The Internet is changing how stuff gets done.
Like the news.
When a story is not longer fresh and visual, most media drop it and move on to something else. But that doesn't mean the story is no longer important or was resolved.
tech President was created to monitor the activities of Change.gov. But there's a lot more going on than meets the eye. Especially if the eye is not on You Tube or twitter.
Twitter, it seems, is exploding as a means of transmitting just about anything in words, as long as the idea will fit into 140 characters or less.
...wired Obama campaign to a presidential administration connecting with supporters and non-supporters alike, via the Washington Post's Jose Antonio Vargas's recap piece, "e-Hail To the Chief." Vargas captures some provocative quotes, including a few gems from our own Andrew Rasiej and this from former Bush White House Internet director David Almacy: "Obama is the first online social networking president."
...Take a look at the White House's latest press conference on the conflict. White House Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Johndroe answers often don't go much beyond 140 characters. In other news on the Gaza-gets-wired front, Benjamin Nethanyahu is out with a YouTube video,
And here's a great piece of journalism via You Tube.
And take a look at the twitter site, Realtime results for #coalash
Roane County schools will use bottled water for meals from Sandra Diaz's tweet
There are many hundreds of tweets...
Too many for me to follow.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The Internet is changing how stuff gets done.
Posted by Hoots at 4:51 PM
Saturday, December 27, 2008
The purpose of this post is to point to the one I just finished. Please read it with a generous spirit and an open mind.
Posted by Hoots at 7:03 AM
Obama's selection of Rick Warren to deliver the inaugural invocation has made a lot of people angry. Most frustrated are those from a protected universe that cannot imagine the whole country is not as blue as they. They haven't a clue how sincerely a great population of Americans feel about "liberal" social questions in general as well as homosexuality and abortion in particular. I know about these people. I live and move among them and they are not the hate-filled fundies they are being made out to be. When I read the shrill, hurtful criticisms steaming up from the most modern of LGBT spokespersons I ask myself if they have ever been close to any of the ignorant people about whom they complain.
I was relieved this morning to come across the Melissa Etheridge essay at Huffingron Post.
I hadn't heard of Pastor Rick Warren before all of this. When I heard the news, in its neat little sound bite form that we are so accustomed to, it painted the picture for me. This Pastor Rick must surely be one hate spouting, money grabbing, bad hair televangelist like all the others. He probably has his own gay little secret bathroom stall somewhere, you know. One more hater working up his congregation to hate the gays, comparing us to pedophiles and those who commit incest, blah blah blah. Same 'ole thing. Would I be boycotting the inauguration? Would we be marching again?
Well, I have to tell you my friends, the universe has a sense of humor and indeed works in mysterious ways. ...
I told my manager to reach out to Pastor Warren and say "In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him." They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.
When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.
Brothers and sisters the choice is ours now. We have the world's attention. We have the capability to create change, awesome change in this world, but before we change minds we must change hearts. Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket. But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen. They don't hate us, they fear change. Maybe in our anger, as we consider marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world.
Maybe if they get to know us, they wont fear us.There's more, but that captures the spirit of her message.
To see evidence of that isolated, protected universe to which I referred scan the comments.
I would have let it pass without comment until I came across this at Coming Anarchy by Younghusband. My memory flashed back to Scott Simon's use of "cunning" in describing Barack Obama as I read...
...I too had a serious WTF!? moment when I saw the announcement.
However, on further thought, I am starting to think that this is another sign of Obama’s pragmatic politics (a.k.a. what some idealists are calling “post-partisan politics”). Rick Warren is no ally of Obama, and a large portion of the American population is backing Obama. I think this is a matter of Team Obama kicking the ball downfield on the first down to wait and see whether Team Evangelist will fumble it. Obama offers Warren the chance to kiss the ring and come on board, and if Warren shoots his mouth on at the wrong time he relegates his team to the bench in the eyes of the American people (how were those last sentences for literary clichés?). If Warren plays along then Obama can continue his post-partisan policy-making without the direct opposition (an tacit support) of the evangelical movement that has so infected American politics.
This move by Obama is nothing less than a very shrewd political move.
Addendum, December 27...(Hat Tip Waldo)
"Rick Warren’s biggest critics: other evangelicals"
On paper, Warren might look like any other religious traditionalist. He is the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, graduate of a Southern Baptist seminary, and his megachurch in Orange County is part of the conservative denomination.
But Warren holds a different worldview than his roots suggest.
He has spoken out against the use of torture to combat terrorism. He has joined the fight against global warming and, encouraged by his wife, has put his prestige and money behind helping people with AIDS. The Warrens have done so at a time when a notable number of conservative Christians still consider the virus a punishment from God.
“If you want to save a life, I don’t care what your background is and I don’t care what your political party is,” Warren said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I think some of these humanitarian issues transcend politics, or ethnic or religious beliefs.”
While many religious conservatives openly condemn Islam as inherently evil, Warren reaches out to the American Muslim community. This past Saturday, he gave the keynote address at the convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, based in Los Angeles.
“His social consciousness is somewhat left of center, but his theological, ethical stance is right of center,” said the Rev. William Leonard, a critic of the Southern Baptist Convention and dean of Wake Forest Divinity School in North Carolina. “That’s the thing that makes him potentially a bridge person.”More at the link.
I very much want this to be a tempest in a teapot. My hope is that serious Christians of a conservative temperament can be gently but firmly led from the political bondage of partisan arguments to a more ecumenical understanding of the Great Commission. I have watched helplessly for the last two decades as well-meaning pastors and other influential leaders have allowed themselves to be seduced into believing that politics might succeed where the Church seems to be failing.
Caring Christian see all problems through the lens of faith. Unfortunately they are tempted to believe that by rendering unto Caesar they escape the tougher corollary to render unto God what is His. Money is a comfortable substitute for time, energy and personal service.
Rick and Kay Warren, unlike their peers, practice what they call "reverse tithing." Instead of living on ninety percent of their income and giving ten percent to the ministry, they live on ten percent, leaving ninety percent for their ministry budgets.
The Warrens have taken evangelism to a new level.
Posted by Hoots at 7:00 AM
Friday, December 26, 2008
She's growing up.
It's hard to know from a distance, but it doesn't look as though she's being exploited.
What a sweetie! What's not to like about a kid like this?
If you don't know about her, here's a link to the original post, March of last year.
Posted by Hoots at 8:22 PM
Via Coming Anarchy we learn of a board game called "Credit Crunch"created by The Economist Magazine.
The writers have invested (to coin a term) a lot of creative energy into this most recent echo of a time when Monopoly was a pedestrian reply to the Great Depression.
Knowing their audience, the editors have made the game available on line PDF, with easy to follow instructions.
How it works
Players start with 500m econos each. One player doubles as banker.
