Saturday, May 29, 2010

Re-open the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
When the Republican Gingrich devolution took over Congress in 1995, it stripped the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) of all its funding and left it a shell with no experts to advise committees and members of Congress.

Whereupon Congress was plunged into a dark age regarding decisions about trillions of national security, offshore oil drilling, transportation, energy, health, computer, biotech, nanotechnology and many other executive branch programs in science and technology.

Confronted with partisan vested interests by federal departments and their corporate lobbies, Congress could not get objective, unbiased reports and testimony from the OTA. For a budget of $20 million a year, OTA ground out over 700 peer reviewed sound reports and many more Congressional testimonies by its staff between 1972 and 1995. Last year Congress had an overall budget for itself of $3.2 billion.

Representative Amo Houghton (R-NY) commented at the time of OTA’s demise that “we are cutting off one of the most important arms of Congress when we cut off unbiased knowledge about science and technology.”

Now, Rush Holt (D-NJ) backed by leading scientists and about 100 citizen, technical and academic groups, organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), is urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to permit a modest restart of the OTA. As noted above, OTA was never abolished, just defunded.

Speaker Pelosi has been resisting, even though this tiny office can provide members of Congress with the technical assessments that could easily save billions of dollars a year. Apparently, she believes that the Republicans will accuse her of empire building, though the OTA is run by an evenly appointed Democratic-Republican Board of Congressional Overseers.

Without the OTA, commercially driven or otherwise wild claims are made for and against Congressionally funded programs.

The UCS ( gives many examples of where OTA saved huge amounts of taxpayer money and improved the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people as well. OTA reports, by responding to requests by members of Congress, analyzed what technologies worked or did not work.

After OTA was defunded, the UCS asserts, “the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spent three years pushing for a costly radiation detection system for smuggled nuclear material that did not work as promised, while neglecting to upgrade existing equipment that could have improved security.” Billions of dollars were wasted.

Were it operating today, OTA reports and testimony might question DHS’s installation of whole body back scatter x-ray airport security scanners. Scientific experts are urging independent testing for effectiveness and safety for exposed passengers (see

On other fronts, Congress is buckling to corporate lobbies and requiring taxpayer guarantees for nuclear power plants that are not nearly as cost effective as energy efficiency and renewables without the perils of atomic power and its unstored radioactive wastes.

The $9 billion a year missile defense project has been condemned as unworkable by the mainstream American Physical Society but the military corporations that receive these boondoggle contracts get it funded year after year.

The risks of nanotechnology, biotechnology and numerous medical devices continue to be unassessed, thereby allowing Congressional advocates to tout benefits and ignore costs.

Congress spends billions of dollars a year on technologies driven by commercial partisan interests, whether from government departments, corporate interests or campaign cash. Congress also ignores promising technologies. Decades of little or no solar energy research and development funding, and billions of dollars into atomic, coal and other fossil fuels, directly or indirectly through tax breaks, have cost Americans in their pocketbooks and in the air and water they breath and drink.

In 1985, OTA issued a report cautioning about the lack of preparedness and knowledge regarding potentially “catastrophic oil spills from offshore operations.” OTA could not follow up on this report, as the oil companies went into deeper seas, because it was silenced in 1995. Clearly, the Minerals Management Service of the Interior Department—a sleazy, wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Oil—was not going to advise Congress truthfully.

Through its impartial assessment capability, OTA could have alerted Congress to defective body armor that unscrupulous companies sold to the Army.

Congress needs an independent, impartial, no-axe-to-grind technical adviser under its own roof and responsive to the unique and timely needs of members of Congress and Congressional committees. Imagine, for example, the computer procurement waste that could have been prevented.

Jimmy Tingle, a Harvard graduate?

Yup, looks like it:

Ayotte has 9% lead in GOP primary

And Romney has a solid lead for 2012: ["Ayotte Has Single Digit Lead for GOP Nomination"].

