Monday, July 30, 2012

TODAY'S TOPICS: End of the Red Pill, My New Job (Yes on Prop 37)

Before I get to my blog's end (both actually)...let me announce that I'm the new Assistant Media Director for the Yes on Prop 37 campaign (labeling GMO's) will be on the November ballot here in California. Rather than go into it on this email, check out my just published Op-ed on the topic (and please COMMENT if you have a minute)...I wrote this in a day and a half, and its only my first week on the job!! But, I'm very proud of it...and numerous other sites appear to be ready to reprint it (including some of the big ones).

So please check it out (I need the hits!)...and please vote Yes on Prop 37...please go to our website and sign up for our alerts (we are going for 2 million) and go to our facebook page and "like it":

And, its been published on Common Dreams (a fantastic site!!) and NUMEROUS other sites...

As you may be aware, after nearly 8 years of CONSTANT blogging I am finally finished (for now anyway). I can't tell you how much the Red Pill has meant to me...and in fact, making me the advocate that I now am. It was like going to the gym, everyday, for my mind. It was never about was about me honing my skills and providing a service to those close to me. 

But, all good things must come to an end...and I just don't have the time anymore...and my focus must shift. I'd love to go on, but frankly, I'm busier than I've ever been in my life...that's how campaigns are when your opponents are companies like Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Dupont, and Bain and Company :) As you'll realize once you read my op-ed...I'm now on their radar :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

TODAY'S TOPICS: Gas Prices, Plutocracy, Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, Powell Memo, Recovery?, Wealth Disparity, Austerity

Gas Prices and Energy

I just have to briefly address the mind bending "debate" over gas prices. Let's begin with the obvious...America CAN'T drill itself to energy independence nor lower gas prices, as we only have 2% of the world's oil. Further, in what world does it make sense to keep destroying our environment for an energy source that directly contributes to our species demise (i.e. climate change)?

With that said, to what extent gas prices even need to be reduced (as it is hurting working families...due to our over reliance on driving in gas guzzlers and not public transit), the President has PARTIALLY attempted to address them through mandating higher fuel efficiency standards (we should, and could go WAY further of course) and increasing investments in renewable sources of energy. The GOP attacks on him, and their solutions to high gas prices are not even worth addressing, they're the same rehashed oil industry talking points.

Clearly though, American voters do, incomprehensibly, change their votes based on yes, friggin gas prices...and these higher costs are hurting the President's poll numbers. But, again, let's get back to causes and solutions, not horse race campaign analyses.

Where the President HAS FAILED on this issue is his total cowardice to take on, you guessed it, WALL STREET! The fact is, as much as 20% of our gas price hikes are due to Wall Street speculation. So, companies like Goldman Sachs (check out the devastating op-ed by one of their executives who just quit in the New York Times) - the worlds pre-eminent criminal syndicate (as i have been calling them for 3 years) - continue to artificially jack up prices by betting on its future prices...just as they did with the housing bubble (crashing the world economy) and food commodities (killing tens of thousands and leading to such uprisings like we saw in Egypt).

Believe it or not, the President, thanks to the Dodd/Frank act (as pathetic as that ended up being) can authorize the CFTC to crack down on over-speculation, which, as David Dayen notes, "can be a problem even if correct about future oil costs given geopolitical realities."

The other reason we have higher prices is the GROTESQUE warmongering and illegal threats being made by Israel and the GOP (and sadly some Dems) to attack Iran. To the President's partial credit, he has tried to to tamp down this rhetoric - which raises the price at the pump another notch as each threat is made.

With all that said, it should be noted that gas prices habitually go down after the summer - which could improve the President’s chances right at election time.

Economic Recover? Yes...but MOSTLY No...

Certainly corporate profits are up, and yes, unemployment has gone a little down
. But, wages are still stagnant, and all that corporate profit isn’t making its way to American workers. As economist Robert Reich notes, "The ratio of profits to wages is the highest on record – since the government began keeping track in 1947. Not only has the median wage continued to drop, adjusted for inflation, but a far smaller share of working-age Americans is now employed (58.6 percent) than was employed five years ago (63.3 percent). 

Today’s employment-to-population ratio isn’t much higher than it was at its lowest point last summer, when it dropped to 58.2 percent. In other words, in the three decades after the onset of the Great Depression, the incomes of America’s top 1 percent — after you take inflation into account — essentially didn’t rise at all. Over those same years, Americans in the bottom 90 percent saw their average incomes triple. No gains for America’s rich. Big gains for average Americans. By the 1960s, those average Americans were sharing in the wealth their labor created. The United States had become a fundamentally more equal and prosperous place. A history worth repeating? Absolutely. But this history, new data released earlier this month indicate, isn't repeating. Not at all. Our contemporary rich have already resumed their rocket ride to ever grander fortune."