Players move round by throwing four coins and progressing as many squares as they throw heads. If a player throws four heads, he moves forward four spaces and has another turn; if he throws four tails, he throws again. When a player lands on a + square, he collects money from the bank; equally, when he lands on a minus square, he pays the bank.
The aim is to be the last solvent player. In order to achieve this, players try to eliminate the competition. Risk cards encourage players to pick on each other.
Players who cannot pay their fines may borrow from each other at any rate they care to settle on—for instance, 100% interest within three turns. They should negotiate with the other players to get the best rate possible. Players who cannot borrow must either go into Chapter 11 or be taken over.
Players may conceal their assets from each other.
Got that? "Risk cards encourage players to pick on each other."
Neat. This might be more fun than paintball.
Problem is, it's too close to reality for me to find amusing.
The Bernard Madoff Scheme is no accident and it is not funny. It is a reasonable and predictable result of how most people understand economics, not called the "dismal science" for nothing.
Without putting too fine a point on it, I would like to see more big shots taking a look at how their less-accomplished social underlings get along in the world with more limited assets.
It's called the "cash economy."
Phrases like "living hand to mouth" or "paycheck to paycheck" are condescending descriptions of how poor people live. Such phrases carry undertone suggestions that anyone who lives like that must be either unmotivated, unwilling or too unintelligent to do better or made bad choices resulting in a lower station in life.
But there is a small but solid core of responsible people who do not fall to the bottom because of quaint notions of thrift, saving and responsible stewardship of limited assets. I like to think of that group -- my group, by the way -- as the true "middle class." That term has been widely and carelessly used for years. And until this most recent election it has been left undefined.
One point in the presidential debates the candidates were asked to define "rich."
When the dust settled, it was Barack Obama who was brave enough to put a number on it: $250,000 a year.
For debate purposes it was a handy benchmark, a point below which voters who earned less than that amount annually could expect no tax increase, and above which they could look for increased taxes.
But in a way the quarter-million dollar benchmark is not a bad way to define the middle class if we take it to mean net worth instead of earned income. Net worth is how most business transactions are conducted because it takes into account not only how much revenue is flowing but how much reserve there might be in the event the cash flow slows down or pinches off altogether.
I would like to advance an argument for a cash economy instead of a credit economy. With the exception of a relatively small mortage we have been living on a cash economy at our house over thirty years. As a result we don't have a lot of the "extras" that many of our peers enjoy, but we have the satisfaction of knowing that at this moment of financial instability for what looks to be the whole world, we don't feel threatened. In fact, if necessary we have enough space and resources to house and feed a couple of our children with their families should the emergency arise.
Thankfully, that is not a threat looming on the horizon. Or maybe I should say "our horizons." I know it is not so for many others.
Posted by Hoots at 8:25 AM
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Hear the voice of a Christian Martyr singing a hymn in Arabic to the Blessed Mother, while watching a slideshow of his funeral mass. Hear the angelic voice of Father Ragheed Ganni, a 35 year old Chaldean Catholic Priest killed on Sunday June 3rd, 2007 with three of his deacons right after celebrating mass at Holy Spirit Chaldean Catholic Church in Mosul, Iraq.
The car of Father Ragheed and the three deacons was stopped by terrorists shortly after leaving the church. They were forced to get down from the car and asked to declare their conversion to Islam. When the four martyrs refused they were brutally gunned down with machine guns.
Lord, protect all the innocent people of Iraq and all those trying to defend them. Jesus we trust in you and we are sustained by the prayers of your most holy mother to whom you never refuse a request. We pray for the repentance and conversion of Father Ragheed's killers and all other terrorists. May she who gave birth to us at the foot of the cross beg you for mercy. source: www.ankawa.com
The hymn translated in English is:
We honor you with hymns O Mother of God, you are the pride of the whole earth, because the Word of God whom the Father sent, chose to take His human body from you. The generations call you blessed, all nations and people's honor you and ask for mercy by your prayers. You are a generous earth in which plants of joy always grow.
A coordinated bombing campaign in 2004 targeted churches in the Iraqi capital, and anti-Christian violence also flared last September after Pope Benedict XVI made comments perceived to be against Islam.
But this year, with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha coming just before Christmas, Iraq has been living through some of the most peaceful moments since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, leader of the ancient Chaldean Catholic Church and Iraq's first cardinal, celebrated Mass before about 2,000 people in the Mar Eliya Church the eastern New Baghdad neighborhood of the capital.
"Iraq is a bouquet of flowers of different colors, each color represents a religion or ethnicity but all of them have the same scent," the 80-year-old Delly told the congregation.
Muslim clerics — both Sunni and Shiite — also attended the service in a sign of unity.
"May Iraq be safe every year, and may our Christian brothers be safe every year," Shiite cleric Hadi al-Jazail told AP Television News outside the church. "We came to celebrate with them and to reassure them."
William Jalal, a 39-year old father of three attending Mass at Mar Eliya, said this Christmas was clearly different.
"We didn't celebrate like this in the past two years as we were holding limited celebrations for relatives in an atmosphere filled with fear," said Jalal, a cook in one of Baghdad's social clubs. "Now we feel better as we see all these security forces in the streets to protect us."
Bombers still attack city markets, police or army patrols and stores, and the dead bodies of tortured kidnap victims turn up almost daily along river banks or dumped on the streets.
Venturing out in large numbers late at night in Baghdad is still unthinkable, so the capital's Christians celebrated midnight Mass in the middle of the afternoon on Christmas Eve.
Posted by Hoots at 3:00 PM
So many reasons to regret the last several years....
*vice president as the power behind the throne
*"good job, Brownie"
*Suspension of Habeas Corpus.
*Col Ted Westhusing
*us vs. them / you're with us or against us
*teaching of "Intelligent Design" as science in schools
This is not a complete list by any means. Readers are invited to add to it in the comments.
This list is NOT a personal indictment of George Bush. I consider him to be sincere, acting with the best of good intentions.Unfortunately, sincerity does not insure good results. Just a few days ago I heard him on C-SPAN talking about a range of topics at the Heritage Foundation. Even now he still seems to believe that the free market can solve most of our problems if we just let it alone. A global economic meltdown of cosmic proportions is not for him an indication that really serious mistakes have been made that could have been averted. My guess is that he will spend the rest of his life spinning his legacy as best he can, never coming to terms with some of the truly serious red flags listed above. And he'll never understand why that reporter threw his shoes at him.
Posted by Hoots at 1:45 PM
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Radio blogging here...
Scott Simon interviewed Ethan Bortnick this morning.
I was at my destination but had to stay put to hear the end of the segment. This is what they call a "driveway moment."
If you don't have five minutes to spare for this short piece of radio journalism you need better time management skills.
After you watch the You Tube clip, go to the link and click the "listen now" icon.
Posted by Hoots at 6:07 PM
Thursday, December 18, 2008
December 18, 2008
Found this at Cassandra Does Tokyo, a new blog for me, found at Helena Cobban's blog.