Sunday, May 23, 2010

June 2010 Top 30 Noise Chart

Reporting: 13 different radio stations and Internet programs around New England:

1. John Shade – All You Love is Need
2. Magic Magic – Magic Magic
3. Hooray for Earth – Momo EP
4. Deer Tick – The Black Dirt Sessions
5. Ketman – Ketman A Go-Go
6. Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women – Your Secrets Are Mine Now
7. Forest Fires – Hark! ~ and other lost transmissions,
8. Happy Birthday – Happy Birthday
9. The Motion Sick – “Doomsday Devices”
10. Cotton Candy – Top Notch & First Rate
11. Hallelujah the Hills – Colonial Drones
12. Spirit Kid – Spirit Kid
13. Corin Ashley & The Chocolate Olivers – The Abbey Road Session
14. Whistle Jacket – Compliment
15. Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents – Keeping Time
16. Monique Oritz – When The Pigeon Flies
17. Guillermo Sexo – Vivid Nights
18. Gene Dante & The Future Starlets – “The Love Letter Is Dead”
19. Pants Yell! – Received Pronunciation
20. Sodafrog – Hang the Moon
21. Dear Leader – Stay Epic
22. Symbion Project – Misery In Soliloquy
23. The Everyday Visuals – The Everyday Visuals
24. Tony the Bookie – Tony the Bookie Orchestra
25. Yes Giantess – Yes Giantess
26. Mean Creek – “Liar Thief”
27. The Appreciation Post – Work/Sleep EP
28. Mascara – Fountain of Tears
29. Three Day Threshold – Straight Out of the Barrel
30. You, Lion – End It on the Bridge EP

To-do lists don't get done ...

Another interesting press release I got at work ... This one is no surprise at all:

To-Do Lists Don’t Get Done

Portsmouth, NH (May 17, 2010)-While most senior executives and managers keep a list of things to do every day, none of them complete everything on the list by the end of the work day.

Ninety-three percent of business leaders keep a list of things to do each day and 50 percent say they have between 1-10 items on that list. None of them complete the whole list by day’s end.

The majority (51%) finish 50 percent or less of their list each day, according to a recent survey by NFI Research.

“It shows that in today’s business environment, executives and managers have such busy schedules,” says Chuck Martin, CEO of NFI Research and author of Work Your Strengths. “It’s hard for them to complete all that they set out to do.”

Those in small companies (500 or fewer employees) and large companies (10,000 or more employees) have a similar number of tasks on their daily lists. However, eight percent of those in small companies do not create a list while everyone in large companies makes one.

“Interruptions, which are of course a part of my position, are the major challenge to my daily productivity,” says one of the 148 business leader respondents.

NFI Research surveys senior executives and managers globally every two weeks. It has chronicled the transformation of business and countless workplace issues for more than nine years. NFI's Chairman and CEO Chuck Martin is a best-selling author of eight business books and frequently presents NFI's findings to businesses. Martin also teaches at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire, where he teaches Marketing Research and Social Media in Marketing.

Chuck Martin’s latest book, "Work Your Strengths," is being published by AMACOM/American Management Association.

No Time for Consumer Power

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
In the end, late on Thursday’s Senate passage of the financial regulation bill, the Senate had no time for independent, non-government consumer power. In the end, after listening to swarms of corporate bank, brokerage, hedge fund, private equity, and insurance lobbyists, the Senate had no time for Senator Chuck Schumer’s amendment to create a non-profit Financial Consumers Association (FCA, SA 3772).

In the end, this massive 1500 page bill shifted very little power directly to shareholders and consumers of financial services (meaning just about everyone) either to better use the courts and to organize nationwide to counteract the lobbying muscle of the financial goliaths ready to turn the new regulators into procrastinatory putty.

The FCA proposal (see, which Senator Schumer had backed in 1985 when he was dealing with the savings and loan scandal, did not receive the time of day. It would have required the companies to place an invitation to their customers in their mailing and electronic communications (bank statements, bills etc.) inviting consumers to voluntarily join and pay dues to build a powerful consumer lobby to countervail what Thomas Jefferson once called the “monied interests.”

