosing its moral compass; some would say "has lost." People are now rolling their eyes at the United States' criticism of Russia and US officials will bristle at this. But over time US officials could become used to such criticisms. Given a little more time on this path of our eroding justice system and they might admit they are in no position to make such criticisms. Gradually, with only a small number of people jumping up and down waiving their arms trying to warn others, we will become an undeniable police state; some would say "have become."


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Thursday, December 23, 2010

January 5th Senate Rules Opportunity

Due to abuse of the U.S. Senate filibuster procedure, any major issue now requires a 60% majority vote to pass (super-majority).

In the past, all Senate business would stop during a filibuster; however, some time ago the Senate adopted a two-track process that allows business to continue while a filibuster is occurring. This means that there is no price for conducting a filibuster, so it can be used willy nilly. This has to stop.

January 5th, the U.S. Senate adopts its rules for the next two years. It's critical that they fix this problem on that single day. Contact your Senators and insist that they support Colorado Sen. Mark Udall's proposed rules change, or similar measure, to fix the filibuster problem.

Thanks

For Your Convenience:

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Debate Continues on Obama Tax Deal

Below is a comment of mine on the December 17 Episode of "WakeUp AM" podcast (Episode 239). Brian of WakeUp AM had taken the position that Obama's tax deal with the Republicans was effectively the only pragmatic alternative. I, and others, took an alternative view:

Good discussion on the tax legislation. Brian made an argument worth noting; if the economy continues to do poorly in two years, then the Republicans would blame it on Obama for raising taxes on upper income earners.

Brian is right that the ultimate outcome was that the Republicans would get tax cuts for the rich; however, we could have done better, both in substance and in process (MLK would argue that process matters and I'll leave it at that for process).

On substance, he didn't drive a good bargain. For example, Obama could have sought to decouple the upper and lower income tax cuts by giving a three-year cut to lower earners and two-years for upper earners. Decoupling the two taxes would allow Democrats to vote separately on extending tax cuts for high-earners. This would avoid the potential for hostage-taking.

So, it might be true that tax cuts for the rich were inevitable, but Obama caved way too early. As you alluded, Obama might have been pissed at Congressional leaders for not using the tax cut legislation as a campaign issue; he might feel this was partly to blame for the bad mid-term election results. He might be unwilling to let it happen again. However, I think he erred in judgment on this one.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

GDAE Podcast - Episode 39

December 18, 2010 Episode of GDAE Podcast

Episode 39 Conversation on Corporate Power

  • Corporate Power: Conversation on how excessive corporate power is creating dysfunctional elections, health care system, financial system, news media, and its affect on American democracy and its citizens..

  • Prosecute Bush: Obstruction of justice in Spain and Germany by US officials exposed by WikiLeaks. Emerging facts have a way of forcing democratically governed countries to choose between maintaining their status as democracies or admitting that they are authoritarian states. If they choose to maintain their status as democracies, they have to prosecute high officials for crimes.






Click to Download Episode 39.

Recent Series: Can the Populist Left & Right Unite to Challenge the Establishment and Regain Control of Our Republic?

The answer is "yes," as history has proven. Check out the 9-part GDAE Podcast series that explores how common people across the political spectrum can come to the aid of our democracy.

GDAE Podcast Episode 29
  • Motivation for reaching out to the conservatives, from a progressive perspective

GDAE Podcast Episode 30
  • The Power of Ordinary People

GDAE Podcast Episode 31
  • Left & Right Populists Working Together: to fix our flawed democracy
  • What is a "principled" conservative: Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine has some thoughts
  • Audit the Fed: Bernie Sanders leads the Left & Right to push for Senate Unanimous vote on Amendment to "audit the Fed."

GDAE Podcast Episode 32
  • Left & Right Populists: The American Populist movement of the 1800s with Jim Hightower (Bill Moyer's Journal).
  • Left & Right United: The Tenth Amendment with Michael Boldin (Mother Jones Magazine).

GDAE Podcast Episode 33
  • Principled and Unprincipled Conservatives: Will Bunch, Author of "The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama," on the Tea Party movement and the recent primary elections.
  • Principled and Unprincipled Liberals: Glenn Greenwald, former constitutional and civil rights litigator now writer and blogger.

GDAE Podcast Episode 34
  • Conversation with Vince Tola: Perspectives on the potential of principled people on the left and right to join forces and reassert the power of the people over our democratic institutions. Vince is a public school teacher and Maryland Green Party organizer.

GDAE Podcast Episode 35
  • Case-study from Electoral Politics: David Sirota on Tea-party-backed candidate for US Senate in Colorado, Ken Buck.
  • Shared Left/Right Populist Anger: CNN interview with David Sirota explains Bush & Obama failure on Financial Bailout.