I was doing my "Bernie" Madoff homework when I came across another term, "split-strike conversions." A search only turns up fifty hits (at this writing) but there may be more to come as the Madoff scheme unwinds. It's an investment strategy involving options trading with spreads. Think Rubik's cube in financial dealings. Some Yahoo message board contributor mentioned the term back in July after quoting from an email from an unidentified securities dealer.
My investment strategy utilizes "non conventional option" strategies known as "split strike conversions".The basic portfolio comprises of long equities whereby a call is sold and a put is bought with part of the call premium received. The "bias" of the portfolio is adjusted by the sectors selected and the number of options sold or purchased at any one given expiration time and strike price.The strategy preferes Index options, instead of individual stock options.I am also using selling naked put options to establish positions.
The "basic" portfolio includes 75% equities of the S&P 500 index and the Eurostxx 50 and 25% equities with no restrictions,usually "special situations",small caps and turn around".
Whereby the basic portfolio is not "traded",but subject to the use of options and futures, the 25% portion is very heavily traded.
This is not the end of the string. Just one of the loops sticking out.
I'm still reading.
Check out this post from Cassandra.
Meantime, here's this great flight of prose...
ZIRP (c) - The policy of pricing money as if it were free, thereby encouraging its creation in [errr hopefully?!?] unlimited quantities to any and all comers, for the stated purpose of avoiding deflation, though actually it is to make sure that those whose eyes were bigger than their stomachs don't explode, which ostensibly is less than desired by anyone.
nearZIRP(sm)(c) - same as the above, only a few basis points higher; usually meant to keep at least one final bullet for the FRB in the eventuality things get even more FUBAR. Also can be used on the rebound in order to allow the FRB to keep the fallacy alive that it is symmetrical insofar as it takes similarly aggressive action against inflation as it is against deflation. (See also: ZIRP-lite)
ZIRPtastic - The feeling of joy and bliss that overcomes the borrower of "free money" upon swapping US Dollar paper for something that will depreciate less.
ZIRPflation - The likely future consequence of ZIRP.
disZIRPflation - The temporary state of purgatory where core asset and commodity prices are falling coincidental to ZIRP, and/or nearZIRP.
ZIRPulation - Leveraged specutrage predicated upon borrowing Dollars at nearZIRP for investment in anything and everything nonZIRP.
ZIRP-sixed - Losing one's hedge fund either by maintaining long risky-asset positions enroute to ZIRP, OR, maintaining short risky-asset trades beyond their sell-by date (See Donchian Channel Breakout)
ZIRPcurve Risk - The aggregate embedded risk in a ZIRPified financial system where the paucity of short-end yield induces investors to "reach for yield" by going farther out on the curve, thereby squashing long-term rates towards ungodly low levels that cause a bubble in the long end, circularly making it near-impossible to shift policy or paradigms without inducing massive mark-to-market capital losses throughout the financial system. (See: "the folly of sequential bubble- blowing")
1st Law of ZIRP-o-dymanics - For every borrower there is a lender causing the net stimulatory benefits of ZIRP to be lost as savers now devoid of income curtail consumption.
2nd Law of ZIRP-o-dymanics - Exceptional circumstance of 1st Law where lenders are foreign, allowing the possibility that domestically , the net stimulatory effect might be positive.
ZIRPerrific - Celebratory "High-fives all around" in the Treasury War Room when stocks fall less than "a few percent", swap spreads converge, Jim Cramer finally shuts-the-fuck-up.
ZIRPBento - The FreeLunch(c) Box served in Financial cafeterias, but available to any and all comers.
ZIRPtomism - The belief that the power of positive-thinking and free-money will allow something-for-nothingism to live yet another day.
ZIRPquake - - Colassal dislocation in financial markets when eventual unwinding of ZIRP-related positions occurs.
neoZIRPeralism - Using all manner of monetary policy tools to insure the neoliberal regime suurvives. (See Income inequality, Public Interest, Beggar-Thy-Neighbor)
ZIRPing-on-a-String" - Economic state describing the ineffective outcome of employing ZIRP monetary strategies when the the root causes of America's ills has next-to-nothing to do with the price of money, and everything to do with unimaginable financial and regulatory policy mismanagement and neglect during eight years of the Bush Admin.
ZIRPatility - The phenomena describing the schizophrenic market adjustments to ZIRP as they attempt to fathom whether deflation or inflation will prevail.
ZIRPocracy -Describes capitalism's policy paradox where the market price is proffered to be essential to the optimal, (or reeasonable approximation thereof) allocation of a scarce resource excepting when it comes to finding clearing prices for stocks, real estate, and anything covered by TARP, TAF, TSLF
ZIRPlosion - - Eventual market relapse caused by putting-off until tomorrow what should be adjusted to today.
ZIRPO - The fourth Marx Brother.....
December 17, 2008
John Robb uses the term.
ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) has arrived in the US. The Federal Reserve and the US Treasury are now in desperate straights to stabilize the US economic system (and by extension, the global economic system). From a systems perspective, it's also a formal indication that the US and the global economy is now operating far from equilibrium and the Fed/Treasury is using every control input they have to return the system to its previous equilibrium.
Unfortunately, from a systems standpoint, that's VERY unlikely to happen. What will happen is either a monstrous overshoot (overcorrection) or a control system failure that plunges the entire system deeply into turbulence/non-linearity. While the establishment of a new equilibrium point at our current position, where the forces of correction and positive feedback loops are balanced, is possible, it's also unlikely since there isn't an external reference environment available to fix the system to.
In econo-speak, this translates into:
- Hyper-inflation (overshoot) and potentially a dollar collapse/run.
- Depression (control system failure).
- Stagnation (new equilibrium point).
Best bet? Option 2, due to the long running secular trend (30 years of data) towards wealth concentration. This concentration has led the US middle class/consumers into a solvency crisis (in short, we can't correct the impact of that feedback loop with cosmetic policy initiatives).
Posted by Hoots at 9:47 AM
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Repost here from two years ago.
This year we have a high-quality video from You Tube.
(Be sure to ckeck out the Wikipedia link below)
In case you were living under a rock last year and are somehow not aware of this man's creations, here are some links to check out...
...looks like he's more popular than before. I hope he's making a ton of loot. He earned it.
Posted by Hoots at 11:30 AM
Since I'm several decades away from my youth I had to look up Jello Biafra. I never heard of him. For starters his real name is Eric Reed Boucher and by the time he was in high school I had left my Sixties stint and started a career that kept my nose to the grindstone until a few years ago. I'm admitting my ignorance up front not to apologize but to underscore how long some of us have been waiting to see someone like Barack Obama in the White House.
This man's "open letter" articulates the political hopes of today's younger generation. Jame Hamsher put it up at Firedoglake. It spells out the expectations of what many now call The Left. Even before Obama is inaugurated voices from that side of the political divide are calling for more accountability.
