If I Had All the Time In the World

4 12 2008

There is a great source of political information at opensecrets.org.  This site will tell one who/what/which, individuals, companies/corporations and PACs gave money to individual politicians, political causes or parties.  One can enter one’s zip code and get a list of local politicians and where they got their money from.  One may also look up any politician one desires and find out where their contributions came from.  The same is true of corporations, one may put in a corporation and find out where they are putting their money.

If I had all the time in the world, and unlimited resources, I’d build a digital collection that would do the same for the bail out cash.  That is, where it is going and what that organization is doing with the money.  Later it would show how much money is being/has been repaid.

I would also build an earmark or pork belly digital collection.  One could look up which politician added which earmarks, how many they’ve added, how many their state, city, etc, has received, how many have they proposed, etc.

One could also build the same type of collection for bills introduced, anti-gay bills, pro-life bills, anti civil liberty bills, etc.  I think these tools would be invaluable in the voting process.  This might prove to be especially true for younger voters.  They are typically under represented in the turnout of elections and they are more tech savvy, and more likely to get their news online, than older voters who are more likely to get their information from news papers, TV, books, etc.

I now arrive at a point of consternation.  One’s dollar votes.  Take for example the recent boycott by pro gay marriage Californians of organizations that donated to the anti gay marriage cause.  I am astounded that this is controversial.

The argument has been made, by Chomsky, Watts and others, that one’s dollar votes are really all the American public has left.  By ‘public’ I mean those of us that make less than a million or so a year.  Politicians, including Obama, probably – we’ll see (and I hope I’m wrong), are loyal to their donors.  Businesses donate to get favourable legislation passed.  If one chooses to give one’s commerce to a business that donates to a politician who votes pro-life (for example), that business has more money to donate.  If a large, informed, group of consumers choose to ‘give’ their money to businesses that donate to pro-choice politicians, that cause would get more money and the other side would get less.  This seems like an idea that free market proponents could get behind, let the market dictate.

We, the public, control the vote.  We, the public again, also control where our money goes.  If there was a place to go to see, more closely and easily, what businesses were doing with our money, we could make our dollar votes count for more.

This doesn’t just go for business donations, CEO’s and other officers who make their money from our commerce give HUGE sums to politicians.  We can aim that money.  If we give them less revenue, they can not spend as much on politicians.

So, digital collections could be a force for change, or status quo, but a force nonetheless, simply by existing.  One only needs to build it.  Also, one needs to promote this.  Thinking of all the news stories and controversy that arose when a group of people started making their dollar votes heard, this is a collection that is bound to get a lot of free press, just by existing.

It feels kind of weird to have seen knowledge about what businesses, and those who run them, do with ‘our’ money, be so controversial.  It feels the same as when religious right type groups call for boycotts of movies, Harry P. comes to mind, because they didn’t like its message vs a religious right type group that calls to ban the release of a movie or TV stations existence.  The phrase “if you don’t like don’t go/watch/buy it,” comes to mind.  A boycott is consistent with that idea, a ban is not.  Boycotts do not take away someone’s right to buy whatever one wants.  A ban does.  A ban, carried to its logical conclusion, end is fascism.  A ban is a group forcing something on another group of people.  A boycott is choosing not to spend one’s money somewhere, there is nothing forced on anybody.  Choice vs force.

Why are GM, Ford & Chrysler moving away from production of SUV’s?  It is not because they are selling like flapjacks but the CEO’s decided that it would be better for the planet if they made a fleet that emitted less CO2.  It is because people stopped buying them.  That logic is true across the board for businesses.  Even if some company wanted to make a green fleet of cars, if they didn’t sell, they’d be fiscally forced to stop production.

I guess they bottom line is this, since our money is being used to political ends anyway, it would be great if there was a place where consumers could go for quick and easy (Herr Zipf would have my back on this) information about what their money was supporting, they could have a say, an informed say, about what that money spent, said for them.

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What is Africa then, a state?

7 11 2008

  From this article,

“In a string of damaging briefings, it was claimed that Mrs Palin had spent ‘tens of thousands’ more on her clothes than budgeted for, that she once met McCain aides dressed in nothing but a towel and that she did not know Africa was a continent.”





