Saturday, July 31, 2010

Where Are The Prosecutions? SEC Lets Citi Execs Go Free After $40 Billion Subprime Lie ANS

where indeed?  why can't we get equal under the law for these guys?  If you or I cheated the American People out of 40 billion dollars, we'd be doing hard time.  This guy gets what amounts to barely even a slap on the wrist. 
As I've said before, and will say again, the Big Question this generation must answer is, "Which is more important, money or people?"  So far, money is winning.
Find it here:  

Where Are The Prosecutions? SEC Lets Citi Execs Go Free After $40 Billion Subprime Lie

Saturday 31 July 2010

by: Zach Carter  |  AlterNet | News Analysis

(Photo: SEIU International / Flickr)

What is the penalty for bankers who tell $40 billion lies? Somewhere between nothing and a rounding-error on your bonus.

The SEC just hit two Citigroup executives with fines for concealing $40 billion in subprime mortgage debt from investors back in 2007. The biggest fine is going to Citi CFO Gary Crittenden, who will pay $100,000 to settle allegations that he screwed over his own investors. The year of the alleged wrongdoing, Crittenden took home $19.4 million. That's right. Crittenden will lose one-half of one percent of his income from the year he hid a quagmire of bailout-inducing insanity from his own investors. That's it. No indictment. No prison time. Crittenden doesn't even have to formally acknowledge any wrongdoing.

In 2007, as financial markets were freaking out about the subprime situation, Citi repeatedly told its investors that it owned just $13 billion in subprime mortgage debt. It was true­if you didn't count an additional $40 billion in subprime debt that the company was also holding onto.

Citi's CEO at the time, Chuck Prince, has not been charged with anything. As Yves Smith emphasizes, all of the top financial officers of every major corporation are responsible for the accuracy of their quarterly financial statements. Lying on those statements is a federal crime. This is the sort of thing that securities fraud cases are built around.

The SEC's own statements about what went on at Citi are damning. If the agency can make this kind of information public, they ought to be pursuing criminal prosecutions. The SEC says that senior Citi management had been collecting information about the company's subprime situation as early as April 2007, but repeatedly cited the $13 billion figure to investors over the next six months, waiting to acknowledge the additional $40 billion in subprime debt until November 2007. The SEC also says that Crittenden knew the "full extent" of Citi's subprime situation by September at the latest, but the company continued to cite $13 billion in earnings reports through October.

Citi's subprime shenanigans had consequences for taxpayers, pushing the company to the brink of total collapse and prompting one of the biggest bailouts of 2008.

Phil Angelides and the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission deserve a lot of credit for highlighting the absurdity of Citi's actions in a hearing on April 7 of this year (the key passage starts on page 368 of this pdf transcript). Angelides' line of questioning revealed that even Citi's board knew that the subprime exposure was much greater than what the company was claiming in public. Citi's board at the time included Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary and architect of much of the deregulation that lead to the current crisis who took home $120 million for his work at Citi.

Either the SEC or the Justice Department could be pursuing criminal cases against Citi executives. What does it take to get the Justice Department's attention on a financial fraud case? You have to launder $380 billion in drug money, and even then, DOJ lets you off with a slap on the wrist. The DOJ caught Wachovia doing just that, and the bank is getting off with a minor fine that won't even make a dent in it's second-quarter profits.

The Citi settlement is worse than a get-out-of-jail free card for Crittenden, Prince and their cohorts. The SEC actually fined Citi's shareholders $75 million for the alleged wrongdoing of their executives. For some varieties of corporate misconduct, like Wachovia's drug money laundering, hitting shareholders with the fine is appropriate. Wachovia's money laundering operations directly enriched the company and its shareholders. This was not the case with Citi's subprime scandal. Citi's executives were hurting their own shareholders. Instead of meting out serious punishment to those executives, the SEC is fining Citi's shareholders, the very people wronged in the incident.

This deference to the elites who wrecked the economy just keeps playing out. When Bank of America lied to its shareholders about billions of dollars in bonus payments it was about to make, the SEC decided to fine BofA shareholders and let the firm's executives off the hook. The decision-makers at Wachovia who allowed the firm to funnel drug money despite repeated warnings by whistleblowers have not been indicted. Nobody at Washington Mutual has been indicted despite clear evidence of rampant mortgage fraud at the firm. Lehman Brothers' repo 105 accounting scam is going unpunished, as are similar schemes at other banks including Bank of America. After much public relations flogging, the SEC let Goldman Sachs off easy.

More than 1,100 bankers went to jail in the aftermath of the savings and loan crisis. Massive financial crises simply do not occur without widespread fraud. The failure to prosecute that fraud poses systemic risks for the global economy. With too-big-to-fail behemoths dominating the financial landscape, the prospect of prison is the only serious check on executives interested in cannibalizing the economy for personal gain. If the SEC and the Department of Justice continue to let executives get away with outrageous acts without even taking the case to court, our financial system is doomed to repeat the same excesses and abuses we've seen over the past decade. If Crittenden did what the SEC claims he did, he screwed over his own investors and scored a huge bonus in the process. Everybody on Wall Street understands the implications: breaking the law is a great way to make a lot of money. When a class of elites can thumb its nose at the law with impunity, the result is not only a threat to the efficiency of our economy, but a threat to the basic functioning of our democracy.

Zach Carter is AlterNet's economics editor. He is a fellow at Campaign for America's Future, and a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine.

All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.

The Angry Left Needs Hugs and Kisses ANS

There's some really good stuff in this article!  The left that are complaining about Obama not doing enough haven't a clue what he's up against. 
'"President Obama volunteered to be the captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg," [Van] Jones reminded his progressive audience.'
At the end of the article is a comment by Andy Schmookler.  It seems whiny in comparison to the main article. 
Find it here: 

The Angry Left Needs Hugs and Kisses: Jules Siegel on Truthout

This piece was brought to my attention by Sam Gruen.

A brief comment from me (Andy Schmookler) follows the piece.


The Angry Left Needs Hugs and Kisses

by Jules Siegel
Truthout, July 29, 2010

The angry left is angry with Barack Obama. It's lying on the floor kicking and screaming and holding its breath. Goodness is not being accomplished. Injustice continues sort of unabated. Bad people are doing bad things. This is obviously all the president's fault. I wish. The angry left presumes that the president is in full control of the government, when he's obviously not. Even George W. Bush learned that and he was a Republican.

Obama won the election. Lincoln won the Civil War. But the South won the peace because the North was unable to consolidate its victory. Reconstruction was a failure. Yes, slavery was gone, but the rest of the Jim Crow way of life remained, and in some ways got worse. The red states are an almost perfect match for the slave states and territories. The government and media are infested with unreconstructed rebels who faithfully represent the interests of their corporate masters. The rats haven't abandoned ship. To the contrary they are mutating so desperately they will soon have fangs like tigers.

All government serves the interests of the owning class to the detriment of the people. Revolutions occasionally occur and just plain folks soon become the new weaponized ruling class. All governments use repression, torture, injustice as a means of maintaining power. A reporter asked former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari why he made a certain annoying policy decision. "Because you govern by governing," he answered.

The United States has gone off the deep end and created a state of permanent war in order to increase the wealth of the ruling class. It isn't something that can be corrected easily.

Imagine that you are a businessman instead of a social activist. You discover that key employees have abused your trust and run the ship on the rocks behind your back, ruined your credit, stolen your trade secrets, changed the locks and passwords. They are so deeply embedded in your infrastructure that some of your own board is in on the scam, and others are so deluded that they think you're a bit daft. The stockholders are being enriched through some kind of Ponzi scheme, so they don't want to know what's going on as long as those dividends keep on trucking.

Now, let us suppose that your employees are armed and dangerous and have a lot more firepower than you do. Do your criminal employees simply hand over the new passwords on being notified that the jig's up? What if the only way you can get them out is with flamethrowers, thereby destroying whatever's left?

The United States is a plutocracy. This is frankly acknowledged by the business sector, as in the Citibank report on plutonomy.

