Saturday, April 28, 2012

GOP By The Numbers

Whenever you hear Mitt Romney say President Obama is a failure when it comes to the economy, remember that in the first six months after the 2010 midterm election alone nearly 2 million jobs were lost due to GOP-backed legislation that passed the House.

Yes, 200 days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said his plan was to make Obama a one-term president, the GOP voted ten times against Democratic job bills.

Consider the audacity of Mitt Romney, or any Republican candidate for Congress, to call this president an economic failure when a quick look at the GOP record, and the damage they did in less than a year from the time they took control of the House shows that it is the Republicans, and not the president, who are responsible for lackluster job growth.

Forget the so-called war on women, and let's focus instead on the Republican war on the American worker. Among their first votes, the House passed the GOP "So Be It" spending bill which essentially puts economic recovery on hold in favor of continuing egregious subsidies for Big Oil.

As the Web site The Gavel reports, repealing the Patients' Rights bill not only renewed the ascendancy of big pharmaceutical companies but, according to White House figures, destroyed more than 300,000 jobs.

House Resolution 34, the Republican-passed budget, not only tore away at Medicare, but did so in order to renew tax breaks for those in the upper 1%, as well as to continue tax incentives for businesses that ship jobs overseas by taking an axe to college aid, education, and the environment.

Last year, House GOP rejected a Democratic effort that would forbid any provision of HR 2560 from going into effect that would cost jobs, or derail economic growth.

And, when House Democrats wanted to promote legislation that would reward businesses for manufacturing products here at home, thus bringing back jobs, Republicans resoundingly voted against it.

And, as The Gavel also note, in their first several months in control of Congress, Republicans voted against Democratic attempts to create jobs 10 times, including measures that had bipartisan support; measures like Build America Bonds to Create Jobs, American Jobs Matter Act, National Manufacturing Act, and even the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act which would provide the government with the wherewithal to prevent unfair manipulation of currency by countries like China.

As former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said back in 2011, "Republicans have spent 200 days ignoring jobs and pushing an ideological agenda to end Medicare and protect tax breaks for special interests, Big Oil, and corporations that ship American jobs overseas."

And the GOP accomplished all this less than a year after they won majority in the House. As Speaker Pelosi asks, where is the Republican jobs plan? Where was it then, and where is it now? There was a plan last month with the acronym JOBS, but that essentially amounted to a giveaway for small businesses.

So it is that now, nearly 400 days since the GOP first occupied the House, we're no closer to a jobs bill, and instead we have a Republican presidential contender who has the unmitigated chutzpah to highlight what he terms a failed presidency on the jobs front when he knows full well that it is thanks to the efforts of his party, of Boehner, McConnell, Cantor, and Ryan, not to mention the freshmen Republican congressmen, that the past three and a half years have shown limited signs of recovery.

What GOP leaders don't mention is that before the obstructionists took over Congress, President Obama was able to push through an $800 billion stimulus package which they may have derided, but which many economists argue may have staved off a deeper economic catastrophe, and have been responsible for whatever job growth we've had so far, however modest.

Government stimulus money that went to automakers, as well as a bold move by the president to take control of General Motors rather than let them go bankrupt as Mr. Romney then suggested, have contributed to some of the most prosperous years the auto industry has seen in a generation.

But, when Obama went before Congress again in 2011 to push for another $447 in tax cuts and government spending, several months after the GOP succeeded in occupying Congress, the American Jobs Act which would have allocated $35 billion to the states to prevent slated layoffs of teachers and fire fighters was blocked by House Republicans.

What was instead passed last month, the "Jump start Our Business Start-Up Act," is more about investor protections, owners of small business, and less about job creation as such. Indeed, the acronym, JOBS, is about as close as this legislation comes to job creation.

Keep this in mind when you hear Mr. Romney talk about how the president has failed leadership in economic policy. The kind of policy making Governor Romney has in mind is the kind that would hearken back to the days of deregulation, and doing whatever is necessary to promote corporate solvency at the expense of the little guy. His business acumen in the private sector, which he touts whenever he can, is precisely the kind of economic leadership that got us into a situation from which Mr. Obama has had to dig out. Apart from this, of course, is the obvious question. If he was so successful in the private sector, why did Mr. Romney leave Bain Capital in the first place, and turn to the public sector? Does the phrase "quit while you're ahead" ring a bell?

If you want leadership that in times of crisis throws up its hands and says, "Well, you broke it, you fix it," then Romney's your man.

Governor Romney knows full well that, if elected, he will pursue the same path as Paul Ryan in preserving the ascendancy of big business, big pharmaceutical companies, big oil, union busting, and a savage assault on the rights of the American worker. Like a dog with a bone, Romney has found his key issue, the economy, and is working overtime to make it look like lackluster economic growth is the Obama administration's fault, and is the product of Obama's leadership deficit. That Romney's argument could have any appeal for anyone earning less than a million dollars a year demonstrates that people have become so narcotized by their network news broadcasts as to avoid challenging even the most blatantly ludicrous assertions a candidate makes.

Just as Republicans are fond of saying that it's high time President Obama stop blaming George W. Bush for the our current economic malaise, it's high time for Republicans to take ownership of the fact that it has been their objective from the start to obstruct and stymie every effort at job creation, and domestic economic growth this administration has undertaken in the more than three years since it has assumed power.

Once again, it was a Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, who declared it his goal to make Obama a one-term president from the start, thus it was a prominent GOP member of Congress who politicized what should have been a bipartisan effort at economic recovery. The GOP has only itself to blame for any economic growth deficit we've experienced since Mr. Obama took office.