In other words, its important to keep our eyes on the larger, historic trends, and not the day in day out blathering of America's corporate media - that benefits from the masses believing they aren't be screwed.

Unlike how we rebounded after the Great Depression, this time the rich are making all their gains back, and the middle class continues to disintegrate...and we're not investing or stimulating the economy to create the kind of growth that's needed (though even the Keynesian model begs the question: when does a consumer based economy collapse on itself, and destroy sustainability?? The answer is it is...and it has at the end of the day we need a FUNDAMENTAL transformation of how we do things...but that's for another blog).

Remember, we should be asking what is government for? Cutting back on critical government services while bailing out banks means cutting back on doing things that benefit THE PEOPLE. It means cutting back on those things that we actually have a say over - like education, health care, energy, etc. Such austerity, which the world's banking cartel wants, and that is causing havoc across Europe, means relinquishing the wealth and power that WE should have control over...which is given up when we privatize.

Cutting Medicare means taking away critical care for PEOPLE, and increasing profits for the health insurance industry. Cutting social security means taking critical financial help away from seniors who have paid into it their entire lives, and giving instead more to Wall Street to GAMBLE those contributions away.

What is also a great MYTH is that cutting government helps the economy. In fact, the vast majority of our job losses have come from LAYING OFF public employees, and our economic growth has been largely stymied by cuts in government spending on things like education, infrastructure, and public safety.

As Dave Johnson of Campaign for America's Future lays out, "Such cuts represent huge tax increase on regular people because it increases what each of us pays for the things government does—or forces us to go without. This is because cuts in government spending don’t actually cut the costor the need for those things, they just shift those costs onto the larger economy.
But because these shifts attack the economy-of-scale, transparency, integrity and public-good management that government provides, they almost always increase the costs and harms to the larger economy.

·    As government health care is cut (or not provided in the first place) each of us must take on those costs on our own, and as demonstrated, pay up to seven times what the same care would/could have cost.
·    As infrastructure maintenance and modernization is cut, our economy becomes less competitive, unemployment increases and our wages and spending power fall.
·    As spending on education is cut, our costs of educating ourselves and our kids increase. College costs soar. And the overall education level of our people will decrease, making our country less competitive in the world.
·    As environmental regulation and enforcement is cut the costs of the resulting health problems and cleanups increase and our quality-of-life will decrease.
·    As enforcement of labor laws is cut, our wages and protections fall.
·    As etc. is cut, the costs of etc. are shifted to the larger economy, and the total costs of accomplishing etc. actually increase.
·    As budgets are cut, the costs are increased and shifted to the larger economy. 

So Who Benefits From Cuts?

Clearly, those that control government is naturally going to direct government to benefit them – this is what happens in every country that gives up on democracy (as we have).

So the same plutocrats/fascists currently demanding government budget cuts KNOW that it WILL result in hurting the economy and lives of human beings - they just don't give a shit because they have all the money. ALL they care about is reduced taxes and more power. That's all this is about...when they say tax cuts and austerity will help average people they know its not true. Just as when they say regulations will hurt people and services designed to help them don't, they also know its a lie...but what it does is consolidate power over this country and the rest of us.

As nice as it is to hear Obama and Biden FINALLY start to go after the GOP and defend working people (i.e. election time), until I see them consistently take on these big powers, I will not get truly excited.

Remember, whenever I criticize Obama its always with the caveat that of course he's better than they are...the GOP has morphed into a fascist clown car...and the Democrats have morphed into the GOP of the 1970's and even 80's on many issues (not the progressive caucus obviously)...with Obama being slightly to the right of Richard Nixon on most domestic policy (though not as evil and corrupt). This continued trajectory is what's really scary...and with the GOP moving even further to the right, my fear is the Dems will continue to move to the "middle", which by definition is also "right".

Taxing the Rich and Income Disparity

In talking about all this EVERYONE should be aware by now of the infamous Lewis Powell memo in the development of Wall Street and corporations usurping control over the US government when it comes to a fixed "free market."

