Why DC Ignores Real Problems And What You Can Do About It

How many real and serious national problems can you list? And how many obvious solutions can you come up with literally off the top of your head? Now an experiment: list how many of them are being worked on by our DC elites or even discussed my our elite media? The answer is none. Why is this? And what can you do about it?

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Solyndra ‘Scandal’ About Big Oil, King Coal Power And Intimidation

Last week big oil/big coal sent a not-subtle message to the country’s investment community: if you back companies or technologies that compete with us we will crush you. Our media/political machine will accuse you of every crime in the book. Your picture will be plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the country looking like you are on the FBI’s “Most Wanted List.” We will haul you before Congress and grill you like a tri-tip on national television. The evening news will speculate that you should be in prison.
Here is the other message that is being sent out loud and clear to the rest of us: America is for oil and coal. If you want alternatives let China do it.
Extending To Everything
Here is what the conservative propaganda machine does. It sets a narrative, pounds out a drumbeat on that narrative, and then every news event is twisted to leach the lesson of the narrative. The oil-backed right had been on an anti-green kick for some time. In The Phony Solyndra Solar Scandal I gave some examples — just a taste — of this narrative development:

Attacking Green Manufacturing
The Solyndra accusations are really just one part of an ongoing conservative and oil-interests-funded anti-green-manufacturing campaign drumbeat. Long before Solyndra’s bankruptcy the Heritage Foundation was running stories like 2008’s Green Jobs Are Con Jobs, 2009’s The Green Job Myth Exposed, and this year’s Obama’s “Green Jobs” Pipe Dream, The Green Jobs Story Obama Doesn’t Want You to Hear, Are “Green Jobs” the Answer?, Are Green Jobs ‘Gone with the Wind’?
Media Matters had previously exposed the nature of this ongoing effort, in Heritage Foundation Green Jobs Panel – Bought and Paid For By ExxonMobil,

Instead of showcasing the views of unbiased academics and economists, the Heritage Foundation put forth a panel of individuals financially connected to ExxonMobil.
The ENTIRE PANEL Received Money From ExxonMobil.

More conservative-outlet examples include the ever-malignant Fox News: Solyndra Investigation Begins Critical Look at Federally Funded Green Ventures.
Other conservative outlets continue the drumbeat, Obama’s green dream hurting U.S. taxpayers by Linda Chavez.
Another: Obama Green Jobs Con Job and the Ill Wind That Blows from Spain,

Another: Reason: Obama’s Green Jobs Failures and Obama’s Green-Jobs Fantasy and The Green Jobs Delusion and The Unseen Consequences of “Green Jobs”: Will investing in clean energy harm the economy?
NewsMax: Green Jobs Spending Is a Waste of Greenbacks, “If the congressional “supercommittee” wants to cut wasteful spending, the green-jobs agenda is a great place to start.”
And more and more and more and more…

That is what they do. They develop the narrative — in this case, anti-green, and when there is a story in the news they twist it to teach the lesson.
The Solyndra Lesson
So now Solyndra is in the news. On FOX news — 2nd-largest shareholder is an oil billionaire — the story is played 100 ways hour after hour. On talk radio it is repeated endlessly. In right-wing blogs it echoes everywhere. In right-wing newspapers, echoed in “mainstream” outlets by right-wing supported columnists, and driven into the mainstream. Lie after lie after lie, repeated until it becomes “truth.”
Charles Krauthammer On Solyndra: A “Toxic Combination Of Lenin Socialism and Crony Capitalism”
So the narrative was that efforts to push for green-energy alternatives jobs was bad, Solyndra came along and was used to teach the lesson. Now that Solyndra is the narrative, it is being used to teach the larger lesson – anything government does is bad, anything opposing oil and coal and big multinationals is bad. Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, The birthing of Solyndra,

Since the solar-energy company went belly-up a few weeks ago — leaving taxpayers on the hook for $535 million in loan guarantees — a business that was once the poster child for President Obama’s green-jobs initiative has instead become a tool for Republicans to discredit most everything the administration seeks to do.
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah used Solyndra to argue against worker-training benefits. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina used it to argue that the federal government should stay out of autism research. Disaster relief, cancer treatments, you name it: Solyndra has been an argument against them.
And this week, the government faced the prospect of a shutdown because House Republicans added a provision to the spending bill to draw more attention to — what else? — Solyndra.

