Friday, April 30, 2010

What To Do About Hate

University of Illinois Chicago student Jason Connell raised money to donate to non-profit LGBT, AIDS and other causes to counter the hate spewed by Westboro Baptist Church and community. Thank you cards were then sent from the non-profits to WBC leader Fred Phelps. Connell called it a, "Lemons to Lemonade" situation. WATCH:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Ugly Truth about Arizona's Immigration Law

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has an excellent article about the new immigration law in Arizona. This law is not only unconstitutional but it guarantees racial profiling. Mary Bauer, SPLC Legal Director, is not surprised that the authors of the law are racist, Nazi sympathizers and fear provokers.

Arizona’s newly adopted immigration law is brazenly unconstitutional and will undoubtedly trample upon the civil rights of residents caught in its path.

By requiring local law enforcement to arrest a person when there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country illegally, Arizona lawmakers have created a system that guarantees racial profiling. They also have usurped federal authority by attempting to enforce immigration law.

Quite simply, this law is a civil rights disaster and an insult to American values. No one in our country should be required to produce their “papers” on demand to prove their innocence. What kind of country are we becoming?

When Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was asked what an undocumented immigrant looks like, she responded: “I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think there are people in Arizona who assume that they know what an illegal immigrant looks like."

We all know what the outcome of all this double-talk will be. People with brown skin – regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens or legal residents – will be forced to prove their legal status to law enforcement officers time and again. One-third of Arizona’s population – those who are Latino – will be designated as second-class citizens, making anyone with brown skin a suspect even if their families have called Arizona home for generations.

Given the authors of this law, no one should be surprised about its intended targets. The law was drafted by a lawyer for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), whose founder has warned of a “Latin onslaught” and complained about Latinos’ alleged low “educability.” FAIR has accepted $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a racist foundation that was set up by Nazi sympathizers to fund studies of eugenics, the science of selective breeding to produce a “better” race. The legislation was sponsored by state Senator Russell Pearce, who once e-mailed an anti-Semitic article from the neo-Nazi National Alliance website to supporters.

Making matters worse, lawmakers have allowed citizens to sue local law enforcement agencies that they believe are not adequately enforcing the new law. One can be sure that FAIR and its proxies are salivating at the prospects.

The law is not only unconstitutional, it’s bad public policy and will interfere with effective policing in Arizona’s communities. That’s why the legislation was opposed by the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police. As Latinos grow more fearful of law enforcement, they will be more reluctant to report crimes, and witnesses will be less likely to cooperate with police. Criminals will target the Latino community, confident their victims will keep quiet.

Lawmakers in other states are eager to replicate this ill-advised law. Their frustration with current immigration policy is understandable, but this system must be remedied by our Congress, which should enact fair immigration reform. The federal government must craft a policy that repairs our broken immigration system and, at the same time, protects our most cherished values. States that attempt to follow Arizona’s example will only succeed in sowing fear, discord and intolerance in our communities while undermining law enforcement and inviting costly constitutional challenges.

Check out: Fast Facts on Arizona’s Immigration Crack Down

Now, it is up to Congress to provide a remedy for all states.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Photo Credit: Street Protest TV

..not John Lennon's "Imagine." This is a game of imagining a different scenario for recent events. Instead of members of the Tea Party or supporters of the 2nd Amendment who are white, imagine black people, Muslims or rap artists. In other words, "What If the Tea Party Were Black?"
Imagine that hundreds of black protesters descended on DC armed with AK47s. Would they be defended as patriotic Americans?

Let’s play a game, shall we? The name of the game is called “Imagine.” The way it’s played is simple: we’ll envision recent happenings in the news, but then change them up a bit. Instead of envisioning white people as the main actors in the scenes we’ll conjure - the ones who are driving the action - we’ll envision black folks or other people of color instead. The object of the game is to imagine the public reaction to the events or incidents, if the main actors were of color, rather than white. Whoever gains the most insight into the workings of race in America, at the end of the game, wins.

So let’s begin.

Imagine that hundreds of black protesters were to descend upon Washington DC and Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol and White House, armed with AK-47s, assorted handguns, and ammunition. And imagine that some of these protesters —the black protesters — spoke of the need for political revolution, and possibly even armed conflict in the event that laws they didn’t like were enforced by the government? Would these protesters — these black protesters with guns — be seen as brave defenders of the Second Amendment, or would they be viewed by most whites as a danger to the republic? What if they were Arab-Americans? Because, after all, that’s what happened recently when white gun enthusiasts descended upon the nation’s capital, arms in hand, and verbally announced their readiness to make war on the country’s political leaders if the need arose.

Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob? After all, this is what white Tea Party protesters did recently in Washington.

Imagine that a rap artist were to say, in reference to a white president: “He’s a piece of shit and I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Because that’s what rocker Ted Nugent said recently about President Obama.

Imagine that a prominent mainstream black political commentator had long employed an overt bigot as Executive Director of his organization, and that this bigot regularly participated in black separatist conferences, and once assaulted a white person while calling them by a racial slur. When that prominent black commentator and his sister — who also works for the organization — defended the bigot as a good guy who was misunderstood and “going through a tough time in his life” would anyone accept their excuse-making? Would that commentator still have a place on a mainstream network? Because that’s what happened in the real world, when Pat Buchanan employed as Executive Director of his group, America’s Cause, a blatant racist who did all these things, or at least their white equivalents: attending white separatist conferences and attacking a black woman while calling her the n-word.

Imagine that a black radio host were to suggest that the only way to get promoted in the administration of a white president is by “hating black people,” or that a prominent white person had only endorsed a white presidential candidate as an act of racial bonding, or blamed a white president for a fight on a school bus in which a black kid was jumped by two white kids, or said that he wouldn’t want to kill all conservatives, but rather, would like to leave just enough—“living fossils” as he called them—“so we will never forget what these people stood for.” After all, these are things that Rush Limbaugh has said, about Barack Obama’s administration, Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama, a fight on a school bus in Belleville, Illinois in which two black kids beat up a white kid, and about liberals, generally.