My friend, and director of the new documentary Heist: Who Stole the American Dream?, Donald Goldmacher, explains this memo and its effect concisely in a recent interview, stating, “Lewis Powell was a corporate attorney from Virginia who was asked by his friend at the US Chamber of Commerce to write a secret strategy memorandum for the Chamber in 1971. Two months later, Richard Nixon nominated him to the Supreme Court of the United States, where he served a number of years. The memo became a rallying cry among corporate executives for how to reassert corporate dominance over the American economy and its government, which it had lost during the era of the New Deal. The memo openly stated that corporations should punish their political enemies and should seek political power through both the law and politics. It encouraged challenges to what it saw as left-wing activities by people such as Ralph Nader and US academics. By 1978, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable defeated pro-labor law reforms through a filibuster by Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, which signaled the demise of organized labor as a significant opponent of organized money.”

So let me give you a few more FACTS illustrating the VICTORY the Powell Memo represents for the plutocrats...and just how much of a Banana Republic we’ve become, and why it strikes at the heart of our dying paradigm:

·    For every dollar the richest 1% earned in 1980, they've added three more dollars. The poorest 90% have added ONE CENT.
·    America has the fifth most unequal distribution of wealth in the world.
·    The Bush tax breaks for the rich are worth each year for Rush Limbaugh ($2,689,135), Glenn Beck ($1,512,352), Sean Hannity ($1,006,352), Bill O’Reilly ($914,352), Sarah Palin ($638,352), Newt Gingrich ($247,352) and George W. Bush himself ($187,552).
·    The richest 10% own 80% of the stock market, providing billions in "unearned income" that is taxed at less than half the rate of income earned through real work. The richest million families may have actually worked LESS than the other 99 million families.

Corporations and the Big Banks

Consider, again, the case of General Electric, and Obama's soul stomping appointment of their former CEO to head, wait for it...our JOBS COUNCIL! From '08-'10 General Electric made $10.46 billion in US profits, paid $0 in federal taxes, received $4.7 million in tax rebates, spent $84.35 million on lobbying and laid off 4,168 employees...while shipping tens of thousands of jobs overseas. Wow...what a choice!

As Bill Moyers noted in 2010, JP Morgan is one of six banks that control 60 percent of our country's gross national product. (It's undoubtedly more now.) It's one of ten banks that hold 77 percent of this country's banking assets. And explained in 2010 in a piece called "The Case Against Jamie Dimon: Oligopoly, Pain, And Systemic Risk In Five Slides," reports released that year showed that the top five banks controlled 96 percent of the derivatives market - and JPMorgan Chase alone controlled 44 percent. (It's undoubtedly more now.) Remember, its those derivatives that allow for speculation and bubble's being created.

When we talk about "recovery" again, let's remember, while Wall Street bankers are receiving SLIGHTLY smaller bonus checks, 1 in 7 Americans have fallen into enough debt that they are being harassed by debt collectors. And this harassment can lead to imprisonment for debts, garnishment of wages or even threats that debtors will be either fired from their jobs or unable to find a new one, as employers increasingly use credit reports in their hiring decisions.

If you prefer, you can add the stat that one in five people didn’t have enough money to feed themselves in 2011. As David Dayen notes, "I know I don’t see a report in Bloomberg about this every other week, but I have to believe it has a bit more news value than whether the investment banker can afford his second home. It’s simply a much more vital public policy problem, a more vital social problem, a more vital human problem."

Blue States Are Providers, Red States are Moochers

And the other BIG MYTH recently exposed is that, in fact, it’s the RED STATES that are America’s moochers, and the Blue States that are the providers…as in, we pay far more in taxes and get less in return, while red states put far less in in taxes and get more benefits back. It’s not hard to figure out why…where do you think the innovators and intellectual contributors are: Alabama or California? A trailer park or a big city with universities? You get the point.

What's incredible about this, is the reality flip that it exposes: as the right wing fascists go around talking about welfare queens and big government, it is THEY that are the ones that live off OUR largesse. Just as its the military industrial complex that takes up so much of OUR tax dollars. Similarly, this reality flip is seen in Israel's terrorism and apartheid system, and America's mass murder of innocent civilians that threatens the planet - NOT IRAN. Incredibly, these myths prevail.

But let's get to the incredible FACTS about red states versus blue states, As Sara Robinson of Alternet breaks down (another article I recently published on the California Progress Report), “They're eager to claim the gleaming mantle of the producers, insisting loudly that their tax money is going to support people (mostly in blue states and cities, it's darkly implied) who won't or can't work as hard as they do. If you want to arouse their class and race resentments, there are few narratives that can get them rolling like this producers-versus-parasites tale.

But the NYT story and that map up there prove beyond arguing that the conservative interpretation of events is 100 percent, 180-degrees, flat-out wrong. America's real producer class is overwhelmingly concentrated in the blue cities and states -- the regions full of smart, talented people who've harnessed technology and intellect to money, and made these regions the best, most forward-looking places in the country to live.

