Watch Your Back, Yankovic!

This is by far the best political song parody I’ve seen in quite some time.  The song (and video) was made by a group called JustNew Productions (?) based on Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know.  It’s a pretty well written parody and I think it’s accurate about how a lot–a LOT–of people feel about Barack Obama.

Probably why the video is going viral.

Well, maybe that and the creative body painting.

(BTW, does Weird Al Yankovic still do parodies?  I don’t know.  Anyhow…)

Money out of politics.

Free. Thought.

Pssst! The Free Market is Snake Oil! Pass it on!

I’m so tired of hearing about the “free market” as though it’s the perfect economic ideal.  It’s fiction.  Worse than that, it’s a lie.  And as it is with all successful lies, it’s entwined with enough truth to fool common sense if you’re not careful.

I believe in capitalism–as in capital investment in private enterprise for profit. It’s a beautiful thing.  And it works like gangbusters.

But the “free market” is capitalism in a vacuum.

An economy built on free markets–i.e., unregulated markets–is an economic theory.  And it’s an impossible economic theory at that.

The markets dictate everything?!

Let the chips fall where they may, argue the purists (country be damned, I guess).  Some will profit, others with perish.  C’est la vie.  Nevermind the fact that in deregulated markets companies can grow “too big to fail” and threaten to drag the entire economy down with them. I guess it’s better that a generation starves than a few bankers have to play by rules.

Free market supporters allege that industries will police themselves as a matter of sound business.  Utter nonsense.  Businesses are always cutting corners to make an extra buck.  Gun manufacturers pushed for  Stand Your Ground legislation and BP dumped 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico because they were too cheap to properly inspect their facilities.  Deregulation of Savings and Loan Associations in 1980 (under President Reagan) led to an $87 Billion crisis  ten years later and contributed to the to the U.S. recession in 1992.   Deregulation of banks in 1999 (under Clinton) and 2004 (under Bush) contributed directly to the financial crisis of 2007, the $700 Billion TARP bailouts in 2008, the $135 Billion+ bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2010, and our current global recession.

The fatal flaw in free market capitalism is that the markets are friends to no one.  They will always go to where the water is calm and the grass is greenest. They will decimate–or flat abandon–regions, nations, continents, even entire hemispheres if it is profitable to do so.

Poor enforcement of regulation has led to catastrophic mine collapses, oil spills, energy shortages, and nuclear meltdowns.  Unregulated markets in Central Africa and Southeast Asia have led to destitution, internecine conflict, and slavery.  It’s 3rd world hell.

Of course, a 3rd world economy might be the goal for many of the wealthy disciples of free market capitalism.  It’s to their benefit.  Money gets overwhelming power and influence.  Sure, labor conditions might be exploitative and dangerous.  Products and services might suck.  But profits will overflow.  (Eventually the quality of life goes down even for the wealthy.  They wind up stuck behind fortress walls and need an armed security detail to go shopping.  Unfortunately for everyone, their greed overwhelms their reason.)

Is that really the ideal?

If this was 1789 and most people were doing business in the town square, the argument for free market capitalism would have some merit.   But if I walk into a Wal-mart today, which way is the power dynamic skewed?

That is the flip-side of the free market dynamic.  Labor forces in modern nations are in often in direct competition with developing nations where wages are at bare subsistence levels–or lower–and regulations are dangerously lax.  Wages in developed nations are driven downward in order to remain competitive.  Buying power is consequently diminished among consumers, in which case less capital investment is made, leading to fewer jobs.  Who’s going to invest in a business in a place where no one has any money?

In this way, what is good for business can be detrimental to the country.  Corporate interests overrun consumer interests and it’s a race to the bottom.

The proof is in our current economic predicament.  We’ve had a devastating extraction of jobs and capital over the last twenty years.  Wages have stagnated and now threaten to recede.

So again I ask, how is this ideal?

The answer is that it’s obviously not.

Yet in propagating free market capitalism as the high standard–initially by conservatives, but now as political axiom–we have prioritized profits–for an already wealthy minority–above everything else, including our national economic security.

The term regulation has become anathema–2nd only to taxes–in 21st century political rhetoric.  Yet, much like taxes, they are essential.

As soon as you acknowledge that no one should be able to dump radioactive waste into the water supply or sell rat poison as apple juice, you have acknowledged that a truly free market is impossible, irrational, and not an ideal anyone should be aspiring to.

https://i1.wp.com/www.nabc.nl/Portals/0/images/going-up-550x425.jpgInstead, the ideal should be a well-regulated, capitalist system; one that balances the present and future interests of workers, consumers, communities, the nation, and the environment, while encouraging capital investment in private enterprise.  That is a strong economy.  It keeps workers and consumers safe and the environment protected; it also promotes a broad and robust middle-class to participate in the economy, not concentrating billions into the hands of a few.