Imagine that a black pastor, formerly a member of the U.S. military, were to declare, as part of his opposition to a white president’s policies, that he was ready to “suit up, get my gun, go to Washington, and do what they trained me to do.” This is, after all, what Pastor Stan Craig said recently at a Tea Party rally in Greenville, South Carolina.

Imagine a black radio talk show host gleefully predicting a revolution by people of color if the government continues to be dominated by the rich white men who have been “destroying” the country, or if said radio personality were to call Christians or Jews non-humans, or say that when it came to conservatives, the best solution would be to “hang ‘em high.” And what would happen to any congressional representative who praised that commentator for “speaking common sense” and likened his hate talk to “American values?” After all, those are among the things said by radio host and best-selling author Michael Savage, predicting white revolution in the face of multiculturalism, or said by Savage about Muslims and liberals, respectively. And it was Congressman Culbertson, from Texas, who praised Savage in that way, despite his hateful rhetoric.

Imagine a black political commentator suggesting that the only thing the guy who flew his plane into the Austin, Texas IRS building did wrong was not blowing up Fox News instead. This is, after all, what Anne Coulter said about Tim McVeigh, when she noted that his only mistake was not blowing up the New York Times.

Imagine that a popular black liberal website posted comments about the daughter of a white president, calling her “typical redneck trash,” or a “whore” whose mother entertains her by “making monkey sounds.” After all that’s comparable to what conservatives posted about Malia Obama on last year, when they referred to her as “ghetto trash.”

Imagine that black protesters at a large political rally were walking around with signs calling for the lynching of their congressional enemies. Because that’s what white conservatives did last year, in reference to Democratic party leaders in Congress.

In other words, imagine that even one-third of the anger and vitriol currently being hurled at President Obama, by folks who are almost exclusively white, were being aimed, instead, at a white president, by people of color. How many whites viewing the anger, the hatred, the contempt for that white president would then wax eloquent about free speech, and the glories of democracy? And how many would be calling for further crackdowns on thuggish behavior, and investigations into the radical agendas of those same people of color?

To ask any of these questions is to answer them. Protest is only seen as fundamentally American when those who have long had the luxury of seeing themselves as prototypically American engage in it. When the dangerous and dark “other” does so, however, it isn’t viewed as normal or natural, let alone patriotic. Which is why Rush Limbaugh could say, this past week, that the Tea Parties are the first time since the Civil War that ordinary, common Americans stood up for their rights: a statement that erases the normalcy and “American-ness” of blacks in the civil rights struggle, not to mention women in the fight for suffrage and equality, working people in the fight for better working conditions, and LGBT folks as they struggle to be treated as full and equal human beings.

And this, my friends, is what white privilege is all about. The ability to threaten others, to engage in violent and incendiary rhetoric without consequence, to be viewed as patriotic and normal no matter what you do, and never to be feared and despised as people of color would be, if they tried to get away with half the shit we do, on a daily basis.

Game Over.

Are you enlightened yet?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Where's The Money?

Don't you think members of Congress should know why they are opposing Finance Reform? Do Something!!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Another Blow to Reproductive Freedom

There is an interesting phenomenon happening in this country. Conservative politicians are against government regulation. They want to limit the reach of government in order to have a free market system and allow for individual liberty.

On the issues of gun control, religion, taxes, the economy, the environment and health care, the conservatives are against most forms of governmental interference or regulation. They don't believe in laws limiting an individual's right to bear arms. They don't think there is a need to separate church and state. They want no taxes or they want lower taxes. They don't agree with the regulation of banks or businesses. They are against government assistance in health care.

How does the conservative position jive with the abortion issue?

Just this week, the Oklahoma Senate passed five new abortion bills which will extremely limit a woman's constitutional right to have an abortion and and create "some of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country."

One of the bills would force a woman to get an ultrasound at least one hour prior to an abortion and be shown the image and given a detailed explanation of it, even if she wishes otherwise. A vaginal probe would be used if it would provide a clearer image of the fetus, which no other state requires; three others do require ultrasounds, but none force the woman to listen to an explanation of it.

State Sen. Anthony Sykes (R-Moore), the bill's sponsor, said the measure was designed to provide women with additional information before having an abortion.

Other pieces of legislation also require clinics that perform abortions to post signs stating it's "against the law for anyone ... to force you to have an abortion," forbid state exchange program insurance from covering abortions and prevent wrongful life and wrongful birth lawsuits.

One last bill would require the woman to first answer a lengthy questionnaire and provide information such as her age, marital status, race, education and reason for seeking an abortion. The doctor would then report this information - without the patient's name attached, however - which would be compiled and put on a state web site and accessible only by certain government personnel.

The bill's sponsor has said this would provide valuable information on who seeks abortions and why, in addition to helping create programs aimed at preventing abortions. Opponents of the bill, however, argue that this represents an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.

Jordan Goldberg, state advocacy council for the Center of Reproductive Rights (CRR), says she does not consider it "appropriate to use medical appointments and doctor-patient relationship to do fact-finding research gathering project at the expense of patient privacy."

A letter to Gov. Brad Henry (D-Oklahoma) issued by the CRR arguing unconstitutionality of the bill stated, "nothing in the Constitution or the case law allows states to require women to justify their constitutionally protected decision to terminate a pregnancy."

In all fairness, these bills passed with bipartisan support, "all five bills passed with large majorities, three of which passed 35-11."

This issue of governmental reach isn't between Republicans and Democrats. The issue is between conservatives and liberals. The Democrats who voted for these bills are conservative in their views.

