Thursday, February 18, 2010

Want More Proof of how Corporate America is Ruining Everything? Watch the Olympics

I love the Olympics. Every other year, for two weeks, the world comes together to compete in peace. It is a celebration of youth, life, and humanity. In a world full of problems, the Olympics is one of the bright spots.

Truth be told, I haven’t been watching much. Mostly here and there when I had a second to catch it. On my way home last night, I was listening to NPR and they were spoiling the day’s results. They mention that Lindsey Vonn won the women’s downhill. Sweet! I love races and I love to watch people fly down a mountain. It also doesn’t hurt that an American won the gold. So, I tune into NBC at 8 pm Eastern, and find out that the evenings schedule is action packed. In addition to the skiing, there will also be speed skating, both short track and the 1500 meters, and men’s snowboard half-pipe. Done! I’m in!

NBC starts the night with short track qualifiers. Two quick races and commercial. They come back with the 1500 meter speed skating. A race is run, followed by some replays and analysis, followed by a commercial. And we’re back, with another race, followed by analysis, followed by commercial. Do you see a pattern forming?

Understand, these races were just over a minute long. Now, sometimes, there would be two races in between commercials, but the overall perception was that for every four minutes of Olympics, there were four minutes of commercials. I want to stress the word “perception.” I wasn’t sitting there with a stop watch, timing these things out, and maybe I should. But the fact is, NBC was going to a commercial every single chance they could all night long! It was impossible to get into any event because I was being sold something after every single race!

Look, I understand that the Olympics is supposedly a ratings giant, and NBC wants to make the most money they can, therefore, they open up more spots, which advertisers gladly gobble up because the more chances they have to peddle their wears, the better. I get it.

But they need to understand that I’m not going to watch the Olympics because they’ve simply made them unwatchable. For me, it’s next to impossible to get into whatever Olympic spirit because there is no Olympic spirit left. NBC’s desperation to make their fuck terrible network some money, along with AT&T’s desire to make me believe that their fuck awful network is good, McDonald’s desire to make me believe that Olympic athletes actually eat their god-awful shit, etc., etc., has killed it.

Therefore, it breaks my heart to announce that this set of eyeballs is boycotting the remainder of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. NBC, you may get your massive ratings, but those ratings will not include me!

Friday, January 22, 2010

When it Comes to Climate Change, I Agree With…Frank Lutnz!?!

080117-luntz Frank Luntz is a word master.  He came with the phrase, “Death Tax.”  He came up with the Republican playbook to defeat health care reform.  He’s the one on Fox News whenever there’s a dial poll.  I have never agreed with Frank Luntz…until now.  See, it is his belief that in order to achieve any meaningful climate change legislation, we need to stop talking about climate change.

Luntz suggests less talk of dying polar bears and more emphasis on how legislation will create jobs, make the planet healthier and decrease US dependence on foreign oil. Advocates should emphasize words like "cleaner," "healthier," and "safer";  scrap "green jobs" in favor of "American jobs," and ditch terms like "sustainability" and "carbon neutral" altogether. "It doesn't matter if there is or isn't climate change," he said. "It's still in America's best interest to develop new sources of energy that are clean, reliable, efficient and safe."

I couldn’t agree more.  I have argued several times that until you are able to make people see climate change in tangible terms, they will never get behind it.  Yeah, you can tell them that the polar ice caps are melting, and that New York will one day look like Atlantis, but until people actually see it, they will never believe it.  People do not think of climate change when it’s cold outside.  They certainly don’t think of it when it’s 73 and sunny.  People do understand their wallet and they do understand that they need jobs.  Saving the planet is just the icing.

Therefore, let’s stop talking about what could happen to the climate in the future and start talking about creating jobs and saving money.  Base needs are what regular folks understand.

Democrats Ruin My Week

If I’ve learned anything this week, I learned that a minority has 59 out of 100 votes.