This letter is a credo for our time. It is a latter-day echo of the Port Huron Statement and deserves close attention. Even those who don't like what it says are well-advised to pay attention because the first step in conflict resolution is to understand and respect all sides. I don't agree with all it says, but every section resonates with me at some level. I'm putting it here in my scrapbook for future reference.
Dear Mr. Obama,
Congratulations on your recent victory, and for helping build such a strong mandate for change. In that spirit, please do not forget the other aisle you need to reach across. All the relief and publicity for the middle class won't do anything for the 40-100 million Americans who are starving, unemployed or just plain poor.
You have gone out of your way to build a bridge to those of us fed up with war, pollution, inequality, corporate lawlessness and business as usual. You have energized a whole new generation who is far ahead of their elders in knowing what urgently needs to be done. I have never seen such an outpouring of heartfelt emotion, hope and support for an American politician in my life, and I remember Kennedy well. You are the first president in my lifetime to have a bona fide grassroots movement behind you and ready to rock. I hope those crowds' hope and urgency has penetrated deeply enough that you won't let that bridge be washed away.
I remember another person who had the audacity to exploit and toss aside people's hope, and his name is Bill Clinton. Democrats fail time and again when they shirk responsibility and settle for being dealmakers instead of leaders. As important as it is to find common ground and build consensus for change, our situation is so dire we cannot afford any more dealmakers. The people voted for a leader. Anything less risks breaking the hearts of an entire galvanized generation who may then decide it is not worth it to get involved and participate any more.
Strong medicine is needed. Here are some ideas:
IRAQ – TRY THIS!
The closest thing to a solution I have heard was offered clear back in April 2004 by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (www.oic-ico.org). The OIC is comprised of 57 Islamic countries ranging from West Africa clear over to Southeast Asia. At their annual meeting they found six member nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Yemen and Morocco) willing to pony up enough of their own troops (approx. 150,000) that our troops could have gone home! Who slammed the door on that one? Colin Powell, on the grounds that having the Islamic soldiers under UN command instead of Americans was out of the question.
WHY??!? Wouldn't a neutral force of Muslim peacekeepers make a lot more headway than the disaster we've made? Wouldn't they at least command a lot more respect, resulting in a huge drop in violence? Surely the non-stop carnage and Iracketeering we have spawned is Exhibit A that we need to get over this colonialist illusion that other countries' problems can only be solved by Americans. The OIC's proposal for US withdrawal and peace in Iraq must be revisited immediately, and also considered for Afghanistan.
We must end not just our military occupation of Iraq, but our economic occupation NOW. Iraq is not ours to sell, and neither is its oil. Your promise not to leave any permanent US military bases in Iraq is a good start. But you have also backed leaving US troops in Iraq to "protect American assets like the Green Zone." The Green Zone is not our "asset." We stole it and we have to give it back. I hope you don't seriously believe we can get away with that giant feudal fortress of an embassy we are building, ten times the size of any other in history. We cannot afford to waste any more money on this, or down the black hole of the Bush administration's crony backroom deals with corrupt, incompetent private contractors like Blackwater, KBR and Halliburton. We need to fire them and they need to leave—NOW.
We do owe the Iraqi people help, and we have an obligation to clean up the mess we have made. That goes double for Afghanistan. But I can't see this getting done unless someone other than the United States is in charge. Let us also not forget the 2 million-plus refugees stuck outside Iraq who are draining the economies of Iraq's neighbors, especially Jordan and Syria.
TERROR – STRATEGY AND DIPLOMACY, NOT WAR
Even if we kill off every insurgent and terrorist-sympathizer from sea to shining sea, what will their kids be like? And theirs? Wake up. The major cause of terrorism is not evil, it's poverty. Michael Moore said it best after 9/11: "Will we ever get to the point that we realize that we will be more secure when the rest of the world isn't living in poverty so we can have nice running shoes?" What do we need an empire for anyway? Ever notice how much happier the British and Europeans are now that they don't have to worry about policing colonial empires anymore?
Many experts and heads of state, in the Middle East and beyond, agree that the best way by far to pull the rug out from under the terrorists and reduce their attacks dramatically is a just and humane resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel's right to exist is threatened most by the fact that hardcore zealots are running the show on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides. If we don't have the courage to stand up to them, who will? As painful as withdrawal to Israel's pre-1967 borders will be, our future depends on it. So does Israel's. As Reagan said to Gorbachev, "Tear down this wall!"
Threatening Iran made for great red meat on the campaign trail. But any attack on Iran—by us or using the Israelis as a proxy—will blow up in our face worse than Iraq and Afghanistan combined. It will wipe out any good will and benefit of a doubt we have left in the eyes of the rest of the world. Iran is three times the size of Iraq and much more mountainous. The people there already hate our guts, thanks to our overthrow of their democratically elected leader Mohammed Mossadegh in 1954, ushering in 25 years of torture under the Shah. Backing and aiding Saddam Hussein in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that cost a million lives did not help either.
So, alas, we will not be "greeted as liberators." But we could run straight into a worldwide "Day the Earth Stood Still" if Iran responds by blocking all oil shipments out of the Persian Gulf. Iran knows full well they wouldn't even have to blockade the narrow Strait of Hormuz. All they would have to do is sink a tanker or freighter or two and no other ships will move. Not from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, nothing. Surely we can do better than this. Even Robert Gates seems to think so. Reckless threats against Pakistan will not solve anything, either.
JUST SAY NO TO TORTURE
Closing Guantanamo Bay is not enough. All torture, detentions without trial, kidnappings ("renditions") and illegal and unnecessary spying must end—and end with transparency now. Otherwise we are no better than Saddam Hussein or the Nazis. The whole world knows this and the whole world is watching. What about the 20,000 people we still have locked up without charge in Iraq, and thousands more in Afghanistan???
The USA PATRIOT Act is just about the worst mistake our government has made since FDR threw over 100,000 Japanese-American citizens into concentration camps during World War II. Even you panicked and voted to make the PATRIOT Act permanent. It should be repealed and flushed down the toilet immediately—all of it. Even worse is the Military Commissions Act, in which Senators who should know better, such as Robert Byrd, Sherrod Brown, Ken Salazar and even John McCain voted with the majority to legalize torture, kidnapping and secret trials with secret evidence, wiping out the centuries old human right to habeas corpus. Again, isn't this what our "greatest generation" fought so bravely in World War II to stop the Nazis from doing to us?
What galls me most is that all this iron-fisted trashing of our basic human rights has not caught and convicted one significant terrorist! Even the FBI admits that torture doesn't work.
Meanwhile, if we're serious about preventing another terror attack, why is only 10% of the cargo entering our ports on ships ever inspected? Sure, no airliners have been hijacked by a terrorist wielding the wrong-sized shampoo bottle. But those cargo containers are big enough to smuggle in a small arsenal of rocket launchers and shoulder-fired missiles that could actually bring down a plane; dirty bomb material; or even Bin Laden himself. I sometimes wonder if he's driving a cab in Manhattan right now.