So why is it that conservatives see a need to regulate everyone else's sexuality? They don't want to be told what to do but they want to dictate what others should do or not do in the privacy of their bedroom.

The liberal position is that government regulation is needed to preserve equality in health care, human rights and civil liberties. Liberals do have a point!

Allergies and Global Warming

Mother Jones discusses, Why Your Allergies Are Getting Worse.
Ah, spring. Flowers! Lawn sports! Baby birds! Lots and lots of snot. Yes folks, this year's pollen counts, especially in the southeast, are through the roof, and as our intrepid reporter Kate Sheppard wrote between sneezing fits last week, a new study from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) suggests allergies will likely become even more fierce if the planet continues to heat up. Researchers found that not only is spring coming earlier, making for a longer allergy season, but warmer weather allows hickory and oak, two of the most allergenic tree species, to thrive almost everywhere in the US. Another factor: Some plants, such as ragweed, are actually making more pollen as the environment changes. [...]

Hayfever's not the only allergic reaction that could worsen with climate change. Sometimes, pollen from certain plants can exacerbate food allergies to related plants, says Jeffrey Demain, director of the Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Center of Alaska. People who are genetically presdisposed to fruit and nut allergies, for example, may find that increased exposure to birch pollen makes their food reactions worse. Similarly, more ragweed pollen could aggravate symptoms in people allergic to melon. Also on the horizon: more aggressive poison ivy. A Duke university study found that poison ivy plants exposed to CO2 produced more potent urushiol, the allergen that causes the famous rash. [...]

So what's the solution? Ultimately, the only way to fix the problem is to cut our greenhouse gas emissions, says Staudt. In the meantime, since I'm not wild about the prospect of staying inside all allergy season long, here are three things we allergic people can do to sneeze less:

  • If you have a garden, choose plants with bright flowers. These are usually pollinated by insects, not the wind, meaning the pollen is generally too big to get into our nasal passages.
  • Urge your city officials to plant female trees, which don't produce pollen.
  • If you live in the city (especially one of those listed below), get out to the country every once in a while. (Some cities, like Albuquerque, New Mexico, have actually enacted ordnances against planting certain kinds of highly allergenic trees, though it's not clear how effective these rules are in lowering the pollen count.)

Each year the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America publishes a list of the most allergenic cities. Here's the top 10 from Spring 2010:

1. Knoxville, TN

2. Louisville, KY

3. Chattanooga, TN

4. Dayton, OH

5. Charlotte, NC

6. Philadelphia, PA

7. Greensboro, NC

8. Jackson, MS

9. St. Louis, MO

10. Wichita, KS

Later this week, watch for a Climate Desk piece on how climate change could send health care costs soaring.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Corporate Food: The Ugly Truth

No to Socialsm, Yes to Corporatocracy! tells the story of six banks controlling 60% of the Gross National Product (GNP)in this country. A few big corporations controlling our economic and banking system. This means that they "can distort the system. They can change the rules of the game to favor themselves. And unfortunately, the way it works in modern finance is when the rules favor you, you go out and you take a lot of risk. And you blow up from time to time, because it's not your problem. When it blows up, it's the taxpayer and it's the government that has to sort it out."

Therefore, power is being used against the people.

Another example of corporate power is found in the food industry. The movie
Food, Inc., shows how four large mega-corporations own and control the meat packing industry. In the seed industry, Monsanto is the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed.

One of the repercussions of this concentrated ownership is that the bottom line profit becomes the motivating factor over the safety and quality of the product.

WATCH to see the ugly truth about our food industry.

Friday, April 23, 2010

No to Socialsm, Yes to Corporatocracy!

The Tea Bag Movement, the Republican Party and the right-wing pundits are all claiming that Obama and the Democrats are socialists. Let's call these groups the 'anti-socialists.' They believe that Obama wants government ownership of everything. They claim that people should be able to control their own destinies, their own economic choices and their own health care. They are against government regulation and against social assistance. But, what history has shown is that without sufficient regulation, society becomes very unbalanced.

For example, in the 19th century the Robber Barons took advantage of an unregulated banking and commercial system. They amassed enormous personal wealth. In response to the Great Depression of 1929, Congress enacted banking regulations in 1933 known as the Glass–Steagall Act which introduced banking reforms. It wasn't until 1999, that certain provisions that prohibited a bank holding company from owning other financial companies were repealed by the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act.

It was the Glass-Steagall Act that prohibited any one institution from consolidating an
investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company into one entity. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act then allowed commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms, and insurance companies to consolidate. A bi-partisan congress passed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act and President Clinton signed it into law.

Recently, President Bill Clinton said that even before the repeal of Glass-Steagall the principles of the legislation had been breached. "Clinton said he regretted not trying to regulate derivatives."
“On derivatives, yeah I think they were wrong and I think I was wrong to take [their advice] because the argument on derivatives was that these things are expensive and sophisticated and only a handful of investors will buy them and they don’t need any extra protection, and any extra transparency. The money they’re putting up guarantees them transparency.” [...]

Clinton said he regretted not trying to regulate derivatives, but that Republicans would have stood in the way. “Now, I think if I had tried to regulate them because the Republicans were the majority in the Congress, they would have stopped it. But I wish I should have been caught trying. I mean, that was a mistake I made.”

That brings us to today.

During a recent interview on Bill Moyers Journal with economists James Kwak and Simon Johnson, Bill Moyers discussed with his guests the devastating financial crisis of '08. The discussion focused on "whether the financial powers are more profitable, and more resistant to regulation than ever."
Bill Moyers: Let me get to the blunt conclusion you reach in your book. You say that two years after the devastating financial crisis of '08 our country is still at the mercy of an oligarchy that is bigger, more profitable, and more resistant to regulation than ever. Correct?