GDAE Podcast Episode 36
  • Motivation for Reaching out to the Political Right on Issues of Common Concern: Preventing the Drift toward "Barbarism".
  • Right-Wing TV/Radio Incitement: The case of Byron Williams who attempted to murder eleven people in San Francisco after listening to Glenn Beck and others.
  • Walden Bello: A historical perspective on the Drift toward "Barbarism" and its relation to the Moviation to reach out to genuine conservatives.
  • 2006 Conservative Essay: "Now Is the Time for a Left-Right Alliance: A rebel alliance already exists that could stop Bush administration attacks on the Constitution."

GDAE Podcast Episode 37
  • History: Demagogues take advantage of bad economic times for political gains including the use of government to enrich themselves.
  • Three economists see three futures: Pretty Bad, Very Bad and Absolutely Catastrophic.
  • Call for unity among principled conservatives and progressives: Unite to counter-act dangers of demagogues during the coming hard times.

Source:

GDAEman.Com

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Obama's Long-View on Taxes a Huge Mistake?

"I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." - Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform

Obama talks a good line about taking the long-view in defending the ransom he's willing to pay to Republican hostage takers on tax legislation.

Unfortunately, Obama's long-view is probably a huge mistake. Many of us have that gut feeling. James Kwak (real name), blogging on Simon Johnson's baseline Scenario site, explains. First, he argues that the tax cuts for the wealthy are likely to become permanent:

If you think the tax cuts were bad policy, your chances of fixing that bad policy are much worse in two years than they are now. The administration’s best card would have been a threat to veto any bill that contained an extension of the tax cuts for the rich. The House is going to pass an across-the-board permanent extension in 2012. Are the Democrats going to block it in the Senate in an election year? Is Obama going to veto it in 2012? (And even if he leaves it for a lame-duck session, he’s going to have to make a commitment during the campaign.)

He then reminds us that this permanent tax policy is a permanent redistribution of wealth upwards:

This was the best chance to kill the tax cuts once and for all. Yes, it would have been worse in the short run for the economy. But this is a huge price to pay for a modest stimulus made up entirely out of tax cuts (largely tax cuts for the rich). Instead, we are stuck with a huge reduction in the tax burden of the rich and a small reduction in the tax burden of the middle class–which, on balance, helps the rich and hurts the middle class–forever.

Then he reminds us of the Republican long-view, toward which they've been marching for decades, and are nearing the final plunge of their stake, thanks in part to this tax deal from Obama:

... the old Republican “starve the beast” strategy: cut government revenues to the point where it is unable to do anything. ... Republicans have cut revenues and continued to spend on whatever they felt like spending on. But the core of the strategy is that if you cut taxes at every possible opportunity, eventually you will force the government into a crisis where something has to give (and probably it will be a Democratic administration that takes the political hit for cleaning up the mess). And unless American public opinion does an about-face, the thing that will give will be entitlements.

In other words, don't be fooled by excessive Republican government spending, thinking that it is a contradiction to their "less government" philosophy. Rather, they want to spend our government into hoc so that it has no alternative but to cut social programs. Kwak looks into the crystal ball at how this will likely play out:

So perhaps with the best intentions, the Obama administration, by making it more likely that the Bush tax cuts will become permanent... is probably hastening the day when push will come to shove and Medicare will be gutted. The bigger the projected national debt, the more seemingly reasonable people in the middle of the ideological spectrum shake their heads sadly and say something has to be done about Medicare, as if it’s a fact of nature and not a fact of politics.

Obama's unwillingness to at least try to draw the line now makes one wonder whether he is blind to this scenario or whether he also believes in a version of the "starve the beast" strategy.
Sources:

Baseline Scenario Blog, "More on the Tax Deal," by James Kwak, December 8, 2010.

First published on GDAEman Blog.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Refrigerator Child Poetry in Late 2010

I found the following written in refrigerator magnets on our fridge. I'm pretty sure it was written solely by our 10-year old daughter.

American peace harass apparatus influence death bomb against argue triumph knife enlist war chief president oppose law blood

Fortunately, she's a happy, intelligent, creative kid who, like most her age, doesn't listen very well.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for Social Security

Thankful for the Social Security safety net that helps keep people from becoming too desperate. (And we all know that desperate people do desperate things).

THEN... there's Obama's so-called "Bipartisan" Deficit Commission, led by two people with a track record of wanting to cut Social Security, for which I'm not thankful.

Cartoonist Tom Tomorrow pokes a hole in the "we're living longer" justification for raising the retirement age. Just who are "we," people with low-paid hard-labor jobs and little or no healthcare, or people with high-paid desk jobs and good healthcare? Click Cartoon to Enlarge.


Sources:

Thankful for GLH Blog for the tip-off.

Thankful for Salon.Com for hosting Tom Tomorrow.