So maybe it's not so much this president that has a failed economic policy. Maybe it's more a question of what economist Joseph Stiglitz tells the European is "half a century of stagnation," and an economic system that is, in Stiglitz's words, simply "not delivering." The miniscule, mostly political shifts from centrist Democrat to moderate wannabe right Republican isn't what may ultimately signal a return to fiscal, and social sobriety. Maybe what is needed is a global perestroika, or restructuring, not merely of wealth distribution, but a hybrid system that rewards labor while simultaneously incentivizing risk taking. Maybe what is needed is institutionalized risk management.

This president has shown flexibility, and a willingness to move in directions not traditionally associated with his party. Not much is certain, but one thing may be counted on; the same would not be true of his Republican counterpart.

Friday, April 27, 2012

"The Ghost of Joe McCarthy Slithers Again"

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

We’ve talked at times about George Orwell’s classic novel 1984, and the amnesia that sets in when we flush events down the memory hole, leaving us at the mercy of only what we know today. Sometimes, though, the past comes back to haunt, like a ghost. It happened recently when we saw Congressman Allen West of Florida on the news.

A Republican and Tea Party favorite, he was asked at a local gathering how many of his fellow members of Congress are “card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists.”

He replied, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”

By now, little of what Allen West says ever surprises. He has called President Obama “a low level Socialist agitator,” said anyone with an Obama bumper sticker on their car is “a threat to the gene pool” and told liberals like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to “get the hell out of the United States of America.” Apparently, he gets his talking points from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, or the discredited right wing rocker Ted Nugent.

But this time, we shook our heads in disbelief: “78 to 81 Democrats… members of the Communist Party?” That’s the moment the memory hole opened up and a ghost slithered into the room. The specter stood there, watching the screen, a snickering smile on its stubbled face. Sure enough, it was the ghost of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin farm boy who grew up to become one of the most contemptible thugs in American politics.

Back in the early1950’s,the Cold War had begun and Americans were troubled by the Soviet Union’s rise as an atomic superpower. Looking for a campaign issue, McCarthy seized on fear and ignorance to announce his discovery of a conspiracy within: Communist subversives who had infiltrated the government.

In speech after speech,McCarthy would hold up a list of names of members of the Communist Party he said had burrowed their way into government agencies and colleges and universities. The number he claimed would vary from day to day and when pressed to make his list public, McCarthy would stall or claim he accidentally had thrown it away.

His failure to produce much proof to back his claims never gave him pause, as he employed lies and innuendo with swaggering bravado. McCarthy, wrote historian William Manchester, “realized that he had stumbled upon a brilliant demagogic technique… Others deplored treachery, McCarthy would speak of traitors

And so he did, in a fearsome, reckless crusade that terrorized Washington, destroyed lives, and made a shambles of due process.

Millions of American slapped it up, but in the end, Joe McCarthy would be done in by the medium that he had used so effectively to spread his poison: television. In 1954, legendary broadcaster Edward R. Murrow bravely exposed McCarthy’s tactics on the CBS program,See It Now.

"This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent,” Murrow declared. “We can deny our heritage and history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a Republic to abdicate his responsibilities.”

Later that same year, for36 days on live TV, during Senate hearings on charges McCarthy had made questioning the loyalty of the US Army, we saw the man raw, exposed for the lout and cowardly scoundrel he was. The climactic moment came as the Boston lawyer Joseph Welch, defending the Army, reacted with outrage when McCarthy accused Welch’s young associate Fred Fisher of Communism. “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator,” Welch said as he shook his head in anger and sadness. “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, atlong last? Have you left no sense of decency? … If there is a God in heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good.”

McCarthy never recovered.His tactics had been opposed from the outset by a handful of courageous Republican senators. Now they pressed their case with renewed vigor. One of them, Senator Ralph Flanders of Vermont, introduced a motion to censure Joseph McCarthy. When it eventually passed 67 to 22, McCarthy was finished. He soon disappeared from the front pages. Three years later, he was dead.

All of this came rushing back as Congressman West summoned his foul spirits from the vasty deep. The ghost stepped out of the past.

Like McCarthy, the more Allen West is challenged about his comments, the more he doubles down on them.Now he’s blaming the “corrupt liberal media” for stirring the pot against him –a trick for which McCarthy taught the master class. And the congressman’s latest fusillades continue to distort the beliefs and policies of those he smears – no surprise there, either.

To help him continue his fight for “the heart and soul” of America he’s asking his supporters for a contribution of ten dollars or more. There could even be a Super PAC in this – with McCarthy’s ghost as its honorary chairman.

Plenty of kindred spirits are there to sign on. Like the author of the book The Grand Jihad, who wrote that whether Obama is Christian or not, “The faith to which Obama actually clings is neocommunism.” Or the blogger who claims Obama is running the country into the ground “by way of the same type of race-baiting and class warfare Communism cannot exist without,” and that his policies are “unbecoming to an American president.”

From there it’s only a short hop to the kind of column that popped up on the right wing website Newsmax hinting of a possible coup “as a last resort to resolve the ‘Obama problem.’”Military intervention, the author wrote, “is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for ‘fundamental change’ toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America.” The column was quickly withdrawn but not before the website Talking Points Memo exposed it.

So beware, Congressman West, beware: In the flammable pool of toxic paranoia that passes these days as patriotism in America, a single careless match can light an inferno.You would serve your country well to withdraw your remarks and apologize for them. But if not, perhaps there are members of your own party, as possessed of conscience and as courageous as that handful of Republicans who took on Joseph McCarthy, who will now abandon fear and throw cold water on your incendiary remarks.


Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos, is senior writer of the weekly public television program “Moyers & Company.” Comment at

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"FCC Political Ad Vote Comes Down to the Wire"

By Michael Winship

With the Federal Communications Commission scheduled to vote this Friday on TV stations posting political advertising data on-line, we know pretty much for certain the final tally will be 2-1. What we don’t know is on which side of the issue Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn will fall.

