Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Greater Danger–False Equivalency

I have been writing about this problem for years, to no avail. Both sides of every political issue are carefully equalized in most news reports. Even when opinion is heavily on one side, as is the case with the tax/deficit issue right now––a sizable majority in most polls want some spending cuts but also want revenues raised by taxing rich people more, at least by removing the enhanced cuts they got from Bush. But false equivalency ignores consensus. It gives the two sides equal weight.

More worrisome, the false equivalency ignores merits of the arguments. If (as I believe is the case now) one party has become dangerously radical, impractical, inflexible and irrational, it's automatically made equal with the more rational, moderate, flexible, practical party opposing it. The Republican Party's dominant fringe has made compromise impossible. Compromise is the essence of democracy. To cut it out of the process endangers how our democracy functions, but this radicalism is disguised and denied. The Republican Party's radical tactics are reported very cautiously and respectfully. In the midst of a serious crisis precipitated by one party, the media's habitual balancing makes it appear both parties are equally to blame.

This false equivalency rewards and encourages radicalism, it rewards inflexibility, it rewards extremism. It penalizes flexibility, reason, moderation and maturity on the other side. And it makes cynics of us all, because we are constantly told that both parties are equally extreme, equally inflexible.

I see the present impasse as a hostage situation. The Republican Party's radical fringe knows that moments of crisis can be exploited for political gain. They are holding 300 million Americans hostage and making demands. Their demands would seriously degrade the lives of the poor, the weak, the unemployed, veterans, the sick, the working poor, the middle class and further enrich and empower the rich and powerful. But they hold the gun, and because no news organization feels comfortable reporting this we are left believing that the hostage takers and the people negotiating for their release are morally and rationally equal. This is why the international community wants to downgrade our debt, because we are behaving irrationally. And our news media aren't helping.

I think the present predicament is largely attributable to news media's false equivalency. I'm not sure if it's cowardice or laziness or naive faith or a very wrong sense of fairness, but it's a dangerous habit.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

GOP Effort to Shut Down Voting

Republicans are moving aggressively all across the country to make it harder for people to vote. The effort deliberately targets the poor, urban voters, young voters, students and people of color. You can read more about it here.

(The Republicans have a funny reason for what they're doing. See below.)

I keep returning to this, but it's crucial and very few Americans know about it. Back in 1980 Paul Weyrich stated the longterm strategy of the Republican Party–––Make it harder for people to vote. (Here's the evidence. They filmed Weyrich's speech.) Prevent people from voting. Shrink the electorate. Shrink the democracy. Shut the American people out of decisions... unless they agree with Paul Weyrich––and are rich and white and right-wing and "Christian" enough.

Killing our democracy was the best way to guarantee Republican domination. Domination was and continues to be their goal.

This came on the heels of the GOP's southern strategy, designed to gather in all the white voters angry about civil rights, and keep them angry.

What's ironic is, the same party that sought to capture the poor angry white vote then set about limiting all voting, especially among households earning less than a few hundred thousand a year.

Doing so while waving a flag made it appear patriotic. But the goals embraced by the Republican Party since the late 70s are deeply antidemocratic.

While worshipping the founding fathers they have pushed an agenda that is fundamentally opposed to the ideals the founders put on paper.

If you don't think voter fraud is the biggest threat to democracy today, you should watch this report from Stephen Colbert. Laughing is permitted, but the GOP isn't a joke, it's controlling America right now.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hostage Situation

Obama is in a difficult position. He wants to protect the essential programs many millions of middle class and working class households rely on, and wants to do so by removing the tax breaks enjoyed by the very rich, who pay much lower tax than everybody else. The Republicans are willing to crash the economy to protect the rich and are happy to gouge everybody else if they can. I am reminded of the National Lampoon cover from 1973: "If You Don't Buy This Magazine We'll Kill This Dog." The dog is us. The Republican goal is to nail down an economy like the one we are living through right now, one that doesn't work for anyone but the upper class.

It's a hostage situation. President Obama is trying to free 300 million hostages (the American people) from a set of ruthless well-armed and cold-blooded extortionists, which requires very careful negotiating. Problem is half of the hostages don't seem aware which side is holding them hostage and which side is trying to get them released unharmed.