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Popular Post: Challenging Constitution Cheerleaders

When I reviewed the stats on visitors to this blog I found that the most popular post is an open letter to cheerleaders of the US Constitution. In it I point out the similarities between legal Slavery and legal Corporate Charters.

Both slavery and corporations allow the accumulation of wealth by an individual or small group. Both have damaging effects on the fabric of a democracy. In the long run, both ills will have been resolved by amending the US Constitution.

Read More

Related....

Corporate America Reports Record Profits


New government data show U.S. corporations made record profits in the third quarter, earning at an annual rate of more than $1.6 trillion. That’s the highest figure since the government began keeping track 60 years ago. Overall corporate earnings are up 28 percent from the same time last year. Companies, however, have not been using the record profits to hire more workers. The Federal Reserve is predicting that the nation’s official unemployment rate will remain over 9 percent for at least another year. - DemocracyNow! November 24, 2010.


No recession for "corporate persons," but a vast number of real people are experiencing an economic depression. Corporations are tools of wealth accumulation, which have become so effective that there's little wealth left over for the rest of us. I always think of an hour glass with all the sand accumulated in one side... it needs to be up-ended.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book Plug: 13 Bankers

13 Bankers describes the rise of concentrated financial power and the threat it poses to our economic well-being. Over the past three decades, a handful of banks became spectacularly large and profitable and used their power and prestige to reshape the political landscape. By the late 1990s, the conventional wisdom in Washington was that what was good for Wall Street was good for America. This ideology of finance produced the excessive risk-taking of the past decade, creating an enormous bubble and ultimately leading to a devastating financial crisis and recession.

More remarkable, the responses of both the Bush and Obama administrations to the crisis–bailing out the megabanks on generous terms, without securing any meaningful reform–demonstrate the lasting political power of Wall Street. The largest banks have become more powerful and more emphatically “too big to fail,” with no incentive to change their behavior in the future. This only sets the stage for another financial crisis, another government bailout, and another increase in our national debt.

The alternative is to confront the power of Wall Street head on, which means breaking up the big banks and imposing hard limits on bank size so they can’t reassemble themselves. The good news is that America has fought this battle before in different forms, from Thomas Jefferson’s (unsuccessful) campaign against the First Bank of the United States to the trust-busting of Teddy Roosevelt and the banking regulations of the 1930s enacted under Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 13 Bankers explains why we face this latest showdown with the financial sector, and what is at stake for America.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quantitative Easing Explained

Not as nerdy as it sounds... might make you both laugh and cry. Well worth the 6 minutes.



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Monday, November 15, 2010

Prosecute Bush - Audio Clip 13

Michael Isikoff commentary on Justice Department release of report on an internal ethics investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility into authors of the Bush Justice Department "torture memos". Originally produced on GDAE Podcast Episode 13. Clips from Rachel Maddow 5/6/09. A call on Congress to impeach Bush era Justice Department official Jay Bybee from his current role as a federal judge.



Download mp3 File

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

An Invitation

My next GDAE Podcast episode, Number 37, starts as follows:

On the previous episode of GDAE Podcast (36) I re-visited my original motivation for people on the political left to reach out to principled people on the political right... a concern that extreme right wing demagogues are stirring up potential violence among uninformed people who are suffering real economic hard times. My "original" motivation was to promote relationships between genuine conservatives and progressives that could either prevent right-wing populism from growing ugly or at least be a mitigating force, a buffer, if society devolves further into darkness as some economists predict is a real possibility in the coming years.

My original motivation grew in early 2010 culminating in my March 31, 2010 Episode 29, which has become the first in a series. In less than 30-minutes, before the audio program shifts to some unusual music, I initiated an exploration that has held my attention for the past eight months and promises to maintain its hold on me for a while.

We could see the dot-com bubble-burst coming. We saw the Iraq war and security state coming after 9/11. We saw the housing and financial economic bubble-bursts coming. Now we can see the potential for the predictably destructive outcomes of right-wing demagoguery coming. This is my small attempt to do something about it, if only to raise awareness. You are invited to join me by listening to the initial Episode 29 and seeing where it leads.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

2010 Exit Polls Lack Progressive Voices that Stayed Home

Following the recent election, the establishment narrative has been that Obama over-reached; his initiatives were too liberal and he needs to tack to the right. This view isn't based on analysis, rather it is more a matter of group-think among the punditocracy. To them it's obvious.

However, actual analyses suggest that the right-wing surge in the 2010 mid-term elections hinged on Obama not being progressive enough and thereby loosing the support of his base.

First, lets dismiss with the false common wisdom, promoted by the establishment, that presidents almost always suffer losses in the US House of Representatives during the mid-term elections. It's taken as unalterable fact. It's true that this occurred for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, but during Franklin Roosevelt's first mid-term election, after he put forth radically progressive programs, the Democratic Party gained seats in the US House of Representatives.

