Tuesday, September 30, 2008

All of em and Any of em

Sarah Palin either doesn't read any newspapers or magazines - or she can't name any that she does read, for fear of alienating supporters who believe the media is controlled by a bunch of liberals - who keep insisting freedom of the press means presenting more than one point of view.

Just for comparison purposes -

Our current president George Bush doesn't read newspapers either.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy on the other hand is said to have read six newspapers while he ate breakfast -
"President Kennedy worked long hours, getting up at seven and not going to bed until eleven or twelve at night, or later. He read six newspapers while he ate breakfast, had meetings with important people throughout the day, and read reports from his advisers. He wanted to make sure that he made the best decisions for his country."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thought of the Day

"Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself."

Walter Anderson
Source: INTERLUDE: An Internet Retreat.


It can be difficult in our age of instant unremitting information to come to grips with what is truly important. We each need to define what a "good life" means. I can't help but think a good life has to involve caring sometimes more for others than for ourselves.


I like Arlo Guthrie's song "Hobo's Lullaby" and was thinking it would be kind of funny to post it as a suggestion of things to come. Watching this video isn't as funny as I thought it would be. It makes me think about all the people who have suffered economic hardship long before this current situation which is getting so much of our attention. We hold out hope for a more just world where we create economic and social structures that are good for all people.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tax Cuts: Myths and Realities

Alternate titles - "if you are stuck in hole it's probably best to stop digging" or "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results".

The article Tax Cuts: Myths and Realities from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) should be read by anyone who still wants to jump on the "tax cut for the wealthy...trickle down...supply side economics" bandwagon as defined by Ronald Reagan, then George W. Bush and now John McCain.

I know with the current state of the economy this seems like kind of "duh" stuff but there are actually people proposing tax cuts, with no idea how they are going to pay for them other than vague references to - "pork barrels" and "earmarks" (or to put it another way federal money provided for state or local projects which hasn't gone through the usual "merit-based" process Congress uses to spend money) - and something about us "sending $700 billion a year overseas to countries that don't like us very much. Some of that money ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations." (or to put it another way we are buying oil from a variety of foreign countries including Canada).

It's interesting to note that earmarks are not necessarily good or bad and accounted for a (relatively speaking) measly 16.5 billion, some say up to 18 billion, in 2007. Just to make the arithmetic easier let's assume those pesky earmarked pork barrels cost us 20 billion a year. Now assume the national debt is 10 trillion (it will be more before we finish trying to shore up the banks). Let's see...1000 billion dollars is 1 trillion. 50 times 20 is 1000...So....I need 50 years of no earmarks to pay off 10% of the debt. That can't be right! Is it?

Whenever someone talks about cutting spending it's good to keep in mind that over 70% of the federal budget is allocated to defense, the entitlement programs - social security, medicare and medicaid, and paying interest on the debt. So unless a candidate is willing to cut the defense budget they are left with cutting that small slice of the pie that's left - without adversely impacting education, science and health research, veterans benefits, protecting the environment, alternative energy programs and ultimately our long-term ability to survive, thrive and remain competitive in the world.

Here's a summary of the myths and realities from the article -
Myth 1: Tax cuts “pay for themselves.”

Reality: A study by the President’s own Treasury Department confirmed the common-sense view shared by economists across the political spectrum: cutting taxes decreases revenues.

Myth 2: Even if the tax cuts reduced revenues initially, they boosted revenues and lowered deficits in 2005 to 2007.

Reality: Robust revenue growth in 2005-2007 has not made up for extraordinarily weak revenue growth over the previous few years.

Myth 3: The economy has grown strongly over the past several years because of the tax cuts.

Reality: The 2001-2007 economic expansion was sub-par overall, and job and wage growth were anemic.

Myth 4: Even if economic growth and the job market were weak during the early stages of the recovery, the capital gains and dividend tax cuts turned the economy around in 2003.

Reality: The available evidence indicates that the capital gains and dividend tax cuts were not the cause of improvement in the economy in 2003.

Myth 5: Extending the tax cuts is important for the economy’s long-run health.

Reality: Extending the tax cuts without paying for them would be more likely to reduce economic growth over the long run than to increase it.

Myth 6: The tax cuts have made the tax system more progressive.

Reality: The tax cuts have made the distribution of take-home pay more unequal — at a time when inequality in before-tax income has also increased.

Myth 7: The tax cuts have made the tax system more fair to small business owners.

Reality: The President’s tax cuts affect small business owners much as they affect the population as a whole: they provide large gains to those with high incomes and little benefit to others. For more information see Big Misconceptions about Small Businesses and Taxes

Myth 8: Even if high-income taxpayers have received the largest gains from the tax cuts, taxpayers across the income spectrum have benefited.

Reality: Taking into account the fact that their costs eventually must be paid for, most American families likely will lose from the tax cuts over the long run.


So how come this myth gets implemented as public policy you may ask?

