Top 10 Conspiracy Theories of the Religious Right

I LOVE this one: Talk To Action | Top 10 Conspiracy Theories of the Religious Right, including Al Gore’s secret global warming plot to destroy capitalism and take over the United States, Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno’s secret plot to destroy Christianity and take over the United States and make it a Lesbian country. (Or is it Thespian?)
They left out MY secret plot to use blogging to take over the United States and make everyone drink better coffee.
Go read.
Update – I just got an e-mail from Human Events titled, “Obama U.N. Global Tax Scheme Gaining Steam”

Democratic Convention Credentials

I just found out I have credentials to cover the Democratic Convention in Denver this summer.
In 2004 I was the first person ever to post a picture of his dog from a national convention. What will I do this time?
In this post I have a picture of “reporters covering reporters interviewing bloggers while bloggers interview the reporters.”
Balloon drop.
(It’s the old Blogger site so you have to wait and wait while it loads and then scrolls to the right post…)

Wingers Say Book Conspiracy

A right-wing blog says Soros-the-Jew is behind the McClellan book.
Scott McClellan was Bush’s press secretary, and has written a book saying Bush led us into Iraq with propaganda, admitting ordering the Valerie Plame leak, and many other things we all know. Now a right wing blog says it’s all part of the great Soros-the-Jew MoveOn communist appeaser jihadist latte-drinking conspiracy that is behind everything else. See lgf: The Soros-McClellan Connection
And, heh, there are 1244 comments as I post this. They’re worth scanning. Heh.
(H/T Down With Tyranny)

It comes from the top

From Glenn Greenwald:

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the press corps dropped the ball at the beginning. When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president’s high approval ratings.

And my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president’s approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives — and I was not at this network at the time — but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president.

I am a big fan of the media critics Atrios, Brad DeLong, Eric Alterman, and above all Bob Somerby. For years (in the case of Alterman and Somerby’, for at least ten years) they’ve been documenting the shallowness, inaccuracy, dishonesty and ultimate Republican slant of the media — especially TV and radio, but also including such highly respected publications as the New York Times and the Washington Post.
However, they tend to be too willing to slip into the “Heathers” or “Villagers” explanation. Supposedly the media are staffed by a bunch of silly, shallow, people who only talk to each other and who, for example, did what they did to sabotage Al Gore’s Presidential run because he annoyed their silly high school sensibilities.
I’ve always believed that it was a management problem, and I think that Greenwald’s post confirms that I’ve been right. This does not mean that the Heathers are not silly people, and it doesn’t mean that they’re not culpable. But the people whose names we see are quite literally hirelings and lackeys (albeit very well paid hirelings and lackeys). They give management what it wants.
Greenwald gives several more examples, and over the years there have been dozens of reporters whose newspaper careers ended (or dead-ended) because of excessively accurate reporting — Seymour Hersh is only the most eminent of them. (To Greenwald’s list of recent suppressions, I’d like to add the case of Lara Logan, who tried to start an email campaign to keep her bosses at CBS from suppressing a story).
Every time that I make the claim that responsibility should be assigned to management rather than to individual reporters, the reflex “conspiracy theorist” accusation shoots back at me so quickly that I have to ask whether my statement even reached the cerebral cortex at all. All I claim is that management manages and that reporters can be hired, fired, promoted, and demoted, but people respond with abstruse theories proving that management does not, and can not, manage. And claim that I’m the crazy one, not them.
As for management’s motives, I have no way of knowing them. My present guess is that the owners and managers of the big media are pro-war, are responsive to the favors that the federal government hands out, and want low taxes (and an end to the estate tax, which is a major factor for the few family-owned publications: see here). They are not right wing on most other issues, but the Bush administration really isn’t either — by now they’ve double-crossed most of their conservative ideological constituencies. (That is to say, the nativists, the cultural conservatives, the fiscal conservatives, and above all the little-government conservatives.)
I’m sure that organized winger pressure is a factor too, but the public opinion isn’t the reason: the big media have always been more hawkish and more anti-tax than public opinion has been. A much bigger factor is advertiser pressure, since advertising pays all the bills for TV and radio and most of the bills for newspapers. Advertisers all have their own political agendas and have never been shy about pushing them; furthermore, a substantial proportion of high-end advertising is institutional advertising — e.g., for oil companies — which is intended to promote a company, rather than to sell any specific product.
Of course, Chomsky and company said all this twenty years ago. Maybe we shouldn’t have been tuning those guys out all that time.