Second, is the contradiction between the establishment narratives of the mid-term elections. On the one hand, losses in the US House were predicted on the basis of an "enthusiasm gap;" the narrative was that Democrats were disillusioned with Obama and thus less likely to work on the mid-term election campaign and come out to vote on election day. This narrative conflicts with the post-election interpretation that says Obama is being too liberal and needs to tack to the right.

Third, there are the numbers. Below is a comparison of exit poll information for US House vote results for 2008 and 2010, each with about 17,000 people surveyed. As a percentage, Democratic voters were a significantly smaller proportion in 2010 than in 2008.

Percentage of Turnout by Party for
US House Vote
2008 Vs 2010

Party Affiliation
2008
Percentage
2010
Percentage
Democratic40%
35%
Republican
33%
35%
Independent28%
29%

But percentages only tell part of the story. Did Democrats stay home, or did more Republicans come out in 2010 than 2008.

According to ABC News (Bold added),

[the] current estimate is that 90 million people voted [in 2010]. Exit poll says 45 percent were Obama voters in 2008. That’s 40.5 million voters.

In 2008, Obama won 69.5 million votes. So about 29 million Obama voters did not show up in 2010.

Exit poll also says 45 percent of people who voted yesterday were McCain voters in 2008, again 40.5 million. That, vs. his nearly 60 million in 2008, means about 19.5 million McCain voters did not show up.

So Obama had nearly 10 million more no-shows.

The following tables show that, of the Democrats that did come out to vote in 2010, they for the most part stayed with the Democratic party compared with 2008 (91-92%).

However, there were shifts in both Republican and Independent votes away from the Democrats to the Republicans. As a percentage, we see a big shift in Independents voting 51% Democratic in 2008 to only 37% Democratic in 2010.

US House Vote by Party Affiliation - 2010

Party and
% of Turnout
% of Vote
Dem
% of Vote
Rep
% of Vote
Other
Democratic 35%
91
7
2
Republican 35%
5
94
1
Independent 29%
37
56
7


US House Vote by Party Affiliation - 2008

Party and
% of Turnout
% of Vote
Dem
% of Vote
Rep
% of Vote
Other
Democratic 40%
92
7
1
Republican 33%
9
89
2
Independent 28%
51
42
6

But it's wrong to conclude that Independents simply jumped ship from Democrats to Republicans. About 48.5 million Independents voted in 2008, but only about 34 million voted in 2010, nearly a 15 million voter difference. If the "enthusiasm gap" story is correct, leading to progressive Democrats and Independents staying home, then concluding that voters seek a more "centrist" or conservative policy agenda, based on 2010 exit polls in which many "unenthused" progressive voices were absent, is in error.

Sources:

2010 Exit Polls for House voting - CNN

2008 Exit Polls for House voting - CNN

Thanks to GLH Blog for the ABC News information.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Prosecute Bush - A Podcast Drum Beat

For about two years I've been producing segments for the GDAE podcast that "beat the drum on prosecuting Bush administration officials for their crimes." I've generated nearly 40 segments, each about 1-3 minutes.

Topics have included:

  • Law Professor Francis Boyle describes the complaint he filed in January 2010 with the International Criminal Court.
  • Bush war-crimes-Prosecution Theater: A Play called "In the Loop", by Armando Iannucci.
  • "Arrest Blair dot Com"... as in British prime minister Tony Blair?
  • The Chilcot Inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq war, a window into a US inquiry.
  • Prosecute Bush: Evidence of 'the Possible': The Case of Peru's Alberto Fujimori.
Check them out at GDAE Podcast.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fiscal Sanity?

Dear Editor of Time Magazine,

Fareed Zakaria's article, "Restoring the American Dream" (Time, Nov. 1, 2010), revealed that "American" S&P 500 corporations generate nearly half (46%) of their profits outside of the U.S., which explains why I put the term "American" in quotation marks. He says than 80% of Coca-cola's employees are in foreign countries. Why should these U.S. corporations continue to receive the full privileges and benefits afforded by our government of the people without having to give back more? Aside from massive corporate subsidies, their off shore operations depend on U.S. foreign consulate services and benefit immensely from the U.S. military that ensures access to and stability of foreign markets.

With that in mind, consider Zakaria's advice entitled "Fiscal sanity." Zakaria has explained the structural reality that corporate profit generation has left the US along with significant tax revenues. Yet, just when Americans need social safety nets, Zakaria recommends cutting "entitlement programs", a loaded term these days*. Just when we need skilled state and local civil servants to help the ballooning population of Americans who are struggling, Zakaria recommends doing away with state pensions that attract capable people to government jobs that pay lower salaries than the private sector.