The Serious People
One side intimidates, and means it. So they are seen as the “serious” people — deadly serious. If you cross them, you will have trouble. Serious trouble. The other side plays along, caves, accommodates, appeases, refuses to exercise power when they have it, does little even to enforce obvious lawbreaking by the big — serious — players.
Which side do you think people are going to take seriously?
The media won’t call out the intimidators because they are intimidated. One part of this intimidation is the organized, funded “liberal media” accusation. But that is just part of a larger strategy: neutralize those who might call you out on what you are doing. Yet another part of media intimidation is the effect on people’s careers. If you call out the right, you are a “leftist” and you career is in danger. If you are known as a liberal your career is not going to advance in most outlets. If you go after corporations you are “anti-business” and your career is not going far.
But you can say any silly thing, be as wrong or stupid as you can be, as long as it supports corporate/right positions. Nothing bad will happen to you. In fact you are more likely to do well careerwise – be promoted, make more money, get access, speaking fees, etc. And if you actually work for the right’s machine, the sky is the limit. You will always, always have a job at an “institute” or in an “association” or even on the government payroll as a staffer. Seriously.
Seriously Using Power
Oh, and for those concerned about government subsidies, deals, etc.:

And is that pesky government trying to regulate you?

And not just big coal and oil:

As for getting goodies from the government?

This list could go on all day.
This is how power is used, and big oil/big coal/Wall Street/Big Multinationals have that power.
Solyndra – Government Doing The Right Thing
The first thing that needs to be emphasized here: the government — under Bush first, then under Obama — was right to assist Solyndra and other solar companies. Our government wants to help us capture some of the new green-energy industrial revolution for our country. It is millions of jobs and trillions of dollars coming down the road. To accomplish this the government stepped in to help explore promising new technologies, just like they do with cancer research. Solyndra had a promising new technology and that is why the Dept. of Energy started considering them for a loan guarantee – under the bush administration – that would encourage private investors to take the plunge.
That is all that happened here. Period. One company went under but the technology was promising and still is. Jobs were created – here. Research was funded – here. Facilities were built and will be used – here.
But China stepped in and put $30 billion into winning this bet – there – and this drove the prices down, so one company here went out of business. That is what happened.
Did it cost the government some money? Yes and no – the jobs, research, facilities, supply chain is all still here. And the money was nothing compared to the money the government puts into big oil, big coal, big ag, big financial, etc.
Silicon Valley’s San Jose Mercury News Silicon Valley observers say fears of ‘more Solyndras’ are overblown,

…the scandal has already created an unexpected roadblock for another area solar firm, San Mateo’s SolarCity. Earlier this month, the company heralded conditional Department of Energy approval for a $275 million loan guarantee that would help put solar panels on dozens of U.S. military bases. On Friday, the company’s CEO sent an urgent letter to Congressional leaders, saying new federal concerns in the wake of the Solyndra scandal could scuttle the SolarCity deal.
… “In the past 48 hours, the DOE has informed us that while they remain strongly supportive of Project SolarStrong, they will be unable to finalize their approval of the loan guarantee” prior to next week’s expiration of the loan program.
Adding that the high-flying company ultimately may have been undone by the rise of lower-cost competitors, he said: “Solyndra isn’t a sign of the failure of solar. It’s a sign that this market is booming.”