I do not believe for a second that Democrats lost in Massachusetts because voters thought the country was going too far to the left.  This is a state that likes their public medicine.  They’re already more left than most of the country.  No, Democrats lost because the people that were “fired up” and “ready to go” in November 2008 were “cooled off” and “on their ass” in January 2010.  Frankly, those folks had good reason to stay home.  Watching the Democrats work is like watching the Three Stooges prepare a dinner party.

The most frustrating thing about all of this is the reaction to the loss.  Senator Evan Bayh, my senator, said that Congress has moved too far to the left and people don’t like it.  I’d really like to know what he’s talking about.  So would Steve Benen:

But I have a couple of follow-up questions for Bayh. First, when exactly did the furthest left elements of the Democratic Party start imposing their will on the rest of the country? I like to think I pay fairly close attention to current events, and I don't recall the furthest left elements of the Democratic Party calling the shots over the last year. Indeed, the furthest left elements of the Democratic Party tend to be livid at how little they've won, generating widespread frustrations at the party's base.

Second, what would Bayh recommend for the rest of the year? Not delivering on the platform Democrats promised voters? I can see the ads now: "Vote for me -- I abandoned my agenda, ignored my mandate, and ran for the hills at the first sign of trouble."

I would love nothing more to sack Evan Bayh in the next election.  Sadly, Rep. Mike Pence, also from Indiana, is talking about running against him.  So my choices will be between a right, moderate, Democrat or one of the more vocal nutters in the house.  It just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?

Look, the solution is painfully simple.  People voted in ‘08 because they wanted change.  More importantly, kids wanted change.  Think about it.  They were going off into a world that didn’t have much for them.  The economy had just tanked and nobody was hiring.  As the saying goes, they didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of.  They’d seen their friends go off to war and the future looked bleak.  It was painfully obvious how we got into this mess and they weren’t going to vote for the old guy.  No, they were going to vote for the young guy who promised a brighter future. 

Now, it’s one year later and we’ve got nothing but frustration.  The kids stayed home because their labor in ‘08 bears no fruit.  They’re frustrated.  I’m frustrated.  I’m demoralized.  We all watch helplessly as a minority brings this country to a grinding halt and a majority, acting like the clowns they are, lets it happen.  Yeah, the people of Massachusetts had good reason to stay home.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Supreme Court to Big Business USA - “Why Don’t You Guys Pick Government From Now On.”

Per the Associated Press, via MSNBC:

The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on their participation in federal campaigns.

By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for their own campaign ads.

In the immortal words of one Porky Pig:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Powerful Statement…Going Forward

I received the following email from a friend this morning and it nicely sums up how I, and I assume many like me, feel this morning.  I offer this in its entirety:

We Tried to Warn Obama...But He Wouldn't Listen

By Rabbi Michael Lerner January 19, 2010

The defeat of the Democrats choice to succeed Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate is being treated as though there is a decided shift of mass opinion to the Right in the U.S. But it is the Obama Administration, not the people who supported him in 2008, which moved to the Right--in the name of being pragmatists or realists-- in the process emptying their own agenda in regard to health care, environment, human rights, social and economic justice, and global peace of the critical elements that made those programs sound hopeful, and leaving many of their supporters feeling confused, disillusioned, and unable to rally around the politics that seemed so very far from "the change you can believe in" that we had been promised.

Thousands of us saw this coming, and tried to warn Obama, but he wouldn't listen.

On April 29, 2009, Tikkun and our education arm the Network of Spiritual Progressives bought the entire back page of a special supplement published in the Washington Post on the occasion of the 100th day of Obama's presidency. We warned him that his presidency was in grave danger. Our point was simple and direct: "Your success depends on helping people believe that they can count on each other, that they are not alone in a ruthless world in which people are out for themselves, and there is a possibility of building a society based on kindness, generosity, and caring for each other. Unless your programs actually allow people to feel in their own lives that they are part of build a new society based on love and generosity of spirit, they will soon fall back into the older paranoid view-that we are all competing with each other and have to look our first for number one. And that will likely them right back into the hands of the most conservative forces in this society. It's that simple, President Obama: if your policies do not give people a personal experience of caring and generosity, people will quickly succumb to the fearmongers who compete in the media over who can make people most afraid, most cynical, and most angry. "