Here's a pretty good analysis from my friend at Forbes.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Extreme Politics is Killing Our Democracy

Today's must-read is a piece from Reuters. Extreme gerrymandering of districts has eliminated moderates, especially moderate Republicans. (We still have a number of Blue Dog Democrats, who resemble the Republicans of Nixon's day.)

Extreme politics is making it impossible for us to find a deal on raising the debt limit. Here's a good history of the debt limit issue from the CBC. It's an artificial crisis that suits the Republican caucus very well. The Republican leaders voted for George W. Bush's raises to the debt ceiling. Every president in the past fifty years has raised the debt ceiling, repeatedly. Who did so the most? Reagan, almost 200%. Second place? George W. Bush, almost 90%. It's only become a GOP issue since Obama took office, raising the question: is this Mitch McConnell's way of delivering on his pledge to make Obama a one-term president? In the midst of the biggest economic crisis in 75 years, McConnell said his top priority was to make sure Obama wasn't re-elected. This is the economy the Republicans want.

Extremes in incomes is killing us too. Here's an interesting study from the Washington Post. If the ratio between rich and middle class earners had remained the same as it was in the 1960s there would be no deficit and no recession. Better paid workers are better consumers, better at keeping up with their debts, more secure homeowners, need fewer government programs, and they don't evade taxes as aggressively as the rich do.

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Writing Laws by Remote Control

The income the middle class has lost over the past four decades (ever since Reagan put a kick me sign on our back) has all been funneled upward. Not all of this money can be spent at Tiffany and Bergdorff and on fifth and sixth mansions for billionaires who need more closet space. Some has been spent paying for the writing and enacting of state laws to cut taxes on billionaires and outlaw unions and deregulate corporate pollution, fraud and dangerous products. Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Tobacco created a group called ALEC which instructs Republican lawmakers how to make laws. Sadly nobody knew how elaborate the ALEC project was until an insider started feeling lousy about what he was doing and shared the story with a reporter.

Here's a great Terri Gross interview about this with John Nichols.

John Nichols has written an excellent series for the Nation magazine about ALEC and what these documents have disclosed.

Coverage and analysis from TruthOut.

Among the documents revealed through the Center for Media and Democracy, are bills prefabricated by ALEC, with help from the industry groups who wanted to have regulations gutted or consumers unprotected. Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, industrial agriculture, big polluters, gun manufacturers and dealers, the private prison industry and others.

The same ALEC-written bills were proposed in multiple state legislatures, ushered through the democratic process with ALEC supervision, and passed into law, where their enactment will be overseen by judges tutored by the Koch Brothers and others. Law by remote control.

Some background on the investigation by PR Watch and the Center for Media and Democracy.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

How to Steal an Election

There's important new reporting on the bizarre, unexplained, last-minute 6.7 point shift from Kerry to Bush in 2004. It was a shift that directly contradicted the exit polling. It remains unexplained, and news media have religiously ignored the story. Why does it matter? Bush made Supreme Court appointments whose decisions handed vast powers to corporate campaign donors prior to the 2010 election that handed power back to the Republican Right Wing. Bush also ballooned his deficit and ran the economy into the ground by keeping his hands on the controls for four more years. At some point we need to stop trusting and begin examining. Reporters and news organizations need to report and analyze the information in front of us.

The elections in danger of being rigged or stolen are the close ones. The 2010 elections were close, but uniformly shifted rightward. This one-sided veering of elections dates to 2000. George Bush won his two elections very narrowly. As a Florida computer programmer explains in the testimony linked to below, it is the close elections that can be flipped without being questioned. The 2006 midterms and the 2008 election were not as close, and therefore were not affected.

This spring's election for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court was very close, and was narrowly won by the Democratic challenger over incumbent Republican David Prosser...until an election official in suburban Milwaukee, who happened to be a former aide to Prosser, an aide with a checkered history, who had been involved in cases of serious election discrepancies in the past, magically "found" additional votes on her personal computer that she had "forgotten" and had kept "safe" on her personal computer. Prosser was declared the winner, and a subsequent investigation was suppressed by the court on which Prosser now sat. With Prosser on the court, Republican governor Scott Walker was able to solidify his radical measures over the angry protests of citizens. Elections, even rigged ones, have consequences.