After all, the criminal, reckless, self-enriching collapse of the economy by the Wall Streeters—the millions of lost jobs, the trillions of dollars in lost pensions and savings—Main Streeters deserved some reciprocal gesture for all the Americans who were forced, as taxpayers, savers and workers to bailout the crooks and ultimately pay the costs of this financial disaster.

In the end, the Senate, like the House of Representatives, told their consumers—their voters—to get lost. There was no room for a Financial Consumers Association in the 1500 pages.

The FCA is crucial to assure that many of the other parts of this bill are enforced. For very little in this legislation includes outright prohibitions. Rather the Senate, like the House, delegates the authority, within a broad range of discretion, to a variety of existing agencies, and a new consumer financial protection agency nesting allegedly independently inside the big bankers’ Federal Reserve.

There are so many complex reviews and procedural obstacles for these agencies that the corporate lawyers will collect enough fees to spoil their great-grandchildren. “Paralysis by analysis” is what consumer groups call such legislation. I call them no-law laws—mired in pits of quicksand that mock everything but eternity.

Without an FCA, with millions of members, and hundreds of investigators, organizers, lawyers, economists, accountants and publicists, the good people inside government will lack powerful, knowledgeable public champions to counter industry abuses.

The bill that passed both Houses does not explicitly ban totally speculative derivatives, does not ban banks and other firms above a certain size (where they again become too big to fail), does not declare that the shareholder-owners must have the authority to control their own companies, does not ban companies that mix trading for their own account with other people’s money backed by federal insurance. It does not circumscribe the enormous power of the Federal Reserve, short of a one-time Congressional audit, even after all the Congressional bellowing about the Fed’s derelictions and looking the other way while Wall Street robbed the American people.

Many of the major consumer groups supported the creation of a Financial Consumer Association. Their guarded support of the Senate-passed S.3217 came with the caution that this is an important first step and one that at least recognizes many frauds and rip-offs that still must be curbed.

Yet whether their hopes are even modestly realized will be determined more by how the corporate lawyers wired the bill with many ways to tie up the regulatory processes ad infinitum than anything an unorganized public can demand.

In one major respect, the big bank lobby lost one. They could not stop the creation of a consumer financial protection bureau. But without an FCA, the Bureau will too often find itself with one hand clapping.

However, if that one hand is that of Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, the odds on favorite to run the Bureau, there will be instances when the big boys on Wall Street will have to face the music.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Run it's Godzilla!"

Tuned into the Sox at Phillies game. Daisuke is pitching and when he came up to bat, my wife said she saw a sign saying "Run it's Godzilla!" Hilarious.

This is the car ...

I meant to write about this last year, when I saw the picture. But it's been sitting on my desktop now for months and ... well ...

It's the VW L1 concept car. It's a two-seater, built kinda like a airplane cockpit. It will have a top speed of around 75 mph and supposedly get 200 mpg! Bring it on already.

Funny graphic

I saw this a while back and forgot to post it ...

Polling by Gov. Lynch to my cell phone

A polling firm supposedly doing data gathering for Gov. John Lynch called my cell phone earlier today (it was a private number, so I can't look up the number to find out about the polling firm). It's the first time I have received such a call on the cell. I spent about 20 minutes talking to the kid, rating various things, and listening to test messages that the governor (or his campaign) are considering.
A few thoughts about the polling: First, the governor is going to rely on previous messages he has used - helping small biz, keeping taxes low, being a leader, etc. He also seems to be considering bringing up some of his previous private sector background, even though he hasn't worked in the private sector for what, eight years or so? In addition, Lynch only seems to be taking one Republican candidate seriously - John Stephen - since none of the other candidates, like Karen Testerman, was even mentioned in the questioning.
The campaign is also testing reactions to possible negative messages used by the Stephen campaign and talking points to attack Stephen, if things get ugly. I found some of the points against Stephen interesting, including whether or not Stephen is truly an outsider, since he has worked for various government entities for more than 20 years. Another issue that may get raised is Stephen's consulting business, in which he reportedly is advising government leaders in South Carolina to raise taxes (I don't know if this is true or what they were even talking about here. I know Stephen was involved in some situation with health care in Kentucky that a friend of mine mentioned to me years ago).
It's not even June yet, so it's a good time to be testing messages, it would seem. However, I wonder if Gov. Lynch is really that worried about re-election. If his strongest opponent is Stephen, he's probably a shoo-in.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Great political ad ...

