Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Monday, September 08, 2014

Media Monopolists Want to Tighten their Grip

Send emails in opposition to internet fast lane for the rich (and a slowdown for the rest of us) by Wednesday September 10th

To Comment on the proposed changes to the Internet rules:  GO TO http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/upload/display?z=428s7 TO SEND THEM A COMMENT


Editors note: great information in this story, but the newspaper editor's have added in some language to give the impression that it's all a "done deal" and that no one cares.



By Rob Lowman, Los Angeles Daily News

9/8/2014--A major rule change in how companies provide Internet service to the public could fundamentally disrupt online life as we know it, impacting the flow of information, business competition, freedom of speech and everyone’s pocketbook for years to come ­— but no one seems all that concerned. (OH REALLY?)

Under the concept of net neutrality, now under review by the FCC, broadband Internet service providers would have to provide service without discrimination based on content. They also couldn’t impose elaborate tiered pricing systems under which companies like Google or Netflix, for example — and therefore their customers — would have to pay higher prices to get their content delivered at the fastest speeds. Others who don’t pay more would see delivery of their content deliberately slowed down.

If left alone, ISPs like Comcast or Verizon would be able to control speed on the Internet in the future, creating fast lanes for those willing to pay for it.

In the Federal Communication Commission’s first 60-day commentary period, barely 1 million people had registered their thoughts about it. In 2004, Janet Jackson’s less than a half-second nipple slip at the Super Bowl received some 1.4 million unsolicited comments.

The next commentary period runs through Wednesday.

Earlier this summer, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a speech that the commission is planning to promote more high-speed Internet service choices and protect competition for consumers.

“There is an inverse relationship between competition and the kind of broadband performance that consumers are increasingly demanding,” Wheeler said. “This is not tolerable.”

He cited Commerce Department statistics that an overwhelming majority of homes have no choice among providers. Wheeler also pointed to the long-distance market of the 1990s when users could switch from one carrier to another as an example of “a truly competitive telecommunications marketplace.”

Wheeler did not reveal what steps the FCC might take or what this might mean for the pending Comcast takeover of Time Warner Cable.

Earlier this year, a district court struck down the FCC’s 2010 order intending to prevent broadband ISPs from blocking or interfering with traffic on the Web. In May, the FCC voted 3-2 to open public debate on new rules meant to guarantee an open Internet but with some additional caveats. The new provisions are similar to the old in that they are meant to prevent cable companies from knowingly slowing down anyone’s data.

That should ensure all content running on the Internet is treated equally, except the new rules also allow for giant cable and Internet companies like Comcast, Time-Warner, AT&T and Verizon to create fast lanes for those who can pay.

Some companies are already doing so.

At the end of last year, Netflix subscribers complained of sluggish downloads as they waited for movies and shows like “House of Cards.” The streaming giant claimed Comcast, the country’s largest cable and broadband provider, was slowing download times.

Comcast denied the claims, and said a second party Netflix was using was slowing the downloads. It wanted the streaming company to go through them directly.

Though they complained publicly about having to do it, Netflix quickly signed a deal in February with Comcast to ensure faster speeds for its customers. It then went on to sign similar ones with Verizon and AT&T.

Ten days before the Netflix deal, Comcast made a $45 billion bid to buy Time Warner Cable. In an April letter to stockholders, Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix, was still angry about the Comcast deal and came out in opposition to the merger, saying that the new company would “possess even more anti-competitive leverage to charge arbitrary interconnection tolls for access to their customers.”

Comcast countered with the statement: “There has been no company that has had a stronger commitment to openness of the Internet than Comcast.”

If Internet superhighways are created for a fee, it won’t be just Netflix, which recently hit 50 million subscribers, joining the fast lane. Other companies able to pay — Amazon, Google and Facebook — aren’t going to be left behind.

At risk are small or new businesses who won’t be able to pay superhighway speeds and consumers who will face a choice of how much they are willing to pay for speedy Internet access. At the time of the Netflix-Comcast deal, Tim Wu, the Columbia University professor who first coined the phrase net neutrality, likened it to water in the basement for the Internet industry. He told the New York Times, “I think it is going to be bad for consumers,” believing costs will likely be passed onto them. In Netflix’s case, the firm announced price hikes.

If the merger between Comcast and Time Warner occurs, the new company would have 19 of the country’s top 20 cable markets. Estimates say the mega-company would then control around 40 percent of the high-speed Internet market.

Some believe that ISPs —like Comcast — should be reclassified as a utility, and regulated like electricity. Comcast spent nearly a quarter of the 74-page document it submitted as comment to the FCC arguing against that.

The commission had once deemed ISPs as “information services,” like websites. But in the decision earlier this year the court said the FCC lacked authority to enforce its existing net neutrality rules because it hadn’t classified broadband providers as “telecommunications services.” That would make them more like telephone companies, who own their lines like ISPs but are required to lease them to other companies if a customer opts for another firm’s service.

The FCC still has the power under the 1996 Telecommunications Act to reclassify them, and that worries ISPs. AT&T and Verizon have also weighed in against the possibility in their comments to the FCC.

While everyone seems to argue for some form of net neutrality, the Internet Association, which represents about three dozen Web companies such as Google, Netflix and Amazon, opposes the idea of fast lanes. Such rules would undoubtedly cement charging more for higher speeds as a business practice.

“We are dedicated to protecting and preserving an open Internet,” the FCC’s Wheeler said before the vote in May. A former chief lobbyist for the cable industry who was appointed by President Obama, Wheeler cast the swing vote, joining the two Democratic commissioners in opening the rules to debate.

With so much of commerce dependent on the Internet, should we leave the pipes unregulated or in the hands of profit-motivated companies? Or does the solution lie somewhere in between?

Some argue that dividing content into those who can afford fast lanes — whether businesses or political PACs — is a threat to freedom. On the Internet, milliseconds are important. Most people usually don’t go deep into searches on the Web. If users are subtlety directed toward certain sites, eventually that could have an impact not only on what we buy but what we think. Without rules, ISPs can become gatekeepers. Comcast, which wants little regulation, argues in its comments to the FCC that it wouldn’t restrict access because it “would incur substantial subscriber losses and reputational harm.” Essentially, they say they won’t do it because it would cost them money.

Anyone following the news already knows there are privacy concerns to be addressed. There are also concerns about “search neutrality,” which is the idea that search results should be free of social, political, or financial agendas. Right now there is nothing in place to maintain “search neutrality.” If companies like Amazon and Google — who determine relevance in search results — join the fast lane, it’s likely to increase their influence.

Wu is so worried about it that he is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor of New York, hoping to help create legislation to keep such companies in check.

You can still weigh in on the “net neutrality” rules. The giant cable and Internet companies have already, plus they have Capitol Hill lobbyists. Comcast ranked fifth among all organizations in U.S. government lobbying spending last year, according to the Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project. Google, AT&T and Verizon are also among the top spenders.

