Act Blue Turned Conservadem

I was reading a post on Crooks and Liars about Maddow blasting Conservative Democrats when a familiar name popped up (source TPM):

“Conservadems like Jon Tester and Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman are siding with the Republican senators, who are siding with no voters — not even their own!” Maddow exclaimed, noting a recent CNN poll that found that 63 percent of Republicans favored saving the jobs of teachers and first responders.

That name rang a bell… Oh right here he is, and again here with other “netroots” candidates.  What should we do with outsider candidates we vigorously supported and helped win office, when they turn directly against us once in office?

Help vigorously support their primary opponents.

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Fun With Rhetoric, Communism and the Far Right

Its been far too long since we’ve checked in with SPLC’s Hate Watch, and there’s a wealth of new stories (quite the uptick in insane sovereign citizen stories).  But today I want to talk about an extraordinary piece of ultra conservative insanity.

Anti-Muslim crazy from SPLC (emphasis mine):

Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim activist who in April told conservatives that “Shariah is communism with a God,” has called on Congress in a Washington Times column to bring back the McCarthy-era House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). This time around, the infamous panel’s job will be to root out the Islamist operatives who, he claims, are well on their way to replacing America’s democracy with a Shariah-based caliphate.

This is brilliant.  Why?  Because it combines two feared and hated subjects, makes no sense, and is short memorable and catchy.  One could surely stretch the imagination to find similarities, just as easily as one could claim Jesus was a Communist on account of his well known views on the wealthy.  But that doesn’t end any real credibility to it, which works in Gaffney’s favor.  The more insane and clearly untrue the slogan, the more the increasingly schizoid right seems to embrace their loony leaders.  They seem to get just as much pleasure from seeing the left bang their heads against the wall in frustration as they do in having yet another “reason” to hate on their favorite targets.

Why not hit back with more of the same?  Can you come up with any good ones?  Off the top of my head, here’s two:

  1. Conservatism is Corporate Communism.
  2. The Religious Right is Shariah with Jesus.

What do you think?  Most important of all, will it piss off the far right?

Outlaw Arbitration

The recent Supreme Court decision against arbitration was yet another victory for corporations over the rights of citizens.  The case was decided along partisan lines, with Republican nominated justices providing the majority pro-corporate opinion.

It is time we fight back.

Arbitration is, in essence privatized justice where the legal ball is always in the corporation’s court.  It is essentially being forced on consumers in a manner strangely reminiscent of price fixing and collusion.  This will not stand.  We live in a time where corporate rule has led directly to the entirely preventable disasters in Japan and in the Gulf of Mexico.  They have been granted ever more power to directly influence our government with their massive financial resources.  This is not about drawing a line in the sand.  It is about recognizing that corporations now have far more say in our system of government than we do, and resolving to fight back any way we can.

One way to fight back would be to campaign to outlaw arbitration.  We need a coordinated, grassroots campaign to provide consistent and compelling communications to convey how arbitration puts citizens at risk while allowing corporations to get away with crimes.  We need legislation prohibiting the use of arbitration clauses to lock consumers into a lopsided means of conflict resolution.

Call your legislator today.  Let’s outlaw arbitration and snatch this victory back from the jaws of SCOTUS.

There Are No Fiscal Conservatives

Quick Hit: We need to kill the term Fiscally Conservative, and replace it with Fiscally Responsible. Because Fiscal Conservatives are never Fiscally Responsible, and its Fiscal Responsibility that we need.  That means not cutting off your source of funding with tax cuts, not cutting off programs that provide social services and ignoring the negative long term economic impact.  It means understanding that when you screw the poor and middle class you destroy the basis of our economy – which thrives on consumption.  It means you don’t put the prejudices of social conservatives ahead of fiscal discipline.  You cut the expensive programs where there’s waste even if its the hard choice politically.  That means cutting the military budget.  It means refraining from entering into new conflicts when we can’t afford the one’s we are still embroiled in.