We want lots of people buying cars and computers and trips to Disneyland, while putting money away for college and retirement without burying themselves in debt. That allows for stability as well as an attainable upward mobility that can spur the invention, innovation, and ingenuity necessary for successful private enterprise ventures.

I know, it’s a complex and highly variable ideal.  It requires expertise to navigate.  That is the necessary evil of a global economy that also carries the benefit of potentially elevating everyone’s quality of life in every income level across the globe.

We have to get past these simple-minded conventions from centuries ago.  Because the people in power who are perpetuating these ideas know that it’s a fallacy.  They’re just too greedy to help themselves.

Money out of politics.

Free. Thought.

Cenk Uygur Speaks the Words Written on My Heart

Love him or hate him, nobody goes postal quite like The Young Turks‘ Cenk Uygur.

This time it’s on a subject near and dear to my heart: namely, money in politics, (i.e., the legalized corruption suffocating our political system and our economy.)  As usual, Cenk pulls no punches and plays no favorites.

It brings a tear to mine eye.

And if you take anything away from it, it’s this, “Kick those Goddamn apples down the road!” 😉

Celebrating Stupidity: Wisconsin Recall

The Wisconsin recall debacle answers for us in devastating fashion which power is greater.

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been really busy of late but I had to throw in my two cents on the Wisconsin recall election.

Okay, so 2 pretty significant points come to mind here:

1.  This may very well have been the death knell of our democracy.  Not the end, but the beginning of the end.  Despite being perhaps the most active and focused grass roots campaign in recent memory, with millions of people fully committed to effecting change, the recall movement was crushed under an ocean of money.  Out of state billionaires gave embattled governor Scott Walker $30 million in spending money and he used it to shove challenger and Milwaukee mayor Tom Barret’s nose in the dirt. $30 million. It’s a nearly 10 to 1 spending differential over the state Democrats.  We’re talking about a gubernatorial election in Wisconsin.

Not long ago that was presidential campaign money.  Republican strategists are already calling Wisconsin a model for every other state in the nation.   If the Wisconsin governorship only costs $30 million, it’s possible that every governor’s seat in the country can be bought for less than $1 billion.  Mitt Romney and his corporations are looking to raise nearly $2 billion to buy the presidency.  It’s a fair estimate that the United States federal government–complete with the most powerful military on earth–can be bought entirely and filled with yes men for under $10 billion.  Neat.

The most startling aspect of this story is that 36% of union families voted FOR the union busting governor.  Makes no sense whatsoever.  Union jobs have been one of the key forces behind the difference between labor conditions and wages in the United States and those in Mexico.  36% of Wisconsin’s union-employed voters just chose to narrow that gap in the wrong direction.  It’s like 36% of dolphins voting to drain the Pacific Ocean.

Sure, there were mitigating factors, recall fatigue, unrelated social wedge issues, and Walker’s aforementioned campaign megabucks; but I maintain the results underline the fact that many Americans don’t have the skills or information needed to vote–or think–critically and rationally; and thus are highly susceptible to suggestive messaging such as negative campaign ads…ads bought with corporate PAC money.

We have become so divided as a nation that people will vote against their own self interest because of party and political labels.  For many Americans, unions–much like the federal government, are to be held as eternal and unquestionable evils.

Embattled Wisconsin governor Scot Walker celebrates his crushing victory in the 2012 recall.

Nevermind that Walker blew a gigantic, $3.6 billion hole in the state budget by giving corporations and wealthy Wisconsinites a high-income tax cut.  He then worked to balance that deficit by dramatically cutting education funding, enacting massive public employee layoffs and wage reductions, and stealing $25 million in foreclosure settlement money designated–by the evil federal government–to help families keep their homes.  THEN he went after the collective bargaining rights of the public unions (except police and firefighters…the two unions that supported his campaign).  He admitted, on tape, that he had considered using bat-wielding thugs to disperse the protestors outside the capital and that his goal is to divide and conquer the unions and make Wisconsin a right-to-work state.

For mindless conservative voters all of that chicanery is forgivable so long as a union–the main campaign financiers of the Democratic party–was stopped.