RESTORE THE RULE OF LAW
This means investigating and prosecuting each and every Bush administration official and their cronies who may have committed crimes while in power. Otherwise the lesson learned is you can get away with anything you want because the next administration will be too spineless to take action. For crying out loud, DO NOT make the same mistake Bill Clinton did when he let the rampant corruption, perjury and even terrorist acts of the Reagan and Bush I regimes go unpunished in the interest of moving on from the past. The crime here is this: Not only does everyone involved assume they have license to break even more laws the next time they hold power, but those who should be in jail for the lying, arms smuggling, assassinations and drug dealing in the Contra-gate scandal (like Elliot Abrams, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage and Robert Gates among others) are instead handed even more powerful positions where they have done even worse damage. Can you imagine the havoc and hooliganism if we put our heads in the sand after Watergate, let bygones be bygones, and G. Gordon Liddy wound up as director of the FBI? Secretary of Defense Haldeman? Attorney General Ehrlichman? Karl Rove's chair occupied by Colson, Magruder or Segretti?
Watergate and even Contra-gate pale in comparison to the wholesale lawlessness this time around. From Jack Abramoff's bribes, to outing Valerie Plame; from lying about weapons of mass destruction and getting thousands of people killed; from wholesale fraud and attacks on the right to vote, to the gutting of the Justice Department, to torture and other possible war crimes—this can't be allowed to go on.
Cheney and Rumsfeld were bad enough. But it is equally critical that lower-echelon culprits lacking household names like John Yoo, David Addington (nicknamed "Cheney's Cheney"), and General Geoffrey Miller be held accountable for their alleged involvement in torture and other serious crimes. Otherwise, they could one day rise to Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, or even the Supreme Court and pick up right where they left off in their blood-soaked shredding of the Constitution.
Even a South African-style Truth Commission would be an important step in preventing this from ever happening again. Otherwise, why should I or anyone else obey the law when my own government does not even pretend to? Even if Bush pardons the most blatant war criminals, all we have to do is fulfill President Clinton's promise to join the rest of the world in the International Criminal Court and they might not get away with it after all. We must come clean and drain the swamp now or it is just going to get dirtier. A lot dirtier.
Rule of law must also be restored when it comes to the NSA, FISA and domestic spying. The Internet revolt by your own followers was right. Your vote for letting the NSA, and even the phone companies, off the hook for massive illegal spying on American citizens was a very bad mistake. These are the exact same crimes that got Nixon thrown out of office for Watergate. Now Watergate is legal too? I have to say it—this doesn't remind me of Nixon as much as Italy's ordeal under Silvio Berlusconi. In Italy I have heard the joke again and again that "Berlusconi has to stay in power or else he'll go to jail." Sure enough, every time Berlusconi gets indicted for yet another crime, his majority in Parliament simply changes the law and he goes free. There should be zero tolerance for Berlusconi disease.
Plus, does this much spying even make sense? What are we gaining here besides a bigger avalanche of useless data? If 9/11 was an inside job, it was not one of conspiracy but colossal, runaway incompetence. We were already spying on way too many people, collecting way too much data that no one had time to analyze. Thus finding the real terrorists before they struck was like looking for a needle in a football stadium.
I have a feeling you may sign an important bill or two right from the podium during your inauguration speech. It might be an economic stimulus package or lifting the ban on stem cell research. How about also signing your first executive order declaring all of Bush's presidential signing statements he added on to bills he signed to be null and void. These things will go a long way toward restoring the rule of law.
STAMP OUT ELECTION FRAUD – RESTORE THE RIGHT TO VOTE
I never thought that after all these years we would once again find ourselves fighting for our right to vote. In the United States of America? It is well-established now that every election at least since 2000, including the midterms, has been marred by widespread vote fraud, especially via the hacking and manipulations of electronic voting machines. But these widespread crimes have never been fully investigated, let alone prosecuted. Even the US Civil Rights Commission recommended prosecuting then-Governor Jeb Bush over all the fraud and voter intimidation in Florida during the 2002 election. But his brother's Justice Department declined.
It is obvious the Help America Vote Act has backfired and done the opposite. Optical scan machines are not the answer at all. They have now been proven to be just as hackable as the notorious paperless touch-screens. They should all be junked once and for all. Digital is not always better, and voting should not be privatized. Any system where the people's votes are counted in secret behind closed doors has no place in a democracy. Nor is there room for contracting out the verification of our registration forms to the same corrupt biased companies that manufacture the phony voting machines.
We can't just let this massive, widespread vote stealing go on and pretend it isn't happening. It may be too late to reverse the wreckage of all the stolen elections. But again, a Truth Commission to prove how it was done and who did it is essential to the survival of our democracy. Anyone in Congress with a spine for this? The people have a right to know.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM – THE EASY WAY
I am sure you would agree that this election campaign was way WAY too long. Other countries, including one just north of us, limit campaign time to between 30 and 60 days. Election fever is much more focused so voter participation is higher. Why can't we do this? Sure, these other countries use parliamentary systems (another change I hope for) where the party in power calls an election and it takes place a short time later. But think of what we could save—and what we would gain—if we limited campaign time to 90 days. There could be 30 days between announcements and the primaries, followed by a 30-day primary season, then a 30-day home stretch to Election Day. Anyone who jumps the gun by jockeying, soliciting contributions or electioneering too early is automatically disqualified.
I hope you would also agree that campaigns for high office have become obscenely expensive. We now have a full-blown Election Industrial Complex. Wouldn't it be great if you didn't need $750 million to run for President? The way our campaign contributions and lobbyists work today has another name in other countries. It's called bribery.
Another way to restore sanity is to go national with a law enacted by popular vote in Nevada. If you don't like any of the candidates for an office in Nevada, you are allowed to vote None of the Above. If N.O.T.A. wins, they have to re-run the election with all new candidates.
You say you want more people to get up and get involved? Lower the voting age! To get people's attention I have suggested lowering it clear down to age 5. But more realistically, I suggest showing people they have a stake in our democracy by allowing ages 14 and up to vote on school boards and school bond issues, 16 and up for local offices and ballot measures, and 18 and up for everything else. Overcoming voter apathy is hard, but when young people cast votes and see results, they'll stick with it long term.
RETHINK AND SHUT DOWN THE WAR ON DRUGS
Prohibition is as absurd and fruitless today as it was when Eliot Ness ran around shooting up Chicago trying to stamp out illegal beer. The world is laughing at us while real people are being robbed, jailed, assaulted and even killed. We have more people locked in prison than any country in the history of the world. But our drug use rate has barely dropped at all. The blood and violence from gangs and narco-traffickers that have left Colombia and Mexico on the verge of becoming failed states is spilling across our borders. This is no country for old men—or old laws.
