Saturday, January 30, 2010

Doubt, misunderstandings fester after State of the Union

Guest Perspective by Ralph Nader
The President's State of the Union Speech is the Big Speech of the year. Yet there is never an opportunity either for the press or the citizenry to promptly follow up with any questions or requests for clarifications. As a result, doubt and misunderstandings fester.

Watching President Obama's speech the other evening before a joint session of vociferous members of Congress, quiet Supreme Court Justices and military brass, I jotted down a few items for the White House to consider.

First, Mr. Obama cited the Senate's inaction four times in contrast to the House of Representatives. To add to his frustration, he cited the Republican leadership for insisting that "sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town." What he did not do was to urge his fellow Democrats to change the filibuster rule by a simple majority vote.

As a legal expert, Tom Geoghegan wrote to Senate majority leader Harry Reid (Dem. Nev) this week, "the Senate can act to change its rules, any rule, by majority vote, even a rule requiring a greater one." That means that the Democrats can change this rule with only 51 of their 59 votes in the Senate and get these bills passed.

Why President Obama did not tell tens of millions of Americans Wednesday evening about how to break the logjam, the gridlock on health insurance, energy, jobs, financial reform and other measures, that they dislike, is a question only he can answer. "Certainly Senate Rule 22 itself should be changed, so that there is ultimately a simple majority for a cloture limiting debate vote," according to Geoghegan.

Second, since dollars invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy have greater, safer, returns than money going into what Mr. Obama calls a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants and clean coal technologies, (which require heavy government subsidies), why did he accord the latter the same priority as the former?

Third, President Obama promised to double our exports over the next five years. This really raised eyebrows, leading New York Times reporter Helene Cooper to write that this highly ambitious goal would require him to persuade China to revalue its currency by 40 percent, "get global economic growth to outperform the salad days from 2003 to 2007 and lower taxes for American companies that do business abroad," plus "forget about strengthening the dollar." He left his own supporters wondering how he could perform this miracle and not forget his campaign promise to revise NAFTA.

Fourth, on health insurance reform, Mr. Obama said: "If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know." Well, Mr. President, try what you supported before you became a Presidential candidate--single payer, full Medicare for all, with free choice of doctor and hospital. Remember you did not allow single payer adherents to have a seat at the table, the way the CEO of Aetna did five times in the White House. (For more see

Fifth, you alluded as one reason for the multi-trillion dollar deficits you inherited from the Bush regime was "not paying for two wars." Well, you also are not pressing for a war tax to pay for your two wars, as Rep. David Obey (Dem. Wisc) urged you and other Democrats to do a few months ago. What is the difference and why?

Sixth, the President asserted the need to freeze government spending for three years, but excluded the well-documented, bloated, wasteful, redundant Pentagon budget. He also did not go after the huge corporate welfare budget of subsidies, handouts, giveaways and bailouts. Instead, he left many civic groups wondering what cuts might be coming for programs relating to food, auto, job and environmental safety.

Seventh, his brief words of foreign and military policy came across as Bush redux trying to show how tough he is. He compared notches on his belt in terms of the number of captured or slain "Al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates." He, of course, did not make any comparisons with the far greater number of innocent civilian causalities from drones and other bombings.

These were strange phrasings from a recent Nobel Peace Prize winner who managed to ignore completely the peace process for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There was not one sentence on, arguably, the core issue in that tumultuous region.

Eighth, on the Iraq war, he went over the top, declaring "make no mistake: this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home." Not really. Both Bush and Obama have concluded that 50,000 soldiers will remain in Iraq indefinitely, with many more in the Persian Gulf region.

American taxpayers will be paying nearly $800 million a year just to guard the U.S. Embassy and its personnel in Baghdad. That sum alone is greater than either the annual budgets of OSHA ($502 million to deal with 58,000 work related deaths in America) or NHTSA ($730 million to deal with over 40,000 road fatalities.)

I'm sending this column to the White House. You also may wish to send your observations to President Obama. Citizens should be more than spectators to the annual state of the union spectacle.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

BIA to hold Small Business Day Jan. 27

New Hampshire small business owners and managers can learn more about the state tax extension to include distributions from LLCs and partnerships at the Business and Industry Association's fifth annual Small Business Day at the State House from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 27 at the Holiday Inn, 172 North Main St.

