Monday, December 31, 2007

Herman Scheer

Thanks to Todd for sharing this video with me. I think Herr Scheer is completely accurate, and I would like to push a law such as the German Renewable Energy Act within the United States.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Staples, go jump off a cliff has a radio ad that is playing on AM1090 here in Seattle. The ad starts with some audio clips from the Apollo 11 moon landing, and then interrupts that audio to plug their special sale of the month or whatever it is that they are selling. Then the announcer guy says dismissively "Now back to that other thing."

Based on these advertisements, I WILL NEVER DARKEN STAPLES DOOR. I like the gimmick of the ad, replacing some kind of news with the "important" offer, but choosing the Apollo 11 moon landing, the pinnacle of scientific and technological achievement of man in all of world history, is an insult to the United States and an insult to mankind itself.

Here's an alternative. Play a news broadcast talking about Paris Hilton, Alex Rodriguez or OJ Simpson, and interrupt that. That would at least be true advertising, because saving $5 or more at Staples is certainly more important than anything that goes on with our Media personalities.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Of Gods and Man

It is not for the Gods to decide whether or not Man exists - it is for Man to decide whether or not the Gods exist. - Donald Blake

I woke up this morning with Marvel Comics running through my head. It's been happening more and more over the past few months, and it's a nice distraction from my normal political work. I've always enjoyed reading Thor and Captain America, but the current story line in Cap's books has really been bothering me. I've also appreciated the character of Iron Man, but his current trends remind me too much of what I am actively fighting against in the real world.

I've read several blog posts about what the Death of Captain America means symbolically. [1], [2] I've read that his death meant the end of Eisenhower Conservatism. [3] But there is a larger story waiting to be told.

I'm reading the early years of Thor, written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960's. Thor fought communist dictators in South America, the Soviet Union, crazy fools from a peaceful future who wanted to exert domination over their world, Chinese characters wanting to expand the power of red China. So from the beginning he was fighting on behalf not only of Marvel Comics America, but for Real American ideals. Over the past 40 years of comics, we have seen the Gods from many cultures show up in books, like Hercules and Shiva. Watching what the comic writers and artists do with the Gods has always been interesting.

But now we have an opportunity. In the real world, Gaea is under attack. Not from super-villians, but from human ignorance. Climate Change is affecting Marvel's Earth already. Thor walked through the ruins of New Orleans, and wondered why the great heroes didn't do more to save the city. He blames himself for not being there to help, believing that he could have turned back the storm. I wonder.

If it is for mortals to say whether the Gods exist, then I say that they live on, in the hearts and souls and minds of mortals. They only need to be found, and awakened. - Donald Blake

Political activists like me want to awaken the American spirit. It's the spirit that says we can do something, like earn our independence from Britain, like building a railroad all the way across the continent, like winning two wars overseas at the same time. It's a spirit that looks to the best of what people can do.

Here's a storyline for Straczynski to consider. In Thor's quest to restore Asgard, Gaea appears to him, and explains the threat. She is a manifestation of the Earth's biosphere. And she is sick. [4] This is not an enemy that can be fought with a hammer, it is the ultimate struggle of humanity to define itself. It will take the reawakening of all of the pantheons, and the return of those pantheons to the peoples of Earth to teach and help instead of to destroy and harm. That is the quest that we are on, here in the real world.

In Africa, anyone with the power of life and death is a God. - Village Elder

- Chadlupkes 19:05, 15 December 2007 (UTC)

Monday, December 03, 2007

A New Foundation

I am so glad we're putting things on the table.

If the cap became a shield, relieving people making less than 97K of the "burden of the tax", it would certainly be popular. However, it wouldn't solve the problem. I don't know the numbers, but the mean income is about 45K, so we would be leaving out probably around 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the workers. This would be as bad to the financing as leaving out the rich. If we're going to leave an economic class out to help them, we should set the shield at the minimum wage, around 12K now that the minimum is $5.85. It should be locked at minimum wage as well, just as minimum wage should be locked to the inflation rate. But everyone who works should have to pay into the system, otherwise it's not a shared sacrifice, it's just something to "stick it to the man". Populist, but not fundamentally fair.

I'd be really wary of plans to put a cap on benefits based on need, either as a means test or otherwise. That would open the door to those who would demand that their "investment" in this insurance program get back a return on their money. That's our entire debate right now, whether Social Security is or should be an insurance or investment program. Too many people are saying either-or, when the answer should be both. I'll get back to that. First, some background just as a reminder.

Remember that the program was changed in the 1980's, when people realized that the Boomers would create a massive strain in the system 20 years down the road. A "lock box" was created, and the tax rates were raised. This was supposed to create a surplus within the Social Security system that would carry the Boomers through their retirement years. It didn't happen because Reagan instead decided to go after the "Evil Empire" and build up our military. (i.e. He succumbed to the pressure of the military industrial complex that was clamoring for profits, just like he had succumbed to the oil companies in his first term.) The money in that lock box exists, but it's in the form of I.O.U.'s because we've opened up the box and taken out all of the real value.

We need to acknowledge that money itself is simply a promise, no matter what form it takes. Money has no value until it is exchanged for goods or services. It is always just a promise until a transaction takes place. The real value in a bank balance, or a trust fund balance like Social Security, is not the large number that most of us hopefully see, but the transactions that are occurring with that money because that money is in a bank or other financial institution. When we deposit money into a bank, or when the bank sells a Bond, the money that we give in exchange for our deposit slip or the Bond certificate is put to work by that bank. They lend it to other individuals or businesses, and charge them interest. They keep a part of that interest and pay us our share as our dividends or interest earnings.

The Social Security Trust Fund is tapped out because the money that we pay into it is used by the government immediately, either to pay benefits with the core principle which is the redistribution of wealth part of it, or by the purchase of goods and services. What is left behind is a promise made by the government to pay the benefits that the money represented. Full Faith and Credit of the United States of America, meaning that our children and grandchildren will somehow pay it off. That's a promise that we can't continue to make without putting a structure into place that can fulfill that promise.

The solution is simple, at least as far as I can describe it. Yes, eliminate the cap, and make everyone making more than minimum wage pay into the system. Yes, create some type of means testing so that the money coming out of the system goes mostly to people who need it. But there is so much more we could do with a national system like this.

How about a National Savings program, sort of a national 401K. People would pay into Social Security at their usual 6.2%, but would have the option of paying up to $15%. The extra they pay above 6.2% would be credited to them as the certificate holder, and the money would be deposited by the Social Security Trust into a bank. Specifically, banks in areas that need secure financial foundations for their community. States like Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, the three states with the lowest household income. An influx of cash into local banks in an area creates extra supply of that cash for personal and business loans, enabling the banks to lower the price (i.e. interest rate) on those loans. A foundation of capital like that would increase the rate of economic activity, create jobs and generate income for local taxes and boost the entire community as a result. The banks would take their share of the interest, and the balance would never go down, as long as the system was set up correctly.

The way I see it, the most important thing that has been stolen from the people of our country is our foundation, and I'm referring to physical, financial and social. The rich fools have charged us with fees and high prices, taken away our money and left us with nothing. Local communities no longer have engines of economic activity because all of the capital has been pulled away to Wall Street instead of being put to work on Main Street. This has resulted in a failure of local governments to keep up with their task of maintaining our physical infrastructure. How old are our water systems? Seattle has pipes that are over 100 years old. And I'm not talking the small pipes, I'm talking about the backbone of our entire system. Bringing our foundations back also means social connections and the sense of community security that comes from knowing our neighbors and knowing that our children are safe playing outside and walking down our streets.

