Bad ROI — Really Bad

Pam Spaulding asks, Where did all the money people donated to the Clinton campaign go?,

According to the filing, detailed in the New York Times, Clinton paid strategist Mark Penn and his company $3.8 million for “fees and expenses” in January alone. In sum, the firm has billed $10 million in total, which included expenditures on direct mail.
The Times said other Democratic strategists called this sum “stunning.”

I’m stunned, so I guess “stunning” may be the right word.

Some History on McCain and Lobbyists

Does anyone remember this story, about McCain’s Abramoff hearings?

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has assured his colleagues that his expanding investigation into the activities of a former GOP lobbyist and a half-dozen of his tribal casino clients is not directed at revealing ethically questionable actions by Members of Congress.
. . .
“It’s not our responsibility in any way to involve ourselves in the ethics process [of Senators],” McCain said Wednesday, explaining the comments he made to his fellow GOP Senators. “That was not the responsibility of the Indian Affairs Committee.”
. . . Because of those stories – and several other news reports touching on Abramoff’s relationship with Members – McCain said he wanted to let Senators know that he was not trying to air any of their dirty laundry.

He used the hearings to shield, not investigate, his fellow Republicans

Tax And Budget Priorities: Schools No, Yachts Yes

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
Do you know about the California yacht tax loophole? Here is how it works: Regular people like you and me have to pay sales taxes on the things we buy, even on big items like cars. We even have to pay these taxes if we buy outside of the state. (Technically that is called a “use” tax.)
But California has a special tax loophole just for the things rich people buy. That’s right, if you buy a big yacht, airplane or “luxury recreation vehicle,” you don’t have to pay sales tax. The way this loophole works is, you buy it outside the state, hold it there for three months, and then you have a sales-tax-free yacht.
Summary: Regular people pay sales taxes, rich people don’t have to.

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Right Going After Obama, Too

Senator Barack Obama might be the Democratic Party candidate for President. So I thought I would take a quick look at some right-wing sites.
Some people feel that Senator Hillary Clinton has been too badly “damaged” by years of hysterical right-wing attacks. Will Senator Obama be similarly damaged? (This is not a pro-Hillary or anti-Obama post so no hate-mail please.)
Here are some of the headlines at right-wing site WorldNetDaily:
Obama campaign: Mum’s the word!
Refuses to respond to drug accusations
WorldNetDaily Exclusive: Sleaze charge: ‘I took drugs, had homo sex with Obama’
Minnesota man takes his case to court, YouTube, $100,000 polygraph challenge
WND POLL: Barack, paper, scissors
What do you think of WND being only news agency publishing Obama drug-sex story?
Obama, Clinton trade plagiarism snipes
Barack says he usually gives credit when quoting people, using ideas
Hillary aide accuses Obama of plagiarism
‘He’s breaking his promises and his rhetoric isn’t his own’
Obama responds to plagiarism charge
‘I really don’t think this is too big of a deal’
Obama faces open season from right if nominated
Barack’s relationship with Chicago developer Tony Rezko could prove costly
And a quick look at a few other places:
Human Events: Che Guevara and the Obama Campaign
Associating with communist murderer Che Guevara says a lot about the Obama campaign.
RedState: To the left of Hillary

Green Business — W/Schedule Correction

I had a very short conversation with Gary Hirshberg, “Chairman, President and CE-Yo” of Stonyfield Farm, the organic dairy. Gary has a book out, Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World, in which he uses his 25 years of experience to “try to shatter the myth that environment and commerce are in conflict.”
Gary was boarding a delayed plane so we didn’t get a chance to talk for long, but the plane is coming to my area of California so we’re going to try to pick up the conversation in person. I’ll write more then, but I wanted to let you know that he will be talking about the book tonite in San Francisco and also tomorrow at a couple of locations: (See this link)
February 19th Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, CA, 5:15 reception, 5:45 program, tickets required.
February 20th University of California at Berkeley – Hass School of Business, 12PM. NOT AT Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 12PM as previously posted
February 20th Book Passage Bookstore, Corte Madera, CA, 7PM
If you get a chance, stop by and hear him talk about the book.

Creating Demand For Progressive Candidates And Policies

Before the California primary I was at a house party put on by supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton. (I have also attended Obama events – no hate mail, please). Clinton advisor Ann Lewis phoned in to talk about some of the issues. (Ambassador Joe Wilson also called.) At one point one of the guests asked Lewis whether progressive challenges in primaries is the best way get more progressives elected to the Congress.
Lewis gave a response that I feel should be repeated. It shows that the Clinton team has an understanding of the need to build a progressive movement outside of the electoral process if we want the country to make the changes that we progressives feel are necessary. (I am not saying that the Obama team does not have a similar understanding – no hate mail, please.)
Here is Ann Lewis’ statement about how Sen. Clinton thinks we can increase our chances of electing progressives into office in Congress.

“Hillary believes that the most effective way to elect progressive Democrats to office – and thus enact progressive policies – is by building and maintaining a progressive infrastructure, including institutions, organizations and blogs.”