2.  The Democratic party is too weak, stupid, and/or pathetic to help anyone, even themselves.  Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks likens them to the Washington Generals who lose spectacularly–and deliberately–to the Harlem Globetrotters.  The national party did not play cavalry with volunteers, organizational support, or even funding until roughly three weeks before the election.  Unfortunately for them, polls showed that Wisconsin voters had made up their minds months ago, before the Democratic party had even finished its primary.  Whoops-a-daisy.

Barrack Obama lets Wisconsin voters know he’s sorry for all this union busting nonsense and he hopes the recall goes well for them, but he’s gotta bounce.

During the 2008 campaign Barrack Obama proclaimed that if anyone went after collective bargaining he’d put on his walking shoes and march along side them.  When Scott Walker (among others) did go after collective bargaining rights, the White House fell silent as a grave.  I don’t know if he’s playing, as he supporters put it, masterful 3-dimensional political chess, but on its surface, this Wisconsin recall looks like a Titanic failure.  17% of the people who voted to keep Scott Walker in office are also Obama supporters.  His involvement in this election might very well have reversed the outcome. Instead, he and the Democratic National Party left all those people who marched and protested for their rights crushed by the corporatocracy.  Increased voter apathy is as understandable as it is inevitable. In an apparent effort to not offend any part of that 17% crossover, the president may very well have lost half of his supporters on the left.  But that’s today’s Democrat, so weak and spineless it makes one nauseous at the sight of Jell-o.

I don’t know if the Democrats are just playing their part in a rigged game or they’re actually that terrified of what Republicans might say.  Either way, from my perspective, their pussification is complete.  It’s now a 90% certainty that I will not be spending my vote on barrack Obama’s re-election this year.

And I fear there will be no more Teddy Roosevelts, FDRs or JFKs until we get money out of politics.  And these…puwusses out of office.

Celebrating Stupidity: The U.S. Constitution Is Whatever We Want It to Be

Witch-hunter and Selma city councilman Dennis Lujan.

A fortune telling business wants to set up shop in Selma, California.

Apparently ‘that don’t go ’round here.

According to pastor Dale Davis, “I do think we have a right to say what businesses come to our community and we as a Christian community, we feel this is not a business we want in our community.”

Councilman Dennis Lujan is not so lily-livered in his opinion, informing the potential entrepreneurs, “You’re not welcome here, period.”

Forthwith, the Selma city council held a standing-room only meeting to craft an ordinance banning fortune tellers from operating within city limits (seriously).  This, of course, is after the council learned that their current ban on fortune tellers was ruled unconstitutional a quarter century ago.

Aren’t these guys always talking about free markets and small government?

Selma is apparently overrun with fool-ass-clowns.  It’s not a new development.

I’ve come to realize, and this Selma side-show clearly illustrates it, that many of these Christian fundamentalists see the U.S. Constitution in the same way they see the Holy Bible: as a confirmation of their personal beliefs irrespective of what the texts actually say.  It’s like the people who argue that taxes are illegal even though it says in the Constitution, quite plainly, that congress has the power to levy and collect taxes and apportion those taxes as it sees fit.

Fundamentalists consider the very existence of lifestyles and opinions they personally disagree with as an attack on their way of life.  So logically, attacking those other lifestyle choices and opinions is simply the defense of their own way of life. Forced vaginal probes impede the murder (as they see it) of unborn and in some instances–yet to be conceived–children. It doesn’t register for them that such a law could possibly be an attack on women.

Ships pass in the abyss.

Okay.  So money out of politics first and foremost, of course.  But whenever we get to the point where we can start really fixing education, we need an emphasis on civics and especially the U.S. Constitution, because there are a lot of people possessed of abject ignorance to what it says, and more importantly, what it means.

Selma.  Salem.  I’m just saying.

Wasn’t Justice First Anyway?

U.S. Army veteran and Representative for Florida's 22nd District, Allen West

You might have heard about how U.S. Representative and incendiary quote factory Allen West–an early candidate for both Fool of the Year and Fool of the Decade honors–followed up his not-so-subtle claim that “78-81” Democratic congressional members are card-carrying members of the Communist Party with the equally untrue assessment that economic justice is un-American.

(There are roughly 78 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC)–all Democrats.  Again, not subtle.)

What you might not have heard is that the supposedly-Communist CPC proposed a budget in March of this year (which they suspiciously named The People’s Budget–Uh-oh!).