And the real parasites are centered in red states (the only exceptions being states with huge resource reserves, like Alaska and Texas) -- the unimaginative, exhausted places that have clung to a fading past, rejected science, substituted superstition for sense, and refused to invest in their own futures. It's not unfair to say that those regions are simply feasting off the sweat of our ennobling labor, and expecting us to continue supporting them as they go about their wealth-destroying ways.
See this graph:


The great Bernie Sanders takes it to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and why we taxpayers are STILL massively subsidizing nuclear energy...ven in the wake of Fukushima...imagine if we spent those BILLIONS of subsidies on solar and wind? Check him out...awesome!

Classic Colbert...on the REAL victim...Rush Limbaugh of course:

More Colbert...on the GOP primary being just like the 2008 Dem primary...just without blacks or women...or sanity:

Meet Red State voters up close and person...and understand why we face the crises we do:

Great stuff from the Daily Show on Fox News:


Dennis Kucinich and “wackiness”, By Glenn Greenwald

So let’s recap the state of mental health in establishment Democratic circles: the President who claims (and exercises) the power to target American citizens for execution-by-CIA in total secrecy and with no charges — as well as those who dutifully follow him — are sane, sober and Serious, meriting great respect. By contrast, one of the very few members of Congress who stands up and vehemently objects to this most radical power — “The idea that the United States has the ability to summarily execute a US citizen ought to send chills racing up and down the spines of every person of conscience” — is a total wackjob, meriting patronizing mockery.

Both the Prospect and Post recite the trite case demonstrating Kucinich’s supposed weirdness. He’s friends with Shirley McLaine, who believes in reincarnation, and he once (according to McLaine) claimed to have an encounter with a UFO. Is any of that really any more strange than the litany of beliefs which the world’s major religions require? Is Barack Obama “wacky” because he claims to believe that Jesus turned water into wine, rose from the dead and will soon welcome him to heaven? Is Chuck Schumer bizarre because he seems to believe that there’s some big fatherly figure sitting in the sky who spewed fire and brimstone at those who broke the laws he sent down on some stones and now hovers over him judging his every move? Is Harry Reid a weirdo because he apparently venerates as divine the “visions” of a man who had dozens of wives, including some already married to other men?


It’s not difficult to see why Democrats, including progressives, often took (and continue to take) the lead in demonizing Kucinich as a wacky loser. After his Party leaders decreed that impeachment of Bush was “off the table” — both because they feared it would jeopardize their electoral prospects and because top Democrats were complicit in Bush crimes — Kucinich defied their orders and introduced articles of impeachment against Bush for the Iraq War, his chronic lawbreaking, and his assault on the Constitution: exactly what impeachment was designed to prevent and punish. He was one of the very few people in Congress who vehemently denounced the assaults on the Constitution with equal vigor under the prior GOP President and the current Democratic one. He was one of the very few people in Congress with the courage to deviate from the AIPAC script, opposing the Israeli blockade of Gaza, condemning Israeli wars of aggression, and repeatedly publicizing the oppression of Palestinians with the use of American funds and support. He repeatedly insisted on application of the law to the Executive Branch’s foreign policy when all of Washington agreed to overlook it. He repeatedly opposed bipartisan measures to intensify hostility toward Iran. When the Democrats won Congress in 2006 based on a promise to end the Iraq War, only to turn around and continue to fund it without restrictions (thus ensuring that this politically advantageous war would be raging during the 2008 election), Kucinich continuously demanded that they follow through on their promises.

In the domestic policy area, Kucinich typically defended the values which the Democratic Party claims to support even as it assaults those very values. As Progressive wrote this week, “Kucinich was fearless in standing up to corporate power, in denouncing NAFTA and GATT and the WTO and the fallacy of free trade, in criticizing the Federal Reserve Board for not doing more about unemployment and for bailing out the banks” and he “campaigned mightily for universal single-payer health care” (though, under heavy pressure and threats, he supported Obama’s health care bill at the last moment). Kucinich vocally criticized President Obama for proposing substantial cuts to Social Security. He became an increasingly outspoken critic of the Drug War. The Nation‘s John Nichols this week praised him as “one of [Congress'] steadiest critics of corporate power.” Those noble fights were often waged against his own party’s leadership, with risk to his own political fortunes, and with very few allies.