To make a comment on any current matter before the FCC, go to www.fcc.gov/comments. 

Monday, September 01, 2014

You Can't Beat 'em If You Can't Join 'em

Cable Giants Try to Limit Cities' Internet Service

By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff

Posted Aug 30, 2014

(Newser) – Municipalities, take note: US Telecom, a group representing cable giants like Time Warner and Comcast is pressing US officials to stop two cities from expanding high-speed Internet services, the Guardian reports.

Those cities—Chattanooga, TN, and Wilson, NC—are already providing unusually fast 1GB-per-second service to residents. Chattanooga's broadband helped trigger a tech boom, and Wilson's reached people who were complaining about the quality and cost of Time Warner service. Now each city wants to expand service into a wider area, the Wall Street Journal reports.

US Telecom's lobbyists are urging the FCC not to let cities work around laws designed to protect private broadband companies (20 states have such laws, the Verge notes).

US Telecom is also arguing in a blog (http://www.ustelecom.org/blog/fcc-has-no-standing-state-broadband-laws) that public broadband has "a mixed record, with numerous examples of failures"—and it's true that a group of Utah towns had to sell its service to Google for $1 after failing to make enough money. So, is municipal broadband anti-competitive? Cable companies say subsidies give cities an unfair leg up, while cities argue that they are improving competition in their areas. (On the lighter side, read about the Comcast "call from hell.")

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mitt Who?

Mitt Romney's favorite Radio Station Owner is in Trouble

This is probably beating a dead horse, (as who remembers Mitt Romney now?), but I just learned that Romney's corporate buyout firm Bain Capital owns the US's largest radio station chain, Clear Channel, which has been the subject of my ire for years.

Clear Channel owns and distributes on its stations shows by right-wing hotheads like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and distributes Fox News in radio form. They're by far the largest of owner of radio stations in the USA and also are tops in Billboards. I've written a lot about their past antics here:
They have in recent years added liberal talk radio shows on some of their lower-rated outlets, so their reputation for being all right wingers has changed in recent years as they've realized that liberal talk sells ads, too.

As this column from my local paper says: "Bain Capitol, the majority owner following a 2008 buyout, must be mighty nervous right now. According to industry estimates and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Clear Channel has more than $16 billion of debt, declining revenues, declining cash flow, and a huge debt payment due relatively soon - with virtually no way to pay it.
This could be the beginning of the end for a company that, in my opinion, never deserved to exist."
from:  http://www.dailynews.com/entertainment/ci_22187319/radio-clear-channel-layoffs-hit-kost-kbig-kysr

Clear Channel is a prime beneficiary (and now a victim) of the US Congress's 1996 Telecommunications deregulation act, which allowed corporate monopolies to gobble up 8 or more radio stations in a market area, instead of the previous limit of 2. The law similarly allows ownership of 2 or more TV stations in a market when the previous limit was 1.

The problem for Clear Channel is they over-borrowed to bulk up on stations, computerized the formats and fired DJs and then faced the wrath of consumers who switched to ad-free ipods and other portable music players. That's when Romney's Bain Capital firm swooped in and bought the place at likely a bargain price. The firm has not recovered, though, and it lost over $400 million in 2012.

Not that Mitt is hurting due to this.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cable Customers Sue over Mandatory Sports Channel fees

Cable Competitors No Help in Avoiding Mega Sports Channel Fees

for full story:

6/21/2013--It's become the $11 billion question is: How can Time Warner Cable get away with starting up its own Lakers-centric channel, then help fund the Dodgers with the launch of their own channel, with the end game eventually force Southern California TV viewers to foot the bill for the bulk of it without the option of opting out?
...The four plaintiffs -- from L.A., Long Beach, Orange County and Pasadena -- are all considered "non-sport fans" tired of footing the extra payments in their monthly bills for sports-centric channels, (their lawyer) Blecher insisted. They can't simply drop TWC and take a different option like DirecTV, Verizon Fios or AT&T U-verse because they also have hiked fees in response to agreeing to carry the TWC sports channels...

(Editor's note: No question, cable tv is a racket. This lawsuit is a great first step, and we need our government to force the TV delivery monopolies to offer "a la carte" cable. But in the meantime, there is an alternative: get internet-only, and pay for Netflix ($8 a month to get movies), watch TV with an antenna, go to comedycentral.com to watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report for free, etc. Or do without a tv totally--you'll live......Rex

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Hi, friends,

For those that wonder why no posts lately....I enrolled in law school in 2009 and will be finished at the end of 2013. I am studying corporate monopoly law right now and hope to post some good stuff soon.

Anyway, here's a website I stumbled across that has a lot to combat corporate propaganda:

...Rex, the editor

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And this is why the rich shouldn't pay 3% more in taxes?

1/24/2012--L.A. Times...http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-romney-releases-tax-returns-20120124,0,4945167.story

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann paid $3 million in federal taxes in 2010 on nearly $21.7 million of income derived from a vast array of investments, amounting to an effective tax rate of 13.9%, according returns released by his campaign Tuesday.

In addition, the Romneys expect to pay $3.2 million on $20.9 million of income for the 2011 tax year, for an effective rate of 15.4%.

That’s substantially lower than the top 35% marginal tax rate on wages and salaries -- and much lower than the rate paid by his political rivals. President Obama paid an effective tax rate of 26% in 2010, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich paid a rate of 31.6%. Experts say Romney benefits from a tax code that allows investors to keep more of their income than wage earners, particularly investors in the rarefied world of private equity.

Even among his wealthy peers -- a cohort that particularly benefits from the lower capital gains rate -- Romney’s rate is below the average 18.5% effective tax rate paid by the richest 1%, according to the Tax Policy Center...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Republicans start sounding like "socialists"?

Romney "like(s) being able to fire people."
Other GOP contenders have a problem with that (not firing people, just telling the public that's what they want to do)

"Can't we get back to bashing Obama's pro-middle class policies?"

Full story: http://www.denverpost.com/littwin/ci_19707306

By Mike Littwin
The last thing anyone could have expected from the Republican presidential field here was a late-breaking shift to the left...

...Here's Gingrich, who has called Romney a looter, explaining to the press how a historian/not lobbyist sees the issue:
"Is capitalism really about the ability of a handful of rich people to manipulate the lives of thousands of other people and walk off with the money? Or is that, in fact ... a flawed system? So I do draw a distinction between looting a company, leaving behind broken families and broken neighborhoods and leaving behind a factory that should be there."

Rick Perry — who is polling at 1 percent in New Hampshire — is in South Carolina, where he's focusing on a company that he says was "looted" by Bain and adds that "getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is ... indefensible."

"If you're a victim of Bain Capital's downsizing," said Perry, who routinely calls Barack Obama a socialist, "it's the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina and tell you he feels your pain, because he caused it."

I know. You think the outrage may be forced — and a little late in the game. Everyone figured Romney's problem in the primaries would be Romneycare. But it turns out to be Bain Scare...

