Saturday, August 27, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
So, inland Maine dwellers... don't buy into the hype. Everyone else... good luck, seriously, and I hope everyone comes out ok when the sun comes back out.
Monday, August 22, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
The right-wing radicals on the Supreme Court demonstrated this definitional two-step beautifully at the end of the Court's last term. In a pair of decisions that received very little attention, they managed to allow pharmaceutical companies the rights of personhood without the responsibilities. In Sorrell vs. IMS Health, the Court ruled that states couldn't stop drug companies from collecting prescription patterns for individual physicians and then using that data to encourage them to use more expensive drugs. Corporations are people, after all, and that's infringing on their freedom of speech.
But in a second decision, Pliva v. Mensing, the Court ruled that manufacturers of generic drugs had no obligation to tell people about the adverse reactions otherpeople have had to the drug they're selling. If the brand-name manufacturers didn't tell people about those reactions, then the Court said the generic manufacturers don't have to either - even if they know those reactions could lead to death, or to terrible reactions like tardive kinesis.
Corporations are the kind of people who get to say whatever they want to whomever they want - unless they don't want to say anything. People like you and me might not be allowed to collect data on our neighbors and then use it to sell them stuff. And people like you and me would get our butts sued if we sold you something we knew could hurt or kill you. But apparently some people are more equal than others.
If corporations are people, they're very special people. They're people who, thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, have the unlimited ability to express their "free speech" with billions of dollars in campaign cash and lobbying loot. Pharmaceutical companies alone have spent more than $2 billion in lobbying since 1998, while insurance companies spent $1.5 billion. When it comes to free speech, these "people" are real chatterboxes.
When it comes to corporate rights, Citizens United is your Supreme Court. Those two pharmaceutical company rulings are your Supreme Court on drugs.
All this corporate cash is creating a wave of deregulation, tax cuts, and other laws that benefit the corporate "people" and are ruining life for the flesh-and-blood kind. They're hijacking democracy. As one of Sartre's characters said in No Exit, "Hell is other people."
They can't do it alone, of course. Our corporate personages need help. And they get it - from their servants in the Republican Party, and from the many Democrats who are also eager to pitch in. It's a good thing for the corporations that they have so many friends in Washington. In fact, it's just like that Barbra Streisand song, isn't it? People who need people really are the luckiest people in the world.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Take a few minutes and watch Dylan shut up the bullshit and lay it on the line. Well worth it.
If the video won't load - go here: Dylan Ratigan
Friday, August 5, 2011
[Is there an echo in here?]
Friday, August 5th, 2011
From time to time, someone under 30 will ask me, "When did this all begin, America's downward slide?" They say they've heard of a time when working people could raise a family and send the kids to college on just one parent's income (and that college in states like California and New York was almost free). That anyone who wanted a decent paying job could get one. That people only worked five days a week, eight hours a day, got the whole weekend off and had a paid vacation every summer. That many jobs were union jobs, from baggers at the grocery store to the guy painting your house, and this meant that no matter how "lowly" your job was you had guarantees of a pension, occasional raises, health insurance and someone to stick up for you if you were unfairly treated.
Young people have heard of this mythical time -- but it was no myth, it was real. And when they ask, "When did this all end?", I say, "It ended on this day: August 5th, 1981."
Beginning on this date, 30 years ago, Big Business and the Right Wing decided to "go for it" -- to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves.
And they've succeeded.
On August 5, 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired every member of the air traffic controllers union (PATCO) who'd defied his order to return to work and declared their union illegal. They had been on strike for just two days.
It was a bold and brash move. No one had ever tried it. What made it even bolder was that PATCO was one of only three unions that had endorsed Reagan for president! It sent a shock wave through workers across the country. If he would do this to the people who were with him, what would he do to us?
Reagan had been backed by Wall Street in his run for the White House and they, along with right-wing Christians, wanted to restructure America and turn back the tide that President Franklin D. Roosevelt started -- a tide that was intended to make life better for the average working person. The rich hated paying better wages and providing benefits. They hated paying taxes even more. And they despised unions. The right-wing Christians hated anything that sounded like socialism or holding out a helping hand to minorities or women.
Reagan promised to end all that. So when the air traffic controllers went on strike, he seized the moment. In getting rid of every single last one of them and outlawing their union, he sent a clear and strong message: The days of everyone having a comfortable middle class life were over. America, from now on, would be run this way:
* The super-rich will make more, much much more, and the rest of you will scramble for the crumbs that are left.
* Everyone must work! Mom, Dad, the teenagers in the house! Dad, you work a second job! Kids, here's your latch-key! Your parents might be home in time to put you to bed.
* 50 million of you must go without health insurance! And health insurance companies: you go ahead and decide who you want to help -- or not.
* Unions are evil! You will not belong to a union! You do not need an advocate! Shut up and get back to work! No, you can't leave now, we're not done. Your kids can make their own dinner.
* You want to go to college? No problem -- just sign here and be in hock to a bank for the next 20 years!
* What's "a raise"? Get back to work and shut up!
And so it went. But Reagan could not have pulled this off by himself in 1981. He had some big help:
The biggest organization of unions in America told its members to cross the picket lines of the air traffic controllers and go to work. And that's just what these union members did. Union pilots, flight attendants, delivery truck drivers, baggage handlers -- they all crossed the line and helped to break the strike. And union members of all stripes crossed the picket lines and continued to fly.
Reagan and Wall Street could not believe their eyes! Hundreds of thousands of working people and union members endorsing the firing of fellow union members. It was Christmas in August for Corporate America.