Simon Johnson: Absolutely correct, Bill. The big banks became stronger as a result of the bailout. That may seem extraordinary, but it's really true. They're turning that increased economic clout into more political power. And they're using that political power to go out and take the same sort of risks that got us into disaster in September 2008.

Bill Moyers: And your definition of oligarchy is?

Simon Johnson: Oligarchy is just- it's a very simple, straightforward idea from Aristotle. It's political power based on economic power. And it's the rise of the banks in economic terms, which we document at length, that it'd turn into political power. And they then feed that back into more deregulation, more opportunities to go out and take reckless risks and-- and capture huge amounts of money.

Bill Moyers: And you say that these this oligarchy consists of six megabanks. What are the six banks?

James Kwak: They are Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.

Bill Moyers: And you write that they control 60 percent of our gross national product?

James Kwak: They have assets equivalent to 60 percent of our gross national product. And to put this in perspective, in the mid-1990s, these six banks or their predecessors, since there have been a lot of mergers, had less than 20 percent. Their assets were less than 20 percent of the gross national product.

Bill Moyers: And what's the threat from an oligarchy of this size and scale?

Simon Johnson: They can distort the system, Bill. They can change the rules of the game to favor themselves. And unfortunately, the way it works in modern finance is when the rules favor you, you go out and you take a lot of risk. And you blow up from time to time, because it's not your problem. When it blows up, it's the taxpayer and it's the government that has to sort it out.

Bill Moyers: So, you're not kidding when you say it's an oligarchy?

James Kwak: Exactly. I think that in particular, we can see how the oligarchy has actually become more powerful in the last since the financial crisis. If we look at the way they've behaved in Washington. For example, they've been spending more than $1 million per day lobbying Congress and fighting financial reform. I think that's for some time, the financial sector got its way in Washington through the power of ideology, through the power of persuasion. And in the last year and a half, we've seen the gloves come off. They are fighting as hard as they can to stop reform.

Simon Johnson: I know people react a little negatively when you use this term for the United States. But it means political power derived from economic power. That's what we're looking at here. It's disproportionate, it's unfair, it is very unproductive, by the way. Undermines business in this society. And it's an oligarchy like we see in other countries.
Today, six banks control 60% of the Gross National Product (GNP) which according to Simon Johnson and James Kwak is considered an oligarchy.

This brings us back to the 'anti-socialists.' They are extremely fearful. They rant and rave that President Obama wants the federal government to own all means of production. Although they accept their medicare payments and social security checks, they have railed against the recent health care legislation even though it is an insurance company for-profit health care plan.

What is the anti-socialist position on the issue of economics and banking regulation? Are the anti-socialists content with an oligarchy of our banking industry? Are they ranting and raving, yelling and screaming, demonstrating against the corporate oligarchy (corporatocracy) of banking? Are they outraged that only 6 banks own 60% of GNP?

Sarah Palin:
Palin apparently thinks that the solution to our economic mess in the United States is less government regulation rather than more to rein the bankers and Wall Street in for their bad behavior.
Tea Party:
This movement is against stronger regulation. As Republicans softened their stance against the financial regulation bill, tea partyers reacted by lashing out against the GOP.

GOP Conservatives:
For conservatives the best bank regulation is no regulation. Conservatives, of course, think we need less regulation, not more.
Judging from the rallies on Wall Street yesterday, the capitalists haven't bought into the GOP talking points about socialism quite to the extent of the Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh crowd of modern day Know Nothings. But if you think the conservatives dig in on healthcare reform, just watch them on financial reform-- the real line in the sand for the representatives of institutionalized Greed and Selfishness.

After foot (and knuckle) dragging all year, the GOP was left out of the final legislation entirely-- although far, far too many of their reactionary demands were met as Dodd and the Democrats compromised with good sense for no reason, unless currying favor with the banksters is considered reasonable in Inside the Beltway Democratic circles. Yesterday the Senate Banking Committee approved Dodd's financial overhaul legislation 13-10, without a single Republican vote.

The 10 crooked, bribe-taking handmaidens of the Wall Street banks who have vowed to throw themselves under the bus of progress are Richard Shelby (R-AL- $5,213,130), Robert Bennett (R-UT- $2,354,767), Jim Bunning (R-KY- $2,580,305), Mike Crapo (R-ID- $1,728,513), Bob Corker (R-TN- $3,058,330), Jim DeMint (R-SC- $2,463,860), David Diapers Vitter (R-LA- $2,083,149), Mike Johanns (R-NE- $687,621), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX- $4,702,438) and Judd Gregg (R-NH- $1,077,149).

Dodd says his bill will end taxpayer-funded bailouts of companies supposedly "too big to fail," regulate-- for the first time-- the multitrillion-dollar derivatives market, and bring long-overdue consumer protection to financial products. The Republicans have watered down the most important aspects of real reform and are expected to filibuster the eventual bill, no matter how weak and crappy the Democrats make it to please them. Sound familiar?
WATCH Fox News explain the Republican position.

Are you confused yet? Totally. The Fox News guy says that there are already enough laws on the books to handle every economic situation. Both he and Professor Bill Black seem to be blaming the economic situation on both Obama, Geithner and the Democrats. But on April 3, 2009, Bill Black was interviewed by Bill Moyers. Here is what he had to say.
Click HERE to watch the program.
BILL MOYERS: If I wanted to go looking for the parties to this, with a good bird dog, where would you send me? WILLIAM K. BLACK: Well, that's exactly what hasn't happened. We haven't looked, all right? The Bush Administration essentially got rid of regulation, so if nobody was looking, you were able to do this with impunity and that's exactly what happened. Where would you look? You'd look at the specialty lenders. The lenders that did almost all of their work in the sub-prime and what's called Alt-A, liars' loans.
The anti-socialists want small government, individual liberty, and free markets. They don't want any banking regulation. They don't want government control. Yet, what we now have is a corporate oligarchy which controls our economic system and inhibits individual freedoms and free markets.

