The United States is becoming an extraction economy (like Puerto Rico)

October 20, 2017 at 9:19 am

While watching Trump troll us with Puerto Rico, one question kept popping up: why?

In some ways it’s obvious why he’s trolling us. He wants to distract us from what his team of billionaires is doing in Washington and control the news cycle.

But why troll us by going to Puerto Rico?

The answer is that he’s there to show us that they are poor and we are not, and that we should be afraid of ending up like them. In other words, he’s campaigning. He’s telling the country that he knows what’s best because he’s a rich businessman.

This is a variation on the corporate special interest group propaganda we see so much of: Everything that is good is business, capitalism. Everything that is bad is socialism.

Sadly, it’s working.

The reason it’s working isn’t because it’s right, but because so many people believe and repeat these terrible ideas about what’s made us a successful country.

Everyone I talk to knows something is wrong with our country. Yet many think the only people who know how to solve it are the “good” business people of our country. This is a big reason Trump won.

People don’t know why and how Puerto Rico is the way it is and they think we need people like Trump. What we need is a better story about why Puerto Rico is poor, how it’s run as an extraction economy, why this is bad, and why all the successful economies of the world tend to be democratic.

Seven global warming predictions that have come true

September 5, 2017 at 10:11 pm

The strategy of oil industry lobbyists when it comes to climate change is to undermine trust in scientific predictions. We tend to call them “deniers,” but this doesn’t really describe the strategy accurately. The strategy is to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

They do this by:

  1. Creating their own “research” at corporate think tanks
  2. A false equivalence of research on both “sides” (best illustrated by John Oliver)
  3. Hyping fears that this will hurt jobs
  4. Turning it into a tribal Republican vs. Democrat issue
  5. Labeling predictions as “alarmism
  6. And pointing out instances where predictions didn’t come true

All of this succeeds in creating fear, uncertainty, and doubt. When talking to anyone who questions climate change, we should keep in mind that the issue we’re dealing with isn’t a scientific one. It’s overcoming those aforementioned emotions.

Toward this end, let’s talk about a great New York Times article titled “Should You Trust Climate Science? Maybe the Eclipse Is a Clue” that approaches the topic from the perspective of overcoming the fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Universal health care would save $17 trillion

July 26, 2017 at 9:29 pm

$32 trillion. You may have seen this number in corporate media coverage and Republican propaganda. It’s the estimated cost of universal health care over a 10-year period.

It’s a big number—a big, scary number. So hacks like the editorial board at The Washington Post use it to scare people with titles like “Single-payer health care would have an astonishingly high price tag.”

Not just high—astonishingly high.

Of course what the editorial board of The Washington Post leaves out (though you think they’d know better) is any comparison to what we’re currently spending.

Compared to what we’re currently spending, universal health care or single-payer health care would save us $17 trillion over 10 years.

A reason to believe—and why this is important to the Democratic Party

July 12, 2017 at 9:13 pm

I get that we can’t run Bernie Sanders in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. I get that you have to start where people are rather than where you want them to be. I get that people don’t vote based on policy; instead, they tend to vote for who they like. I get that corporate special interests dominate our media.

I can explain much of this to people who I talk to about the Democratic Party. I can explain how they are better than Republicans.

Nevertheless, I’m struggling—especially when I talk to my friends on the left, the people who are fighting the grassroots fight. Especially because the right is speaking to the left. The right is telling them that the reason the Democratic Party is losing is because it’s not “left” enough.

I don’t think this is true (and will explain why below), but it doesn’t matter. If enough people believe it and drop out because of it, it’s going to hurt Democrats. In the past election, one of the reasons Trump won was because of the attacks from both the right and the left. The right gave people a reason to believe. The attacks from the left gave people a reason to disbelieve.

Ralph Nader wrote an article recently in The Intercept arguing that Democrats need to get rid of the crusty old people in the party with bad ideas. Setting the irony aside, things do need to change. But getting rid of people like Nancy Pelosi (arguably the most powerful Democrat in Congress right now) seems right up there with some of Nader’s other brilliant ideas—like how the left should work with libertarians. (Have you ever tried to work with someone who is so paranoid that they don’t trust any attempts at working together, Ralph?)