Our add went on to tell President Obama that his supporters were beginning to feel mobilized because they cannot explain to themselves and others:

*Why you are bailing out the bankers and the Wall Street crowd rather than prioritizing the needs of people who have lost their jobs and homes

*Why you are not backing single payer (Medicare for Everyone) health reform but are instead preserving the interests of the health care profiteers and insurance companies that make our health care system so costly

*Why you are escalating the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, when you must know that these are no win situations, and when you have even agreed with Rabbi Michael Lerner that the best way to achieve "homeland security" is not by attempting to dominate others around the world in an insane "war on terrorism," but instead by a Strategy of Generosity manifested in the Network of Spiritual Progressives' proposal for a Global Marshal Plan introduced into the Congress by Congressman Keith Ellison

*Why you have failed to bring into your Administration more leaders of the peace, social justice, labor and environmental movements that gave you the critical support you needed to win the Democratic nomination for President.

Our conclusion: "If the people who made your presidency possible stop feeling excited about your present direction, the populist energies that could be mobilized for fundamental change will instead by mobilized by the Right for reactionary goals, and you may find yourself without the base of support you need even for your scaled down goals." And now our worst fears and prophetic predictions are coming true. [If you were one of the many members of the Network of Spiritual Progressives or subscribers to Tikkun who donated to make the ad we published possible, I want to thank you for your ability to see what was ahead--and your willingness to back your wisdom with the money we needed to publish that ad!]

But what could he have really done, many ask, given the way corporate interests seemed to have bought their way into power not only in the Republican party, but among Blue Dog Democrats in the House and Senate?

It's true that if Obama had fought for the kind of change he led his followers to believe would be possible, he might have lost. But winning legislative battles is not the highest goal, as FDR and Reagan, the two most influential 20th century presidents, learned. The most important thing a president can do is develop a worldview and convince the American public of that. Obama could have spoken the truth, told what he saw happening in Washington rather than trying to be a clever inside manipulator-a game that he was destined to lose. Any legislative victory won by compromising away the heart of what you are fighting for isn't worth much, and in any event, even good legislation can quickly be dismantled by the next president if you haven't won over the minds and hearts of the American people--and to do that you need to speak the truth and tell people what we are up against in the system of global capital and its ethos of materialism, selfisness, and looking-out-for-number-one, and what it would take to dismantle it and replace that system with a more humane and caring, environmentally sane and ethically and spiritually coherent society. And Obama could have constantly reminded his supporters that the 2008 election had shown that their yearning for a world of peace and justice, of love and caring and community and real solidarity and democracy, were not the private dreams of an isolated minority but the real needs of the American majority. By making us visible to each other, he would have empowered people to fight for programs that manifested their highest values (if and only if his programs did in fact manifest those values, which unfortunately they often did not).

Now it's up to us, the tens of millions of Americans who really showed in 2008 the powerful commitment we have to building a world of love, kindness, generosity, environmental sanity and caring for others. We have to reconstitute that movement without Obama's help, before the disillusionment with Obama's compromises leads to the resurgence of the Right's policies, the surge of a know-nothing Tea Party movement, and the retreat into despair and self-imposed powerlessness by all those who are questioning whether there's any real possibility of replacing corporate power, materialism and selfishness with a more ethically and spiritually grounded community of caring.

Please don't let your disappointment at Obama lead you or your friends into political passivity...because the alternative if you do that is Sarah Palin and The Tea Party extremists and the haters and fundamentalists, all of whom are now momentarily dressing themselves in the language of populism, but all of whom will actually only give even more power to the elites of wealth and power.

