Posts Tagged ‘capital’

NY-SEN: Horald Ford to seek GOP nomination

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Braking newz: — At a press conference in Washington, DC today, former Tennessee Rep. Horald Ford today announced he would seek the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the 2010 election.

“I’m a life-long conservative who has dedicated his political capital to weakening the Democratic Party,” Ford said.

Ford said teabaggers would just love him.

“For starters, I’m to the right of most New York Republicans,” Ford said. “Dede Scozzafava? HA! I’m to the right of that Doug Hoffman dude, and he didn’t even run as  Republican.”

Asked for specific examples of his conservative record, Ford rattled off a comprehensive list.

“Well, I’m pro-life,” he said. “I want to outlaw abortion. I said so in 2006 — live, on national TV. It’s up there on YouTube if you want to see it.

“But that’s not all, folks. I am for the Iraq War. I’m against immigration. I thought Congress should have intervened in the Terri Schiavo case to stop her socialist husband. And I’m for permanent repeal of the Nazi estate tax.

“I’m the teabaggers’ sweetest dream and the Democrats’ worst nightmare.”

Asked about whether his support for the bailouts and his career as a Wall Street consultant might hurt his reputation amongst teabaggers, Ford muttered something about the looming Communist menace and stormed out of the press conference.

Rumor has it Glenn Beck is looking to serve as the Ford campaign’s spokesbagger.

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Midday Open Thread

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments
  • Portugal, which, by the way, is 84% Catholic, becomes the sixth European country to legalize same-sex marriage. As Joe Sudbay at Americablog points out, it’s refreshing to see a government that isn’t run by the Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • President Obama will:

    … unveil a $2.3 billion tax credit on Friday to promote clean energy technology and boost job creation in the hard-hit manufacturing sector, the White House said.

    It said in a statement the credit, from funds earmarked under an emergency $787 billion stimulus package Obama signed in February 2009, would create 17,000 new U.S. jobs and would be matched by an additional $5 billion in private capital.

  • Fire up the tea kettles:

    In a National Journal survey of 109 Republican “party leaders, political professionals and pundits”, not a single one deemed Sarah Palin to be the most likely Republican nominee.

  • Tom Cole (R-OK), the only Native American in the House, calls RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s use of the phrase, “honest injun,” unacceptable and offensive. And maybe when Steele’s book tour is over, he’ll apologize.
  • Who knew? Bob Bennett (R-UT) just isn’t conservative enough:

    “Bob Bennett is out of touch with the times and with his state, and Utah Republicans have better choices for their candidate in November,” Club President Christ Chocola said.

    “Our extensive research into the race suggests Utah Republicans already understand this, as they have begun rallying around several viable and superior candidates,” he continued. “The Club for Growth PAC is committed to seeing one of them defeat Bennett either at the nominating convention in May or in a primary election in June.”

  • Read greendem’s diary and learn how dangerous it can be for a cartoonist in a teabagging world.
  • Can someone please light a fire under Martha Coakley?

    According to PPP’s Tom Jensen, Democratic candidate Martha Coakley’s sleepy campaign–which is increasingly starting to irritate party strategists who trusted her to lock the race down early–has resulted in an electorate that’s more Republican than usual and more anti-health care reform than the state as a whole. Brown, one of the few Republicans of stature in the state, has a 60 percent favorable rating–a result of his own ads and of being basically ignored by Coakley.

  • From the you-can’t-make-this-shit-up files:

    Fed up with the mainstream media filter, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) is taking her quest to inform Americans about the threat of jihad to the Internet — namely, YouTube — in a new weekly terror news video series that will be featured on her congressional Web site.

    Who is paying for Myrick’s little one-woman jihad?

  • A former GOP chairman says that a gubernatorial bid by Norm Coleman is a “bad idea both for Coleman and for Minnesota.”
  • Will anyone listen?

    Mountaintop coal mining — in which Appalachian peaks are blasted off and stream valleys buried under tons of rubble — is so destructive that the government should stop giving out new permits to do it, a group of scientists said in a paper released Thursday.

  • Geraldo Rivera flip-flops on racial profiling.
  • Elvis Presley would have been 75 years old today.

Timothy Terhaar: The New Activism

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments

The New Activism has been around in some form for years. Precisely how many I don’t know. It’s a label meant not to sew an ideology from whole cloth but rather to give some unity of purpose to seemingly disparate grassroots social projects and political causes.