That's not a "sane" fiscal policy. It's group-think that will likely lead us further away from the American Dream. A sane policy would condition the privileges and benefits of U.S. corporate charters on supporting America; if a corporation wants to call itself "American," then it needs to support America. A sane fiscal policy must also address runaway military spending. One might ask, "Where will all of those tax-payer supported soldiers now stationed in foreign lands find work if we draw down some of the 600 foreign military bases? For starters, shift some of them, along with their federal funding, to work at home. As civil servants, they can help our communities maintain a glimmer of hope in the American Dream during these hard times while spending their income locally rather than abroad.


* Aside: Part of the "American Dream" includes feeling a sense of national and civic pride. This pride factors into the choice of many people who choose to work in state and local government despite the lower pay relative to the private sector. The choice to work in government also factors in stability summed up by the thought that, "I won't get rich, but at least I won't be destitute in my old age." Finally, the notion that government workers only soak up tax revenues is simplistic. The private sector, for instance, has little incentive to protect the environment as the Gulf disaster attests. I was in a recent meeting in which private sector participants said, "We will gladly do our part, but the government has to set up and administer a system that makes it easy for us." That takes tax-payer support, which supports the common good AND enables the private sector to thrive. Despite his broad knowledge, Mr. Zakaria appears to have some critical knowledge gaps that lead to recommendations that are more likely to do more damage than good to our society.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

2010 Mid-Term Challenges Establishment

The most obvious challenge to the establishment during the 2010 mid-term came from the Tea Party movement, which characterized by populist sound-bites. The impact was felt heavily by the Republican Party establishment as summed up by John Nichols [1]:

... the tea party is the best news that the Democrats had last night, because if Christine O’Donnell, Ken Buck and Joe Miller had not defeated the candidates that the Republicans in Washington wanted, those candidates almost certainly would have won Senate seats, and we would be looking now at a Republican majority in the Senate. So while the tea party brought energy and some fresh and electable candidates in some states, in other states, particularly in your more moderate states, your swing states, the tea party actually brought the only candidates who could lose on Tuesday, and they did.

Post-mid-term, Michael Moore predicts the future and the implications for the establishment political parties [1]:

So, let’s look into the crystal ball and see what 2012 looks like. If the tea party thing keeps its mojo killing, they have a very good chance of, in the primaries, nominating one of their people, Sarah Palin or others, Rand Paul maybe. It’s not unlikely. That will—if that doesn’t happen, and if a more mainstream Republican gets nominated, they will probably be so upset they will run a third party person. And somehow, there’s going to be a very strong possibility of a potential split, and there’s going to be two people from that side running for president of the United States.

Obama, if he continues this war, if he expands the war, if he doesn’t get a hold of Wall Street and wrestle them to the ground, if we have another crash in the next ten years because he didn’t do the job that he was supposed to have done—he left it up to Geithner and Summers to just take us into the next crash—it is not unlikely that there will be a Naderesque-type challenge from the left. And maybe not in the primaries, but actually an independent candidacy. So we’re going to have, for maybe, I think, the second time in the last 150 years, potentially a four-candidate race. In a four-candidate race, Abraham Lincoln—that was the first one, and that was—I think he won with thirty—thirty-some—do you know, John? [JOHN NICHOLS:] Thirty-nine.

Thirty-nine percent of the vote. And Harry Truman in '48, with Dewey, Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace. It, first of all, presents perhaps the only opportunity in our lifetime where someone from the left could actually win the presidency with a plurality of votes. What it could do is deny Obama his second term. And I think that instead of the Democrats and President Obama taking all of us who are the base that he criticized for the last two months—you know, if he doesn't take seriously why we went out to work for him and got him elected, there’s a very strong possibility that that challenge is going to exist.

Sources:

1. Democracy Now! November 3, 2010.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

GDAE Podcast - Episode 36

October 31, 2010 - Released

Left / Right Populism - Part VII


Can genuine conservatives and progressives clean up our democratic institutions?

  • Motivation for Reaching out to the Political Right on Issues of Common Concern: Preventing the Drift toward "Barbarism".

  • Right-Wing TV/Radio Incitement: The case of Byron Williams who attempted to murder eleven people in San Francisco after listening to Glenn Beck and others.

  • Walden Bello: A historical perspective on the Drift toward "Barbarism" and its relation to the Movtiation to reach out to genuine conservatives.

  • 2006 Conservative Essay: "Now Is the Time for a Left-Right Alliance: A rebel alliance already exists that could stop Bush administration attacks on the Constitution."

  • Prosecution of Bush Officials: Beating the drum with the help of revelations from WikiLeaks of US complicity with abuse and torture.

  • Iraqi Blogger Raed Jarrar: Personal experience with WikiLeaks revelations.




Start with Episode 29 for Full Series on Left/Right Populist Alliance
or
Start with Episode 30 for Quick 20-minute Kickoff

Play Episode 36 from this page:


Click to Download Episode 36.