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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The Politics of 2012 and Maybe 2016

Will Sarah Palin, Congressman Paul Ryan or Newt go under the bus? This is quite a polemic for our Republican brethren that have always made hay on their brilliant use of language while we Dems contemplated our sleepy intellectualism. Perhaps finally in the aftermath of the failed assassination attempt on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the President’s irrefutable victories, and the Arab spring — maybe the forces have finally aligned for the Democrats together with social media to counter balance the megaphone of the Right wing propaganda.
Given that language and propaganda are not working, who will be the first to be thrown under the bus for the greater good of the Republican Party? Will it be Sarah our old pal from the McCain campaign that has built a $25M industry around her 2008 candidacy to the chagrin of the Party elders? Or will it be the “real” Palin appropriately coined as such by the supporters of Michelle Bachman on national television? Or have the women folk run their course in Republican Land? And if so has the time come to “man-up” with a few good, old white conservative male Governors from Conservativeville – like Tim Pawlenty or Jon Huntsman? Or better yet will it be Newt who inappropriately danced on the head of Congressman Paul Ryan and his budget plan — only to refute it later? Sadly, for the Republicans all of this is off putting for guys like Mitt, or even Governor Chris Christie that appeal to the moderates of both parties.
Admittedly, any candidate, male or female, needs the proverbial brass cajoles, or other such accoutrements to challenge this sitting President after the take down of Osama bin Laden. This factoid together with Obama’s recent tough stance on the Middle East clearly levels the playing field. The scare tactics of the past cannot work at this rodeo particularly when bundled with the wholesale lunacy of the Republican leadership on the debt ceiling, Medicare and the budget. Vice President Biden in an LA Times piece summarizes well when referring to the Osama take-down as a “defining moment” for the Obama presidency. Certainly, this together with the broken Republican message machine is having an impact. Terms like “Mediscare” are not getting the same kind of traction as “ObamaCare” did just last year, or the coinage of the term “entitlement” used to pollute a whole generations’ thinking on Medicare and Social Security. Of course, Newt and his merry gang of language shapers keep trying to spin, but it is not sticking. Maybe in Newt’s case, folks have had enough of those that behave badly, pander family values, but live on the edge of exorbitant wealth. For him it appears that there is just no way to explain away things like the Tiffany’s account to the Middle Class. Further is there now cause to wonder if the day has come for Sarah, sweet Sarah, who walks the walk on reality television, but lives shall we say in Palin vernacular, high off the hog.
Indeed, the President and the Party are on the right side of the budget, Medicare, Social Security, national security, jobs and climate change. But can he and the Dems maintain this momentum when the banks, remember those pesky money men, continue to behave poorly. The reality is that folks are as fed up with these fat cats as they are with the empty threats of Right wing rhetoric and the bad behavior of men of a certain age and power whether they represent Hollywood, government or international politics.
Note to the Democratic Party: clean up the banks, the bankers and all of the bad behavior of their ilk and 2012 is a shoe-in, and maybe even 2016. Let’s think like Republicans and chart the waters for the next eight years.

Five Things People “Know”