Because of the diversity of its manifestations, it is tempting to give a disjunctive definition of the New Activism, a laundry list of exemplars. One of those items would be a suggestion made on this website December 29, 2009 by Arianna Huffington and Rob Johnson that U.S. citizens transfer at least some of their savings from monolithic to local banks. Some other New Activist projects are Kiva, CouchSurfing, and the Freeconomy Community.

It is hard to define the New Activism without listing its manifestations because it is a rising spirit, not a dogmatic, codified set of political beliefs. It is not as concerned with questions about how involved a government should be in the lives of its citizens as much as it is that the government should be democratic and not oligarchic.

Beginning with what Eisenhower recognized as the then-incipient military-industrial complex, the U.S. government has steadily ceded more of its power, functionality, and agenda to vested interests. We the citizens still vote for representatives, but it is less our interests than those of multinational corporations and other rotting institutions of habit which are represented.

Lobbies have eroded many citizens’ trust in the ability of our government to design policies favorable to us. In betraying our hope and patriotism, this corruption of the honesty of representation has produced in us a deep political apathy and cynicism. We have been narcotized against the possibility of real political action.

Cynicism is inimical to a well-functioning democracy. The New Activism is user-driven and necessarily participatory. In order for common citizens to reclaim their political prerogative, we must take responsibility for the allocation of our resources. From that which is blighted, we divest; into that which is vital, we pour ourselves.

The fundamental change, as the Great Recession has shown us, must occur at the level of the structure of our government. For decades the system has reproduced exploitation and corruption. We must refuse to be robbed. We must re-imagine the possible modes of production and distribution. We must not depend on an ossified government to transform itself; we should instead seek to enact on the local level a system of empathic and voluntary cooperation.

What then is the New Activism? It is not revolution; revolution is a dialectical move in the debate between tyrants. Rather than employ violence or other direct antagonism and thereby imbue a failing system of veiled oligarchy with an aura of legitimacy, we should simply withdraw. An evolutionary political change enacted through the investment of time, money, and faith in businesses and institutions we actually appreciate: this is the New Activism.

Of course, as adumbrated here, the label “New Activism” could apply to diametrically opposed projects. I do not think this a failure of the scheme. Rather than think of it as a set of policies, it’s best to think of it as the political application and expansion of communitarian social values. A nation without community is a nation without patriots.

Indeed, mobilizing the Youth Vote has often proven prohibitively difficult precisely because there has been little honesty in politics and U.S. social organization has appeared uninspired and unjust. It is a hard thing to do, to take responsibility for the generation of community, but if we can understand that the deep-rooted capitalist process of social isolation and exclusively self-serving individuality is a prime cause of the current, rather bad state of U.S. economic and political life, we will have come a long way as Americans.

Mark 12:31: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than [this].

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Chris Weigant: Obama’s Second-Year Potential

January 7th, 2010 admin No comments

President Barack Obama has the potential of having a pretty good second year in office. Conventional inside-the-Beltway wisdom is that “nothing much gets done in a congressional election year,” but this ignores the fact that life itself does not halt for electioneering, but rather keeps right on happening. And there are quite a few positive things either explicitly scheduled for 2010, or at least very likely to happen. This doesn’t automatically mean the president is guaranteed to have a great year, but it certainly sets the scene for Obama managing to have a fairly good year.

The first good news Obama is expecting is the culmination of an effort which absorbed much of his first year in office — healthcare reform legislation appearing on his desk to sign into law. Barring any huge surprises, at some point in the next few weeks, Obama’s going to be able to proclaim a legislative victory that (in his own words) “seven previous presidents” have attempted — and failed to achieve.

This will be the end of a long battle, and for many (who fought for even stronger reforms), it may not feel like much of a victory at all. But most of the American public doesn’t fixate on “what might have been” so much, preferring instead to focus on “something getting done.” And something big and historic is indeed about to get done. Whether this turns out to be a political plus or minus is likely going to have to take a few years to figure out, but in the immediate future it will be hailed as a big win for the president. Even the mainstream media will have to begrudgingly give Obama some credit on this issue. Obama will proudly say he campaigned on big issues, and has now checked one of them off his list.

Of course, Obama’s big ambitions have yet to be fully matched with the strategy and tactics he chooses to use in order to promote his agenda, but being president is always a learning process. And, hopefully, Obama has learned a few lessons from his first year in office. This also has potential to become a much stronger political plus for the president, as he will (assumably) make fewer rookie stumbles next year, and become more effective in nudging Congress to produce. Tactics which bear no fruit (such as Obama’s wishes for bipartisanship) will likely be either completely abandoned, or just be given minimal lip service in the coming year.