She’s the swing vote and reportedly under enormous pressure from the broadcast industry to vote against Chairman Julius Genachowski’s proposal for full on-line disclosure and instead support a watered down version that some transparency advocates refer to as “fettered access.”

National Journal reports, “While they are currently required to make such data available on paper at their stations, broadcasters are resisting having to post the rates they are charging political candidates online, saying it could pose competitive challenges.” The Journal quoted Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell:

“He said that if broadcasters are required to make such information easily available online for all to see, prices could go up ‘because they're all gonna know’ what each other is charging.”

But according to Timothy Karr, senior director of strategy at the media reform group Free Press:

“This would hamper our ability to see in detail how much Super PACs, campaigns and other third-party groups are spending, when they’re spending it and on how many ads. It would also delay -- by as much as a month -- disclosure of this spending, as the broadcasters would ask for time to aggregate amounts.”

The non-partisan Sunlight Foundation concurs, arguing that “broadcasters are not entitled to cherry pick the quality or type of information to be made public.” In an April 20 letter to Chairman Genachowski, Sunlight’s executive director Ellen Miller writes that broadcasters want to omit “information about whether a station accepted or rejected a request to purchase time, the date and time a political advertising message aired, and the class of time purchased.

“The broadcasters also appear to suggest keeping offline -- in effect hiding -- information about ads purchased by non-profit organizations, including so-called ‘super PACs,’ that purchase ad time for electioneering communications or making independent expenditures.”

We’re not sure which way Commissioner Clyburn will vote in part because of two somewhat cryptic statements. During a recent Catholic University speech, Clyburn said disclosure had to be “handled carefully, and in a manner sensitive to the capacities of differently situated broadcasters.” A few days later, speaking at the Las Vegas meeting of the National Association of Broadcasters, she remarked, “I would just affirm to you… that this office is still open to engagement.”

It’s impossible to seek clarification because under the FCC’s Sunshine Rule, no further contact can be made with commissioners on the rule until the vote is taken. But watch this space – we’ll report the Friday results as soon as we know them.


Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at the think tank Demos, is senior writer of the public television series "Moyers & Compamny." Comment at

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Managing Gravity"

for John Thomas

Death taps me on the shoulder this morning, and says
“we need to talk.”
“indeed we do,” I say, & stare him squarely in
the jaw. “What have you been doing with
yourself,” I ask.
“managing gravity,” says he, “speaking of
which you’ve been avoiding me.”
“averting, not avoiding,” says me.
“that’s semantics,” he says.
“You see me, I see you. I’m okay with being
mortal – why can’t you accept defiance –
why must you constantly stand over me while I work
you make it hard to focus.”
“You’d have no work were it not for me,” says he.
“Who died and made you god,” says me.
I move close enough to smell his
breath, and tell him he doesn’t stink like dostoyevsky said –
“you’re not the hot shit you think you are. Keep your hands off
my aunt sally – keep your hands off
poetry – what makes you think you can mess with
poets – stay in your corner, keep out of mine.” He asks
“Why do you move around so much – do you think you
can escape me?”
“as long as I have moving parts, I’m going to keep moving &
I’m not going to stop even when those parts give way.”

(c) jayne lyn stahl

Published in "Riding with Destiny," NYQ Books, New York


By Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what's really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can't escape,
Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin :

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mc Drones?

These days, Mac Donald's Big Macs, and Mac Mansions aren't enough to satisfy the ever growing American appetite for new products, as well as bigger and better ones, and they may soon become among our leading exports. Iran is said to be copying a drone it captured last year.

But, it's not just cloning drones that poses a problem to global survival. As The Guardian reports, Sandia National Laboratory is leading the charge for a drone on steroids, one that is powered by nuclear energy, and has staying power of weeks not months.

While the U.S. government condemns Iran's uranium enrichment program, and actively works to divest North Korea of its ambitions, there is no end in sight for the proliferation of drones, and nuclear reactors in our own backyard.

Sandia, the number one U.S. research agency which specializes in all things nuclear, insists that while it has completed research and a blueprint for the nuclear-powered drone, plans for working with Northrop Grumman to activate that blueprint will not be used "in the near-term or mid-near term future." As The Guardian also reports, Sandia states that putting such a sensitive project, which has already drawn fire from anti-drone groups, such as they are, on hold due to "political constraints."

But, given that political climates change, it might be prudent to look at what these high octane suckers do. For openers, instead of conducting surveillance over a targeted area for a matter of days or weeks, nuclear drones have increased this capability to months. Indeed, one may think of a nuclear drone as a kind of Prius, or hybrid vehicle that relies on nuclear energy in much the same way hybrid vehicles rely on electricity instead of gas. Only, nuclear power is more like a steroid than electrical power is.

When compared with the MQ-9 Reapers that are in use in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now Yemen, a nuclear drone not only enhances the amount of time a drone can remain airborne, but also dramatically decreases the need for boots on the ground in targeted areas taking the notion of remote control killing to a whole new level. This concept becomes particularly important now that, as The Washington Post reports, the CIA has asked for the authority to use more drones in Yemen in what it terms "signature strikes," or expanded random killing zones. seeks-new-authority-to-expand-yemen-drone-campaign/2012/04/18/gIQAsaumRT_story.html?wpisrc=al_national

Reportedly, the Sandia-Northrop Grumman team looked at many other options before settling on what they knew would be a highly controversial solution, one that is especially precarious given the frequency of drone crashes.

Considering the increasing domestic use of drones everywhere from borders to surveillance of political protests in urban areas, the prospect of a "friendly fire" accident involving U.S. manufactured and deployed drones on U.S. soil is not one that may easily be dismissed. The only thing more scary than knowing that the protocol for this technology is fait accomplis is the thought that the implementation of the plan has more to do with the political climate we currently find ourselves in than apprehensions on the part of the scientific team, and their defense contractor counterparts.