A panel of opinion leaders, legislators and tax policy experts will address questions on the "LLC tax." Other highlights include a panel discussion with the state's top elected leaders and a N.H. SBDC workshop, "Recovery to Growth: Where are the opportunities?"

Participating on the state leadership panel are Senate President Sylvia Larsen, House Speaker Terie Norelli, Senate Republican Leader Peter Bragdon and House Republican Leader Sherm Packard. The panel will focus on top small business issues of 2010 and how state elected leaders will resolve them.

Gov. John Lynch was also invited to make welcoming remarks.

An extreme Supreme Court decision

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Yesterday's 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission shreds the fabric of our already weakened democracy by allowing corporations to more completely dominate our corrupted electoral process. It is outrageous that corporations already attempt to influence or bribe our political candidates through their political action committees (PACs), which solicit employees and shareholders for donations.

With this decision, corporations can now directly pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars. Without approval from their shareholders, corporations can reward or intimidate people running for office at the local, state, and national levels.

Much of this 183 page opinion requires readers to enter into a fantasy world and accept the twisted logic of Justice Kennedy, who delivered the opinion of the Court, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas. Imagine the majority saying the "Government may not suppress political speech based on the speaker's corporate identity."

Perhaps Justice Kennedy didn't hear that the financial sector invested more than $5 billion in political influence purchasing in Washington over the past decade, with as many as 3,000 lobbyists winning deregulation and other policy decisions that led directly to the current financial collapse, according to a 231-page report titled: "Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America" (See:

The Center for Responsive Politics reported that last year the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $144 million to influence Congress and state legislatures.

The Center also reported big lobbying expenditures by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) which spent $26 million in 2009. Drug companies like Pfizer, Amgen and Eli Lilly also poured tens of millions of dollars into federal lobbying in 2009. The health insurance industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) also spent several million lobbying Congress. No wonder Single Payer Health insurance - supported by the majority of people, doctors, and nurses - isn't moving in Congress.

Energy companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron are also big spenders. No wonder we have a national energy policy that is pro-fossil fuel and that does little to advance renewable energy (See: OpenSecrets.Org).

No wonder we have the best Congress money can buy.

I suppose Justice Kennedy thinks corporations that overwhelm members of Congress with campaign contributions need to have still more influence in the electoral arena. Spending millions to lobby Congress and making substantial PAC contributions just isn't enough for a majority of the Supreme Court. The dictate by the five activist Justices was too much for even Republican Senator John McCain, who commented that he was troubled by their "extreme naivete."

There is a glimmer of hope and a touch of reality in yesterday's Supreme Court decision. Unfortunately it is the powerful 90 page dissent in this case by Justice Stevens joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Stevens recognizes the power corporations wield in our political economy. Justice Stevens finds it "absurd to think that the First Amendment prohibits legislatures from taking into account the corporate identity of a sponsor of electoral advocacy." He flatly declares that, "The Court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation."

He notes that the, Framers of our Constitution "had little trouble distinguishing corporations from human beings, and when they constitutionalized the right to free speech in the First Amendment, it was the free speech of individual Americans that they had in mind." Right he is, for the words "corporation" or "company" do not exist in our Constitution.

Justice Stevens concludes his dissent as follows:

"At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics."

Indeed, this corporatist, anti-voter majority decision is so extreme that it should galvanize a grassroots effort to enact a simple Constitutional amendment to once and for all end corporate personhood and curtail the corrosive impact of big money on politics. It is time to prevent corporate campaign contributions from commercializing our elections and drowning out the voices and values of citizens and voters. It is way overdue to overthrow "King Corporation" and restore the sovereignty of "We the People"! Remember that corporations, chartered by the state, are our servants, not our masters.

Legislation sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative John Larson (D-CT) would encourage unlimited small-dollar donations from individuals and provide candidates with public funding in exchange for refusing corporate contributions or private contributions of more than $100.

It is also time for shareholder resolutions, company by company, directing the corporate boards of directors to pledge not to use company money to directly favor or oppose candidates for public office.

If you want to join the efforts to rollback the corporate concessions the Supreme Court made yesterday, visit Citizen.Org and

Friday, January 22, 2010

Radio Saturday

I'll be on The Samantha Clemens Show Saturday morning at a little past 10 a.m. We'll be talking about the U.S. Senate special election in Massachusetts and maybe some other things. Here's Sam's iten for the show:

Sam on the radio: Senator I’m Hot (so are my daughters) Brown???

