The Blink in the California Governor’s Race

Meg blinked for the first time in an almost flawless campaign. Until this week, it appeared that the GOP had successfully rolled out their new product — a conservative, ambitious businesswoman with a big check book. Her branding was effective and her television advertising brilliant. Political consultant Mike Murphy earned his money. Team Meg was launched, and they were relentless. Nothing really hampered or stuck to them until “the blink” — involving her domestic help in her Atherton hacienda (no pun intended).
To be blunt, Jerry Brown sure caught a big break this week. The race was in a dead heat with Brown moving slightly ahead, and many independents still on the sidelines. To be frank, Brown had virtually run an invisible campaign until right after Labor Day. Many Democrats thought he could afford the luxury of sitting on his laurels (maybe) because of his legacy. But the reality was that Meg could not and she had to spend early and often to create her brand. Many of feared that she a runaway train in hand-to-hand combat with the invisible man. Talk about a scary election for Democrats. It is one that will become a case study in politics and branding for years to come.
Well the wheel spun and the dice were thrown. Lady luck came down on Jerry this week. It’s kind of like watching Apple’s latest iPhone launch and their goof. The question is will Team Meg will have the staying power to sustain a frontal attack. Their campaign is now playing defense, and under fire that the candidate never saw coming. The domestic help issue is a big no-no. It has taken down many political candidates and appointments over the years. She probably did not understand the severity because if she had it would have been cleaned up. Let’s face it, Meg is a political virgin but her advisors are not. It remains to be seen how this potentially fatal crisis is handled by Team Meg. How will this react, and how will the Brown campaign handle itself? Dancing a jig on an open casket won’t cut it for them. Will Team Brown leverage the avalanche of earned media? Will they play well with social media? Or will they sit on the sidelines? It remains to be seen as this California soap opera continues to unfold.
This article posted to the Huffington Post earlier today.

Women Confront Deficit Commission Over Social Security

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Last month Former Senator and Deficit Commission co-chair Alan Simpson said this about Social Security, and by extension about government itself,

“We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310 million tits!”

Nice. We work and pay into Social Security all our lives, we pay our taxes, but when it comes time to retire our leaders say we’re nothing more than freeloaders sucking off the tits of the “milk cow.”
The Deficit Commission is meeting today and the National Organization for Women showed up and delivered 1,500 nipples to Simpson’s commission. They called it “1500 Tits for an Ass.”
From NOW’s press release,

“The Fiscal Commission should be led by someone who will actually try to address the federal budget deficit, instead of using it as an excuse to undermine Social Security by cutting benefits or raising the retirement age,” O’Neill continues. “Alan Simpson is not that person.”

Especially Women!
Social Security is especially important to women because women still are paid less than men and can’t save as much for retirement, tend more than men to be in jobs without any pension (only 13 percent of women aged 65 or older currently receive a pension) and women are more likely to be on their own: single, widowed or divorced by retirement age. In fact 42 percent of women over age 62 relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income, compared to 28 percent of men. Any cuts in the program would hit women particularly hard.
Here is video from the delivery:

Social Security is involved in this because, even though the program is fully funded and by law is not allowed to borrow, which means it cannot contribute to the deficit, the program will one day need to draw on its huge trust fund, and the government will have to find ways to come up with the money owed.
This is all outrageous enough, but now word is leaking out that Republicans on the commission have refused to even discuss addressing the revenue shortfall with more revenue, and in fact are pressing for the commission to recommend even more tax cuts.

According to one source familiar with the deliberations, Republicans were even opposed to eliminating loopholes, exemptions, credits and other so-called “tax expenditures” unless the associated revenue increase could be used to lower capital gains and corporate income rates.
“Republicans have not even said that we should get any revenue from taxes,” the source said. “Even tax expenditures. They appear to want to use the savings on tax expenditures to cut corporate taxes. So shared sacrifices — except for large corporations who make out even better.”