In the end, as we all sadly recognize, it isn't al Qaeda, the Taliban, or any foreign enemy we have to worry about, but the government subsidized glorified welfare checks that have gone to defense contractors for generations now, and that continue unabated by the Obama administration. While it's true that DoD appropriations for drones have consistently fallen over the past few years, the manufacturers merely countered this by raising the price, and research into not only new drones, but new avenues for deploying them has continued unabated which only shows that the war lobby is alive and well in Washington, D.C. Don't think for a minute because the portion of red meat being thrown to the lions has decreased marginally that the impact of that red meat has also diminished.

It's heartening to see that the nuclear-powered drone project has been given music on hold under the Obama administration, but leadership is needed that recognizes, and works toward realizing, John F. Kennedy's goal of "complete and total disarmament." JFK envisioned a world in which nonproliferation wasn't a treaty, but a practice. The manufacture of Mac Drones must be politics-proof.

In light of the expansion of drone activities both overseas and at home, that vision was laid to rest with President Kennedy. Until we have the kind of bold leadership that calls for ending research into super-drones, and an international effort to destroy nuclear weapons altogether, national security will perpetually be at risk, and we will be perpetually at war. Unless there is more than lip service to nuclear non-proliferation of all kinds, our national reputation will be globally synonymous with Big Mac's, and Mac Mansions.

The need for Congress to act on legislation that will ensure precautions are taken to avoid a nuclear catastrophe, regardless of who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, has never been greater. As citizens, and voters, we must press for this, and bring this issue front and center as federal budget deficits mean nothing in the face of nuclear annihilation, and remote control murder may work in video games, but can only be considered a war crime on the battlefield.

"I'm Big Bird and I Don't Approve This Message"

Court Overturns Public Broadcast Ban on Political Ads

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

A couple of weeks ago,we wrote about how the media giants who own your local commercial television and radio stations have been striking like startled rattlesnakes at an FCC proposal that would shed a light on who’s buying our elections. The proposed new rule would make it easier to find out who’s bankrolling political attack ads by posting the information online.

The stations already have thedata and are required by law to make it public to anyone who asks. But you can get only it by going to the station and asking for the actual paper documents –what’s known as “the public file.” Stations don't want to put it online because -- you guessed it -- that would make it too easy for you to find out who's putting up the cash for all those ads polluting your hometown airwaves.

If approved, the new rule would require the ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates in the top 50 markets to make their files on political advertising available on line immediately. Other stations would have a two-year grace period.

In the meantime, the mighty giants of broadcasting have been fighting back. A number of senators serving the industry have spoken up against the proposal and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) -- led by their top lobbyist and president, the frozen food millionaire and former Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith – have been meeting with commissioners urging them to scuttle its proposal or at least water it down until it means nothing.

As Jeffrey Rosen of The New Republic magazine wrote, "The arguments against transparency offered by the networks show that, having experienced the windfall of advertising dollars that Citizens United unleashed, they have little interest in meeting their legal and ethical responsibility to serve the public interest."

The FCC is scheduled to vote on their proposal on April 27, and on Monday its chairman, Julius Genachowski, walked into the lion’s den – the really nice one in Las Vegas –and addressed the NAB’s annual convention. He noted that, “Using rhetoric thatone writer described as ‘teeth-gnashing’ and ‘fire-breathing,’ some in the broadcast industry have elected to position themselves against technology,against transparency, and against journalism."

He added, “The argument against moving the public file online is that required broadcaster disclosures shouldn’t be too public. But in a world where everything is going digital, why have a special exemption for broadcasters’ political disclosure obligation?"

Whatever the result on the 27th, those negative attack ads already are cluttering the airwaves like so much unsolicited junk mail and it’s only going to get much, much worse as thesuper PACs, political parties, the moguls and tycoons, many acting in secrecy,lavish perhaps as much as three billion dollars on local stations between now and November.

But now there's something new in the mix, especially appalling to anyone who truly caresabout public broadcasting. On April 12, by a vote of 2-1 two of threejudges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of KMTP, asmall public station in San Francisco, and struck down the federal ban againstpolitical and issue advertising on public TV and radio. For decadesthere's been a rule against turning those airwaves over to ads forpolitical campaigns and causes. Now the court has ruled that thefree speech rights of political advertisers take precedence.

Imagine if you turned on your TV set someday soon and were greeted by “Sesame Street,” brought to you by the letter C, for “creeping campaign cash corruption.” Perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch, but as the late William F. Buckley, Jr., used to say, the point survives the exaggeration.

If ever there was acamel’s nose under the tent, this is it – and we don’t mean one of those humped creatures that show up on PBS’s “Nature” or an episode about backpackingthrough Egypt on “Globe Trekker.” The current public system was signed into law by PresidentLyndon Johnson in 1967. “It will get part of its support from our government,”Johnson said, “but it will be carefully guarded from Government or from party control. It will be free, and it will be independent -- and it will belong toall of our people."

The Public Broadcasting Act uses the word “noncommercial” sixteen times to describe what public television and radio should be. And it specifically says that, “Noncommercial educational broadcasting station may support or oppose anycandidate for political office.” We’ve taken that seriously all these years,and most of us who have labored in this vineyard still think public broadcasting should be a refuge from the braying distortions and outright lies that characterize politics today – especially those endless, head splitting ads.

But in its majority decision the court wrote, “Neither logic nor evidence supports the notion that public issue and political advertisers are likely to encourage public broadcast stations to dilute the kind of noncommercial programming whose maintenance is the substantial interest that would support the advertising bans."