Obama’s second year will begin in grand fashion, with the traditional State Of The Union address to a joint session of Congress, and to the American public at large. The speech has already been moved a few weeks back, to “early February,” to give the House and the Senate time to get the healthcare bill on his desk. This is smart, because standing up and saying “we got healthcare reform done” is a lot better than mumbling, “well, we’re almost there, give us a little more time….” Obama will use the stature of the speech to remind America where we all were one year ago, point out some of the good things that Democrats have accomplished, and also remind everyone of some bad things which were avoided. Presidents usually get a bump in the polls from giving State Of The Union speeches, and Obama will most likely reap this benefit as well.

But the biggest, and most important thing which could happen in 2010 is which direction the economy will be heading. Once again, Obama can most likely expect some good news on this front. This may begin before any of the rest of the items on this list, as the unemployment numbers for last month come out in a few days. The last week of last year saw a steep drop in people initially filing for unemployment, which may be no more than an anomaly (most bosses are assumably bright enough to either fire people before the holidays, or wait until just after, rather than dumping workers between Christmas and New Year’s). But even if it is an anomaly, it may result in the best news Obama could hope for at this point — that America actually added jobs last month, instead of suffering yet another net loss. This will be the first time in a long time that this has happened, and the first time during Obama’s presidency.

Of course, Democrats (including Obama) will urge, cautiously, not to read too much into this number — every time they speak of it. But this restraint will fail to completely conceal the glee that they feel in being able to report some good news on the jobs front, just as the midterm election season gets underway. Much more importantly, if the good news continues for a few months, then Democrats can start talking about the “economic recovery” in a more full-throated fashion. Which will help Democrats’ chances in the congressional elections, and will also help Obama himself. If the country starts thinking “things are getting slowly better” rather than “things continue to get worse,” it always helps the party in power in Washington, as measured by opinion polls.

A minor piece of all this is the decennial census, which will take place this year. This means a lot of people are going to get temporary jobs, which (in a minor way) will help improve the employment numbers for the next few months as well.

Obama, and Congress, are likely to spend a few months on some window-dressing “jobs legislation,” which (if you ask economists) will likely have very little actual result this year (these things take a lot of time), but which will politically benefit the Democrats, because at least they’ll be seen as addressing the problem. Especially if Republicans fight every proposal tooth and nail (as seems a safe bet, at this point).

The next big piece of good news for Obama will be a massive troop withdrawal from Iraq. The Iraqi national elections were supposed to take place this month, but got pushed back to the first week in March. But the American military commanders on the ground say they are going to stick to their schedule of beginning to withdraw combat troops in early May, and will do so at the rate of 12,500 troops per month, until all combat forces are gone (leaving about 50,000 troops in the country, until the final withdrawal takes place at the end of next year). This has always been the plan, and was actually put in place by President Bush, right before he left office a year ago. But for three or four months this spring and summer, television screens will show joyful reunions of soldiers and their families — which, politically, is good news, and will help Obama (somewhat) with the people who are outraged over his Afghanistan policy.

And, while speculative, the Washington rumor-mill has it that at least one (and possibly two) Supreme Court Justices will announce their retirement at the end of this year’s term. This means that during the summer, Obama will be able to nominate his second pick for the high court. His last pick did him a lot of good with Latinos, and one expects that his next pick will also gain him some political capital with a portion of his Democratic base.

One thing on the calendar this year which isn’t likely to do Democrats or Obama much good is the fact that the 2001 Bush tax cuts are set to expire next year. The reason this is politically dangerous for Democrats is that revamping tax policy is not exactly an election-winner for Democrats (or, at least, it hasn’t been for quite a while). Republicans are going to make as much political hay over this situation as possible, and Democrats are already signaling that they are likely to punt on the issue, and pass a very short-term (one to three years’ worth) tax policy, so don’t look for any structural, sweeping changes on this front. Republicans are also going to be fear-mongering on the deficit, but again, I wouldn’t look for Democrats to do much more than a bit of grandstanding on this issue, either.

Speaking of grandstanding without accomplishing anything, Obama will likely not get his energy policy through Congress this year, either. Bruised from the healthcare battles, and facing election season, I just don’t see it in the cards for cap-and-trade legislation (or anything of similar significance on energy) to actually get passed this year. Of course, I could be wrong about that. But, again, Democrats will likely at least be seen as making the attempt, while Republicans fight any ideas tooth and nail, further cementing their “Party of No” label in the American electorate.