Again, it all goes back to 2000. The Republicans bragged about how they would handle the counting of votes.

In this short video a computer programmer testifies under oath to being asked by the Speaker of the Florida legislature to write a program to rig the Florida vote count in 2000. He also testifies to his certainty that there were sufficient anomalies in the 2004 count in Ohio that that vote count was also rigged.

Here is an interview with the Florida programmer.

In 2006 a Utah Republican election official said the Diebold election machines could not be trusted. As a result Diebold was able to get him removed from an office he'd held for 23 years.

Hacking Democracy is a documentary about how the 2000 and 2004 elections were stolen. This first of nine segments tells how Al Gore received MINUS 16,022 votes in Volusia County.

A description of what happened in Volusia County Florida in 2000. Reported in New Zealand, but not heard very widely in the U.S.

Mark Crispin Miller did some great reporting on the bizarre anomalies in the 2004 election. His articles appeared in Harper's.

The broader media ignored the story, preferring to keep the public placidly uninformed. Here is a lecture he delivered on the subject. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. (Thank you YouTube.)

An interview with Mark Crispin Miller

A pretty fair summary of what happened in recent elections.

Another summary from the UK, explaining the various means of rigging American elections using the voting machinery.

A pretty fair analysis of how election fraud has unfolded in the U.S., not at the hands of individual voters (the target of Republicans trying to suppress the vote) but by the machinery and the officials handling the election.

Analysis from OpEd News in 2004. With many links to academic experts on the technology that was used to steal the 2004 election.

Here's a very chilling summary of the cataclysmic and strangely uninvestigated elections of 2000 and 2004.

To cap it all, there is the mysterious death of a conspirator, Michael Connell, who wanted to testify. Before he died, this IT expert for the Bush Cheney White House, gave a deposition describing what had occurred in Ohio in 2004 and his hand in it. A source said Connell's life had been threatened by Karl Rove.

These concerns seemed moot in 2008. They should worry us again. And it reads like a bestselling thriller.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Tax Evasion Industry

Everybody hates the tax man, so people tend to laugh when tax evaders get away with it. Never mind that Jesus advised people to pay their taxes, and President George Washington personally led an army to go after tax evaders in western Pennsylvania.

Taxation is both Christian and patriotic. So how do flag wavers and bible thumpers get away with their evasions? Plain and simple? They cheat. They leave honest citizens to carry their burden. They sit at the table and order food, they eat and drink, and they leave before the check arrives. They may be good at business, but mostly they're good at avoiding their responsibilities as citizens and neighbors. They are lowlifes. We shouldn't admire them. We shouldn't allow what they do. Mostly we shouldn't be paying their debts for them.

Here's a very good article by Chuck Collins in Sojourners.

Tax evasion is a big business model, and the biggest tax evaders are corporations. Companies like outcompete the small independent bookstores by evading sales taxes. There's an excellent article about this in Mother Jones.

The "Double Irish" maneuver corporations use to avoid paying taxes. Clever them, poor us. Here's a useful diagram.

The U.S. may have a high rate of corporate tax, but corporations don't pay it. The Daily Beast has a list. It's worth sharing with your conservative friends.

The top corporate tax dodgers include GE, Eli Lilly, Google, Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp (FoxNews and the Wall Street Journal), Boeing, Pfizer, Oracle, Altria (Philip Morris), IBM, Goodrich, TimeWarner, Morgan Stanley, the Hartford, Devon Engergy, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Talking About the Late Great Middle Class

Here are some links to a few excellent talks about what's happening to the American middle class. America is oddly oblivious, perhaps because the people who deliver our news aren't middle class and are therefore insulated.

Krugman discusses the great prosperity of America's postwar years, and how it came apart.

Another Nobel economist, Joseph Stiglitz, explains what's happened and is still happening to the great American middle class.

The Collapse of the Middle Class, a talk by Elizabeth Warren

How did American workers keep heads above water after Reaganomics became our national religion? Working two jobs, working longer, borrowing, not going to the doctor.