And that was the beginning of the end. Reagan and the Republicans knew they could get away with anything -- and they did. They slashed taxes on the rich. They made it harder for you to start a union at your workplace. They eliminated safety regulations on the job. They ignored the monopoly laws and allowed thousands of companies to merge or be bought out and closed down. Corporations froze wages and threatened to move overseas if the workers didn't accept lower pay and less benefits. And when the workers agreed to work for less, they moved the jobs overseas anyway.
And at every step along the way, the majority of Americans went along with this. There was little opposition or fight-back. The "masses" did not rise up and protect their jobs, their homes, their schools (which used to be the best in the world). They just accepted their fate and took the beating.
I have often wondered what would have happened had we all just stopped flying, period, back in 1981. What if all the unions had said to Reagan, "Give those controllers their jobs back or we're shutting the country down!"? You know what would have happened. The corporate elite and their boy Reagan would have buckled.
But we didn't do it. And so, bit by bit, piece by piece, in the ensuing 30 years, those in power have destroyed the middle class of our country and, in turn, have wrecked the future for our young people. Wages have remained stagnant for 30 years. Take a look at the statistics and you can see that every decline we're now suffering with had its beginning in 1981 (here's a little scene to illustrate that from my last movie).
It all began on this day, 30 years ago. One of the darkest days in American history. And we let it happen to us. Yes, they had the money, and the media and the cops. But we had 200 million of us. Ever wonder what it would look like if 200 million got truly upset and wanted their country, their life, their job, their weekend, their time with their kids back?
Have we all just given up? What are we waiting for? Forget about the 20% who support the Tea Party -- we are the other 80%! This decline will only end when we demand it. And not through an online petition or a tweet. We are going to have to turn the TV and the computer and the video games off and get out in the streets (like they've done in Wisconsin). Some of you need to run for local office next year. We need to demand that the Democrats either get a spine and stop taking corporate money -- or step aside.
When is enough, enough? The middle class dream will not just magically reappear. Wall Street's plan is clear: America is to be a nation of Haves and Have Nothings. Is that OK for you?
Why not use today to pause and think about the little steps you can take to turn this around in your neighborhood, at your workplace, in your school? Is there any better day to start than today?
P.S. Here are a few places you can connect with to get the ball rolling:
Showdown in America
Occupy Wall Street
How to Join a Union, from the AFL-CIO (They've learned their lesson and have a good president now) or UE
Change to Win
High School Newspaper (Just because you're under 18 doesn't mean you can't do anything!)
More from Matt Damon
Remember the teachers that affected your life? Me Too.
Monday, August 1, 2011
The President Surrenders
By PAUL KRUGMAN
For the deal itself, given the available information, is a disaster, and not just for President Obama and his party. It will damage an already depressed economy; it will probably make America’s long-run deficit problem worse, not better; and most important, by demonstrating that raw extortion works and carries no political cost, it will take America a long way down the road to banana-republic status.
Start with the economics. We currently have a deeply depressed economy. We will almost certainly continue to have a depressed economy all through next year. And we will probably have a depressed economy through 2013 as well, if not beyond.The worst thing you can do in these circumstances is slash government spending, since that will depress the economy even further. Pay no attention to those who invoke the confidence fairy, claiming that tough action on the budget will reassure businesses and consumers, leading them to spend more. It doesn’t work that way, a fact confirmed by many studies of the historical record. Read the rest here.
The Four Big Problems With - And Four Silver Linings Around - The Debt Limit Deal
Progressives are furious. Conservatives aresomewhat less furious. And for the most part all anybody knows about the budget plan is that it cuts a lot of spending over 10 years, and includes no guarantees that anybody -- particularly the well-off -- will pay more in taxes. Thus, the anger: after huge tax cuts for the rich, two unfunded wars, and a financial crisis triggered by Wall Street greed exploded budget deficits, the people asked to narrow the gap are overwhelmingly regular folks.
All of this while the economy is still reeling. It might not be as bad as this, but there's certainly a lot missing here.
- Removes the cloud of uncertainty over our economy at this critical time, by ensuring that no one will be able to use the threat of the nation’s first default now, or in only a few months, for political gain;
- Locks in a down payment on significant deficit reduction, with savings from both domestic and Pentagon spending, and is designed to protect crucial investments like aid for college students;
- Establishes a bipartisan process to seek a balanced approach to larger deficit reduction through entitlement and tax reform;
- Deploys an enforcement mechanism that gives all sides an incentive to reach bipartisan compromise on historic deficit reduction, while protecting Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries and low-income programs;
- Stays true to the President’s commitment to shared sacrifice by preventing the middle class, seniors and those who are most vulnerable from shouldering the burden of deficit reduction. The President did not agree to any entitlement reforms outside of the context of a bipartisan committee process where tax reform will be on the table and the President will insist on shared sacrifice from the most well-off and those with the most indefensible tax breaks.
- Immediately enacted 10-year discretionary spending caps generating nearly $1 trillion in deficit reduction; balanced between defense and non-defense spending.
- President authorized to increase the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion, eliminating the need for further increases until 2013.
- Bipartisan committee process tasked with identifying an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, including from entitlement and tax reform. Committee is required to report legislation by November 23, 2011, which receives fast-track protections. Congress is required to vote on Committee recommendations by December 23, 2011.
- Enforcement mechanism established to force all parties – Republican and Democrat – to agree to balanced deficit reduction. If Committee fails, enforcement mechanism will trigger spending reductions beginning in 2013 – split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Enforcement protects Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and low-income programs from any cuts. Details here.