Friday, March 09, 2012

TODAY'S TOPICS: War on Women, Limbaugh, Fascist Clown Car, Privacy Inversion, Wealth Inequality

What can I say…I’m in the midst of a “reinvention” of this blog – epitomized by the past, record, three weeks of not posting. The reasons range from life/familial responsibilities, to my increased devotion to the California Progress Report (PLEASE READ…AND "LIKE" ON FACEBOOK it’s the best CA public policy site in the state I think), my decreasing amount of time to spend on this blog (because of my increasing devotion to Privacy Revolt and the Consumer Federation of California, please "like" on Facebook too.), and finally, and perhaps most importantly, its due to my growth and evolution, from the political to the “spiritual”, and how to reinvent this blog slightly to fit these revelations

Clearly, we’re at a time, and you can see this in this blog’s evolution over the years in which the topics and challenges are becoming bigger and bigger, and the Matrix’s coverage of them (aside from Occupy Wall Street coming to the rescue in part), smaller and more pathetic. My new challenge, which has partly kept me from the prolific posting in the past, is how to balance all this, what to choose to talk about, and what matters most, and how to articulate it (and how to find the time).

With that, let me get to some of the issues of the day….

Obama Versus The Fascist Clown Car

Anyone who has been following this blog over the years should not be surprised AT ALL by the continued de-evolution of the GOP into a frightening, fascist clown dedicated to taking us back to the 1800’s, forcing women back into the kitchen bare foot and pregnant, denying blacks and other minorities (and students) the right to vote, and repealing everything from Medicare to Social Security to children’s labor laws to the minimum wage to friggin contraception.

This was all very predictable. They are becoming the monster they created over the past 30 years of HARDCORE propaganda and fearmongering – through Fox News, talk radio, corporate think tanks, and an increasingly right wing, fascist party. As a result, their minions (i.e. tea party and the rest of the “inside the matrix” GOP voters) are demanding Brown shirt purity, and they are obliging…despite all polls to the contrary.

While this does mean they are handing Obama the re-election, and as a national party they are hanging themselves, they are taking our country further down the rabbit hole of ignorance, distraction and disgrace. Sadly, while Obama is CLEARLY superior in every way, let us remember…he largely represents the Republican Party of 20 or 30 years ago, in fact, his health care plan IS an amalgamation of Nixon’s (though Nixon’s was FAR better), Dole’s, Gingrich’s and Romney’s. So yes, by taking their policies he has forced them to extremes never seen in this country…calling their own plans socialist even. But, where again, does that leave us? 

We have a conservative, corporate Democrat against a hardcore fascist Republican Party…not exactly something to celebrate…

With that sobering reality in mind, I would still point to why this election matters (Supreme Court is all you need to know!!!)…and why, at least in swing states, we must get out in mass to vote for Obama (as I said, I will likely be voting Green in California). However, remember the essential caveat: these elections ARE NOT the all important event they once were (or seemed)…more important is the grassroots uprising and pushing policies that change the paradigm…like public financing of elections…ranked choice voting…single payer health care…and simply taking it to the streets and getting rid, and not accepting, CORPORATE DEMOCRATS.

Even so, here’s a rundown (thanks to the Center for American Progress) of the top twelve House GOP votes JUST in the past year or so against the 99 Percent (Dems defeated most).
  • Repealed health coverage for 32 MILLION Americans and countless new benefits and protections for all Americans (January 19, 2011).
  • Blocked new essential health benefits that must be covered by insurance companies (including things like contraception), putting Americans back at the mercy of the insurance companies (February 19, 2011).
  • Ended Medicare and gutted Medicaid in order to pay for more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations (April 15, 2011).
  • Blocked a new database for consumer product safety information, making it more difficult for consumers to find out information about dangerous or unsafe products (February 19, 2011).
  • Blocked the Treasury Department from helping more homeowners avoid foreclosure under the Home Affordable Modification Program by terminating the program and providing no replacement (March 29,2011).
  • FOUR votes to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting our clean air and clean water, essentially bailing out big polluters at the expense of the rest of us (April 7, July 13, and October 5 and 13, 2011).
  • Guaranteed 700,000 jobs would be killed and slashed programs for the 99 Percent, including Medicare and Social Security via the Tea Party-inspired Cut, Cap, and Balance plan (July 19, 2011).
  • Encouraged more economy-collapsing financial fraud by attempting to gut the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (July 21, 2011).
  • Put corporations above the law by allowing them to ignore 76 year-old protections for workers and labor unions (September 15, 2011).
  • Launched mean-spirited attacks and cuts in benefits directed at millions of unemployed Americans (December 11, 2011).
And then let’s look at sociopathic Ken doll Mitt Romney’s platform (HE’S MORE TO THE RIGHT THAN BUSH…HE’S NO MODERATE!!!), which includes extending the Bush tax cuts, eliminating the estate tax and slashing corporate taxes - which would deliver 60 percent of its benefits to the top one percent of taxpayers while draining $6.6 trillion from the U.S. Treasury over ten years (and this was called MODERATE by his GOP rivals). Perhaps that’s why this cyborg (but not sure if there is human in him) just announced a new scheme promising a 20 percent across-the-board cut for all taxpayers.