In "The Rich and the Super-Rich," (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1968), Ferdinand Lundberg argued very convincingly that that one-half of one percent of the United States population then owned or controlled 95 percent of its assets. Since then, things have gotten much worse. The more charitable – but grotesquely skewed – benchmarks conceal the real ratio by omitting control of capital and only considering income (totally fake figures from known tax evaders) and directly owned assets. The United States government is their administrative agency. The president is CEO. Although he has a big role in shaping the agenda, he ultimately carries out the orders of this inner ring of power. How could it be any other way?

Now this plutocracy selects a new business manager to replace a total frat boy goon ball with the reverse Midas touch. The new business manager attempts to steer the brand away from a generalized economic and social Kristallnacht. He does not immediately reform the security sector because they have guns (read that in the broadest sense of weapons while repeating after me "JFK, RFK, MLK") and they do not especially want to be reformed by outsiders, thank you. Despite this, he does make significant progress in other areas.

"This is harder than it looks," Van Jones (who resigned from the White House after being linked with 9/11 doubts) told Netroots Nation.

"President Obama volunteered to be the captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg," Jones reminded his progressive audience. He might have also pointed out that the Titanic sank because the owners changed the safety specifications of the steel and rivets in order to make the ship go faster. That's exactly what's going on now.

Whether you are passenger or crew, you better hope it gets fixed, because they also reduced the recommended number of lifeboats (chilling fact, but true in both the Titanic and the ship of state). Democrats want to lay on more lifeboats by stripping some of the materials from the lounges. Republicans are blocking that because they think that the worse it gets, the better for them. What?

I'm not disappointed in President Obama in terms of what he's accomplished, but in his utter lack of political good sense in allowing Rahm Emanuel to purge Howard Dean and then to insult the liberals who worked so hard and contributed so much money to assure the 2008 victory.

Although I'm known as a writer, most of my income comes from graphic design, giving me the freedom to write whatever I please instead of whatever some publisher pleases. I once had a client in a corner. I set a price that made the color drain from his face. I was the only one who could deliver the job. He said, "Jeez, if you're going to fuck me, could you at least give me a kiss first." I said, "The kiss is that I am not going to double it because you are being insolent. Just make out the check." And I laughed. And he laughed, too. He also increased his fortune considerably as a result of my work, so I'm sure he laughed all the way to the bank, too.

President Obama needs to hand out some real kisses between now and November. Addressing the Netroots Nation is not enough. He won't get rid of Emanuel (who is surely too useful in crucial ways), but he can rehabilitate Dean and use his executive powers to make highly visible moves that will re-energize the liberals. I do not recommend total fasting while praying for that. Let's just hope he orders Timothy Geithner to endorse Consumer Protection Agency nominee Elizabeth Warren enthusiastically with a big smile and a hug so hearty it will make his special other jealous. The president can then do whatever is necessary to make sure she's immediately dispatching highly visible orders smiting those who would do evil to consumers. If a recess appointment enrages the angry right, so much the better. They aren't going to vote for Democrats, are they?

I'm not angry, so I won't need any kisses from the president, which will surely be in very short supply. But I've always been a sucker for blonds, so if Warren is going to be handing out any kisses, you can be sure that I will be first in line.


I just want to note that even if one were to grant as true everything that Mr. Siegel says in the above article, nothing in it would require that I retract or modify the critique of Obama's leadership that I've been articulating here on NSB.

That critique –which has perhaps been most clearly distilled, in its various components, in the piece, "Let's Hear It, Mr. President. 'Yes I Can!'"– focuses on the ways in which Barack Obama, once president, has been giving away his power. Whatever are the unavoidable situational and institutional limits on that power, THERE IS NOTHING IN THOSE LIMITS that compels a president to play the hand he has in a weak or ineffective fashion.

Nothing compels him to let his enemies attack him in the most unprincipled and dishonest ways and not counterpunch in ways that make them pay a political price. Nothing compels him to give the initiative to his friends rather than putting forward his own vision and plan more strongly. And nothing prevents him from speaking to the American people in a way that develops a strong bond that inspires the people to support him.

Hence, I post this piece for whatever it may illuminate, but do not regard it as being in any way a rebuttal of my own particular analysis of why Obama has not been a more powerful presence in the political arena since Inauguration.

And the thrust of my critique, it should be remembered, is not focused on matters of his policy choices that I might disagree with. Rather the main point is one that any supporter of this president, and the president himself, should share as a goal: he should act in a way that most strengthens his ability to move events in the directions he wants them to go.

This entry was posted on Saturday, July 31st, 2010 at 11:04 amand is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site

Friday, July 30, 2010

The GOP Plot to Screw the Economy and the Middle Class ANS

this is a good summary of the economic-political situation.  Why do people think of Republicans as fiscally conservative?  It's not true.  Hasn't been for years -- maybe since the 1950s.  It's the Democrats who balance the budget, not the Republicans.  You know what the real difference is?  Democrats want to spend our money on The People while Republicans want to spend our money on getting the rich richer.  Read this and pass it on to your conservative relatives....
Find it here:

Your request is being processed...

Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca

Host of the Bob and Elvis Show
Posted: July 28, 2010 06:31 PM


The GOP Plot to Screw the Economy and the Middle Class

We're only three months away from the midterm election when a shockingly large number of American voters will inexplicably vote for Republican candidates. I have no idea if this will mean a Republican takeover of the House or Senate or both, but there will definitely be enough voter support for Republicans to significantly reduce the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

Why? Because too many voters tend to be low-information, knee-jerk Springfield-from-The-Simpsons types, and the Republicans have lashed their crazy trains to this new wave of inchoate roid-rage to help sweep them into more congressional seats.

Here are a few of the ongoing economic conditions facing a vast majority of Americans, many of whom are all revved up to vote Republican in November. According to Michael Snyder of the Business Insider :
• 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
• 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1 percent of all Americans.
• Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
• The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation's wealth.
• In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
• More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
• Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.

Oh, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that wages for the highest 20 percent of earners rose by nearly 300 percent since 1979, while wages for the bottom and middle 20 percent increased only by 41 percent -- combined. Plotted on a graph, middle and working class wages have flatlined for 30 years. Roll all of these tragic figures into a slow growth recovery and here we are. Most of us in the middle class are screwed.

And thanks to an alliance between the Republicans (which includes the tea party), the increasingly dominant far-right media, a traditional "old media" that panders to the far-right, and right-of-center "conservadems" who pander to the Republicans, too many voters have decided that the Republican Party might be better suited to turn all of this around.

The big lie here is that if Congress stops spending, cuts the deficit and makes permanent the Bush tax cuts, especially the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, our problems will be solved -- even though these concepts are in direct conflict with each other. Not surprising given the ever-lengthening Republican syllabus of contradictions.

Here's how this new batch of contradictions plays out.

According to Republicans and their conservadem enablers, we have to cut the deficit and pay for every program Congress passes or else we're all doomed. We're stealing from our children, they say. This has manifested itself in Republican filibusters of both unemployment benefits ( $34 billion) and a new jobs bill ( $33 billion over ten years). A Republican filibuster killed the jobs bill, and, after many failed cloture votes, the filibuster of the unemployment benefits was finally defeated and the Senate Democrats passed the extensions. Throughout the past year and a half, it's been the same story. Any effort made by the Democrats to stimulate the economy has been filibustered by the Republicans. They say it's because of the deficit and debt.

And yet they want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which would add $678 billion dollars to the deficit -- and that's just the cost of the tax cuts going to the top two percent of earners. In other words, the Republicans want to spend $678 billion in further giveaways for the wealthiest two percent, and they don't care whether it increases the deficit.

By the way, the Republicans also recently voted against and defeated an amendment to strip Big Oil of its $35 billion in subsidies. Just thought I'd pass that along. Put another way, $678 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy? No problem. Deficit-shmeficit! But $34 billion in unemployment benefits for an out-of-work middle class at a time when companies aren't hiring (say nothing of the aforementioned bullet-points)? Evil! Instead, the Republicans want to give $35 billion to Big Oil in the form of corporate welfare during the worst oil spill in American history while telling unemployed middle class families to piss off.

Do we have a clear picture in terms of who and what the Republicans care about?

