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.”

What Is Obama’s Story?

Note to Reddit users: This is a GREAT post, but Reddit screwed up and the post titled “Palin Is Not Even On Fox or Rush” is at http://www.seeingtheforest.com/archives/2008/09/palin_not_even.htm
We now continue with our What Is Obama’s Story? post:
Almost every single thing Palin said in her speech the other night turns out to be just a lie — and it doesn’t matter. She now has 58% favorability among the public. And she has a story. Within a day of the Palin announcement a well-informed, liberal, Democratic, pro-choice friend told me that Palin is “a reformer” — “just like McCain.”
Here is what the Republicans understand: facts don’t matter, stories do. So knowing this, they just lie and say anything they want as long as it reinforces the story. How do you fight this? Getting bogged down refuting the lies can never work because they’ll just make up a ton more lies for you to refute and you can’t keep up. Meanwhile, they keep reinforcing the story while you’re mired in the refutation. This is why almost every single thing Palin said in her speech turns out to be just a lie. But look how her STORY has taken hold! The story overcomes all the lies, even though the entire story is based on the lies.
The Obama campaign was the beneficiary of just such a story during the primaries. Obama became the great progressive transformation that we all want, while Hillary came to represent the past. She became NAFTA and DLC and lobbyists. Once these stories took hold there was nothing at all Hillary could do about it. Everything started to reinforce it. “Experience” came to mean “Bill” which meant the past.
THAT is how a story works. Facts just get in the way. (NOTE I am not saying that Obama’s story was based on lies, I am saying the power of a STORY took over and swamped Hillary.)
This is the power of – and the reason for – the “elite” storyline they are trying so hard to establish. If it can take hold there is nothing that can be done about it. So far it is just a little bit too unbelievable. But we have seen how they have tried to tell one story after another, to see if one sticks.

So what IS Obama’s STORY today?
The FISA swing and a few things like that got rid of the “great progressive transformation” story that won the primaries. What does he represent and how do we drive the new story? How do we establish a negative story about McCain that sticks?
Remember how at the end of the Kerry campaign people still were saying that they didn’t understand what Kerry and the Democrats were about, were for, etc? They were saying that there was no story.
What is the Obama story, in a sentence? McCain is the maverick who will change Washington, and so is Palin-the-reformer. That is a story. It is a story because they said it is.
What is the Obama story?

Attacking Palin

One of the strategies behind choosing Palin for VP is to set up a “grievance trap.” Much of the Republican appeal is grievance. “Those snobbish elites are picking on me again.” “Those millionaire East Coast New York San Francisco Democrats give special privileges to everyone but me.”
So anyone who criticizes will be cast as picking on strong women, etc.
But we have the perfect surrogate to lead the attack on Palin: Hillary Clinton. SHE can charge that this is an inexperienced “token” pick, a misdirection intended to fool people. SHE can charge that this is an anti-choice impostor, fronting for the old white male power structure.
So bring out Hillary, and sic her on Palin.

m4s0n501

Hillary’s Victory Speech in Puerto Rico

Because of various circumstances I ended up about 15-20 feet from Hillary Clinton as she gave her victory speech after winning the Puerto Rico primary. I am here for the SEIU convention, and learned that her event was across a bridge from the hotel I was at for a meeting with SEIU officials. (More on that in another post.) So I took a walk (man, it is humid here) and was able to enter as a member of the press.
As a member of the press I was able to enter the ballroom before the event. This was not a victory party where supporters are celebrating and then the candidate shows up to speak. This was more like a TV set where the candidate gives a speech to cameras. There were bleachers behind the podium, and room for a few people in front of the candidate. But this was entirely about setting up the speech for national TV. I am not saying this is good or bad, it just was what it was.
That said, it was secondarily an event for campaign workers to see the candidate and be part of the speech. First they filled the bleachers behind the podium. I can testify that this was not a carefully selected crowd, with demographics set up to look good — because someone asked ME if I wanted to be up there! So this was not about photogenic, or looking like a special demographic. It might have been about making babies cry and serious viewers vow never to watch TV again.
I’m out of time now, will write more later. Hillary doesn’t appear to be leaving the race by ANY means. Lots of energy and enthusiasm at this event. A very good speech making good points.
Here is the podium with the bleachers:
Clinton_Vic_1.jpg
This shows what I mean this being a TV event, not a ballroom full of people celebrating:
Clinton_Vic_3.jpg
I loved this Clinton As Evita poster that I have been seeing here:
Clinton_Vic_evita.jpg
Here is Hillary making a point:
Clinton_Vic_4.jpg
MORE TO COME.