So at a time when income inequality is at its highest level in 80 years while the total federal tax burden is at its lowest in 60, Mitt Romney, the “moderate”, actually is making George W. Bush look like Paul Wellstone. Romney's tax cuts are even more expensive, as in $10.7 trillion over the next decade expensive. Balancing the budget on those terms, as Romney claims he will do, would be next to impossible.

Meanwhile, sexist, racist, and “man on dog” Santorum called for the corporate tax rate to be halved from 35 percent to 17.5 percent and has launched an UNPRECEDENTED attack on women and basic women’s health care…as if he was launched through some worm hole from some puritanical commune to a couple steps away from the Presidency (I hope he’s the nominee by the way).

The whole corporate tax issue is a mind bending one. First, they only pay on average about a third of the legal rate, with half of fortune 500 companies PAYING NOTHING. This, remember, is at a time that corporate profits, as a percentage of GDP last year, were the highest or just about the highest in the last 50 years. 

So, just as with the top 1%, corporations are making more than EVER before and being taxed LESS than ever before, yet the GOP is fighting to give them more, and take more away from those hurting…which is the bottom 99%...or certainly, the bottom 90%...precisely the ones suffering due to the actions OF corporations and the top 1%. 

Truly bizarre universe no? Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported that corporations in the U.S. paid only an average of 12.1 percent in taxes on the profits they earned inside the U.S in fiscal 2011 - less than half of the 25.6 percent they paid on average between 1987 and 2008.

Corporations saw their profits however, reach an all-time high at the end of 2010. The $1.68 trillion in annualized profits in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010 beat the previous record of $1.65 trillion in the third quarter of 2006.

As for how much the super rich are taxed compared to the rest of us...see this graph:

Consider those that make OVER a billion dollars a year make enough to pay the salaries of 25,000 teachers or health care workers or emergency responders. Consider also that Mitt Romney pays 15% in taxes, Warren Buffett 17.4%, the richest 400 Americans, 16.6%, and the whole top 1% (a million families) paid less than 23% in 2006. And remember this too: the top 400 Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans COMBINED.

So I would simply say, as I have for 8 years on this blog, this is what the GOP is, these candidates represent WHAT THIS PARTY HAS BECOME, and this is why they represent the greatest threat to this country, and the world, than any other single faction (just listen to them talk about Iran!). 

Privacy and the Inversion of the Bill of Rights

Granted, I try to keep my privacy/civil liberties stuff on my Privacy Revolt blog…but I realize many here don’t read that. And sadly, this, as much as any other issue, is where Obama has COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY failed us…in fact, betrayed is a better word. From the extension of the Patriot Act to the Defense Authorization bill that allows the government to arrest and imprison indefinitely ANY AMERICAN they choose to his valiant efforts to target courageous whistle blowers, torture them, and then prevent any of them to get to have their cases heard in trial (by using the state’s secret act more than all other Presidents combined).

But aside from Obama, I think one of the tragically ignored, yet absolutely vital, issues of the past 10 years is the dismantling of the right to privacy and our fundamental civil liberties not just through policy and law, but as ideas. The starkest example of this constitutional "inversion" is the fact that as we strip human beings of their 1st and 4th Amendment rights (and others) in the name of 'security', we have simultaneously endowed corporations as our human replacements that DO ENJOY full, and absolute, 1st and 4th Amendment protections (1st to spend and bribe, 4th to hide their crimes)! 

What a gruesome inversion of the core tenets of our "democracy", corporations are not only people, but the very constitutional principles designed to protect us have been transferred to them. Be it Citizens United versus indefinite detention or the Patriot Act versus telecom immunity...its clear we've crossed a dangerous threshold.

With that said, I am going to share with you a few passages from my privacy revolt blog on some other topics I think you should be made aware of.

Domestic Spy Drones Approved by Congress

Congress recently APPROVED (with barely a news story) the use of domestic spy drones and what are called "super drones". As we are now becoming aware, these drones do more than just kill innocent women and children around the world, but in fact, are perfect domestic spying devices too.

