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BOB HERBERT: ‘WHEN DEMOCRACY WEAKENS’
From his recent New York Times column (thanks, Ron):
. . . When the game is rigged in your favor, you win. So despite the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the big corporations are sitting on mountains of cash, the stock markets are up and all is well among the plutocrats. The endlessly egregious Koch brothers, David and Charles, are worth an estimated $35 billion. Yet they seem to feel as though society has treated them unfairly.
As Jane Mayer pointed out in her celebrated New Yorker article, ‘The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry – especially environmental regulation.’ (A good hard look at their air-pollution record would make you sick.)
It’s a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?
The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that’s a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away. . . .
☞ That’s why you should support Democrats. Democrats may not be perfect on every issue you care about; but we lean against the gargantuan rise in income inequality. We believe Warren Buffett should be in a higher tax bracket than his receptionist (and he believes it, too); we believe that for 30 years we tried favoring the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else – we tried slashing regulation and investment in infrastructure and vilifying government – and it wrecked the national balance sheet (despite the Clinton surpluses) and handed Obama an economy on the brink of depression.
CLARENCE THOMAS AND THE KOCHS
And speaking of the Kochs, you gotta watch this.
FDR, OBAMA AND THE KOCHS
And still speaking of the Kochs:
By Coup (FDR) or by Cash (Obama): Government Takeovers Then and Now
By Myriam Miedzian
In 1934, General Smedley D. Butler testified to the Congressional McCormack-Dickstein Committee — formed to investigate Fascist and Communist activities — concerning a plot to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt. . . . Butler had pretended to go along with the plot in order to discover its backers and their goals.
In its February 1935 report the committee stated that it: “received evidence showing that certain persons had made an attempt to establish a fascist government in this country… There is no question that these attempts were discussed, were planned, and might have been placed in execution when and if the financial backers deemed it expedient.”
. . . In a 1971 interview with Jules Archer, author of The Plot to Seize the White House, Former Speaker of the House and head of the Committee, John McCormack, confirmed that, “There was no doubt that General Butler was telling the truth… Those fellows were afraid that Roosevelt would take their money away by taxes… The plotters definitely hated the New Deal because it was for the people, not for the moneyed interests… They were going to make it all sound constitutional… with a high-sounding name for the dictator.”
. . . The plotters were furious that “socialist” FDR had gone off the gold standard, abolished child labor, introduced minimum wages, was working on a shorter work week. And now Social Security!
Today, more than seventy-six years later, some of the wealthiest Americans and corporate chieftains are railing against President Obama and many of the same programs: they want to get rid of Social Security and minimum wages, and want their tax reductions to be permanent. They reject Obama’s “socialist “health care plan — a plan which does not include a public option, and is very similar to health care bills proposed in the past by Republican Senators including Bob Dole. They deny global warming, oppose legislation to protect the environment and protect Americans from pollutants, and want to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).)
But have no fear, in today’s political process, thanks to the role of big, self-interested money — combined with brilliant strategy — there’s no need for a coup against Obama.
The poster children for such strategic “investments” are the Koch brothers — Charles and David — each worth approximately $21 billion. They are major funders of, and fund raisers for today’s ultra conservative-libertarian movement. They approach politics with what has been described by Jane Mayer in her August 30, 2010 New Yorker article, ‘Covert Operations‘: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama, as “the deliberation of an engineer.” . . .
Idea Creation, Policy Development, Education: These are provided by Koch funding of right wing think tanks [whose] conclusions are then presented in the mainstream media — rarely are readers informed that these spokespeople are on a right wing payroll. This is how the public is “educated.”