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
The things that people “know” are very different from the “reality-based” things those of us reading a blog like this know, and those things seem to always, always serve the corporate right.
I have been away on vacation. While away I have been talking to “regular” people who are outside of the circles many of us who follow progressive blogs and news closely live in. The particular group I spent time with might not fairly represent “regular” people but whenever I spend time talking to people who are outside of our highly-informed circles, whether it is talking to relatives, doing call-in radio shows or just talking to people I meet I come away very discouraged by the things that most people “know.” The corporate right has been very effective at spreading an anti-government, anti-democracy narrative that, when believed, puts their interests on top.
Some of the things that people “know” that I heard in one form or another on my trip include:
1) Government caused the financial crisis. A lot of people know this, and a lot more have heard it repeated over and over. Government forced banks to give mortgages to poor people and minorities. Taxes and government spending “take money away” from and generally harm the economy.
2) Obama bailed out the banks. The most a lot of people know about the stimulus is that it was a lot of money and it went to bailing out the banks. Obama’s massive spending increase (Democrats “tax and spend”) is the cause of the deficit and the government is at risk of going bankrupt.
3) Corporations (plutocracy) are always more effective and efficient than government (democracy). Government messes up everything that it touches.
4) “Entitlements” are welfare and are destroying people’s independence and work ethic. People think the government will solve their problems so they don’t turn to themselves. Illegal immigrants immediately get welfare and have lots of babies on welfare and this is why states are going bankrupt.
5) Social Security is going broke and won’t be there for younger people.
Of course all of these are just wrong, and of course acting on these beliefs leads the country to results that are terribly destructive to the economy and people’s lives while a few at the top make out very very well for themselves. I’m not going to spend any time here getting into how much is wrong with each of these. I do want to get into why people believe these things.
So many of us — by “us” I mean people likely to be reading this — spend our time in somewhat insular information environments, where the blogs and other information sources we read and the people we talk to tend to follow news closely, and to be very highly informed with “reality-based” information. But “regular” people do not follow the news closely, and the “news” they get does not come from the same places as the news sources you and I carefully seek out.
Why The Right Controls The Narrative
It’s simple. The corporate right controls the narrative because they make an effort to do so, and the forces of We, the People democracy, community and caring humanity do not. (Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness.)
Corporations and conservatives have invested a ton of money in a huge ideological message machine because they understand marketing. There is FOX News, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of talk radio, Drudge Report, a vast, vast Astroturf operation and all the rest of the right’s propaganda operation. It is very, very well funded. They have constructed an effective narrative and they repeat it and repeat it and repeat it and repeat it — and then they repeat it.
But there is also the corporate-owned “mainstream” media that largely echoes and often directly transmits the right’s narrative. First, they echo these anti-government themes. Then, as with the current anti-Muslim “ground-zero mosque” frenzy they carry the things that distract from the real issues. Why? Because it serves their interests, too. If people are focused on distractions instead of looking at the real causes of their economic woes it is all the better for the real causes of their economic woes: namely the big, monopolist corporations.
(Does the mainstream media reflect corporate interests against those of the rest of us? Without going into detail here is a simple test: When was the last time you saw, heard or read someone on TV, radio or in a newspaper explain the benefits of joining a union?)
Meanwhile progressives and the forces of democracy are barely reaching out to regular people at all. We seem to focus our efforts mostly on elections, and do very little between elections to persuade the public that there are benefits to them of a progressive approach to issues. (And never mind our political leaders who repeat and reinforce the right’s frames and narratives.)
A big part of this is that it takes a lot of money to reach out past our circles. But we sure do seem able to come up with money for elections. In fact the return on investment of reaching people outside of the election cycle should be obvious. We wouldn’t have to raise and spend so much money in the election cycle if we were making the case that progressives bring more benefits to regular people, because then regular people would be more inclined to vote that way in general.
I plan to write more about this.
I think I did an OK job going into more detail on the things people “know” and why in this video from the Netroots Nation panel, The 2010 Elections: Channeling the Power of Jobs, Populism and the Angry Voter. Use the bar to slide this to the 40:00 minute mark, and watch for about 5 minutes.

And, while I’m showing videos, here is Love, Peace & Happiness by the Chambers Brothers. (I can’t get it out of my head since writing “Peace love and understanding, truth and happiness” above…)

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Huge 2009 Budget Deficit — Just One More Conservative Failure

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF). I am a Fellow with CAF.
Conservatives claim that President Obama “tripled the deficit” and point to the huge 2009 budget deficit as proof. The fiscal-year 2009 deficit, as reported in October was, indeed, about triple the prior year’s borrowing. But the 2009 budget was the last budget year of the prior, conservative administration. It is just one more demonstration of the failure of conservative policies.
Basic math: A budget year that ends 8 months into a President’s first year wasn’t that President’s budget.
Yet we hear, over and over, that “Obama tripled the deficit.” Recently, when President Obama spoke at the Republican caucus retreat, Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas said that Obama had “tripled the deficit.” A CNN fact check addresses this,

Obama was essentially correct when he said he inherited a budget deficit of $1.3 trillion. Though the budget deficit for 2008 was a then-record $458.6 billion, the CBO issued a projection in January 2009, just days before Obama took office that the budget deficit would reach $1.2 trillion that year, before the cost of any new stimulus plan or other legislation was taken into account.