It surely isn't fiscal discipline or the deficit. And it surely isn't the middle class. The Bush tax cuts, if extended, would add $2 trillion to debt, so it's not that either. Throw in another policy started by the Republicans -- the war spending (more of which was passed yesterday without any worries about CBO scoring or making sure it's deficit neutral) -- and there's the vast majority of your deficit and debt for the next ten years. Not the stimulus or the bailouts. The long term budget impact of the wars and the Bush tax cuts literally dwarf the stimulus. Here's the CBPP evidence in colorful graph form:


That big blue chunk represents the Bush tax cut portion of the deficit. The yellow represents the wars. The light blue is the tax revenue lost to the recession. And those really narrow tan and red strata are TARP and the stimulus. Clearly we need to elect more Republicans so they can make permanent the big thick deficit hogs and kill that thin section for the stimulus.

Now, if you're a Republican, you might be clinging to the idea that extending the Bush tax cuts would have a stimulative effect on the economy (somehow) even though this hasn't been the case for the last ten years other than for the wealthiest Americans who have once again disproved the trickle-down theories at the heart of Reaganomics by pocketing their share of the trickle instead of reinvesting in jobs and wages for the middle class.

The Bush tax cuts will not stimulate the economy.

According to Moody's Analytics (hardly a left-wing apparatchik), for every dollar of government money spent on extending the Bush tax cuts, there's only a 32-cent return on investment in terms of economic stimulus. Not a solid investment. How about cutting the corporate tax rate? Also a 32-cent return in economic stimulus. Capital gains tax cuts? 37-cents. And, lumped together, there's your Republican plan for growing the economy. Dumb investments. Goldman Sachs would short these policies. I'm not sure they haven't, actually.

But what about the Democratic spending? For every dollar spent on unemployment benefits, there's a $1.61 return in economic stimulus. Good investment! How about infrastructure spending? $1.57 return. Aid to the states? $1.41. Temporary increase in food stamps? $1.74. Even the Obama tax credits for the middle class, $288 billion of the Recovery Act, account for up to $1.30.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is working with a deficit commission which will focus on trimming the deficit after (we hope) the economy and jobs are back on track. The Republicans, of course, voted against forming a deficit commission.

Given the choice between deficit spending that significantly stimulates economic growth or deficit spending that barely makes a dent, which choice are the Republicans trying to sell? The really stupid deficit spending for the wealthy that barely makes a dent in the recovery. That's the Republican plan.

Also, contrary to popular far-right myths, it's worth noting that the Democrats and the White House have no intention of allowing the tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 to expire. Those tax cuts will be renewed this year. As for the top tax brackets, you find me a multi-millionaire who pays the actual marginal rate every April and I'll show you a very rich moron. Most of these guys, after deductions and loopholes, pay an effective tax rate that's much lower than the middle class tax brackets. So don't tell me that millionaire Glenn Beck and millionaire Paris Hilton will be financially burdened by a 2.6 percent bump in their margin tax rate next year. Sorry, no. They won't be. And why do middle class Republican voters give a rip about Paris Hilton's tax rate? Because they believe they'll be as wealthy as Paris some day. But read those bullet-points again. It's not happening.

Unless there's some sort of mass epiphany, or unless the Democrats actually speak up and take the discourse by the horns and fight, middle class American voters in November will augment the number of Republicans (and conservadems) in Congress mostly because they've been suckered into endorsing these insane Republican economic policies. Subsequently, the Republicans will balloon the deficit and undermine the economic recovery in order to give more handouts to the super rich. And the middle class will continue to be an accomplice in its own slow-roasted homicide.

Listen to the Bob & Elvis Show, with Bob Cesca and Elvis Dingeldein, on iTunes.
Bob Cesca's Awesome Blog

Follow Bob Cesca on Twitter:

Obama Starts Race War to Win Election: An Inquiry Into Conspiracy Theories, Part II ANS

Here is part two of Sara Robinson's essay about conspiracy theories.  As you can see from my comment, I don't completely agree with this one.  What do you think?
Find it here:

Obama Starts Race War to Win Election: An Inquiry Into Conspiracy Theories, Part II

Sara Robinson's picture

By Sara Robinson

July 29, 2010 - 5:11pm ET

The beat goes on.

In the nearly two weeks since I wrote Part I of this series, an armed gunman was arrested en route to assaulting an obscure progressive foundation in San Francisco -- one that's often been at the center of Glenn Beck's blackboard (which has become Conspiracy Theory Ground Zero for 2010). Also, this just in: President Obama is attempting to foment a race war, complete with New Black Panthers in the streets, in order to win the November elections.

I know. It's just so hard to keep up.

In the last post, I defined a conspiracy theory as "any story that assumes that things happen due to the deliberate, covert actions of powerful others -- even when the preponderance of evidence points to the conclusion that the events were almost certainly accidental and unintended." And I talked about the cultural conditions that soften up people's skulls and predispose them to accepting these baroque works of storytelling rather than simply accept what the evidence shows.

This post moves from outside influences to what goes on inside our heads. What's going on internally that makes conspiracy stories appealing to us as individuals? As before, I'm drawing heavily on David Aaronovitch's Voodoo Histories: The Role of Conspiracy Theories in Shaping Modern History as one of the better guides out there to all the factors at play when we willfully choose to believe the unbelievable.

The dark side of celebrity envy
A huge number of theories revolve around the deaths of celebrities -- JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana. There's a direct correlation between the public's adoration of the good and great and the level of public obsession with every pornographically intimate detail surrounding the stories of their last moments on earth. People find these stories endlessly fascinating -- and the more disgusting and perverse the detail, the more obsessed we are with it. What's up with that?

Part of this is pretty straightforward schadenfreude: as Aaronovitch put it, "Whatever we might have envied in these people, we sure don't envy them now." But we may also be obsessed with the realization that such extraordinary people could die at the hands of ordinary people -- people very much like us. And worse: we find it hard to confront the possibility that our own passion for them may have played a role in causing their deaths. "It was not our thirst for gossip that killed Norma Jean or England's Rose, but the CIA," says Aaronovitch. "It wasn't an ordinary Joe with a rifle who murdered the young president, but the Mafia or the FBI.

"Conspiracy theory may be one way of reclaiming power and disclaiming responsibility."

There's another way we deflect this responsibility, too:

Beware of powerful enemies
When bad things happen to good people -- especially people who were agents of positive change like the Kennedys or Paul Wellstone -- it's also easy to imagine, in our more paranoid moments, that they were targeted by the people who were most threatened by what they were doing.

Out here on the left, we're at least as prone to this as the right wing is. In our grief, we look for reasons for our loss -- and too often, there simply aren't any. Cars and planes crash. Crazy guys with guns target public figures for reasons that exist only in their own imaginations. These are everyday events that just happen; and in the overwhelming majority of cases, there's no conspiracy involved.

Even so: these high-profile conspiracy theories trickle down through the culture, feeding the paranoia of hardcore conspiracy theorists who eventually come to believe that they're next on the list. (They always assume that somewhere, there's a list.) Because I'm so right (and so smart and so important), they must be out to silence me. People who've gone over this edge are prone to interpret everyday events -- a police car driving past the house or a temporary glitch in their Internet service -- as evidence that they've been targeted, and are being closely watched.

And for the rest of us, they serve as cautionary tales that blunt our will to engage injustice -- or, perhaps, convenient excuses that let us off the hook. Don't rock the boat too much -- or you could end up dead in a ditch, just like Karen Silkwood did.

I'm smart. You're not.
Conspiracy theories make us feel smart. They're populist fables that lay bare the supposed actions taken by the power elites against the people. But the real elite (at least in their own minds) are those who are insightful enough to see through the official story and divine the truth of the matter. Being the only one perceptive enough to have cracked the code irrefutably proves that you're superior to the sheeple around you.

This attitude makes it easy to wave off skeptics. All that insistence on evidence and data and credentials and plausibility is just a smokescreen that hides the reality that they've closed their narrow minds to the truth. From this skewed perspective, clinging to reason is for idiots. The real "intellectual" is the one who has opened her mind to all the possibilities -- even the most Byzantine and improbable ones.

Unfortunately, this assumption also feeds a grandiose sense of paranoia that actually undermines the ability to think rationally. When embarrassing holes in the story are exposed, they're invariably blamed on those cunning plotters, who obviously cooked up these inconvenient truths to throw those of lesser intellect off the scent. In fact, in ConspiracyWorld, the bigger the pile of evidence against a theory grows, the more certain the True Believers are that they're absolutely on the right track. We've all met otherwise pretty smart people who are quite sure that the more their facts are disproven by the evidence, the more right they must be.