Which brings me to the final issue likely to be a big one politically in 2010 — immigration reform. Now this one could really go either way. It could very easily, like energy legislation, get punted to next year. But that is going to seriously annoy Latinos, who are fast becoming one of the biggest and most important constituencies in the Democratic Party. Getting Sotomayor on the Supreme Court was a nice victory for Latinos, but their biggest goal is comprehensive immigration reform. And they’re not in the mood to hear “we’ll tackle it next year, promise” from the Democratic Party at this point.

Meaning both Obama and Democrats in Congress may have to move forward on the issue — which may become one of the most contentious issues of the entire year, politically. This could wind up helping Democrats, and it could just as easily wind up hurting them.

The biggest reason for this is the fact that immigration reform opponents will tie the issue to the “jobs” issue. With unemployment at record levels, they will argue, why should we allow millions more into the legal job market at this point in time? The economy improving will dull this argument a bit, but nowhere near enough (as the economy simply isn’t going to get that much better that quickly).

But that’s assuming that immigration reform opponents will calmly and rationally explain their objections to the public, without going overboard with demagoguery. And my money is on the opposition getting so emotional on the issue that they find themselves allied with racist elements, as has happened before. Now, to clarify, I think most Republicans in office are smart enough to avoid direct race-baiting on the immigration issue, but I also think the people who show up at right-wing rallies and get their signs on television will not likewise be so restrained. Which will wind up hurting their cause with moderate suburban voters and independents.

Republicans have tried this before. Republican candidates in the past few congressional elections have latched on to anti-immigrant rhetoric in an attempt to get elected, and most of them have failed — even in border states where the issue is of paramount political importance. Sooner or later Republicans are going to realize that this really isn’t a winning issue for them to demagogue, either in the short term (of winning a specific election), or in the long term (by driving Latinos away from their party for a generation).

So, if handled correctly, pushing for comprehensive immigration reform could be a good political move for Democrats this year — especially if they actually get something passed before the election. Democrats face a real “enthusiasm gap” among voters, heading in to this November’s contests, and boosting Latino enthusiasm could go a long way towards improving this situation.

Of course, the latter half of the year will be consumed with the midterm elections. Dire predictions of the Democrats’ chances are already a dime a dozen among the punditry. Later this year, look for the main storyline to be “this election is a referendum on Obama,” even though most elections at the state level are concerned with either local issues or the personalities of the candidates themselves. Historically, presidents almost always lose seats in their first midterms, so that’s what the expectation is for 2010. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Republicans will likely not take control of either house of Congress this November. Democrats will likely lose some seats in the House, but still retain a healthy majority. Over in the Senate, Democrats may lose a few seats, and by doing so, lose their 60-vote supermajority. This could be a prescription for utter gridlock on Capitol Hill for the next two years, as the Republicans gleefully filibuster everything to death.

But, with the bar so low on what people are expecting out of the midterms (due mostly to the media’s “Democrats are toast this year” drumbeat), Democrats may actually surprise the chattering classes and do better than expected. As long as the election isn’t a total rout, Obama shouldn’t be damaged politically too much by the results.

Of course, as I mentioned, having less than 60 seats in the Senate may bode ill for Obama’s political future in the final two years of his term. But 2010 is actually shaping up to be a pretty good year for him, at least with events that can be foreseen. The potential exists, as always, of unforeseen events completely overshadowing any or all of this, but “unforeseen” (by definition) means such things can’t be predicted in advance. And looking over the events which can be predicted to be on the calendar for the president’s second year shows that the potential is there for Barack Obama to have a much better year politically than he did last year. Whether he capitalizes on this potential or not remains to be seen, but at least this positive potential exists, at this point.


Chris Weigant blogs at:

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


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Al Eisele: Nixon, Elvis and Me: Remembering the King at 75

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

It was more than 39 years ago when Elvis Presley ushered him into the Oval Office to meet President Nixon, but it seems like only yesterday to Sonny West as he thinks about what might have been if the King was still around to celebrate his 75th birthday on Jan. 8.

“I was asleep at Graceland at seven in the morning when Elvis called and told me to get up to Washington right away because we were going to the White House to meet the president,” said West, a Presley bodyguard who was living at Presley’s estate in Memphis when he received the call on Dec. 21, 1970.

West relived the memory of one of the most unlikely events in the history of the White House in a telephone interview Monday from his home in Nashville. In fact, the photograph of the straight-laced Nixon’s impromptu meeting with the flamboyant entertainer remains the most requested reproduction of any item in the National Archives, even more than the Bill of Rights or the U.S. Constitution.