Is The Corporate Media Deciding This Election For Us?

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
Are you following the election coverage? Here are some recent stories: The media pounds candidate Hillary Clinton to release her tax forms, because the public has a right to know. And she does release her and her husband’s returns, going back a decade. The media trumpets how much income they have been receiving, how rich they are, and drills down into details. If you follow the news, it is inescapable. At the same time candidate John McCain releases only partial forms that show all assets are now in his wife’s name, and he won’t release his wife’s tax returns. The media is mostly silent on this; most of the public has little opportunity to learn of this.
Another story: Candidate McCain won’t release his medical records. Again from the media there is mostly silence; most of the public has little opportunity to learn of this.
And here is the big story: Unless you have been in a coma you know that for several weeks video clips of statements by Barack Obama’s former minister have been aired nearly 24 hours a day on the news shows, especially on FOX News. These clips are considered scary by certain demographic groups who are not familiar with the speaking patterns of black ministers
Interestingly, at the same time as this “Obama’s minister” story is saturating the news there is another Presidential candidate with a “scary minister” problem of his own. But the news media is not providing the public with any information at all about the things this minister has said. In this case the Presidential candidate is John McCain and the minister is John Hagee. This minister has issued statements condemning Jews, is described as “virulently anti-Catholic,” and says that 9/11 and Katrina are examples of God punishing America. Yet John McCain sought out this minister’s endorsement and insists that he is “proud” to have received it.
While saturating the airwaves with scary video clips of Obama’s scary minister the corporate media is providing the public with almost no information about McCain’s. In the article, The McCain-Hagee Connection, the Columbia Journalism Review asks, “Why is the press ignoring this hate-monger?
Why, indeed?
A well-functioning democracy depends on an informed public. There is no question that the public deserves to know these things about Senators Clinton and Obama. The information in the examples cited here could and should have an effect on the election, because the public will weigh these factors into their voting decisions. But the public also needs the information about Senator McCain, presented with equal emphasis. And clearly this isn’t happening.
So with nearly identical stories — a relationship with a minister who makes scary and hateful statements — the corporate media chooses to present the information about only one to the public, and does so in a way that is guaranteed to scare the … excuse me … bejeesus out of everyone. The other is given a pass and a free ride, and the public is left without the information it needs to make an informed choice.
Why is this happening? Here is some background on our media:
In the United States the broadcast media used to be required by law to serve “the public interest” ahead of profits. Use of OUR airwaves was licensed out to private interests that were allowed to use them to profit to a limited extent in exchange for providing the public with information and news. We did this because it served our interests and those of our democracy.
The rules allowed very limited commercialization of this public resource. For example, in exchange for the license to make a profit from the use of the public airwaves the companies were required to provide educational content for children, news coverage, documentaries, arts and other public interest content. And by law the information had to be objective and balanced.
At certain times of the day the companies could then present commercialized content. But even then the commercialization was to be limited. They were limited in how much time during a show could be used for commercial advertisements — and the shows themselves were not allowed to be commercialized. There were even restrictions on what the commercial advertisements could say. Public benefit was the priority, commercial profits were limited.
It was an exchange – they get to make some money using our resource, and we get news and information that educates us and strengthens our democracy. Why else would we have allowed private companies access to our airwaves, but to serve the public?
This changed. In the early 1980s the Reagan administration unilaterally dropped the requirements that broadcast media serve the public interest and these companies promptly stopped serving the public interest and started serving their own corporate interests. As happens with any for-profit corporate interest commercialization became the only use of our public airwaves.
Shocked by this seizure of a public resource for corporate commercial interests the Congress immediately voted to restore the public benefit requirements, but Reagan vetoed this. Then, under President George H.W. Bush the Congress again voted to restore the public benefit requirements, and this was again vetoed. Under President Clinton the requirement was against brought before the Congress and again a majority voted to restore placing the priority on public benefit but Senate Republicans filibustered and blocked the bill.
So today there is no requirement that our mass media serve the public interest. Instead the only interests that are served are private, corporate interests and the only information the public receives through these outlets is information that benefits the corporations that control them.
Is this why we are seeing such dramatic disparities in the way information about the candidates is presented to the public? Should we be surprised?
Control of our information sources is now in the hands of corporations with no requirement that they serve the interests of democracy. So shouldn’t we expect that corporate interests are placed ahead of the public interest? If for-profit enterprises control the information the public receives then why wouldn’t they promote candidates who would be more favorable to their commercial interests?
Let me provide a clear example of how this affects all of us: When was the last time you saw or heard on a corporate outlet information about the benefits of joining a union? Of course you haven’t, and you wouldn’t expect to. And, in the years since the requirement that the broadcasters serve the public interest by providing balanced information, we have seen a dramatic decline in the percent of the workforce that is unionized. At the same time we have seen a dramatic increase in commercialization of everything, and in the power of corporations over the decision-making of our government.
What else should we expect?
Click through to Speak Out California