And weirdly, people who take to this conceit aren't entirely unjustified:

The smarter they are, the harder they fall
The stereotype of conspiracy believers is that they're the kind of people who devour the National Enquirer along with their Big Macs and the latest episode of Jerry Springer back at the mobile home park. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Your average conspiracy theory buff actually tends to be well-educated (usually with at least at least one college degree), and a well-established member of the middle- to upper-middle class. According to Aaronovitch, they're "the professors, university students, the artists, the managers, the journalists, and the civil servants." It's not the working stiffs who are propagating this stuff -- it's the chattering classes.

Why would these smart people fall for such absurd tales? Some of it may be due to intellectual arrogance. When we're used to being an authority in one field, it's all too tempting to assume that we're also equally competent to assess data from other fields, too. This is why people usually fall for conspiracies where the details are outside of their own field of competence: they're quite sure they understand what's really going on, but they honestly don't.

Historians generally don't fall for historical conspiracies like the DaVinci Code hoaxes. And you won't meet very many structural engineers or pilots who think 9/11 was an inside job. They know better, because they've got intimate knowledge of the field, and the flaws in the theory are obvious to them. However, the streets are packed with educated non-lawyers who don't have the slightest idea how government records or citizenship laws work, but still insist that Obama's not an American citizen. They're "experts" in their own minds, even though they have no actual expertise in the field.

History as written by losers
A lot of conspiracy theories are nothing more than a cop-out -- sour-grapes stories told by people on the losing side of history. If we can blame our losses on a conspiracy, then we don't have to confront our own fatal flaws -- our disorganization or stupidity or unpopularity. Instead, it's very reassuring to tell ourselves that the loss was entirely due to the overwhelming ruthlessness of our opposition, who were willing to stop at nothing to defeat us. (See the next item.)

This factor, almost all on its own, explains the never-ending conspiracy obsessions of the Tea Party, which only gets more deranged every time the rest of the country rejects its candidates and its ideas. If you find your movement engulfed in conspiracy theories, look around. They're a pretty clear indicator that you've already lost, and your broken-hearted followers are now working overtime to concoct excuses that will salve their sense of failure.

Evil has no limits
Conspiracy theories confirm our beliefs about the evilness of the other side; and this explains why there's often a certain symmetry to them. For example: several polls have found that about 58% of Republicans doubt Obama's right to be president. Conversely, the Scripps Survey Research Center found in 2006 that about 54% of Democrats thought that 9/11 was an inside job.

Likewise, during the Bush years, progressives were deeply worried by FEMA's plans to build emergency housing camps, suspecting that they might be used as concentration camps for liberal upstarts. The conservatives, naturally, thought we were nuts. Now, it's an article of faith in Tea Party circles that the government is preparing those same camps to round them up when Obama hands America over to the Muslims, the Socialist International, or the Mexicans and Canadians (the villains change weekly -- it's hard to keep up) -- and most of us are pretty sure they're nuts, too.

It's just good old-fashioned bias confirmation at work. We tend to believe theories that point up the sulfurous and venal evil of those on the other side, and entirely discount those aimed at the paragons of virtue on our own side. And any neutral object that happens to be lying around on the landscape can be twisted around and used as a weapon by either side.

You can't just stop at one
Conspiracy theories tend to build on each other, eating away at your reasoning capacity as they take over your brain. If your thinking is muddled or sloppy enough that you'll accept one wrong thing as fact, you're statistically more susceptible to accepting any number of other wrong things, too. The only antidote for this is better education and training in garden-variety critical thinking skills, with an emphasis on evaluating evidence, assessing the credibility of those offering it, and drawing sound conclusions from their data.

As noted last week: our teach-to-the-test school system isn't helping here. But the fact that these theories are so often promoted by people who are well-educated enough to know better, we probably need to be looking at the standards of reason being taught in our universities as well. And beyond college, too many professions have also become lax about demanding rigorous standards of argument and evidence from their members.

Some psychologists who study conspiracy theories lay the blame for all this directly at the feet of post-modernism, which insists that all narratives are more or less equally true. If that's the case, there's no such thing as objective reality -- and hence no facts to defend, and no need to critically evaluate anything. Whatever sounds or feels truthy enough must be the truth. It's beyond ironic that the biggest post-modernists on the American scene right now are on the right wing, which creates its own reality with breathtaking abandon -- and zero regard for factual truth.

There's one simple question that separates a dedicated conspiracy theorist from someone whose rational faculties are still intact:

What would it take for you to reject this story? What evidence, if it appeared, would thoroughly refute this theory in your eyes?

If they can't provide three pieces of evidence that they'd accept as discrediting, congratulations. You've found a True Believer.

But it feels so true!
Conspiracy theories often reverberate with emotional truth, even when the facts don't make any rational sense. The first step in understanding any conspiracy theory is to look for the grain of validity at its core -- the deeper truth that speaks to the emotional reality of those who believe it.

Aaronovitch recalls that in the wake of Katrina, the conspiracy theories were even thicker on the ground than the mud in New Orleans. One of the most persistent stories was the levees had been breached deliberately to destroy the city's African-American neighborhoods. While no facts have ever emerged to support this belief (which would have required implausibly massive collusion followed by years of successfully sustained cover-up by hundreds of local, state, and federal authorities), the story is a powerful parable about the way poor black Americans are always abused, lied to, and neglected by people in power. The facts may be wrong, but listening for the deeper emotional truth and responding to that is the best way to open a dialogue and regain trust.

Who's in charge here? Nobody.
The bottom line on why we believe conspiracy theories is this: We're terrified of admitting that nobody is really in control. It's a lot more comforting to think that *somebody* engineered a crisis than to reckon with the horrible, sickening fact that *nobody* did.

Most humans don't deal at all well with the cruel, capricious randomness of fate. Shit happens -- and it often happens for absolutely no meaningful reason at all. That thought makes people crazy with terror, so we make up entities to blame -- God, Satan, the Freemasons, the CIA, or the All-Seeing Eye of Sauron. It's far easier to blame it all on imaginary Lizard People from another planet than have to deal with the bald fact that millions of lives have been upended (or just ended) by an event -- and yet there is simply is nobody out there to blame for it.

As my friend Bob Mackey puts it: "The alternative is a universe that is controlled by absolutely nobody. There is no control, no security, no Men in Black or Black Helicopters or Black Hussein Presidents to frighten the God-fearing upright citizens." In the end, conspiracy theories are simply stories we tell to fill the blackness of the existential void.

Bob also reminds us to "Never confuse a conspiracy with a massive cluster f**k." The bare truth is: most conspiracies start with massive clusterfucks. And this brings us back full circle to where this series started last week -- with the gusher in the Gulf, which is much easier to explain as the massive clusterfuck the evidence tells us it is than it is to attribute any of it to malice or venality on the part of President Obama.

Next week, this series will finish with some suggestions for how we can ratchet down the overheated level of paranoia, and gently move American discourse back toward the rational, reasonable, and sane.

Views expressed on this page are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Campaign for America's Future or Institute for America's Future

Uh, maybe....

By Kim Cooper | July 30, 2010 - 3:32am GMT

"And you won't meet very many structural engineers or pilots who think 9/11 was an inside job. "

Actually, there's a whole organization of engineers and architects who believe the World Trade Towers came down by explosive demolition. I have their brochure here somewhere.... They don't name a conspirator though.

One of the problems with dismissing these things as "just conspiracy theories" is that when a REAL conspiracy comes along, it will be dismissed too.

And, after all, 9/11 WAS a conspiracy --- by those nineteen guys who did it, at least.... and whoever paid them.

Popular This Week

"This Thing Is Not Over": There Always Has Been a Plan B For The Climate Bill

by Bill Scher
July 23, 2010

Cut Social Security To Pay For Tax Cuts For Rich?

by Dave Johnson
July 27, 2010

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Enough right-wing propaganda ANS

Hi -- I love it when someone finally "tells it like it is".  Here's someone saying that we should just start to ignore Fox.  They aren't real journalists and they are kookoo. 
Find it here:
Enough right-wing propaganda

By E.J. Dionne Jr.
Monday, July 26, 2010; A13

The smearing of Shirley Sherrod ought to be a turning point in American politics. This is not, as the now-trivialized phrase has it, a "teachable moment." It is a time for action.