The Liars That Get Away

Professional liars like James O’Keefe are able to successfully manipulate the media into damaging their targets.  Amanda Marcotte writes:

At this point, he releases a video, everyone knows up front that he’s a liar, and everyone will just pretend that he’s not for the 12-24 hours it takes for the video to ruin someone’s life.  And he’ll basically gloat in public by releasing the full video, as if to say, “Hey, we all know I’m lying, but no one seems to give a flying fuck!”And on that, he’s right.

How do you fight against that?

This folds nicely into a larger question of how we fight a range of falsehoods perpetuated and popularized by the media.  New organizations (or companies purporting to be news organizations such as Fox News) can all too easily put false info out there, at which point it becomes “effective truth” (Digby):

This is why O’Keefe is able to keep going. The Village really believes that it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not once it’s “out there”. O’Keefe and the Brietbartians know this and since they get oxygen from the fact that liberals flail around trying to prove them wrong

This is a dire strategic problem for our country.  Without the proper facts we cannot make the proper decisions, and one party is content with governing based on wild falsehoods:

MAHER: New Rule – Fantasies are for sex, not public policy. When you go down the list of useless distractions that make up the Republican Party agenda; public unions and Sharia law, anchor babies and a mosque at ground zero, ACORN and National Public Radio, the war on Christmas, the New Black Panthers, Planned Parenthood, Michelle Obama’s war on desserts…

…you realize that one reason nothing gets done in America is that one of the political parties puts so much more into fantasy problems. Governing this country with Republicans is like rooming with a meth addict.

You want to address real life problems like when the rent is due and they’re saying “How can you even think of that stuff when there’s police scanner voices coming out of the air conditioning unit?”

This creates a massive power imbalance favoring lie-based politicians and pundits, and leads to policy decisions with very real effects.

So what can we do to counter?  A few things:

  1. Support non profit journalism (via Miguel Bloomfontosis)
  2. Build a website to document lies, sources, and media acceptance in a way that makes said data easy to digest and use.
  3. Hit the pocketbooks of media organizations that go along with falsehoods (via Olive)
  4. Proof by Prank – If we are going to drive home how toxic this is, we need to use the media’s willingness to publish anything buzz worthy coupled with their love of navel gazing to our own advantage.
  5. Cultivate brave and perceptive public figures who can – when a new lie hits – see it for what it is and step in to counter it.
  6. Break up the monopolies.

1.  Any support that gives real journalism a chance to live and thrive outside the bounds of a profit motive will serve us in this battle, and in many more to come.

2.  With intelligent data we can identify trends and bolster arguments.  Do some organizations fall more readily for these kind of lies?  How often do they repeat them?  How long does it take to issue retractions?  How frequently do they repeat those retractions?  Are the retractions made through the same media as the lie(is a tv mistake retracted only on the website)?  Etc.  What we need here are dedicated volunteers to gather data, verify data, and a web application that can transform that data into a story laypeople can quickly grasp.

3. Armed with #2 we will know who to go after.  Is CNN especially susceptible?  Then we need a campaign to go after their advertisers.

4. Using your opponent’s strengths and weakness alike against them is essential when fighting a more powerful foe.  The media’s strength is that it can take any story and disseminate it quickly to a large number of people.  Their weaknesses are a willingness to forgo diligence in order to snag a potentially juicy story, and a love of gazing inwards.  This gives us the opportunity for a real one-two punch.  Our first strike takes advantage of their strength and willingness to accept “evidence” at face value.  A false video of our own could gain wide play before it gets outed.  At which point we engage in the essential step two – claiming responsibility and using the prank as an opportunity to drive home repeatedly the problem the media has with accepting stories like this uncritically (and dearth of critical reporting in general).

5. Once someone like James O’Keefe let’s the cat out of the bag – we know.  The instant a known liar puts forth a ridiculous story we need people in high places to go on the news shows and tear down both the lies of people like O’Keefe, and to criticize the media directly for accepting them.