Nader’s idea that “policy precedes message” is wrong, and this leads him to a lot of not-so-great ideas. But he makes a valid point that things need to change. Here are a few thoughts on how.

How conservative propaganda works in America: The signal and the noise

June 8, 2017 at 8:17 pm

We’ve heard a lot about Russian meddling recently. What we don’t hear about is how more than 50 years of corporate special interest group propaganda fattened the U.S. up, priming our country for Russian influence on the 2016 election.

Let’s think about conservative propaganda using a communications concept: signal-to-noise ratio (SNR).  

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is a measurement used in communications to compare the level of desired signal to the level of background noise.

In analog communications, such as AM/FM radio or analog television broadcasts, a high SNR ratio means that you will receive a signal with little static or interference.

To enable effective communication, you want to maximize your SNR ratio—more signal, less noise.

Seven questions for Michelle Dillingham, Cincinnati’s neighborhood candidate for city council

May 10, 2017 at 2:58 pm

Michelle Dillingham and Noreen Loftus-Spilman at the Women’s March in Cincinnati.

We spend a lot of time talking about what we want our elected representatives to do for us. In order for our representatives to have a shot at doing anything, however, they first have to get elected. This doesn’t just happen. It either takes a lot of money or it takes a lot of supporters or most often, some combination of both. It takes a community to get people elected.

In Cincinnati, no one better represents this idea to me than Michelle Dillingham, our neighborhood candidate for city council. Michelle graciously agreed to talk about her community and what it means to her.

Of all developed countries, America self-invests the least because of tax cuts for the 1 percent

April 18, 2017 at 12:30 pm

As tax day (April 18) approaches, it’s interesting to consider the lie that America is “overtaxed.”

The average developed country reinvests 34 percent of its gross domestic product back into the country and its people.

As of 2014, America only invests 26 percent, which puts it ahead of Korea, Chile, Mexico, and exactly zero other developed countries.

What does this do?

The division line exercise and the 99 percent

March 21, 2017 at 11:51 am

This is an exercise I picked up from Srdja Popovic, one of the leaders of the Otpor! movement that toppled Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

The exercise is simple: You are a leader in a movement to overthrow Milosevic and bring back democracy. You need to unite people.

Draw a line on a sheet of paper. You’re on one side and everyone else is on the other. What will win the most people over to your side?

Let’s take a look at a few examples to see how this plays out.

Republicans now own health care

March 15, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Ross Douthat had an opinion piece in the New York Times this week titled “Why Republicans Can’t Do Health Care” in which he argues that the recent Ryancare proposal is disliked by everyone on the right because the right “as an organism does not know what it believes in anymore.”

It’s likely something different going on. Republicans know what they believe. They believe in power and rule by the wealthy. They’ve thrown every other past belief they’ve pretended to have overboard and there’s not much left beneath the surface (from “personal responsibility” to “family values” to “free trade” etc, etc). In order to rig the game for their powerful and wealthy donors though, they have to get elected. They have to pretend to believe in something.

Healthcare presents a dilemma: If they repeal it, they kick 20 million people off insurance. If they make changes to it, they own it. If they do nothing, as the party in control of all three branches of government, they own it. The real problem they’re facing right now is that none of the options the wealthy and corporate special interests want look very good—and they’re going to own them.

Why a terrorist attack is more likely with a weak president

February 27, 2017 at 8:41 am

Islamic terrorists want an Islamic holy war. They believe in a clash of civilizations and want to unite all Muslims in a war against the West.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who founded al-Qaeda in Iraq, said before he was killed:

The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify … until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.

Their propaganda recalls an old prophecy that Islamic armies will rise up to meet the forces of “Rome” (or the West) on the fields of Dabiq in Syria. Victory in Dabiq will signal the caliphate’s conquest of the West.

This all seems scary until you realize that the number of Islamic state terrorists is estimated at between 80,000 and 100,000. Recent estimates have put it at closer to between 15,000 and 20,000. If we take the highest estimate, that’s still at least 16,000 less than the current population of Peoria, Illinois.

In other words, they have a problem: there are not many of them. The final battle they want isn’t going to look very good if they can be defeated by the population of Peoria.

How are they trying to deal with this recruiting problem?