Friday, April 22, 2011

"What it comes down to is that two companies own nine of the top 11 stations in town..."

Clear Channel, CBS stations are dominant in the ratings in L.A.

By Richard Wagoner, Posted: 04/21/2011, http://www.dailybreeze.com/ci_17902877

KIIS-FM (102.7) was Los Angeles radio's dominant force once again, based on the monthly Arbitron ratings released this week. While down a half point to 5.1, the station was still a half point better than KOST (103.5 FM) at 4.6.  With KFI's (640 AM) third-place 4.3 - its highest rating since at least November 2010 - owner Clear Channel had a 1-2-3 sweep. Add in 10th place KBIG (flat at 3.3), and the company had four of the top 10 stations in town - an amazing feat.

But wait: Though CBS didn't have quite the dominance as Clear Channel, it also controlled much of the top 10, with fourth-place KRTH's (101.1 FM) 4.2, a sixth-place tie between KNX (1070 AM) and KROQ (106.7 FM) at 3.5, and a 10th-place tie between Amp Radio (97.1 FM) and sister The Wave (94.7 FM) - matching Clear Channel's KBIG at 3.3.

What it comes down to is that two companies own nine of the top 11 stations in town.

In my opinion, that is market dominance that needs to be broken up. Last time something like that happened, the Federal Communications Commission broke up NBC and forced the launch of ABC, which later became one of America's premier networks...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What really happened in last week's election:

Democrats in name only (DINO's) Lost Out Big Last Week

excerpted from:

11/6/2010--The defeat of many Blue Dogs leaves white Southern Democrats without much of a voice — but the Progressive Caucus, which retained nearly all its members, will likely gain clout.

Congress shifted to the right with the elections of several Tea Party Republicans this week — but the rightward trend wasn't enough to save a number of conservative and centrist Democrats, who were defeated in the House in large numbers.

Especially hard-hit was the Blue Dog Coalition — only 23 of its 54 members were re-elected...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A message to the Tea Party:

Dear Tea Party: You will now get yours

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
SFGate November 10, 2010

And now, hot on the heels of our recent letter to whiny young Democrats, a loving shout-out to all those moderates and independents, confused conservatives and hard-line Repubs who went just a little more than slightly insane this past election.

To all of you who either flip-flopped your wishy-washy ideals and switched your vote from bluish to reddish this past election because Obama and the lukewarm Dems failed to solve all world problems in 700 days, or because you got yourself so emotionally riled up/mentally watered down by the sexy caveman grunts of the Tea Party that you actually bought the BS line about being "mad as hell" about nothing even remotely coherent.

Here is your grand message: You are hereby wonderfully, thoroughly screwed.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Crybaby Bullies Need your help! or at least your cash....donate now.....

 A Wealthy Whiner says: As you know, the Left is responsible for all the lack of joy in America today...


This was in the April 14 issue of the Daily Breeze. I just had to respond:

Dear editor,

Really--the wealthy, influential and sadly, victimized radio host and newspaper columnist Dennis Praeger thinks "the Left has squashed life's little pleasures" by banning smoking, fireplaces and incandescent lightbulbs. (Of course, when reasonable restrictions were placed on these, it was with bi-partisan support, but Prager leaves this fact out) When you're living in a right-wing fear-based fantasy world, facts don't matter. You know, I don't recall the Left wrecking our economy and putting millions of Americans out of work. I don't recall the Left turning a federal treasury with a massive surplus into a massive tax-sucking hole while cutting taxes for the rich. I don't recall the Left refusing to enforce our laws for 8 years while Wall Street crooks paid themselves billions in bonuses for selling fraudulent "securities" and I don't recall the Left handing hundreds of billions to these same crooks when they wrecked their own companies. No. It was the poor victimized right wing billionaires who made this mess. They are the real enemy of
life's most important little pleasures--like a job with a living wage.

On the one hand, right wing TV and radio blowhards boast about how influential they are, how a majority of Americans agree with them, but at the same time, they complain about being victimized. When you're the rich influential majority, it is impossible to be victimized. The right wing are crybaby bullies, beating and cheating on the rest of us, then crying foul when we stand up to them. Boo hoo!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mass Firings Lead to Economic Boom--for big corporations...

The Solution for the recession: full un-employment!
excepted from


Big companies are awash in cash as economy picks up

Some experts say the strength of the largest firms will be key as the recovery strengthens. Others worry that the giants' clout has grown at workers' expense.

By Tom Petruno

The brutal recession has left many American families, small businesses and state and local governments in financial ruin or teetering on the brink.

But it's a much different story for the nation's biggest companies. Many have emerged from the economy's harrowing downturn loaded with cash, thanks to deep cost-cutting that helped drive unemployment into double digits.

And although the banking crisis starved countless entrepreneurs for money last year, credit was never scarce for business titans.

Corporate America's robust finances have been a boon for the companies' stocks: On Tuesday, the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average hit its highest level in nearly 18 months, surging 102.94 points, or 1%, to 10,888.83...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Good News, and More Good News

Apparently, a box the size of a refrigerator can generate all the electricity needs of 100 homes... A Hummer is about the size of 4 refrigerators...I see an opportunity here!!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The "heavy hand of government" is often that of the public interest, yelling "Stop Thief!"

"A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation"--Howard Scott

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The USA is already the biggest health insurance company--and the private insurance companies still thrive!

To all those friends of the Health insurance industry in the U.S. Senate: government competition is no obstacle to massive insurance company profits.

One half of the US's health care industry is funded by a non-profit health insurance system: it's called the US government. We already have a massive "public" option and we still have a massively profitable private health insurance industry.

All the Democrats are seeking is a public "option" to insure the remaining 10% of Americans who don't have health insurance. This would mean the now-uninsured would have "preventive" care, and preventing illness is a lot less costly than the taxpayers having to pay to treat a full-blown illness. Either way, the uninsured are going to a government/taxpayer funded clinic or hospital once they get sick. Our tax dollars will pay for treatment no matter what. The public option is the only way that the total cost for care will be brought down. The private health insurers have never reduced their rates and have no incentive. Republicans always talk about saving the taxpayer's money. Whether the tax is paid to the government or to a private health insurance corporation, we all pay the cost of the massive profiteering by the health industry. Based on the way the Republican's bankrupted both our government and banks and Wall Street over the last 8 years, why does anyone see them as protectors of our money? I trust my government, which I can vote for or against, a lot more than unelected corporate monopolies.

---Rex Frankel

2/4/2010--WASHINGTON (AP) -- Government is poised to become king of the hill in America's vast health care system, with or without President Barack Obama's planned redo, according to an economic report released Thursday. Federal and state programs will pay slightly more than half the tab for health care purchased in the United States by 2012, says the analysis by Medicare number crunchers published in the journal Health Affairs. That's even if Obama's health care overhaul wastes away in congressional limbo...