Play Episode 35 from this page:


Click to Download Episode 35.

Listen to Part V in the series, Episode 34:


Listen to Part IV in the series, Episode 33:


Listen to Part III in the series, Episode 32:


Listen to Part II in the series, Episode 31:


Listen to Part I in the series, Episode 30, (20-minute abridged version):


Previous Episodes & 60-Sec Promo:
GDAE Podcast 60-Second Promo

GDAE Podcast Episode 30 April 30, 2010 - Common Interests on the Right & Left
GDAE Podcast Episode 29 March 31, 2010 - Right Left Populist Unity?
GDAE Podcast Episode 28 March 7, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 27 February 21, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 26 February 7, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 25 January 19, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 24 December 31, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 23 November 29, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 22 November 11, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 21 October 18, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 20 October 9, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 19 September 27, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 18 September 16, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 17 August 31, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 16 July 30, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 15 June 17, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 14 June 10, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 13 May 22, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 12May 5, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 11 April 24, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 10 April 9, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 9March 28, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 8 March 15, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 7 March 1, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 6 February 17, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 5 February 6, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 4 January 24, 2009

Sources:

GDAEman.Com

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Tea Party and the Fascist Impulse

True, people toss around the term fascism without care. Hopefully this post isn't another such case.

An essay, Global Capitalism versus Global Community, by Walden Bello, begins with some historical background. He talks about unbridled capitalism's rise "in what is now known as the first age of globalization that spanned the ninteenth century and ended with World War I in 1914." It included the late 1800s Robber Barron era.

This "first age of globalization" saw "the emergence of sharp disparities in the distribution of income and assets." Bello then notes that this "provoked a countervailing push from society, especially the lower and middle classes", and this is where my insight begins.

At first I didn't understand why he didn't define the "first age" to continue through the 1920s to the Great Crash. Then I realized that it's central to my insight.

We on the left like to think of the "countervailing push" to re-balancing the inequities caused by unfettered capitalism to be solely our domain; the little people reasserting their say in the socio-economic system, asserting public freedom over excessive private freedom. But Bellos reminded me that this isn't the way it really works.

... not all of the responses to globalization were progressive. For example, fascism, which Karl Polanyi defined as "the reform of the market economy achieved at the price of the extirpation of all democratic institutions," was also part of this countervailing drive, one that hijacked the search for community in the service of reaction, counterrevolution and racism.

Yes. The "first age of globalization" does find a break-point at World War I, after which Hitler found a desperate populace that was itself hijacked in his service.

It's this seam of social orientation that we find the impulse for the Tea Party movement. And they are following the likes of Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and Tom Delay, all of whom are very pro-corporation. It now makes more sense, particularly when one considers other definitions of fascism, like this one by FDR:

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power." - Franklin D. Roosevelt


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Monday, October 25, 2010

Associated Press Blows it on Health Care Poll Reporting

What's up with the Associated Press (AP)? Seems it's been captured by the transnational corporations too (like the other three branches: U.S. Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Executive). AP has teamed up on polling with GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications... I'm not kidding, that's their name.

I was drawn to this realization after reading a recent AP article entitled, "AP-GfK Poll: Americans Split On Health Care Repeal." Oh really? "Split" usually means 50 percent for and 50 percent against.

So, out come the latest AP corporate communications numbers on the recent health care legislation:

40% Support Health Care legislation
11% Neutral on it
51% Total

45% Oppose the Health Care legislation

45% to 51% percent is almost a "split," only six points apart, but not on "repeal" of the legislation.

32% want to repeal it completely, which isn't exactly a "split" when compared with 40% who "support."

But what really got me was that the AP article makes the lame oversight that so many polls do on this topic; it doesn't directly address the question that some people who are "opposed" to the legislation didn't feel it goes far enough to truly reform health care. Well it did, but it stacked that number up against "repeal" and called it a "split."

I went to the Oct. 13-18, 2010 corporate communications poll [PDF] to look at the numbers. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the follow-up question, "of those opposed, who wants stronger legislation?" But, you can get close to the answer of that question. Here are the numbers:

18% say leave the Health Care legislation as it is.
39% say change the Health Care legislation so it does MORE.
57% Total say keep it the same or stronger Health Care legislation


9% say change the Health Care legislation so it does LESS.
32% say completely repeal the Health Care legislation.
41% Total say make it weaker or repeal it.

41% Repeal or does LESS, 57% Keep as-is or does MORE. This should have been the headline, not a lame twisting of the number to say Americans are "split" on wanting to repeal the Health Care legislation.

Instead, AP cherry picks two numbers from "likely voters" that fit a story line: Those who want stronger health care legislation and those who want repeal it, as if that is a logical comparison.