Hope you'll be there for The Samantha Clemens Show this Saturday morning from 10 to 11 eastern on WWZN AM 1510, streaming at

This week:

Tony Schinella of will join us to talk about...
• Senate Race: What the hell happened????
• Electing by photos only! Now that corporations can spend as much as they want, let's just take the wind out of their sails and vote strictly by photo - turns out it's just as reliable as the entire election process. Let's GO FOR IT!
• Palin/Brown in 2012???
• and a report on the emerging Scott Brown birther movement....

And what about....
• Moral Hazard and Bankruptcies - if banks are walking away from their debt, and businesses are walking away from their debt, why shouldn't individuals walk away from their debt too? (and if they can't, then shouldn't we make the bankers pay too).
• The Know Nothings from the mid 1800s and our (lovable) Tea Partiers: You wouldn't believe the similarities!
• Avatar: Liberal Plot to convert our children to sin and degradation? Cynical "something for everyone" to get every single person on the planet to buy a ticket? Eye-rolling fairytale pandering to white men who always get to be (seem to need to be) the hero saving the savages and getting the girl.
Click here for links and more on the blog!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Greens: Brown victory about breakaway progressives not GOP surge

From the inbox:
With the surprise victory of Scott Brown over Martha Coakley in Tuesday's special U.S. Senate election, the conventional wisdom regarding the dominance of the Democratic Party in Obama-era Massachusetts has been shattered.
But in the scramble to understand what the voters said on Tuesday, a fundamental lesson is being missed. This was a revolt of progressives against a hijacked Democratic Party - not a sudden conversion of Ted Kennedy supporters to Republican ranks. The exit polls and the hard vote totals bear this out. Brown benefited from two very strong trends: First, a sizable number of Obama voters who were inspired by Obama's progressive message in 2008 were not motivated to go to the polls. Secondly, a large block of voters who were disgusted by Obama's acceptance of an industry-friendly health bill without a public option went to the polls and voted for Brown in protest.
Brown did a good job of motivating his smaller conservative base, but this alone would not have been enough. He would have lost in a landslide if the progressive voters had felt that Coakley was on their side.The real story of this election is the rejection of a party that has been hijacked by the special interests behind much of the crisis in health care as well as the Wall Street meltdown, home foreclosures, climate change, and the expanding war in Afghanistan. The emergence of this break-away, values-driven movement will change the face of politics in Massachusetts.
Brown benefited greatly when the election became a referendum on Obamacare.
Exit poll data following the special election showed that 42 percent of voters reported casting their ballots to help stop Obama's health plan from passing. But Brown's winning margin came not from opponents of reform - but from voters who felt that Obama was not going far enough. This was demonstrated in a poll taken by Research 2000 which showed that 18 percent of people who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, supported Scott Brown in the Senate race. Of that group an overwhelming majority - 82 percent - favored a public option health plan, while just 14 percent oppose it. Of those who stayed home, 86 percent support a public option, while just 7 percent oppose it.
Jill Stein, Green-Rainbow Party co-chairwoman, noted that without the public option voters, Brown would not have been elected. Interpreting Brown's victory as a mandate to weaken the health care bill misses the boat and is the opposite of what voters are saying. The Brown win is a directive to go back to the drawing boards to create a public-option, improved Medicare-for-all bill. The voters of Massachusetts should know. They are living with the budget-busting costs and inadequate coverage of the health care mandate on which the Obama proposal is based.
According to Green-Rainbow Party co-chairman Michael Horan, "The Brown/Coakley race dramatically revealed the flaws of a bipartisan electoral system that offers voters only a right-wing alternative to the administration in power. When voters are upset, their only options are to stay home or to vote for a Republican who really doesn't speak for their values."
In 2010, the Green-Rainbow Party is going to give those voters another choice. We are going to run candidates who stand firmly for the real solution to health care - a Medicare-like system that covers everyone. As evidence that the American people agree with the green position, Horan cited a New York Times/CBS News poll found that 72 percent of Americans "supported a government-administered insuranceplan - something like Medicare for those under 65 - that would compete for customers with private insurers."
Stein concluded, "This year, Green-Rainbow candidates will give progressives something to vote for: health care reform that takes care of people rather than pharmaceutical companies and insurance company lobbyists. People are resonating to this message. The pundits who think Massachusetts has lost its progressive vision should be prepared for another surprise."