...The report estimated that in 2009, the United States spent $2.5 trillion for health care, with government programs - mainly Medicare and Medicaid - paying $1.2 trillion. Employer health insurance and various private sources covered the other $1.3 trillion. Even as the economy shrank because of the downturn, health care spending grew by 5.7 percent from 2008. Spending by government grew nearly three times faster than private spending, closing in to overtake it...


Friday, October 23, 2009

Fox News--the choice of 1% of America...

Fox stands alone against the massive liberal establishment...bla bla blaDuhhhh...Fox News MUST Represent the majority of Americans...Right? Cause they get the highest ratings
(the fine print: among people who watch the 24 hour cable news channels only. However, as a percentage of the total number of people who watch their televisions at that hour, Fox News' ratings are miniscule, as Tiny as Rush Limbaugh's heart.)

But...They Beat MSNBC and CNN, so they must be #1 right?

Yes, Fox news cable channel got an average of 2.2 million viewers during their primetime shows, compared to 946,000 for CNN and 788,000 for MSNBC. This means TOTAL DOMINANCE!!!!....right?

Of course if we were to average this with their ratings for all day, the average would be a lot lower.



But when you directly compare Fox News' ratings to all the competition that is available to American viewers:

Based on August 2009 ratings of the Cable channels only:

1 USA 2.7
2 FOXNews 1.9
3 TNT 1.8
4 NAN 1.6
5 ESPN 1.4
6 TBSC 1.3
7 HGTV 1.1
8 ABC-FAM 0.9
9 A & E 1.1

SOURCE: http://www.mediabistro.com/tvnewser/original/Cable%20Time%20Period%20Rank%20-%20Week%20of%208-10-09%20(Live+SD).pdf

Then compare this to the ratings of the broadcast TV channels, just released this week:

CBS: 11.88 million viewers
NBC: 7.4
Fox entertainment: 8.4
according to the Nielsen Ratings people, when you compare Fox News ratings to the total ratings of all the channels that are available to the 300 million Americans, they are getting 2.2 million out of over 300 million, so less than 1% of Americans watch Fox News at the time when Fox gets it's most viewers. CBS, those annoying liberals, gets over 5 times as many viewers.

And Fox gets their asses handed to them on the Sunday political talk shows which are available to everyone with an antenna, not just cable viewers:

Network Program Total

NBC "Meet the Press" 3.02M
ABC "This Week" 2.65M
CBS "Face the Nation" 2.23M
FOX "Fox News Sunday" 1.30M

So is Fox News dominant, and therefore they represent the views of the majority of Americans, or do they just represent a teeny minority of brown-shirted super-rich racist yahoos? I'm just askin'...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Cure for Health Reform Fears...

Let's Do Health Care Reform in Several Steps:


My opinion:

I think most Americans have no idea what health systems are like in any other country because they've never been outside the US. People in Europe can travel to their neighbors so much more easily and see different cultures. I'm guilty of this--I've never left the U.S. either.

Fear of the unknown is understandable, but the health care reform debate should be based on truth, not lies. Unfortunately, I think the democrats are trying to reform the entire system at once. People are scared when the see a 1000 page law. I think congress should fix the worst problems first. Like congress should ban insurers from dropping people for pre-existing conditions and limit rate hikes for everyone to the rate of inflation. Even if we don't do the reforms that will cost tax money, we can change regulations and those changes can themselves fix a lot of the inequity.

It reminds me of how California's legislature cut back on strip mining abuses 6 years ago. Even though the federal government has this antiquated law that gives away federal land to mining companies, and congress can never get the votes to change it, our state legislature changed the local laws to require every mine to restore the landscape to what it looked like before the mining project. That raised the costs so high that several federal mine giveaways in the desert were dropped by the companies because they knew they couldn't make money doing it.
(I also write an enviro blog at http://rare-earth-news.blogspot.com . )

This is the way we could accomplish the same goals of a government plan by making the health insurers follow rules that curb their profits so much that they will be the ones seeking a federal bailout. And with a bailout comes government control, like at GM and Chrysler. If reform was done in stages, we could do this.

Most Americans hate the insurance companies--let's target their abuses right now.

We don't have to fix the entire system at once. We can knock down the power of the insurers now and later force them to be part of the fix of the entire system.

---Rex Frankel, for StopCorporateGreed.org



“This morning I was awoken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US department of energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the national weather service of the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration determined the weather was going to be like, using satellites designed, built, and launched by the national aeronautics and space administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of US department of agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the food and drug administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the national institute of standards and technology and the US naval observatory, I get into my national highway traffic safety administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the environmental protection agency, using legal tender issed by the federal reserve bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US postal service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After spending another day not being maimed or killed at work thanks to the workplace regulations imposed by the department of labor and the occupational safety and health administration, enjoying another two meals which again do not kill me because of the USDA, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to my house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and fire marshal’s inspection, and which has not been plundered of all its valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log on to the internet which was developed by the defense advanced research projects administration and post on freerepublic.com and fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can’t do anything right.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Exposing the Right-Wing's Lies about Health insurance reform

FACT CHECK: Health overhaul myths taking root


By CALVIN WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer Calvin Woodward, Associated Press Writer – Wed Aug 19, 5:39 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The judgment is harsh in a new poll that finds Americans worried about the government taking over health insurance, cutting off treatment to the elderly and giving coverage to illegal immigrants. Harsh, but not based on facts.

President Barack Obama's lack of a detailed plan for overhauling health care is letting critics fill in the blanks in the public's mind. In reality, Washington is not working on "death panels" or nationalization of health care.

To be sure, presenting Congress and the country with the nuts and bolts of a revamped system of health insurance is no guarantee of success for a president — just ask Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Their famous flop was demonized, too. After all, the devil does lurk in details.
It can also lurk in generalities, it seems.
Obama is promoting his changes in something of a vacuum, laying out principles, goals and broad avenues, some of which he's open to amending. As lawmakers sweat the nitty gritty, he's doing a lot of listening, and he's getting an earful.
A new NBC News poll suggests some of the myths and partial truths about the plans under consideration are taking hold.
Most respondents said the effort is likely to lead to a "government takeover of the health care system" and to public insurance for illegal immigrants. Half said it will probably result in taxpayers paying for abortions and nearly that many expected the government will end up with the power to decide when treatment should stop for old people.

A look at each of those points:

THE POLL: 45 percent said it's likely the government will decide when to stop care for the elderly; 50 percent said it's not likely.
THE FACTS: Nothing being debated in Washington would give the government such authority. Critics have twisted a provision in a House bill that would direct Medicare to pay for counseling sessions about end-of-life care, living wills, hospices and the like if a patient wants such consultations with a doctor. They have said, incorrectly, that the elderly would be required to have these sessions.
House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said such counseling "may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia."
The bill would prohibit coverage of counseling that presents suicide or assisted suicide as an option.
Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, who has been a proponent of coverage for end-of-life counseling under Medicare, said such sessions are a voluntary benefit, strictly between doctor and patient, and it was "nuts" to think death panels are looming or euthanasia is part of the equation.
But as fellow conservatives stepped up criticism of the provision, he backed away from his defense of it.
THE POLL: 55 percent expect the overhaul will give coverage to illegal immigrants; 34 percent don't.
THE FACTS: The proposals being negotiated do not provide coverage for illegal immigrants.