A deal is where I give you something and you give me something in return. We don't need to make a deal, New or otherwise. We need to build a Foundation. A strong foundation under our feet will let us reach for our potential much more than making a deal that we can see eroded by future deals. In the 1930's, we needed a New Deal. In the 21st century, we need a Foundation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Property? Only if I can take it with me.

In a discussion about the difference between progressive and libertarians, I came up with the following paragraphs. I would be interested in your thoughts.

What progressives understand that conservatives and libertarians refuse to acknowledge is that we are all in this together, and that we have a responsibility to secure our mutual foundation as well as our personal foundation. The main difference is that libertarians seem to believe that anything that takes "private property" away from one person to give to another, whether we're talking about land or capital or physical property like cars, is theft. They consider property rights to be more important than anything else, because that's where everything flows from in their world-view.

I pay for the food that I eat, the water that I drink, the home that I live in and the methods of transportation that I use because those payments are my share of the burden to keep these things available to everyone. My priority is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, not the pursuit of property. Because property is fluid. As far as I'm concerned, anything that I can take with me when I die is my property and nobody has any right to any of it. Throw all your money into the air, and anything that God wants, he keeps. Anything that will still be here when that happens is not "my" private property, but is something that should be managed by our social norms and laws to enable me to live my life in comfort and to encourage me to reach for my potential. It's my responsibility to pay my share to provide those opportunities to everyone else as well.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ron Paul's "Honest Look"

Representative Paul has put out a press release that proclaims him the champion of the working class, with plans to reduce the tax burden that we carry on our shoulders. What he does not describe is the effect that lifting that burden will do to the road at our feet. It's time to take an honest look at where his ideology is coming from and where legislative proposals based on that ideology will lead us. It's not a pretty picture.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan declared that government is the problem. He also talked about tax burdens, and stated his belief that not singling out any particular group to pay a higher price is somehow equitable, regardless of the differences in the ability of various economic classes of people to pay those prices in the first place. Government was set aside as a group outside of the people, and was set up as a straw man to be knocked down in speeches whenever necessary for political gain. This completely eliminated the notion that government is supposed to be of, by and for the people. We are the government, whether we want that responsibility or not, whether we are participating in it or not, and whether it seems to respond to our desires or not.

Paul's statement that "taxation is the most direct way government increases Americans' cost at the pump" is yet another way of separating the people from our government. Remember that our elected representatives in Congress debate and set those tax rates, and that they are approved by an elected President and enforced by locally elected or appointed officials. Fundamentally we the people tax ourselves in order to provide funds for highway maintenance, roads, transit and other costs associated with our transportation system. And this is not a sales tax that you calculate based on the purchase, it's figured into the cost of the gas before purchase.

Paul seems to want to give people the impression that we can just do without taxes once prices get too high. So we have to ask where the money goes that would get cut off if HR 2415 gets passed. The Government Accountability Office has a report that it gave to Congress in April of 2006 that shows this graph:

What you are seeing in this graph is the end of highway projects, the end of bridge maintenance, the end of safety improvements and the end of increased transit options to reduce the pollutants that go into the atmosphere. It means more potholes, more vehicle damage and more cost to consumers. But because that cost is not being paid by the government, it's not considered important.

Our refinery capacity is certainly an issue, but the solution presented of reducing or removing the environmental regulations that prevent new refineries from being built ignores the reason that those regulations were created in the first place. Does anyone remember how much attention the lack of refineries got after Katrina? It doesn't seem to have stopped, although I'm not surprised that it is the Washington Times opinion writers like H. Sterling Burnett who disdains clean air regulations. Who wouldn't want to breathe pollution when they can save a few dollars at the pump? I mean really, don't you just love the smell of hydrocarbons in the morning? Smells like progress, doesn't it. And cancer, but let's not talk about that. Let's also not talk about the 100 or so refineries that have been shut down by the industry due to consolidations or the cost of keeping our kids healthy was just too much for their profit margin.

Lowering the price at the pump is a solution, but it's a solution to the wrong problem. Rep. Paul makes a very important assumption in his press release, that oil and gas are, and indeed should be, the only way that we can keep our cars and trucks moving, the only way that we can transport ourselves, our products or anything. Like Al Gore has said, do we really need to carry 6,000 lbs of metal with us back and forth to the store? And if so, do we really need to move it by burning ancient sunlight? The pain that we feel at the pump is our own doing, and we can do something different if we choose to.

Unfortunately, Representative Ron Paul doesn't seem to be interested. He doesn't care about air pollution, doesn't care about climate change, has no interest at all in rail transportation, and wants nothing to do with renewable energy. In fact, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what he cares about, except the Iraq War because it's a waste of taxpayer dollars. Saving us money is nice, and it goes well with the meme that we are all on our own. However, the United States was founded on different principles. Progressive principles. Some even call them Christian principles. They can be summed up in a simple phrase: I am my brothers keeper.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

quote worth sharing

Greed and integrity are very close to being the same thing in Republican Politics.

Medical update.

So, I've been feeling really tired recently, needing much more sleep than usual, and have little to no energy. I had a lot of trouble recovering from the last virus that went around in mid-October, so I went to the doctor on October 30th for a blood test. Liver count was way up, like 4 times normal. TSH was also way up. So, no alcohol until the liver count goes back down to normal.

But what about the TSH?

TSH is Thyroid-stimulating hormone. It is the chemical produced by the pituitary gland to tell the Thyroid to produce T3 and T4, the main chemicals that help regulate energy in the body's cells. When TSH is high, it means that the Thyroid is not doing its job. The condition is called Hypothyroidism. It's not that umcommon. My doctor said that the Chemo and Radiation therapy from the cancer in 2003 likely did some damage. Gee, surprise.

So, what he prescribed is Levothyroxine. This is an synthetic T4. It's been around since 1926, and there are evidently 12 different doses available. I've started with 50 micrograms per day, going to 100 mcg per day after a week. I have another appointment in a month. We'll find a dosage that gets me the numbers on the tests that he wants to see, and then I'll be on that dosage forever.

I really like my doctor. He's a straight shooter. He literally told me that if they did nothing, the condition is fatal within a year or so. Treated, I can look forward to lots of energy and a long life.

I'll choose life.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Dear Senator Leahy,

I'm writing to you from Washington State as a constituent concerned about the FISA bill currently before the Judiciary Committee. I believe that laws have been broken, and that the Bush Administration has the intention to continue to break those laws. I do not believe for a minute that what they have done is the result of incompetence or a mistake. I believe it has been their intention since the very beginning to take America down the path that Germany took in the 1930's, and I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of Congress to stop them.

Please do your utmost to prevent any changes to the law that excuse violations of that law. If the telecommunications companies or this administration succeed in getting away with those violations, the United States Constitution will cease to exist as the founding document of this country, and will instead become a legacy that we will never again be able to live up to.

This administration has shown us that our liberties and rights are in the hands of men, not based in a foundation of law. Please save that foundation for future generations.


Chad Lupkes

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Eliminating Conservatives?

A question came up about what I mean by "wanting to eliminate conservatives". My email response follows, along with some additional comments I would like to throw out in the context of the yet ongoing abortion debate:

"Conservative thought" is not centered on a pro-life stand. It's the attitude that one person, any person, is more worthy than another person. It's a way of thinking that "those people over there" are not worth as much as "we are over here". That's the kind of thinking that I want to eliminate. The conservative movement has been fighting for 7,000 years for total domination of the planet's resources. I don't want power, I want peace. I don't want to control, I want to cooperate. That's where I'm coming from. Differences should be explored and celebrated, but I will always stand against one group gaining control over another, regardless of who it is.

