Speak Out California Is Back Up And Running!

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
One day your website is yours, and the next day it is someone else’s. Organizations, businesses and regular people are at the mercy of a confusing deregulated system.
A little over a week ago the Speak Out California website suddenly disappeared, and viewers instead saw a website full of advertisements.
We had no way of even knowing what had happened. It was just a surprise. One day typing “speakoutca.org” into a web browser took viewers to our website, the next day it took viewers to an ad site that someone else managed.
Some of us are more sophisticated and internet-savvy than most citizens so we were eventually able to track down some information. I’m not going into details here, except to say that no one at Speak Out California received any notice that this was going to happen. It took several days to even track down where the domain name (this is what internet addresses like speakoutca.org are called) had been registered, who had registered it, and contact info for the registrar. Then it took several more days to restore the domain name to us and get it working again.
Here’s the thing: the only way we were able to get this name back and get the site operating again is because some of us are much more internet-connected than most people. Most people would have no idea where to even start to look for information and help solving a problem like this.
This is certainly not an uncommon problem. My wife had a business named Dancing Woman Designs with a website at dancingwomandesigns.com, and then one day she didn’t. She received no notice, nothing. It was just there one day and gone the next and if she wanted it back it was going to cost her. It was going to cost her a lot. And so she doesn’t have dancingwomandesigns.com anymore and that address takes you to an ad site. A whole business that took years to get going and build is history now. It was wiped out in a minute because someone was able to get the web name.
A larger business is more likely to have the resources to hire the necessary experts to fight something like this. But it can be an expensive proposition and it can take time.
This is the difference between regulation and deregulation. Regulations protect regular people. Deregulation enables and protects scammers, schemers, and cons. The Internet is largely unregulated and is full of scammers, schemers and cons. Most of the businesses and organizations on the internet are good, honest, credible and legitimate but regular people are also left completely at the mercy of numerous cons, scams, schemes and rip-offs and the burden is on us to find a way to tell the difference.
We got Speak Out California back up and running. It only took us a week and a little money. But we are sophisticated, internet-savvy and connected — and lucky. Hmm … maybe some new legislation is warranted.
Click through to Speak Out California

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Driving 55 Saves Gas And Is Safer

You can save a lot of gas by driving at 55 on the highway. It’s also a lot safer. And unless you are traveling a long distance, it doesn’t add much time to your journey.
Many people don’t know this, and the oil company executives who currently run our government certainly won’t tell you. They’ll instead tell you the government should let the oil companies have more free leases of our land so they can make a bunch more money — all at our expense.
In the 1970s it was common knowledge that driving at 55mph saves a lot on gas. In fact, at one point the national speed limit on the freeways was lowered to 55, and it did reduce our oil imports a great deal. But in 1980 the Republicans got into office and stopped all of the energy efficiency activities of the government. They stopped all of the mass transit projects, too. Ronald Reagan’s very first act as President was removing the solar equipment that President Carter had installed on the roof of the White House.

Not Happy With Dems On FISA

Like me, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks is not at all happy with Democrats, Hillary Clinton and especially Barack Obama on the FISA capitulation.
Here’s the story: about half of the Democrats in the House caved yesterday and voted with Republicans to give the big telecom companies retroactive immunity for breaking the law and wiretapping us – potentially any of us – without warrants. This illegal wiretapping started before 9/11 so it has nothing to do with terrorism. Barack Obama is going along with it. Hillary hasn’t said a thing about it. There is no leadership, only capitulation.
You really really should watch this:

If you can’t beat the most unpopular president of all time in a simple legislative fight like this, how can you claim to be a strong and effective leader?

Caving On FISA

The House just voted to pass a FISA bill that gives the Republicans everything they wanted – except one. See House votes to provide protection to phone firms,

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday that could shield phone companies from billions of dollars in lawsuits for their participation in the warrantless surveillance program secretly begun by President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks.

Here’s the thing. This legislation specifically lets telecom companies off the hook for letting the Republicans wiretap us after 9/11.
The program started before 9/11, and therefore has nothing to do with terrorism.
And while we’re all concerned about terrorists – did you know that the Republicans are still blocking gun background checks and letting anyone buy guns at gun shows?
Update – Interesting that all those Republicans voted to let President Obama spy on them.