Granny D responds to Supreme Court ruling

From the inbox:
January 21, 2010 statement from Doris “Granny D” Haddock in response to the Supreme Court’s decision today to kill campaign finance reform:

Ten years ago, I walked from California to Washington, D.C. to help gather support for campaign finance reform. I used the novelty of my age (I was 90), to garner attention to the fact that our democracy, for which so many people have given their lives, is being subverted to the needs of wealthy interests, and that we must do something about it. I talked to thousands of people and gave hundreds of speeches and interviews, and, in every section of the nation, I was deeply moved by how heartsick Americans are by the current state of our politics.

Well, we got some reform bills passed, but things seem worse now than ever. Our good government reform groups are trying to staunch the flow of special-interest money into our political campaigns, but they are mostly whistling in a wind that has become a gale force of corrupting cash. Conditions are so bad that people now assume that nothing useful can pass Congress due to the vote-buying power of powerful financial interests. The health care reform debacle is but the most recent example.

The Supreme Court, representing a radical fringe that does not share the despair of the grand majority of Americans, has today made things considerably worse by undoing the modest reforms I walked for and went to jail for, and that tens of thousands of other Americans fought very hard to see enacted. So now, thanks to this Court, corporations can fund their candidates without limits and they can run mudslinging campaigns against everyone else, right up to and including election day.

The Supreme Court now opens the floodgates to usher in a new tsunami of corporate money into politics. If we are to retain our democracy, we must go a new direction until a more reasonable Supreme Court is in place. I would propose a one-two punch of the following nature:

A few states have adopted programs where candidates who agree to not accept special-interest donations receive, instead, advertising funds from their state. The programs work, and I would guess that they save their states more money than they cost by reducing corruption. Moving these reforms in the states has been very slow and difficult, but we must keep at it.

But we also need a new approach––something of a roundhouse punch. I would like to propose a flanking move that will help such reforms move faster: We need to dramatically expand the definition of what constitutes an illegal conflict of interest in politics.

If your brother-in-law has a road paving company, it is clear that you, as an elected official, must not vote to give him a contract, as you have a conflict of interest. Do you have any less of an ethical conflict if you are voting for that contract not because he is a brother-in-law, but because he is a major donor to your campaign? Should you ethically vote on health issues if health companies fund a large chunk of your campaign? The success of your campaign, after all, determines your future career and financial condition. You have a conflict.

Let us say, through the enactment of new laws, that a politician can no longer take any action, or arrange any action by another official, if the action, in the opinion of that legislative body’s civil service ethics officer, would cause special gain to a major donor of that official’s campaign. The details of such a program will be daunting, but we need to figure them out and get them into law.

Remarkably, many better corporations have an ethical review process to prevent their executives from making political contributions to officials who decide issues critical to that corporation. Should corporations have a higher standard than the United States Congress? And many state governments have tighter standards, too. Should not Congress be the flagship of our ethical standards? Where is the leadership to make this happen this year?

This kind of reform should also be pushed in the 14 states where citizens have full power to place proposed statutes on the ballot and enact them into law. About 70% of voters would go for a ballot measure to “toughen our conflict of interest law,” I estimate. In the scramble that would follow, either free campaign advertising would be required as a condition of every community’s contract with cable providers (long overdue), or else there would be a mad dash for public campaign financing programs on the model of Maine, Arizona, and Connecticut. Maybe both things would happen, which would be good.

I urge the large reform organizations to consider this strategy. They have never listened to me in the past, but they also have not gotten the job done and need to come alive or now get out of the way.

And to the Supreme Court, you force us to defend our democracy––a democracy of people and not corporations––by going in breathtaking new directions. And so we shall.

Doris “Granny D” Haddock, Dublin, New Hampshire

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Granny D turns 100 ...

From the inbox:
She's 29 Years Young and Holding ........for 71 Years!
Defender of Truth, Justice and the American Way: Champion of Campaign Finance Reform, Public Funding of Elections and Voting Rights. Doris Granny D Haddock is 100 Years Old. The Coalition for Open Democracy cordially invites you to join in honoring her tireless efforts and in celebrating the

Thursday, January 28, 2010
Noon until 1:30 PM
In the Governor's Executive Council Chambers
at the New Hampshire State House
Concord, New Hampshire

Birthday cake and refreshments will be served. Questions? Call 603-352-8580 or 603-525-9492.