But, the damage of the headline is done, less than two weeks before the elections. Shame on the Associated Press and its corporate communications partner. It's telling that it was AP's corporate communications partner that does the interpretation of the poll video.

Let AP Know What You Think:

Contact AP:

E-mail: info@ap.org
Phone: 212 621-1500

Contact FAIR: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting to let them know what you think.

E-mail: fair@fair.org

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Where Does Boundless Economic Growth Inevitably Lead?

Yesterday I explored the notion of "imperialism," that natural tendency for industrialized nations with mass production that manufactures too much to be absorbed at home and must be sold abroad... by force if necessary (the imperialism part).

OK, so lets take the long view. "Economic Growth" is actually an acceleration; it's not good enough to be stuck at x% growth... the increase needs to be increasing year after year. This raises questions about carrying capacity and the wisdom of an economic framework that demands growth for the sake of "a healthy economy."

This question is explored by William Fort, 80-year-old founder of Praxis, a transnational corporation that is on par with with large nations. Fort is a fictional character, living in 2010, but his insights are pretty real. He knows that the global carrying capacity is finite and he is smart enough to know that economic growth in today's sense isn't sustainable; the economic model must change. The setting is a discussion among a few people chosen by William Fort to think about this issue:

One morning he spend an hour talking about feudalism -- how it was the clearest political expression of primate dominance dynamics, how it had never really gone away, how transnational capitalism was feudalism writ large, how the aristocracy of the world had to figure out how to subsume capitalist growth within the steady-state stability of the feudal model.


One can debate whether or not this question should be left up to the "aristocracy of the world", but the existence of the underlying question is not open to debate.

William Fort eventually reveals his insights on the matter to his select group:

The opportunities for growth are no longer in growth.


Sounds like a puzzle stated by a martial arts instructor or something. Fort continues,

We've got to identify the new nongrowth growth markets, and get into them.


He talks about "nonmarketable capital", which he boils down infrastucture investment, a long-term investment. One of the participants in the discussion observes that such "nonmarketable capital" is publicly owned, to which William Fort responds:

Yes. Which means close cooperation of the governments involved. Praxis's gross annual product is much larger than most countries'. What we need to do is find countries with small GNPs and bad Country Future Indices [bad future prospects]. ... We identify those, go to them and offer them a massive capital investment, plus political advice, security, whatever they need. In return, we take custody of their [nonmarketable captial]. We also have access to their labor. It's an obvious partnership. I think it will be the coming thing.


It's not "coming;" it's already been here. It's "imperialism" writ large. It's privatization. A particularly insidious form is described John Perkins' "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man."

Sources:

Green Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson.
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Capitalism and Why We're Imperialists

The title probably sounds like the ranting of a lefty wing-nut. But a little sober thought reveals a reality that is hard to deny.

Way back in 1902 an English economist, John A. Hobson, provided a simple explanation of the term imperialism, which holds to this day. In simple terms, mass production creates too many products for domestic consumption. This necessitates finding foreign markets, and the capitalists who make the products use the power of their government to secure those markets using military force if necessary. Hobson puts the motivation for new markets this way:

It is open to Imperialists to argue thus: "We must have markets for our growing manufactures, we must have new outlets for the investment of our surplus capital and for the energies of the adventurous surplus of our population: such expansion is a necessity of life to a nation with our great and growing powers of production."

Hobson then puts words to the next logical step: Corporations influencing government's use of the military to secure foreign markets:

After 1870 this manufacturing and trading supremacy was greatly impaired: other nations, especially Germany, the United States, and Belgium, advanced with great rapidity, and while they have not crushed or even stayed the increase of our external trade, their competition made it more and more difficult to dispose of the full surplus of our manufactures at a profit. The encroachments made by these nations upon our old markets, even in our own possessions, made it most urgent that we should take energetic means to secure new markets. These new markets had to lie in hitherto undeveloped countries, chiefly in the tropics, where vast populations lived capable of growing economic needs which our manufacturers and merchants could supply. Our rivals were seizing and annexing territories for similar purposes, and when they had annexed them closed them to our trade. The diplomacy and the arms of Great Britain had to be used in order to compel the owners of the new markets to deal with us: and experience showed that the safest means of securing and developing such markets is by establishing 'protectorates' or by annexation....

What strikes me is that the logic is so simple and it explains the corruption of our government by corporations.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Missed Opportunities

Not sure it's kosher, but I'm going to re-print a Paul Krugman blog post in it's entirety:

In today’s [New York Times] report on the foreclosure mess, a revealing sentence:

As the foreclosure abuses have come to light, the Obama administration has resisted calls for a more forceful response, worried that added pressure might spook the banks and hobble the broader economy.

