A great loss

Today’s news that Aaron Swartz committed suicide hit me hard. I’ve known him from the days of Radio Userland when we exchanged many emails and chatted about scripts & features. I never had the opportunity to meet him in person, but he was someone I respected.

Aaron was only 14 when he contributed to the RSS standard, which is the basis of blogging. Aaron’s work with Demand Progress helped revolutionize online political activism and was one of the reasons Obama was elected.

This is really bad

I’ve avoided writing about politics because I get too mad, but I have to post this. It seems that Romney’s family has bought voting machines in Ohio. This story needs to be widely publicized and I have a bad feeling this election will be stolen.

Tagg Romney, the son of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, has purchased electronic voting machines that will be used in the 2012 elections in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, Washington and Colorado.

“Late last month, Gerry Bello and Bob Fitrakis at FreePress.org broke the story of the Mitt Romney/Bain Capital investment team involved in H.I.G. Capital which, in July of 2011, completed a “strategic investment” to take over a fair share of the Austin-based e-voting machine company Hart Intercivic,” according to independent journalist Brad Friedman.

According to Truth Out:

Through a closely held equity fund called Solamere, Mitt Romney and his wife, son and brother are major investors in an investment firm called H.I.G. Capital. H.I.G. in turn holds a majority share and three out of five board members in Hart Intercivic, a company that owns the notoriously faulty electronic voting machines that will count the ballots in swing state Ohio November 7. Hart machines will also be used elsewhere in the United States.

In other words, a candidate for the presidency of the United States, and his brother, wife and son, have a straight-line financial interest in the voting machines that could decide this fall’s election. These machines cannot be monitored by the public. But they will help decide who “owns” the White House.”

Both The Nation and New York Times confirm the connection between the Romney family, Solamere and the Bain Capital investment in the voting machine company, Hart Intercivic, whose board of directors serve H.I.G. Capital.

“Mitt Romney, his wife Ann Romney, and their son Tagg Romney are also invested in H.I.G. Capital, as is Mitt’s brother G. Scott Romney.

This could be a disaster for the election.

What Occupy Wall Street is really about

An article at AlterNet explains the facts that are driving the Occupy Wall street movement.

Since Reagan’s time, we’ve been led to believe free market “conventional wisdom” that is fundamentally wrong. Some of the more significant points:

  • The “trickle down” theory (also known as “Voodo economics”): if you give enough money to the already-rich eventually some of that money will trickle down to the rest of us. This has been proven wrong beyond a doubt, yet the Republicans stubbornly cling to this belief.

    They say that if wealthy people have more money they will use that money to start businesses and hire people. But anyone with a real business will tell you that people coming in the door and buying things is what creates jobs. In a real economy, people wanting to buy things – demand – is what causes businesses to form and people to be hired.

    History – and a quick look around us today – shows that when all the money goes to a few at the top demand from the rest of us dries up and everything breaks down. Taxing the people at the top and reinvesting the money into the democratic society is fundamental to keeping things going.

    This chart proves the point. While corporate profits are up, employment is down. Corporations aren’t reinvesting their tax breaks to create new jobs, so nothing “trickles down”.

  • Government and taxes take money out of the economy: Also wrong. In reality the taxes that government collects are invested in the “public structures” that create the prosperity and lifestyle we enjoy – or at least did before taxes were cut. Tax revenue builds the infrastructure of transportation, courts, schools, universities, research facilities and other institutions that enable our businesses to grow and prosper and the consumer protection, safety inspection, water and sewer, health, parks and arts that help us live and enjoy our lives.

    The government needs taxes to operate. Our tax rate is among the lowest in the world, and is much lower than it was during Reagan’s era. As a result, the government is deprived of the funds it needs just for normal operation, which forces it to cut back needed services and has allowed our infrastructure to crumble. Our roads and bridges are in unsafe and deplorable condition for that reason.

    Raising taxes on the 1% and corporate taxes to more reasonable levels, and reinvesting that tax income on infrastructure development would do more to create jobs than any more tax cuts and would boost the overall economy.

Supply-side economics is fundamentally wrong and has never worked. What does work is “demand-side” economics: give the people more spending power (lower taxes at the bottom rather than the top), which will encourage them to buy more, which will drive business and create more jobs, therefore benefiting everyone.

Credibility, Chutzpah and Debt

Via Paul Krugman:

The truth is that as far as the straight economics goes, America’s long-run fiscal problems shouldn’t be all that hard to fix. It’s true that an aging population and rising health care costs will, under current policies, push spending up faster than tax receipts. But the United States has far higher health costs than any other advanced country, and very low taxes by international standards. If we could move even part way toward international norms on both these fronts, our budget problems would be solved.

So why can’t we do that? Because we have a powerful political movement in this country that screamed “death panels” in the face of modest efforts to use Medicare funds more effectively, and preferred to risk financial catastrophe rather than agree to even a penny in additional revenues.

The real question facing America, even in purely fiscal terms, isn’t whether we’ll trim a trillion here or a trillion there from deficits. It is whether the extremists now blocking any kind of responsible policy can be defeated and marginalized.

It’s been proven beyond a doubt that “trickle down” simply doesn’t work. Not a single job has been created by lowering taxes. The top level tax break recipients don’t use the extra money to hire new workers; they hoard it.

We need to finally put an end to this failed policy. Raise taxes on corporations and the top 1%. Spend more to invest in new technologies that will create jobs, which in turn will bring in more revenue. This is just plain common sense, something the Republicans & Tea Partiers lack.

Is the GOP a Political Party or Protest Movement?

Via Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire:

David Brooks: “If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases… But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.”

“The struggles of the next few weeks are about what sort of party the G.O.P. is — a normal conservative party or an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation.”

“If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern. And they will be right.”

