The FCC is accepting comments on the expansion of broadband internet services to areas big telecoms don't serve; USPIRG helps you leave said comments on said issue. Plenty of folks argue that media consolidation doesn't matter because on the internet you can find whatever news source you like; setting aside that this is not true, those same people tend to forget that not everyone gets the internet -- or they blame the poor for not having internet service without noting that big telecoms rarely offer the service to poorer areas. As you no doubt know, facts ain't that important to our enemies.
Meanwhile, I'd been meaning to check out the Alternet article entitled "Why T. Boone Pickens's 'Clean Energy' Plan is a Ponzi Scheme," and it turned out to be pretty good. T. Boone's gotten a lot of good press lately for declaring his love for wind power, but behind that veneer he's really more of a natural gas man, plus he's buying up "water rights," which shouldn't even exist, let alone get sold to the highest bidder. The moral? Beware rich capitalists bearing gifts -- especially rich capitalists who'd be a lot less rich without Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush-style deregulation.
As you've likely gathered, posting will be light around here this week. Even given that Congress doesn't reconvene for half a month, I'm receiving fewer action alerts than I normally do.
I also think John McCain will be our next President. I've been predicting Republican victory for months-if-not-years, though my analysis hasn't always been precise (I was sure Mr. Giuliani would face Mr. Edwards, for example). But the Democrats apparently have no clue that people admire candidates who appear to stand for things. That's true even if said people don't agree with said candidates, or aren't aware of all the inconsistencies of said candidates' stands. The appearance of forthrightness matters more. Yes, the "liberal" media helps some people appear more forthright than others, but as Phil Jackson said in 2001, you need to play above the referees. Easy for a guy with Shaq and Kobe on his roster to say that, you say? It should be easy for a party with Barack Obama on their roster, too, especially in a year folks are absolutely fed up with George W. Bush. But the Democrats will proclaim victory when they pick up five more Senate seats when they should have picked up ten or twelve.
No sooner did Congress improve fuel standards in 2007 than Tha Bush Mobb started to undermine them -- they've decided that hybrid vehicles won't even exist until 2014, meaning they can effectively reduce fuel standards because some corporations were too dumb or greedy to implement the hybrid technologies that, er, already exist. Tha Bush Mobb also figures that gas will cost around $2.50 through 2020, because if they figured that gas would cost what it actually costs, they could force corporations to make more fuel-efficient cars. Of course Tha Bush Mobb (and its "protestors" on the Republican side of the House) also demands off-shore drilling that might, one day, save us pennies per gallon. H.R. 6643/S. 3403, a.k.a. the Accuracy in Fuel Economy Standards Act, would require the Department of Transportation to use more realistic methods in calculating fuel economy needs. Union for Concerned Scientists -- who, like us, live in the reality-based community -- help you support that end.
The Coalition for Human Needs has proposed a $40 billion economic stimulus plan that would, among other things, expand the Child Tax Credit, get more money to states, extend unemployment insurance another 13 weeks, and expand food stamp programs. I wouldn't be scared off by the price tag -- we typically budget at least ten times that amount every year on defense, and the last war "supplemental" (i.e., off-budget) cost over $160 billion, and we'll never see as much of a return from that no matter what right-wingers think. I'm stunned that extending unemployment insurance another 13 weeks would only cost $2 billion. Think about that the next time some right-wing Senator (you know, like John McCain) talks about "reeling in spending" and only mentions cutting social programs. If you'd like your Congressfolk to act on CHN's plan, use the tools in the upper left-hand corner -- your Congressfolk are still on recess, and getting them in their home districts is the best way to contact them right now.
Meanwhile, Public Citizen generally approves of the product safety bill Congress passed and Mr. Bush signed into law. The law protects whistleblowers better, tests toys better, and bans lead and phthalates from toys. The bill also permits consumers to share information about dangerous products via an internet database, which isn't the best solution, since poorer Americans don't have much access to the internet. I suppose said folk can go to public libraries, if their state legislatures haven't slashed public library hours to next to nothing. Still, this is one of the public's greatest accomplishments this year, and y'all ought to be proud.
I'm divided on Douglas Haddow's Adbusters article, "Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization," and not just because I've been accused of being a hipster myself. Of course I find his thesis compelling (i.e., that "hipster" culture amalgamates bits of past countercultures without being as productive as countercultures tend to be), and his observations on how corporations exploit hipsterism are invaluable. But I also find his thesis far too narrow -- in fact, I think his definition of "civilization" almost entirely in terms of what you buy, wear, and consume is rather like what he's criticizing, actually. I also wonder if he ran into any hipsters who shopped at co-ops, volunteered at food banks, wrote their Congressfolk every week, or worked with old people. If he had, he'd have probably written a very different article.