Surely this can serve as a generic statement:

As NAME ISSUE HERE has come to light, the Obama administration has resisted calls for a more forceful response, worried that added pressure might spook the banks and hobble the broader economy.

Stimulus, bank rescue, China, foreclosure; it applies all along. At each point there were arguments for not acting; but the cumulative effect has been drift, and a looming catastrophe in the midterms.

Or to put it another way, the administration has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. And soon there won’t be any more opportunities to miss.

===== End ====

Ouch!


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Saturday, October 9, 2010

GDAE Podcast - Episode 35

Left / Right Populism - Part VI

Can principled people on the left and right clean up our democratic institutions?
  • Case-study from Electoral Politics: David Sirota on Tea-party-backed candidate for US Senate in Colorado, Ken Buck.

  • Shared Left/Right Populist Anger: CNN interview with David Sirota explains Bush & Obama failure on Financial Bailout.

  • MUSIC: Ryan Harvey, "It's Not Just Bush"

  • Historical Context of Tea Party: We've seen this before in past decades. Kevin Drum exposes how the Tea Party follows the same broad contours of past right-wing spasms during Democratic Party presidencies.

  • Prosecute Bush: An example of a "nation of laws," Iceland is holding its leaders accountable for financial meltdown.

Play Episode 35 from this page:


Click to Download Episode 35.

Listen to Part V in the series, Episode 34:


Listen to Part IV in the series, Episode 33:


Listen to Part III in the series, Episode 32:


Listen to Part II in the series, Episode 31:


Listen to Part I in the series, Episode 30, (20-minute abridged version):


Previous Episodes & 60-Sec Promo:
GDAE Podcast 60-Second Promo

GDAE Podcast Episode 30 April 30, 2010 - Common Interests on the Right & Left
GDAE Podcast Episode 29 March 31, 2010 - Right Left Populist Unity?
GDAE Podcast Episode 28 March 7, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 27 February 21, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 26 February 7, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 25 January 19, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 24 December 31, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 23 November 29, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 22 November 11, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 21 October 18, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 20 October 9, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 19 September 27, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 18 September 16, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 17 August 31, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 16 July 30, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 15 June 17, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 14 June 10, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 13 May 22, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 12May 5, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 11 April 24, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 10 April 9, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 9March 28, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 8 March 15, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 7 March 1, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 6 February 17, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 5 February 6, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 4 January 24, 2009

Sources:

GDAEman.Com

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Friday, October 1, 2010

GDAE Podcast - Episode 34

September 30, 2010 Posting Date

Left & Right Common Goals - Part V

  • Conversation with Vince Tola: Perspectives on the potential of principled people on the left and right to join forces and reassert the power of the people over our democratic institutions. Vince is a public school teacher and Maryland Green Party organizer.



Play Episode 34 from this page:


Click to Download Episode 34.

Listen to Part IV in the series, Episode 33:


Listen to Part III in the series, Episode 32:


Listen to Part II in the series, Episode 31:


Listen to Part I in the series, Episode 30, (20-minute abridged version):


Previous Episodes & 60-Sec Promo:
GDAE Podcast 60-Second Promo

GDAE Podcast Episode 30 April 30, 2010 - Common Interests on the Right & Left
GDAE Podcast Episode 29 March 31, 2010 - Right Left Populist Unity?
GDAE Podcast Episode 28 March 7, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 27 February 21, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 26 February 7, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 25 January 19, 2010
GDAE Podcast Episode 24 December 31, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 23 November 29, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 22 November 11, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 21 October 18, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 20 October 9, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 19 September 27, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 18 September 16, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 17 August 31, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 16 July 30, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 15 June 17, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 14 June 10, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 13 May 22, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 12May 5, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 11 April 24, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 10 April 9, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 9March 28, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 8 March 15, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 7 March 1, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 6 February 17, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 5 February 6, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 4 January 24, 2009

Thursday, September 30, 2010

FBI Could Face Backlash from Right and Left

The recent raids by the FBI on Chicago and Minneapolis peace and justice activists is a bad omen for everyone concerned about civil liberties. Regardless of where one stands on the political spectrum, left or right, abuse of power by the government is antithetical to the founding principles of America.

We are experiencing a teachable moment about the potential power of a left/right coalition. The time-tested technique of "divide and conquer," used by the establishment to maintain power, breaks down when they cannot divide the common interests of people on the left and right.

These recent FBI raids didn't go unnoticed by bloggers on the right, as evidenced by a post on http://conservativetimes.org/?p=6431, which displays the range of conservative views. True, you have some on the right who are partisans who can take anything, "Obama eats vanilla ice cream", and twist it into an anti-Obama conspiracy. But they aren't principled conservatives and can be dismissed. However, others on the right get it.

The calculus is simple; combine the numbers of people on the left with the numbers on the right who share principled views on limits of government power and the FBI could be facing a potent backlash.

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