How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory | Rolling Stone Politics

Great article in Rolling Stone telling how Roger Ailes uses Fox News to distort and shape American politics:

The key to decoding Fox News isn’t Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity. It isn’t even News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch. To understand what drives Fox News, and what its true purpose is, you must first understand Chairman Roger Ailes. “He is Fox News,” says Jane Hall, a decade-long Fox commentator who defected over Ailes’ embrace of the fear-mongering Glenn Beck. “It’s his vision. It’s a reflection of him.”

Ailes runs the most profitable – and therefore least accountable – head of the News Corp. hydra. Fox News reaped an estimated profit of $816 million last year – nearly a fifth of Murdoch’s global haul. The cable channel’s earnings rivaled those of News Corp.’s entire film division, which includes 20th Century Fox, and helped offset a slump at Murdoch’s beloved newspapers unit, which took a $3 billion write-down after acquiring The Wall Street Journal. With its bare-bones news­gathering operation – Fox News has one-third the staff and 30 fewer bureaus than CNN – Ailes generates profit margins above 50 percent. Nearly half comes from advertising, and the rest is dues from cable companies. Fox News now reaches 100 million households, attracting more viewers than all other cable-news outlets combined, and Ailes aims for his network to “throw off a billion in profits.”

The outsize success of Fox News gives Ailes a free hand to shape the network in his own image. “Murdoch has almost no involvement with it at all,” says Michael Wolff, who spent nine months embedded at News Corp. researching a biography of the Australian media giant. “People are afraid of Roger. Murdoch is, himself, afraid of Roger. He has amassed enormous power within the company – and within the country – from the success of Fox News.”

Fear, in fact, is precisely what Ailes is selling: His network has relentlessly hyped phantom menaces like the planned “terror mosque” near Ground Zero, inspiring Florida pastor Terry Jones to torch the Koran. Privately, Murdoch is as impressed by Ailes’ business savvy as he is dismissive of his extremist politics. “You know Roger is crazy,” Murdoch recently told a colleague, shaking his head in disbelief. “He really believes that stuff.”

According to recent polls, Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news consumers. They are 12 percentage points more likely to believe the stimulus package caused job losses, 17 points more likely to believe Muslims want to establish Shariah law in America, 30 points more likely to say that scientists dispute global warming, and 31 points more likely to doubt President Obama’s citizenship. In fact, a study by the University of Maryland reveals, ignorance of Fox viewers actually increases the longer they watch the network. That’s because Ailes isn’t interested in providing people with information, or even a balanced range of perspectives. Like his political mentor, Richard Nixon, Ailes traffics in the emotions of victimization.

“What Nixon did – and what Ailes does today in the age of Obama – is unravel and rewire one of the most powerful of human emotions: shame,” says Perlstein, the author of Nixonland. “He takes the shame of people who feel that they are being looked down on, and he mobilizes it for political purposes. Roger Ailes is a direct link between the Nixonian politics of resentment and Sarah Palin’s politics of resentment. He’s the golden thread.”

Fox News stands as the culmination of everything Ailes tried to do for Nixon back in 1968. He has created a vast stage set, designed to resemble an actual news network, that is literally hard-wired into the homes of millions of America’s most conservative voters. GOP candidates then use that forum to communicate directly to their base, bypass­ing the professional journalists Ailes once denounced as “matadors” who want to “tear down the social order” with their “elitist, horse-dung, social­ist thinking.” Ironically, it is Ailes who has built the most formidable propaganda machine ever seen outside of the Communist bloc, pioneering a business model that effectively monetizes conservative politics through its relentless focus on the bottom line. “I’m not in politics,” Ailes recently boasted. “I’m in ratings. We’re winning.”

The existence of Fox News and the failure of other news outlets to call them out on their lies is proof that the so-called “Liberal Media” doesn’t exist.

This app shouldn't have been approved

Via ipodnn:

Apple has flipped its stance and decided to approve an iPhone app for a Republican Congressional candidate, says the New York Times. The app, created for Ari David, was initially rejected for being defamatory of the incumbent, Democrat Henry Waxman. The app makes many attacks against Waxman, for instance suggesting that he “tried to strangle family farms with insane Soviet-style regulation.”

Whether you support the candidate or not (and I don’t), having an app that’s in effect an attack ad on their opponent is wrong. If the app simply promoted the candidate without attacking & smearing his opponent, it would be fine.

I really hate attack ads. When I see them it only makes me dislike the candidate that made the ad and I’m actually less likely to vote for him. These attack ads are what caused today’s toxic political climate. I don’t want to see the app store filled with more of these personal attack apps.

Libertarian inconsistency

This post by  B12 Solipsism points out some of the inconsistencies of Libertarian philosophy:

Frank Rich discusses Rand Paul, and Paul’s hard-core Libertarianism:

Paul is articulate and hard-line. When he says he is antigovernment, he means it. Unlike McConnell, he wants to end all earmarks, including agricultural subsidies for a state that thrives on them. (He does vow to preserve Medicare payments, however; they contribute to his income as an ophthalmologist.) He wants to shut down the Department of Education and the Federal Reserve. Though a social conservative who would outlaw all abortions, he believes the federal government should leave drug enforcement to the states.

In other words:

  • Abortion: no
  • Drug legalization: yes
  • Individual freedom: limited
  • Business regulation: no

In 1988 I considered myself a Libertarian because I was disillusioned with the two major parties and didn’t want to be identified with either of them. I never liked Republicans and I wasn’t too thrilled with the Democratic candidates. The Libertarian’s talk about “freedom” sounded attractive until I realized exactly what they really meant. Their talk about individual freedom is pure bullshit. They’re really talking about freedom from regulation for corporations, yet they support restricting the rights of individuals to do what they wish with their own lives (abortion, etc) and are generally opposed to civil rights.