If you haven't seen it before, Robert Reich explains the plight of the middle class in two minutes.

The Two Income Trap, with professor (and future senator?) Elizabeth Warren

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Deadbeats, Radicals, Vandals, Anarchists, Republicans

It's getting pretty difficult to think of Republicans as conservative, considering all that they're trying to tear down. Conservatives don't play chicken with the U.S. economy. They don't conduct off-the-books wars or lie us into them. Real conservatives don't max out the national credit card and leave the next president with a bankrupt economy. So what are these new Republicans? News organizations and prominent journalists from here to Australia are trying to figure that out. Follow the links to today's must-reads.

Republicans are Deadbeats who don't fulfill agreements or honor contracts.

Republicans are Radicals, eager to undo every functioning institution.

Republicans are Anarchists, who want no government at all so they can run amok.

Republicans are Vandals, looking for opportunities to burn, loot and pillage.

Today's Republicans are not conservatives because they don't want to preserve what works. They want to tear down programs and institutions that have worked efficiently and well for the best part of fifty years, the most prosperous and stable period in American history.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Privatizing Our Democracy

There are some chilling articles being published these days. A few making it into the mainstream media describe what's going on in state capitals all across America, where "Tea Party" Republicans, funded, organized, trained and instructed by Big Oil, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma, are taking orders from bosses like the Koch Brothers and working to kill not only the middle class but representative government as we know it–––while neatly wrapped in the flag and singing God Bless America.

From TruthOut.Org

From In These Times

It's like a scene out of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; government by the bosses.

What's the alternative to government operated for the convenience and profit of multinational corporations and rich individuals like the Koch Brothers and Rupert Murdoch? It's us. It's government by us.

It's ordinary, practical, people-centered elective government. Ever since Teddy Roosevelt that's meant "progressive" government, not big government necessarily, or not any bigger than we are––let's face it, the US is now home to over 300 million people––but progressive, focused on more of us doing better and living better, having better jobs and secure lives.

This is both progressive and conservative. Flexible and practical. Led for and by the people rather than for and by corporate bosses. It's as American as apple pie.

It's both liberal and conservative––conservative in that it preserves and improves what works. Which means preserving what worked well for the best fifty years in America history–– the time-tested institutions and commonsense rules, put in place by TR and FDR and Truman and Ike. This is what the modern Republican Party is trying to tear down. The Republican Party isn't conservative at all, it's dangerously radical.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Evading Responsibilty Through Mathematics

Today's Must-Read comes from the online chautaqua BigThink. (Visit it. Read it. Subscribe, before you get distracted by something trivial.) Today's BigThink reminds us (and we need reminding) that mathematics doesn't/shouldn't/cannot remove or diminish the necessity of ethical decisions.

Our biggest mistake is delegating our ethics and our humanity to logarithms, to mathematics. Does profit know right from wrong? It doesn't care, and we should. If we don't know any better than this we aren't human. If our elected officials and our bosses don't know any better than this they don't deserve to lead. Rationalization is something we were supposed to outgrow in childhood. It's embarrassing to see it's become part of how our society operates. It may kill us yet.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Laughing at Rupert Murdoch, Ha Ha

We can laugh at Rupert Murdoch all we want, but he's laughing at us because he has enormous power over us. Think of it: a right-wing Australian owns a dominant part of the American media, the key parts being the Wall Street Journal and FoxNews. He uses these platforms to lie to us. Does he also use them to spy on us?

The Daily Show's take is funny in a creepy kind of way. Andy Borowitz's piece begs the question: are the readers and viewers of Murdoch's news operations intelligent enough to be granted adult privileges? Should Murdoch be trusted with a news operation at all?

No, we shouldn't laugh. News tells us what to do in our lives, and if we are lied to we behave like fools. Corrupt news is a public danger. Here is an excellent summary of the Rupert Murdoch machine, with excellent links.

The shameless, predatory propaganda 'n scandal sheet News of the World [sic] is just one media enterprise owned by Rupert Murdoch. He also owns the Times of London, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal and FoxNews. Would you guess that he runs his other organizations any differently than the runs the NOTW?

