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.


Thankful for GLH Blog for the tip-off.

Thankful for Salon.Com for hosting Tom Tomorrow.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

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
% of Vote
% of Vote
Democratic 35%
Republican 35%
Independent 29%

US House Vote by Party Affiliation - 2008

Party and
% of Turnout
% of Vote
% of Vote
% of Vote
Democratic 40%
Republican 33%
Independent 28%

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.


2010 Exit Polls for House voting - CNN

2008 Exit Polls for House voting - CNN

Thanks to GLH Blog for the ABC News information.


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.


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.


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.


1. Democracy Now! November 3, 2010.