West’s involvement is especially ironic since he was banished from Presley’s inner circle in 1976 because he collaborated on a tell-all book that detailed Presley’s extravagant and self-destructive lifestyle, including the rampant abuse of prescription drugs that led to his death at age 42 just a year later. After 16 years of service to Presley, it left West feeling like nothing but an old hound dog.

But first, some background on the 1970 Nixon-Presley meeting. It was four days before Christmas and Presley had flown into the nation’s Capital from Los Angeles the night before with another friend, Jerry Schilling. He told West he had just delivered a five-page handwritten letter to the White House asking for a meeting with Nixon to offer his service in combatting the drug culture and anti-Nixon protestors in exchange for credentials as a federal agent.

According to various published accounts, including two books co-authored by West, Nixon’s personal aide Dwight Chapin showed the letter to Egil “Bud” Krogh, the deputy counsel to the president who had been charged with developing a new drug policy. They decided that Presley could bolster Nixon’s appeal to young people and Chapin wrote a memo to Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman recommending that Nixon meet with the superstar singer later that day.

“It will take very little of the President’s time and it can be extremely beneficial for the President to build some rapport,” Chapin wrote. “In addition, if the President wants to meet with some bright young people outside the Government, Presley might be the perfect one to start with.”

Haldeman was skeptical. “You must be kidding,” he declared. But he approved the request, and told Krogh to write a memo for Nixon explaining the purpose of the meeting and giving him talking points. Krogh immediately placed a call to Presley’s room at the Washington Hotel, where the famous singer had registered under the alias of Colonel Jon Burrows.

But according to West, Elvis had gone to FBI headquarters to try to meet with J. Edgar Hoover – Republican Sen. George Murphy of California, whom he’d met on the plane from Los Angeles, had promised to try to get him an appointment with Hoover. When Schilling answered the phone, Krogh asked if Presley could meet with him in his office in the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House in the next 45 minutes.

A flabbergasted Schilling said yes, they would be there, and tracked down Elvis in the office of the director of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, where he was trying without success to get credentials as an FBI undercover agent. Presley told Schilling to wait outside his hotel and he would pick him up in his limo. Just as he arrived, West pulled up in a cab from the airport, and the three of them drove to the Old Executive Office Building, where they met with Krogh.

A short time later, Krogh walked Presley across the street to the Oval Office while West and Schilling remained behind. Presley had planned to present Nixon with a chrome-plated World War II .45-caliber pistol, but the Secret Service relieved him of it, explaining he couldn’t take it into the Oval Office. Instead, he brought all the badges he’d been given for his police work around the country and spread them out on Nixon’s desk, along with autographed photos of himself and his wife and his daughter.

Then he asked Nixon if he could get him the FBI badge he had been denied earlier. According to Krogh’s account of the meeting, “The President looked a little uncertain at this request. He turned to me and said, ‘Bud, can we get him a badge?’ I couldn’t read what the President really wanted me to say. ‘Well, sir,’ I answered, ‘if you want to give him a badge, I think we can get him one.’ The President nodded. ‘I’d like to do that. See that he gets one. …’

“Elvis was smiling triumphantly. ‘Thank you very much, sir. This means a lot to me.’ … Elvis than moved up close to the President and, in a spontaneous gesture, put his left arm around him and hugged him. President hugging was not, at least in my limited experience, a common occurrence in the Oval Office. It caught the President – and me – by surprise. The President recovered from his surprise and patted Elvis on the shoulder. ‘Well, I appreciate your willingness to help, Mr. Presley.’” Krogh wrote that Presley looked “like a kid who’d just received all of the Christmas presents he’d asked for.”

As he started to leave, according to West, Presley asked Nixon if he could say hello to his two friends waiting outside. “Jerry and I were sitting there and talking to [a Nixon aide] about our chance of meeting the president,” West recalled. “But he said the president’s appointments are made months in advance and it was unlikely we’d meet him. I said, ‘You don’t know Elvis. We’ll meet the president.’

“Just then, there was Elvis, who said, ‘Come on in.’ I was first and I could hardly walk because I’d been asleep at Graceland only a few hours before. The president was sitting at his desk writing something and he go up and shook our hands. He said ‘You’re a couple of big guys, you take pretty good care of him, do you?’ And Elvis said, ‘Yes, they sure do.’ He was almost taking over the meeting.”

