Sunday, December 19, 2010

For Firebaggers, When the Unicorn is Enough


One day, making tracks
In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax
And a South-Going Zax.
And it happened that both of them came to a place
Where they bumped.
There they stood.
Foot to foot.
Face to face.
"Look here, now!" the North-Going Zax said,
"I say! You are blocking my path.
You are right in my way.
I'm a North-Going Zax and I always go north.
Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!"
"Who's in whose way?" snapped the South-Going Zax.
"I always go south, making south-going tracks.
So you're in MY way!
And I ask you to move And let me go south in my south-going groove."
Then the North-Going Zax puffed his chest up with pride.
"I never," he said, "take a step to one side.
And I'll prove to you that I won't change my ways
If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!"
"And I'll prove to YOU," yelled the South-Going Zax,
"That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax
For fifty-nine years!
For I live by a rule
That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School.
Never budge! That's my rule.
Never budge in the least!
Not an inch to the west!
Not an inch to the east!
I'll stay here, not budging!
I can and I will If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!"

Well... Of course the world didn't stand still.
The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax
And left them there, standing un-budged in their tracks.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Fork in the Road

Flint, MI is a town of about 39 square miles, much of which is abandoned. In some suburban neighborhoods, one or two residents remain, surrounded by houses going to seed, harboring rats and criminals. The federal government's plan is to build new pocket communities around the best and most populated housing stock, in some cases moving people from isolated run down areas to where they can become part of a tighter, newer community. The rest of the structures will be razed and the land returned to nature.

Flint is particularly hard hit, but there are many towns across America that have suffered shrinkage. Flint is considered an experiment. If successful, other towns will be tackled this way.

If I'm a greedy corporate executive from a multi-industry conglomerate (let's say GE), what do I hear in this news story? Opportunity.

Federal government, I would say, show me one of these towns. Don't spend your resources destroying salvageable housing stock. Give us the whole town and let us reanimate it. It will be a grand experiment in total privatization. We will run the schools, utilities, parks, all the things that used to be public.

We will also employ people and give them a reason to live here and money to spend here. Our diverse line of businesses and the businesses that spring up to serve our employees will give whole families employment opportunities. Welcome back to the middle class. It will be in our corporate interest to keep this American town and its citizens thriving because its $gain is our $gain.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

How does this play out? If you know the story of company towns of a hundred years ago, you have some idea. It's not just Jack Welch Community Park, though it's that, too.

All the businesses in an isolated company town enter the town and continue to exist there at the pleasure of the dominant employer/landowner and probably pay a fee to GE. This is not like taxes paid to a local government. A government is us, it exists to benefit everyone. GE does not.

GE directly determines your rent and cost of utilities and strongly influences your other costs. In old company towns, the company didn't allow any other businesses in, but today's model will have chain stores just like other towns. To pay fees to GE, stores raise their prices. As in the original company towns, average residents find that their money doesn't go very far. You may even go into debt just to keep up. Did you know that one of GE's most profitable companies has been the one offering credit?

The town is so isolated that it is impractical to rely on other towns for daily needs. Gas is expensive, too; many will give up their cars since they have short commutes, further restricting their options.

Homeownership is not an option since GE owns all the land. GE will build barracks for the minimum wage workers who serve the town executives.

School curriculum, local news, and TV service will all have an undercurrent supporting consumerism and corporatism.....oh, wait. Well, there's always the free and neutral internet.

GE will offer college scholarships to the brightest kids in return for a promise to work for GE after graduation. Few others will be able to afford college.

You will be required to have medical checkups as a condition of employment. This is perfectly legal. Basic medical services will be offered by company doctors, and there are no secrets. Failing health will be a reason for dismissal.

There will be no mayor, town council, or civic betterment groups. There will be only customer service. And a long wait. Unless you are an executive, your creature comforts are not a high priority. Be glad you have a job.

Nobody in this town sues GE or its top executives. No lawyer for miles would take the case. You've heard the expression "the company owns the law in this town." In this town, the company IS the local law.

Discharge from GE, whether by firing or retiring, means you are expected to leave town and everyone you know. Or if you run a supporting business, GE may evict you from your business premises. You will have no home equity, maybe no car. If you are lucky, you won't be in debt to GE, but you likely won't have a lot of savings.

You are an itinerant worker. You are like a knight or craftsman offering services to whichever feudal lord will have you. You don't have many choices in your life.

To recap:
GE offers to reclaim a dying town, takes over ownership of all the land at no cost, offers bare services to people who live there, runs the town to benefit itself, and takes no responsibility for people once they no longer work there.

Still sound good?

Now imagine a different scenario. I'm one in a network of rich community-minded philanthropists. Maybe I'm George Soros. Maybe I'm one of these people. What do I hear in the story of Flint? Opportunity.

Federal government, I would say, show us one of these towns. Don't spend your resources destroying salvageable housing stock. Give us the whole town and let us reanimate it. It will be a grand experiment in democracy. The community will run the schools, utilities, parks, libraries, city hall, and other public functions.

Democracy-minded companies will want to locate here for the quality of people it attracts and the quality of life that is possible for all employees. We will encourage and celebrate local entrepreneurship and innovation, encourage local ownership and exchanging ideas. In this community, we are all producers and all consumers. Welcome back to the middle class. It will be in our interest to keep this American town and its citizens thriving because its gain is our gain, not just in a material sense but also quality of life.

How does this play out? Quite differently. The town will be designed from the ground up to be livable, energy efficient, modern, economically integrated, and to encourage community interaction. There will be no gated communities.