The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that "fairness" requires treating extremist rants as "one side of the story." And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year's election.

The administration's response to the doctored video pushed by right-wing hit man Andrew Breitbart was shameful. The obsession with "protecting" the president turned out to be the least protective approach of all.

The Obama team did not question, let alone challenge, the video. Instead, it assumed that whatever narrative Fox News might create mattered more than anything else, including the possible innocence of a human being outside the president's inner circle.

Obama complained on ABC's "Good Morning America" that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "jumped the gun, partly because we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles." But it's his own apparatus that turned "this media culture" into a false god.

Yet the Obama team was reacting to a reality: the bludgeoning of mainstream journalism into looking timorously over its right shoulder and believing that "balance" demands taking seriously whatever sludge the far right is pumping into the political waters.

This goes way back. Al Gore never actually said he "invented the Internet," but you could be forgiven for not knowing this because the mainstream media kept reporting he had.

There were no "death panels" in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow "the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly." That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates.

The traditional media are so petrified of being called "liberal" that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream journalists regularly criticize themselves for not jumping fast enough or high enough when the Fox crowd demands coverage of one of their attack lines.

Thus did Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander ask this month why the paper had been slow to report on "the Justice Department's decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party." Never mind that this is a story about a tiny group of crackpots who stopped no one from voting. It was aimed at doing what the doctored video Breitbart posted set out to do: convince Americans that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites.

And never mind that, to her great credit, Abigail Thernstrom, a conservative George W. Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, dismissed the case and those pushing it. "This doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers," she told Politico's Ben Smith. "This has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration." Instead, the media are supposed to take seriously the charges of J. Christian Adams, who served in the Bush Justice Department. He's a Republican activist going back to the Bill Clinton era. His party services included time as a Bush poll watcher in Florida in 2004, when on one occasion he was involved in a controversy over whether a black couple could cast a regular ballot.

Now, Adams is accusing the Obama Justice Department of being "motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law." This is racially inflammatory, politically motivated nonsense -- and it's nonsense even if Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh talk about it a thousand times a day. When an outlandish charge for which there is no evidence is treated as an on-the-one-hand-and-on-the-other-hand issue, the liars win.

The Sherrod case should be the end of the line. If Obama hates the current media climate, he should stop overreacting to it. And the mainstream media should stop being afraid of insisting on the difference between news and propaganda.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Electric car plant, plus 300 jobs, coming to Webster City ANS

this is some good news, at least for Webster.  It looks like the advent of the viable electric car is bringing an explosion of new brands of cars.  Here's another one, set to start very soon. 
Find it here:

Electric car plant, plus 300 jobs, coming to Webster City

By JEFF ECKHOFF • • July 26, 2010

Up to 2,500 electric cars a week could start rolling out of a new Webster City assembly plant under a deal slated to be announced today.

The new operation is expected to mean 300 or more jobs for Webster City, which is hurting from the closing of washer-dryer manufacturer Electrolux and the loss of its 850 jobs.

Envision Motor Co., an Ames firm formed to combine foreign-made car bodies with American-made electrical parts, is expected to announce a deal to assemble a line of three all-electric vehicles in 292,000 square feet of factory space now occupied by Eagle Manufacturing, an Electrolux subcontractor.

The vehicles - a pickup, a station wagon and a cargo van - are promised to get more than 200 miles on a single battery charge. They'll sell, possibly beginning late this fall, under an "Electric Motor Cars" logo for $32,300 to $37,300.

They'll join a soon-to-be crowded market that will include the Chevy Volt, a car expected in November, and the Nissan Leaf, a car due the following month. Many more car makers have electric vehicles in development - including Toyota, which earlier this month announced plans with California-based Tesla Motors for an electric version of the Rav4.

Shawn Carson, chief financial officer for Envision Motor Co., said the Webster City assembly plant will start with 25,000 square feet of space and expand as Electrolux work winds down.

Eagle, a manufacturing company that now performs a variety of contract duties for Electrolux, is scheduled to lose that work by the end of next year. Electrolux announced in December 2009 that it planned to move its production to Juarez, Mexico, and eliminate its Webster City manufacturing by the first quarter of 2011.

The new assembly plant is scheduled to produce 50 cars a week for the first three months, all of which will be sent to a still-building nationwide network of roughly 200 dealers.

The plant is expected to begin making retail vehicles by the end of the year, Carson said. Ramped-up production eventually should reach 2,500 cars a week and require "300-plus" jobs in Webster City, he said.

Workers at the new assembly plant will receive fully built "gliders" - European-made cars with seats and interior niceties, but no motors - and will add batteries and other electric equipment. Envision documents say two workers with a hydraulic lift and all the proper parts should be able to create a functioning car in less than six hours.

Joseph Fleming Jr., owner of Eagle Manufacturing, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Gene Gabus, a Des Moines car dealer who plans to sell the vehicles in Iowa and oversee distribution for 32 other states, has estimated that he can sell 50,000 a year, Carson said.

Joel Peterson, president of the business and industry committee of Webster City Area Development, the city's business-attraction entity, said the new jobs should cushion the blow in a community that expects to see at least 600 more pink slips by first part of next year.

"Any good news for Webster City is great news just because of the situation we're in," Peterson said. "That would be just welcome, great news."

Carson said the first 38 gliders should be in Webster City by the end of the week.

Chevy Volts are scheduled to be built in Detroit. The Nissan Leaf began production in Japan but will be made in Tennessee beginning in 2012.

Who Cooked the Planet? ANS

this is an op-ed piece about why we didn't get the climate protection legislation we wanted.  It is from the New York Times.  I got it from one of our readers who posted it on Facebook.
When our planet heats further, and plants and animals start to die off because it's too fast to adapt to, what is going to happen to humans?  It seems to me there will be huge famines because we won't be able to grow crops.  Huge numbers of humans will die.  If our numbers get low enough, we will use less fossil fuel just because there are fewer of us, so the warming will start to reverse.  A pretty hard lesson, and we still may not learn it.
Find it here:   

Advertise on

Op-Ed Columnist

Who Cooked the Planet?


Published: July 25, 2010
Never say that the gods lack a sense of humor. I bet they're still chuckling on Olympus over the decision to make the first half of 2010 ­ the year in which all hope of action to limit climate change died ­ the hottest such stretch on record.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Paul Krugman

Go to Columnist Page »

Blog: The Conscience of a Liberal

Readers' Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

Of course, you can't infer trends in global temperatures from one year's experience. But ignoring that fact has long been one of the favorite tricks of climate-change deniers: they point to an unusually warm year in the past, and say "See, the planet has been cooling, not warming, since 1998!" Actually, 2005, not 1998, was the warmest year to date ­ but the point is that the record-breaking temperatures we're currently experiencing have made a nonsense argument even more nonsensical; at this point it doesn't work even on its own terms.

But will any of the deniers say "O.K., I guess I was wrong," and support climate action? No. And the planet will continue to cook.

So why didn't climate-change legislation get through the Senate? Let's talk first about what didn't cause the failure, because there have been many attempts to blame the wrong people.

First of all, we didn't fail to act because of legitimate doubts about the science. Every piece of valid evidence ­ long-term temperature averages that smooth out year-to-year fluctuations, Arctic sea ice volume, melting of glaciers, the ratio of record highs to record lows ­ points to a continuing, and quite possibly accelerating, rise in global temperatures.

Nor is this evidence tainted by scientific misbehavior. You've probably heard about the accusations leveled against climate researchers ­ allegations of fabricated data, the supposedly damning e-mail messages of "Climategate," and so on. What you may not have heard, because it has received much less publicity, is that every one of these supposed scandals was eventually unmasked as a fraud concocted by opponents of climate action, then bought into by many in the news media. You don't believe such things can happen? Think Shirley Sherrod.

Did reasonable concerns about the economic impact of climate legislation block action? No. It has always been funny, in a gallows humor sort of way, to watch conservatives who laud the limitless power and flexibility of markets turn around and insist that the economy would collapse if we were to put a price on carbon. All serious estimates suggest that we could phase in limits on greenhouse gas emissions with at most a small impact on the economy's growth rate.