Grassroots” Organizations: The Tea Party — that organization of just plain folks fighting “socialist” Obama — was funded by the Koch brothers. Before the 2010 election, Tea Partiers were provided with lists of candidates to attack. The Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity advocacy group has held at least eighty events protesting cap-and-trade legislation. It spent $40 million on the 2010 election cycle, and organized rallies and phone banks, canvassed door to door in nearly 100 races across the country. Some of the beneficiaries are newly elected Reps. Morgan Griffith ( R. VA), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). All three now sit on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Lobbying and Political Action: Since 1998, Koch Industries has poured more than fifty million dollars into lobbying. The company’s political-action committee, KochPAC, has put approximately eight million into political campaigns, more than eighty percent of it to Republicans. Since 2006, Koch Industries, heavily invested in oil, has outspent all other energy companies in political contributions. Other gifts by the Kochs may be untraceable — federal tax law permits anonymous personal donations to politically active nonprofit groups.
Litigation: According to the Kochs, Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas have been guests at their biannual meetings in which conservative and libertarian millionaires and billionaires gather with conservative politicians such as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), and media stars such as Glenn Beck to raise money for politicians who support their causes and to develop strategies for preventing legislation deemed undesirable. In the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United decision, Thomas and Scalia were 2 of the 5 judges who rejected government legislation to limit political spending by corporations in elections.
What is striking about today’s “war” against Obama is that Obama is no FDR. He is a centrist pragmatist . . . Depicting him as a socialist — Newt Gingrich has called him “the most radical president in American history” — is absurd, and clearly used to discredit anything he stands for. And he does stand for continuing FDR’s New Deal. So, with the addition of environmental protection, it is really FDR and the New Deal that are being attacked again — 21st century style!
☞ If the foregoing alarms you, you may want to help Common Cause Uncloak The Kochs.
First suggested here at $5.37 a year ago, DCTH quickly shot up to $16, just as quickly backed off, slowly edged back over $11 last week – and then dropped 40% to $6.90 or so on yesterday’s open.
Well, this is an unusual situation: because of concern over safety (two patients died so quickly in the treated group that it was clearly a leak in the device that allowed too much melphalan to escape into the periphery) the FDA has issued a “Refuse to File” letter. Refuse to File letters are issued when the FDA is unable to evaluate the application as it currently exists. What appears to be happening is that the FDA is saying up front: “we need more safety data – more patients treated, some longer follow up – to ensure that the device is doesn’t present significant risk of killing people.” But the FDA seems to be saying “we want this resolved now” rather than waiting til the middle of the year and getting it resolved later. I suppose the FDA does believe this is an important therapeutic product – they have asked for no new efficacy data – and as such is trying to approve it as soon as possible, so asking for the safety data now, rather than six months for now.
It is clear from 8 years of trials that, properly administered, the device is not killing people. If there was something inherent to the device that truly indicated it had an uncontrollable chance of killing people, they would have stopped the trials years ago. The NIH has lots of data. DCTH says it can complete and file this data by September.
DCTH says they are on track to receive the CE mark in Europe anyway. That could be true, but the Europeans aren’t dummies. A safety concern for the FDA is likely the same for them.
Bottom line: If I look out a year from now, I fully and completely expect it to be back at 12 on an FDA approval. However, it could go lower in the near term and could be “dead money” til then.
☞ I’m happy to hold on, and perhaps even buy a bit more – but only with money can truly afford to lose.
Ken Doran: ‘Re Monday . . . immortal is a good thing? I really wonder if having one’s brain/mind/soul perpetuated (trapped?) in a computer memory won’t be a lot like being a quadriplegic. Maybe we will just need to wait a while longer for the Kurzweil Machine to solve that problem by being able to spit out fully functional adult human-form Andys and Kens, presumably in unlimited quantities. But how much longer to create extra Planet Earth’s to put them all on?’
☞ If we are simply downloaded onto computer chips, there should be plenty of room for us. And I’d wind up doing mainly what I do now: email.
Quote of the Day
In 1992, more was spent on legal fees in California [$16.3 billion] than on auto repairs, funerals, tanning salons, one-hour photo finishing, videotape rentals, detectives and armored car guards, bug exterminators, laundry, haircuts, day care, shoe repairs and septic tank cleaning combined.~Census Bureau survey, as reported in the LA Times
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