The right-wing motto has now become: No to Socialism, Yes to

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fox News: You're the Lupus of News

If you haven't see Jon Stewart's response to Fox News' Bernie Goldberg, then feast your eyes and ears on this video.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Bernie Goldberg Fires Back
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Give Your Doctor a Chicken!

Chickens for   Checkups

The Senate race in Nevada is heating up. Sen. Harry Reid (D) is losing in the polls to the Republic opponent, Sue Lowden. But things might change with Lowden's latest position on health care that she is proposing.

Democrats opened a new round of gleeful attacks as Sue Lowden, the Republican front-runner to unseat Sen. Harry Reid, again extolled the virtues of "bartering" for health care.

Lowden was recently the subject of late-night humor after saying health care costs would be lowered if health consumers paid with cash and bargained down prices with health providers. She called it "bartering," a term normally referring to a trade of one good or service for another.

Lowden defended her remarks Monday on the "Nevada Newsmakers" TV show.

"You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor, they would say I’ll paint your house," she said. "I mean, that’s the old days of what people would do to get health care with your doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system."

The Reid campaign, which has for months focused its attacks on Lowden, sent out a statement with the subject line: "Has Sue Lowden Lost her Mind?"

Lowden, a wealthy casino owner, has occasionally veered off message since the campaign began. The latest slip threatens to make her appear out-of-touch, which is the very attack Republicans had hoped to use against Reid.

Still, Lowden can claim a healthy lead in polls against both Reid and Republican primary opponents.

A question: How many chickens do you bring to the doctor in exchange for a lobotomy? (let alone a quadruple bypass.)

Greg Sargent claims that the
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is countering with a new website, "Chickens for Checkups!"

The DSCC’s new Chickens for Checkups Web site — a name that first appeared below on this blog — will allow people to send Lowden a “personalized message asking for her help in finding a doctor for their 19th century illness,” DSCC spox Deirdre Murphy says. It will include a menu of stuff you can choose to barter for treatment.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Murphy says. “Sue Lowden is completely out of touch with reality if she thinks trading chickens for checkups is smart health care reform.”

There’s little downside in putting up a quick and dirty Website on this kind of stuff, since it doesn’t cost much of anything. Dems want to turn Lowden’s chicken chatter into a symbol of GOP unwillingness to embrace real solutions to people’s problems.
Sue Lowden's campaign isn't backing down. They are claiming that even doctors support chickens for checkups. Lowden’s spokesperson, Chrystal Feldman, sent out this statement:

Republican Sue Lowden is the target of a new website paid for by  the DSCC.

“Americans are struggling to pay for their health care, and in order to afford coverage we must explore all options available to drive costs down. Bartering with your doctor is not a new concept. There have been numerous reports as to how negotiating with your doctor is an option and doctors have gone on the record verifying this.

“Unfortunately, Harry Reid’s failed leadership forces us to take drastic measures. The fact remains that instead of producing a health care solution Americans support, Harry Reid spends his time focusing on attacking his biggest threat to another six years in Washington, Sue Lowden.”

The Lowden campaign sends along this letter to a local paper from a local medical professional, supporting the concept. “I have bartered with patients — for alfalfa hay, a bath tub, yard work and horse shoeing in exchange for my care,” the doc wrote.

Be that as it may, there’s a larger political context here, and Lowden’s tripling down on the idea only ensures that the story keeps on going, potentially turning her into a national punch line.
Comedians are having a hay day with this story.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's the Money, Stupid!

Where is Sarah Palin's PAC money going?

Ex-Governor Sarah Palin's political action committee made a lot of money in 2009 and 2010. According to, SarahPAC raised about $2.1 million in 2009. Politics Daily sheds some light on the economics of the PAC.
Since its inception, the PAC has raised more than $2.5 million and spent more than $1.6 million. According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, SarahPAC spent $402,460 in the first quarter of 2010.
Palin recently used a visual representation of a hit list to 'target' candidates in the 2012 elections. On her Facebook page , she used a bull's-eye on a map to indicate which candidates should be "fired." She claims she meant defeated.

So did Palin financially support Republican candidates in
The papers filed over the weekend show SarahPAC spent $47,777 on copies of "Going Rogue" during the last 6 months of the year. Meanwhile, she handed out just $43K in donations to candidates seeking federal office.
Where did Palin spend her PAC money in 2010? Did SarahPAC donate money to Republicans in the races she targeted?

Although her SarahPAC took in $400,000 in the first quarter and had more than $900,000 in the bank, it gave only $7,500 to candidates between January and the end of March, plus an additional $2,000 to two other PACs. None went to Republicans in the races she targeted.

Instead, she gave to $2,500 to Wisconsin House candidate Sean Duffy, $2,000 to Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul, and $1,000 each to Florida House candidate Allen West, Illinois House candidate Adam Kinzinger and Idaho House candidate Vaughan Ward. SarahPAC also donated $1,000 each to Iraq Veterans for Congress and Combat Veterans for Congress, both political action committees.

So what did she spend her money on this year?

Almost $243,000 went to consultants, including almost $45,000 to PAC treasurer Timothy Crawford (some of it for expenses), plus $21,500 for legal services. NorthStar Strategies took in $50,000, and Orion Strategies $30,000. Consulting services included media strategy, fundraising, candidate research and grassroots coalitions.

More than $42,000 went to travel, including more than $7,300 to de-ice private planes. Destinations for Team Palin included New Orleans, Cincinnati, Dallas, Phoenix, Nashville, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis.

Fundraising and postage:
The PAC spent more than $31,780 on postage and more than $25,000 on Internet fundraising.

Even photographer
Shaelah Craighead (Laura Bush's White House photographer) took in more money than Sarah PAC gave to candidates, earning $11,596 for photography.

What happened to the $100K she was to donate from her appearance at the Tea Party Convention?