Initial rumblings in, $20 billion in bonus pay.

29 10 2008

  Update, AIG burns through $123 billion in a month, with no idea where it went.  Read.

 

  This article is the first of what I am sure will be many more stories of corporate bailout bonuses paid for by us, the taxpaying US citizens who, on average, make less money in a lifetime than one ‘set aside’ amount.  Since this is one of the 1st reports, the 1st I have seen, I’m sure the subsequent figures will only get bigger.  I guess $20 billion isn’t so bad, we have pledged $800 billion (more but who’s counting?).  It’s kind of like losing a penny in your drawer of hundreds.  And I’m the Jew (self-description, not hate mongering) looking for the damn thing and bitching at you for losing it. 

  I guess we should actually be grateful that the current administration is so down for the upward redistribution of wealth instead of that evil kind Obama is talking about which would shamefully, evilishly and communisticallyish redistribute wealth from the top down.  Ludacris. 

  We should actually be beating and jailing the poor for getting us into this mess in the first place, not just taking their money and rewarding the hard working captains of commerce that heroically fought for America’s best interests, that shackled themselves to an ethical, moral foundation in a truly Kierkegaardian fashion, despite the temptation being thrown at them by the poor.  You damn poor people, take it wretched scalawags, ye loose strumpets and jackanapes.  See the ruin you have wrought on the rich and be loathed.

  Here is one of my favourite lines from the article:

     “Critical producers and critical managers will be retained with the same bonus they had last year,” said Robert Sloan, head of U.S. financial-services recruiting at Egon Zehnder International, a New York-based executive-search firm. “The others will see sharp cuts.”

  I sure hope it’s the workaday jerks, the Joe Sixpacks and soccer moms that got us into this mess that they mean but, ‘the others.’  Let’s see some hourly wages get reduced, that would serve them right,  damn evil doers.  Cause without these bonuses, that are going to the the ‘critical’ producers and managers, who, due to their salaries, make up the 10% of America’s top earners.  These bonuses could potentially save 100% of the home foreclosures on multimilliondollar houses.  What a shame it would be to lose all that African and Brazilian hardwood flooring and minimalist furnishing.





I Believe The Children Mirror Our Future.

17 10 2008

  Obama wins in Scholastic’s election poll, read the article here.  Some of the awesomeness of this article includes; this poll has mirrored the real election results all but twice since 1940.  The kids voted for Dewey over Truman in ’48 and Nixon over JFK in ’60.  Also, there is this, the kids voted for Gee-Dub in 2000.  So depending on how you viewed that election, the kids’ votes didn’t predict the actual vote or, you are batshit insane.  The popular vote that year elected Gore, the Supreme Court appointed Gee-Dub.  So, I’d say the kids were right all but thrice since 1940, still a very good record. 

  One could read this Scholastic history in a number of interesting ways.  One of those being, democracy is doomed to failure.  If the foundation/cornerstone of a good democracy is an informed public, then the fact that a children’s vote has mirrored the actual vote all but thrice since 1940 means that Joe Sixpack and soccer/hockey mom are as informed, have the same capacity for reason, the same guile and insight as children.  Or perhaps something else could explain the very close relationship.  Perhaps both populations are getting their information from the same places, rather place, rather the exact same place- the TV.  If both populations saw the same commercials and saw the same news clips, and that was the extent of their information outlets, that would help toward an explanation of why these two votes mirror each other so closely. 

  I have for a long time believed, and have read many convincing arguments (No LogoManufacturing Consent, The Corporation, etc.),  that the media panders to the lowest common denominator.  That would be a 5th – 7th grade level, which is the average intelligence level of the American population.  That children don’t want to be challenged by their information sources is understandable, that adults who choose to vote also don’t, is not.  That an adult who chooses to vote, can stop at the TV’s level of information and be satisfied and contented with the information they have, enough so that they feel they can make an informed decision and vote, is not ok.  With that in mind, it just seems unlikely that if adults got their information from sources other than TV, the outcomes of both populations would be so closely related. 