"Conservative" policy makers get executive summary information from groups like the Heritage Foundation which is in turn funded by people who have a vested interest in making super rich people richer by whatever means possible - including a never-ending series of wars that call for expansion of the military/industrial complex, and redistribution of wealth via deficit spending and tax policies that favor the elite class of multi-millionaires/billonaires.

As Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world said, "there is a class war and we're winning." To be fair to Warren Buffett he's also said he doesn't think that's right.

Groups like the Heritage Foundation staff up with "true-believers" who have a fundamentalist view that doesn't allow for dispassionate treatment of fact.

You can see this in a Heritage Foundation report from 2001 Cost of Bush's Tax Plan that claims the Bush tax plan "would eliminate the federal debt by 2010." We know the federal debt has increased every year George Bush has been in office and the 2008 debt is estimated to be 9 trillion 654 billon dollars (that estimate is before we try to prop up the failing banks with taxes that come from the middle class). Of course in 2001 no one knew this, but the paper is written in such a way to present what turns out to be an ill-informed opinion - as fact.


In 2000 the Heritage Foundation was beating their drum to tell leaders it was Time to Eliminate the Costly Death Tax. It's interesting to note that part of the overall strategy was to rename the estate tax, the death tax - because that sounds scary and makes poor people afraid that the government was going to unfairly tax whatever meager amount might be in their estate.

The Heritage Foundation represents a very small minority of people who would like to consolidate wealth. They certainly don't represent rich people if you consider people like William H. Gates (Bill's dad), Warren Buffett, and George Soros, and the Dozens of Wealthy Joined to Fight Estate Tax Repeal.

I know this sounds unbelievably weird and conspiracy-like in a free country like the USA, but according to this article by Robert Reich,
"The campaign to repeal the estate tax was financed and coordinated by 18 families worth a total of $185 billion."
How does this sham get perpetrated?

Propaganda is a powerful tool - just look at all the poor people who watch Fox News and listen to "conservatives" on talk radio and somehow are misled into thinking the Bush administration, some so called "conservatives", and now John McCain who drank the tax cut kool-aid, have their best interests at heart, while progressive Democrats (and yes some Republicans), who might have some ideas that would actually help them get ahead - are evil. If you say that someone is evil, stupid, crazy, radical, a liar...or whatever name you can think of, who needs to argue the facts?

Of course we'll see a lot of low ball ads, funded primarily by the greedy minority of the super-rich, aimed at trying to scare average Americans away from electing progressive politicians who actually do have their best interests in mind. I don't think dirty fighting will work this time, people are tired of the scare and hate tactics that try to divert them from the real issues.

Enough people have had enough to make sure we get a new deal for the next four years.

Who's Winning The Presidential Election?

This morning TIME magazine's online poll shows 86% of the 20,227 people completing the survey think Barack Obama won the debate last Friday. This poll is skewed towards people who read the relatively unbiased current events coverage provided by Time magazine, and use computers to obtain news.

I don't put much credence in polls.

Markets may be a better predictor of future events, since they have the incentive of requiring people put their money where their mouth is.

Intrade Prediction Markets has Barack Obama up by more than 16 points (57.8 to 41) over John McCain.

I still believe this could be a very close election and it would be a mistake for Obama supporters to become complacent.


Postscript 9/29/2009

To see the TIME poll you need to go to "past polls" now. The end result of 29,442 votes was that 85% say Barack Obama won the first presidential debate.

Intrade Prediction Markets has Barack Obama with a 23 point lead over John McCain at this time (Barack Obama 61.1 vs. McCain 38.1)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Liberal? or Conservative?

I'm definitely not an expert on what the term liberal means but a number of people on Wikipedia have come up with these general definitions of liberalism, which I've modified slightly to fit my own view -
Liberalism is a broad array of related ideas and theories of government that consider individual liberty to be the most important political goal.

Economic liberalism supports balancing free markets and free trade with social justice for all people as the best route to peace and prosperity.

Cultural liberalism focuses on the rights of individuals pertaining to conscience and lifestyle, including such issues as sexual freedom, gender identification, religious freedom, cognitive freedom, and protection from government intrusion into private life.

Different forms of liberalism may propose very different policies, but they are generally united by their support for a number of principles, including extensive freedom of thought and speech, appropriate limitations on the power of governments so as not to infringe on individual liberty, the rule of law, the free exchange of ideas, free press, private property, free markets, and a transparent system of government.

All liberals – as well as some adherents of other political ideologies – support some variant of the form of government known as liberal democracy, with open and fair elections, where all citizens have equal rights by law.
I believe that all advances in society come from people who we would consider liberal in that they are willing to abandon current systems if necessary, or at least be willing to change and build on what has come before.

The success and depth of liberal thought is why we have liberal arts education and why there are so many important writings by liberal theorists over the last two thousand years.

If that's liberalism then what is a conservatism?