What's more, there is no evidence that Palin has kept her promise to donate money she earned from a Tea Party convention in Feb. Amid controversies surrounding the National Tea Party Convention, held in Nashville, Palin said she would donate her $100K speaking fee to campaigns, candidates and issues.

Palin did not contribute any money to her PAC, according to FEC filings.
SarahPAC's treasurer Tim Crawford said, "We are excited as we feel that we've just begun to tap the governor's support. More than 14,000 everyday men and women contributed more than $2 million to SarahPAC last year with little effort on our part. The money came in through the Internet and a handful of fundraisers and we are grateful for everyone's support."

As the money trail shows, SarahPAC should be very grateful to the "everyday men and women!"
How else would they be able to pay their 'consultants'?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Winograd vs Harman

An interesting dynamic is emerging in California involving Marcy Winograd, the progressive primary challenger to the blue-dog incumbent Congresswoman Jane Harman in CA-36. Winograd is in a battle at the California Democratic Party Convention to deny Harman the statewide party endorsement. This weekend, Winograd accomplished an "impressive feat" by securing enough signatures to open the contest to debate and force the question of a state party endorsement to the floor of the convention.

The California Democratic Party is convening this weekend in Los Angeles for its annual state convention. Only one Congressional incumbent, Jane Harman of Venice, however will go into the gathering without the pre-endorsement of her Party. The representative of the 36th Congressional district had actually won the backing last month with seventy percent of the vote only to have it be pulled after an organized effort by Marcy Winograd, her Democrat challenger in the upcoming primary election.

A co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Progressive Democrats of America, Winograd was able to collect three hundred and twenty-nine delegate objections to Harman easily surpassing the bylaws’ requirement of three hundred needed to rescind a pre-endorsement. As a result, Harman, a blue dog Democrat, will be heading into this weekend having her party’s endorsement for the Congressional race be fought and debated on the convention floor. A campaign adviser for the Congresswoman characterized Winograd as wanting to “abuse the convention and waste time attempting to disenfranchise Jane Harman’s significant number of progressive supporters.”

The Progressive Democratic challenger likened the coming debate as a “fight for the heart and soul” of the Party while asking, “Who do we endorse? Someone who rushes us to war, covers up illegal wiretapping, and votes with Wall Street to make it easier for banks to foreclose?”

Does Winograd have a chance to win the Democratic endorsement?

What will happen today is that Winograd and Harman will get a short speech to make their case, and then the entire state party delegation will get the opportunity to vote on the endorsement, not just the locals in the district. Winograd has said that, if the state party spends time, effort and money after endorsing a candidate, the whole party should have the opportunity to vote on it.

A substantial amount of the more progressive Northern California delegation didn’t even make it to Los Angeles, so in the end, Harman may capture enough votes to win the endorsement on the floor. But it should be interesting to watch, anyway.

The primary is June 8. Winograd is challenging Harman in the primary for the second time; in 2006 she got 38% of the vote.

The two candidates are political opposites.

In a contest of Party opposites, grassroots progressive Winograd, who refuses corporate donations, has shown big money-funded Harman that being a corporate darling isn't an automatic endorsement or predestined reelection.[...]

Harman vs. Winograd is the quintessential battle of opposites: conservative vs. progressive, corporate donations vs. grassroots donations, power broker vs. people power, special interests vs. people's interests, war vs. infrastructure, war vs. jobs, war vs. education, war vs. housing, war vs. health, war vs. the environment, and on...

This contest means the difference between reelecting an entrenched incumbent politician who supports militarism and corporatocracy or electing an inspired organizer and educator who's dedicated her life to the local community and the community at large.

Lila Garrett, radio host, progressive icon and convention delegate summed it up for me this way:

"Winograd vs. Harman is not just another ho-hum congressional election. It's a battle to define the Democratic Party. If it is represented by a permanent war economy fed by a policy of permanent war, secret government, authoritarian rule - that's Harman. It it's a party whose first priorities are peace, universal education, healthcare, employment and dignity - that's Winograd.

They [Harman and Winograd] are polar opposites. Let the Democratic party be defined by this election. Then let those of us who care what our party stands for decide whether to remain Democrats or move on. It has come to that."

As Digby has noted in "LA isn't Blue Dog Country."

I'm sorry, it's just not right for any liberal district in California to be represented by a member of congress who says she's "proud to be introduced as the best Republican in the Democratic Party." Yet that's what Blue Dog Jane Harman says about herself.

It is time to push out the Blue-Dogs. This is a good start!

Ridiculous You Say!

A tongue-in-cheek article, "Obama to Nominate Jesus Christ to Supreme Court", underscores the ridiculousness of today's politics.
President Barack Obama is expected to nominate Jesus Christ, an immigrant originally born to a virgin mother in Bethlehem, to fill the new vacancy on the Supreme Court. Although Mr. Christ is over 2,000 years old, He is immortal, so Democrats and Republicans expect that He will serve on the high court forever or until He decides to start the End Times. Republicans are expected to fight the nomination on the grounds that Mr. Christ would radically move the Court to the left. The GOP is also concerned that, despite decades of controversy and speculation, Mr. Christ has never revealed his position on abortion. Mr. Christ, according to many authorities, is expected to oppose the death penalty in all forms. Michael Steele, the head of the GOP national committee, issued a statement: "Christ is a complete mystery to us. He won't reveal His physical appearance and many of His positions are unknown or the subject of speculation. He is a stealth candidate. Why won't He reveal himself? Who does He think He is?"

Republicans are reportedly outraged that Mr. Obama even considered Mr. Christ, who has been widely quoted for his sentiments supporting the poor over the wealthy. In a Facebook post, former half-term Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin called for an investigation into the Bethlehem chapter of ACORN because of what she termed the "highly suspicious" coincidence that both President Obama and Mr. Christ had each spent three years as community organizers. In her post, Palin also wrote that "More and more of good God-fearing smalltime Americans from hardworking smalltime towns from great parts of this real America, West, South, East, North, are seeing more and more every day that Christ is a community organizer. We don't need another community organizer in the White House!"