Nixon greeted them and handed them gold key chains with the presidential seal, West said. “We thanked him and then Elvis said, ‘They’ve got wives too.’ The president said OK, and went to his desk and Elvis followed him, and he came back with two pins that had the presidential seal hanging from it. We thanked him again and Elvis was still at the desk looking at what was in there.

“The president said, ‘Do you see anything you like there?’ and Elvis said, ‘yes’ and put a couple of medals in his pocket. The president said, ‘I don’t think what you’re looking for is in there but I’ve arranged for you to get it.’ All of a sudden, he hugged the president, who looked shocked. Then we went down and ate in the White House Mess and Krogh gave us a tour of the White House and Elvis signed autographs for everybody. When we got back to Krogh’s office, the deputy director of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs was there and he handed Elvis his badge.”

Presley had accomplished his mission, and he and West dropped off Schilling at the airport and returned to the Wahington Hotel, but he had one more mission in mind. He called a woman who worked on on the House Armed Services Committee whom he’d met the previous August, and persuaded her to spend the night with him.

Presley and West returned to Memphis the next day and about a week later, West got married, with Elvis serving as his best man.

West said he told Presley, “You lied to the president when you told him we both had wives. He just laughed.”

West said Presley later fired him because “I was trying to get him off drugs and pain medication.” He’s writing a script for what he hopes will be a movie about his experience working at the side of one of the world’s most famous entertainers.

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New MJ Creditor — Back of the Line, Buddy

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

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Michael Jackson’s estate is taking hits from all sides — and big surprise, the newest creditor to enter the ring is a company that claims it’s owed money for helping MJ refinance the MIJAC catalog.According to a creditor’s claim filed in L.A. …


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Susan Madrak: You Still Want To Gut Social Security? Bring. It. On.

January 4th, 2010 admin No comments

You find the darndest things on Craigslist, don’t you?

Looks like the The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is putting together another scare piece (remember “I.O.U.S.A.”?) to use in their latest attempt to kill Medicare and Social Security.

As a Philadelphian, I’m thrilled we were chosen to take part – even if they picked us because tightwad billionaire Peterson knew it would be cheaper than filming in New York.

But this is more than mere marketing – and it isn’t even the major thrust of his sophisticated astroturf campaign. The fact is, billionaire Peterson has spent decades of his time – and millions of dollars – pushing for the eventual gutting of these two programs. He’s a deficit hawk, all right – but only when there’s a Democratic administration.

And in a classic piece of disaster capitalism, he and his powerful allies are moving in for the kill. Be very, very afraid.

A New York City Production Company is looking for participants for a documentary web series about the financial issues facing everyday people. We are interviewing real people, not actors, talking about their lives, experiences, and thoughts about one or more of the major issues facing Americans today.

We are looking to cover stories from as many different ethnicities and political viewpoints as possible. Whatever your age, background, or income, if you have an interesting story, we’d love to hear from you.

Since this is documentary journalism we can not by law compensate the interviewees but we will pay for travel and food. The shoot should take a few hours and we will do our best to schedule around your convenience.

What do you suppose the odds are of my viewpoints being included in this “documentary journalism”?

You will be helping other people by telling your story. Other Americans who feel alienated and hopeless will gain comfort by knowing they are not alone. And together we can make a difference in the future of our country and for our children.

Yes, we’ll be stripping the recession-battered country bare of what tattered remnants of a safety net that remain – and we’ll make you like it! It certainly will make a difference.

The videos are for The Peter G Peterson Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan, organization whose only mission is to educate the American people about the country’s financial situation and incite them to take action on their behalf.

Dear sweet Jesus, shoot me now. The man worked for Nixon. He was the CEO of Lehman Brothers, which held the same kind of influence we now see with Goldman Sachs. (So you know he has only our best interests at heart!)

You don’t have to be a political expert to participate. We just want to know your personal story.

The topics are:

1. The Healthcare System – What it does to the participants and the need for reform in a way that works.
2. The Tax System – How complicated and unfair it is.
3. Social Security and Medicare – What will happen to the younger generations once the Entitlements go broke.
4. The Federal Government’s Financial Situation – 11 trillion in National Debt with no plans to balance the budget and pay it back.
5. Our own personal financial issues – High school loans, credit card debt and mortgage rates are crippling Americans.

Some of the possible “stories” we’re looking for:
* A person who can’t pay their mortgage or their taxes
* A recent college graduate with credit card debt and student loans.
* A young family adjusting to the costs involved in raising children.
* A person with serious healthcare expenses.
* A small business owner who would like to provide healthcare but can’t.
* A person who has been or is being audited due to a mistake by their accountant or not knowing how to file taxes properly.
* Anyone who is infuriated by these issues.