The "super drones" take it a step further, by actually knowing who you are, because, as reported by Wired magazine, the military has given out research grants to several companies to spruce up these drones with technology that lets them identify and track people on the move, or "tagging, tracking, and locating" (TTL).

But don't take my word for it, there were three major stories on the topic from just a few weeks ago, "Congress OKs FAA Bill allowing drones in US, GPS air traffic control", "Bill authorizes Use of Unmanned Drones in US Airspace", and "Drones over US get OK by Congress".

Let's go to the piece by the New American:

Big Brother is set to adopt a new form of surveillance after a bill passed by Congress will require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to open U.S. airspace to drone flights under a new four-year plan. The bill, which passed the House last week and received bipartisan approval in the Senate on Monday, will convert radar to an air traffic control system based on GPS technology, shifting the country to an age where satellites are central to air traffic control and unmanned drones glide freely throughout U.S. airspace.


....privacy advocates worry that the bill will open the door to widespread use of drones for surveillance by law enforcement and, eventually, by the private sector. Some analysts predict that the commercial drone market in the U.S. could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars once the FAA authorizes their use, and that 30,000 drones could be flying domestically by 2020. "There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy and legal group, also is "concerned about the implications for surveillance by government agencies," affirmed attorney Jennifer Lynch, and it is "a huge push by lawmakers and the defense sector to expand the use of drones" in U.S. airspace.

"Congress - and to the extent possible, the FAA - need to impose some rules to protect Americans' privacy from the inevitable invasions that this technology will otherwise lead to," wrote American Civil Liberties Union policy analyst Jay Stanley. "We don't want to wonder, every time we step out our front door, whether some eye in the sky is watching our every move."

They also say that if they can get a close enough look, they can tell twins apart and reveal not only individuals' identity but their social networks. But it gets even more spooky:

The Army also wants to identify potentially hostile behavior and intent, in order to uncover clandestine foes. Charles River Analytics is using its Army cash to build a so-called "Adversary Behavior Acquisition, Collection, Understanding, and Summarization (ABACUS)" tool. The system would integrate data from informants' tips, drone footage, and captured phone calls. Then it would apply "a human behavior modeling and simulation engine" that would spit out "intent-based threat assessments of individuals and groups." In other words: This software could potentially find out which people are most likely to harbor ill will toward the U.S. military or its objectives. Feeling nervous yet?

Granted, there COULD be legitimate uses for these drones...perhaps locating someone lost in the wilderness, monitoring environmental disasters or relief efforts, keeping a watchful eye on police abuses and human rights violations, or the legitimate tracking of a REAL criminal (with a warrant to do so) that poses a danger to society, and others. 

But, do we want them collecting information on Occupy Wall Street protesters and other political activists? Do we want them targeting marijuana growers? Do we want even more detailed personal dossiers created about every one of us so corporate marketers and government agencies can better target their ads or focus their surveillance?

More to the point, who's watching the watchers? Who's controlling the drones and how (can they be privatized...and if so, what kind of wealth would it take to own and operate one...and for what purposes?)? And of course, how are these "watchers" held accountable, and by what means?

Aside from the needed lawsuits to come over this Congressional action that doesn't address all these fundamental questions, will be the need for STRICT regulation of the use, collection and storage of the data these drones collect.

Some questions I'd like to pose to Americans: Just what in the hell are we so afraid of that we need to be monitored at all times? We know that, study after study indicates we ARE NOT under a dangerous threat from terrorists or anyone else, either from abroad or from within. We know that the chances of being killed by a terrorist (or a criminal) are a fraction of the chance that you'll be hit by lightning...which leads to an obvious conclusion...that none of this is about terrorists or "safety" at all...nor solving REAL crimes for that matter.

Yet, here we are, rationalizing and legitimizing MASSIVE surveillance apparatuses that leave our privacy, and the Constitution, in tatters. What is the bigger threat here? A government, and drone industry that can watch us anywhere, at all times, and even facially recognize us, for who knows what purposes (i.e. stifle dissent)....or, can we, as brave Americans simply take the TINY TINY risk that living in a world in which we're not constantly watched is acceptable?

I don't tend have a lot of faith in such surveillance programs, nor do trust giving up so much power to so few people. In the final analysis, if we include in our definition of "security" the concept of "safe" from government intrusiveness and corporate profiteering off fear peddling, I would argue these drones make us less secure, not more.