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) asked, "We're not even sure where He was born. Why is He afraid to show us his birth certificate?" Bachmann also announced that she would vote "no" when the Christ nomination came before the House of Representatives. Later, her congressional staff released a statement saying that the Congresswoman had forgotten that the House does not vote on judicial nominations.

According to Rush Limbaugh, "Christ doesn't know anything about free enterprise. This is part of the Obama conspiracy to drag us to socialism. If this guy is approved, I'm moving to Costa Rica." Sobbing, Glenn Beck attacked Christ's support for the separation of church and state, telling his audience "You know who else wanted a separation of church and state? Hitler."

Several Catholic priests were contacted for comment but refused to discuss the issue, and, even though they weren't asked, all empathetically denied that they had personally molested any children.

Democrats are optimistic about their chances of shoving Mr. Christ down the throats of Americans using normal constitutional and parliamentary procedures. Many Democrats are hopeful that Mr. Christ's past associations with prostitutes will earn him at least one Republican vote, that of Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).

If confirmed, Christ will be the first Supreme Court Justice who has at least one American city named after him: Corpus Christi, Texas.

Can Jesus rise above this?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another View of Healthcare

Roger Bybee says, "Health Insurers won the pot. Reformers need a new game." In his article, "Fixing the Big F*%#ing Deal," Bybee says that passing this comprehensive health plan legislation is a step forward. However, there is still much to do.
In a too-loud whisper to President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden famously characterized the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as “a big f—-ing deal” at a triumphal White House news conference.

On a political level, the new law is indeed a “BFD.” But in terms of healthcare policy, many reformers believe that the law fundamentally reinforces insurers’ stranglehold on affordability and access. Consequently, the law will fail to restrain the market forces inexorably driving up healthcare costs, thereby forcing another confrontation further down the road as costs climb and coverage shrinks.

Still, America’s first comprehensive health plan represents a step toward establishing healthcare as a basic American right. The new law includes an extension of healthcare to 32 million uninsured people, some valuable protections against insurer abuses, and a badly needed expansion of Medicaid and community health clinics.

What about the pitfalls of the bill?
Whither single-payer?
Health Care for America Now!, a coalition of 1,000 organizations, views the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in distinctly positive terms. “First of all, the most important thing is that it establishes that people will get decent health coverage that they can afford, and that government has a responsibility to provide that,” HCAN Executive Director Richard Kirsch told In These Times. “That’s a fundamental transformation, from it being a privilege to a right.”
Kirsch ticks off some vital areas for improvement. “We will need to improve the affordability for many families in the exchange [a government-sponsored offering of insurance plans for the presently uninsured to choose from], especially those just above the Medicaid level and adding some more help for the upper-middle class.”
Insurance industry triumphs

Non-HCAN reformers are distressed by what they see as a fundamental defect with the new reforms: The new healthcare law enlarges and fortifies the throne from which for-profit insurers dominate the healthcare system.

Regardless of the policy differences among reformers, the law’s basic contours reflect the remarkable political power—exerted through campaign contributions, lobbying and television ads—of the for-profit insurance industry, according to Steffie Woolhandler of Harvard Medical School and Physicians for a National Health Plan, a 17,000-member organization advocating a single-payer or Medicare-for-all plan that would replace for-profit insurers with a single government entity.

“The big problem in this fight about trying to introduce the single-payer idea into the debate was actually the insurance industry and how they were allowed to write the bill and check the language of the bill throughout the process,” she told In These Times. Former WellPoint insurance company Vice President Liz Fowler, an “aide” to Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (who ruled single-payer “off the table” early on in 2009), has been credited with writing much of the legislation.

Given the central role that the new law preserves for for-profit insurers, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich placed the new law in proper historical context when he cautioned in “Don’t believe anyone who says Obama’s healthcare legislation marks a swing of the pendulum back toward the Great Society and the New Deal. Obama’s health bill is a very conservative piece of legislation, building on a Republican [a private market approach much like Mitt Romney’s] rather than a New Deal foundation. The New Deal foundation would have offered Medicare to all Americans or, at the very least, featured a public insurance option.”

Consequently, the guiding logic of the current system—under which insurers maximize profits by minimizing care, and ever-expanding “provider chains” (hospitals, clinics and physician networks) seek to enlarge their revenues and market share without regard to health needs—will remain intact. “Most critically, the bill strengthens the economic and political power of a private insurance-based system based on profit rather than patient need,” says Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the National Nurses United union.

Is there a solution?
A single-payer future?
Developing a much stronger media operation to properly frame the healthcare players and issues will be just one of the challenges facing the reform movement. The upward trajectory of health costs and premiums may help to define the solution and to arouse a much broader swath of Americans in the next round of the healthcare reform fight. [...]

Some experts predict that the new law’s utter failure to rein in insurance premiums, trim the $400 billion dollar burden of insured-imposed administrative costs, and control the excess costs created by provider chains will ultimately make a Medicare-for-all or single-payer system unavoidable.

Writing in the New York Times , William F. Pewen, former senior health analyst for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), put it this way: “When Congress next attempts reform, in a decade or more, health costs and the number of uninsured and underinsured will have escalated—and the likely outcome will be the single-payer system that Republicans most abhor.” 

Conflict over health care reform is morphing into the question of what system will work: a failed for-profit system or change in the form of not-for-profit health care. This article states that the "Patient Protection and Affordability Act falls woefully short of achieving the universality taken for granted in every other advanced nation." Hopefully real change will come in the form of a public option or a single-payer system.
Complete article is here.