That's why it is so important for you to become part of our efforts to reconstitute the movement of hope--and we can do that with your help. We need your ideas and involvement--and so we've created two conferences, a one day event on the Monday of President's Day weekend, February 15, at the McLaren Hall on the campus of the University of San Francisco on Fulton St. near Clayton; and a longer event June 11-14 at the Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. The conferences are co-sponsored by The Nation Magazine, Yes Magazine, Democracy Now, Op-ed News, Peace Action, 350.org, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and speakers will include Chris Hedges, Bill McKibben, David Korten, Congressman Keith Ellison, Riane Eisler, Rev. Brian McLaren, Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, Peter Gabel, Rev. James Winkler, Rev. Conrad Braaten, Robert Thurman, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Rev. Gralan Hagler, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Jonathan Granoff, Marianne Williamson, Paul Wapner, John Dear SJ, John Nichols, Svi Shapiro, Bob McChesney, Rabbi Michael Lerner, and many more.

Please register for one of these conferences now at www.spiritualprogressives.org/article.php?story=2010conferences (to plan effectively, we need to know very soon if you'll be coming!) If you cannot come, please donate to make it possible for us to afford to create these events (the amount we are charging will not even come close to covering our expenses: donate on-line at www.tikkun.org or by sending a check to Tikkun, 2342 Shattuck Ave,#1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94704).

Please help us spread the word--and let us know if you and your friends, colleagues, community members, would like to help us organize a "Support Obama to BE the Obama Americans Thought they were Voting For" conference in your area of the country! Please read the information at our website--this is not about trashing Obama, but about reconstituting the movement that made his presidency happen, and then moving together to bring about the changes that tens of millions of Americans and billions of people around the world desperately need to have happen.

***************************************

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine www.tikkun.org and chair of The Network of Spiritual Progressives www.spiritualprogressives.org, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue in Berkeley California is organizing a national campaign to "Support Obama to BE the Obama Americans Thought They Were Voting For." More info at www.tikkun. He can be reached at www.tikkun.org or RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org Tikkun Magazine's phone number: 510 644 1200

web: www.tikkun.org

email: info@spiritualprogressives.org

Friday, January 15, 2010

What do Teabaggers and China Have in Common?

china-flag-wave One of the more interesting stories this week has been Google’s exit from China.  In short, Google, along with 20 other corporations, was allegedly attacked by hackers in China, who went after intellectual property and the Gmail accounts of human rights activists.  Google told China that they weren’t going to censor their searches anymore and China asked them to leave.  Google, knowing that this would be the end result, left.  Google’s attorney David Drummond explained in a statement that, “[t]hese attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered--combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web--have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China.”

Bravo for Google to take a stand like this.  They’re leaving a lot of eyeballs (and cash) behind.  Bravo for standing against censorship and the control of information.

Conversely, one group that’s all for controlling information are America’s Teabaggers!  Tea Party Nation will host a convention in February.  Those same people who claim to be fighting the supposed Government attack on freedom have no problem controlling the message:

Yesterday, Tea Party Nation announced the lucky few who'll be able to cover the festivities. It's quite a collection: Fox News, Breitbart.com, Townhall.com, the Wall Street Journal, and WorldNetDaily. That's one cable news network, one newspaper, and three websites, one of which (WND) publishes radical conspiracy theories on a daily basis.

That means that three websites and two “news” outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch are the only news outlets allowed to cover the event. 

Remember this.  These people are meeting to discuss strategies, ways to make America fit their definition of what they want America to be.  Their first indication of how they see America is to limit the information coming out of the event to five friendly outlets. 

You know who else limits information and only gives one side of the story to friendly outlets?  The Chinese government.  That’s who.

These people can never get in power.  Never.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Working on the Wrong Side of History

Medicare is a popular program.  If it wasn’t, it would have been gutted long ago.  If it wasn’t, individuals 65 an older wouldn’t have freaked out as much as they did last summer.  If they didn’t like it so much, threats of cuts to their benefits and talk of death panels wouldn’t have made a difference.  However, our elderly do care and, to them, it did make a difference.  And who was it that started all the scary talk?  Republicans.  The same people that fought “socialized medicine” when it was created and have tried to gut it ever since, were the same people championing Medicare as one of the greatest things the U.S. government has ever done.