So it wasn't the science, the scientists, or the economics that killed action on climate change. What was it?

The answer is, the usual suspects: greed and cowardice.

If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money. The economy as a whole wouldn't be significantly hurt if we put a price on carbon, but certain industries ­ above all, the coal and oil industries ­ would. And those industries have mounted a huge disinformation campaign to protect their bottom lines.

Look at the scientists who question the consensus on climate change; look at the organizations pushing fake scandals; look at the think tanks claiming that any effort to limit emissions would cripple the economy. Again and again, you'll find that they're on the receiving end of a pipeline of funding that starts with big energy companies, like Exxon Mobil, which has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting climate-change denial, or Koch Industries, which has been sponsoring anti-environmental organizations for two decades.

Or look at the politicians who have been most vociferously opposed to climate action. Where do they get much of their campaign money? You already know the answer.

By itself, however, greed wouldn't have triumphed. It needed the aid of cowardice ­ above all, the cowardice of politicians who know how big a threat global warming poses, who supported action in the past, but who deserted their posts at the crucial moment.

There are a number of such climate cowards, but let me single out one in particular: Senator John McCain.

There was a time when Mr. McCain was considered a friend of the environment. Back in 2003 he burnished his maverick image by co-sponsoring legislation that would have created a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. He reaffirmed support for such a system during his presidential campaign, and things might look very different now if he had continued to back climate action once his opponent was in the White House. But he didn't ­ and it's hard to see his switch as anything other than the act of a man willing to sacrifice his principles, and humanity's future, for the sake of a few years added to his political career.

Alas, Mr. McCain wasn't alone; and there will be no climate bill. Greed, aided by cowardice, has triumphed. And the whole world will pay the price.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on July 26, 2010, on page A23 of the New York edition.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets the Republicans Don’t Want You to Know ANS

This is a summary of the platform of the Republicans -- what they really want to do if they get back into power.  At least it's what they say they want.  And it would be a disaster.  Or should I say another disaster?
Find it here:

[]  [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []
[]   [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

Dirty Little Secrets the Republicans Don't Want You to Know: Robert Creamer on Huffington Post

Very brief comment from me follows.


Dirty Little Secrets the Republicans Don't Want You to Know

by Robert Creamer
Huffington Post, July 13, 2010

The Republicans have a set of dirty little (actually not so little) secrets they don't what you to know ­ and certainly don't want you to think about when you go to the polls in November.

And the fact is that some of those secrets could provide Democrats with silver bullets this fall. But first let's recall the context.

Over the course of eight short years ­ between 2000 and 2008 ­ the Republicans methodically executed their plan to transform American society. They systematically transferred wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest two percent of Americans ­ slashing taxes for the wealthy. They eviscerated the rules that held Wall Street, Big Oil and private insurance companies accountable to the public. They allowed and encouraged the recklessness of the big Wall Street banks that ultimately collapsed the economy and cost eight million Americans their jobs. They ignored exploding health care costs, tried to privatize Social Security, gave the drug companies open season to gouge American consumers and presided over a decline in real incomes averaging $2,000 per family. They entangled America in an enormously costly, unnecessary war in Iraq, pursued a directionless policy that left Afghanistan to fester, and sullied America's good name throughout the world.

Their economic policy of cutting taxes for the wealthy and deregulating big Corporations failed to create jobs. In fact, over his eight year term, George Bush's administration created exactly zero net private sector jobs. They inherited a Federal budget with surpluses as far as the eye could see and rolled up more debt than all of the previous Presidents in the over 200 years of American history. And in the end they left the economy in collapse.

This was not a disaster that could be remedied overnight. By taking bold action at the beginning of his administration, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress prevented the financial crisis from morphing into a Great Depression ­ but the Republicans, some Democrats, and the powerful special interests have done everything they can to throw sand into the gears of change. Most importantly, they have stood in the way of providing enough economic stimulus to launch a robust, widespread economic recovery.

But notwithstanding Republican opposition, Obama, the Democrats and their progressive allies have ­ after a century of trying ­ finally passed health care reform allowing America to end its status as the only industrialized nation that did not provide health care as a right. They are on the brink of reining in the recklessness of the big Wall Street banks. And they have set the stage for massive long-term investments in economic growth and clean energy.

But it has been hard to pull the car out of the deep economic ditch and Americans are angry at the slow pace of economic recovery ­ and also at the special interests that profited from their economic pain.

So the Republicans now have the audacity to argue that President Obama and the Democrats are somehow responsible for the hardships that they themselves created. In effect they want the election to be a referendum on whether the Democrats have mopped and swept fast enough cleaning up the mess that they created.

They will do everything they can to prevent America from focusing on the real choice before them in the fall elections ­ a choice between going backward to the failed policies of the past that caused this catastrophe and a new direction that will create sustainable, long-term, bottom-up, widely shared economic growth. The real question before the country is whether it is willing to hand over the keys to the economy once again to the same gang that just caused the most serious economic pile up in 60 years.

That's where the dirty little secrets come in. It turns out that the leaders of the Republican Party have learned nothing from the reckless escapade that caused so much economic pain, and came perilously close to inflicting mortal wounds on the American economy.

They still actually believe ­ despite what we have all just experienced ­ that by "freeing" big oil, the insurance companies and Wall Street banks of the "burdens" of government accountability, that the plutocrats and the "invisible hand" of the market will lead American into the promised land of economic prosperity.

Some of the things they believe are not only dangerous to the economy, luckily they are also politically radioactive. And quite remarkably, many key Republicans are actually willing to say them out loud. Here are a few:

* Meet Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan is the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee. If the Republicans once again take control of the House, he will be the Chair of the Budget Committee. Ryan believes ­ and says out loud ­ that Medicare, one of the most popular Federal programs in history, should be abolished and replaced with vouchers for private insurance. Let's recall that one of the ways Republicans stirred up opposition to health insurance reform was by falsely accusing Democrats of wanting to cut Medicare. They convinced some unwitting seniors that "Government" should keep its hands off Medicare ­ which is, of course, a "Government" program. Democrats need to make it crystal clear in this campaign that Republicans ­ who opposed Medicare from its inception ­ actually want to abolish the program and hand over control of health care for America's seniors to the same private insurance companies responsible for driving up rates three times faster than wages while their profits have exploded.

* Congressman John Boehner, the House Minority Leader, has endorsed another Ryan proposal to raise the retirement age of Social Security to 70 years old ­ a proposal that might go over fine with a guy like Boehner who makes speeches for a living. But it won't be very popular at all with someone who has laid bricks, or run an earth mover, or waited tables for forty-five years.

* The whole Republican crew wants to resurrect the failed Bush proposal to "privatize" Social Security. The defeat of Bush's privatization plan was the turning point in the Bush Presidency. It was all downhill from there. Yet ­ whether it's to pad the investment accounts of their friends on Wall Street or because they are "private markets uber alles true believers" ­ the Republicans want to try it again. Only this time retirees won't have to work very hard to imagine what it would have been like if their Social Security checks had plummeted in value the way their 401K's did when the market collapsed just two years ago.

* The Republicans want to weaken and repeal the new law to rein in the recklessness of the big Wall Street banks. Most Republicans and Democrats voted to bail out the big banks to prevent a 1930 s style market collapse. The difference is that Democrats supported legislation to rein in their recklessness ­ that had cost 8 million Americans their jobs ­ and assure that a bailout was never allowed to happen again. But with very few exceptions, the Republicans voted to a person against holding Wall Street accountable. Given a chance, they plan to team up with their pals on Wall Street to free them to return to their reckless ways at will. In fact, they told the titans of Wall Street as much in fundraising meetings, where those "masters of the Universe" were asked to ante up. Republicans claim to oppose more Wall Street bailouts, but they refuse to support legislation that would prevent one in the future and hold Wall Street accountable. That ­ coupled with those big contributions from Wall Street ­ is a position that is very difficult for average voters to swallow. In fact, the polling says it's down right toxic.