Drilling – See The Big Picture, Please

All of a sudden you can’t get away from stories about the need to drill for oil in Alaska and off our coasts.
So what is going on? Why are there so MANY stories in the news, op-eds, blogs, columnists, letters to the editor and on the radio saying that drilling will solve the problem? Rational, informed people understand that it would take almost a decade before any new production showed up, that we are already at refinery limits and that we could have alternatives and conservation in place much faster with a much bigger impact. Why this huge push for drilling today?
People who look at this as a policy issue and try to respond with facts and logic are missing what is happening here, and misunderstanding how the corporate/conservative machine operates: SOMEone makes a bunch of MONEY if we open up drilling. And that SOMEone is paying to push a bill through Congress. It’s just that simple. That’s how the right’s machine works today. It is entirely pay-for-play. I suspect that we are seeing a standard conservative multi-front coordinated PR push in support of an upcoming legislative agenda. This is how the corporate right organizes a campaign.
According to Google News there are 2102 news articles this morning under the heading, “Bush asks Congress to clear way for offshore oil drilling.” Example, The Kansas City Star, Bush to Congress: Embrace energy exploration now,

With gasoline topping $4 a gallon, President Bush urged Congress on Wednesday to lift its long-standing ban on offshore oil and gas drilling, saying the United States needs to increase its energy production. …
“There is no excuse for delay,” the president said in a statement in the Rose Garden. With the presidential election just months away, Bush made a pointed attack on Democrats, accusing them of obstructing his energy proposals and blaming them for high gasoline costs

There are another 1000 or so under various other headings. This is just today.
People who watch the corporate right’s machine have seen this bubbling up for a while. A couple of weeks ago there was a weird story circulating in theright-wing press about China drilling for oil off Florida. George Will got it into the Washington Post. Fox: China, Others Drilling for Oil Off Florida. Even Vice President Cheney repeated it. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t true: Cheney Acknowledges He Lied About China Drilling ‘60 Miles Off The Coast Of Florida’
At the same time, column after column has been appeared in the corporate right’s outlets like but not limited to Townhall.com. (See a recent Townhall sampling here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and note this one: here. These and more just in the last few days and just at this site – which is one of so many.)
Also there are dozens and dozens of stories in other places most of us don’t see. Please follow the link and read this one, it just follows the script so closely: Family Security Matters: A World Afloat on an Ocean of Oil,

The most fundamental fact about oil worldwide is that there is lots of it. . . For sheer insanity, however, consider a nation that has an estimated 31 billion barrels of oil offshore of its coasts and 117 billion barrels of oil under land owned or managed by the government . . . In just one area, a desolate place designated a wildlife refuge, there’s an estimated 7.7 billion barrels untapped. . . . Most of the areas where oil is known to exist have been ruled off-limits to any exploration or extraction by the government.
In the areas where it is accessible, drilling for it is hugely encumbered and often denied by the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act.
. . . the price of a gallon of gasoline or heating oil, is making everyone miserable thanks in great part to environmental legislation . . . just to make matters worse, the government requires that every gallon of gasoline include the additive, ethanol, which reduces its mileage and increases its cost.

Newt Gingrich is, of course, all over the “drill now” story: Our Declaration of Energy Independence:

While Washington elites can’t or won’t act, the American people see the first step to a practical, common sense way out of this crisis: Drill here. Drill now. Pay less.

(By the way, I think Newt is vying to be the Republican nominee this year. Not kidding – I don’t think it will be McCain.)
And, of course, the other side of the story also hits the airwaves – the warm, cuddly oil companies: CBS Praises Oil Company for $50 Million in College Aid,

For once, “CBS Evening News” gave viewers a break from seeing oil companies demonized.
At a time when gas has topped $4 a gallon and the media are looking for someone to blame for “pain at the pump,” “Evening News” took a different approach and showed how one oil company is reinvesting its profits – not in politically correct alternative sources of energy, but back into the community.