I'm against the ideology, not the people who hold that ideology. The meme that one person has the right to control the lives of other people may have the right to exist, but I would say that it should only exist in history books that tell the story about what the Human Race has done wrong in the past and why we should not follow that same ideology moving forward into the future.

I have never said that final term terminations were ok. Except in cases where the life of the mother is in extreme risk, or severe deformities where the child has little chance, I think every effort should be made to give the body as much nourishment as possible. I think the picture changes during the first and second trimesters, although I fully agree with the people who say that the US Supreme Court should not have taken it upon themselves to draft law based on that idea. It should have been the US Congress after a healthy debate.

I'm reading the book "Capitalism at the Crossroads" by Stuart Hart. Part of the business ideal that he describes is the concept of Stewardship, taking responsibility for a product throughout the entire life cycle of that product from the development process through the initial raw materials being drawn from the environment, the conversion of those raw materials into a saleable product, the use of that product by the customer, and the disposal of that product to ensure that it does not pollute the environment.

The metaphor can be translated to human life in the following way. As a society, we need to take responsibility for the lives of our people from conception through death. Women who wish to have children should be supported physically, mentally and spiritually to ensure her children have an advantage from the very start. Parents should have all the resources they need to help the child reach their potential. Children should be nurtured and supported while they learn about our world and their place in it. Adults should be supported as they reach for their potential. Seniors should be celebrated and respected, while their needs are provided for. Our family members and friends who pass beyond the veil should be celebrated. All of this is the responsibility of that individual, their family and friends and society at large. Each of those is part of the foundation that we create and nurture for ourselves and everyone else. And that is a detailed description of one of the core principles that I hold dear.

Those of us who follow the true teachings of Jesus understand that life does not begin at conception, nor does it end at death. Life is a cycle that never ends. I am focused on building the foundation for the entire cycle, not just a 9 month portion of it. When we can say that every child has a loving home to go to, a great school to attend, a competent and caring doctor to see when needed, and an exciting future in a healthy society on a healthy planet, then we will have succeeded. Until then, we still have work to do.

That work is what I do every day as a progressive activist working within the Democratic Party infrastructure.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

WSPC Chair Election Statement

My name is Chad Lupkes, and I am running for Chair of the Washington State Progressive Caucus.

You have seen my name on blogs, mailing lists, and around the Internet.  You have met me and heard me speak of where I stand on this issue or that.  Many of you have been friends and partners in our ongoing quest as Progressives within the Democratic Party to stay engaged, get educated, and feel empowered to be the change that we wish to see in the world.  I want to speak to why I stand with you, and what my core principles are as a candidate for Chair of the Progressive Caucus.

Many people have their own definition of "Progressive".  Put 10 of us in a room, and you'll get at least 20 different answers, depending on how long you let us talk.  It's hard to boil all of these ideas and values down into a 10 second sound byte.  I don't usually try, except for a phrase I throw out occasionally.  "Progressives put the concerns of people and the planet ahead of profits".  But there is a lot more to it, and I want to give you my "8 statements for 2008".

    1        Grassroots Democracy.  If a decision is being made that affects your life, your voice should be heard.  It doesn't mean that our individual desires should always win.  But we can do better by bringing the voices of our neighbors and friends into the discussion. 

    2        The concept of WE.  We are all in this together.  We breathe the same air as everyone else, drink the same water, eat the same foods, and live on the same planet as everyone else. There is no "them".  Drawing lines between 'us' and 'them' divides our world's resources.  By sharing what we can as much as we can, we maximize the benefit to all.  This is more than just academic nonsense.  It's a fundamental aspect of sustainability, whether we're talking sustainable growth or sustainable life. 

    3        Learn from the past.  We've made mistakes in the past, and the only way to prevent making them in the future is to learn from them.  Sometimes it takes more than once to learn a hard lesson.  How many more times will it take to fight against the control of the few at the expense of the many? 

    4        Plan for the future.  We can't turn over a new leaf and expect a single decision, a single election, or a single leadership change to solve the problems that we face.  We need to set goals, identify resources, establish milestones, and accept incremental change.  Even in the current context of our climate crisis and the potential economic meltdown due to poor planning in the past, we need to recognize and accept that it is going to take time and work to turn things around.   

    5        Shared Sacrifice.  I don't think that any of us should be required to shoulder the burden of this transformation by themselves.  If our expectations are too high, we need to reduce them to something manageable.  If expectations coming from elsewhere are too much for us, we need to communicate better what we can, and can't, do.  The more people stepping up to move a single brick, the fewer people needed to carry an entire brickyard. 

    6        Fairness for all.  In a world as diverse as ours, we need to be mindful that everyone has a place.  We have to write resolutions and draft legislation to be fair to everyone, not just ourselves.  That's part of understanding that we are all in this together.  Laws are written in black and white to apply to everyone. 

    7        See, and take advantage of, opportunities.  Being part of the Democratic Party gives us the opportunity to change the country for the better, and we can't let that slip by.  We have to step up and do the work. It's not compromising our values to work for something better in the future by doing the hard work today. 

    8        Strong Foundations.  We can't reach our potential if we are not standing on a solid foundation.  That includes understanding our history and knowing what resources we have available to get the job done.   We have to know what we stand for, or we will fall for anything.


I believe that it is time for us to answer some very basic questions having to do with our relationship with the Democratic Party.  Some of you have been working within the party for years or even decades, some for only a few years.  We're all working towards the same goals, but too often we don't articulate what those goals are, leaving it to our fellow activists to figure out what we mean.  We need to communicate than that.  I define my overall goal as a better world for my children.  Whatever else being an American means, or what the American Dream is, that seems to be a key part of it all.  We want our children to have the same or even more opportunities as we did, with the ability to reach for their potential as individuals and as part of a healthy society living on a healthy Earth. 

What does being a Progressive activist mean in the context of the Democratic Party? 

    Who we are matters.  We are middle class America.  We live mostly above the poverty line, and mostly below the line of those who consider themselves to be financially self-sufficient.  Very few of us earn our living sitting around "waiting for the dividend check", as Thom Hartmann frames those who are at the top of the economic pyramid.  We are also the stakeholders of the future.  We should be mindful of that as we make our decisions both in life and in political activism. 

What do Progressives want to get out of our involvement and activism within the Democratic Party? 

    We want elected officials to make decisions and draft legislation in accordance with our values.  We want the political party infrastructure to support our goals for a better world.  We want leaders that listen to us, and we want them to keep their promises to us.  We want a political party that leads by example.

Why should Progressives work within the Democratic Party? 

    It is an existing political infrastructure.  The oldest political party in the world, and it changes every election to reflect the times, the candidates and the situation on the ground to get those candidates elected.  “Past history" is just that - history.  What the party does and what decisions it makes now (and in the future) does not depend on what it has done in the past, but only on who is involved NOW.  If we are those people, who work hard to show that we can get our candidates elected, and we focus on our values of cooperation and our goal of peace, we will be the ones making those decisions.  

How specifically can we help the Democratic Party grow and our candidates win? 

    By doing what we already know how to do.  Networking with friends and neighbors in our social circles, our business community, our faith community and everywhere else.  Many of us know how to use technology for this type of networking, and many more of us want to learn.  We can become the teachers that can continue to expand our ability in this. 