Ran, actually. The British public, after being nauseated and addicted by it for years finally had enough and Murdoch shut it down...presumably shifting the vermin from that paper to his other papers. Not to FoxNews, presumably, because it's all vermined-up. But it does make you wonder... Does the Wall Street Journal engage in the same criminal tactics to get news and to distort the news into balloon animals to amaze its captive audience? What about the New York Post? What about FoxNews? Dumb question. I think we need an aggressive progressive paper like the Guardian over here. It was the Guardian that blew the lid off the News of the World [sic] sleaze factory.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Springtime for Millionaires

From Mother Jones, and from many non-partisan sources, a lot of useful visuals and diagrams describing what has happened to the middle class. Who stole our prosperity? Guess.

The best way to eliminate the deficit would be to pay all Americans better instead of restricting prosperity to the top one percent. This would make us all better taxpayers, better consumers. We would all feel more secure.

In the past forty years, since Reagan declared "morning in America", only the very few at the top of the income graph have seen an increase in income against the rising cost of living. To borrow a phrase from a popular musical, it was Springtime for Millionaires when Reagan began the reign of Reaganomics. It ended the broad prosperity begun by FDR and continued by Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter. Reaganomics stole from the many to enrich the few. Robin Hood in reverse. So why do people revere him?

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Friday, July 08, 2011

The Long Game

Before he hooked up with Murdoch's money, Roger Ailes was a GOP dirty trickster and propagandist. Many of the top Republican ops learned how it was done while working for Nixon.

The "Southern Strategy" for scooping up the angry white South angry about civil rights was conceived under Nixon. The South that never forgave Lincoln for freeing the slaves had voted Democratic for a hundred years but Nixon saw an opportunity to appeal to the region's racism (and juice it a bit) and the South has been solid Republican ever since.

Papers recently discovered in the Nixon Library show that Roger Ailes came up with the concept for FoxNews while working for Nixon. Eisenhower Republicanism died during the Nixon years and was replaced with something nastier, something that appealed to hatreds and fears rather than hopes and dreams. If news organizations delivered inconvenient truths, Ailes had the idea of controlling the news by owning it. Cynical? Yes. Successful? That too.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Rupert Murdoch Propaganda Machine

Rupert Murdoch lies for profit. Coincidentally, his newspapers and broadcast companies function as the propaganda arm of the Republican Party here and the conservatives in Britain. Their power is his power and he does very well for them.

The News of the World, the infamous London tabloid, fools millions of working class Brits every week with its addictive sleaze and distortion. Their methods are outrageous. The most recent revelation involves the Murdoch tabloid reporters and editors hacking into the cell phone of a kidnapped child, leading frantic parents to believe she was still alive, stripping the privacy and dignity of crime victims to sell newspapers. The story was broken by reporter Nick Davies of the Guardian.

This is predatory journalism. Actually, to use the word journalism degrades that important and often heroic profession. What Rupert Murdoch's company engages in isn't journalism, it's just predatory. Rupert Murdoch thinks of the reading public as so many defenseless and deceivable chumps.

This behavior isn't any different at FoxNews here in the U.S. TruthOut published a very good piece recently about the set of tactics used. The "news" operation is run by Roger Ailes, who is not a newsman but one of the most egregious practitioners of smear politics and dirty tricks, and a deep-dyed Republican. Rolling Stone recently published an excellent and damning portrait of Ailes.

FoxNews makes no pretense of actual truth or decency. Beyond its cynical slogan of "Fair and Balanced" there is no attempt to be either. The stream is all pro-Republican and harshly anti-Democratic 24 hours a day. News is a team sport. it's about winning the political game to push Murdoch's right-wing agenda as hard as it can be pushed and thereby increase Murdoch's personal wealth and corporate power.

The Murdoch operation is a throwback to the ugly press of an uglier time. Shades of Germany in the 1930s, and a period in this country when newspaper magnates bragged about starting wars in order to sell newspapers. The goal of the Murdoch organization isn't to inform but to provoke.

They are willing to intentionally distort and misrepresent clear facts about the most critical issues of our time to toe an ideological line and win a political ballgame. (This piece by Shawn Otto describes how Fox took a Reuters headline about global climate change and changed it to give it the opposite meaning, helping stall efforts to head off the looming calamity.)