THE POLL: 54 percent said the overhaul will lead to a government takeover of health care; 39 percent disagree.
THE FACTS: Obama is not proposing a single-payer system in which the government covers everyone, like in Canada or some European countries. He says that direction is not right for the U.S. The proposals being negotiated do not go there.
At issue is a proposed "exchange" or "marketplace" in which a new government plan would be one option for people who aren't covered at work or whose job coverage is too expensive. The exchange would offer some private plans as well as the public one, all of them required to offer certain basic benefits.
That's a long way from a government takeover. But when Obama tells people they can just continue with the plans they have now if they are happy with them, that can't be taken at face value, either. Tax provisions could end up making it cheaper for some employers to pay a fee to end their health coverage, nudging some patients into a public plan with different doctors and benefits. Over time, critics fear, the public plan could squeeze private insurers out of business because they would not be able to compete with the federal government.
It's unclear now whether Obama is committed to the public option. He described it recently as "just one sliver" of health reform, suggesting it was expendable if lawmakers could agree on another way to expand affordable coverage. Now the White House is emphasizing his strong support for it.

THE POLL: 50 percent expect taxpayer dollars will be used to pay for abortions; 37 percent don't.
THE FACTS: The House version of legislation would allow coverage for abortion, but the bill says a beneficiary's own money — not taxpayer funds — must be used to pay for the procedure. How that would be enforced has not been determined.
Obama has stated that the U.S. should continue its tradition of "not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care." Current laws prohibiting public financing of abortion would stay on the books.
Yet abortion guidelines are not yet clear for the government-supervised insurance exchange. There is strong sentiment in Congress on both sides of the issue.
The poll of 805 people was taken Aug. 15-17 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Time to start paying...

Have you gotten used to reading your local newspaper on-line for free? Yeah, you look at the ads at the same time, so it's a fair trade, you're not really getting it for free, totally. Well, now, the big media corporations got you hooked, and now it's time to make you pay. Just like your local movie theater, you pay $11.50 a ticket and still are forced to watch TV commercials on top of the movie previews. You pay out the wazoo for cable TV and every channel is packed with commercials, unless you pay extra for a channel like HBO that doesn't have commercials. Commercials are everywhere we go -- and no one is paying us to watch them. They are assumed to be what we give up to get free or "cheaper" entertainment.

Well, the problem with newpapers, at least the big ones, is that they long ago forgot about local investigative reporting. They have created the opportunity which is being exploited by small-time bloggers. Charging for the crappy content that now is given away won't pull the big newspaper companies out of bankruptcy. Providing a better product is the only way to survive.

Here's a thought: pay the local bloggers to write a section of the newspaper.

Adapt to the future, or get replaced.

--from the big cheeze, Rex Frankel

Can Internet charges stem newspapers' losses?

Publishers hope readers will pay if content is no longer offered free.
By Michael Liedtke, The Associated Press
Posted: 05/25/2009

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is a rarity among large U.S. newspapers - it's selling more weekday copies than a decade ago. In Idaho, the Post Register's circulation has remained stable, while many print publications have lost readers to the Internet, where much of their content may be viewed for free. The executives behind the Arkansas and Idaho newspapers think they've been stable because they have been giving free Web site access only to print edition subscribers. Everyone else has to pay. "To just give it all away on a Web site is completely and blindly idiotic," says Roger Plothow, Post Register editor and publisher. That logic is starting to resonate with many publishers, who are preparing to erect toll booths on parts, if not all, of their Web sites. They hope the switch adds to online revenue and helps them keep print subscribers and ads. If it works, it would provide a sorely needed boost for an industry that has seen $11.6billion, or nearly one-fourth, of its annual advertising revenue dry up during the past three years. But ending free access could drive away many online readers and discourage online advertising at a time just as marketing budgets shift to the Internet.

As a result, 28 percent of newspaper executives responding to a recent survey by the Associated Press Managing Editors, a group of newspaper executives, said their publications are considering online fees.

Newsday's owner, Cablevision Systems Corp., plans to start charging for online access to the Long Island, N.Y., paper this summer. MediaNews Group, which owns the Daily Breeze and 53 other daily newspapers, has decided to charge for the online versions but hasn't said when. Hearst Corp. is assessing whether online fees could help save its 15 remaining daily newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Online fees will give people one less reason to stop subscribing to the newspaper" in the print format, said Steven Brill, Journalism Online's co-CEO. "Fewer people will be saying, `Why am I buying this thing when I can get it free online?"' Some commentators say the numbers don't add up. Former newspaper editor Alan Mutter, now an industry consultant and author of the blog, "Reflections of a Newsosaur," doubts most publishers understand how to produce the "content niches" that will cause people to ante up. Yet it's not an impossible task, said Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time magazine and now chief executive of the Aspen Institute, a think tank. Charging online fees "could create a discipline on journalism that produces more things of value," Isaacson said. "We could end up getting better journalism and a better business model out of it."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Like good dope dealers...

Big 5 Media Corps. are pissing off cable firms and DirecTV big time by letting the public watch shows for free on the internet;

Fox and NBC are Scheming together to give it to us free, get us hooked, then jack up the price.


5/11/2009 L.A. Times

...But in making a bid for the next generation of Internet- attuned viewers, Hulu's owners have strained their lucrative relationships with cable and satellite operators. Companies like Time Warner Cable Inc. and DirecTV Group Inc. pay cable networks billions of dollars each year to carry programming. Believing that they should have exclusivity because their payments support the enormous cost of producing TV shows, such companies have been pushing back against the Hulu freebies...

..."And now people are starting to wonder, do we even need the cable connections?"

The country's largest cable operators aren't waiting around to find out the answer. In recent months, the operators have taken a hard line against cable networks for funneling their shows to Hulu. Some have gone so far as to stipulate that cable networks limit the number of episodes they make available online. Others have imposed an outright ban. The strictures buy time for cable operators until they can develop their own response to Hulu....

...NBC Universal and News Corp. are considering whether to adopt a cable industry initiative called authentication, which would require users to prove they are pay TV subscribers before they can watch current shows on Hulu.

The partners also are discussing setting up a tiered system for online video, with some shows available for free -- such as prime-time network offerings -- while others would be reserved for existing cable TV subscribers.

"Everyone is coalescing around a central area -- authentication," said Tony Vinciquerra, chief of Fox's television networks. "If we can move this in the right direction, it will be something relatively seamless to the consumer, and good for business overall."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

After Setting Record for Text-Messaging, Two Men May Finally Get a Life...

Slaves to their cell phone company rack up a $26,000 bill in 1 month.