I mentioned that the Democratic Party is existing infrastructure.  I believe that we have the ability to make that infrastructure of, by and for the people of this country, while we reach for the stars together.  I believe in our message, and I believe in our values and I believe that we win elections by standing firm. 

I'm good at flowery statements and (obviously) long emails.  I hope most of you by now know that I mean every statement from the core of my soul. 

My name is Chad Lupkes, and I am running for Chair of the Washington State Progressive Caucus.  I would appreciate your vote

Saturday, September 22, 2007

John Edwards in Seattle, September 19th

These are my raw notes from the event. I'll clean them up as I have time. I don't type well enough to do quotes, so much of this is my interpretation of what he said, not the words he used.

John Edwards event, SEattle, 20070919


Paul Berendt

Jenny Durkins, chair of the campaign in Washington


Health Care
global warming
carbon caps to 80%
Sacrifice needed.
economic inequality, worst since Depression
surge in NOLA
9.5 per hour, indexed
unions supported
college access
College for Everyone: graduate HS, 10 hours a week work, we pay for tuition and boks
housing, predatory lending laws
anti-science, worst in hisotry
stem cells
invest in (double) NIH
scolarship help, in areas we need help, science & math
GW destroyed americas reputation
end the mess in Iraq
congress mandate, 2006, end the war
we elected congress for a change of course,
no funding without timetable, return return return.
end it
we must make him change course.
50K out immiediately
engage sunni, shia, reach compromise
on top of that
close guantanamo, day one
no more secret prisons, no more spying on US, no more torture or condoning torture,
so contrary to what we believe in
what's possible
responsibility to humanity
expand capacity to lead, we must be the light
they care about themselves and the rest of the world.
instead of 500Billion in Iraq, education for 100Million children 4Billion per year
sanitation & clean drinking water around the world.
economic development
microlending, microfinance
american leadership would matter
the righ tthin g to do
in the self interest of america
generation of young people looking at Osama and American making a choice
that choice is up to us.
are we a bully? they join Osama
they see light, they move toward us.
like a magnet
moral force we are capable of being
Pres needs to travel the world an dspeak to the world. Not just leaders, but everyone
what they need to hear
We believe in diversity, we embrase it
all kinds of
respect other people with different cultures and faith believes
the world doesn't believe it, and that must change
take responsibility for this country
do it tgether


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hillary, where is your health care bill?

S.895 : A bill to amend titles XIX and XXI of the Social Security Act to ensure that every child in the United States has access to affordable, quality health insurance coverage, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 3/15/2007) Cosponsors (None)
Committees: Senate Finance
Latest Major Action: 3/15/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

S.982 : A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for integration of mental health services and mental health treatment outreach teams, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 3/23/2007) Cosponsors (7)
Committees: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Latest Major Action: 3/23/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S.1032 : A bill to amend the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to establish an Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives in the Department of Agriculture, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 3/29/2007) Cosponsors (1)
Committees: Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
Latest Major Action: 3/29/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

S.1034 : A bill to create investment opportunities for rural families and access to credit for rural entrepreneurs and microenterprises, to support rural regional investment, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 3/29/2007) Cosponsors (None)
Committees: Senate Finance
Latest Major Action: 3/29/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

S.1065 : A bill to improve the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury in members and former members of the Armed Forces, to review and expand telehealth and telemental health programs of the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 3/29/2007) Cosponsors (8)
Committees: Senate Armed Services
Latest Major Action: 3/29/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

S.1075 : A bill to amend title XIX of the Social Security Act to expand access to contraceptive services for women and men under the Medicaid program, help low income women and couples prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce abortion, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 3/29/2007) Cosponsors (8)
Committees: Senate Finance
Latest Major Action: 3/29/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

S.1240 : A bill to provide for the provision by hospitals receiving Federal funds through the Medicare program or Medicaid program of emergency contraceptives to women who are survivors of sexual assault.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 4/26/2007) Cosponsors (6)
Committees: Senate Finance
Latest Major Action: 4/26/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

S.1363 : A bill to improve health care for severely injured members and former members of the Armed Forces, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 5/10/2007) Cosponsors (6)
Committees: Senate Armed Services
Latest Major Action: 5/10/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

S.1452 : A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to establish a national center for public mental health emergency preparedness, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 5/22/2007) Cosponsors (1)
Committees: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Latest Major Action: 5/22/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S.1500 : A bill to support democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 5/24/2007) Cosponsors (9)
Committees: Senate Foreign Relations
Senate Reports: 110-136
Latest Major Action: 7/24/2007 Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 284.

S.1542 : A bill to establish State infrastructure banks for education, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 6/5/2007) Cosponsors (1)
Committees: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Latest Major Action: 6/5/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S.1604 : A bill to increase the number of well-educated nurses, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 6/13/2007) Cosponsors (1)
Committees: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Latest Major Action: 6/13/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S.1712 : A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to improve newborn screening activities, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 6/27/2007) Cosponsors (None)
Committees: Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Latest Major Action: 6/27/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

S.1800 : A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to require emergency contraception to be available at all military health care treatment facilities.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 7/17/2007) Cosponsors (13)
Committees: Senate Armed Services
Latest Major Action: 7/17/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services.

S.1950 : A bill to require a report on contingency planning for the redeployment of United States forces from Iraq.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 8/2/2007) Cosponsors (7)
Committees: Senate Foreign Relations
Latest Major Action: 8/2/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

S.1967 : A bill to provide administrative ease and incentives for increased saving by Americans, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] (introduced 8/2/2007) Cosponsors (1)
Committees: Senate Finance
Latest Major Action: 8/2/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.

Senator Clinton is running for President, and putting out lots of ideas on the legislation she might introduce once she sits in the Oval Office. Too bad she's too busy to actually introduce them now, while she could put then on the table. Too bad she's with the crowd that is willing to see the Constitution taken off the table, while promising to put it back when we give her the power. Too bad she's not willing to use any of the power she has now, as a US Senator.

Hillary, where is your health care bill?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Re: Bush's Mistake

My mom sent me a link to this article:

President Bush did make a bad mistake - National Word

The only reason that Muslims around the world are sympathetic to the radicals is because this time around we, as a country, no longer have any idea what we stand for and we're instead willing to fall for anything. Because we ignored the Israel/Palestine situation for decades, or supported Israel against the people they took their land from, we made the situation worse. Because we caused an popular elected government in Iran to be replaced by a brutal dictatorship, we made the situation worse. Because we have, for the past 60+ years, provided the Saudi royal family with billions of dollars traded for oil, allowing them to create and support the Madrases around the world like the ones that trained 15 out of the 19 hijackers in 2001, we have made the global situation worse.

In 1941, we had a government in our country that had been focusing for 9 years to support the people of this country in our struggle for daily life. We had elected FDR by 57% in 1932, 60.8% in 1936 and 55% in 1940. Unlike Bush's administration, Roosevelt understood early on the threat posed by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. But instead of being allowed to do anything meaningful, the conservatives and isolationists pushed a neutrality bill through Congress, preventing him from openly supporting Britain, France or China. He had to wait for the fall of Paris, where 1.6 million people fled the city in May of 1940. How does that number compare to 3,000? The America First Committee, an isolationist group led by Charles Lindbergh, argued that our oceans would protect us, something that Roosevelt understood was false. Pat Buchanan says "By keeping America out of World War II until Hitler attacked Stalin in June of 1941, Soviet Russia, not America, bore the brunt of the fighting, bleeding and dying to defeat Nazi Germany." What a wonderful way to make friends in Russia, allowing their people to die while we watched and waited to pick up the pieces. The founders of this country, who all bled and died to create our land of opportunity, must be spinning in their graves.