Sorry, your honors: this is the same so-called “logic” that led the US Supreme Court to issue its notorious Citizens United decision, the one that opened all spigots to flood the political landscape withcash and the airwaves with trash. “To be truthful” one former PBS board member said, “it scares me to death.” Us, too.

The court decision did uphold the ban on public broadcasting selling ad time for commercial goods andservices, although, as corporations and others cover the cost of programming through what’s euphemistically referred to as “enhanced underwriting,” public TV already is close to the line of what differentiates it from commercialbroadcasting

And understandably, with our stations always in a financial pickle, frantically hanging on by their fingertips, it won’t be easy to turn down those quick bucks from super PACs andothers. But hang in there, brothers and sisters in the faith: If ever there was a time for solidarity and spine, this is it.

Stations KPBS in San Diego and KSFR, public radio in Santa Fe, have said they won’t do it. If enough of you say no, this invasion might be repelled. And viewers, they need to know you’re behind them.


Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos, is senior writer of the weekly public television program “Moyers & Company.” Comment at

Thursday, April 19, 2012

E.T. Call Home?

If they're smart, the Democrats can make good use of E.T., the character from Steven Spielberg's movie, in their presidential
advertising campaigns.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, bears more than a passing resemblance to that fabled extra-terrestrial fellow.

And, Romney has about as much understanding of what it's like to have to live on food stamps, and figure out how to pay for new brakes for your car as E.T. does.

Mitt Romney never went to sleep hungry in his whole life. He can't even imagine eating pasta on Thanksgiving, or cutting an orange in half for two days' worth of lunch. For him, balancing the budget is an exercise in ideology. For 99% of the rest of us, balancing a budget is the only way we can survive.

Why the Ryan budget appeals to Romney is precisely because Ryan, too, is an Ayn Rand ideologue who lives with the rotting corpse of capitalism gone awry. If Ryanomics, lord forbid, were to become the 21st century version of Reaganomics, we'd be in a heap of trouble.
The Ryan budget is not only a wealth delivery vehicle, but one that will guarantee institutionalized poverty for generations to come.

What better use for E.T.'s image than to plaster Mitt Romney's face on it, and distribute it far and wide with a caption that reads "It's time for E.T. not just to call home, but to go home, too!"

Monday, April 16, 2012


For Peter Bergman

I’ve seen God without make-up
pulling out of
a driveway in a pink
Chevy Impala
I’ve seen God
watching the Daily Show drenched and
hungry on Beverly Glen.
I’ve even seen God trying to
parallel park on
a one way street.
I’ve seen God without make-up
he doesn’t want you to
run for president
he wants you to
learn how to parallel park
I’ve seen God without
make-up and
you won’t find him in
a church
mosque or
you won’t find him in
a fox hole a loop hole or
a cemetery.
God doesn’t fear death
any more than any of
his other creations
God is just another bozo on
the bus like the guy sitting
next to you who leaves
a crumpled newspaper on
his seat
we’re all Gods without
make-up even in our underwear
we’re all bozos on this

(c) jayne lyn stahl

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Driving Arthur

Photo taken on Beverly Glen Blvd., in Los Angeles, of me in my new car, "Arthur," named after poet Arthur Rimbaud.

Friday, April 13, 2012

More Mah-Jong?

The rivalry between fathers and sons has deep historical, and literary traction. Kim Jong-Il thought he knew what he was doing when he selected Kim Jong-un to replace him, but would you buy a used car from this man? How About a used rocket?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"The Rich Are Different From You and Me--They Pay Less Taxes"

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Benjamin Franklin, who used his many talents to become a wealthy man, famously said that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. But if you’re a corporate CEO in America today, even they can be put on the back burner – death held at bay by the best medical care money can buy and the latest in surgical and life extension techniques, taxes conveniently shunted aside courtesy of loopholes, overseas investment and governments that conveniently look the other way.

In a story headlined, “For Big Companies, Life Is Good,” The Wall Street Journal reports that big American companies have emerged from the deepest recession since World War II more profitable than ever: flush with cash, less burdened by debt, and with a greater share of the country’s income. But, the paper notes, “Many of the 1.1 million jobs the big companies added since 2007 were outside the U.S. So, too, was much of the $1.2 trillion added to corporate treasuries.”

To add to this embarrassment of riches, the consumer group Citizens for Tax Justice reports that more than two dozen major corporations – including GE, Boeing, Mattel and Verizon -- paid no federal taxes between 2008 and 2011. They got a corporate tax break that was broadly supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.

Corporate taxes today are at a 40-year-low -- even as the executive suites at big corporations have become throne rooms where the crown jewels wind up in the personal vault of the CEO.

Then look at this report in The New York Times: Last year, among the 100 best-paid CEOs, the median income was more than 14 million, compared with the average annual American salary of $45,230. Combined, this happy hundred executives pulled down more than two billion dollars.

What’s more, according to the Times “… these CEO’s might seem like pikers. Top hedge fund managers collectively earned $14.4 billion last year.” No wonder some of them are fighting to kill a provision in the recent Dodd-Frank reform law that would require disclosing the ratio of CEO pay to the median pay of their employees. One never wishes to upset the help, you know. It can lead to unrest.

That’s Wall Street -- the metaphorical bestiary of the financial universe. But there’s nothing metaphorical about the earnings of hedge fund tigers, private equity lions, and the top dogs at those big banks that were bailed out by tax dollars after they helped chase our economy off a cliff.

So what do these big moneyed nabobs have to complain about? Why are they whining about reform? And why are they funneling cash to super PACs aimed at bringing down Barack Obama, who many of them supported four years ago?