Are Clinton and Obama Communists?

The right has been cranking up the communist charge in this election. I guess it worked for the 50 years ago, so why not trot it out again?
I came across this today at the Republican TownHall site: Townhall.com::Obama, Clinton And Capitalism: It’s Okay For Them, But Nobody Else,

The big irony here is that while Obama has done extremely well for himself in our very unique free-market economy, he has the “audacity” to demonize others who have done well for themselves, and to propose economic policies that, if implemented, would radically change our nation into something more akin to a Western European socialist state.

OK, let’s examine that for a minute. Aside from the implications that they are communists, what does “Western European Socialist State” really mean? European citizens get 5 weeks paid vacation per year for everyone, free full-coverage health care for everyone, generous pays and pensions for everyone (with retirement earlier than here), corporations required to benefit the public, modern public transit systems, child care, clean public-oriented cities, governments responsive to the people instead of the wealthy, the corporations and the big military contractors, … oh I could go on and on about the terrible state of things for Western European citizens…
And what are some of the examples of Clinton and Obama’s supposedly communistic policies?

Obama has proposed a federal crack down on what he deems “excessive pay” for corporate executives. He has proposed that the federal government begin taxing people’s capital (not just earnings or interest payments, but, yes, capital itself). He has proposed that the capital gains tax rate be raised to 28%, nearly doubling its current rate of 15%. And he has made it a constant theme of his campaign to lament “Bush’s tax cuts for the rich,”
. . .[Clinton] has berated the reality of America being an “ownership society” (despite the recent increase in mortgage foreclosures, home ownership in America is still at an all-time high), saying that in reality we are an “on your own” society. Her remedy for the “problem” is for us to become a “we’re in this together society,” a nation of “shared responsibility” AND “shared prosperity.”

Conservatives lament that people should have to actually give back a bit to the public by paying taxes, after the public’s investment in roads and bridges and law enforcement and military and schools and the legal and financial infrastructure made them rich. The writer thinks that the roads and bridges and schools and everything else that enabled that ecosystem which enables people to get rich just magically appeared. The writer doesn’t seem to know that it was taxes that built that system — OUR taxes — and thinks the beneficiaries of this public investment should just freeload off the rest of us.
Taxes are the reason we have a thriving economic ecosystem. Tax cuts make us poor. And people getting rich off of our public investment and giving nothing back is the reason we don’t get 5 weeks vacation, health care, and all the rest here.
If the conservatives are trying to scare me away from voting for Clinton or Obama by claiming that if elected they will bring us 5 weeks paid vacation a year, free health coverage and the rest, and that the cost will be taxing rich CEOs and corporations — well I gotta tell you I want to get me some of that!