* Republicans have consistently voted against extending unemployment benefits to workers who have been laid off because of Bush-era policies and the recklessness of Wall Street. Remember, people who get unemployment benefits ­ by definition ­ are looking for jobs that the economy doesn't provide. In addition, many Republicans actually believe that the best way to spur employment is to lower the minimum wage.

* Finally, meet Congressman Joe Barton. If the Republicans win back control of Congress, he would once again most likely serve as the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee ­ the Committee that oversees the oil industry. Congressman Barton has never met an oil company he doesn't like. In fact, he's the guy who actually apologized to BP when they were forced by the Obama Administration to take economic responsibility for the disastrous Gulf oil spill. As a political matter, that's like apologizing to Jack the Ripper.

These are politically radioactive positions that do, in fact, define the core of Republican policy if they were once again to control the gavel in either House of Congress.

We hear a lot about how Democrats have to "localize" the elections to have a chance of victory in November. And it is true that people vote for people in elections ­ and the quality of Democratic candidates will give them a major edge in many races. So while it is a good idea to "personalize" the races for Congress, the last thing Democrats should do is to "localize" them, because the party that nationalizes a midterm ­ and dominates the national dialogue ­ almost always comes out ahead.

Instead, Democrats need to take the offensive and dominate the national conversation by talking about what the Republicans actually believe and what they would do if they win in November. Voters must be offered a stark choice between Democratic and Republican policies in the fall. If they are, "Conventional Wisdom" that keeps predicting a Democratic disaster will be proven wrong, the same way it was when it predicted that America would never elect a tall, skinny African American guy named Barack Obama.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the recent book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win


Creamer talks here about what these Republicans "believe," but I adhere to Dean Baker's dictum that to know what a politician believes, one must be a mind-reader, and one should report rather what the politicians claim that they believe, or perhaps just what they SAY.

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 18th, 2010 at 1:45 pmand is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to "Dirty Little Secrets the Republicans Don't Want You to Know: Robert Creamer on Huffington Post"

  1. Katrin Says:
  2. July 18th, 2010 at 3:26 pm
  3. What would it take to print an article like this in the NYTimes? What would be the cost of placing it for everyone to see? What the benefits?
  4. Jim Z. Says:
  5. July 19th, 2010 at 10:36 pm
  6. When I read this in its original location, my thought was that there were no secrets here. Just everyday insanity that the American people seem to like.

Seeing the Elephant ANS

Here is one man's view of the chances of losing control of the House in November, and then Andy Schmookler's comment on it.  I also recommend going to the site and reading the comments. 
Find it here:


Seeing the Elephant: William Rivers Pitt on Why He Doesn't Expect the GOP to Take Control of Either House

Posted By Andrew Bard Schmookler On July 20, 2010 @ 3:28 pm In Articles | 10 Comments

A very brief comment from me follows the piece.


Seeing the Elephant

by William Rivers Pitt
truthout, 15 July 2010

The 2010 midterm elections are still four months away, but the drama has already kicked into high gear. The seemingly settled conventional wisdom would have us believe the Democrats are running for their lives, a perception that is reinforced by any number of polls indicating there are enough seats in play for the GOP to potentially retake majority control in the House. The Senate appears safe for the Democrats, according to these polls, but four months is a long time.

The idea that the GOP could take back the House was underscored on Sunday by White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, who went on "Meet The Press" and said, yeah, it could happen. House Democrats rose up in high dudgeon after Gibbs' remarks, not so much to say he was wrong but to say, hey guy, you're really not helping.

Before getting into how ridiculous it is that the Democrats could be in position to lose the House, it needs to be said that I don't believe it is going to happen. The Republican Party has become a preposterous farce, dominated by the likes of Sarah Palin and Michael Steele. The Tea Party movement is basically nothing more than a Trojan Horse filled with hard-core GOP base members whose views on everything from religion to the constitution to freedom of choice is not shared by roughly 75% of the general population.

They are the Taliban of American Christianity, and the only reason they have gotten so much ink is because the national press corps likes to take the easy way out whenever possible. Add to this the fact that the Tea Party has shot the GOP in the foot several times already by running off electable Republicans and nominating the cast from One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

I genuinely believe the House and Senate are safe for the Democrats, if only marginally so, but I've been wrong before, and if the loss of majority control does indeed come to pass, it will stand in my mind as one of the grander indictments against the American voter to come down the pike in a long, long while. Is it that easy to forget what it was like when these yahoos were running the show? It wasn't so long ago, and it was so unbelievably bad that you'd think the memory would linger.

If people need a reminder, one is readily available. We are, of course, in the middle of a gut-twisting recession that a lot of smart people believe is about to get worse again. The response of the GOP and the far right, of course, is to offer up a repackaged version of trickle-down Reaganomics that would, if enacted, char the economy to cinders. Not to worry, because the very rich would get theirs, but the rest of us would wind up standing in soup lines and selling apples to stay alive.

If people need a specific reminder, they can look to the obnoxious drama that has been unfolding in congress over the last several weeks. Democrats in the Senate have been trying to extend unemployment benefits to millions of Americans who desperately need help. Senate Republicans have filibustered the extension of these benefits at every turn, insisting that these benefits be paid for by either tax hikes or spending cuts. This view is shared by virtually every Republican in the Senate.

But wait, there's a solution right in front of them: the bloated, unaffordable Bush-era tax cuts for rich people are about to expire, and the GOP is in a tizzy. Democrats want to keep those tax cuts in place only for people making up to $200,000-$250,000 a year, and dump the tax cuts for anyone making more. This would generate billions in revenue that could pay for, among other things, extending unemployment benefits for Americans who have been screwed out of their jobs and homes by Bush-era economic policies.

But no, says the GOP, we have to keep those tax cuts as they are. Their desire to make sure unemployment benefits are paid for does not extend to making sure these Bushian tax cuts are paid for. If Senate Republicans get their way, the unemployed will get screwed and the super-wealthy will keep getting pornographically huge slices of revenue we absolutely cannot afford to give them. As it stands, the GOP's filibuster of these benefits is already screwing the people, and if the Republicans were in the majority, well, we've read this script before.

It is an often-heard lament from the Left and a lot of Independents that "Both parties are the same!" In too many instances, the sentiment is all too accurate. Quite often, however, that complaint is a shortcut around actual thinking, and this situation makes that self-evident. One party wants to extend unemployment benefits and the other wants to thwart them. One wants to tax the rich and the other wants to give away the store, again.

I'm no Kool-Aid-drinking Democrat booster, but this couldn't be more clear. If the American people allow the GOP back into power despite all the evidence of how dangerous and dumb they are, I'm going to have to think seriously about giving up on politics. If the beyond-terrible GOP option seems valid to a majority of people after everything we've been through, if voters who know better can't find the motivation to pull the lever and keep the worst from happening, well, then Mencken was right: we get what we deserve.


There's one vital ingredient that Pitt is leaving out of his calculus: the lack of a powerful Democratic voice to make sure the public sees what the GOP represents. In the absence of that, what one has, competing for the public mind, is a powerful –if totally dishonest– message from the right going up against mere memory (combined with what's silently sitting right before our eyes). Today's loud voice is more than a match, for most people, over the echoes of memory and the silent testimony of reality.

So I find GOP success quite credible, unless the soft-pedaled message from the Democrats gets amped up.

Article printed from NONE SO BLIND – BLOG:

URL to article:

What Science Can Teach about How to Vacation Best ANS

and now for something completely different: this is scientifically based advice on how to get the most out of your vacation.  I thought it would be fun and timely to pass it on, so here it is....
Find it here: 

What Science Can Teach about How to Vacation Best: Drake Bennett in The Week Magazine

The last word: The (scientifically) perfect vacation
How behavioral psychologists and economists can help you make the most of your precious time off

By Drake Bennett
The Week Magazine, July 16, 2010 issue

SUMMER HAS BEGUN, and our imaginations have turned to vacation: to idle afternoons and road trips, to the beach and the mountains. But where to go? When? What to do? Is it better to try somewhere new and exotic, or return to a well-loved spot? Doze on the beach or hike the ancient ruins? Hoard vacation days for a grand tour, or spread them around? Time off is a scarce resource, and as with any scarce resource, we want to spend it wisely.