As a contrast to the 1940's, the 2000 election has been proven stolen, the 2002 election had Senate seats that were stolen, the 2004 election was stolen, and Bush holds hands with the head of the Saudi royal family, his Vice President plans to divide up Iraq's oil before we were even planning attacks, and his Secretary of Defense proceeds to eliminate any true planners in the Pentagon who were focused on avoiding war by undermining the Secretary of State's office. Most of the "intelligence" that Colin Powell used in his speech to the United Nations Security Council was drummed up by intelligence agents within the Pentagon, not the CIA or other intelligence services. The President says that oceans will not protect us, something we learned 60 years earlier. But protect us from what?

Religious Fundamentalism, from any religion, is dangerous. Those who believe in the literal interpretation of Revelations are just as dangerous as those who believe in the Return of the Third Imam. The parallels are obvious.

Tenets of Islamist terrorism have been summarized by one counterterrorist as being:

* A belief that Muslims have deviated from true Islam and must return to “pure Islam” as originally practiced during the time of the Prophet.
* The path to “pure Islam” is only through a literal and strict interpretation of the Quran and Hadith, along with implementation of the Prophet’s commands.
* Muslims should interpret the original sources individually without being bound to follow the interpretations of Islamic scholars.
* That any interpretation of the Quran from a historical, contextual perspective is a corruption, and that the majority of Islamic history and the classical jurisprudential tradition is mere sophistry.

Compare that to what the Evangelical Churches here in the United States are saying.

The characteristics of Evangelicalism have been defined by David Bebbington in his study of British evangelicalism. Known as the Bebbington Quadrilateral the four characteristics of evangelicals are :

1. Conversionism - Emphasis on the conversion experience, also called being saved, or new birth or born again after John 3:3. Thus evangelicals often refer to themselves as born-again Christians. This experience is said to be received by "faith alone" and to be given by God as the result of "grace alone".
2. Biblicism - The Protestant canon of the Bible as the primary, or only, source of religious authority, as God's revelation to humanity. Thus, the doctrine of sola scriptura is often affirmed and emphasized. Bible prophecy, especially as interpreted according to dispensationalism, is often emphasized.
3. Activism - Encouragement of evangelism (the act of sharing one's beliefs) -- in organized missionary work or by personal encounters and relationships with others.
4. Crucicentrism - A central focus on Christ's redeeming work on the cross as the only means for salvation and the forgiveness of sins.

Fascinating parallels, don't you think? I like my secular humanism values much better.

Things were a lot different in the 1940's. We didn't have US Senators looking for sex in airport bathrooms. We didn't have Vice Presidents collecting money from corporations that got no-bid contracts from his own government. We had a 1.9% unemployment and we trusted our government to look out for our welfare first. We had CEO's making maybe 40 times what the average worker earned; now that ratio is 500:1, and the conservatives in government are trying to keep wages as low as possible, driving a third of our population onto the brink of poverty and nearly a quarter outside of the existing health care system.

There is a war going on in the world. It's a war of ideas, and it's a hot war. Hot tempers flare up and encourage violence within families and communities here in the US as often as suicide bombers kill people in the middle east. Nobody has a clear picture of what the United States stands for anymore, because the current administration leadership doesn't care about the people and the current congressional leadership is gaming their words to encourage electoral victory instead of moral victory.

We can win this war. It's easy. All we have to do is care. If we cared about our fellow citizens, and cared about the rest of the people around the world, we could show that by building a strong foundation at home and a foreign policy based on morality instead of money. It's really not that tough. Jesus showed us the way 2,000 years ago. Too bad we stopped listening.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mystery Mushroom

We attended a party on Saturday, and discovered a mushroom growing in
the garden that the owners didn't remember seeing the day before. It
was huge! We took some pictures, and I posted them on Flickr.

Can anyone help identify this giant? I don't know a lot about
mushrooms, but this was just perfectly formed.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

This guy mostly speaks for me.

I'm pissed as well. I want the Democrats to stand up and do their job. And I'm going to be the first to stand up and replace anyone who voted for this FISA bullshit. Thankfully, the representatives from Washington understood just how important this was and how pissed off their base was. Not one rep from Washington voted for this, at least on the Democrats side. Doc Hastings, McMorris Rogers, Reichert, your days are numbered. You have no idea what kind of crap you have bought into.

Another email answered

If we can't find common ground in the values that keep our country together, the war between the Democrats and Republicans, which is really about big money stealing from the people, will devolve into a second Civil War, one that I've been seeing on the horizon for a number of years now.

You're right, the government does not rule over the people. In our system of governance, the people are supposed to BE the government. But that takes an educated population and enough free time after work to devote to studying and debating the issues. Right now, as you demonstrate with your repeated statements of having to work instead of respond in an open political debate, at least one of those, time, is lacking in our society at the moment.

The way I see it, the economic spectrum runs from Communism, which is government ownership of the means of production and distribution, over to unregulated capitalism (Objectivism) where all of the means of production and distribution are privately owned. Communism is a failure. It never had a chance. It's been recorded over the last 7,000 years of history that unregulated capitalism becomes a cancer that eventually destroys the means of production and distribution entirely. The Sumerian empire collapsed because they clear-cut their forests. The Roman empire collapsed. The Holy Roman empire collapsed. The British empire collapsed beginning in 1776 when a bunch of radical intellectuals decided that they wanted to control their own destiny. We've been fighting against it ever since, and I'm afraid we're about to lose. We fought against the East India Company, and dumped their Tea Tax into Boston Harbor in order to protect our local industries. We fought against Fascism in Europe, and rebuilt the Continental nations with roads, public education and universal health care, something that the health care corporations in this country have been fighting against since Truman tried to bring it to the United States in 1948 after FDR proposed it in his second New Deal speech to Congress. Fascism originated in Italy as the merger between state interests and corporate interests. I don't want to be represented in Congress by Microsoft or Boeing, nor do I want the government to own the means of producing software or airplanes. The United States was designed to be on the balance point between private ownership and government oversight. Whenever I hear someone raising their voice against "Socialism", I wonder if they really know what the word means. If someone wants to protect me from socialism, it means that they want to take away my voice and vote.

I'm happy to share my values. I'm proud to have them. I believe that every child deserves an opportunity to reach their potential. I believe that humans are part of the biosphere, not separate from it. I believe the United States is a great country. I believe I should have both voice and vote in the decisions that affect my life.

I believe that nature is to be respected and celebrated, which I think you agree with because of your years in the Parks department. I believe that we live in a social setting where we have to care about our neighbors. I believe that taxes should be used to invest in our infrastructure, infrastructure that we all use in order to live comfortably.

I believe that people should be able to pursue their dreams, without being caught in a rat race against time trying to get a high enough bank balance each month to keep a roof over their heads, trying to grow their savings to send their children to college, and then do it all over again for another 20 years so they can live in dignity towards the end of their life.

I strongly believe in the Bill of Rights. I keep a copy of the Constitution in my backpack so I can refer to it when I need to. Every activist should have a copy with them.

I believe that we should honor our sacrifices. I think everyone who has ever served in the Armed Forces should have free health care forever. I believe that we should be fair to everyone, because if anyone feels the yoke of discrimination it's only a matter of time before that yoke descends onto us. And I believe that the government should be responsible for building a solid physical, financial and social foundation so we can all reach for the stars and our potential as individuals and as a community.