--Their next record to beat: buying millions of dollars of useless crap on their credit cards from infomercials all in one day! Can they do it? Inquiring swines want to know! Reporting on this exciting story are Billy Bush and Britney Spears for Excess Hollywood...

By BILL BERGSTROM, Associated Press Writer – Wed Apr 22, 7:13 am ET

PHILADELPHIA – Their thumbs sure must be sore. Two central Pennsylvania friends spent most of March in a text-messaging record attempt, exchanging a thumbs-flying total of 217,000. For one of the two, that meant an inches-thick itemized bill for $26,000.

Nick Andes, 29, and Doug Klinger, 30, were relying on their unlimited text messaging plans to get them through the escapade, so Andes didn't expect such a big bill.

"It came in a box that cost $27.55 to send to me," he said Tuesday. He said he "panicked" and called T-Mobile, which told The Associated Press it had credited his account and was investigating the charges.

The two Lancaster-area residents have been practically nonstop texters for about a decade since they attended Berks Technical Institute together.

That led Andes to search for the largest monthly text message total he could find posted online: 182,000 sent in 2005 by Deepak Sharma in India.

Andes and Klinger were able to set up their phones to send multiple messages. During a February test run they found they could send 6,000 or 7,000 messages on some days, prompting the March messaging marathon.

"Most were either short phrases or one word, 'LOL' or 'Hello,' things like that, with tons and tons of repeats," said Andes, reached by phone.

Andes sent more than 140,000 messages, and Klinger sent more than 70,000 to end the month with a total of just over 217,000, he said.

A spokesman for Guinness World Records didn't immediately return messages asking whether it would be certified as a record.

April came as a relief to Andes' wife, Julie, who had found his phone tied up with texting when she tried to call him on lunch breaks.

"She was tired of it the first few days into it," Andes said.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Which "Losers" Should the Government Bail Out?

"Do We want to subsidize the loser's mortgages?"--Rick Santelli, CNBC financial analyst



Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Concern over "class warfare" depends on which class you're in...

for full story, see http://www.latimes.com/business/personalfinance/la-fi-hiltzik4-2009mar04,0,1356927.column

by Michael Hiltzik
March 4, 2009
"Class warfare" comes in many flavors. There's the variety practiced by feudal overlords upon their serfs, and the variety waged by the Jacobins of the French Revolution against the monarchists.

Then there's the variety that Republicans claim to find in President Obama's proposed budget -- a taking from the rich to reward the undeserving poor. The rhetoric has spread quickly, moving from the libertarian Heritage Foundation to the ranks of GOP presidential hopefuls like flames leaping from tree to tree in the Angeles National Forest.

"Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff," says former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but a Union of American Socialist Republics is being born."

Yet the true class war of recent American history is the one that has pitted the upper 1% of income earners against almost everybody else. Over the last three decades, a period that spans Republican and Democratic administrations alike, average family income has scarcely budged an inch, while the wealthy have grown measurably wealthier.

In 1979, the top 1% of U.S. households earned eight times as much as the middle 20% and 23 times as much as the bottom fifth; by 2005, the Congressional Budget Office found, the upper crust touched 21 times as much as the middle class and 70 times as much as the bottom. Adjusting for inflation, the average American worker made 16% less in 2004 than in the 1970s, according to economist Benjamin M. Friedman....

In a bad economy, Oil companies still profit

from a 3/4/2009 letter to the editor, http://www.dailybreeze.com/letters/ci_11830754

A few weeks ago there was an article in the business pages that should have been on the front page of every newspaper in the country and the top story on every television news show. While the whole country was suffering a recession, including giant corporations like Microsoft, the ExxonMobil Corp. posted not only the highest profits in its history but the highest of any corporation in U.S. history: $45.2 billion. ExxonMobil made this money through outrageous price gouging, which caused the entire economy to suffer. That cost was added to the price of everything you buy, and it caused every business except the oil companies to suffer. The Republicans did everything possible to help them get away with this. When Congress tried to get records of the secret meetings between the Dick Cheney, administration officials and the oil companies, they were refused even when the records were subpoenaed. For that alone, Cheney should go to prison. The Bush administration gave them huge tax breaks, and when gas prices shot up to record levels and the economy went into recession, their answer was more tax breaks for the oil companies. The Republican Party works for these crooks and against ordinary people. They should all be removed from office. - MARK BEGOVICH

Friday, February 27, 2009

Cable Industry Fires Back Against Viewer Choice

As We reported last week, (http://greedwatch.blogspot.com/2009/02/while-cable-system-operators-have.html), the Big-5 Media monopolies are finding new ways to distribute their programming and that is breaking the backs of the big cable TV monopolies. Now the cable firms are fighting back, as usual, to restrict the ability of the viewing public to choose where they get their favorite shows...

excerpted from:

Cable operators seek platform to put TV shows online

2/25/2009--Wary of the growing number of consumers watching TV shows online for free -- and yet reluctant to upset viewers by yanking shows from the Internet -- the nation's largest cable operators are in talks with media conglomerates to take back control. They would create a platform to release cable TV shows online, but exclusively for paying subscribers....

Gaspin and others familiar with the project said the new service probably would be free to cable TV subscribers. But it's also possible a small fee might be assessed....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Here's a very interesting 20 minute video on the cycle of over-consumption and how it's killing our planet.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

While Cable System Operators Have Fought Consumer Choice (aka A la carte) Cable, Consumers are taking their dollars elsewhere. In Response, the Big 5 Media Corporations are Dumping Less Lucrative Businesses...

2/18/2009--More and more the entertainment mega corporations, the big 5, ie., Disney, Fox, Viacom-CBS, GE-BBC-Universal and Time-Warner, are dumping their less-profitable cable and satellite distribution arms, while retaining their ultra-profitable broadcasting and content-production divisions (studios and cable channels).

Thanks to the internet reaching as much or more of the country than cable and satellite, a lot of the TV fare we have to pay big bucks for on cable can now be found on free websites sponsored by the Big 5. These sites typically have very few commercials, maybe 2 minutes in a half hour show instead of 8. Some of the best shows are archived forever, such as all 35 years of Saturday Night Live, and all ten years of the Daily Show. What the Big 5 are doing is cutting out the middlemen. And since cable system monopolies have jacked up their rates much higher than the rate of inflation for over 20 years, it's hard to feel too sympathetic for them.

Fox last year traded away the #1 DirectTV satellite service to Liberty Media (an owner of cable channels), and this month reported a $6.4 billion loss.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Time-Warner is spinning off the nation's 2nd largest cable system as an independent company. Given that Time-Warner owns numerous cable channels, which are essentially TV "brands" that they can distribute any way they want, they now can fully embrace giving viewers the maximum number of ways to see their programming, whether it's on the internet, cable, phone company TV or satellite. Their bottom line was really hurting, with their last quarterly loss being $16 billion, so I can understand why they chose to get out of a very competitive business. Contrary to what corporate propagandists say, they don't like competition.