Gas Prices and Taxes

The price of a gallon of gas at the pump is determined by a complicated calculation. To maintain the same profit level the companies have to balance demand with price. At a certain price point people finally begin to buy less gas. So if the price at the pump goes a bit higher they actually make less profit because people buy less gas.
That is how the price of gas is set.
The important thing to realize is that it is the price at the pump that rules this profit/demand equation. This is set by the demand for gas, not the price of the oil. This means that the idea of a “gas tax holiday” reducing or eliminating the taxes can’t make a difference in the price of gas. If the equation shows the profit maximized at $4 per gallon, that is where the price at the pump will be. If they eliminate the tax the oil companies will say “thank you” and pocket the extra money. Because if the computers show the right amount of gas being sold at $4 at the pump, and people are buying a certain quantity of gas at $4 at the pump, then gas is going to be $4 at the pump whatever the taxes are.
In fact, it might enable to companies to raise the price at the pump, because without the tax their profit level is higher per gallon, so they can raise the price and sell fewer gallons to maintain that profit level.

skippy Calls For Boycott Of Dunkin Donuts For Appeasing Right-Wing

Right-wing bloggers recently went nuts because a woman in a Dunkin Donuts ad wore a scarf that, if put on her head, might look like a Muslim woman with a scarf on her head. (No, I’m not kidding.) The called for a boycott of Dunkin Donuts.
Dunkin Donuts promptly gave in and canceled the ads. By doing so they demeaned women who wear scarves, not to mention supporting the right-wing blogger claims that a woman wearing a scarf (not even on her head) is a terrorist.
See actual photos here: skippy the bush kangaroo: time to stop buying the donuts – an action alert!,

we say, what’s good for the batshit insane is good for the logical.
here’s dunkin’ donuts contact form. why not email them and let them know that you will no longer be buying their donuts or coffee or any product because their actions, at worst, in effect condemn all who wear scarves, and at best, are just plain looney?

Today’s Housing Bubble Post — Where Is The Bottom?

When will the housing market reach a “bottom? I hear this question a lot. I hear a lot of people talking about “jumping in” when they think there is a “bottom” so they can “catch the next wave” and “make money.” They want to “put some money into real estate.”
The market will reach a “bottom” when you no longer hear about the market reaching a “bottom.” This is because “bottom” is a term of speculation. The market will reach a bottom when all of the speculation and speculators have been squeezed out, and don’t want to get back in again. And then housing prices probably won’t and shouldn’t go up more than the rate of inflation after that.
A house is not an investment, it is a place to live. You buy a house to live in it, not to get rich. You buy a rental property to make an income off of the rent, not from the increase in price. Price appreciation does not have a place in these calculations.
So here is the answer to when the bottom is reached: when the average person can afford the average house and when the rent you get from a rental unit is just right to yield a desirable rate of return on the investment, after figuring in the costs of maintenance, depreciation, property taxes and other costs.
We are a long, long way from that point. That point will be reached when prices revert to the historical mean. When you look around YOUR neighborhood and think that the average price is just right for the average person, and no one — repeat: no one — is talking about making money from housing, that is when prices will have settled back to where they should be.

Republicans Pretending To Govern

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
A good op-ed appeared Saturday in the Boston Globe, America’s faux government. The writer discusses how many parts of our federal government seem to no longer be functioning.

They sent everybody home a long time ago, set timers to make the lights go on, and locked the doors. Government is so much more cost efficient if nobody actually does anything.

We read about drugs harming people while drug companies make huge profits — where was the Food and Drug Administration? We read about the Federal Aviation Administration asking the airlines to inspect themselves, and the airlines having to cancel so many flights because they didn’t,

Whoever is still pretending to work there must have made Employee of the Month.

Why is this happening?

So we’re now living in a Libertarian country, where the government doesn’t actually provide any services except defense. The problem? We’re paying taxes as if we live in a social democracy where the government provides all services except defense. They don’t need defense because they have found that if you stop teaching history in schools, people forget that you actually need it sometimes.
How can you tell that we are Libertarians now? Because business is not complaining all the time. When the government is actually showing up for work, business groups say that they are being Crushed By Overregulation. Choked by Bureaucracy. I haven’t heard a word of that in a long time, but it used to be the anthem of American business. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was on the news every night – truly, every night. When was the last time you heard of OSHA showing up for a surprise inspection?

Please go read the rest.
The column is written partially as humor, but the reality is there. We elected people who hate government to run our government, and look what has happened. They said regulations are bad, inspectors are intrusive and oversight should be “voluntary.” The have stopped the regulators and inspectors and overseers from regulating and inspecting and overseeing.
The last several years saw the libertarian dream realized. Government was largely shut down. And what happened? Did this experiment bring “liberty?” Did the working person prosper in an “ownership society?”
No, what happened was what all the reality-based, experienced, practical people said would happen if we implement a libertarian system: the corporations immediately filled the vacuum and began to enrich themselves at the public’s expense. And when Katrina came around, people were left on their own.
So what do we learn from this? I think it is important to remember that “the government” is not some “they” that just showed up from nowhere and “tells us what to do.” The government is US, you and me and the rest of us, organized together to help each other. And it is up to US to keep an eye on things, for each other. When we listen to smiling hucksters who offer easy answers using nice-sounding words we ought to be extra careful. Tax cuts have brought us mountains of debt. Government cutbacks have brought us bad roads, bad schools and really, really bad disaster relief. And deregulation has brought us a corporate state.
Taxes, services, regulation and oversight have all become bad words. But now that we have performed the libertarian experiment we can see the consequences of this kind of thinking. It turns out that taxes are an investment in our future. It turns out that government services are us taking care of each other. It turns out that regulations keep the marketplace playing field level, which allows to enjoy the benefits of innovating businesses. It turns out that oversight keeps our government honest. And it turns out that conservative disdain for all of these didn’t make government better, it made government worse.
Click through to Speak Out California

Do You Want To Beat McCain Or Just Score Points Against Hillary/Obama?