Could we do worse than to at least try the Harm Reduction programs used most successfully in Holland and other parts of Europe? As unorthodox as this sounds, decriminalizing (not legalizing) even harder drugs, making them available on prescription from the government for free, along with a safe place to use them, has led to a much lower crime rate—and even addiction rate—than ours. Why? The free prescriptions mean the addict does not have to rob and kill people to pay the drug gangs' high prices, and the gangs are put out of business. Dealers are still treated harshly and rehab is strongly encouraged. This could also save up to $50 billion a year for rehab and education that is otherwise wasted by throwing people in prison.
This also frees up billions and billions of dollars to treat the addicts when they want to get off drugs—which will be sooner rather than later. Rehab costs 2/3 less than prison. Our mushrooming prison-industrial complex is draining our money so badly that state after state is slashing funds for education—education!—to pay for throwing more and more people in prison. In California, a prison guard now makes more money than a teacher. So much for family values.
What is wrong with this picture?!??? As president I suggest the commuting of federal prison sentences of all small-time non-violent drug offenders to time served and releasing them immediately. Then strongly urge governors to do the same at the state level. Again, think of all the wasted taxpayer dollars this will free up for more important things like education and rehabilitation. Estimates run as high as $50 billion nationwide.
This does not mean any of these drugs should be legalized, just decriminalized. That is, strictly regulated like alcohol and tobacco, with big-time dealers and gangs treated as harshly as ever. For another way to fight the drug lords, consider this. In 2005 the United States spent $780 million on drug eradication in Afghanistan. Where on earth did it all go? It worked so poorly that $600 million of poppies and heroin escaped into the market anyway.
Do the math: We could have saved a whopping $180 million if we had simply gone to the suppliers and bought the drugs, and then destroyed them so they won't keep making people sick and killing my friends. As sickening as it is to even think of doing business with drug cartels, can anyone think of a better way to cut off the supply? A counter-argument is that this will actually force the gangs to drive the street price way up. But with Harm Reduction programs already in place they will have nothing to sell, no place to sell it, and no suckers willing to buy.
And for crying out loud, isn't it time to finally get real and decriminalize marijuana? If current strains are more potent than the old days, so what? Study after study still proves that marijuana is less harmful—and less addictive—than alcohol or tobacco. Nowadays, going overboard against marijuana has not only flooded our prisons to the breaking point, it has driven the price of cannabis so high that young people are going straight into crack cocaine and methamphetamines. Is this wise?
On top of that, it is not just oil we are dangerously low on, we are running out of wood. If we ever hope to turn the tide on global warming and save what is left of our forests, we must remove all bans on the cultivation of cannabis for its many industrial uses—including the strain of hemp that has no THC in it to get anyone high but is still banned anyway. Recycling is not enough. Why chop down millions of trees to make paper when we can use hemp or kanaf and then grow another crop of paper a few months later? It does not get any greener than this. It will also help rescue a lot of family farms.
Finally, the Joe Biden-authored Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act (formerly known as the RAVE Act), passed as a rider to the Amber Alert Bill, is as big a disgrace as the PATRIOT Act. It has no place in a free society and should be repealed immediately. Long-term rescue of our social fabric and society, not to mention our southern neighbors, depends in major part on enacting humane drug laws.
RESTORE BALANCE TO THE SUPREME COURT
Even George Will complained that Bill Clinton's Supreme Court nominees were too moderate; that the court needs a good progressive or two for the full and thorough consideration of each issue. Balancing the court means choosing a justice or two with the passion and spirit of a Thurgood Marshall, John Marshall or William O. Douglas, even if you do not fully agree with them. You may only have a two-year window before a mid-term Congress cramps your style.
The Federal Communications Commission should get off their high horse about Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" or naughty words that everyone says anyway, and instead focus on the rampant hate speech and outright lies that are falsely broadcast as impartial news. Sure, celebrity bullies like Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck, and Ann Coulter have a right to say what they want. But when no one—even the target of a personal attack—is allowed the right to reply, the very idea of an informed democracy goes out the window. Was that their goal in the first place?
Nowadays, mainstream corporate media deliberately dumbing down the news, omitting key facts and sides of the story, or neglecting to report the story altogether is the worst form of censorship going on in America today. Since the big mergers, most debate that gets aired at all is restricted to right wing versus ultra-right wing, while the rest of us are allowed to laugh along with Stewart and Colbert. What kind of democracy are we when freedom of speech—or the equally important right to communicate—belongs only to the oligarchs who control the airwaves?
There used to be a law called the Fairness Doctrine that guaranteed the right of reply, without Bill O'Reilly yelling at you to shut up every 15 seconds. It was allowed to expire late in the Reagan years, and urgently needs to be renewed. Your stated opposition to this puzzles me. What better tool is there for "opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible" than making sure they are allowed to be seen and heard in the first place? And how about some enforcement of the laws guaranteeing that the public, not corporations, owns the airwaves. Even the big corporate media barons should again be required to renew their FCC license to broadcast every five years, complete with public hearings.
I also do not think anyone should be allowed to graduate from high school until they pass a class on media literacy. Sadly, we do not yet have the curriculum. In the meantime we must all pitch in with the teaching—to both adults and children.
ECONOMIC STIMULUS – START WITH PEOPLE WHO NEED IT MOST
I'm glad there seems to be a sense up top that national security, the economy, climate collapse and the environment are all intertwined. Think about it. No rogue state or terrorist threatens our national security nearly as much as our collapsing economy. The growing gap between the rich and poor is what is tearing apart the lives of average Americans and their families.
National security means:
• Everyone has a home.
• Everyone has enough decent food to eat.
• Everyone can drink the water without having to buy it in a bottle from Coke or Pepsi.
• No one has to worry about getting their hand cut off at work or having their job outsourced overseas.
• Everyone can be who they are without fear of being detained and tortured without trial.
• Everyone can vote without fear, knowing their vote will be counted—accurately.
• Every woman has the right to choose what to do with her own body.
• Everyone has enough money for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
• Everyone, even if they don't have money, has the right to see a doctor if they're sick or hurt. In so many other countries this is a guaranteed human right by law.
Stimulating and reviving the economy will only succeed from the ground up. This means getting a lot more money quickly to the people on the bottom who need it the most. When they finally have some cash in their pocket they will be more than eager to spend it. Stores perk up, jobs are saved, and the train is finally rolling out of the station. This is why leaders as diverse as Martin Luther King, Milton Friedman and even Richard Nixon have at different times proposed a guaranteed annual income so that everyone can participate and keep our economy humming. Raise the minimum wage to a living wage: $9.50 an hour helps, but $12 an hour is closer to a true living wage. Welfare should not be a dirty word, especially after PBS reported last month that if you count all the Americans who have given up looking for work because they can't find any and dropped off the radar screen, unemployment is actually around 12%! So please remove the time limits on unemployment compensation, welfare benefits and Aid to Families with Dependent Children that were slapped on the least fortunate during the Clinton years.