Their budget is designed to eliminate the deficit by 2021–in fact, it creates a budget surplus, while preserving Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

This is primarily done by cutting waste in defense spending, applying the Buffet Rule, taxing capital gains as regular income, and eliminating oil subsidies and corporate loopholes from the tax code.  Their budget enacts a public option for healthcare.  It fixes–REPEAT–fixes Social Security’s insolvency.  It invests US$1.45 trillion in job creation, education, clean energy, housing, and broadband infrastructure.  It promotes energy independence.  It eliminates emergency war funding which will help prevent presidents from going to war without congressional consent (as mandated by that pesky U.S. Constitution).

In short, this is a budget that is not only balanced, but saves money by reducing spending overall, eliminating waste, and moving us closer to a flat tax rate (for all but the very poor). It might sound made up but it’s not.  I got all this directly out of the actual budget proposal (which you can read here).

The CPC budget stands in stark contrast to the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan which devastates social programs, imbalances the tax code even more in favor of the rich and large corporations, and in the end INCREASES the deficit by more than US$3 trillion.  Despite being denounced by religious leaders as “immoral” and “irresponsible,” the Republican majority in the House passed the Ryan Budget on March 29, 2012.

The CPC budget proposal was voted down the very same day, 78-346.  It barely managed a ripple in the national media.  And Allen West called them communists for proposing it.

(A bipartisan budget proposal incorporating ideas from both sides also went down in flames that day.)

West has been one of the louder voices in the cacophony denouncing social justice as socialism, communism, Marxism, Leninism, Maoism, hell, syllogism, and whatever other ism they think will get a rise out of people.

Much as socialism and capitalism have been locked hand-in-hand by our Constitution, so has liberty and justice (I’m pretty sure I heard that somewhere).   Before the Founders even got started with the particulars of how our newly formed nation would work, they made their intentions clear:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

My glasses might be smudgy but I think justice is first.  Now obviously this isn’t a prioritized list but justice seems to at least be equally important as  the other things.  I hear so much talk of liberty being an American value.  Yet when many people say that they only mean economic liberty.  Oddly, many of these same people don’t interpret justice to include economic justice.

Communism dictates that an engineer and a janitor should earn the same income.  It’s ridiculous.  I’d be willing to bet that less than 0.01% of Americans believe anything remotely close to that.  What I believe, and I think many other Americans believe, is that a janitor should be able to put food on his family’s table and a roof over their heads.  That his kids should have access to a college education.  That no children should starve. That no one should die of untreated illnesses or exposure to the elements.

These are not radical assaults on American liberty.  They are American values that simply place a higher priority on justice.  There’s actually a reasonable argument to be made that economic justice  increases liberty because it allows more people the freedom to enjoy it.

Allen West’s type of partisan name-calling is usually just a means of deflection.  Unfortunately, so are the calls for a “change in the tone” of political discourse.  I disagree.  Our lives, our freedoms, our futures–and our children’s futures–are at stake.  We should be passionate about these things, so long as that passion doesn’t supersede truth and reason.

So it goes with liberty and justice, too.

Allen West--technically--violates U.S. federal law by putting Ol' Glory in water--on flag day. (I know, I know, but I just couldn't help myself. :))

Reagan and Obama Agree on Taxes

Think Progress has a great video showing Ronald Reagan making the same argument Warren Buffet made about CEOs paying lower tax rates than their secretaries.

Huh.  This would suggest that the Republican party has indeed moved far to the right if the entire GOP is fundamentally opposed to a philosophy Reagan himself supported (much like amnesty for illegal immigrants).

Curiouser and curiouser….

More Corporations Jump On The Awesomeness Bandwagon

Kraft Foods, makers of pretty much all cheese (and plenty of other foods) and Intuit, Inc., makers of popular software programs including QuickBooks and TurboTax, have joined Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co. in exiting the corporate lobbying group ALEC.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), creators of the website ALEC Exposed, which, among other things, tracks ALEC corporate membership, noticed that Intuit was no longer listed.  When approached by CMD for comment about the departure, Intuit declined, but the timing is suggestive.

Kraft is leaving largely because of pressure applied by the Trayvon Martin-inspired advocacy group Color of Change, which is targeting ALEC’s corporate sponsors over its support of Stand Your Ground laws.

Various corporations joined ALEC to push for legislation beneficial to their industries.  However, others in the group have taken a more extreme stance leading ALEC further to the right.  According to CMD tracking, corporations continuing their support of ALEC include:

  • Koch Industries
  • Wal-Mart
  • Pfizer
  • Reynolds American
  • Altria/Philip Morris
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Exxon Mobil
  • Diageo (makers of Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker)

While ALEC will likely never be dissolved, continued pressure on its supporters and increased consumer support for its defectors will lead to more companies walking away and weaken the group’s influence as a whole.