Simpson Not All That Is Unbalanced
The commissions members were biased toward the right going into this with many members having made previous statements showing they want to cut or privatize Social Security. In addition billionaire Pete Peterson, who is funding a campaign to privatize Social Security, is supplying staff to the commission.
Preempt The Commission!
So the results of a stacked commission are starting to show up. Congress needs to act to preempt the commission from cutting Social Security. Congress: Act Now To Preempt The Catfood Commission

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Beyond Peace in the Middle East at CGI

The Clinton Global Initiative this year was a place where politics converged with philanthropy. Since inception, this venue has been the change agent for philanthropic work throughout the world. The commitments made have been massive and have provided millions worldwide with clean drinking water, mosquito nets, eye glasses, vaccines, and education– among many others. This Foundation can be credited for ushering in new social philanthropic models involving private industry, the wealthy and government working together with non-profit organizations.
Remarkably, the topics at CGI this year spanned Empowering Girls and Women (see the prior post) to market-based solutions, clean tech, jobs, manufacturing and world peace. What an extraordinary venue it was where the participants could experience a panel with the Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, and the President of Israel discussing rebuilding the region after peace. Where else and with whom else other than former President Bill Clinton – could one see and hear such a constellation of world thinkers cutting across the issues of our time. Many of us bloggers, writers and journalist bustle through the high security and put up with the fanfare –just to be inspired and sustained for the coming year.
It was a rare gift from the universe to be able to hear the Middle East session up close. It is curious that there was not enormous media coverage of this landmark discussion because all the bad stuff gets air time. Even CNN’s Fareed Zakaria this Sunday morning did not mention it. Rather he focused on the fabricated photograph of the President of Egypt from the White House for the Arab press. It is perplexing because here sat the leaders of those enmeshed in the real peace talks. In this small room, they and former President Clinton were talking gracefully with one another about rebuilding the region. Only the former President could command such authority and respect. Remember, it was Bill Clinton that attempted peace between Israel Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat so long ago. It was that fateful handshake on the White House lawn that in many ways led to the assignation of Rabin. And it is now Madame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that is officiating the peace talks today. Perhaps this is a forbearing for things to come later this year. If they can talk peaceably in front of Bill Clinton, maybe there is hope for a just and final resolution. Few of us get to see our dreams come to fruition, but it appears that the Clintons both have long reach, big memories and staying power. All this woman can say is – may it be.

Rebuilding America. Is Bill Clinton Up for the Fight?

The US and the economy were for the first time a big focus at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting last week in New York City. Hallelujah! The former President hinted at an effort to get the unemployed back to work and retrained for the new and emerging jobs. Of course, Tom Friedman from the New York Times showed up with a lofty panel of experts, and there were sessions on new market-based solutions, worldwide manufacturing and clean tech. Admittedly, there was a discussion on “Robust Job Creation in the United States.” The former President did address the issues of small business, manufacturing and clean energy. There was a panel where players such as Wal-Mart, Timberlake and others discussed the in overhauling their operations to reduce carbon emissions and create jobs. And there was the tireless work of Laurene Powell Jobs together with her co-founder Carlos Watson at College Track that has been working for over a decade to change the lives of under privileged youth by keeping them in school and preparing them for college.
So why not have Bill Clinton turn his full attention to rebuilding America? Obama’s not doing it so what the heck? Call it whatever you want to, but just do it. Bring together all of the Laurene Powell Jobs with those like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. Mark put his money where it mattered – the City of Newark, New Jersey’s inner city public schools, a place close to my heart. Consider the results, if the Clinton Global Initiative took a year or two to turn their full force to rebuild this country, not some third world country. We need the likes of Clinton to mobilize, incentivize and give us comfort as the Tea Party rains empty sound and fury rhetoric down on our heads. Who better? To heck with those who do not believe it is politically expedient!.
Bill Clinton gets it because if the US is broken, it will derail all of his global initiatives and we would not want that. If we can’t get it done in Congress (and we cannot), then we must forge new public/private partnerships. The former President hinted at an effort, like the WPA (Works Progress Administration), in which people went back to work to rebuild the infrastructure of this country. In fact, the WPA was the largest agency of the New Deal employing and feeding millions. Who knows why the White House isn’t using an Executive Order to start such a public works program instead of fighting about extending unemployment benefits.
I like my fellow blogger Yotta Point believe that there is work to be done on the domestic front that could leverage the infrastructure of a CGI-like effort. It will take a village to start the hard work of rebuilding this country, and it must be done brick by brick. Indeed we are falling behind the world in terms of education, math and science, and qualified job applicants for the next generation of jobs. The call to action is to make this happen. Instead of being one of the many threads at the annual convening of CGI – this could become the sole focus, or at least an independent focus, to repair America for the next few years. We might make it happen if Clinton and his mighty Foundation marshal their forces to rebuild this country’s economy, and heal the social fabric. Instead of rage rallies and tea, the best and brightest could come together for public discourse, and problem solving in CGI-like forums. CNN and the other broadcasters cannot do, and there are few other outlets capable of something of this magnitude.
Mr. Clinton, we need your global initiative to become local. After all, we’ve got Madame Secretary watching over the world from the State Department for the next few years. The people of this country are in big trouble. Help us think globally and act locally.
Note: originally posted on the Huffington Post, “Clinton’s Global Initiative Gets Local.”