Monday, January 18, 2010

February 2010 Top 30 Chart

January 2010 Top 30 Chart

1.Passion Pit – Manners
2. The Lights Out – Color Machine
3. Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women – Your Secrets Are Mine Now
4. Pants Yell! – Received Pronunciation
5. Hallelujah the Hills – Colonial Drones
6. Dead Cats Dead Rats – Dead Cats Dead Rats
7. Mission of Burma – The Sound The Speed The Light
8. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
9. The Points North – I Saw Across the Sound
10. Arms and Sleepers – From the Inland Sea
11. Magic Magic – Magic Magic
12. Choo Choo La Rouge – I’ll Be Out All Night
13. Dear Leader – Stay Epic
14. Drug Rug – Paint the Fence Invisible
15. Freezepop – form activity motion EP
16. The Acro-brats – Hey Medusa
17. Cassavettes – Shake Down the Sun
18. Gary Higgins – Seconds
19. Junius – The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist
20. The Luxury – In The Wake Of What Won't Change
21. Reverse – Monkey Mind
22. South China – Washingtons
23. The Beatings – Late Season Kids
24. Tony the Bookie – The Tony the Bookie Orchestra
25. Wheat – White Ink, Black Ink
26. The Painted Lights – “Perfect Circle”
27. Tiny Fires – Tiny Fires
28. Bacchus King – 072209
29. The Bynars – Back From Outer Space
30. Brendan Boogie & the Best Intentions – The Sweet & the Brutal

Keeping an eye on privatization

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Whenever Frank Anderson speaks the way he did at a recent public forum in Washington, D.C. about "œessential state functions performed by businesses," people better listen. Mr. Anderson is the president of the Middle East Policy Council, but previously he was the chief of the Near East and South Asia Division of the CIA.

A discussion relayed over C-Span featuring Mr. Anderson, was among established scholars and policy wonks focused on national security in that tumultuous area of the world. Mr. Anderson was asked about Blackwater, the controversial corporation whose profits come from Pentagon and State Department contracts to provide security to U.S. government personnel in west and central Asia and to perform such secret operations that it could have an identity crisis with the CIA.

Blackwater has gotten in trouble for shooting up Iraqi civilians in unprovoked situations. The corporation's operatives are involved in sensitive missions, such as the recent double-agent suicide explosion in Afghanistan. Again and again, the line between corporate and governmental functions is not only blurred, it has ceased to exist.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL.) called Blackwater "a repeat offender endangering our mission repeatedly, endangering the lives of our military and costing the lives of innocent civilians." She asked why Blackwater is employed anywhere by the U.S. government.

Outsourcing national security activities, right down to interviewing job applicants for intelligence agencies, is troubling many retired and active members of the national defense and security agencies. Yet corporate contracting, launched big time by Ronald Reagan, seems unstoppable. There are more contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than there are U.S. soldiers. Over two hundred thousand of them and counting.

The rationale for these contracts is (1) greater efficiency, (2) greater talent and (3) more flexible personnel in and out whenever they are needed.

First, throw out the tax dollar savings argument. Mr. Anderson estimates that the costs are two to three times more when corporations do the work. Other estimates are higher, even when non-deliveries, contaminated food and drinking water, embezzlements and fraud that keep Pentagon auditors awake at night, are not included.

Government acquisition specialists accuse politicians of creating layers and layers of contractors with their massive, convoluted contracts dissipating accountabilities. It is a Kafkaesque nightmare of corporate statism. Of course, all this has led to a government brain and skill drain over to the corporate sector which pays so much more than government. A vicious cycle of incapacity and hollowing out sets in and allows the governmental departments to rationalize more outsourcing.

"No way that we should have allowed businessmen to perform essential state functions," said Mr. Anderson, especially, he added, in the areas of "intelligence and the application of violence."

At the same forum, Bruce Riefel, senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution and former CIA officer and specialist in Middle East Affairs, agreed with Mr. Anderson, bemoaning more and more layers of reviews and contracts.

Messrs Anderson and Riedel are not loners. Their views often reflect a larger circle of governmental professionals who have seen the wholesale stampede of contracting out government from DOD, CIA, AID, and NASA. The Congress is sort of looking into this mindlessness that is swelling deficits and escaping standards of public service and ethics. The prospects for change? Mr. Anderson said "fixing this would require revolutionary changes." That objective can only come from the proverbial people: aroused and determined. If that does not happen, what Franklin Delano Roosevelt called fascism in 1938 "that is corporate control of government" will tighten its very costly grip.