Knowing how much older folks like their Government run health care benefits, it’s a safe bet that the rest of the country would like similar benefits too.  Yeah, I know that there are people in this country who think that any reforms to health care would be disastrous, even if they help them in the long run, like doing away with pre-existing condition denials. They can’t get past the “Government take-over” part, which is, in fact, completely false.  I mean, at this point, the public option is dead.  And, for those who don’t know, “public” means Government funded, as in Public School.  And since there won’t be any “public,” then there’s no need to worry about a Government take-over.

Health care reforms will pass.  The compromise will result in tougher regulations on the insurance industry, which, in theory, should benefit everybody.  In return, insurers will get millions of new customers who currently don’t have insurance.  I’m not crazy about an industry that deny coverage in the name of profit, but I see this arrangement as a start.  If you ask most folks, they’d be fine to know that they’re not going to lose their coverage due to a technicality.  Therefore, I don’t think this is such a bad deal for either the American people or the insurance industry.

Sadly, there are still those that disagree.

The Club for Growth, a major force in Republican primary politics, launched a new push today to gather candidates' signatures on a pledge to fight to repeal health care legislation, if it passes. The group says it just got its first two signatures, from Senator Jim DeMint and Rep. Jeff Flake.

The pledge: "I hereby pledge to the people of my state/district to sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010, and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government."

I’d really like to know who’s growth this club is for?  It certainly doesn’t care about America’s growth.  Otherwise, they’d be constructively working to help working people and small businesses get out from the crushing weight of health care costs.  They say they want to replace whatever is coming out of Congress with “real reforms,” which is a simple way of saying, “keep everything as-is.”

With time, this health care bill will become more popular, and people will want more benefits, which they will be willing to pay for.  Like Social Security, Medicare, and Civil Rights, these guys are on the wrong side of history.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Alright, Conservatives, Here’s the President you Requested

I’m so sick of all the conservative pundits complaining that our President didn’t react quick enough or forceful enough after that douche tried blow up a plane with his jock.  The truth is that yes, there’s a problem with how we gather and interpret intelligence.  Glenn Greenwald argued yesterday that by surveilling everything, there is too much information to effectively find the bad guys. 

That aside, as Gene Lyons wrote, do we really need to be afraid of al-Qaeda?  I mean, the guy tried, and failed, to set off his underwear.  This is the best they have.  Frankly, bomb shelters don’t really come to my mind.  Rather, I think SNL skits are more in order.

This, however, doesn’t jive with the chicken shits on the right.  Nope, the President didn’t come home fast enough.  He didn’t speak about it fast enough.  He doesn’t use scary words like “Terrorist” enough.  Blah, blah, blah.  I’m convinced that the only time these people are happy is when their adult diapers are full of fear.

That is why this clip via Air America is so incredible awesome.  Choke on this, yellow bellies!

Tea Bagging ‘10 – Beware, Liberal Trolls, or We’ll Point and Scream at You!!!

Remember that movie, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”?  The premise was that a parasitic alien life form comes to earth and begins to take over humans while they sleep.  Those who haven’t become hosts, are outed by the alien controlled folks who point and scream at the non-infected.  (CLIP/SPOILER WARNING: THIS IS THE END OF THE MOVIE)

I mention this because it seems that America’s Tea Baggers are acting exactly the same way:

Organizers behind the upcoming Tea Party Nation convention we wrote about this morning told members today that MSNBC's Rachel Maddow tried to join the group and "we banned her 7 minutes after she joined."

TPMDC, which also has signed up for the TPN mailing list, received an email to all members warning them that as the convention nears "we will in all likelihood be invaded by liberal trolls looking to disrupt the site." The subject line was "Liberal Troll Alert!"