Because, writes Alec MacGillis in The New Republic -- the President wants to raise their taxes. That’s right -- while ordinary Americans are taxed at a top rate of 35% on their income, Congress allows hedge fund and private equity tycoons to pay only pay 15% of their compensation. The President wants them to pay more; still at a rate below what you might pay, and for that he’s being accused of – hold onto your combat helmets -- “class warfare.” One Wall Street Midas, once an Obama fan, now his foe, told MacGillis that by making the rich a primary target, Obama is “[expletive deleted] on people who are successful.”

And can you believe this? Two years ago, when President Obama first tried to close that gaping loophole in our tax code, Stephen Schwarzman, who runs the Blackstone Group, the world’s largest private equity fund, compared the President’s action to Hitler’s invasion of Poland.

That’s the same Stephen Schwarzman whose agents in 2006 launched a predatory raid on a travel company in Colorado. His fund bought it, laid off 841 employees, and recouped its entire investment in just seven months – one of the quickest returns on capital ever for such a deal.

To celebrate his 60th birthday Mr. Schwarzman rented the Park Avenue Armory here in New York at a cost of $3 million, including a gospel choir led by Patti LaBelle that serenaded him with “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Does he ever -- his net worth is estimated at nearly $5 billion. Last year alone Schwarzman took home over $213 million in pay and dividends, a third more than 2010. Now he’s fundraising for Mitt Romney, who, like him, made his bundle on leveraged buyouts that left many American workers up the creek.

To add insult to injury, average taxpayers even help subsidize the private jet travel of the rich. On the Times’ DealBook blog, mergers and acquisitions expert Steven Davidoff writes, “If an outside security consultant determines that executives need a private jet and other services for their safety, the Internal Revenue Service cuts corporate chieftains a break. In such cases, the chief executive will pay a reduced tax bill or sometimes no tax at all.”

Are the CEOs really in danger? No, says Davidoff, “It’s a common corporate tax trick.”

Talk about your friendly skies. No wonder the people with money and influence don’t feel connected to the rest of the population. It’s as if they live in a foreign country at the top of the world, like their own private Switzerland, at heights so rarified they can’t imagine life down below.


Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos, is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Moyers & Company, airing on public television. Check local airtimes or comment at

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


“And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than death.”

Walt Whitman

I’ve lived next door to
death for years and
never met him.
He is a good neighbor
always keeps to
no loud parties
no rap music in
the middle of
the night I always
know when
I find his socks in
the dryer they are
robust with sharp
hungry toes once he
slipped his business
card under my
door and
when the rain
came left me a blanket to
keep the flood
I look for
him beneath
bearded graves on
nights the closer he
seems the further away.
death lives
next door to
the radiant portrait of
a future

(c) jayne lyn stahl

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Notebook for the Martians

I will keep a notebook for
the martians
so when you come
we can converse
as one monster to
alien & intrigued
with human forms.
I will make my notebook
of raw nerves
wild carvings on wood
gold in the teeth of
corpulent comatose police.
I will write the words in
dust realizing
regenerative nature of
ash – with the whip of
a haughty angel
and the wisdom of
an orphaned machine.
I will make my notebook
a keen eye
unmanacled with
clear view of
the spectacle that is earth—
twenty-first century.
I will gauss my spectacles
yowl from trapezoids.
I will keep a notebook for
the martians and the men in
their union suits who know
hunger as they watch their
wooden bosses spit from
I will keep a notebook for
the martians
for the rebels who dance through
that wheel of fire
for the lodestar bound to
be right about something.
I will keep my notebook, so
when you come
we can converse
as one monster to another.

(c) Jayne Lyn Stahl

Monday, April 09, 2012

Unzip Romney?

The baffling, omnipresent high profile wife of Mitt Romney now says we don't know her husband. One wonders how well she knows him given that he changes his positions on issues about as often as he changes his socks.

Yes, Mrs. Romney says her husband isn't a stuffed shirt, and suggests instead that he is the proverbial life of the party. Which party, you ask? Surely not the Republican Party.

In an offer of unparalleled generosity, Ann Romney offers to "unzip" Mitt. How about it? What will we find when she does? Too little, too late?

How about a hearty serving of escargot on the half-shell? Isn't that what Romney's upcoming pow-wow later this week with the National Rifle Association portends? The man who is moving slower than any presidential candidate, of either party, in recent memory toward securing the nomination for president is discernibly on a par with your garden variety escargot. Indeed, watching Romney run has been about as energizing as watching an escargot finds it way to a dinner plate.

The candidate who now, according to ABC News, boasts of owning not one but two shotguns and, yes, wait a minute, even of having shot a rodent or two along the road to fame is preparing to woo America's leading gun lobby.

How appropriate, too, that we hear of Romney's penchant for shooting rabbit this close to Easter Sunday. Maybe the next Romney campaign ad will feature Mitt with one shotgun hanging from his holster, and another pointed at the Easter bunny?

You're right, that's not fair. Romney isn't the only candidate in the lobby's lap nor is the Republican Party the only party pandering to the NRA. From the looks of things, the former head of Bain Capital will have plenty of company from Democratic side of the aisle, too, where not one member of Congress, nor the president, nor the attorney-general, yes, and not one elected official of either party, star, or stripe has even come close to challenging the broad brush with which revisionists have repainted the Second Amendment, and turned the Bill of Rights into the Bill of Frights.

Moreover, not even the vigilante-style killing of a hooded Florida teenager can stop presidential candidates, Republicans and Democrats alike, from courting the gunsters. Guns and banks are as American a staple as meat and potatoes.

Not only is Congress avoiding confrontations with the gun lobby, legislation is being considered that would shield freewheeling gun-toters like George Zimmerman, empowered by the "Cover Your Ass, and Burnish your Weapon" law that passed Florida, from being stymied by more stringent gun laws. How much would you like to bet that not one of the folks you elected to represent you will stand up to defeat writing a blank check to the gun lobby?