I don't see things politically in terms of left or right. I see them in terms of right and wrong.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

They can take away my Constitution when

This FISA vote does not mean that we should abandon the Democratic Party. This does not mean that we should quit the fight, give in to Fascism or voluntarily give up on our Constitution.

Our representatives in Congress who have the D's next to their names are not "The Democratic Party". That's the way the media is spinning "leadership" in our political world, but it's false. WE are the Democratic Party. The members of the grassroots of America who go to meetings, who organize for issue based campaigns and in support of candidates, who talk to our neighbors and cast the votes, these are the people who have the right to claim that WE are the party.

Howard Dean said it in 2003. We have the power. But it's more than that. We ARE the power. We have the power to replace anyone who doesn't vote in support of the Constitution or our values. We have the power to put people into office who will do their jobs.

Anyone who says that this is the time to abandon the party is doing exactly what the Conservatives want us to do. I'm not quitting because of this one vote. Because we can reverse it. We can force another law to be passed that reverses everything that Bush has done over the last 7 years. We just have to get organized and do it.

They can take my Constitution when they pry it from my cold, dead hands.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Stephanie reads my letter!


Bush has declared war. He has declared a Civil War between the Republicans and Democrats. Bring it on. I'm too angry to think.


I'm talking about George Bush blaming the Democratic Congress for the collapse of the 35W bridge. Mr. "I'm a divider, not a uniter" has struck again. Disagree with me? Post a comment.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Economic Theory: The Terms of the Debate

What we need is a better understanding of the terms of the debate. My intention here is to define what those terms are, explain where we are now, and where we want to be. I'll also describe the directions that we could go that we don't want to, and why. In this essay, I'm going to talk about the economic spectrum. I'm going to define that spectrum based on what I've learned from many places, most especially Thom Hartmann's radio program and the books that he has written over the last few years.

On the far left end of the spectrum graph is Communism. On the far right is Objectivism. The foundation of both is Capitalism. Let's start with the foundation of the graph.

What is Capital?

"Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed." - Mahatma Gandhi

In economics, capital, capital goods or real capital refers to already-produced durable goods available for use as a factor of production. Steam shovels (equipment) and office buildings (structures) are examples. Physical Capital is an object or resource that through the labor of people can serve a human need.

Financial capital, measured in money, allows transactions to be valued and traded on the open market. Capital goods may be acquired with money or financial capital, which are really the same thing. In finance and accounting, capital generally refers to financial wealth, especially that used to start or maintain a business.

What is Capitalism?

"Capitalism is this wonderful thing that motivates people, it causes wonderful inventions to be done. But in this area of diseases of the world at large, it's really let us down." - Bill Gates

Let's dig down to basics. Capitalism is too often defined as referring to the ideas of private ownership. But even the Wikipedia article acknowledges the fact that most economies are mixed, somewhere between state ownership and private ownership. So ownership itself can't really be used to define what Capitalism IS. So what is it?

Capitalism is any economic system that uses capital, both physical or financial. The Market and Capitalism are two sides of the same coin, and you cannot have one without the other unless we go back to a Natural Capital economy, meaning everyone must produce either enough food or enough goods to trade directly for food. We need the market to balance the forces of supply and demand, and we need financial capital to make transactions and reserves of capital possible. The foundation of a successful civilization is two fold; We need production and distribution capable of meeting the needs of people now, and enough physical and financial capital must be held in reserve to be able to maintain supply of goods when production systems fail, and I'm talking about either food production or durable goods production. If we can agree that goods and services are worth money, then we can agree that we need both the physical goods, and the financial capital.

What is the Market?

"The market is not an invention of capitalism. It has existed for centuries. It is an invention of civilization." - Mikhail Gorbachev

The Market is where supply and demand meet to fulfill a human need. The word conjures up the vision of a place where people line up shopping for food across the table from the farmers who grow that food. Buyers and Sellers agree on a price, and transactions are made. If, over time, one seller consistently charges more than the others and this fact is communicated to the community of buyers, that seller's share of the transactions goes down. If, again over time, one seller consistently charges less than the others, their share of the transactions goes up. In order to find a balance and prevent one seller from getting all of the business, the other sellers lower their prices. Eventually, sellers cannot lower their prices further without putting themselves out of business, and the balance is reached. When demand goes up, buyers are willing to pay more, and prices go up. That's also part of the balance.

What is Money?

"Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver." - Ayn Rand

Money is a convenient fiction that is used to define an abstract numerical value for a good or service. That numerical value changes based on the influences of supply and demand. That's a basic truth taught in economics, and I don't dispute it. One of the problems is that people look in their wallets or on their bank statements, and believe that they are looking at money. We're not. Paper bills and coins represent value, but they are not value. Money doesn't exist as a physical object. Bank computers hold electronic and magnetic impulses that represent value. When you buy a gold coin for $100, that $100 goes to the dealer, which goes into a bank. When you pull money out of an account, you are borrowing some value that you will use to purchase a good or service elsewhere. You don't keep value, you keep physical objects representing value.

Money, frankly, is a value based on a promise, and that promise can be kept or broken. In the 1920's, Germany felt the result of a broken promise. In the 1870's, the money that was printed for the Confederate States of America became worthless because of a broken promise. The US Savings Bond and Treasury Bonds have their value because the promise of their return value has never been broken. Will it ever be broken? That's up to the people who make those decisions in the future. My hope is no. But we can't assume that it won't be. We have to do something to make sure that our promises are never broken.

Money is the only object that can be "owned" by more than one person at a time, but too many people don't understand that. Think about it. Money that you earn through employment goes into a checking or savings account. That money is loaned out by the bank to people who pay interest on the loans. If it's a savings account, you get part of the interest, and the bank gets part of it to pay their expenses. But who owns the money? Both you and the bank have claim to the same money, as does the person who took out the loan. So the more money you have in a bank, the better off you are, the better off the bank is, and the better off the community is because that money is available for loans. One statistic that I saw was that the American people have 11 Trillion dollars in deposit accounts, just in Federally regulated banks. I wonder what will happen when the National Debt exceeds that...

But first, let's explore the ends of the spectrum that I showed above in the graph.

From the far left: Communism

"Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society" - Karl Marx

Karl Marx saw the existence of capital as the source of social ills. Marxists, many of whom took his academic ideas far too literally, define capital as "a social, economic relation" between people (rather than between people and things). Purists actually seek to abolish capital altogether, believing that any private ownership of the means of production enriches capitalists (owners of capital) at the expense of workers ("the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer"). They're right in a sense, but the alternative is not necessarily to give that ownership to government, to a union, or to any other collection of individuals. The USSR finally proved that such a system doesn't work over the long term, mostly due to the inability of the economic system to meet the economic needs of the people. For instance, it was not unusual in this type of economy for there to be large surpluses of consumer goods in some areas and extreme scarcity in others, growing a large and thriving black market to relieve the inventory stress of excess goods and provide the missing needs that the production quota's couldn't meet. Additionally, this type of planned economy limited the choices for people in terms of their livelihood, forcing them to give up their individual pursuit of a professional goal (for example, being a dentist or artist) in favor of what the State said it needed in terms of workers (for instance, being an engineer or builder). It was this inability of the system to meet the economic, social and spiritual needs of the people that caused its ultimate collapse.

Getting back to the theory of communism, Marx argued that the owners of capital do not work and therefore steal from or exploit the workers. I think we can agree that exploitation is a bad thing. Gradually, according to Marx, the capitalists would accumulate more and more capital and make the workers continually poorer, in the end causing a revolution. The private ownership of the means of production was therefore seen as a restriction on freedom. I want to amend that by saying that the uncontrolled and unregulated private ownership can indeed reach these levels, but when the people have the will and the means to adjust the rules, things come back into balance. The will and the means refers to voice and vote. Which brings us to Socialism.