"Tea Party Nation reserves the right to ban anyone for any reason we feel necessary to ensure the well being of the site and our members," the group writes in the email, which you can read in full after the jump and view here.

Purity above all else!  (Wasn’t there another group that believed in purity above all else?  I think there was something that took place in Europe, like in the 1930s and 40s. Just a thought.)

So, be on alert, liberals!  Be cool and don’t give them an excuse to point at you screaming “Liberal!!!”  Just walk mindlessly and follow the rest of the non-thinking zombies.  Make sure to get every issue wrong and backwards and you’ll be just fine.  If you do decide to speak up, make sure to speak up against your best interests in the name of freedom.  Be a corporate pawn and everything will be cool.  Be careful, because once they get things back to the way they like them, they’ll drag the rest of those pinko liberals to the Michele Bachmann Memorial Education Camp and exercise the unpatriotic liberal out of them!

Keep it up, idiots.

**UPDATE**

Rachel Maddow says it wasn’t her.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Resolution for the 10s – Let’s Find out What’s in This Stuff!!!

First, happy belated New Year to all!  I trust the year switched over with little to no incident, except for maybe one killer hangover.  To kick off a new year, and a new decade, I offer one major, new resolution.  My boy Talidan hipped me to a couple of articles that, at first, set my hair on fire.  While my head is still on fire, I’m not all that surprised. 

The first article can be found at The Raw Story, which tells of a 1976 law which allows chemical makers to keep their chemicals secret, only if it “could harm their bottom line.”  Ugh.

Of some 84,000 chemicals being used commercially in the United States, some 20 percent -- or 17,000 -- are kept secret not only from the public, but from medical professionals, state regulators and even emergency responders, according to a report at the Washington Post.

Because they are secret, it's impossible to tell how many of the 17,000 chemicals are potentially harmful to people. But the Post notes that, in March of last year, more than half of the "substantial risk" reports filed with the EPA involved secret chemicals.

The Washington Post story explains the original purpose:

The policy was designed 33 years ago to protect trade secrets in a highly competitive industry. But critics -- including the Obama administration -- say the secrecy has grown out of control, making it impossible for regulators to control potential dangers or for consumers to know which toxic substances they might be exposed to.

Fascinating.  Now that I think about it, I can hear my brain cells pop to a spectacular end right now!  Then, there was this little tidbit from the New York Times tossed my way regarding what they’re putting in our ground beef:

Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia.

Yeah, you read that right.  Ammonia.  Same shit that burns your eyes, stinks to the high heavens, and leaves your toilet sparkling is being put into our hamburger.  Of course, there’s more:

Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture endorsed the company’s ammonia treatment, and have said it destroys E. coli “to an undetectable level.” They decided it was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products.

With the U.S.D.A.’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.

But government and industry records obtained by The New York Times show that in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the U.S.D.A. about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays.

How stupid is this?  When do we as a nation stop allowing companies to profit at our expense.  Look, I’ve said it many times, I’m all for profit, but not at my family’s, my friends, or my neighbor’s well being!  How do we know that one of those 17,000 secret chemicals isn’t the cause of autism?  We don’t, and according to the law as it’s written, we never will.  How is it that the U.S.D.A., an organization that is supposed to protect our food supply, allow a company to inject ammonia into beef?!?  If there’s E. coli in the beef, throw it the fuck out!  In this case, I don’t care about how many tons of beef is saved or the meat packing industry’s profits!  It’s insane!

Therefore, for this decade, it’s time we demand to know exactly what’s in the stuff we use and eat and what it does to us.  If that means that Coke has to give up their secret formula, then give it up, Coke.  That’s probably ammonia too.

In the meantime, next time you have a Big Mac attack, think of your sparkling fixtures and then think of your insides.  Seeing as how we know nothing about those 17,000 chemicals, well, all I can do is wish the best.  Hell, for all I know, I’m probably typing on something that’s slowly melting my fingertips.