Another big cable system owner, Charter, just declared bankruptcy. Charter is controlled by Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft who couldn't transfer his success in software to the cable business.

Controlling all facets of a business, or what is termed "vertical integration", has made a lot of money for stock traders who helped the big guys gobble up additional variations of their core business. The big guys haven't always done as well. AT & T really blew it 10 years ago when they bought TCI, which then owned Liberty Media and the nation's top cable system operator. Very soon they wrote off around $50 billion in losses, and spun off Liberty Media to the public, and sold the cable systems to Comcast. They recovered well (well, maybe not for us) by the Bush administration letting them merge with SBC and BellSouth and buy Cingular Wireless, essentially rendering the U.S. a 2 -phone company country (except for some tiny competitors).

(see http://greedwatch.blogspot.com/search/label/AT%2BT)

This trend of binging and purging really hit Clear Channel, which hugely overpaid for over 1000 radio stations and hundreds of thousand of billboards 10 years ago and then they lost billions and dumped a lot of stations. CBS likewise gorged on radio stations and billboards and then wrote off a lot of paper-value recently. Time-Warner blew over $100 billion by buying America OnLine and found that Americans weren't that keen about buying everything over the internet.

In the end, we still have 5 mega corporations that produce and distribute most of our news and entertainment. But at least we have more ways to get it, at lower cost, and that's good.

--Rex Frankel, 2/18/2009

A Historical Trend of Sell-offs:

RADIO: ABC sold off much of their news and music radio stations to Citadel Broadcasters in 2006, while keeping their ESPN radio and Radio Disney stations. NBC had sold off their radio division in the 1980's. Only CBS remains heavily in the radio business but is selling a lot of stations in middle American markets in order to keep their big holdings in big cities.

MUSIC: All of the Big 5 have been out of recorded music since Universal Music (which had previously bought ABC's labels) was bought by Vivendi of France in the 1990's and CBS's Columbia and Epic records division were sold to Sony in the 1980's. NBC's RCA labels were sold off in the 1980's and are now owned by Sony.
Where were the Fiscally Conservative Republican/Conservatives that are Foaming at the Mouth Over Obama's Economy Fix for the Past 8 Years?

from February 15, 2009

Mr. ANDREW SULLIVAN (The Atlantic Senior Editor): They're also saying that
we are the party of fiscal conservatism. Now they...

MATTHEWS: Since when, though?

Mr. SULLIVAN: Well, since like I think like 10 minutes ago. I mean, they
spent, for future debt of this country, they added $30 trillion in a period of
boom. We're now in the swiftest downturn in employment in decades and they're
quibbling over something like $400 billion worth of spending. It doesn't make
any sense. The hypocrisy of these people, their ability to turn on a dime and
not even acknowledge their own responsibility. If they hadn't spent the
amount they'd spent in the last eight years, we wouldn't have this crisis in
the sense that we'd have much more leeway to spend our way out of the
recession. The one moment you don't want to be a fiscal conservative is when
the global economy is heading down into a down draft. And yet that's the one
moment that these Republicans pick to allegedly stand up for their principles.
It's insane, I think, and frankly, all these news cycle spins, I--that's the
old politics. The new politics is we're in a terrible economic crisis, have
we done enough to get ourselves out of it?

Is the Digital TV Changeover Really Just a Big Gift to the Broadcasters at the Expense of Consumers?

2/18/2009--Why should the public have to pay anything more in order to see ad-filled crappy TV channels that are packed with celebrity news and reality TV junk, along with a few programs featuring actors and writing?

The airwaves belong to the people, but they are occupied by mega-corporations, which, thanks to digital TV, will have many more channels to fill with junk.

To compensate, the 5 mega-media corporations are giving up their "analog" channels (the one our TV's currently can pick up). Originally, when the U.S. Congress approved the digital TV switchover in the 1990's, the promise was that we would now have all these local-owned stations. Instead, a few years ago the Bush administration auctioned those channels off to AT & T and Verizon, the U.S.'s 2 phone monopolies, so they can SELL us more cell phone services.

Call or write your congresspeople now!
This is a ripoff!


About a quarter of the nation's TV stations cut off their analog signals Tuesday, causing sets to go dark in households that were not prepared for digital television despite two years of warnings about the transition.

Though most viewers were ready - and people with cable or satellite service were unaffected - some stations and call centers reported a steady stream of questions from frustrated callers.

"It's kind of an irritation, but I understand that everyone will have a much better picture. As far as I was concerned, they could have left things the way they were," said Dorothy Delegard, 67, of Minneapolis, who bought a converter box because a friend gave her a coupon that expired Tuesday.

Phones were ringing off the hook at a walk-in information center set up by stations in Providence, R.I.

A volunteer at the center, Jeremy Taylor, said he tried to calm agitated callers.

"I try to explain that the digital switch is not something we're doing to extort them of money," Taylor said...




Early converts to digital are fuzzy about benefits

Some report getting worse reception and fewer stations, at least for now

…The switch to digital broadcasts will free up valuable airwaves for public safety officials to improve their communications networks and for wireless companies to offer new services. And for most people, it will produce sharper pictures with better sound. Digital TV also enables broadcasters to transmit four or more programs simultaneously on new sub-channels….

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tax Rates Fell by a Third for the 400 Richest Americans, Whose Average Income Doubled to $263 million a Year Under George Bush's Presidency

January 31, 2009
in print edition C-4


The average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2% through the first six years of the Bush administration, and their average income doubled to $263.3 million, new data show. The 17.2% in 2006 was the lowest since the Internal Revenue Service began tracking the 400 largest taxpayers in 1992, although they paid more tax on an inflation-adjusted basis than for any year since 2000. The drop from 2001’s tax rate of 22.9% was largely because of President Bush’s push to cut tax rates on most capital gains to 15% in 2003. Capital gains made up 63% of the richest 400 Americans’ adjusted gross income in 2006, or a combined $66.1 billion, according to the data. In all, those taxpayers reported a combined $105.3 billion in adjusted gross income in 2006, the most recent year for which the IRS has data. “The big explosion in income for this group is clearly on the capital gains side, although there are also sharp increases in dividend and interest income,” said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington. In addition, “they are realizing more of their gains due to the lower tax rate,” Baker said. The data may provide ammunition for Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco who say they intend to increase the capital gains tax rate even as the credit crunch roils markets and is producing more investment losses than gains. President Obama pledged during the presidential campaign to increase the rate.


Are You Better Off Than You Were Eight Years Ago?»

Our guest blogger is Adam Jentleson, the Communications and Outreach Director for the Hyde Park Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan famously asked America, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

After eight years of conservative rule, it’s worth posing a similar question – are Americans better off today than they were eight years ago?

As our new memo shows, unless you happen to be a big corporation or make enough money to be in the top percentage of earners, the answer is probably no:

A variety of metrics can be used to judge this question and assess what eight years of conservative policies have wrought. The picture painted here is clear: from job growth to debt, and from income disparity to national poverty indices, the conservative approach of putting big corporations and the very wealthy ahead of the middle class has failed to create prosperity that can be shared by all Americans.