Partly, these decisions are matters of taste. But there are also answers to be found in behavioral science, which increasingly is yielding insights that can help us make the most of our leisure time. Psychologists and economists have looked in some detail at vacations­­what we want from them and what we actually get out of them. They have advice about what really matters, and it's not necessarily what we would expect.

For example, how long we take off probably counts for less than we think, and taking more short trips leaves us happier than taking a few long ones. We're often happier planning a trip than actually taking it. And interrupting a vacation­far from being a nuisance­can make us enjoy it more. How a trip ends matters more than how it begins, who you're with matters as much as where you go, and if you want to remember a vacation vividly, do something during it that you've never done before. And though it may feel unnecessary, it's important to force yourself to actually take the time off in the first place­people, it turns out, are as prone to procrastinate when it comes to pleasurable things like vacations as unpleasant ones like paperwork and visits to the dentist.

"How do we optimize our vacation?" asks Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University and the author of the new book The Upside of Irrationality. "There are three elements to it­anticipating, experiencing, and remembering. They're not the same, and there are different ways to change each."

There is, of course, plenty that we still don't know. People take vacations for all sorts of reasons beyond pure hedonism­to learn about new places, to test themselves, to placate their children, to bask in the envy of their friends and co-workers. Research cannot settle questions like whether the pleasure we derive from anticipating a minutely planned trip will be outweighed by the disappointment when things don't measure up.

For psychologists and behavioral economists, vacations are a window into the still only dimly understood mystery of human pleasure, a field known as hedonic psychology. Their research, along with other work on prototypically pleasant (and unpleasant) experiences, has begun to yield a portrait of your mind on vacation. And if the findings tell us anything, it's that we might actually need some help. When we guess the best way to spend our free time, it seems that we often guess wrong.

THERE ARE UNTOLD shelves of books dedicated to the art of maximizing our time at work, but no corresponding literature on maximizing our leisure time. Even asking the question of how to "optimize" a vacation seems fundamentally un-vacation-like. And yet people constantly puzzle over how to get the most out of their valuable time off: poring over guidebooks, checking the forecast, looking up online reviews of hotels and restaurants, arguing with spouses over where to go and what to do, and when.

The problem, say some social scientists, is that people do all this­and spend thousands of dollars­with an incomplete understanding of what qualities make an experience enjoyable. Take duration. A longer vacation seems, by definition, better than a shorter one, and having lots of paid vacation time is a highly valued job perk. But when we recall an experience, and how it made us feel, it turns out that length isn't terribly important.

The strongest evidence here comes from social psychology experiments that looked at people being subjected to various pleasant and unpleasant stimuli. The most frequently cited study is one done by the physician Donald Redelmeier and Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist whose work helped launch the field of behavioral economics. Patients undergoing colonoscopies­a quite painful procedure when sedatives aren't used­were subjected to a few extra minutes of lesser pain at the end of the procedure. Overall, those patients rated the experience as less painful and less unpleasant than others, even though they had been in pain longer. Kahneman has found similar results for stimuli like watching film clips of playful puppies and soothing landscapes­a pleasant experience isn't recalled later as more pleasurable just because it lasts longer.

Looking back, what matters far more is the intensity of sensation, whether it's excitement or pain or contentment. And it's not the overall average of the experience that people remember, but how they felt at the most intense moments, combined with how they felt right as the experience ended. Psychologists call this the "peak-end rule."

The research on the peak-end rule has focused on shorter-term sensations­colonoscopies, thankfully, are brief compared with vacations­but psychologists suspect that it also applies to longer experiences. If so, that means worrying about whether it's possible to get extra days off to stretch a trip is wasted energy. And if you're deciding between a longer trip and a more eventful one­if, for example, the money it would cost for a few more nights in a hotel would mean you wouldn't be able to afford a coveted splurge dinner or surfing lessons or concert tickets or a rain forest guide­then it makes more sense to just shorten the trip in the interest of making it more intense while you're there.

The peak-end rule also suggests that there's little point worrying about how much fun or how relaxing every last moment of a vacation is, since the trip will be remembered for its high points. Of course, our peak-end proclivities also mean that a trip could be remembered for its low points, experiences of vacation trauma that overwhelm all else­gastrointestinal disasters, perhaps, or a stolen passport or camera, or epic, frustration-induced tantrums.

But research looking at how people actually feel about their vacations suggests that, by and large, they remember them warmly­more warmly, in fact, than they feel while taking them. The psychologists Leigh Thompson, of Northwestern University, and Terence Mitchell, of the University of Washington, reported in 1997 the results of a study in which they asked people on three different types of vacations to fill out a series of emotional inventories before the vacation, during it, and then after. They found that in all three cases, the respondents were least happy about the vacation while they were taking it. Beforehand, they looked forward to it with eager anticipation, and within a few days of returning, they remembered it fondly. But while on it, they found themselves bogged down by the disappointments and logistical headaches of actually going somewhere and doing something, and the pressure they felt to be enjoying themselves.

A recent Dutch study had a more striking finding. Looking not at vacation memories, but measuring general happiness levels through a simple three-question questionnaire, the researchers found that going on vacation gave a notable boost to pre-vacation mood but had little effect on post-vacation feelings. Anticipation, it seems, can be a more powerful force than memory.

VACATIONS CAN'T ALL be short and intense, and we wouldn't want them to be. What if we want to just improve a week at the beach house?

One consistent research finding is that people have a stubborn unconscious ability to adapt to their circumstances, whether those circumstances are good, like marrying their true love, or bad, like getting divorced. Whether they want to or not, people quickly begin to take things for granted.

One way to head that off, psychologists have found, is by constantly varying how we do things. Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside, has done a series of studies showing that in all sorts of everyday activities, from hobbies to studying to walking routes, people derive more pleasure from them the more they vary how they do them. When planning for how to keep ourselves (and our families) happy and engaged through a week off, it may help to keep the value of novelty and variation in mind.

The most effective way to inoculate a vacationer against the deadening power of adaptation, however, may be the most counter­intuitive­to break it up, to interrupt it with real life. The psychologist Leif Nelson of the University of California, Berkeley, working with Tom Meyvis of New York University, has found that people, whether having a pleasant experience like a massage or an unpleasant one like prolonged separation from a loved one, felt the pain or pleasure more intensely if the experience was stopped and then restarted.

"If you put a disruption in a hedonic experience, it intensifies it," Nelson says. "You can imagine spending a weekend at some wonderful beach house. While it's great for the first couple of hours, by the second day, it's pleasant and then no longer exciting. If for some reason you're forced to leave the beach house, when you return, you have all that new pleasure again."

Other psychologists have a slightly different explanation for the hedonic boost that interruption gives. They see it less as a matter of adaptation and more a matter of evaluation. Having a trip interrupted in effect turns what had been a more open-ended experience into a bounded one, triggering the peak-end rule. That means, says Gal Zauberman of the University of Pennsylvania, that if we break up our trips strategically, we might actually get more enjoyment out of them. "If you partition after each peak experience, then you remember that piece as better than if you partition after each lousy thing," he suggests.

But for those who can't get away at all this summer, either because time or money prevents it, there is a finding for you, as well. Odd as it seems, people are often reluctant to take advantage of opportunities for pleasure that they do have, unless they're in some way compelled. In a study published earlier this year, marketing experts Ayelet Gneezy and Suzanne Shu found that giving someone longer to redeem a gift certificate actually makes them less likely to do so. And using sidewalk surveys in London, Chicago, and Dallas, they found that people who live in cities with major landmarks are actually less likely to visit those landmarks than tourists are, and likely to only do so when hosting out-of-town guests.

The finding is a testament to the human tendency to procrastinate, in pleasure as in work. Seen this way, part of why we enjoy ourselves on a vacation stems from the fact that it gives us a deadline: an often sharply limited time window during which we have to go out and enjoy ourselves.

If you realize this, suggests Shu, you can give yourself some of the benefits of a vacation without going anywhere, simply by cordoning off a day or two and strictly scheduling it for leisure. That way you'll actually go out and see the play or concert you would otherwise have skipped, or take the time to dig the tent and camp stove out of the basement.

"Give yourself a milestone or a deadline by which you're going to go do this enjoyable thing," Shu says, "and you'll actually enjoy yourself more often."

Originally published in The Boston Globe.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 at 9:08 pmand is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Print This Post