But where will the money come from when we burn it all up shoveling it down the mouths of the dragons on Wall Street? You are right to point out that trickle-down supply-side economics never trickled down. It wasn't supposed to. How will this be any different? To the average taxpayer this so-called bailout looks more like the last great looting of our treasury before Bush and his cronies get the hell out of dodge. There is also growing concern about the appearance of self-dealing by officials with connections to Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.
So far your own economic team seems alarmingly slanted toward the robber barons who helped create this mess in the first place. Where is Joseph Stiglitz? Where is Robert Reich? Are we still all in this together? Your Economic Advisory Council is supposed to be a council, not a choir! You say you want a support staff that debate and give you diverse ideas. So even if you do not agree with them, how about adding William Greider or Doug Henwood or even Naomi Klein as well?
GREEN JOBS THROUGH GREEN AID
Let's move even faster on climate collapse. The clock is ticking…
Your proposal to spend $150 billion on our crumbling infrastructure is a good beginning. But it is only 10% of the $1.5 trillion in urgent repairs the American Society of Civil Engineers says we need right now to avoid more disasters like the freeway bridge collapse in Minnesota. This does not even account for restocking the Bush-depleted Superfund to clean up toxic waste, or creating affordable housing for everyone. Your plan states, "We'll put people back to work rebuilding our roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children and building wind farms and solar panels, fuel efficient cars and the alternative energy technology that could free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead." Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to spend whatever it takes to weather-strip and winterize old homes and buildings now if the owners can't afford it. It will reduce our swollen carbon footprint dramatically and save tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars over the next few years. How about aid for solar panels? Home windmills too? Not just tax breaks, aid. Most people just don't have the money for this. Time magazine reported in 2001 that an American farmer could get $50 for an acre of wheat and $2000 for an acre of wind power. We either pay to do this now or pay a lot more later. Europeans are already way ahead of us on this one.
Also, look for ways to accomplish two or three things at once with every renewal project. Replacing the water or sewer lines? Lay fiber optic cable! Our not-so-liberal mayor in San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, nixed that idea because there was not enough graft in it for telecom companies. His own silly plan for wi-fi towers fell on its face, so a smart opportunity was wasted.
AUTO AID – REQUIRE GREENER CARS
Ever seen a documentary film called Who Killed the Electric Car? They worked so well their owners did not want to give them back. But when their leases came up, Detroit snatched them away and destroyed them. Now Detroit wants a great big handout? Then another? Then another? There should be no bailout for carmakers if all they are willing to offer in return is more fuel-hogging clunkers like the Ford Flex. No aid until they bring back the electric cars! If the Chevy Volt is so great, why aren't they selling them now? For almost 30 years, people who go to design schools have told me that the car designers almost always pursue jobs overseas because Detroit is still unable to adapt as quickly to fresh ideas for the future.
So far "clean coal" seems to be about as clean as our mountains of "clean nuclear waste." Again, no aid to big coal companies unless they end their environmentally devastating "mountain top removal" plundering once and for all.
TRAINS MAKE SENSE – PEOPLE ARE READY
Another crucial way to fight global warming and reduce our dependence on foreign oil is to wake up and get serious about a nationwide high-speed rail system and better rapid transit in the cities. Again, Europe, Japan, and even China are way ahead of us. When I do my speaking tours in Europe it is so much easier and less expensive than traveling here: Just take my backpack and go. Even a normal train is often faster than flying. No traffic jams getting to the airport, no long security lines, no baggage claim wait, no traffic jams back into the next town. I just get on the train and get off the train, right downtown. The scenery is pretty cool too.
Amtrak has hemorrhaged money year after year. But ridership is finally going up, in spite of the decimated service. People have finally grown so fed up with traffic jams, fuel prices and the arrogance of our bumbling airline industry that a proper train system would now do very well. Just ask former Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson, another intriguing choice for a high position in your administration. Californians finally passed a bond issue to begin work on a long-overdue bullet train system between San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles. People I have talked to in random conversation are almost as excited about this as they are about your own election. A similar initiative passed in Florida in 2000, but Governor Jeb Bush impounded the funds.
Surely we can find the money by canceling a few aircraft carriers, tanks and planes we don't need, and by shutting off the faucet for the hundreds of billions wasted on Reagan's star wars fantasy—now known as "missile defense." Are those new installations in the Czech Republic and Poland really worth all the grief they're stirring up with the Russians? The Czech and Polish people don't even want them there!
Green energy technology should also be shared, even given, to the Chinese ASAP. Here on the West Coast I have to wipe a brown sooty film off my windshield every couple of days—and my car is in a garage! It is coal dust from Chinese factories. They open a new coal plant ever few days. According to Mother Jones, sustaining an American lifestyle for a Chinese middle class predicted to reach 600 million will require the resources of several more Earths!
COMPETE GLOBALLY – TAKE BETTER CARE OF OUR PEOPLE
Other countries prefer a healthy workforce and are willing to pay for it. Here we stick our workforce with fat, greedy insurance companies who serve no purpose but to act as a tollbooth or a gatekeeper and charge exorbitant fees before a person can even see a doctor. The result, of course, is the most expensive healthcare system with the least benefit for the buck of any in the industrialized world. You say the big insurance companies "should have a place at the table." Aren't these companies the problem?
Other counties want their workforce to be as well-educated as possible to better care for themselves and compete in the global economy. So they are willing to pay to make sure this happens, instead of kicking them in the face with back-breaking student loans and cutting school funding to the bone.
Other countries want their children to grow up well-nourished and loved instead of dysfunctional. They are happy to pay welfare for single parents to stay home with their little ones, and for 12-18 months maternity leave with 80-90% pay for either parent to make sure no child is left behind.
Traveling overseas it is not hard to notice that many European countries, and not just Scandinavia, have a higher standard of living than we do, and the gap is widening. The reason is they are willing to pay for it.
HUMANE TAX REFORM
Please do not break your promise to raise income taxes on the wealthy and close those Titanic-sized loopholes that allowed two-thirds of US and foreign corporations who do business here to pay no tax at all between 1998 and 2005. We used to have a tiny tax on security speculation and stock transactions. Britain still does. If the annual amount of wheeling and dealing in the stock market really amounts to the reported $500 trillion a year, a mere 1% tax could raise $5 trillion per year and Wall Street would not even feel it! Other ways to raise badly needed revenue without hurting Joe the Plumber would be to tax companies who pollute, divert funds overseas, and ship jobs out of the country, as well as taxing stock windfalls rewarded by Wall Street for balancing the bottom line with employee layoffs.
Last September the Bush administration quietly dynamited Section 382 of the tax code allowing big banks to run off with as much as $140 billion dollars in new tax breaks that many suspect are illegal. Was this illegal? Please enforce the law and stop the bleeding now.