Don’t believe me? See the conservative Cato Institute on this: Don’t Blame Obama for Bush’s 2009 Deficit | Cato @ Liberty,

Listening to a talk radio program yesterday, the host asserted that Obama tripled the budget deficit in his first year. This assertion is understandable, since the deficit jumped from about $450 billion in 2008 to $1.4 trillion in 2009. As this chart illustrates, with the Bush years in green, it appears as if Obama’s policies have led to an explosion of debt.
[chart]
. . . But there is one rather important detail that makes a big difference. The chart is based on the assumption that the current administration should be blamed for the 2009 fiscal year. While this makes sense to a casual observer, it is largely untrue. The 2009 fiscal year began October 1, 2008, nearly four months before Obama took office. The budget for the entire fiscal year was largely set in place while Bush was in the White House.
[corrected chart]

Please click through to see the charts. And then look at Cato: Who’s To Blame for the Massive Deficit? for an even better explanation,

What about the so-called stimulus, they will ask, with its $787 billion price tag? Or the omnibus fiscal-year 2009 appropriations bill? And how about Cash for Clunkers and Obama’s expansion of the children’s health insurance program? Didn’t these all boost spending in 2009?
The answer is yes. But these boondoggles amounted to just a tiny percentage of FY2009 spending — about $140 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget — as the pie chart nearby illustrates.

Here are some examples of how this propaganda is applied. Keep in mind as you read these and look at the charts that the 2009 budget was Bush’s last budget, and began before Obama even took office.
Heritage Foundation: Bush Deficit vs. Obama Deficit in Pictures. Look at how the colors on the chart trick you into thinking that 2009 is an Obama budget year. This is just outright deceit.
Here is Heritage directly labeling the 2009 budget as Obama’s in a chart.
Here is a similar use of deception in charts, by right-wing blogs.
More examples: Federal budget triples under Obama – yes TRIPLES, and After Tripling The Deficit, Obama To Try And Create Jobs With More Government Spending, and Obamanomics: Deficit Tripled in One Year
Fox News: Obama Triples Budget Deficit to $1.4 Trillion (they have since changed the headline but here is it as it appeared:) fox nation clip
Here’s a good one, using a Heritage propaganda chart: Obama’s Tripling of the National Debt in Pictures
The right’s noise maching is good, though, there are 27,000 websites listed if you search for “obama tripled the deficit” in quotes.
Conservative policies since Reagan have led to massive debt. Don’t let them trick you by changing the colors on a chart.

Government

This post originally appeared at Speak Out California
After decades of anti-government speeches claiming that government holds back business, government takes money out of the economy and government is less efficient than corporations, people came to believe that, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government is the problem, not the solution.” This led to deregulation and budget cutbacks in all areas including education and infrastructure.
If you think about it, government really is what We, the People want it to be. In a democracy we jointly make decisions about the best way to manage our affairs. So saying that corporations do things better is really an anti-democracy message. What they are saying is that organizations run by a few wealthy elites telling everyone else what to do, with the benefits of everyone’s work mostly going to those few at the top, is a better way to manage society than to have everyone making the decisions and sharing in the results.
As the financial crisis hits, and the fabric of that pro-big business philosophy is shredding the fabric of our society, we can see clearly just how foolish and destructive the right-wing machine has been to our economic, social and political values. (Not to mention cutting off peanut processing plant regulation and inspection, leading to the current situation of 9 dead and hundreds seriously ill across the country. This is just ONE more example of the consequences of right-wing policies.)
Alone those lines, here is an interesting video, making fun of some of the anti-government propaganda we have heard over the last few decades:

Click through to Speak Out California

Another Anti-Government Propaganda E-Mail

I received one of those anti-government propaganda e-mails today. Look how they do it. It’s a really funny story, until they inject the propaganda point as the last line:

The Firewood Story
It was already late fall & the Indians on a remote reservation in South Dakota asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was a chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn’t tell what the winter was going to be like. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold & that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared. But, being a practical leader, after several days, he got an idea.
He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service & asked, ‘Is the coming winter going to be cold?’ ‘It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold,’ the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the chief went back to his people & told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared. A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. ‘Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?’ ‘Yes,’ the man at National Weather Service again replied, ‘it’s going to be a very cold winter.’
The chief again went back to his people & ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find. Two weeks later, the chief called the National Weather Service again. ‘Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold’ ‘Absolutely,’ the man replied. ‘It’s looking more & more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters we’ve ever seen.’
‘How can you be so sure?’ the chief asked. The weatherman replied, ‘The Indians are collecting firewood like crazy.’ Always remember this story whenever you get advice from a government official!

As if a corporate weather source would somehow be different. The government is US, and stories like this carry a profoundly anti-democracy message, intended to make people think that somehow privatizing government functions to corporations would be better for us.
But a corporate information source would be about screwing the customers and the employees and the public so the CEO could get a bigger jet. No one except a very few already-wealthy power brokers benefit when we hand over our common interests – even weather reporting – to corporations as they are presently constituted.

Lies About Badges and Incubators

I saw a story on the right-wing blogs and other news sources this morning, that the Iranians had passed a law requiring Jews and Christians to wear identifying “badges.” This follows a recent report, repeated everywhere and now conventional wisdom, that the President of Iran had called for “wiping Israel off the map.” That report was not correct – knocked down by Juan Cole, who wrote about the (intentional?) mistranslation in his now-famous post about Christopher Hitchens and those in Washington fishing for (or creating) a pretext for war.
And, of course, the “badges” story is also false, circulated to drum up popular support for war against Iran. Yet ANOTHER enemy for us to hate, who is “just like Hitler.” Like the “babies thrown from incubators” story that launched the first Gulf war, stories like this are circulated to lay down a smokescreen to confuse the public and create that pretext for war. See: Iran report of Holocaust-style badges questioned,

“It’s absolutely factually incorrect,” … “Nowhere in the law is there any talk of Jews and Christians having to wear different colours. I’ve checked it with sources both inside Iran and outside.”
“The Iranian people would never stand for it. The Iranian government wouldn’t be stupid enough to do it.”
Political commentator and 940 Montreal host Beryl Waysman says the report is true, that the law was passed two years ago.

I’m not defending Iran here – not at all. If the Iranian Ayatollahs have their way the world will be much worse off. I’m just pointing out that in the Propaganda Age, you have to learn to question what you hear – especially when it’s designed to hit you in the gut and make you want to kill.
Here are some of the right-wing blogs reflexively repeating today’s lie. To their credit, others have added updates to their own reflexive posts, letting readers know that the story may not be true.
UpdateJuan Cole talks about this today. (Through Atrios)

Yesterday On Rush


Another “I used to be a Democrat, but” moment: I was listening to Rush, and heard this: Rush Is Right: Unmanly Men Fear Bush,
Caller: …I voted for Kerry and ’04, and after that — I mean, very shortly; I’m talking like even a month after that — I started to study. … I mean, it’s emasculating how the Democratic Party is, just because, I mean, Reagan and Bush, they have that in common. They see something and they know it’s right, they’re going to do it no matter what and that’s what a man does, and the Democratic Party, I mean, that’s the reason I left is because –

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