The Wikipedia article for Conservatism includes this quote -
"To put conservatism in a bottle with a label is like trying to liquify the atmosphere … The difficulty arises from the nature of the thing. For conservatism is less a political doctrine than a habit of mind, a mode of feeling, a way of living."
A conservative point of view considers the status quo desirable or may want to return to what is perceived as better times in the past and therefore has no way to expand on an existing belief system in search of a better way, which leads to dogmatism, fundamentalism, fear of change and a diminished sense of humor.

I believe a conservative/traditional point of view works when we are talking about philosophical, religious and ethical principles which are stable, but fails as a mindset for political ideas which have to adapt and evolve to keep pace with change - in society, the economy, local and global environments.

Given that conservatism is less a political doctrine than a habit of mind, a mode of feeling, a way of living that strives to keep things the way they are or return to the past - it's understandable why it fails as the basis for a political party and why it is that many people have very little idea of what it means when they define themselves or others as politically conservative.

It also explains the conservative method of attacking anything new or different while offering little or nothing in the way of novel ways of thinking that offer a better alternative.

In the interest of fairness I don't want to dismiss conservatism, as I've said I believe it has a place in religion, ethics, as well as in defining cultural, family and societal values. If we want to learn about the basis of what we consider conservatism today - Ayn Rand may be a place to start.

Ayn Rand's writing forms the intellectual basis for political/economic conservatism in the 20th century with her proposition that Capitalism - full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, is the only social system that fully recognizes the right of the individual.

I haven't seen many (any) politicians who hold to this belief. As we all know, or are re-learning, the free market can be very cruel...and I'm not sure most people really have the stomach for the kind of social upheaval unregulated free market capitalism can wreak. Not to say our great experiment with Democratic Capitalism has not in many ways been a tremendous success...and in other ways failed us - which I have faith, the liberal thinkers will continue to correct.

I could never finish her book Atlas Shrugged but Ayn Rand wrote some interesting things to think about - here's a couple of links - one for an article she wrote for the Reader's Digest in 1944 and the other for a speech she gave to West Point grads in the 1974.

The Only Path To Tomorrow - by Ayn Rand

Philosophy: Who Needs It? - by Ayn Rand

Friday, September 26, 2008

380 Years

That's how long it would take a worker making 50 thousand dollars a year to equal the pay and bonuses which may be given to the WaMu CEO for 3 weeks of work.

Alan Fishman was hired on September 8th to replace former WaMu CEO Kerry Killinger and help turn the troubled bank around. For those 3 weeks of work, before WaMu failed and was bought by JPMorgan Chase, Mr. Fishman's contract could allow him to receive 19 million dollars.

That just doesn't seem right.

There's an interesting graph of the increasing divide between the very rich and the rest of America at Visualizing Economics

Several things jump out from the graph -
  • In 1980 (the last year before Reagonomics, trickle down for the poor and middle class, and tax cuts for the richest of the rich) the bottom 90% of American families had an average income of $30,446. By 2006 a comparable average family income, adjusted for inflation, was $30,374. In other words this average family's annual income in terms of purchasing power, decreased by $72 between 1980 and 2006. The upper .01% of America's richest families did a lot better. They took in 5.4 million in 1980 and by 2006 had increased their income more than 5 fold to 29.6 million.
  • There's a direct correlation between reduction of the marginal tax rate for the super rich and the growing income divide between the super rich and the rest of America.
  • The top .01% of America income is almost 1000 times that of the bottom 90%. I'm all for rewarding individual effort and utilizing free markets with adequate regulations but there is something seriously wrong with our income distribution when we consider that one child in six lives in poverty.
This disparity is particular troubling when you look at this Poverty Map. As of 2006 the poverty line is defined by the federal government to be $10,400 for a single person and $21,200 for a family of four.

Approximately 1 person in 8 lives in poverty. For people under 18 years of age the figure is approximately 1 person in 6.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Economic Crisis - What Would Jesus Do?

Matthew 19:21-24 - The Rich Young Man

21 Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

Mark 10:21-24 - Tells the Story Again

21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’

Luke 6:27-31 Love For Enemies

27 ‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

I don't think the point is that money, or having money, is bad but rather that we need to consider the transitory nature of material things and how putting these things above all else interferes with spiritual growth - or if you aren't the sort who's interested in spiritual growth - how striving after transitory things is a guarantee for a life filled with unhappiness, worry and striving for ever more objects.

To put it in practical terms Jesus is telling us that, Joy, peace of mind, and true freedom do not come from accumulating wealth but rather by giving up all we have (worries, false Gods, addictions) and showing compassion for others. Very few are going to take that advice literally but at least we can remember the spirit even if we don't always live by the letter.

The real bottom line is that Christianity is a religion of love and compassion and those two key criteria should inform how Christians choose to lead their lives.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hate Radio and Its Consequences

From the PBS show "Bill Moyer's Journal" September 12, 2008 editon Rage on the Radio -
Last July Jim David Adkisson walked into a Unitarian Universal church in Knoxville, Tennessee and shot and killed one person, left another mortally wounded and six others injured.