How much would you like to bet that President Obama will refuse to budge an inch toward a saner view of imposing greater restrictions on gun ownership, open carry, and interstate gun trafficking?

Romney is pandering to the conservative base of his party, and Obama is pandering to the independent base of his which has always been way more conservative. While both parties are pandering to the extremes of each party in a futile attempt to arrive at the middle, the country is sinking and mired in the kind of political, economic, and moral paralysis not seen since the 1930's.

If you have any question about where so-called blue dog Democrats stand on guns, check out the platform upon which junior senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, ran. Keep in mind that when she was in the House, she was a staunch defender of gun rights. Now that she's in the Senate, and in a state where there are more liberals per square mile than anywhere else except San Francisco, she has had to pull a Romney, and come out in favor of gun control, but caveat emptor. Her change with respect to gun control is about as convincing as Romney's change on choice. Once a blue dog, always a blue dog.

As one old enough to remember when the money was in pornography, it's fair to say that the money is now in guns. Both parties get that, and neither party is willing to stand up for those like Trayvon Martin and hundreds more like him who have lost their lives so that someone like George Zimmerman can assert what he considers to be his Second Amendment fright.

But, enough about Gillibrand and blue dog Democrats. After all, it is Romney that is being unzipped here. It is Romney who now says, per ABC News, "I'm not a big game hunter. I've always been, if you will, a rodent and rabbit hunter all right, small varmints if you will." Small varmints, indeed. Doubtless, Rick Perry is still bristling at the comparison.

Remember when, during one of the earlier presidential nomination debates, Romney told "boots on the ground" Texan Rick Perry that while he's not a "serious hunter," he does "enjoy the sport." Clearly, Romney enjoys the sport of running for president, too, something else he appears to be about as "serious" about, and adept at, as hunting. Think escargot on the half-shell, and you have picture.

When Romney talks at this week's annual meeting of the NRA, keep in mind that he has every right to be there. He's a self-proclaimed proud member, even if he had to borrow a gun from one of his sons to join.

And, while this won't be his first speech, if the Democrats play their cards right, it may well be Romney's last speech as a career political candidate for the right wing of his party may just have delivered the Demorats the signature social issue of the 2012 presidential campaign that it is the Democrats, not the shoot-em-up guys, who are tough on crime, and that it is the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are best suited to protect our national security.

That said, if this president doesn't get off the fence when it comes to gun control, and start distinguishing himself and his party's platform on social issues like bringing back the ban on assault weapons that was allowed to lapse under George W. Bush, and showing that open carry laws promote open season on innocent, unarmed civilians, the Democrats can still lose in November.

It is not standing up to defend and protect the lives of the living that will cost Mr. Obama the presidency, but allowing the Republican Party to make the election a referendum instead on protecting the rights of the unborn.

This election is about what may be seen as the single greatest civil rights issue of our times, the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" without being forced to look down the barrel of a gun. Yes, Martha, the Declaration of Independence trumps the Second Amendment.

Stand up now, Democrats, or forever be forced to carry your piece. Stand up now, Democrats, and candidate Obama and make it clear that the Second Amendment doesn't empower states to form, or affirm their own citizen militias.

Stand up and impose limitations on who can access firearms, under what
circumstances, and how they may legally transport them. Stand up and acknowledge what can only be considered sane gun control legislation, in the name of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, that we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. It's too damn easy for madmen, and faux law enforcers like Zimmerman to pursue their misadventures.

Anyone who cries for justice for Trayvon Martin and who doesn't at the same time call for tougher gun laws isn't anyone who deserves the public trust.

Unless, and until we see candidate Obama make it clear that while the Second Amendment may grant implied rights, it also has limitations, it will be business as usual in Washington, and whether it's Barry Goldwater or Barry Obama in the White House won't matter in the least.

Arguably, the bottom line here is that when Ann Romney unzips her husband, we don't want to find Barack Obama there.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Firesign Theatre's Peter Bergman

One week ago today, comic, satirist, and co-founder of legendary Los Angeles comedy troupe, The Firesign Theatre, Peter Bergman, passed following complications from Leukemia. Peter Bergman was only 72.

For more than forty years, Bergman, along with fellow co-founder Philip Proctor, and troupe members David Ossman, and Phil Austin have recorded albums that best encapsulate not merely the transformative 1960's, but the kind of revolutionary spirit that has long survived, and is shown in the following, Peter Bergman's last broadcast. With special thanks to Philip Proctor...


“Take heart, dear friends.
We are passing through the darkening of the light.
We’re gonna make it and we’re going to make it together.
Don’t get ground down by cynicism.
Don’t let depression darken the glass through which you look.
This is a garden we live in.
A garden seeded with unconditional love.
And the tears of the oppressed,
and the tears of the frustrated,
and the tears of the good will spring those seeds.
The flag has been waived.
It says occupy.
Occupy Wall Street.
Occupy the banks.
Occupy the nursing homes.
Occupy Congress.
Occupy the big law offices.
Occupy the lobbyists.
Because that’s were it all comes together.
I pledge to you, from this moment on, whatever it means,
I’m going to occupy myself.
I love you.
See ya tomorrow.”

R.I.P. Peter Bergman. Keep on keeping on, Firesign Theatre. We need you guys!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

"The Best Congress the Banks’ Money Can Buy"

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Here we go again. Another round of the game we call Congressional Creep. After months of haggling and debate, Congress finally passes reform legislation to fix a serious rupture in the body politic, and the President signs it into law. But the fight’s just begun, because the special interests immediately set out to win back what they lost when the reform became law.

They spread money like manure on the campaign trails of key members of Congress. They unleash hordes of lobbyists on Capitol Hill, cozy up to columnists and editorial writers, spend millions on lawyers who relentlessly pick at the law, trying to rewrite or water down the regulations required for enforcement. Before you know it, what once was an attempt at genuine reform creeps back toward business as usual.