The corporate government mentality is not restricted to Washington, D.C. State governments are also outsourcing with similar though lesser waste, fraud and escape from accountabilities.

Just last week, Virginia's incoming governor, Robert F. McDonnell, announced that he will let his Cabinet secretaries have dual allegiances by serving on commercial corporate boards of directors. Virginia is one of the states that permits this in-built conflict of interest between duty to the citizens and loyalty to specific corporate profit.

So his new Secretary of Commerce and Trade, Robert Sledd, will continue to sit on three corporate boards. In his day job, Sledd is responsible for 13 agencies that regulate business policy, according to the Washington Post. On the side, he sits on the board of a tobacco company and a medical supplies business.

Down in Arizona, a new slide toward the pits is about to occur. Beset with a large state deficit, the state officials and their Governor refuse to end corporate welfare and corporate tax abatements and subsidies. Instead, get this, they have put “for sale” signs on Arizona's state buildings hoping to realize $735 million and then start paying the buyers rent!! (Breaking News--they've got a sale!)

Also up for sale, among other structures, go the legislative buildings, the Department of Public Safety, the prisons and the state Coliseum. Organizational psychiatrists and efficiency economists, please help us understand.

Wouldn't it have been better for the state legislators to just sell the back of their jackets to corporate advertisers? Then at least, there would be truth in advertising!

For a regular stream of news about privatization visit:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Two political radio bits this week ...

Sorry for the short notice but on Thursday, today, at 3:30 p.m. and Friday, tomorrow, from 3:15 to 3:30 p.m., I'll be doing short segments on "The Fairness Doctrine," a new radio program featuring Chuck Morse and Patrick O'Hefferman. The show can be heard on WNSH in Beverly and WDIS in Norfolk. It can be heard here online too:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hodes continues to stray ...

I have voted for Paul Hodes twice now. He lives up the road from me. I like the man and think he and his wife are quite talented. But, when I see headlines like this, I begin to wonder whether I will vote for the guy again: ["Hodes: I back Afghan buildup"].
The directive isn't supposed to be nation-building. It's supposed to be about bringing Osama bin Ladin to justice. Oh how our country has failed ...
War is a racket, as the saying goes. And these wars are rackets. The worst of the worst. Everyone knows it and only a fool follows other fools. As one commenter noted on the Monitor Web site, "Obama follows Bush, Hodes follows Obama. Sad." That pretty much says it all. It's disgraceful.

This story is so sad ...

I haven't really commented a lot on all the John Edwards affair stuff. As someone who voted for the guy and endorsed him as a newspaper editor in 2004 primary and almost in 2008 (he dropped out the morning we went to press so I had to pull the endorsement minutes before press time), I think it is all pretty sad.
And now, there is a young girl brought into the middle of all this mess too.
But, New York Magazine has a huge excerpt from a new book on the 2008 presidential campaign, and the stuff about Edwards is just too much to bear ... but you can't put it down either: ["Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster"].

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Schocking Mass. Senate poll: Brown leads Coakley!

This is absolutely shocking: ["Senate Race Competitive"].
I don't know if Republican Scott Brown will win. I still think Democrat Martha Coakley will pull it off - with the help of indie Joe Kennedy shaving off some libertarian votes from Brown. But if Coakley does lose, it will go down in history as one of the biggest losses in the history of American politics. It won't signal a huge shift in public policy or politics in Massachusetts. The state is still very liberal and Democrats, despite their ignorance and insolence on some issues, will fall in line. But it will be a historic loss.
Inside the poll, there are some interesting numbers. Forty-four percent were Democrats, 17 percent Republicans, and 39 percent independents or others. Fifty-four percent voted for Obama. Fifteen percent of those who voted for Obama were now planning to vote for Brown.

Dodd and Dorgan depart

Editor's note: Ralph is not the only one worried about the departing Sen. Byron Dorgan, one of the last true champions in the Senate for working folks. Unlike the supposed champion of working folks, the late-Sen. Kennedy, who promised labor to vote against GATT and then voted for it after labor went all out to save him against Mitt Romney, Dorgan never waivered. Seriously Sen. Dorgan, you might want to reconsider - there aren't many of your types left in the world ... Tony

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The retiring of veteran Democratic Senators, Christopher Dodd, age 65, of Connecticut and Byron Dorgan, age 67, of North Dakota, have some short and long term consequences for the Democratic Party and its members.