Via Political Wire ... this is pretty good ... I love the not-so-subtle presence of the rifle ... yee haw!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Did North Korea torpedo Deepwater Horizon oil rig?

These guys seem to think so: ["US Orders Blackout Over North Korean Torpedoing Of Gulf Of Mexico Oil Rig"].

Comcast: Change the name, raise the rates

Crossposted at
Finally got a chance to look at the bills this afternoon. Noticed a $7 increase in the Comcast bill. Hmmm, what's this?
Well, it looks like Internet went up $2 per month. The TV side went up $5.01.
I had to go back to April's bill to look up why this was happening.
The HD cable box charge increased by $0.95 per month. If anything, the more people get HD sets, the more the price should go down. In fact, why are we being charged a surcharge for the HD box again? Basic service went up $3. Digital Classic also went up $3 (we have this for the kids programs and other things). Comcast also warned subscribers that Digital Classic will no longer be available for new subscribers. Hmm ...
Standard cable, something we don't have, went up $2.45 per month. Everything else seems to have stayed the same. Expanded basic service, something we don't have, was reduced by $0.50.
Interestingly, two items I don't use - Digital video recorder, recorder service - were also reduced. The "Digital Additional Outlet Service Charge" was increased by $1.
The letter from Comcast stated that the increases were due to "programming and other business costs." But looking at this, one has to really wonder.
Comcast recently started dubbing its services "XFINITY" ... whatever that means. It looks like it means higher rates and a name change. Big deal. Maybe if they spent less money on commercials, the bill wouldn't have to be so high.

More complaints
In looking at Basic Service, one has to wonder what is going on.
First, there are three free "multicultural" channels, specifically, three Spanish channels. Are these really necessary in New Hampshire, where there are few Spanish people?
Second, New England Cable News' HD channel is not on the Basic lineup (the non-HD version is). One has to wonder why we have to pay a surcharge to view this in HD.
Third, still no C-Span or C-Span II in the free service or the Digital Classic. This seems stupid since these channels are free. I have tried to get answers on this in the past and have not received them. I guess I'll be waiting even longer for an answer.
In many ways, these are small complaints. But the $7 increase is a bit much. If anything, the cost of business is dropping, not increasing. We should be seeing decreases in bills, not increases. And, with no competition in Concord, I guess we'll just have to live with it, unfortunately.

Cool press releases I get ...

Sometimes at work, I get press releases that have nothing to do with my job. A lot of times, these press releases show off something cool.
Earlier this week, I received a press release from this company called BluHomes: ["BluHomes"]. The company manufactures prefab "green" homes, in all kinds of very interesting designs. And prices aren't that bad either. In addition, they don't look like the "normal" prefab house. That is, this isn't a Kid Rock double-wide.
The problem, of course, is where to get the land, which is getting more and more expensive and hard to find. An empty nester home starting at $64K to $125K isn't bad ... until you realize what a lot is going for these days (never mind the property taxes in some New England areas after you make plans to build the house ...). However, BluHomes has it all kinda planned out for folks, and has the payment structure and planning spread out over a year. Having said all that, this company seems to be worth a look.