6. Media companies have become large corporations that collude on coverage.  As such when it comes to the product (news articles) – we are unable to get the product we need from the companies that utterly dominate the market.  This impacts what gets covered (blogs may be able to expose cracks here and there, and if we pretend wikileaks isn’t being politically prosecuted we can imagine viable alternatives to getting the truth out – but largely investigative journalism happens at the pleasure of these large media companies).  For a country that votes a functioning news service is a public utility.  If private companies want in on the game that’s fine, but there needs to be a greater responsibility to provide accurate news – even if that responsibility only comes from societal pressure.  At the very least though – we need to break them up.  Large multinationals are simply too powerful to respond to pressure in a way that makes them truly accountable.

With each of these initiatives in place we could make sizable headway towards changing the way our media functions.

Pocket Guide to the Budget Debate

Here’s what you need to know when engaging with Republicans and ConservaDems on the budget.

Our deficit is about $1.2 trillion a year.

We are spending just over $1.2 trillion a year on our military.  We are basically spending our deficit every year on our military.

Extending the Bush Tax Cuts is costing us $860 billion a year.

Corporations are not paying their fair share in taxes, costing us billions more a year in lost revenue.

Republicans (with support from many Democrats) want to enact “austerity measures” – which basically means “cuts for the poor and middle classes”.  These measures total $61 billion, a dollar amount spread thin over a massive number of programs:

From education to job training, the environment and nutrition, few domestic programs were left untouched – and some were eliminated – in the measure

If we did away with the Bush tax cuts, lessened loopholes corporations exploit, and trimmed programs for the military (like their sponsorship of NASCAR) we could totally eliminate the federal deficit.

As it stands today the likelihood of this happening is nil: the intelligence, foresight, and will to enact an approach like this is missing in Washington.  Instead we will reap the benefits of tax immunity for corporations and the wealthy, and austerity measures for everyone else: decreased spending power in an economy that relies primarily on spending power to function.

Exposing Tort Reform as a Sham

It sounds reasonable: “People are suing for crazy-pants reasons!  Its out of control and we all pay for it!”.  Except its all bullshit.

Pajiba is more of a place for excellent movie reviews than politics, but when they do dive in damned if they don’t get it perfect.  On Tort Reform:

Tort reform is a sham, folks. It was something dreamed up by huge billion dollar conglomerates in order to increase their profit margins. Really, all you need to know is that one of the major engineers of tort reform law in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s was Karl Rove. Guess who benefits the most from tort reform? People like Karl Rove. Big oil. Credit card companies, The insurance industry. Tort reform was basically designed to take the jury out of the equation.

Dead on (emphasis mine):

There’s such a huge corporate-funded marketing campaign behind tort reform that few people understand the reality: It mostly benefits corporations at the expense of taking away a jury’s right to make a decision. A jury can still decide if someone can get the death penalty, of course, but apparently, a jury is just too wild and unpredictable to be allowed to decide how much an insurance provider has to pay if 1,000 kids get sick because of lead in toys. They tried to give Stella Liebeck $2.7 million, or two day’s worth of profit on McDonald’s coffee as a message to the restaurant to lower the temperature of its coffee (it has since done so) and to improve the lid design so that even more people don’t end up with severe burns. How unreasonable!

Support for Tort Reform is unapologetic class warfare favoring the corporate class over the rest of us.  So how do you respond when your “reasonable” centrist or republican friend brings up tort reform?  How do you respond when they complain jury awards are “out of control”?

First – make the above point clear – “How are juries responsible enough to determine the death penalty – but not to determine a fit punishment in a “Company poison’s water” case?”.

Next, you have a few options.

Are you dealing with a numbers person?  Go into the incredibly small size of the largest jury awards when compared to actual income for the guilty company. Ask what is going to give a company incentive to stop their criminal behavior if the penalty is small enough to be considered a minor tax increase?

Are they concerned about frequency?  Ask what it means for consumer protection in this country if so many companies are successfully sued?  Just what the hell is going on here?  If they are truly liable for doing this much damage – why the hell aren’t they being regulated more?

Tort Reform opens the discussion to how the American public is largely left unprotected from the abuses of corporations.  This is the corporate world’s attempt to strip away even that last remaining shred of protection.