Forget the Coffee, Go for Herbal

The Roots of the Tea Party Money

Yasha Levine has a compelling essay about the Koch brothers and their funding of the Tea Party in her article, "The Roots of Stalin in the Tea Party Movement." She states that the root of the money which has funded the Tea Party is from the Koch family whose money was originally made by business dealing with Stalin.
The Koch family, America's biggest financial backers of the Tea Party, would not be the billionaires they are today were it not for the godless empire of the USSR.
The Tea Party movement's dirty little secret is that its chief financial backers owe their family fortune to the granddaddy of all their hatred: Stalin's godless empire of the USSR. The secretive oil billionaires of the Koch family, the main supporters of the right-wing groups that orchestrated the Tea Party movement, would not have the means to bankroll their favorite causes had it not been for the pile of money the family made working for the Bolsheviks in the late 1920s and early 1930s, building refineries, training Communist engineers and laying down the foundation of Soviet oil infrastructure.
Here is a better historical fact, one that the Kochs don't like to repeat in public: the family's initial wealth was not created by the harsh, creative forces of unfettered capitalism, but by the grace of the centrally planned economy of the Soviet Union. The Koch family, America's biggest pushers of the free-market Tea Party revolution, would not be the billionaires they are today were it not for the whim of one of Stalin's comrades.
Debunking the Tea Party movement's "grassroots" base while acknowledging its far-right foundation.

I first learned about the Kochs in February 2009, when my colleague Mark Ames and I were looking into the strange origins of the then-nascent Tea Party movement. Our investigation led us again and again to a handful of right-wing advocacy groups directly tied to the Kochs. We were the first to connect the dots and debunk the Tea Party movement's "grassroots" front, exposing it as billionaire-backed astroturf campaign run by free-market advocacy groups FreedomWorks and Americans For Prosperity, both of which are closely linked to the Koch brothers.

But the Tea Party movement -- and the Koch family's obscene wealth -- go back more than half a century, all the way to grandpa Fredrick C. Koch, one of the founding members of the far-right John Birch Society which was convinced that socialism was taking over America through unions, colored people, Jews, homosexuals, the Kennedys and even Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The Koch family's enormous socialist wealth comes from years of dealings with the Russians which started in 1920 and continued until the late 1950's. In 1956, after a business trip to the Soviet Union, Fred Koch became vocal about his fear of communists.
According to a 1956 AP article, Fred Koch was among 11 prominent residents of Wichita, Kansas who traveled to Moscow "in an effort to convince the Russian people that Soviet propaganda about capitalists is untrue." Sounds like the perfect cover for a business trip.

Fred Koch came back a pissed-off anti-communist and joined up with the right-wing Birchers. He bankrolled a John Birch Society chapter in Wichita and attempted to open a Bircher bookstore, which wasn't too popular and had to close. He warned of a massive communist conspiracy to take control of America, saying that the Reds were eroding American universities, churches, political parties, the media and every branch of government.

Fred Koch's paranoia continued to spiral out of control until his ticker quit in 1967. But by that time his son, Charles G. Koch, had already taken over control of the family business. He appropriated his father's communist paranoia and made it the basis of the family's free-market business philosophy.
But with every story there is always a twist. Great wealth from a strong relationship with a Communist country leading to fear mongering of Communism, and then a family rift leading to whistleblower allegations of theft.

Today, it operates thousands of miles of pipelines in the United States, refines 800,000 barrels of crude oil daily, buys and sells the most asphalt in the nation, is among the top 10 cattle producers, and is among the 50 largest landowners. Koch Industries also poured hundreds of millions of dollars into right-wing organizations like Institute for Humane Studies, the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the Bill of Rights Institute, the Reason Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Federalist Society -- all of them promoting the usual billionaire-friendly ideas of the free market, deregulation and smaller government.

If that expansion looks too fast to be legit, that's because it was.

William Koch, the third brother who had a falling-out with Charles and David back in the '80s over Charles' sociopathic management style, appeared on "60 Minutes" in November 2000 to tell the world that Koch Industries was a criminal enterprise: "It was – was my family company. I was out of it," he says. "But that’s what appalled me so much... I did not want my family, my legacy, my father’s legacy to be based upon organized crime."

Charles Koch’s racket was very simple, explained William. With its extensive oil pipe network, Koch Industries' role as an oil middleman--it buys crude from someone’s well and sells it to a refinery--makes it easy to steal millions of dollars worth of oil by skimming just a little off the top of each transaction, or what they call “cheating measurements” in the oil trade. According to William, wells located on federal and Native American lands were the prime targets of the Koch scam.

"What Koch was doing was taking all these measurements and then falsifying them on the run sheets," said Bill Koch. "If the dipstick measured five feet 10 inches and one half inch, they would write down five feet nine and one half inches."

That may not sound like much, but Bill Koch said it added up. "Well, that was the beauty of the scheme. Because if they’re buying oil from 50,000 different people, and they’re stealing two barrels from each person. What does that add up to? One year, their data showed they stole a million and a half barrels of oil."

In 1999, William decided to take his brothers down. He sued Koch Industries in civil court under the False Claims Act, which allows whistleblowers to file suit on behalf of the federal government. William Koch accused the company of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in oil from federal lands.

At the trial, 50 former Koch gaugers testified against the company, some in video depositions. They said employees even had a term for cheating on the measurements. "We in the company referred to it as the Koch Method because it was a system for cheating the producer out of oil," said one of the gaugers, Mark Wilson.

Ah, finally! Have we stumbled onto the secret to the family’s success? At the bottom of it all, is the Koch Method that funds all the libertarians nothing but old-fashioned theft? Or, as Koch hero Ludwig von Mises might ask, "Is the Koch Method just an unceasing sequence of single thefts?"

The Tea Party has tried to promote a grass-roots image. But then again, reality has nothing to do with this movement.