It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement.

Why did Adkisson hate "the liberal movement"? Police said that he told them "that all liberals should be killed ... because they were ... ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and ... ruined every institution in America...." Police said that Adkisson had targeted the Unitarian Universalist Church "because of its liberal teachings." The church advocates social justice and tolerance, and it openly welcomes gay, lesbian, and transgendered members. According to police, Adkisson said that, "Because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would target those that had voted them in to office."In the weeks following the tragedy, the congregation and its pastor, Reverend Chris Buice struggled with what they were learning about Adkisson.

Police found in Adkisson's apartment, books by popular right-wing talk-radio personalities who berate and denigrate liberals. One of the books police found in Adkisson's apartment was Michael Savage's "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder". In it, Savage calls liberals "the enemy within our country;" "an enemy more dangerous than Hitler"; "traitors" who are "dangerous to your survival" and who "should be placed in a straightjacket". Like Adkisson, Savage accuses liberals of "[tying] the hands of our military".

Bill Moyers ends the show with this -

"Watching that report, however, I was reminded of a story from folk lore about the tribal elder telling his grandson about the battle the old man was waging within himself. He said, 'My son it is between two wolves. One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.' The boy took this in for a few minutes and then asked, 'Which wolf won?' His grandfather answered, 'The one I feed.' So, too, America's public life. The wolf that wins is the wolf we feed. Media provides the fodder."

Freedom of speech needs to be protected so we live with the hate and fear mongers and hope that compassionate people will educate the next generation to ensure that the people who produce and listen to this kind of hate-filled garbage will be an ever shrinking minority.

The principles of Unitarian Universalism would not be a bad place to start -

* The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
* Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
* Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
* A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
* The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
* The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
* Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.


This article summarizes and goes beyond the issues Bill Moyers covered - Open Left:: Bill Moyers Shines Light On Hate Radio--But Deep Shadows Remain

Monday, September 22, 2008

Seattle Times Endorses Barack Obama for President

Seattle Times has endorsed Barack Obama, saying -

"American optimism has been wracked by President George Bush and a previous Republican Congress. If you want change, you do not keep what is essentially the same team in power. You try something different. You vote for the stronger matchup, Obama and Sen. Joseph Biden, a smart and steady hand on foreign policy and other matters."
The endorsement explains why Barack Obama's coherent plans are the better choice for the economy, energy, the Iraq war, and education.


The conservative journalist George F. Will expands on the concerns over John McCain's temperment in today's Washington Post.

This is the YouTube version of this Sunday's news on ABC -

Part of George Will's concern is that McCain is acting irrationally by saying things like - the chairman of the SEC Securities and Exchange Commission, "has betrayed the public trust. If I were president today, I would fire him. "

We don't need a president who makes hot-headed off the cuff statements which don't make sense in a crisis situation. Besides the concern about temperament, there is a concern that John McCain may not be coherent enough to know that the president can't fire the chairman of the SEC who is nominated by the president, confirmed by the senate and heads an independent agency.

Sam Donaldson brings up the age factor which seems like something to consider if you watch this clip where John McCain, when asked about his comments about the SEC chairman, gets confused and says he thinks the head of the FEC Federal Election Commission should resign and be replaced.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Short History of Political Ads

Back in 52 things looked simpler.

In 60 Richard Nixon said increased government expenditures meant raising taxes or increasing the national debt.

In 84 people wanted something simpler than raising taxes or increasing the national debt so they re-elected an actor as president.

In 92 Ross Perot told us Reagan's (and later Bush, and if people are stupid enough McCain's) "trickle down" economics, combined with an increasing national debt, don't work - unless you happen to be one of the wealthy few who benefit from corporate welfare and bailouts.

At the end of Bill Clinton's term, in 2000 the Congressional Budget Budget office projected a 2.2 trillion dollar surplus in the years 2001-2010. Republicans were worried that Democrats would spend it on things like healthcare, education, veterans benefits, and alternative energy research.

On September 15th 2008 with 9,800 home foreclosures a day, 605,000 jobs lost this year and markets in turmoil John McCain says "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."

This morning on ABC, George Will, speaking of the current economic crisis, said -

"The question is who in this crisis looked more presidential, calm and unflustered. It wasn't John McCain, who, as usual, substituting vehemence for coherence said let's fire somebody and picked one of the most experienced and conservative people in the administration."

and finished it off with -

"John McCain showed his personality this week and made some of us fearful."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Is John McCain Sabotaging His Own Campaign?

I have a theory that John McCain secretly wants Barack Obama to be president.

He has come to realize he is not the right person in the right place at the right time - maybe 8 years ago - but not now. He can't just bow out of the election and upset the apple cart so he's staying in and running against himself.

As a patriot who wants what's best for our country - he's sabotaging any chance he may have had to be elected with flips, flops, flaps, missteps, backtracks, silly lies and by accepting a running mate who will help guarantee his loss.