Consensus Grows: Confront China On Trade

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
In the day-to-day news about trade problems with China the bigger picture can get lost. America is giving up its competitive position in industries of the present and future and it is costing us. Even the people you would think would defend “free trade” are coming to understand that America is losing its vital ability to invent, keep and create industries and jobs and to keep a modern economy humming.
Robert J Samuelson has a significant op-ed today in the Washington Post, The makings of a trade war with China in which he says we need to confront China’s illegal trade manipulations. You should read the whole thing but here are excerpts,

… Confronting China’s export subsidies risks a similar tit-for-tat cycle at a time when the global economic recovery is weak. This is a risk, unfortunately, we need to take.
… The trouble is that China has never genuinely accepted the basic rules governing the world economy. China follows those rules when they suit its interests and rejects, modifies or ignores them when they don’t.
… China’s worst abuse involves its undervalued currency and its promotion of export-led economic growth.

Samuelson concludes,

The collision is between two concepts of the world order. As the old order’s main architect and guardian, the United States faces a dreadful choice: resist Chinese ambitions and risk a trade war in which everyone loses; or do nothing and let China remake the trading system. The first would be dangerous; the second, potentially disastrous.

It’s not just Samuelson concluding that we need to confront China’s cheating on trade. Many others have been weighing in that we are losing too much and have to take steps. For example, in July Andy Grove, Intel’s influential former CEO published a very important opinion piece on a similar topic, How to Make an American Job Before It’s Too Late. Grove wrote that we are not just losing jobs to China, we are losing the “chain of experience” that enables new companies and industries to form and to create new jobs and argues for a national economic strategy to preserve our manufacturing and technology base. (These are excerpts but Grove’s entire piece is an absolute must-read.)

You could say, as many do, that shipping jobs overseas is no big deal because the high-value work — and much of the profits — remain in the U.S. That may well be so. But what kind of a society are we going to have if it consists of highly paid people doing high-value-added work — and masses of unemployed?
…evidence stares at us from the performance of several Asian countries in the past few decades. These countries seem to understand that job creation must be the No. 1 objective of state economic policy. The government plays a strategic role in setting the priorities and arraying the forces and organization necessary to achieve this goal.

Grove also says that we need to fix this and fix the unemployment problem for other reasons as well,

Unemployment is corrosive. If what I’m suggesting sounds protectionist, so be it.

One after another our business leaders and economists are realizing that the “free trade” ideology has not worked out very well for us. We were told by the “experts” that moving our factories out of the country was a good idea, that new jobs would replace those lost. They didn’t. We were told that we don’t need or want a national strategy to be competitive in the world because an invisible hand would guide us. It didn’t. We were told that trade “partners” would reciprocate by buying from us equally. They didn’t. We were told that we would invent new industries to replace ones we lost. We did, but the new industries moved or are moving out of the country, too.
Now that we are in the midst of the resulting crisis even the “experts” are realizing that trade needs to be a two-way street for it to work, and it hasn’t been. “Free trade” was supposed to be a panacea, bringing us a prosperous future. The reality was different. A few corporate leaders (the ones who promoted these ideas) have gotten really, really rich at the expense of the rest of us (and that includes other corporations and corporate leaders). Now that the beneficiaries of the “free trade’ bamboozlement are off to their private islands in their private jets or private yachts the rest of us are looking around at the devastation of our economy and standard of living, wondering what to do and finally becoming aware that rigid ideologies and their enforcers have kept us from looking for practical solutions that actually work for all of us as a country and community.
So finally from the depth of the resulting crisis a rational national discussion may be beginning, one in which people on the “free trade’ side are not able to just shut down different opinions by shouting “protectionist” or other slogans. As this discussion gets underway here are three principles to help guide us:
1) Let’s drop ideological preconceptions and look at what has worked in history and what is working for other countries today. Science is supposed to DEscribe, but economics has too often been about “if only people would do such-and-such, so-and-so would result.” That is PREscribing and is not science.
2) We have to talk about how we handle mercantilist nations like China who are not playing by the trade rules and what we, together as a nation, can do about it. Let’s also talk about and multinational reactions to the mercantilists. We can join with countries interested in lifting each other with fair trade, interested in trade models that help us mutually lift each other, and together take on those who want it all for themselves.
3) Ultimately we can’t all export our way out of this mess. And ultimately we can’t return to unsustainable old economic models that have failed us over and over. We can’t continue with a few taking as much as they can get at the expense of the rest of us. As machines and technology solve more of our problems and do more of our work our overpopulated, undereducated world has to come to grips with equitable models for who gets what for what and how to take care of our planet and each other. That is the only thing that will work in the long run.
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New TV Shows