Senator Dodd's announcement that he was finished did not surprise me. He was going through difficult times with this health, the loss of his closest sibling, and his closest friend in the Senate -- Ted Kennedy -- and was not inclined to battle through an uphill fight for re-election. 2010 is, arguably, the most important legislative year of his career for financial and health insurance reforms.

Mr. Dodd should be comforted because it is very likely he will be succeeded by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who leads the polls and is expected to win handily. Mr. Blumenthal will find a great opportunity to use his enforcement experience as a leading consumer advocate in the Senate against corporate wrongdoing.

Senator Joseph Lieberman -- the political hermaphrodite of national politics -- is probably elated. Blumenthal detests Lieberman's politics and unctuous self-righteousness and was ready to unseat him in 2012. Once again, Lieberman finds four leaf clovers -- first when he was the 50th Democratic vote in the Senate, then the 60th vote in the Senate -- in order to push the Democratic Party to the right, and now having lost a formidable contender in 2012.

For Senator Dodd, the question is whether, now freed from his Wall Street fundraising, he can blossom as a tough legislative advocate for consumers and investors in the major bill to regulate Wall Street that is now in the Senate Banking Committee where he is the Chairman and the most powerful force.

As a lame duck, all his expertise and determination will have to be used to avoid his colleagues taking advantage of his announced retirement.

The prairie populist from North Dakota, Senator Byron Dorgan leaves after 30 years in the House and Senate. He will leave a big hole that will be all the larger with his replacement expected to be the incumbent Republican Governor John Hoeven. Dorgan was an authentic American populist. As a child, his parents would take him to the rallies of the tough anti-corporate farmers who remembered the Non-Partisan League tradition of fundamental landed populism.

As North Dakota's tax commissioner, he blazed the way to challenge multinational corporations what were using evasive tactics to escape state taxation.

In the Senate, eleven years ago, he led a handful of prophetic Senators in a losing battle to preserve the successful Glass-Steagall Act, which kept commercial banking separate from investment banking. Clinton, the big bankers and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin got their way and the economy proceeded to lose its way in an orgy of disastrous speculation fueled with other peoples' money.

With his feet always on the ground, with the working people, Dorgan never bought into the empirically starved theory of "free trade" used to export jobs and industries to countries run by fascist and Communist dictators who know how to keep their workers in their place. His criticism of the Federal Reserve was informed and relentless, as were his warnings of the growing media monopoly in fewer and fewer hands.

So needed, why did he decide to quit? In his words, he wanted to write a couple of books, teach a little and do some work in the energy field "in the private sector." The latter raises some worries among his closest friends.

As one who has known Senator Dorgan for years, I suspect there was another reason in the mix. He wants to get changes made, which he believes are supported by most Americans. He has waited a long time for the Democrats to take control of the Congress and the White House. That has happened and little has changed.

Late last year, during the Senate debate on health insurance, Dorgan proposed and eloquently explained an amendment to reduce drug prices -- the highest in the world -- by allowing so-call drug reimportation from countries such as Canada under regulatory safeguards.

He expected Obama's active support since Mr. Obama promised to press for this needed competition in his presidential campaign. He figured wrong. The White House used none of its capital to get the few extra votes needed. For Mr. Obama had already cut a deal privately with the drug company chieftains.

That may have been the last straw for Senator Dorgan. He is not the only progressive Democrat in the Congress who is saying, "What does President Obama really stand for?"

I would like to see a petition signed by dozens of national civic, labor and farm groups urging Senator Dorgan to reconsider his decision and go for one more six-year term.