Please remember, the types listed above are only possible guidelines. If you have an interesting story about your financial struggles, we’d love to hear from you!

Fellow Philadelphians, I think you know what to do. Let’s send these sorry excuses for human beings back to Wall Street with some real stories.

The series will premiere on prominent websites with potential TV airings.
If interested, please send an email with your name, contact info, and a brief description of your your situation to John at We will be shooting in Philadelphia mid to late January so time is of the essence.

Look, if the healthcare battle hasn’t opened your eyes to the fact that immensely wealthy and powerful corporate interests are perverting our democracy, you’re not paying attention. Why else do you suppose the Washington Post turned over a chunk of their news section the other day to a Peterson propaganda supplement – as news content?

The Washington Post published in its news pages an article by The Fiscal Times — “an independent digital news publication reporting on fiscal, budgetary, health-care and international economics issues” — that promoted the creation of a task force to reduce the deficit in part through cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. But the Post did not disclose that the Times is funded by conservative billionaire Peter G. Peterson, whose organizations have long advocated reducing the deficit through entitlement cuts and have called for the creation of such a commission.

The Fiscal Times article ran on Page A10 of the January 31 edition of the Post. The article’s byline noted that authors Elaine S. Povich and Eric Pianin report for The Fiscal Times; a note at the end of the article stated that it “was produced by the Fiscal Times, an independent digital news publication reporting on fiscal, budgetary, health-care and international economics issues.

Oddly enough, there was no inclusion of opposing views in this “news” piece. But then, the Washington Post has a long and proud tradition as a willing andmaiden to powerful interests.

So here it comes, the cranking up of the Mighty Wurlitzer. If they want a fight, bring it on.

This time, we’re ready.

Bowl Day Open Thread: Fill in the Corporate Sponsor Edition

January 2nd, 2010 admin No comments

The bowl-a-thon continues — next up, it’s Penn State versus LSU in the Capital One Bowl, and West Virginia versus Florida State in the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl.

And here’s a Top 10 trick plays video, with a mix from high school, college, NFL and even Canadian football.

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French Journalists, Guides Missing In Afghanistan

January 1st, 2010 admin No comments

PARIS — Two French journalists and their local guides have gone missing in Afghanistan, the French government said Thursday in what one Afghan official called a kidnapping.

The journalists for France-3 television went missing Wednesday while traveling in Kapisa province, where French soldiers are fighting Taliban and other insurgents as part of a NATO mission to help bring more stability to Afghanistan.

Halim Ayar, a spokesman for the Kapisa governor in Afghanistan, said the journalists, their driver and a guard were kidnapped while going to Kapisa from the Surobi district of Kabul province.

French officials stopped short of such claims.

“We have no news from them, but we don’t have any claim of responsibility either,” French Defense Minister Herve Morin told France-Info radio from Afghanistan, where he was visiting French troops for the start of the new year.

Morin said France’s only information so far was from indirect and unconfirmed witness accounts, and that “for the moment” it was not appropriate “to talk about a kidnapping.”

“We’ll know more in the hours or days ahead,” Morin added. He said some colleagues of the missing journalists said they had left to go speak with villagers.

France-3 declined to identify the journalists. Lionel de Coninck, who heads the program the journalists worked for, said the two had been in Afghanistan for the last month and were set to return in the coming days.

The team was working on a report about the reconstruction of a road linking the towns of Surobi and Tagab east of the capital Kabul, de Coninck said.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday that “no hypothesis can be excluded” about the cause of the disappearance, and a spokesman declined to comment further.

Kidnappings of journalists have risen over the last three years in Afghanistan. Media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders says nine were seized by insurgents or mafia groups in 2009 alone.

France has more than 3,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. In August 2008, 10 French soldiers were killed and 21 wounded in a Taliban ambush in the Uzbin Valley east of Kabul.

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Sarah van Gelder: Nine Ways Our World Changed during the ’00s

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

What was the decade of the ’00s about? What trends showed up in the last 10 years that will set the stage for the ’10s? The following nine trends are a snapshot of some of the driving forces we’re dealing with now at the turn of the decade.

1. The rich got really, really rich, and then got a spanking. During the irrational exuberance of the ’90s and early ’00s, it seemed like anybody should be able to get rich betting on bubbles. Pundits predicted there would be no end to the expansion of wealth and that we had transcended the business cycle. But the dot com bubble burst, then the housing bubble, and the financial bubble. Most of the rich are still rich–the bailouts made sure of that. But driving a Bentley is now considered poor taste, and populist anger is growing. The gap between rich and poor is growing, too, while the ladder out of poverty is splintering.