My wife and I watched some of the new TV shows. We had set up the TiVo to record them, so we were able to catch them at our leisure. Is there another writer’s strike going on, or is it just bad writing?
Blue Blood. Right away the police are torturing someone, drowning him in a toilet after smashing his face on the porcelain several times. I guess it’s supposed to be OK because he then tells them where a kidnapped child is located. (On TV torture is always a positive because very very bad people are tortured and they always give up important information that immediately saves innocent lives in the nick of time.) This show is off our list and we will not give it a second chance, no matter what, after being made to watch the violent torture scene. I think in the future viewers should be warned if the people involved in making this show are involved with any others. Too bad because we love Tom Selleck in the Jesse Stone series.
Lone Star. Terrible, offensive, insulting, we watched about ten minutes and told the TiVo never to record another one. Who thought this would be interesting? It’s not like Dexter which has some depth and is well-written.
Detroit 1-8-7. Formula, but we were able to watch it to the end without getting sick. So maybe we’ll give it a chance.
Chase. Copy of In Plain Sight? We won’t know because we couldn’t stand watching it for long enough to find out what it is about. Formula. People running, chasing bad guys, running, chasing, running chasing. Turned it off really fast. Not interested.
Outsourced. Not as well done as the movie (rent it, it’s a great, great movie), but we did watch till the end, enjoyed the characters. It is a very bad time for this show, because of the anger it has to bring up in people who have lost jobs, but they do portray the Indian people as interesting, likable and actual individual human beings. Maybe the show will survive.

Posted in TV

Health Care Poll – People Wanted MORE

Someone finally, finally, finally polled people on health care and asked the right questions. People are unhappy but mostly because they wanted the government to do MORE!
AP Poll: Repeal? Many wish health law went further

A new AP poll finds that Americans who think the law should have done more outnumber those who think the government should stay out of health care by 2-to-1.
“I was disappointed that it didn’t provide universal coverage,” said Bronwyn Bleakley, 35, a biology professor from Easton, Mass.
. . . The poll found that about four in 10 adults think the new law did not go far enough to change the health care system, regardless of whether they support the law, oppose it or remain neutral. On the other side, about one in five say they oppose the law because they think the federal government should not be involved in health care at all.

Go read it.

If You Don’t Use Credit Cards

you don’t have payments to make.
If you don’t borrow you don’t have to make any payments.
What would your life be like without any payments? Would you be saving the money instead? Think about that, all that money going into your own bank account, and not to Wall Street fucks.
And think about the whole scam, that has so many people giving their money to Wall Street fucks.

How Tax Brackets Work — $250,001 Will Pay Five Cents More Tax

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
This discussion of whether to get rid of the Bush tax cuts for the rich has been a learning experience. I have been listening on the radio and reading the comments at blogs. The main thing I am concluding is that people just do not understand how tax brackets work.
When people talk about raising taxes on people “who make more than” a certain income they really mean that they are going to raise it ONLY on the income that comes in after a certain income is received, not on the person’t entire income.
Here is what I mean. Suppose they say they are going to raise taxes on incomes above $250K. People seem to think that this means if you earn $250K plus a dollar, that you owe an additional tax on the entire $250K. This is not correct. I actually hear stories about people who give away money, and do other things to avoid going “into a higher bracket” because they think they have to pay additional taxes on their entire earnings.
Here is how it really works. What happens is that the first $250K is taxed just like it has been, but anything that is made over $250K — and only the amount over $250K — is then taxed at the higher rate. The tax on the amount below $250K is not changed.
Example: Suppose the tax increase is 5% on income over $250K. This means that a person who reports income of $250K plus one dollar will be taxed an additional 5 cents. FIVE CENTS!
Yes, that’s right, if it is 5% they are talking about then it means a 5 cent tax increase on people who make $250,001.
Let me repeat that. If you make $250,001, and they raise taxes 5% on people who make over $250K, then you will have to pay 5 cents more. Five cents. F.I.V.E. C.E.N.T.S. That is what people are so upset about. 5 cents.
If it is 5% a person making $260K might pay an additional $500. That’s right, the proposed tax increase is approx. $42 a month on people making $260K, about $21,600 a month. Forty-four dollars out of twenty-one thousand. THIS is what all the right-wingers are screaming about. THIS is what all the Ayn Rand cultists are threatening to stop working over. THAT is how tax brackets work.

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