Citizens for Tax Justice reviews the new 20-cent Seattle grocery bag tax. CTJ says both pro and con sides have good arguments, and I don't buy the Libertarian myth that people only make moral choices on their own, but I'm firmly on the con side here -- I think this tax hurts working people way more than the rich, I think people already reuse and recycle their plastic bags, and, most of all, I'm discovering that I'm generally opposed to enacting specific taxes for use on specific projects. And yes, I reckon that would include the gasoline tax, no matter how many roads it rebuilds. We can't hold crumbling infrastructure hostage to regressive taxes. Now, using money from progressive income taxes to fix crumbling infrastructure? We should have done that a long time ago. Oh, right -- before President Reagan, we did do that.
Finally, courtesy the News Dissector, a Haaretz report suggests that Mr. Bush has refused to sell certain offensive weaponry to Israel and thus put the kibosh on an Israeli attack on Iran. If that's true, it's about damn time -- like Scott Ritter says, being a friend to Israel means refusing to enable its dumb ideas. But a word of warning: we all know Mr. Bush, so this could all be psyops.
The Department of Homeland (sic) Security (sic) has decided that the government can seize your laptop, cell phone, or PDA when you enter the U.S. and then download all your private information -- without a warrant, obviously, since that's what bold thinkers do after a terrorist attack they could have prevented with the tools they already had if they were just a tiny bit competent. The ACLU helps you urge Congress to rein in these abuses, among others already here and yet to come. Not that Congress listened the last few times we told them to rein in abuses by Tha Bush Mobb in the name of protecting the American people from something less likely to kill them (i.e. a terrorist attack) than a fall in the bathtub. But they'll have to listen one day, if they intend to keep their cushy jobs.
Free Press still provides a petition encouraging House Reps to co-sponsor a bill that would overturn the FCC's loosening of media consolidation rules. The Senate passed such a bill earlier this year, but the House has, for some reason, been slow in doing something that's actually bipartisan, versus, you know, stuff that just looks bipartisan but is really only what right-wingers want. I mean, even Tom DeLay's House couldn't stop an anti-media consolidation bill in 2004. The current House bill has 50 co-sponsors, and frankly I think that's approximately 388 too few. (I know, I know, they're off until September 8 -- would that it were September 8, 3908! -- but they were moving slowly before that.)
In other news, I've corrected a minor but highly embarrassing error of diction in the first paragraph of the August 3, 2008 post. See said post for more information.
Public Citizen helps you tell Congress to cut oil company subsidies. I can't imagine why anyone in Congress thinks we have to give oil companies handouts to do what they should be using their record profits to do. Me, I'm tired of coddling the oil companies, even if in excess of 40 mainly Republican Senators (the ones who voted against cloture on a bill to slash oil company subsidies a few months ago) clearly aren't tired of coddling the oil companies. But that's why we're here, ain't it?
45 Senators (including, unexpectedly, 17 Republicans) have co-sponsored S. 223, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, which would require the Senate to file its campaign disclosure forms online. But 45 is still 16 Senators short of a filibuster-proof majority (and, heaven forfend, it's also still 22 votes shy of a veto-proof majority), so the pass223 website helps you call your lollygagging Senators. Getting campaign disclosure forms from the Senate now takes weeks -- and near the end of a campaign, that's crucial. Online it takes minutes. And those of us with access to computers wouldn't even have to trust the "liberal" media to discover a sudden influx of last-minute corporate money spent on attack ads.
Finally: the Republicans in the House are staging demonstrations on Capitol Hill to protest high oil prices? Puh-leeze! These boneheads had six years to do something and did what, exactly? They extended daylight savings time by a month, which conserves less energy than, dare I say, inflating your tires properly. And today Newt Gingrich joins them, suggesting a government shutdown over offshore drilling! We all remember how his 1995 shutdown went, right? So why would the Republicans want Newt Gingrich to lead them to defeat again? Wait, I remember -- like the Democrats, who have no clue how many Americans are disgusted with their cave-in on the FISA Amendments Act, the Republicans only talk to their own kind, meaning other politicians, media elites, and corporate elites.