Monday, January 19, 2009


By Rex Frankel, 1/19/2009, the last day of George Bush’s term in office

When the stock market came crashing down just before the November 2008 presidential election, politicians scrambled to bail out failing corporate monoliths on the premise that helping them would help the average American. For a lot of the middle class who have or had their retirements invested in the stock market, on the surface this sounded like the politicians cared for them. But since the stock market index, or the Dow Jones, is simply an average of the prices of the stocks of the 30 biggest and richest corporations, ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dow_Jones_Average ) merely shoring up the Dow is trickle-down economics on a colossal scale. The benefits go to the rich and stay there. For much of the Bush years, we have been told that the economy is great, job growth is great!, etc. while housing costs zoomed, outsourcing of jobs to India zoomed, and gas prices tripled. All this “good news” was based on a false barometer of health--the ridiculous rise in the top 30 stocks. The absurdity of it all is that the economic health of the 30 richest American corporations has not trickled down to the rest of us. America was not better off at any time during the Bush years. The people who made money were those that shuffled assets around, buying and selling companies and properties with little regard for the people who worked there. Bush’s friends created fake energy shortages and Enron and Exxon earned billions. Even after bankruptcy no one knows where Enron’s fraudulently earned riches went. Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton reaped billions in overcharges and no-competition contracts to run our war in Iraq. And after their crooked billings were uncovered, they simply relocated to Dubai.

Yes, the Bush insiders, the corporate managers and stock traders and money-movers made out like bandits. For the rest of us, the outcome of the Bush years is that control of things which we can’t live without are in fewer hands at the end of the Bush years than at the beginning.

This “look the other way—business can do what it wants” attitude in our government is not just a Republican disease. Under Bill Clinton’s presidency, the corporate merger mania continued unabated as it did through the 1980’s under Reagan and Bush #1. The difference between Republican and Democrat presidents is that job growth was stagnant under Republicans, while under Clinton we added an average of 3 million jobs per year. So even though mega-corporations gained ever more power under Clinton, American workers didn’t suffer like they did under Reagan and the Bushes. See http://rexfrankel.blogspot.com/2008/07/are-you-better-off-than-you-were-8.html

Oh, there’s nothing like a disaster to make us all lose our senses. After 9-11, we were asked to give up our civil rights, or we weren’t being good Americans. Then we were told not to question Bush’s invasion of Iraq, which possessed Weapons of Mass Pollution, AKA lots of oil. For the cynical, a disaster is an opportunity to get richer.

So the financial crash last year gave our leaders the opportunity to do real good for the average Americans or to again reward the rich campaign contributors. Guess what the Bush administration chose?

In the aftermath of the Bush years, key American industries are even more tightly controlled by a small group of people. When we debate whether the bailouts of our country’s key industries are really socialism for the rich, who privatize the profits but socialize the losses, it makes me wonder what capitalism really is. I believe that the infrastructure of this country should be owned by all of us. That means that the key industries—the necessities that we can’t live without-- should be owned and run by the government. Banks and oil companies and health care should be like public utilities, like our electric and water companies. They are vital to our existence--so vital that when bankers choose to engage in fraud, it affects all of us. When the oil companies use any excuse to raise prices, and we have no choice but to pay, that causes ripple effects on everything else. I am convinced that when gasoline hit $4.50 a gallon, it was the last straw. An economy that was already teetering finally gave out. Consumers couldn’t pay their mortgages and health care and car loans on top of the huge profits demanded by the oil industry.

That’s why any further bailouts of America’s big businesses MUST be accompanied by mandatory restructuring of their way of doing business. If socialism is good for our key businesses in the bad times, it’s good all the time.



BANKS: By the end of 2008, in the financial industry, we had 4 banks dominating every corner of the country: Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and J.P. Morgan Chase. When Washington Mutual failed, Chase was allowed to scoop them up. When Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial flopped, B of A gobbled them up. When Wachovia blew up, Wells Fargo picked up the bones. With hundreds of billions in our tax dollars to prop them up, we might as well nationalize the banking system completely—and finish the job. (for more, http://greedwatch.blogspot.com/2009/01/how-4-super-banks-got-so-big.html)

OIL: Once America had 7 big oil companies and several smaller ones. Now 4 oil companies are totally dominant and earned hundreds of billions in profits during the Bush years. When was the last time you saw gas stations compete with each other? In the 1970’s, when we still had competition, we had “gas wars”, where oil companies competed for customers by lowering their prices. Now the phrase “gas war” means something completely different: War on Iraq, war on consumers. (for more, http://greedwatch.blogspot.com/2009/01/how-5-big-oil-companies-got-so-big.html)

CARS: After getting fat selling SUVs for years, the car industry finally tanked after oil company greed convinced buyers that Hummers and monster gas hog trucks were not family cars. While they blamed workers, (again!), car company executives proposed to let 2 of the remaining 3 companies merge. Gee-that’s always worked before! Thanks to globalization and homogenization (or sameness), today we have worldwide only 9 car makers producing 100’s of virtually indistinguishable models under numerous brand names. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_badge_engineered_vehicles These 9 firms have gobbled up numerous car makers. This illusion of choice for consumers, of fake competition by corporate monopolies, is another phony symbol of economic well-being. More monopolization is not the solution—innovation and ending our addiction to oil is. (for more, http://greedwatch.blogspot.com/2009/01/monopolization-of-worlds-car-industry.html)

AEROSPACE AND DEFENSE: Among the companies that help defend America, seven of the top ten defense contractors in 1995 are owned by three now. (for more, http://greedwatch.blogspot.com/search/label/Aerospace%20and%20Defense%20Contractors)

FINALLY, TV AND THE MEDIA: In 1984, we had 50 media companies serving up most of our news and entertainment, as the famous book on media consolidation, the Media Monopoly, concluded. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Media/CommunCartel_Bagdikian.html Now we have 5 companies controlling virtually everything we see or hear. Lest we forget, the taxpayers own the TV and radio airwaves. The big 5 media merely have a license to use the airwaves. Early in the Bush years, hardly anyone with a dissenting view could be found on the many TV and cable channels owned by the big 5. For more history of media monopolism:

A huge thank you is deserved by google.com, which has made it possible for millions of Americans for free to create websites and post videos on their YouTube site to spread the stories that the big-5 media has ignored. Advertisers have discovered that viewers and readers have deserted other media and get much of their news and entertainment through the internet, thereby they are giving their ad dollars to internet sites that are not controlled by the Big-5. Google and YouTube were key to breaking the Big-5 Media’s monopoly and have brought democracy back to the corporate dominated media landscape. And Google accomplished this entirely without a government bailout.

My hope for the Obama years is that enterprising Americans come up with more innovations that further break the monopoly strangleholds on other areas of American business.