At the YearlyKos Presidential Candidate Forum, Sen. Clinton gave an answer to a question that also showed an understanding of the need for non-party infrastructure, and that answer stuck with me. She said something to the effect of the reason things will be different under a Hillary Clinton presidency is that “This time, we’ll have YOU,” meaning that the Netroots will be there to watch her back, and to keep Democrats honest. (Obama also was at this forum, no hate mail please.)
If we really want long-term, structural changes in the way the public votes, the way to do this is to reach them outside of the electoral process. We need to help them understand what progressive values are – why democracy is important ad community benefits them, and conservative “you’re on your own” policies do not. This effort leverages the electoral effort by “preparing the ground” and helping the public understand what progressive candidates are trying to achieve. This way ALL progressive candidates benefit from the SAME contribution. Each $1000 given to a progressive infrastructure organization accompishes more than $1000 given to EACH candidate at every level during the election.
If we can fund organizations like the Commonweal Institute and Speak Out California, which will then work to reach the public and help restore public understanding and appreciation of progressive values and ideas, then we will start to create demand for progressive candidates and policies.

Get Out Of Money-Market Funds

“Suspended Redemptions.”
Yes, I have been harping on this, but once again: if you have money in a money-market fund, transfer it to an insured bank account.
This is not about a money-market fund, but it shows what is happening in the financial markets. This could happen to your money, too. (I actually know someone who has lost a bundle in a hedge fund.)
Citigroup Stops Withdrawals from Hedge Fund: WSJ,

Citigroup has barred investors in one of its hedge funds from withdrawing their money, and a new leveraged fund lost 52 percent in its first three months, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The largest U.S. bank suspended redemptions in CSO Partners, a fund specializing in corporate debt, after investors tried to pull more than 30 percent of its roughly $500 million of assets, the newspaper said. Citigroup injected $100 million to stabilize the fund, which lost 10.9 percent last year, the newspaper said.

What does this mean? It means that people who parked money in this fund can not take money out, and are likely to lose much of it — even after Citigroup pumped $100 million of their own money in to try and save it. This has been happening to other hedge funds as well.
If you are getting a “good rate” on your money right now, you should be worried. There is a reason they say “risk equals return.” That means that you have to take greater ricks to get a higher return. Banks are paying squat right now, but what rate of return is worth losing all of your money? This is not a low or moderate risk environment. This is a time of very high risk. People and companies are defaulting on their loans left and right. Put your money somewhere safe and insured right now. Pay off your debts. Tie down your finances because the storm approaches.
Did I say “insured”? I mean Federally insured. And that means a bank. Period.
If I’m wrong and you do this, what do you lose? A little bit of higher interest. If I’m right and you do this, what do you NOT lose? Everything.
(Through Atrios)

Meat Recall

The government was forced by an animal rights group to recall 143 million pounds of beef, after videos showed obviously sick animals being led to the slaughterhouse.
Because of Republican policies there had been fewer and fewer inspections of the slaughterhouse or meat.
USDA Orders Nation’s Largest Beef Recall: Financial News,

Authorities said the video showed workers kicking, shocking and otherwise abusing “downer” animals that were apparently too sick or injured to walk into the slaughterhouse. Some animals had water forced down their throats…
[. . .] Officials estimate that about 37 million pounds of the recalled beef went to school programs, but they believe most of the meat probably has already been eaten.
[. . .] Federal regulations call for keeping downed cattle out of the food supply because they may pose a higher risk of contamination from E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease because they typically wallow in feces and their immune systems are often weak.

This is why I do not eat meat -because of the way animals are treated in corporate America.
And this is why the public needs to understand the harm that comes from unbridled corporatization of everything. We, the People are supposed to be in control, but we are instead being herded and harvested for our cash.

Bring Back Protectionism

America used to have a policy of protecting our wages against unfair competition from low-wage countries. We placed a tariff on imported goods made by workers who were paid substandard wages. We protected our national interest.
The idea was to encourage the companies that made those goods to pay better wages. This way their countries’ economies would improve and their workers would be able to buy the things that we make. Thus, the policy of protectionism was a way to improve living standards for workers everywhere, growing our own economy and improving our standard of living in the process.
The money collected from the tariffs was used for our common good: for example, it was spent on improving our country’s infrastructure and education system (including science, research and development) so we could retain and improve our competitive position, as well as retraining workers whose industries were affected by changes in trade patterns.
Protectionism was generally our country’s policy until a few decades ago. That was back when our country was OUR country — for We, the People — and our economy was OUR economy. And it worked. Our living standard continually improved. Then we changed to a “free trade” policy, meaning our workers work pretty much for “free” and big corporations are “free” to do anything they want. Additionally, without the revenue from tariffs, we have to tax our manufacturers more heavily, which makes them even less competitive internationally.
Since then average wages have stagnated and our pensions and health insurance have been disappearing, as have our savings. The country’s trade debt has been increasing alarmingly. And corporate control over all of us has become near-total. Corporations are able to get their way by intimidating employees with the fear of losing our jobs to outsourcing, and intimidate governments by threatening to move to lower wage countries.
So it is time to bring back protectionism. It worked.

A Real Alternative to the Status Quo

m4s0n501

I wrote the letter below, in response to this fairly revealing article, The Chicken Doves, in Rolling Stone magazine – about “How the Democrats Screwed The Anti-War Movement”. All about how the Democratic Party establishment sold out the anti-war movement (and the people of Iraq) for political gain. Note: Links not included in original letter.

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