The alternative is to imagine that anyone could be so out of touch as to think that what he's been saying, combined with his at times bizarre behaviour, would appeal to a majority of the American people.

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt - that cagey old politician has everybody fooled.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One World One Future

"One World, One Future

We live in One World, we have Many Voices
We live in One World, we have Many Dreams
We live in One World, we have One Future

Louise , Grade 6

Source: Tolerance.org: One World Mural

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Is the War on Terror?

We say we fight a "war on drugs" or a "war on poverty" and it's easy to understand that we are not talking about a war between two armed forces.

When we say we are fighting a "war on terror" it's not clear what that means. Who are we fighting, how do we fight this war and how do we know when we "win"?

Some people talk about the war on terror as if it's equivalent to a traditional war where two armies fight as directed by a centralized command and control structure. If we can destroy the other side's army and their command and control structure - then we win. Of course this can never happen in the war on terror where there is no single army and no centralized command and control.

We should be fighting a "war on hate". Terrorists are motivated by what they have been taught to hate. They (whoever they are) don't just hate Americans, they have been taught to hate anyone who is not part of their group/tribe/religion. A successful war on hate will be based on education, primarily from parents, teaching children that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion.

That sounds simple - why hasn't it happened?

The major reason why war is never ending is that we divide humanity by identifying with a group. We may be part of a group, by accident of birth or by choice - which causes, or actively promotes - mistrust of those outside the group, feelings of superiority, learning to hate the "other" and eventually dehumanizing them to the point of convincing ourselves that killing is justified.

If we want to live in a peaceful world we also must recognize that the existence of the military/industrial complex depends on the world being, or perceived as being, a dangerous place where vast sums of money must be spent on the latest weaponry to "keep us safe". We want peace - we need to promote peace, they want to build weapons - they need to promote war.

When we are dealing with individuals who are willing to strap on a bomb and detonate it in a crowded marketplace it's easy to see how misguided the notion of a war on terror is. We aren't going to stop suicide bombers with more bombs or by putting more American soldiers in harms way.

We would be much better off promoting what we want (peace) than fighting against what we don't want (war). We can do that by spending our money and efforts on a campaign using television, radio and the internet to educate children (and some adults) that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion, and then showing the courage of our convictions by helping them build schools and hospitals and get started in small businesses. This has to be a global effort that transcends religion and borders.

B tells me I need to read the book Three Cups of Tea.

Wishing you and all people - Peace

Monday, September 15, 2008

How Bacon and Eggs Became The All American Breakfast

In 1928, Edward Bernays, the father of public relations, wrote in his book Propaganda -

"If we understand mechanisms of the group we can control and manipulate the will of the masses without their knowing it"

You can learn a little bit more about Bernays in this NPR piece "Freud's Nephew and the Origins of Public Relations." which tells the story of Bernays being hired by the Beechnut packaging company in the mid 1920's to improve sales of bacon, it's primary product.

Bernays asked Doctors if they favored a "light" breakfast or a "hearty" one. Doctors favored a hearty breakfast. Bernays then equated bacon with a hearty breakfast and created an ad campaign which promoted bacon and eggs as a breakfast recommended by Doctors and therefore associated with a feeling of well being and good health. He also sold the American people on Ivory Soap, Lucky Strike Cigarettes and oddly enough ballet and dance.

The enlightenment way of looking at the world recognizes there is a reality and we need to understand it through reason and rational thought. It was believed that people are rational beings and if you present a well orchestrated case you can persuade them.

Freud believed that people aren't rational at all but were rather driven by unconscious desires and visceral impulse - sex, agression, security, self preservation. Edward Bernays took Freud's ideas and created the new field of public relations in the 1920's....the world of advertising and what we now call spin in the political arena was changed forever.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Barack Obama and Joe Biden - A Clear Choice

I'm afraid that over the last two weeks I've lost the main point of why Barack Obama's campaign has energized so many people, given them hope for a better future, and why we believe he is going to make such a great President.

I became fixated on the cable TV news and talk radio chatter about the Republican parties candidates.

Now that the excitement is starting to wear off and I've found ten or a hundred reasons why they aren't the right choice - I want to say, "who cares?"...but of course all members of a Democracy have an obligation to remain informed. The challenge is that since the Friday after the DNC ended all eyes have been focused on the Republican parties newest candidate - taking people's attention away from the real issues and forcing them to do their best to figure out who this new person on the stage is.

Naming an unknown person as the VP candidate was a skillful diversion perfectly timed to occur on the Friday when we should have been talking about Barack Obama's historic speech in Denver on Thursday given 45 years to the day after Dr. Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. We should have been talking about those dreams, Barack Obama's plans, and the future - and maybe now we can.

There are honorable good people on both sides and anyone with access to the internet, a relatively open mind and the ability to analyze facts can figure out for themselves who to support.