What Fox does is insulting and beyond dishonest, it's criminally dishonest. FoxNews has demonstrated again and again that it doesn't deserve to be allowed anywhere near the public airwaves, any more than an embezzler should be handed the presidency of a bank.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

What the Middle Class Loses the Upper Class Keeps

Today's must-read is a New York Times article about how the richest bankers and corporate heads are paying themselves better in this recession than they earned before they helped tank the economy and we bailed them out.

Also, Mother Jones reports on how American workers work harder and longer for less money than they earned a generation ago. Not a good thing, unless you own instead of working for a living.

The Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch's Republican Party newspaper, is reporting that workers who once could expect to earn more and have greater job security as they gained experience, skills and efficiency, now earn less and have less job security as they get past 40. The opposite of how it worked in Eisenhower's America.

Note that the WSJ's solution is to pour more of your earnings into Wall Street (boosting stock prices and executive bonuses and options, while skimping on the middle class "good life"). Was this negative trend part of a long range Republican plan? I don't think they achieved this by accident.

American workers have always been proud of producing more goods and services and doing so better and quicker and therefore earning more for it. It's enabled them to join the middle class, own homes, send children to college and retire comfortably. It also enabled them to be better consumers, which made a lot of businesses more prosperous. A broad prosperity is a more durable prosperity. This was the model until 1980, when the Reagan Revolution changed the formula.

The model since 1980 has been for workers to produce more goods and services better and quicker... but earn the same, or often less, for doing so. Since 1980 the prosperity of people who work and produce has not been considered prosperity at all, it's been relabeled a negative, a debit, a burden, a liability, a cost.

The wages of average workers have remained flat or declined since 1980. This was part of the Reagan Revolution too, but something a lot of people didn't realize they were voting for. This "doing down" has crossed over into the public sphere as well, where the temporary upper bracket tax cuts are sacred but the middle and working class tax cuts and benefits are negotiable and easily taken away, and now, as a finishing touch, middle class public employees are losing their rights and their job security. The job security in the public sector was something that allowed government to pay lower wages, but now security is gone too. Ironically, the savings are being shared out very narrowly to the very rich, with burdens shifted simultaneously onto the middle class.

Prosperity and security have become a narrow right, an upper class right, as was the case before the Great Depression. The real "gift" of Reaganomics is a new aristocracy and a growing servant class. The shift we are seeing is "validated" by Republican mathematics, which puts middle class prosperity in the cost column and upper class prosperity in the profit column, one bad and to be avoided, the other a sacred good to be protected. We need to change the math. It isn't fuzzy, as one Republican once said; it's actually crystal clear, but it's wrong, it's unfairly weighted, its values are skewed toward the values we revolted against in 1776. Ironically, the Republicans are using pictures from the 1950s, the broad prosperity they are destroying, to advertise the new narrower economics that benefits only their richest clients. Un-rich Republicans will receive their reward in heaven, supposedly.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Romney the Job Killer

From Politico, a condensed description of how Mitt Romney made his half billion dollar fortune. First he inherited many millions. That's important. Then he founded Bain Capital and went into the business of buying up undervalued or struggling American manufacturers, in some cases for the purpose of stripping their assets, laying off thousands of workers, and pocketing millions, leaving the companies in bankruptcy. In these cases Romney's investment firm got very rich and left workers and creditors holding the bag.

The story about Romney was told most fully in the Boston Globe in 2007. If you don't have the $5 to read the full Boston Globe article, you can find key parts of it online, as in this blog. There's also a link to the archived piece.

You have to wonder why this story, published once in the Globe, hasn't been read since by anyone covering Romney's campaign. You don't hear questions asked about it. To hear him talk, Romney created jobs. Do you hear reporters clearing their throats and challenging him? No. At best his record is mixed. He created profits for Bain Capital and its clients, but even the successes have a significant downside. The millions investors gained, others lost.

Romney's job appears to have been to hunt the quarry and stand aside while his company took the quarry apart. Another Boston Globe piece described the Romney method for keeping his hands clean.

The Massachusetts AFLCIO has kept tabs on Romney's record.