There’s a long way to go, but this is good news for those favoring democracy over corporate oligarchy.

One thumb-up for TurboTax; one thumb-up for cheese; TWO thumbs-up for democracy!

America’s Private Army FAIL!

The Young Turks covered a video released by Harper’s Magazine where Blackwater mercenaries–representing the United States of America–ride through a town in Iraq like it’s a Mad Max movie set.

It’s one of the more despicable videos I’ve seen in a while.

Remember that these are not American soldiers.  They’re American mercenaries:

Erik Prince

Blackwater is the mercenary firm founded as Blackwater USA in 1996 by former Navy SEAL and fundamentalist Christian Erik Prince. It received no-bid [as in not free market] contracts from the Bush administration in Iraq, Afghanistan, and post-Katrina New Orleans. In 2009, Prince resigned as CEO. Amid scandals over misbehavior by Blackwater employees in Iraq, the company renamed itself Blackwater Worldwide in 2007, Xe Services in 2009, and Academi in 2011.

"The massacres?! No, no ,no, no ,no, that was Blackwater. We're Xe--err--Academi...with an 'i'."

Of course to those Iraqis, the distinction between our actual military and Blackwater–sorry, Academi–is meaningless.  They are all part of the foreign military force fighting a war of dubious justifiability in their hometowns.

I understand that unspeakable things happen in times of war, but if some foreign army invaded America and then ran over someone I love while they were joyriding through town in a Hummer, we would instantly become blood enemies.  I would be extremely committed to their destruction.  If they withdrew, I’d be inclined to follow.

But we don’t see war from that perspective.  We’ve been desensitized.  Historically, when a country went to war the whole country went to war.  Soldiers and civilians both had to sacrifice.  Resources were rationed.  Budgets were tightened both at home and in the government.  There were drafts.  Now the difference between war and peace is nominal.  In terms of impact, if it weren’t for the periodic stories in the news, most of us would hardly notice.

Whaddaya mean, 'gun-culture?'

Our perspective on war has become skewed.  War has been sterilized for us: Don’t show carnage or collateral damage; don’t show dead soldiers coming home in flag-covered coffins; don’t make Congress actually vote to declare war; don’t raise taxes or cut services to pay for it; don’t question the motives or the nobility of the mission.  All that business is unpleasant. Just get yourself a patriotic bumper-sticker and a flag for your car antenna and go on a shopping spree, take in a movie.  We’ve got this.

Of course, bombs over Baghdad is nothing at all like bombs over Boston, focusing on a firefight while wondering if your family has been safely evacuated from the combat zone, or hiding in your cellar while vehicle-mounted rotary cannons pulverize every house in your neighborhood.

This desensitization has made war–a contest of murder and destruction between nations–just another political tool; it’s how we get our way in the world.

And it has made using private armies like Blackwater acceptable.

Pepsi…The New Awesome

Gross polluters Charles and David Koch are award-winning members of ALEC

Thinkprogress.org is reporting that in January 2012, Pepsi pulled its support from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

This is great news.

For those of us against the excessive influence of corporations on politics ALEC is one of the bad guys.  In fact, they’re one of the handful of organizations at the very heart of the problem.

ALEC is a right-wing lobbying group comprised of a conglomeration of Fortune 500 companies and rich Republicans.  They help enact right-wing model legislation (test markets for legislation like Shoot First/Stand Your Ground) and help coordinate that legislation in other states as well as on the federal level.

“W” loves him some ALEC. ‘Nuff said.

ALEC doesn’t just push for legislation, they WRITE the bills and then give them to Republican lawmakers to enact–as-written.  It’s called cookie-cutter legislation; multiple assemblies pass these bills containing the exact same wording; it’s pretty much fill in the blank where lawmakers simply add the district or state, sponsoring legislators, and the legislative body in which it’s being proposed; one Republican lawmaker (from Florida, of course) accidentally submitted a bill with the ALEC mission statement still attached.

ALEC proposed legislation includes (but is in no way limited to):

Pepsi pulled its support for ALEC  in lieu of the unpopularity of Stand Your Ground legislation which ALEC ardently supports (and is currently promoting in multiple states and on the federal level).  The pressure of Pepsi’s pullout forced Coke to follow suit.

This type of defection typically engenders right-wing retaliation.  We need to support Pepsi (and Coke) for making a bold and somewhat courageous decision.

But it does serve as proof that we can make a difference.

So drink a Pepsi today! 🙂