2. Middle class existence went from steadily stagnant to downright precarious.
Necessities like housing, energy, food, education, and medical care all climbed, while incomes stagnated. Families survived by working increasing hours, and by going into debt, using their homes as collateral. When the Great Recession hit, we learned that being middle class had been a bubble, too. And the billions that Wall Street took in bailouts hasn’t “trickled down” to ordinary people or to the real economy.

3. Mother Earth came up to bat. At the beginning of the decade, it was just the environmentalists, scientists, and some very forward-looking elected officials talking about the hazards of climate change, along with the insurance companies that have to pay for the increasing rates of wild fires, floods, and other climate-related disasters. Today, Pentagon brass, business owners, religious leaders, farmers, foresters, and people at all levels of government are seeing the danger and looking for ways to stop the disruption of the climate. The global leaders at Copenhagen struck out, but Mother Earth bats last.

4. We found a new enemy. We called the enemy “terror,” and we made war on it. Rather than use proven counter-terrorism strategies of sophisticated police work plus intelligence, the Bush administration used the shock of 9/11 to justify ultimately futile invasions and occupations. Then they added torture and a crack-down on civil liberties abroad and at home. It’s hard to measure the costs in traumatized civilians and soldiers, the dead and dying, refugees and broken societies, billions of added national debt, and the tarnished reputation of the United States. But here’s one gauge: Invading Afghanistan has already helped bring down one superpower. The ’00s set the stage for us to follow the Soviet Union’s example.

5. First we hated government. Later, we loved it. Government was revealed at its worst during Hurricane Katrina, when sheriff deputies blocked fleeing citizens from crossing a bridge to safety and the federal government offered little more than black booted Blackwater guards to maintain “security” and a morale-boosting “Good job, Brownie!” from the commander in chief. Maybe it’s to be expected that a president who hates government would turn over emergency preparedness to cronies and crooks. On the other hand, when the uber-greed of Wall Street threatened to bring the global economy to its knees, it turned out government could act quickly and effectively to keep the money flowing.

6. The Republican Party collapsed as a trusted force for reasoned governance, driven into the ground by the incompetence of its president, by unjustifiable and devastating military campaigns, and by policies that turned the economy over to corporate powers, who took it over a cliff. Economic fundamentalism and neoconservativism are now understood to be dystopian fantasies, and all that’s left for those who remain in the party is to flail around with tea bagging, climate denial, and attempts to kill anything that doesn’t bolster the military-industrial complex, the wealthy, and big business.

7. The Democratic Party collapsed as a trusted force for reasoned governance when, in spite of having an overwhelming mandate from the American people for real change, elected officials allowed corporations and their lobbyists to call the shots on health care reform, regulation of Wall Street speculation, and climate legislation. The resulting policies shored up the stock market but did little to help ordinary people, who became increasingly alienated from the party.

8. China continued its rapid ascent, moving quietly into position to become the next superpower. The U.S. debt to China, coupled with the transfer of most manufacturing capacity abroad–especially to China–hampered efforts to rebuild the U.S. economy, and weakened our global position. (This is one more outcome of corporate power, to add to 1-7 above.)

9. We began to hear whispers of the End Times, including the best selling post-rapture “Left Behind” series, the new disaster flick 2012, and the prophesies related to the Mayan calendar (Google it, and you’ll get over 8 million hits). The real end times might be more straightforward. At the same time Wall Street wealth was soaring (with a short setback in 2008), the ’00s witnessed a crash in the real wealth that keeps civilizations alive: fresh water, climate stability, trust and solidarity with fellow human beings, reliable public infrastructure, healthy soil and forests, resilient agriculture, sound governance, livelihoods that can meet basic necessities. Our way of life is increasingly precarious as we import much more than our fair share of the world’s declining supply of fossil energy and of other resources, bring the climate to the brink of runaway change. The end times of this consumption lifestyle are, indeed, upon us.

But wait, there are signs, too, that people are pulling out of this downward spiral. In the ’00s, people around the world turned away from obsolete ways of life, and went to work building the foundations of a world where our families and communities can thrive along with the natural systems that we rely on. The seeds are already planted. In my next column, I’ll list the 12 innovations begun in the ’00s that we can build on in the 2010s.

Sarah van Gelder is executive editor of YES! Magazine, a national media organization that links powerful ideas and practical action toward a just and sustainable world.

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