It’s happening right now with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act -- passed two years ago in the wake of our disastrous financial meltdown. Just last week, for example, both parties in the House overwhelmingly approved two bills that already would change Dodd-Frank’s rules on derivatives -- those convoluted trading deals recently described by the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as "the largest dark pool in our financial markets."

Especially vulnerable is a key provision of Dodd-Frank known as the Volcker Rule, so named by President Obama after the former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. It’s an attempt to keep the banks in which you deposit your money from gambling your savings on the bank’s own,sometime risky investments.

It will come as no surprise that the financial sector hates the Volcker Rule and is fighting back hard.

On March 26, Robert Schmidt and Phil Mattingly at Bloomberg News published an extensive account on the coordinated campaign being waged by the banking industry to persuade regulators to scale back reform. Headlined, "Bank Lobby’s Onslaught Shifts Debate on Volcker Rule," their report chronicles the many ways in which banks are turning up the heat, enlisting the help of clients, customers, and other companies, among others.

"Some banks recommended consultants and law firms," they write, "... to help clients write letters arguing that the proposed language defines proprietary trading too broadly. Partnering with trade associations, the banks also commissioned studies, tested messages with focus groups, distributed talking points and set up a phone hotline for Capitol Hill staffers."

The banks found another ally in the US Chamber of Commerce, the biggest pro-business lobby in America, which helped puttogether a coalition of companies, including Boeing, DuPont, Caterpillar and Macy’s department stores.

In one instance, the banking behemoth Credit Suisse got an assist from a man named Robert Auwaerter, who oversees hundreds of billions as the fellow in charge of the fixed income group at Vanguard Group, a mutual fund company. He came to a briefing Credit Suisse held for three congressmen who belong to the New Democrats, a group of House members known "for their centrist and pro-business leanings."

Auwaerter led the 90-minute meeting and said the three Democrats "were really receptive to our comments." We’ll just bet. According to the Bloomberg News reporters, one of them, Joe Crowley of New York, "pushed back at one point, telling the group that he’d recently marched in a Lunar New Year parade in Queens with Thomas DiNapoli, the New York State Comptroller who oversees a state retirement fund of about $140 billion. Why wasn’t DiNapoli complaining about Volcker?

"The asset managers told Crowley they have a closer view of how the markets work than the pension funds that hire them.The proposed rule, they said, would slow bond trading, making it harder for them to execute their strategies. They predicted that would mean lower returns for funds like DiNapoli’s, as well as for 401(k) plans and individual investors

"Less than two weeks after the Credit Suisse visit, 26 New Democrats signed a letter to regulators noting that'millions of public school teachers, police officers and private employees depend on liquid markets and low transaction costs' to retire with ‘dignity and ease.'"

In other words, fellow members and regulators, lighten up on the Volcker Rule! A thick wallet helps, of course -- lobbyists for the financial sector spent nearly half a billion dollars lastyear. And the congressional newspaper The Hill reports, "Members of Congress pressuring regulators to go easy on the 'Volcker Rule' received roughly four times as much on average in contributions from the financial industry than lawmakers pushing for a stronger rule since the 2010 election cycle, according to Public Citizen, a left-leaning group advocating for strict implementation.

"When it is all added up, opponents of a tough Volcker Rule received over 35 times as much from the financial industry-- $66.7 million -- than advocates for a strong stance, who received $1.9million."

All of which makes it darkly amusing to read in the April 4 edition of the financial newspaper The American Banker that, in the words of Roger Beverage, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Bankers Association, "Congress isn’t afraid of bankers. They don’t think we’ll do anything to kick them out of office. We are trying to change that perception."

Which is why Beverage and his colleague arecreating the industry’s first Super PAC. They’re calling it -- we’re not making this up -- "Friends of Traditional Banking," a smokescreen of a sobriquet if we ever heard one, vaguely reminiscent of the Chicago mobsters in Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot who dub themselves "Friends of Italian Opera."

Matt Packard, the Super PAC’s chairman, told The American Banker,"If someone says I am going to give your opponent $5,000 or $10,000, you might say, 'Yea, okay.' But if you say the bankers are going to put in $100,000 or $500,000 or $1 million into your opponent's campaign, that starts to draw some attention." Don Childears, president and CEO of the Colorado Bankers Association chimed in, "It would be nice to sit on the sidelines or sit onour hands and say, 'Oh we don't get involved in that stuff,' but that just means you get run over. We need to get more deeply involved as an industry insupporting friends and trying to replace enemies."

All of which demonstrates, as per Bloomberg News, "that four years after Wall Street helped cause the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and prompted a $700 billion taxpayer bailout, its lobby is regaining its power to blunt or deflect efforts to reinin the banks."

Nonetheless,just last week, The Wall Street Journal reported on how a movement to challenge big banks at the local level has gainedmomentum around the country. Activists want to restructure Wall Street from the bottom up. As a result, the Los Angeles City Council is considering an ordinance that would gather foreclosure and other data on banks that do business with the city. Officials in Kansas, City, Missouri, passed a resolution directing the city manager to do business only with banks that are responsive to the community. And here in New York City, legislation is pending to require banks to reinvest in local neighborhoods if they want to hold city deposits. Similar actions are underway in other cities.

They’re turning up the heat. You can, too.


Bill Moyers is managing editor and MichaelWinship, senior writing fellow at Demos, is senior writer of the weekly publictelevision program “Moyers & Company.” Comment at

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

So a bird...

A bird stopped me
on the street today
and asked
how will he eat when
I am no longer here to
feed him, so I gave him a
twig from a
neighboring tree, and
said I can feed him yes,
but who can paint us
in a different

(c) Jayne Lyn Stahl