We could also follow the lead of Berlin, Moscow, Beijing, and even the state of Maine and encourage cities to start their own municipal or community banks. Being a non-profit, these banks would provide low-cost loans for homes and small businesses. They would also save cities millions of dollars apiece that they now waste on private banking fees.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D - IL) proposes generous tax breaks and shareholder advantages to "patriotic corporations" who limit management salaries to 100 times the lowest-paid fulltime worker. I think 10 times is better. Shareholders need better legal tools to limit runaway CEO pay and looting by top executives.
Schakowsky would also give tax breaks to corporations that: produce at least 90% of their goods and services in the United States; spend at least 50% of the research and development budgets here at home; stay out of employee organizing drives; are clean with the EPA, OSHA and the NRLB; and provide their employees with generous and portable pension funds and health insurance. They must also agree not to price-gouge consumers.
So how do we convince Americans that it is in our best interest to help pay for all of this? It would help if you use your power to inspire and persuade, to get through to people in this country that not all taxes are automatically bad, especially when spent in a way that benefits them directly. Starting with the Boston Tea Party in kindergarten, it is drilled into us that taxes are this terrible violation of our freedom. As adults we have had 30 plus years of media sermons from both parties that we are no longer a community, but a marketplace, and that competitiveness is more important than caring about one another. Isn't it interesting that the people least interested in paying taxes are often the first to complain when a government service they take for granted doesn't work any more?
To wise people up and chip away at this I suggest pointing out what happened to California when voters passed Proposition 13 and gutted what was once the number one education system in the country, if not the world. It is now almost dead last. According to the ACLU, some schools in Los Angeles are not only short on books and desks, they don't even have toilet paper. Californians also voted down an initiative guaranteeing universal healthcare after the Disease Industry ran a blitz of TV ads claiming it would raise people's taxes. They banked on people failing to do the math and see how a slight tax increase would dramatically reduce their own medical bills.
Another example is the tale of two of the Quad Cities on the Mississippi River. In the 1990s, Rock Island, IL voters were willing to raise taxes to build a floodwall. Voters in Davenport, IA rejected a wall three times because it would raise taxes. Guess whose town was devastated the next time the Mississippi flooded? To raise local money for local and state projects voters have to be shown that it is worth raising taxes to pay for these things.
Taxes also wouldn't hurt so much if the people had more say in where their money went. How about placing 12-15 categories in US income tax forms so people can vote what percentage of their tax money they want spent where? I'll bet education, the environment, infrastructure, and services would go straight up and our bloated military cash cow would go straight down.
HELP PEOPLE RESIST FORECLOSURES
To fight the plague of foreclosures, I suggest following the lead of the Cook County Sheriff in Chicago by declaring a moratorium on foreclosure evictions. Debts to predatory lenders should be forgiven at once. Many families are fleeing their homes because they are so frightened of the cruel Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, they are willing to default on their mortgage just to keep up with their credit card debts. You voted against this law. Now let's get rid of it. I am inspired by City Life/Vida Urbana in Boston who have said "Yes We Can" to reviving the Depression-era practice of volunteer rolling brigades who show up to defend people's homes from eviction, and if need be take all the furniture and belongings back from the curb into the house. In addition, they alert the media to help shame the banks and predatory lenders from coming back. In many cases it has worked.
The most intriguing proposal flying around the Internet is for everyone who files an individual tax return to be given $1 million dollars on the condition that they use it to pay off their mortgage in full (thus bailing out the banks) and buy an American car within the next three years. Whatever is left over is theirs to keep and invest. Unfortunately the math does not add up. Even the staggering estimated total of $8 trillion thrown at our collapsing economy would only bring $57,971.01 for each of the 138 million individual tax returns filed each year. Too bad, it is an interesting idea.
"THIS MOVEMENT IS NOT JUST ABOUT ONE PERSON…"
I'm glad to hear you say that, but I keep waiting for you to expand and take it further. To point out how much it also matters who is in the Senate, who is in the House, the Governor, the State legislature, mayors, city councils, school boards, ballot initiatives, county commissioners, you name it. To say that if a person is not satisfied with what is going on in their community, they should get involved. If they are not satisfied with how they are being represented, they should consider running for office themselves. A lot of inspired people would. What else can we do in the meantime to make things better? What simple, easy steps can we take in our own lives? You have two more chances—Inauguration and the State of the Union. Before people return to the slumber of Soundbite McNews.
Bill Clinton could have won back Congress in 1996 if he had used his popularity, convention speech and pulpit for something besides his own shoo-in re-election. But he didn't. I was in the room for Al Gore's acceptance speech in 2000. He didn't bother either. It was just about one person.
I'll be amazed if Mr. Obama or anyone close actually reads this, so this last part is for you folks who have. To me, if there is an Obama movement, it is more like the Pope-mobile. You know, that cage of bulletproof glass on wheels that rolls around with the Pope inside, waving at his adoring flock, "Yo! I'm here! Look at me, I'm the Pope!" Then everybody goes home. But who is driving the Pope-mobile? Can a crowd organize to block the wrong turns and steer it in a better direction?
I did not vote for you, but I dearly want you to succeed at delivering the change you have promised. We have very little time and may not get another chance. Recent history shows we have eight years maximum before the pendulum swings back the other way—and hard. She may lose once or twice, but I fear the Pitbull with Lipstick will one day be bigger than Reagan.
In many ways, people seem to be looking to you as their new great-and-powerful Oprah as much as they look at you as their President. This can be useful too. To revive people's sense of community and what it entails. To persuade people that voting for small local tax increases brings much greater benefits for everyone down the road. To encourage people to not just recycle but look for ways to stop wasting so much. Those same European countries whose standard of living seems to be higher than ours use a fraction per capita of natural resources we do. How do they do it? Think of all the forests we could save just by showing people how much paper they can save just by writing on the other side before they throw it away? Imagine if lawyers figured this out.
HONOR AND RESPECT YOUR MOVEMENT
Please don't ever forget why so many people who had given up hope are investing so much of their hearts and hope in you. If that hope is shattered and they feel betrayed, a great deal more will collapse for good.
So to keep your movement alive—and help it grow beyond you—keep those texts and e-mail lists alive! Keep your Blackberry. Does it matter if it all becomes public record? How about a posting a daily log of what you did and who you and your staff met with, including lobbyists. Why not keep all those campaign offices you opened all over the country alive too? Convert them to branch offices. Senators and House members have branch offices all over their districts. You now represent the whole country. Keep the branches.
Above all, be a leader, not a dealmaker. There are times when cutting a deal is the same as cutting and running. To put it mildly, we can't afford that anymore. There are no sails left to trim.
And if this is a movement about change and not just about one person, it is up to the movement to drive the President, not the other way around. Please do not stand in the way.
Posted by Hoots at 8:14 AM