Otherwise another lifeline for the people in Congress is snapped. That inside voice of justice has got to be worth saving, even if two books and a little teaching are deferred.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Scott Brown's great tax ad

I haven't written much about the U.S. Senate special election in Mass. lately mostly because I have been busy and haven't had a lot of time. And, frankly, I don't have that much interest in it either. I haven't even had the chance to watch any of the debates yet! Jeez, what kind of politico am I?
Anyhow, I will say this, the above ad by Republican candidate Scott Brown is simply brilliant. It is the perfect political ad. There was an unprecedented amount of economic growth after taxes were cut in the 1960s not unlike defense spending cuts after World War II. Unfortunately, the growth wasn't sustained during the 1970s because globalism, the energy crisis, and the debt from the Vietnam debacle started to kick in ... (sound familiar?)
And using the image of JFK is pretty strategic, especially with those swing voters looking for "change."
Personally, I don't know if taxes need to be cut; but they certainly don't need to be increased, especially on folks making less than $100,000 a year. At the same time, when you see the historical data on tax rates and see that folks in the upper income brackets used to pay 75 or even 91 percent, it really makes you wonder. Ideally though, I think user fee idea, like the stock transaction tax, tariffs, and very small carbon taxes, are a better way to tax than income or retail sales taxes.
However, will this ad help Brown? I don't know. His chances are slim as it is. And, seeing his campaign schedule each and every day, I can tell you that he is campaigning lazily. Any serious Senate candidate with only one or two events a day is not really trying to win. But, the end result, I still believe, will depend on how many senior center votes indie Joe Kennedy manages to take away from Coakley. In just a few weeks, we'll see what happens.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Happy New Year everyone! Best to you and yours ... and let's hope 2010 is a lot better than 2009.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Liberals (finally) wake up to Obama

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
Those long-hoping, long-enduring members of the liberal intelligentsia are starting to break away from the least-worst mindset that muted their criticisms of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign.

They still believe that the President is far better than his Republican counterpart would have been. Some still believe that sometime, somewhere, Obama will show his liberal stripes. But they no longer believe they should stay loyally silent in the face of the escalating war in Afghanistan, the near collapse of key provisions in the health insurance legislation, the likely anemic financial regulation bill, or the obeisance to the bailed out Wall Street gamblers. Remember this Administration more easily embraces bonuses for fat cats than adequate investment in public jobs.
Of all the loyalists, among the first to stray was Bob Herbert, columnist for The New York Times. He wondered about his friends telling him that Obama treats their causes and them “as if they have nowhere to go.” Then there was the stalwart Obamaist, the brainy Gary Wills, who broke with Obama over Afghanistan in a stern essay of admonition.

If you read the biweekly compilation of progressive and liberal columnists and pundits in The Progressive Populist, one of my favorite publications, the velvet verbal gloves are coming off.

Jim Hightower writes that "Obama is sinking us into Absurdistan." He bewails: "I had hoped Obama might be a more forceful leader who would reject the same old interventionist mindset of those who profit from permanent war. But his newly announced Afghan policy shows he is not that leader."

Wonder where good ol' Jim got that impression, certainly not from anything Obama said or did not say in 2008. But hope dims the memory of the awful truth which is that Obama signed on to the Wall Street and military-industrial complex from the getgo. He got their message and is going after their campaign contributions and advisors big time!

Norman Solomon, expressed his sharp deviation from his long-time admiration of the politician from Chicago. He writes: "President Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize while delivering to the world as it is a pro-war speech. The context instantly turned the speech's insights into flackery for more war." Strong words indeed!

Arianna Huffington has broken in installments. But her disillusionment is expanding. She writes: "Obama isn't distancing himself from 'the Left' with his decision to escalate this deepening disaster [in Afghanistan]. He's distancing himself from the national interests of the country."

John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine, was never an Obama fan and has been upset with what he calls "the liberal adoration of Obama." In a piece for the Providence Journal, he cites some writers still loyal to Obama, such as Frank Rich of The New York Times, Hendrick Hertzberg of The New Yorker, and Tom Hayden, who are showing mild discomfort in the midst of retained hope over Obama's coming months. They have not yet cut their ties to the masterspeaker of "Hope and Change."

Gary Wills has crossed his Rubicon, calling Obama's Afghanistan escalation "a betrayal." Wills is a scholar of both the Presidency and of political oratory (his small book on Lincoln's Gettysburg address is a classic interpretation). So he uses words carefully, to wit: "If we had wanted Bush's wars, and contractors, and corruption, we could have voted for John McCain. At least we would have seen our foe facing us, not felt him at our back, as now we do."

Rest assured the liberal-progressive commentariat has another two years to engage in challenge and chagrin. For in 2012, silence will mute their criticisms as the stark choices of the two-party tyranny come into view and incarcerate their minds into the least-worst voting syndrome (just as they have done in recent Presidential election years).

It is hard to accord them any moral breaking point under such self-imposed censorship. Not much leverage in that approach, is there?