What is Socialism?

Socialism refers to a broad array of movements which aim to improve society through collective action and sometimes to a socio-economic system in which property and the distribution of wealth are subject to control by the community. This control may be either directly exercised through popular collectives such as workers' councils, or indirectly exercised on behalf of the people by a government. As an economic system, socialism is often characterized by state or worker ownership of the means of production.

But socialism is not an economic system. It's also not a system of governance. Socialism is a frame. It's a way of looking at systems. Fundamentally, it's any system where the people have a voice, and in democratic systems where people have a vote. The United States has always been, is now, and always will be a socialist experiment, as long as the people have voice and vote.

Socialism is a bogyman. Whenever someone claims that you are pushing a "socialist" view or a "socialist" economic system or a "Socialist" agenda, what they are really saying is that they want to take away your voice and vote from the decision making process.

From the far Right: Objectivism

Strong supporters of capitalism believe that private ownership is essential to preserving personal freedom as well as enriching society. They also argue that the owners of capital indeed do work, since they have to make often complex decisions regarding how to allocate their capital - poor allocation of capital will mean wasted work and resources. (People who have to take a shower after work often listen to these arguments and roll their eyes.)

However, capitalist theory from people like Ayn Rand even goes farther than this. According to the Ayn Rand Institute:

The government acts only as a policeman that protects man's rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

This may sound good on paper, but it ignores the fundamental roles of government as defined by the Constitution of the United States:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

So, from Rand's perspective, the ideal United States would abolish the Constitution and institute a new set of roles, eliminating the desire to form a community of mankind, ignoring the need for domestic tranquility, ignoring the general welfare, etc. Capitalism in these terms is of course an economic system, but not a social system, and certainly not a system of governance worthy of discussion.

Ayn Rand's philosophy goes poetic when talking about the individual, because that's the basis for the entire structure of the world in their view. The Individual is King. Every man for himself. Capital is best under individual control, and individual rights trump all other considerations. What this ignores, conveniently, is that in an unregulated system capital accumulates in the hands of corporations, not individuals.

What are Corporations?

Corporations are legally organized collections of capital, and by law their only duty is to their shareholders. They are literally and legally not allowed to consider other factors when making business decisions, because the shareholders have the right to sue the board of directors if they make decisions that prevent maximizing profits going into their pockets. Remember why Communism failed as an economic system, because it was unable to meet the economic and spiritual needs of the people? Radical, unregulated capitalism contains similar seeds to its own destruction, as corporations pursue the goals of lowering wages, raising prices and decreasing benefits in order to maximize profit for their shareholders. Unregulated, this formula will eventually not be able to meet the economic and spiritual needs of the people, as witnessed in innumerable popular uprisings throughout history (including the American Revolution). Just as there is no path to peace through a field of war, there is no way to help the people when the objective is maximizing capital. It's just not the priority.

Regulated Capitalism

The middle of the graph is where I put Regulated Capitalism. Regulations exist to make sure that the needs of people trump the needs of capital. They prevent the discharge of poisons into our air and water, or at least they are supposed to. They prevent a single corporation from owning too much of a market, or at least they are supposed to. They ensure the protection of copyrights and trademarks, usually better than they really need to within the US (see Mickey Mouse), and certainly not enough outside of the US (see Disney DVD's). It protects private property, but prevents the accumulation of too much property in the hands of too few people, or at least it's supposed to. And it encourages the government to be fair in dealings with private companies and not own and directly control too much of the infrastructure without feedback mechanisms in place to prevent abuse of power from elected officials.

Remember the graph? Our choices go down at either end of the spectrum, because whether you are a government focused on meeting production quotas, or a corporation focused on meeting profit margins, it makes the most sense to standardize, modernize and reduce complications of multiple production lines until for whatever market you are trying to fill you are pumping out the same thing for everyone. The same food, because it's easier just to feed everyone the same thing, or the same type of jeans because it means you only need one pattern. Think about the airline industry. Boeing is focused on maybe three lines of airplanes at a time at any given plant. Now think about the motorcycle industry in China, which is growing like gangbusters because the standards come out of innovation in hundreds of shops that work together to solve problems without worrying so much about intellectual property, while recognizing that the end product will be exported all over the world.

The United States was set up with a socially responsible government, giving the people voice and vote every two, four or six years to elect our most important leaders in the House of Representatives, the Oval Office and the United States Senate. These people write and enforce the rules of the game of economics in our country, and arguably for much of the world due to the influence of the US economy. These rules are the laws that control what the fiscal policies are in our country, and what the priorities are for those policies. The laws define what corporations can or cannot do, and although many of the laws that regulate corporations are on a state level, more and more of them are being written at the Federal level, trumping state law and the citizens in local communities. And thanks to the power of international treaties like the WTO and NAFTA, even some of our national laws aren't enough to protect what is left of local jurisdiction.

So what do we do now?

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power" - Franklin D. Roosevelt

"You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold" - William Jennings Bryan

We have fought this battle before. We have been at the crossroads where we are wondering what the status of our foundation is, and searching for someone, anyone, to shore it up. But the choice of who that is must go through a nightmare electoral process with each state following different rules and helping to limit our choices. The media helps to limit our choices by following the dictates of their own capitalist and corporate heritage and only covering in depth those candidates who don't threaten their own power. The candidates are tempted by Sirens who reach out with claims of riches and winning if they would only soften their stance on this or that issue. Even our political parties are not immune from this temptation, and one of them has already sold its soul to unregulated and uncontrolled capital. The Democratic Party has been tempted, but is beginning to shake off the influence of this reckless and unaccountable yoke of Iron Pyrite.

We must solidify the position of the Democratic Party as being against the influence of uncontrolled capital, while making sure that our positions are clearly different from accusations of being Communist. We don't want the government to own too much and control too much any more than we want unelected and unaccountable members of corporate boards of directors to make Billion dollar or Trillion dollar decisions that let them continue their relentless drive towards dominance of all financial capital at the expense and to the destruction of the foundation that we have under our feet, both physical and financial.

We must understand history, and restore our own history as a political party, focusing our attention and resources on engaging, educating and empowering the people to be the change that they wish to see in the world. We must be proud of being progressive, and define our values in terms that people can understand and in terms that cannot be redefined by the far right. We must keep our promises and stand by our friends.

We must win the 2008 election, and use that victory as a stepping stone to local victories in 2009, 2010 and beyond. We must never let down our guard, and we must restore the United States to its rightful place on the balance point between the far left and far right, becoming again the moral leader of the world who puts the needs of people before anything else, and the future of our children and grandchildren on the forefront of our plans.

Corel fails a basic customer service test

From my wife to Corel:

Two weeks ago I ordered a decoder from you. 10 days ago you took the payment from my bank account. About the same time, I emailed you requesting an update about my order and got no reply. One week ago I called and canceled my order because the email I got from you had none of the information or links I needed to download and I was getting no customer support at all. 4 days ago I got the email with the link, but no serial number, and so I emailed you yet again and got no response. Again.

I tried calling yesterday, Fri. 7/27/07, and was on hold for over fifteen minutes. Since your office hours coincide with my work hours, I cannot sit on hold for personal issues for that long, so now it seems I can't even call you and talk to a real person. Instead I have to write these emails which get no response whatsoever.