Barack Obama has given hope to a very diverse group of people which is a great thing and will prove very beneficial after he is elected. I believe his liberal message of hope and change will lead us into the future that allows all people an opportunity to realize their potential and the potential of this great country.

Hillary Clinton talking to voters in Tampa -

Barack Obama talking about real change and being a President who will bring people together -

We have a unique opportunity to elect a President who has the intelligence, speaking skills and personality to not only bring people in the U.S. together, but improve our relations with countries around the globe.

Very exciting and hope-filled times...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Republicans Running Against Themselves - Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor writes in a piece in The Irish Times,
"SO THE Republicans have decided to run against themselves. The bums have tiptoed out the back door and circled around to the front and started yelling: "Throw the bums out!"
Yeah, throw em out. An 8 year hiatus will give them time to come up with some fresh plans.


VP candidate Sarah Palin gets an F for her first ever national interview with Charlie Gibson. I don't know what was more frightening - the fact that she doesn't have a clue what the Bush Doctrine as defined in the U.S. Government document The National Security Strategy 2002 is (it says among other things that "we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively"), the fact that she will lie about her stance on Global-warming (we've had 8 years of an anti-science administration, we can't stand more), or saying she recently contacted Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili and told him, "we will be committed to Georgia. And we've got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable...".

That's great - we have a woman who hadn't been out of the U.S. until last year, has never met a head of state, and who says she knows about Russia because, "they're our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska ... from an island in Alaska."....talking to the President of Georgia? I can see a hospital when I look out my back door, using her logic I guess that means I'd be a good candidate if they need a surgeon in the operating room.

Combine that with Cheney's saber rattling, the fact that one of the many lobbyists on McCain's campaign team is a lobbyist for Georgia, who's been paid more than $730,000 by the Republic of Georgia since 2001, and the idea that a military/industrial complex needs a war...makes the conspiracy theorist in me wonder what the hell might be on the horizon.

No style points either - Her poise was lacking, she was not able to reflect and articulate independent thoughts in an acceptable manner and if you look at her face you can see she was afraid (as she and we should be).

Having a clown for a VP running mate isn't necessarily a show stopper but having an under-informed, dogmatic, fundamentalist, will be.

I think we all can have faith that the future will be bright with Barack Obama as the leader of a revitalized America creating real change, economic growth, helping those least able to help themselves and ending the divisive "fight fight fight" attitude of the last 8 years.


James Fallows writing in the Atlantic does a great job explaining why that blank stare Sarah Palin gave Charlie Gibson when he asked her about the "Bush Doctrine" is not acceptable for someone being put before the American people as a Vice Presidential candidate.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

No Lie Too Big for John McCain

Here's an outrageous lie from John McCain that will air on Fox News, and in select markets in Pennsylvania, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin (apparently targeting people the Republican party leaders, and John McCain, think are fools) -

Barack Obama is an honorable man and the father of two young children. The bill in question was intended to provide age-appropriate information to young children about "good touch" / "bad touch" to help them avoid becoming victims of sexual predators.

Besides the big lie there's some glaring half truths about Barack Obama's real policies on education and no mention that the articles cited in the ad are actually much more critical of John McCain's record, and late-coming fuzzy policy plans, on education.

Here's a summary of John McCain's (and the Republican party's) philosophy on post-secondary education) from TG: Legislative Report: February 20, 2008 -
"The likely Republican nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain, has no stated position on the federal role in providing, or even promoting, access to post-secondary education. Aside from (but also including to a significant degree) the high profile issues of health insurance, Medicare, and Social Security, the traditional and historical position of the Republican Party is that the federal role in providing support for domestic education, health and human service, and job programs should be as limited as possible. And entitlement programs should be as limiting as politically possible. It is likely that the cost of the two major student loan programs would be a major consideration, with performance another factor. This is borne out by the results of the annual program evaluations of the current Office of Management and Budget Program Assessment and Rating Tool (PART) of the FFELP and FDLP."

It's amazing that, "the traditional and historical position of the Republican Party is that the federal role in providing support for domestic education, health and human service, and job programs should be as limited as possible. And entitlement programs should be as limiting as politically possible" and yet apparently unlimited "entitlements" go to the connected inner circle like Halliburton.

That may or may not be your cup of tea but holding out the position of a limited government while giving huge sums of middle class American's tax dollars to the richest people in America was not the original Republican ideal. At some point I think the Mom and Pop Republicans will realize that the party has been taken over by a small group of extremely wealthy people who mostly don't want anyone upsetting their gravy train and could care less whether government serves the needs of average Americans - Democrat or Republican.

The Savings and loan crisis brought to us by Republicans in the 1980's, cost the American taxpayer $124.6 billion dollars. The Republicans have replayed that 1980's tune with the Subprime mortgage crisis that is impacting innocent home owners, probably not so innocent banks like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers...WaMu, and will eventually cost working American's billions of dollars to bail out the very wealthy. So...the Republican philosophy starting with Reagan is that the taxes we pay are redistributed to the very wealthy.