    Go ahead, think that this means that kids vote how their parents do, that the biggest influence on a kids vote is how their parents vote.  I don’t buy it.  This vote encompasses children from k-12, more than enough of a population of people who would rebel against their parents.  It would also not explain Dewey or Nixon.  No I think the reason is where the populations are getting their information from.





It’s not just OK

28 08 2008

This story reminds me of our, Oklahoma’s, own Sally Kern.  Not so much Sally’s homophobic tyraid, but her efforts to get certain children’s books banned from the Tulsa City-County Library.  Some of the more hilarious titles she had on her list dealt with going to the doctor/dentist & adoption.  This new contender, JoAn Karkos, has chosen the book, “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health” to wage war against.  Let us take this book, “It’s Perfectly Normal…” and compare the harm it has done to that of another book, say, The Bible.  There is hard proof that this book has been responsible for many bad things.  A few of these are war, genocide & slavery.  There is no proof that giving a citizenry the option to access knowledge produces violence, war, genocide, slavery, etc.  It seems to be the opposite actually.  As the public has become more informed, slavery (The Bible was used to justify) has been outlawed, women have been given the right to vote (those who opposed women’s suffrage used The Bible to defend this position) and other societal injustices have been ended, often in spite of religious efforts and rhetoric.  Think of gay rights today, think of an organized group that is opposed to this, would they use The Bible to back up their positions?  I bet they would.  They certainly wouldn’t use “It’s Perfectly Normal…”

I know out technological evolution has far outpaced our ethical evolution but, it still isn’t fun to be reminded of just how   W     I     D     E   the gap is.  So, this story is disheartening but, it also makes me feel good, schadenfreude, that Oklahoma isn’t the only state plagued by the narrow of mind and small of intellect.





Dead at last, dead at last. Thank god almighty he’s dead at last.

10 07 2008

  What is the deal with the press coverage/reports about Sen Jesse Helms?  Did everyone forget he was a racist, bigoted bully?  Below are a few quotes, taken in context, from the 90’s.  There are others, a multitude of others, from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s & 80’s but, I kept it recent to show Helms’s unrepentant, unapologetic bigotry. 

  ‘And the man ABC News now describes as a “conservative icon” (8/22/01) in 1993 sang “Dixie” in an elevator to Carol Moseley-Braun, the first African-American woman elected to the Senate, bragging, “I’m going to make her cry. I’m going to sing Dixie until she cries.” (Chicago Sun-Times, 8/5/93)’

    ‘More recently, when a caller to CNN’s Larry King Live show praised guest Jesse Helms for  “everything you’ve done to help keep down the niggers,” Helms’ response was to salute the camera and say, “Well, thank you, I think.” (Wilmington Star-News, 9/16/95)’

  Click here for the full article in which these quotes appear (w/ retro, bonus hate from pre 1990!).  Helms’s homophobic predjudices are also seen in the article.  It seems a tad odd that Barack Obama is accused of being un & anti American and a terrorist and John Kerry was accused of being anti-American but Helms is reffered to as a posterboy for attack dog politics and unabashed and bold.





FOX NEWS, We Photoshop, You Decide

3 07 2008

  Fox ran two Photoshopped pictures on its ‘Fox & Friends’ show.  The pictures is Photoshopped were of a NY Times reporter & an NY Times editor.  Check out the story here -> http://mediamatters.org/items/200807020002

  How much different is this than when Katie Couric is thinned out and dewrikled?  Or when the glamour mags airbrush the models?  One could argue that the reporters Fox Photoshopped were made to be less attractive and more sinister, but that is just an opinion.  Some people may like yellow, corn nugget teeth. 

  I think what Fox did is despicable.  I think that what glamour mags do is just bad, but where and how do we draw the line?  I assume, but don’t know, that the models, KC included, allow or sign a contract allowing the mags to alter their appearances.  The two NY Times guys did not, again assumed by me.  So perhaps the only difference is legalistic and the other differences are only arbitrary.  Perhaps airbrushing the truth is as bad as distorting it.  It’s all propaganda, no?