As of today, it's been 2 weeks since I placed my order. I have no way of downloading my product but you have taken my money and, over a week after I canceled, you still have not returned my payment.

I will be contacting my bank on Monday 7/30/07 to dispute the withdrawal on my debit card and if I don't receive my money back by Wednesday, 8/1/07, I will be contacting the Better Business Bureau and filing a complaint.

I do not want any of your products anywhere near my computer system. I have canceled my order and not gotten my money back, which constitutes theft on your part. It would be easiest for everybody if you would reverse the charge and end this facade.

Friday, July 27, 2007

More lies about John Edwards

This caught my attention today:

Club for Growth: John Edwards Changes Campaign Theme from “Two Americas” to “War on Prosperity”

Nachama Soloveichik • 202.887.7039 • 646.528.1029

Washington – If there is any lingering doubt about John Edwards’ bristling hostility towards economic growth in this country, all doubts should be laid to rest with John Edwards’ announcement of yet another tax hike today. In a desperate attempt to drive home his lefty bona-fides and revive his faltering campaign, John Edwards is promising to raise the capital gains tax from 15% to 28% if elected president.

As John Edwards continues to wage a political war against prosperity, his campaign platform is looking more and more like Karl Marx’s wish list:

· Terminate the Bush tax cuts

· Raise taxes at least to Clinton-era levels

· Impose socialized medicine in America, to the tune of $120 billion

· Punish the private equity industry with new taxes

· Support anti-trade protectionist policies, including opposition to the pending trade treaty with South Korea

· Choke off entry-level job growth by raising the federal minimum wage

· Diminish the prospect for worker productivity gains by raising capital gains taxes to 28%

“Perhaps John Edwards was too busy learning how hedge funds work to recognize the economic prosperity caused by the 2003 tax cuts over the past four years,” said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. “Since 2003, unemployment in this country has tumbled from a high of 6.1% to a low of 4.5%, while the economy has gained 8 million jobs since its low point in August 2003. At the same time, revenue from capital gains taxes has shot up over the past three years and continues to flow into the federal coffers at an astonishing rate, bringing us to the threshold of a balanced budget today. One would think Edwards would be interested in keeping the economy strong, unemployment down, and balancing the budget, but maybe he cares more about pandering to his far-left base.”

This press release, along with most of the unthinking and history denying conservative lies about the economic situation in our country, deserves an answer, point by point. Here it is.

Karl Marx would get about as much attention in this country now as Eugene Debbs did in the 1912 election. Give me a break. Let's go through this "wishlist".

Terminate the Bush tax cuts

These tax cuts drove up the stock market, and helped the rich get richer. But I'm convinced, as is a strong majority of the country, that these tax cuts didn't do anything to help build our infrastructure or provide services to people who need them.

Raise taxes at least to Clinton-era levels

This causes the reader to believe that high tax rates cause low economic growth numbers. That's a flat out lie. Let's look at the history of our tax rates:

In 1913 the tax rate was 1% on taxable net income above $3,000 ($4,000 for married couples), less deductions and exemptions. It rose to a rate of 7% on incomes above $500,000. During World War I the top rate rose to 77%; after the war, the top rate was scaled down to a low of 25%. During the Great Depression and World War II, the top income tax rate rose again. In the Internal Revenue Code of 1939, the top rate was 75%. The top rate reached 94% during the war and remained at 91% until 1964. In 1964 the top rate was decreased to 70% (1964 Revenue Act), then to 50% in 1981 (Economic Recovery Tax Act or ERTA). The Tax Reform Act of 1986 reduced the top rate to 28%, at the same time raising the bottom rate from 11% to 15% (in fact 15% and 28% became the only two tax brackets). During the 1990s the top rate rose again, standing at 39.6% by the end of the decade. The top rate was cut to 35% and the bottom rate was cut to 10% by the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA). - Soure: Wikipedia

Impose socialized medicine in America, to the tune of $120 billion

Providing health coverage to everyone in the United States wouldn't cost any more than we are paying now, but the difference is that the money would go to doctors and hospitals instead of insurance companies and drug companies who spend several billion dollars a year on lobbying when they should be paying out claims.

Punish the private equity industry with new taxes

Any private equity firm that puts their profits ahead of the needs of the country deserves to be punished. I don't object to collections of capital, I object to the abuse of that power. Private equity firms are draining the capital out of our communities, and draining the lifeblood of our country. They can stop this abuse and damage without losing any money, they just don't want to.

Support anti-trade protectionist policies, including opposition to the pending trade treaty with South Korea

Oh, you mean the US - Korea Free Trade Agreement that would put workers in the United States making $20 per hour on even footing with workers in South Korea making $2 per day? Oh, and thanks for using the word protectionist. We all know that conservatives have no interest in anything that would protect American Jobs or the American infrastructure.

Choke off entry-level job growth by raising the federal minimum wage

So people who are just entering the workforce don't deserve to make a wage that allows them to live and seek the American Dream? $5.15 per hour won't even pay rent on studio apartments in most of this country. Neither will $5.85, but at least it's a start. Our minimum wage had its highest purchasing value ever in 1968, when it was $1.60/hour ($9.12 in 2005 dollars). This doesn't even come close to that. Why don't you want people to be able to live in this country?

Diminish the prospect for worker productivity gains by raising capital gains taxes to 28%

When did "worker productivity" depend on the money raised by people who do nothing but wait for their dividend checks to arrive? Why does Warren Buffett pay 3 percent, while his office secretary pays a tax rate of about 30 percent? It's because under conservatives, workers get no respect.

The Club for Growth is insane. If the Dow reaches record territory on the backs of the people building our infrastructure, they like it.

America hates it. It's time for a change.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Facinating change in attitudes

Saw this article in the Financial Times thanks to Thom Hartmann mentioning it on his program. The conclusions are consistent with the rise of a global progressive movement that I've been seeing and feeling for several years. I honestly believe that only by electing a progressive president in 2008 will the US be able to capitalize on these changes and work together with the international community in order to make the changes necessary to save our world.

Let's hope.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What the founders missed

I think there are two things that were missed during the founding of this country that we now have the experience and opportunity to fix.

Thomas Jefferson:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

Not quite right. Governments derive their just powers from the participation of the governed.

Initiative 24, King County, Washington

Alexander Hamilton:

A secure fiscal and financial capital foundation comes from having money in local banks available to help build the community, not through budget deficits. Balanced Budgets are not enough. Continuous budget surpluses are required at every level of government in order to secure our future.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The 11th Hour

The 11th Hour

It's time for this generation to TAKE CONTROL AND FIX THIS. It's now or never, people. Stand up and do what you have to do.

Friday, July 20, 2007

911 Truth: Please give us the facts

Ed Schultz doesn't believe that there are firefighters from New York who are afraid to speak up and speak out. I agree.

I don't think there are firefighters who are too scared of threats from the Men in Black or something, and are unwilling to sacrifice themselves in order to SAVE THE COUNTRY!

So, give us the names. Give us the name of someone who wanted to testify, but wasn't allowed to. Give us the name of someone who DID testify and is willing to tell the American People what they told the 911 Commission.

I've watched the movies. I know the questions. But I'm just as tired of speculation as everyone else is. Give us sworn testimony, from someone who is there, who saw "the bombs" or whatever. Either that or help us win in 2008 so a Democratic President can do a real investigation and get to the bottom of what happened and throw the guilty into jail.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Friday, July 06, 2007

I'm in favor of Impeachment

Impeach Dick Cheney .org

Impeach, Indict, Imprison. The United States does not tolerate lawbreakers.