Just for the record "TG" is a nonprofit organization created by the Texas State Legislature. TG's vision is "to be the premier source of information, financing, and assistance to help all families and students realize their educational and career dreams." They are governed by an 11 member board of directors 10 of whom are appointed by the Governor of Texas.


Barack Obama will be on David Letterman tonight talking about among other things the Republican's - and their national network Fox News, crying that now that Sarah Palin is in the race - Obama shouldn't use the old saw "lipstick on a pig" when referring to John McCain/Bush/Reagan/Republican's economic policies...or something like that.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

RNC In a Minute

In case you missed the Republican National Convention 23/6 - Some of the News, Most of the Time has condensed it into this one minute video -

Monday, September 08, 2008

Haiku For 2008 Election

Fall comes, old toad jumps shark!
New guy wins landslide.
People sing happy song

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Do The Wealthiest 1% of Americans Really Need a $126,902 Tax Cut?

"The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that McCain proposals would cut taxes for the wealthiest 1% in 2012 by an average of $126,902 when compared to current law."
Source: Wall Street Journal "Real Time Economics : Obama Economic Advisor Goes on Offense Against McCain"

Contrast this fact with the small town, heartland, regular Joe, country music, image the Republican Party puts forward and it shows you how successful the rich and powerful are in creating a "narrative" that appeals to some working class Americans when in fact their policies have little or nothing to offer those same people.

Even a super successful capitalist like Warren Buffett knows that things are not right, as he says in this interview,

"Corporations are doing better in the total tax picture than the people I'm going to walk by on the street when I leave here."

"Yeah. The rich people are doing so well in this country. I mean, we never had it so good."

"It's class warfare, my class is winning, but they shouldn't be."
and finally being the smart Nebraska man he is...
"I think it's a terrific country...You never want to go short on America...this country -- our children and our grandchildren are going to live better than we do in this country. No question about it in my mind."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Getting to Know Sarah Palin - Quickly

Interesting article in the Los Angeles Times by Rosa Brooks (read her biography if you wonder what her credentials are and if she would be a reliable source of information).

Here's the gist of the article that should be played as an endless loop to drill baby drill something into the heads of true believers who would vote for John McCain no matter what his policies are or who he selected as a VP running mate -
Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) founder, Joe Vogler, told an interviewer in 1991: "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. ... And I won't be buried under their damn flag."

Sarah Palin's husband, Todd, was a registered AIP member from 1995 to 2002.

Video footage shows AIP Vice Chairman Dexter Clark describing Sarah Palin at the 2007 North American Secessionist Convention as an "AIP member before she got the job as a mayor of a small town..."

The New York Times has corrected part of an earlier article where Lynette Clark, the AIP party’s chairwoman, stated that Ms. Palin was a registered member of the AIP. Ms. Clark now says she relied on information from another AIP member and cannot find a record of Sarah Palin being a registered member. Ms. Clark went on to say, "Ms. Palin attended the AIP 1994 and 2006 conventions and provided a video-taped address as governor to the 2008 convention."

Forcing voters to get to know the Republican VP candidate at this late date is a distraction when the discussion should be about Barack Obama and John McCain's policies. It is politically expedient for John McCain to keep people's minds off the last eight years and what has happened to the economy, taxes, education, national security, health care, social security, jobs, and energy.

We can't ignore Sarah Palin's political and personal points of view though. We can't afford to have someone a heartbeat away from being president, who when asked about teaching creationism alongside evolution in schools said, "Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."


If we are going to revisit the Scopes Trial and discuss whether it's appropriate that the government dictate that creationism be taught in public schools, where would you draw the line - surely not at the Christion view of creation? We'd have to cover many Native American creation stories, Hindu, Buddhist...etc. etc. etc.

This whole discussion, including her position opposing a woman's right to choose even in cases involving incest or rape, would be irrelevent except for the fact that Sarah Palin has been thrust into a position where she could potentially have a great impact on our laws and the Supreme Court.

Who knows what else we may find out about Sarah Palin, either in the next 57 days or in the unfortunate event that she and John McCain are elected after it's too late?


There's the chilling report that mayor Sarah Palin asked the city's librarian a "rhetorical" question about banning books -
"In December 1996, Mary Ellen Emmons (the librarian) told her hometown newspaper, the Frontiersman, that Palin three times asked her -- starting before she was sworn in -- about possibly removing objectionable books from the library if the need arose."

"According to news coverage at the time, the librarian said she would definitely not be all right with it. A few months later, the librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, got a letter from Palin telling her she was going to be fired. The censorship issue was not mentioned as a reason for the firing. The letter just said the new mayor felt Emmons didn't fully support her and had to go.Emmons had been city librarian for seven years and was well liked. After a wave of public support for her, Palin relented and let Emmons keep her job."
Source: Anchorage Daily News

Friday, September 05, 2008

Ronald Reagan's Legacy

It's amazing how quickly people forget, or maybe they never knew to begin with, or maybe they just want to rewrite history - but Ronald Reagan was not the golden president that some would like to believe.