I have been tracking alternative housing options for about 9 years, since I learned about this guy in Belmont, Mass., building an alternative duplex on a very small site. The home was designed and built in Sweden and then the pieces came over and were plopped together over a period of three days (I will try and find the text of the story at a later date). One of the duplexes had this huge master bedroom loft and the walls were built in such a way to allow air to flow between them, to keep mold from becoming a problem.
I've also been investigating alternative energy for about the same time, since learning about a guy in Belmont who had a two-family with a solar panel to heat hot water for both apartments. I believe the payoff date was eight years, at the time of the story. Meaning, in the ninth year, hot water would be free for the next 20-plus years. Now, with all the incentives, alternative energy is a bit more affordable if you have the start-up costs (I was at a home show recently where they were promoting $20K windmills with a big chunk of the money coming from state and federal grants. If you have a big electric bill, do the math. It almost pays for itself).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wrong way road map ...

Steve Pearlstein of the Washington Post has a column, via the Concord Monitor, of how to "fix" the fiscal crisis: ["Here's my roadmap toward fiscal sanity"].
I posted some reaction myself and realized, after typing it all, it would make a nice blog post ...

The problem with this is that there is no guarantee that the VAT won't stay at 6%. As Congress has been known to do, even when Republicans control it, taxes can be inched up or noodled around with ... loopholes and exemptions are created ... and the next thing you know, ordinary folks are paying the freight and those with lobbyists or tax shelters aren't.

In addition, most families of four making under $50K don't pay taxes federal income taxes now - or very little. The VAT would increase their taxes to 6% of whatever they spent money on that was under the VAT. This amounts to an increase in taxes for poor and lower-middle-class folks, even with the so-called "rebates," and a decrease in buying power for the sector of the economy that is the most in need of buying power. Of course, families of four making under $50K sometimes pay a lot in income taxes, especially if someone in the family is self-employed I know, 'cause that's our situation). In this case, the taxes are much higher since this person is paying both the corporate and personal taxes. Essentially, our family is penalized for making the sacrifice of having one parent work part-time to raise our children and not put them in day care (if we put them in day care, we'd get a tax break, amazing, isn't it?).

The VAT also doesn't address the increase in the cost of living it will bring on in the wake of its creation. This increase will filter throughout the economy. It will increase costs and inflation. Since 70% of our economy is based on retail spending, this could hurt the "recovery." The VAT also doesn't address the issue of what is a fair or what isn't. Should the VAT on yachts be equal to the VAT on Scotch tape or some other "necessity"? If you increase the VAT on yachts, like they did many years ago when they put a federal surcharge on yacht sales, the sales dropped and lots of boat workers were put out of work. The reshaping of the corporate income tax rate is also a sham. Most corporations don't pay anywhere near 35% now. Moving it down does nothing. They have all kinds of loopholes to keep from paying the taxes. In addition, even if they did pay them, corporations just pass those taxes off to consumers as the cost of doing business.

Ideally, it would be better to raise tariffs instead of a VAT.

Raising tariffs has two benefits: 1) It raises revenues that are badly needed; 2) It allows domestic manufacturers, who often if not always pay minimum wage or more, to compete with foreign manufacturers who are paying pennies an hour for labor. No. 2, in turn, will increase domestic investment and job creation, which also has benefits to our local and national economies.

Of course, we won't see a tariff increase because the free trade cultists have control of the national media, academia, think tanks, and government. They will control the argument and continue to promote foolish ideas like this one instead of having a real discussion about what the United States should be doing about its economy.

Another tax that should be considered instead of a VAT: A Wall Street transaction tax.

This tax, essentially a very, very tiny sales tax on transactions, would raise hundreds of billions of dollars, from global citizens and entities in economic sectors that can most afford to pay taxes - those people and entities that are doing nothing but flip money around.

Of course, we won't see a Wall Street transaction tax because that would be too easy to do and Washington is occupied territory.

Getting to Know Elena Kagan

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader

Given the Niagara of commentary on the nomination of Elena Kagan to become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, we know very little about the nominee. For friend and critic alike, the predominant view of Ms. Kagan is that she has publically uttered or written remarkably little of her own views on any subject that directly or remotely relates to her forthcoming position.