Workers who lost their jobs told their stories in a series of ads. It's a shame reporters haven't been interested. But workers' stories are never as interesting as stories told by people with money.

Romney's main success story involves Staples, which Bain Capital bought and grew. It's successful today, but how many Main Streets have been destroyed by this model of big box retail? How many small local retailers were ground out of business? It's a zero-sum story in which big wins and small loses. Why should small businesspeople see Romney as a hero or any kind of ally?

The key to the Romney Republican business model is low prices and low wages, using volume and dominant size to kill competition. Dominance not only helps them suppress wages but also the suppliers' prices. All the money gained is paid out to the people at the top of the company, the owners, the equity partners, the moneymen.

Romney has a cute line he repeats, deploring “lifetime politicians” who “have never run a corner store, let alone the largest enterprise in the world.” But Romney inherited millions and made more by depressing wages, closing down companies and running mom and pop stores out of business. In a nutshell, that is the Republican model and we shouldn't be voting for it.

This neat summary comes from a Republican rival:

"And I would also suggest one needs to look very carefully at what exactly the business record is," Huckabee said. "If it's taking companies who are in serious trouble, buying them when they are in pain, selling off their assets, and then making a huge profit off of it, that's not something a lot of Americans can relate to, except those who have lost their jobs because of those kinds of transactions. If that's the turnaround, there are a lot of Americans who would really not like to see their own lives turned around quite like that."

The New York Times wrote about Romney's career in 2007. The damning material is there, but simply stated rather than analyzed.

Meanwhile Romney the businessman who made his bones by laying off workers jokes about being unemployed.

Left and progressive bloggers find this provocative enough to comment on. Sadly the mainstream media won't touch it. They're too afraid of being called "liberal".

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Michele Bachmann Should Scare Us

Curl up close to the AC with a tall cold drink and try not to let this Rolling Stone article scare you enough to wet your pants. It's a must read.

Michele Bachmann metastasized several years ago and it's too late to stop her now. Please don't laugh. We've spent several years laughing at her––because she is funny, like those improbable bimbos in Scary Movie––but, seriously, this is one of those times when we need to be afraid. We need to be worried. We can't run away. We need to confront the danger for what it is.

Maybe it comes down to the Big Lie. Bush Jr. had a gift for the Big Lie, but Bachmann is even better at it. She's faster and she's everywhere. (Is there an end-times creature that has the power to be in many places all at once? Where's my Book of Revelations?)

Bush seemed to lie without comprehending. He was as clueless as the average American. Bachmann has this cunning ability to state falsehoods as if she believes them utterly, as if God himself whispered them in her ear. As if they are true because she believes them. And while the mean journalist is pointing out what she's gotten wrong or asking her to clarify a misstatement, she's onto another lie larger and stranger than the last. She does it without blinking, and her sincerity vouches for every word.

Also there's her delivery. Her falsehoods are fired off in rapid clusters making it hard to shoot them down. You can't stop them all. While the knowledgeable person is questioning her about one lie in a paragraph of lies, she's quickly on to other lies bigger and stranger than the last bunch.

Her career resembles W's in another way. She makes us laugh. Apparent inadequacy is sometimes charming and amusing. Someone this ill-informed and strangely-informed ought to be laughed out of politics, but because America loves to laugh and the news media is forbidden to tell a Republican they are lying, Bachmann is media gold.

And unlike Bush, she doesn't appear to be stupid. Someone smart enough to know better who is so provably wrong about so many things becomes downright dangerous. She is smart enough to know better, so there is a reason she pushes the ridiculous and the false.

Unlike Bush, it isn't flim-flam. She isn't someone else's puppet. With her it's a cultlike zealotry. She is on a personal crusade. It's a belief system based on the end-time notion that if she can cause enough irreparable harm, wreck enough public institutions, pour enough sand in the works, derail enough systems, impoverish enough people and allow the very rich to steal enough money, and get the rest of us to herd ourselves down the sluice toward economic and environmental disaster... if she can make things bad enough, Jesus will come and rescue us, or at least rescue the people who voted for her. And if you believe that will happen, maybe we all deserve the outcome.

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