Hillary made a statement the other day that can be interpreted different ways. Some people are trying to claim that she said she is staying in the race in case Obama is assassinated. Others say she was just saying that the Democratic primaries often extend until June.
I’m not going to get into the argument about this here, except to remind everyone that in 1972 the Nixon campaign pioneered the strategy of disrupting Democratic primary races. I think it should be clear that much of the conflict in this year’s primary is being pushed by the right through the Drudge report, Washington Times, Fox News, etc. but for some reason in this election many Democrats seem willing to pick it up and run with it. This is a mistake.
Here’s the thing. The Republicans and Bush cronies have a lot of money and the incentive that many will be going to jail (and/or The Hague) if there is an honest accounting of the Bush years. The corrupt crony machine stands to lose billions and billions of dollars. They have the conservative infrastructure’s message machine of think tanks, information outlets, etc. They have the corporate media and the power of the entire American corporate structure that is siphoning so much of our money away to a top few. And they have a public conditioned to reflexively support conservatives after decades of unanswered right-wing, and pro-corporate propaganda. This combination is going to be hard to overcome. So it is going to take Obama supporters and Hillary supporters both voting for the Democratic nominee–whoever that is–to beat the Republicans in November.
To that end I want to write about how each “side” in the primaries could better approach the other, whether you believe they are right or wrong. Especially if you believe they are wrong.
Decide whether you want to beat the Republicans, or just score points against the “other side” in this primary battle. From what I can see many of the activists in this campaign are vastly more invested in beating the “other side” than they are in beating the Republicans in the fall. And they clearly have little interest in rallying the supporters of the other primary candidate to their cause.
The Commonweal Institute recently held a “salon” on cognitive dissonance, put on by Fellow Mary Ratcliff, who blogs at The Left Coaster and Pacific Views. Part of the discussion was about the psychological effect of holding contradictory beliefs and how to get people to leave behind beliefs that are harmful. Without going into depth here, when people know they have done something bad (or believed something that is wrong), they can can go through a process to justify to themselves what they have done, and thereby be driven very deeply in a bad direction in their thinking. The justification can be reinforced if the person encounters resistance.
For example, when a kid is being recruited by the Moonies (or bad boyfriend), a parent saying the kid is being “stupid” can drive the kid directly into the Moonie camp (or bad boyfriend’s arms) because the kid is reacting to being called stupid instead of thinking through the logic of becoming a Moonie (or pregnant).
Or maybe a Bush-supporter can justify in his or her mind that invading Iraq was an OK thing to do by deciding all Muslims are evil — and can become very fixed in those beliefs. You see that happening lately with a certain segment of conservatives.
In any part of the process, if this person is criticized it very strongly tends to force the person to cling MORE strongly to the wrong beliefs, and reinforce the justifications that are going on in the thinking. This happens especially strongly if the criticism itself is refutable.
So in this case, whether you believe Hillary’s “RFK assassination statement” was saying that primaries have often lasted until June or calling for Obama’s assassination, criticizing Hillary and supporters can have the effect of driving them deeply against Obama. Iif Obama is the nominee–as it looks like he will be–he is going to need those Hillary supporters. Not stepping up to her defense in this instance–and thereby reaching out to her supporters and letting them know that we are all on the same side–is a mistake that could cost him the election.
For background, this is from the salon invite, with some good sources:

Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me: Cognitive Dissonance in Politics and Personal Life
A salon conversation led by Commonweal Institute Fellow Mary Ratcliff

As background for this salon, you may want to read this explanation of cognitive dissonance and a few examples of how it can impact everything from your weight to major social conflicts: http://www.beyondintractability.org/essay/cognitive_dissonance/
Wikipedia on cognitive dissonance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance
Book: Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Go read up.

Today’s Housing Bubble Post — Home Prices Falling At Record Rate

m4s0n501

Home prices fell at record pace in first quarter,

Prices of single-family homes plunged a record 14.1 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, marking a pace five times faster than the last housing recession, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller national home price index reported on Tuesday.
. . . Falling home prices have become the scourge of the housing market that is seeing its worst downturn since the 1930s. Home values since last year have been dropping below balances owed on many mortgages, leaving borrowers with no equity and more likely to succumb to foreclosure.

And this is before the ripple effects of recession hit. They will ripple out from this to construction, automobiles, etc. And then the resulting job cuts will ripple back to the housing market. The fallout from the housing bubble’s bursting is still only just beginning.