So is this really a corporate/right PR campaign? For those of us who track this sort of thing here is the big clue. On Drudge today there is a link to a fresh, new Gore smear from the “Tennessee Center for Policy Research” with the long headline: Energy Guzzled by Al Gore’s Home in Past Year Could Power 232 U.S. Homes for a Month – Gore’s personal electricity consumption up 10%, despite “energy-efficient” home renovations ,

In the year since Al Gore took steps to make his home more energy-efficient, the former Vice President’s home energy use surged more than 10%, according to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.
“A man’s commitment to his beliefs is best measured by what he does behind the closed doors of his own home,” said Drew Johnson, President of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. “Al Gore is a hypocrite and a fraud when it comes to his commitment to the environment, judging by his home energy consumption.”
In the past year, Gore’s home burned through 213,210 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, enough to power 232 average American households for a month.

I haven’t had time to turn on the radio, but I think I can safely bet that Rush and the rest of the radio crowd are on this, and have been plugging it for weeks. (Oh, and I’ll bet they’re planting stuff in online forums, especially sports forums. They use forums a lot for word-of-mouth generation.)
So see the big picture – see the forest – and learn from it.

Written From A Desk In DC

Here’s another illustration of the reasons people are turning away from corporate media and toward blogs, YouTube, etc.
Why We’re Gloomier Than The Economy – washingtonpost.com,

Ask Americans how the economy is doing, and their answer is stark: It is not just bad, it is run-for-the-hills terrible. Consumer confidence is at its lowest level in almost 30 years. Only 12 percent of Americans think the economy is in good shape. On the Internet, comparisons to the Great Depression are widespread.
But the reality is different. According to most broad measures of how the economy is doing, it’s not all that grim.
. . . But so far, the economy is holding up better than it did during the last two recessions in 1990 and 2001. Employers haven’t shed as many jobs, the unemployment rate is still relatively low, and gross domestic product has kept rising. Things are nowhere near as bad as they were in the Great Depression, or even during the severe recession of 1982-83. The last time consumers were this miserable, in May 1980, the jobless rate was 7.5 percent and inflation was 14.4 percent. Now those numbers are 5.5 percent and 4.2 percent respectively.

OK. First, the jobs lost in the last recession never came back, so we’re just starting from where that one left off.
Second, if you read blogs you know that the ACTUAL inflation and jobless rates — if measured the way they were in 1980 — are much higher than 5.5 and 4.2 percent. MUCH higher.

This has left economists trying to figure out why Americans’ perceptions are so much more negative than the data analysts use to measure how things are going.

So the well-paid economists and Wall Streeters and Washington Post reporters are sitting behind their desks wondering why all those people out in the real world are yelling that tings are bad. THEY just don’t see it, so things must be fine, and all those people out in the real world are just making shit up.
I mean, THEY don’t get told every day to accept longer hours for less money because their jobs could be outsourced in a minute if the boss gets even slightly displeased with the amount of “Yes, Sir!” you’re putting out. THEY certainly don’t care if bread is approaching $5 a loaf.

Bloggers – Time To Boycott Amazon?

Fellow bloggers – it looks like it is time to send readers to Barnes&Noble or somewhere else rather than Amazon for their books. It looks like Amazon is just another big corporation trying to use their market power to rig the system against publishers and consumers. Big is bad, and then they try to tilt the playing field in their favor to gain even more power, which they will use to tilt the playing field even more.
See Publishers feel pressure of Amazon’s ‘buy’ button,

“Amazon seems each year to go from one publisher to another, making increasing demands in order to achieve richer terms at our expense and sometimes at yours,” Hutchinson said in the letter. “If this continued, it would not be long before Amazon got virtually all of the revenue that is presently shared between author, publisher, retailer, printer and other parties.”
[. . .] In the spring it started disabling the icons for some small publishers in the United States that resisted Amazon’s demand that they use an Amazon-owned company, BookSurge, for print-on-demand services. Amazon is the dominant seller of such titles.
As a result, some smaller publishers in the United States have signed service agreements with Amazon. But a few refused Amazon’s demand to shift the instant printing of their books to BookSurge, which they say has been demanding a discount of as much as 52 percent on the retail price.