We would do well to - sooner rather than later - to recognize the inherent and fundamental value that privacy provides ANY claimed democracy. Without one there can't be the other. As the necessary lawsuits against this government overreach work their way through the courts we should also be pushing for STRICT regulation of the use, collection, and storage of the data these drones collect.

I would suggest you check out Privacy Revolt for some of the latest I’ve written about Google, Do Not Track, and the President’s new (and actually not too bad) proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. 

The War on Women, Limbaugh, and Why It Matters

On the issue of Limbaugh, I’m sometimes asked “why give him attention”? Here’s why: It’s important to spotlight people like Limbaugh because he reaches more Americans with his racist, misogynistic, serial lying and ignorance than any other radio host - and the entire GOP bows to him like he's some modern, less attractive, Jabba the Hut. And while yes, we all already know what a scum bag and sociopath he is...MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS don't...nor do they know just how beholden the entire Republican Party is to him.

So its not wasting time talking about trash like him (as long as we don’t overdue it)...its about educating people that don't know his FULL RECORD...the Sandra Fluke controversy is one of hundreds over decades on the air...and people should know. 

Plus, it’s an opportunity to educate people about the facts surrounding, in this case, contraception and the money and lives it saves. In other cases when he's called out for his lies its important because people need to be educated on whatever that issues may be, from the environment to wars to gay right and on down the line. 

Even when the public doesn't necessarily believe what he's saying, majorities are certainly confused about the "truth" about an issue (which is his whole goal)...and he's an expert at distorting, distracting, and offending to keep people from seeing just how much corporations, the GOP, and people like him are in direct opposition to this country's, and their own, interests. It should also be noted that we taxpayers subsidize his show so it can be seen by American troops...which is beyond acceptable and disgraceful. So exposing him to get him off the air for that reason alone is worth the time and effort.

The other argument in his defense is that he’s part of the "political rainbow" of opinion and we shouldn’t fear that. Well, he’s also a serial liar, bigot, misogynist, and hatemonger.

It doesn't take a genius to see how many Americans have been brainwashed and damaged by people like Limbaugh (and right wing radio and fox) badly that we've got legions of hate filled ignoramuses that live in a world without facts. 

In a civilized society its absolutely the right of the PEOPLE to demand their taxes don't fund such garbage, and likewise, its absolutely our right to not shop at companies that subsidized his hate and lies, just as it is our right to urge advertisers to STOP subsidizing his racist/sexist rants. That's called democracy.

The Contraception “Debate”

So, in this case, the “educating” that’s taking place due to “taking on Limbaugh” is the issue of women’s health and contraception. So let me do that now (to help you do it to others): One, having insurance companies cover contraception SAVES MONEY in a whole host of ways; Two, in a civilized society, health coverage includes basic health needs, even if you personally disagree with them due to ignorance or religious beliefs...contraception is about a WHOLE lot more than saves money, saves lives, and prevents the spread of disease (among many other benefits).

And please...for those that supposedly “don’t want their money wasted on this” (as I said, it SAVES MONEY), if they really cared about waste, and not say, controlling women’s bodies, what about the private health insurance industry (and big pharma) that RIPS US OFF for hundreds of billions of dollars a year in order to profit off denying coverage and overcharging consumers? An industry, by the way, that causes America to pay twice as much per capita on health care than any other country in the world while leaving 50 million uninsured, doesn't cover basic needs, and kills 45,000 a year due to being unaffordable. Or, what about the trillions we’ve spent on illegal wars? Or the hundreds of billions in subsidies we give to big oil, big agriculture, and other corporate criminals?

In other words all this ignorant outrage over what is “spent” on contraception should be directed at all the health insurance industry money spent on CEO salaries, administrative costs (esp. them trying to find ways to DENY coverage to the sick in order to make more money), advertising, and other waste that does nothing to improve human beings health – but rather, the industries bottom line.

Yet here the GOP is crying about "paying" for birth control? Seriously?

Obviously, this leads us to a larger point: Single payer, Medicare for All, is the answer to our health care crisis, because it takes the profit motive out of a basic human need and right: health coverage when you're sick or the rest of the democratic, civilized world has figured out...and that's why they spend less than half what we do and get far better results.

So yes, in a democratic, civilized world that cares about public policy that makes society better and takes care of its people, we all pitch in for health care to SAVE MONEY and lives. It’s the dues we pay to live in a better country...and our membership in it.

With that...please check out my next post...coming in a couple days...

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Due to a host of reasons I haven't posted on this blog for a record time in the many years I've been writing it (at one time as many as 5 a week!)...I do plan to be back this week, probably Friday....