Reagan's policies dramatically increased homelessness, created record deficits, reduced taxes for the very wealthy, and weakened organized labor. His economic policies resulted in the 1980's having the slowest growth of any post World War II decade with no increase in the median real wage.

Do a Google search for "Reagan homelessness", "Reagan deficit", "Trickle Down Economics", "Reagan and organized labor" and read some of the articles (pro and con) and make up your own mind.

One of the wonderful things about the internet is that no one can say it's a creation of a media elite, and if you do a little bit of analytical thinking you can synthesize a pretty fair point of view from what you find.

One of the most famous quotes about Ronald Reagon's economic redistribution policy of making the wealthiest individuals more wealthy and hoping it trickles down to the poor, came from his Director of the Office of Management and Budget David Stockman in a candid interview years after the fact,

"Do you realize the greed that came to the forefront? The hogs were really feeding. The greed level, the level of opportunism, just got out of control. [The Administration's] basic strategy was to match or exceed the Democrats, and we did."

When he was in office, Ronald Reagan was called the "teflon president" by some people because no matter how misguided and destructive his policies may have been his acting background and grandfatherly personality made people feel all warm and fuzzy. Twenty years later recollections are even a little fuzzier, but the next time someone tells us that a return to Reagan era policies would be good for America - I'd recommend doing a little research.

It's a good idea to keep informed and not be a victim of "groupthink" if we can help it. On the other hand - we want to be fooled sometimes and yelling out "drill baby drill" or "USA USA USA" at the RNC is a probably a lot more fun than getting your eyes and brain all tired out by reading and thinking.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

She Can Read a Teleprompter

Sarah Palin's speech at the RNC last night was written by Matthew Scully, a former George W. Bush speechwriter.

As Abraham Lincoln said, "People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like."

The Obama campaign put this out this morning, and it speaks to one of the key points better than I can -

"Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let's clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.

And it's no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.

Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America's promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it's happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Oh My - It Can't Really Be Over Already

Conservative columnist Peggy Noonan and former McCain campaign manager Mike Murphy having a little chat with NBC's Mike Todd about what impact Sarah Palin will have on John McCain's presidential bid - after the camera's, but not the microphones, were turned off.

Peggy Noonan says, "it's over."

Hot Mic Picks Up Noonan and Murphy Dishing on Palin | The Trail | washingtonpost.com

Here's a video that I thought was pretty funny. There's more jokes here and videos here


If you want to read the strange but apparently true story about Sarah Palin's last childbirth experience, it's in this April 22, 2008 Anchorage Daily News article. If you aren't familiar with the story, she was in Dallas when her water broke, but instead of going to the hospital she gave a speech, got on a plane to Anchorage that stopped in Seattle, and once in Anchorage drove an hour to a small hospital in Wasilla.


In some other exciting campaign news Barack Obama is going to be on Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox tomorrow night at 8 pm EDT. That's one hour before John McCain addresses the RNC.

I hope it goes better for Bill than the last time he tried to get Barack Obama's attention and ended up shoving a staffer and shouting some obscenities (part of his self-proclaimed efforts to uphold his constitutional rights to shove a guy trying to do his job and then call him a "son of a bitch"). If an ordinary citizen would have done that it would have been a  "don't taz me bro" situation.

It's funny to watch the calm reaction of the Obama staffer to O'Reilly's antics.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

John McCain - Maverick Reformer to Reformed Maverick

I was a bit disappointed to learn there are only four official debates before we vote on November 4th. The single vice presidential debate is scheduled for Thursday October 2nd and the presidential debates are scheduled for Friday September 26, Tuesday October 7 and Wednesday October 15th.

Actually John McCain doesn't need another person to debate with, we can just watch him change his positions to fit the "narrative" that seems most likely to get him elected. The last minute of this 4 minute clip from the Daily Show is a concise look at some of his double talk and there's all kinds of other examples on the internet which show him saying one thing one day and something completely fundamentally different later. So what we end up with is at best a confused, and worst case lying and confused, 72 year old president with a vice-president who will be in one debate prior to the election. We deserve better.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Buy Eyeglasses Online

I was reading the article how to get an unbelievable, thrilling deal on new glasses  by Farhad Manjoo - Slate Magazine and popped over to Glassy Eyes which contains links to a variety of online eyeglass sellers.

It sounds like it might not be that bad an idea, since almost all lenses/frames come from China anyway, to go ahead and cut out some of the middlemen and buy direct, provided the glasses are the right prescription, fit you and look the way you expect.

EyeBuyDirect has a program that allows you to upload your picture and then put a pair of glasses on your face. I had some trouble getting the right size picture of myself. You can see other user's attempts to virtually fit eyeglasses to their heads at the Wall of Frame.