FCC Chair Kevin Martin, despite his Republican-ness, did the right thing in punishing Comcast for net neutrality violations; however, Congress still needs to codify net neutrality provisions in law, and SaveTheInternet.com helps you encourage them to do that. Memo to Bill O'Reilly: this isn't a pet cause of the "loony left," unless the Christian Coalition and the Gun Owners of America are now part of the "loony left." And memo to Barack Obama: this is what a bipartisan movement really looks like. And memo to Mr. Bush: I don't have to tell you where to stick your forthcoming veto threat. And memo to big telecoms: oh, there's no use saying anything to people who only care about money.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart has been suggesting to its supervisors that voting for Democrats would ease passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, and thus would create more unions. Well, boo-hoo -- the Wal-Mart family billions might only be hundreds of millions when their workers organize. American Rights at Work helps you tell the Federal Elections Commission to investigate Wal-Mart. If I don't put up with electioneering from churches, why on earth would I put up with it from corporations? Particularly corporations that close down stores that unionize, intimidate workers who try to organize, and spend all that money on unionbusting?
I have two action alerts on issues we've covered already: one from the ACLU about Attorney General not-Gonzales's insistence that Congress issue a new declaration of war, or battle, or fighting, or whatever gets him and his boss off the hook for detainment and torture, and another about whistleblower protection in the federal government, this one from Public Citizen. As an added bonus, the ACLU has sent along a clip from the Colbert Report describing the release of an embarrassing torture-related document from 2002. Stephen Colbert is a far more spiritually-advanced individual than I am, you know.
Ralph Nader trumpets yet another poll in which he gets six percent. Not a big deal? Well, maybe it is. In a previous Zogby poll, the Libertarian Bob Barr seemed to eat into Mr. Nader's support (Mr. Nader got six points in a matchup without Mr. Barr, but in a matchup with Mr. Barr each candidate got three points). In this poll, however, Mr. Nader gets six points and Mr. Barr gets three, so actually Mr. Nader is polling much better than he did a month or two ago. Of course, now Mr. Nader is polling at the expense of Mr. Obama, which is the Democrats' greatest fear. They'd neutralize that fear by adopting some of Mr. Nader's platform, which they could do, you know, since it's actually a fairly popular platform with normal people.
The Politico suggests that liberals have actual reporting organs on the internet, and right-wingers don't because they're too busy opining. But to the degree that's true, it's irrelevant: right-wingers don't need to report on the facts when the right-wing media (cf. Fox News and the "terrorist fist jab") or the "liberal" media (cf. Barack Obama's "non-citizenship") will give maximum exposure to any rumor they can find or dream up. Meanwhile, Talking Points Memo has to pull teeth to get mainstream media exposure for the U.S. Attorney-firing story they broke. BS does seem to fly a lot farther than the facts these days.
Finally, a few words of caution to those celebrating the possibility that newly-indicted Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) will go down in defeat in 2008 (he trails Democrat Mark Begich by 13 points in the latest Rasmussen). One, Alaska's Republican party cuts its dead weight out and does it quick -- recall that a sitting Governor, Frank Murkowski, who was a U.S. Senator for 22 years, finished third in his own primary in 2006, and the party kept that seat handily even against a former two-term incumbent Democrat. Two, as Republicans go, Ted Stevens is not all that bat-guano -- he goes along to get along, certainly, but he clearly has no taste for the kind of extremism that makes Tha Bush Mobb slobber in delight, and I have to wonder if Tha Bush Mobb's Justice Department has decided to make an example of him. The idea that the Republican party would finish the destruction of its own moderate wing is nothing to celebrate.
UPDATE. "(E)ach candidate got three points each" -- obviously I also forgot to add that they got three points apiece, that one got three points and the other also got three points, and that both candidates averaged approximately three points. Error corrected.
Can you believe it? According to Seymour Hersh, Tha Bush Mobb actually considered creating a Tonkin Gulf-style incident in the Persian Gulf so as to provide a pretext for war with Iran. It gets worse: the plan included dressing up American soldiers as Iranian ones and having them "provoke" an attack on an American ship. And what would this have done? Killed American soldiers. Right-wingers will no doubt give Tha Bush Mobb a pass for actually proposing to kill American soldiers. Yet the Democrats, the Republicans' nominal opponents, do no better: fresh off funding illegal covert operations in Iran, Democrats also still plan to help Republicans demand a blockade of Iran, which would be an act of war. CREDO helps you remind your Congressfolk not to support an Administration that would even discuss killing American soldiers to further foreign policy ends not approved by the Congress as explicitly demanded by the U.S. Constitution.
Colorado residents, take note: the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission will decide this month whether to require oil and gas corporations to keep an inventory of chemicals on file in case of accidents. Of course the oil and gas corporations claim that information is all private, as if privacy rights somehow trump the rights of people to live without being killed by chemicals. As if a corporation should even have privacy rights in the first place, being as it's obviously not a person! Oh, and the oil and gas companies have also threatened to move out of state. Once again, we have a corporation taking jobs hostage whenever it has to stop counting money for a minute and do something for the community it serves. Say no to hostage situations, Colorado residents!