As a law school graduate, brief stint as a practitioner, special assistant on domestic policy to President Clinton, professor of Law and Dean of Harvard Law School, Elena Kagan has been unusually circumspect, despite her lively tenure as editor of the Daily Princetonian while an undergraduate in Tigertown.

Here is how a colleague of equal rank in the Clinton White House describes many group meetings there on important matters: "She never said much, was very pleasant, smiled a lot, the type of person who rises by not giving offense. She almost never engaged in give or take at the often spirited meetings. Her opinions weren't known. But she is what she is which is exactly what President Obama wants."

The problem for Ms. Kagan is that there was one occasion where she was wonderfully outspoken – her long review of Professor Stephan L. Carter's book “The Confirmation Mess" in the University of Chicago Law Review during the Spring of 1995. Taking Professor Carter sharply to task she comes out as a full-throated champion of confirmation hearings that deal with "substantive issues," adding that the “Senate ought to view the hearings as an opportunity to gain knowledge and promote public understanding of what the nominee believes the Court should do and how she would affect its conduct.”

Continuing, Ms. Kagan asserts that “[O]pen exploration of the nominee’s substantive views, ... enables senators and their constituents to engage in a focused discussion of constitutional values, to ascertain the values held by the nominee, and to evaluate whether the nominee possesses the values that the Supreme Court most urgently requires. These are the issues of greatest consequence surrounding any Supreme Court nomination (not the objective qualifications or personal morality of the nominee...).”

Those are strong words in today's flabby pretense of Senate confirmation hearings of judicial nominees – hearings which Ms. Kagan described later in her review as presenting to the public “a vapid and hollow charade, in which repetition of platitudes has replaced discussion of viewpoints and personal anecdotes have supplanted legal analysis.”

So, should you look forward to a spectacular demonstration of fire and brain power between the Senators and Elena Kagan? Not likely. The word is that now she has backed away from such authenticity and so has her boss, Barack Obama.

No one can attribute her earlier stands to being naive about Capitol Hill. To the contrary, her strong stand for robust, serious confirmation hearings on “legal issues,” draws on her experience as Special Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee “in connection with the nomination of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court.”

So, it looks like the first casualty of her nomination will be the authenticity (one of her favorite words) she craved for such nominees as Justices Kennedy, Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg and Breyer, having been quoted years ago as how to evasively behave in order to finesse any controversies during the hearing process.

So since it takes at least two to make a charade game, it is left to the Senators to fulfill the vision of the earlier Elena Kagan when she sits in that chair facing her inquisitors. Some Senators will use the pretext that deep questions on issues and philosophy would compromise the independence of the judiciary – a view Ms. Kagan explicitly rejected in her book review.

Others, being partisan Democrats, want to get the hearing over at super speed, which means a few pro forma questions. A few will take their constitutional responsibilities or their partisan roles seriously and probe into her qualifications – such as not coming from a judgeship background – or her imputed ideological biases.

In any event, this state of affairs is not the worst of the confirmation process. The deterioration reaches the exclusion of witnesses that reflect just the wide range of questions and judgments that Ms. Kagan championed.

I know this from my own request to testify, for example, on the Roberts nomination regarding an ignored area of his experience. I was turned down by the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.

During the Stephen Breyer nomination, Dr. Sidney Wolfe and I presented detailed testimony regarding Mr. Breyer's de-regulatory philosophy and the raw empirical reality of human casualties and tortious products that rebut it. That participation would not likely be repeated today. Instead, there are a few carefully choreographed panels of constitutional law specialists, each given five minutes, and all presented as window dressing after, not before or between, the testimony and questioning of the nominee.