One image, One moment – On the Road to the Beijing Olympics

Guest Post by Michelle Kraus
There is a promise of hope in the Beijing Olympics if global leaders come together for the Dali Lama and human rights. The image of the torch is not just the Olympic Torch, but rather the beacon of hope for the people of the world.
One image, One moment, a chance for peace.
Stepping back and taking a moment and to consider him carrying the Torch or stepping onto the podium at the Opening Ceremony – perhaps there is a chance for peace. Maybe what we must do is take baby steps and lobby for his presence at the Opening Ceremonies and that would be enough.
One image, One moment, a chance for peace.
A bold, online campaign launched today at www.humanitariandream.com proposing a solution to all the controversy surrounding the Beijing Olympics this summer. Amidst all the outcries for boycott and the resulting acrimony, businessman Steve Varon proposes a plausible solution.

“With controversy and strife surrounding the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay over the past few months, this proposal is the first publicly announced solution to the dilemma. Imagine the Dalai Lama carrying the Olympic torch along the torch relay route, past the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet – or anywhere else on the relay route. It has the potential to quell the violent protests and return the focus of the torch relay to a celebration of peace through sport, inspiring hope for all people around the world. Corporate, civic and government leaders globally have been encouraged to support this opportunity. The idea has been warmly embraced publicly and privately.”

See the video and hear the words of this quiet man, a businessman, who has committed himself to this one moment of light.
Sign the petition online and form the human link to this one moment.
All the political and global forces are wrong for this to have a prayer of success. The Chinese own a substantial amount of the US debt at a time in which the economy is teetering on recession. Human rights activists have lost their spokesperson in the late Congressman Tom Lantos. A United States boycott of the games is impossible, and not the answer.
One image, One moment, a chance for peace.
Sports should be about freedom, not politics. So let’s have the games and abide by this Call to Action. Sign the petition and consider the solution is of finding a way to unify the Dali Lama and the Chinese government on this one day.

“If constructive dialogue with China could result in the world seeing the Dalai Lama carrying the torch” said Varon “it would send a powerful message about the Olympics as a force of good, and truly symbolize the ‘One World, One Dream’ slogan of this year’s Games.”

One image, One moment, One World, One Dream – On the Road to Beijing.

Hillary and Obama

I’m not endorsing either Hillary or Obama, for various reasons. Both would be great Presidents. Hillary is ready on day 1. If Barack can pull it off, he could be transformational. But I’d like to see Medicare-For-All, an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions along with massive green infrastructure investment, bringing corporations under citizen control, balancing the budget and paying of the debt ASAP by taxing the rich and corporations (get the money from where the money went), cutting the military budget by about 3/4, and a few other things.
Here’s a couple of Obama videos that are great.
Baby Got Barack:

Yes, I Can (through Culture Kitchen)

Go here to see a video of Bobby Kennedy Jr. talking about Hillary.

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Women Voters Dominating at the Polls

A guest post by Bettina Duval
First Iowa . . . then New Hampshire . . . and once again in Nevada! Women voters are dominating at the polls!!!
In all three contests the percentage of female to male voters was a consistent 60% to 40%. The reality behind these percentages is even more significant because the number of total voters is also greater than ever before.
Why is this happening? It was former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil who said, “All politics are local.” Local issues are often about education, health care, child care – issues which resonate most strongly with women. Our individual experiences define our needs and our dreams and in turn our needs and dreams mold our opinions. Women are voting in greater numbers in this primary because there is a woman running for president.

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Hillary’s Victory

A guest post by Bettina Duval of the California List
Senator Hillary Clinton’s victory in New Hampshire was the first time in our history that a woman won a presidential primary*. Her win was a momentous achievement that the early suffragettes could only dream of. It was a triumph for all women – a giant step forward in the drive for equality.
The nation’s political attention has wrongly focused on why Senator Clinton won New Hampshire. The most important fact, that she is the first woman ever to win a primary, has been lost. Does it matter that Hillary Clinton won the primary – YES. Senator Clinton’s victory cannot be brushed aside with political positioning or media downplay. Make no mistake, it was an historic moment.

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San Mateo County Democratic Straw Poll Results

San Mateo County Democratic Straw Poll vote count (see the Live Blogging the San Mateo Country Presidential Straw Poll post):
Edwards 221
Kucinich 180
Obama 171
Hillary 128
Gore (write in) 23
Richardson 21
Biden 8
Dodd 4
Gravel 4
There are more details at the San Mateo County Democratic Straw Poll website.