So, short of a cumulative public protest before the hearings begin in July, expect the words of assistant professor of law, Elena Kagan, to be relegated to an everlasting limbo as an expression of youthful exuberance replaced by the political realism of autocratic minds.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tell Congress to Support Creation of a Financial Consumers' Association

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
The Senate debate of the “Wall Street Reform Bill” (S. 3217) has started. Unfortunately, despite the length of this legislation, a major consumer safeguard is absent.

The single most important measure we can advance to protect consumers and taxpayers is embodied in an amendment drafted by Senator Charles Schumer. Senator Schumer’s amendment provides a facility to establish an independent non-governmental nonprofit Financial Consumers’ Association (FCA). FCA has broad support from leading consumer organizations.

Given the powerful influence of the financial industry over the legislative and regulatory processes, it is likely that consumers will continue to be short-changed unless Congress facilitates the creation of an independent, non-governmental organization to monitor the actions of financial corporations. A Financial Consumers’ Association would be voluntarily supported by membership dues. The members would elect a board of directors that could hire researchers, organizers, accountants and lawyers.

A Financial Consumers’ Associations could:

1. Represent consumer interests before regulatory agencies, legislative bodies, and the courts, and in negotiations with financial service providers;

2. Develop data that would provide consumers with the information they need to deal with financial institutions and provide a means of comparing the costs of financial services and products;

3. Address common consumer complaints regarding financial services;

4. Evaluate the performance of mortgage lenders;

5. Monitor the availability of financial services to less affluent and minority borrowers;

6. Advocate policies that will ensure reasonable access to credit for all consumers; and

7. Provide policymakers, consumers, workers, shareholders, taxpayers and the news media with timely information on the effects of financial industry and government initiatives.

It is time to give the millions of consumers and taxpayers who bear the brunt of Wall Street’s recklessness, avarice and crimes a chance to band together to watchdog the financial industry and the financial regulators.

For more information visit:

American Dream unravels

The Associated Press has a very good overview of the alleged Times Square bomber here: ["Times Square bombing suspect's life had unraveled"].
I'm going to refrain from commenting on this situation until more information is put forth. I'm sure all kinds of people will have all kinds of things to say about it.
But I do love it when journalists start to tell stories this way - allowing readers to get a bit of background into people. Isn't it odd that a lot of these alleged terrorists come from wealthy families? You would think that they would realize that they are a bit blessed compared to other folks (or, maybe, obviously, not).
No one will ever know why this guy unraveled - but thank goodness no one was hurt in this incident.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NH CD 2: DeJoie's out ...

This is kinda disappointing: ["DeJoie Ends Congressional Campaign"].
It's especially disappointing in the sense that there's nothing wrong with having an active primary and there's nothing wrong with losing that primary either (although there is no guarantee he would have lost). Now there are two left. Sigh.
The UL's DiStaso has more here: ["With DeJoie Out, Planned Parenthood Backs Kuster"].
Landrigan at the Telegraph has a blurb here: ["DeJoie drops out of 2nd Congressional race"].

While he seems to have done the best thing for himself and his family, I don't understand why he would drop out at this point (and I will never understand why people quit early like this either).
First, you never know what the electorate is going to do, money or no money, especially during a volatile time of our process, economy, and lives.
In addition, he has spent what, nearly a year of his life running. Why quit now? You've invested endless amounts of time to run. Better to go through the process and do the best that you can. There is no indignity in losing ... and there was no guarantee that John would have lost this race either.
That all said, his choice then to endorse Swett, who kinda pushed him out of the race by getting in, is a little puzzling. The assumption would be that his positions would be more in line with Kuster. And, against Swett and all her influence and money, Kuster sure could have used a DeJoie endorsement. Some folks will make the case that Swett isn't the most "progressive" candidate because of her previous position on the invasion, and other things (I have made that case before too on my blog and then, later, realized, well, people can change their minds, can't they?).
Now, this makes me wonder, will someone else jump in or, is it too late?

Wealth for Justice

Guest perspective by Ralph Nader
There are signs that some super-rich are revolting against their “wealth fraternity.” Last fall, mega-billionaire, Warren Buffet, traveled to Washington to meet with Democratic Senators and urge them to raise taxes on the wealthy like him. He pointedly said he pays at a lower rate than his secretary.

The liberal Senators were either bemused, or moved away from him as if he had a contagious disease. Buffett is not deterred. Earlier in this decade, he joined with a thousand other rich Americans led by lawyer William Gates, Sr. and Chuck Collins (founder of United For a Fair Economy) to successfully block the repeal of the estate tax (applied to 2% of wealthier decedents) by a Republican-controlled Congress.

Just last week, Mr. Gates, father of Microsoft’s Bill, Jr. launched an initiative campaign in Washington state to impose a progressive income tax on the wealthiest citizens (over $200,000 income) and roll back taxes on property and small business revenues. Initiative 1077 would net $1 billion a year for education and health care. Unlike most states, Washington has no state income tax at present. Any later downward expansion of such a tax would have to be decided by a vote of the people themselves, stipulates I-1077.

The “yes” on 1077 Initiative organizers have to collect 241,153 valid signatures by July 2 to get on the November ballot. This is a huge hurdle for a relatively small state, but when the super-rich are on board, the money will be there for the petitioners.

Last week, several megamillionaires held a conference call with reporters to express their desire for high taxes on people like them. “I would with pleasure sacrifice the income,” declared Jeffrey Hollander, CEO of Seventh Generation. Eric Schoenberg, possessing investment banking riches, bewailed his “absurdly low tax rates.”

According to the Washington Post, paper-mill heir Mike Lapham said that “We’re calling on other wealthy taxpayers to join us, send the message to Congress and President Obama that it’s time to roll back the tax cuts on upper-income taxpayers.” He was referring to the Bush-Cheney tax cuts which saved the then-White House rulers hundreds of thousands of dollars, personally, over the near decade of cuts. At the time, I requested Bush and Cheney have the decency to exempt themselves from their own tax cuts, but they declined.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll in March, a solid majority of Americans favor raising taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year.

Then there is Dieter Lehmkuhl. Last October, he delivered to German Chancellor Angela Merkel a petition signed by 44 rich Germans urging a 5% wealth tax for two years to fund economic and social programs to aid Germany’s economic recovery. The petition asserted that “the path out of the crisis must be paved with massive investment in ecology, education and social justice.”

Megabillionaires in our country are encountering their peers here and around the world to commit fifty percent of their estates to “good works.” They will grapple with the definition of “good works” as to whether that means charity or justice.

The difference is important. For example, soup kitchens are a necessary and human charity. Whereas justice goes to the causes of why rich economies have any hunger at all.

With some super-rich thinking about moving from soft philanthropy to advocacy, or to shifts of power, I hope my recent work of political imagination—“Only the Super-rich Can Save Us!” will spark their interest. Drawing on seventeen wealthy Americans in fictional roles, led by Warren Buffett and including George Soros, Yoko Ono, Bill Cosby, Ted Turner, Peter Lewis and others of an advanced age and broader perspectives, a massive, fast, well-funded campaign is launched in January 2006 to galvanize millions of Americans to restore their sovereignty over their government and the large corporations that have captured Washington, D.C.

One of the inspirations for this book was the history of the abolitionist movement against slavery—ably funded by rich Bostonians and New Yorkers—and the early civil rights movement in the Fifties and Sixties—significantly funded by rich people like the Stern and Currie families.

Justice movements need a lift, a shoehorn, resources to pay for organizers, facilities, transportation, litigation and media.

Today, with corporations able to amass trillions of dollars to advance harmful corporate interests, a small number of enlightened mega-rich elders putting their money and smarts behind broad redirections in our country supported by majorities can generate very compelling dynamics for a functioning democratic society.

If you want to see what I mean, just read my book (visit and see if you agree with Leslie Stahl of CBS’ Sixty Minutes who read and found “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” “engrossing, creative and funny.” Leslie, I’ll take all three.