Businesses in this town all agree to abide by rules of good corporate citizenship, including promoting green operation and local products. Large companies that want a subsidy to come into the town are turned away. Without big chain stores there are some inconveniences at first, but local residents step in to fill the gaps.

Utilities and other public services are priced based on cost, with extra cost charged for being inefficient and bonuses for superefficiency.

The town will use taxes to pay for operating expenses and a reserve, aka a rainy day/investment fund.

Because the town is isolated, the community will organize van pool trips to popular destinations. Riders will be charged a fee, which may be subsidized in whole or in part based on income.

A community bank will handle the gradual transfer of ownership of homes from the municipality to citizens. The profits from the sale of land will be used to modernize the town, put in parks, walking and riding paths, a community college and community hospital if new ones are needed, and anything else required. Low-cost housing will be scattered among other housing.

The community will offer college scholarships to deserving kids in return for a promise to work for the community after graduation. Everyone will be able to afford at least the community college.

Citizens will pay a flat fee for health care as part of their taxes. Doctors will work for the community hospital, and their records will be private.

There will be a mayor, town council, and school board elected from among residents, plus public police, fire, and judicial departments.

If you are unemployed and want to stay in town, you will be able to search a central community hiring board and post your resume there (if you still have a job and want to post your resume anonymously, you can do that too). In the meantime, you may choose a part-time volunteer job to get you out of the house. If you are unemployed or partially disabled, you can get a local business scholarship toward job retraining to get you into a new career. The community bank will temporarily reduce or freeze your mortgage with no penalty, and other subsidies will be available for living expenses if UI runs out.

There will be a neighborhood with a concentration of wheelchair-accessible homes, and there will be regular transportation and other services concentrated here. Anyone may live here, but preference will be given to people who will benefit most from these features.

You are a member of a community. You matter. Your community provides support for those who need it but mainly focuses on maintaining a good quality of life. This is not socialism, but if there is more government involvement than you want, don't live here. You have a choice.

To recap:
A democratic philanthropy offers to reclaim a dying town, takes over ownership of all the land at no cost, transitions it to the people who live there, uses the proceeds to build up community infrastructure, includes all kinds of people, even those not contributing economically, and supports local businesses.

This is the fork in the road, people. Which way are we going?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why Is the GOP Acting Like Terrorists?

Part 2 in an ongoing effort to reclaim the narrative and put the GOP on the defensive.

President Obama and the Republicans in Congress just did some tough negotiating. When both sides were pushed to the wall, this is what they fought for the hardest:

Obama: extension of UI, tax cuts for poor and middle class, tax credits for job creation
Republicans: tax cuts for richest 2%, estate plan benefits for the richest 1/2 of 1% (not reducing the deficit, as they claim)

The public consistently does not want tax cuts for the rich, but the GOP clearly does not care what the public wants. Its true constituency is fatcats and no one else, and it is willing to hold every man, woman, and child in America and the financial health of America itself hostage to get even more money for fatcats. Even though they already have most of America's wealth and income, a gift from the tax code.

This is what was happening a week ago:

Dateline December 2010, America Held Hostage, Day 4

A band of 42 terrorists is shutting down the legislative branch of the federal government until taxpayers agree to pay a 700 billion dollar ransom in large, unmarked tax cuts to the few million wealthiest people in the country.

At stake include benefits to the poorest few million people-- the unemployed, children, and the elderly—and the START treaty.

Some of the millionaire beneficiaries of this ransom have made a public appeal to the terrorists to give up this dangerous game. So far the terrorists have not budged except to go out to nice meals and home to their comfortable beds while the rest of the country waits."

What more do these terrorists want? The rest of us need government to tackle START, the debt ceiling, and try to undo the damage caused by years of sending money to the rich. What more will the terrorists want for the rich in return for allowing government to function?

Here's another thought: Where did the national debt come from? Where did it go? As the national debt grew, the wealth of the richest few grew. This is not a coincidence. The GOP likes to point out the direct disbursement of tax money to the poor and middle class in the form of UI and tax benefits, but look who has the money. Pennies thrown to the bottom is chicken feed next to the enormous wealth that has shifted to the top.

The only party really serious about reducing the national debt is Democratic. History has borne this out. The GOP has just shown, once again, that its number one allegiance is to the wealthy, and the rest of us are concessions they give to get what they want for the rich.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stuck in the Middle

We look at China with its slave wages and rampant pollution and cheap products and wonder how we can compete and still avoid sinking to their level. We must, we think, only trade with countries who maintain the same high wage and environmental standards that we do. That way, cheap Chinese goods will not be a temptation (except via smuggling).

Well guess what? Over in the EU, they are already discussing us the way we discuss China--as a problem dragging them down.

This week, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin went to Germany to propose that Russia and EU form a multi-continent free trade zone. This seems sensible for both the EU and Russia. Russia is the EU’s third-biggest trade partner. The EU is by far Russia's main trading partner, accounting for 52.3% of its overall trade turnover in 2008 Trade between the two economies was accelerating until the economic crash.

But a big appeal for everyone concerned and why Putin delivered his message in Germany, with whom we have a large trading deficit, is that forming a trade union would allow them to discard the US dollar as reserve currency.

Why should US currency be a big issue now? 600 billion reasons, namely the quantitative easing that will devalue the dollar and make our exports cheaper in Germany. Germany is not wild about that. Nor is China, but that was the point. Yet we can't affect one without affecting the other. We are stuck in the middle.

Here is another way we are stuck in the middle. We look at Asia and congratulate ourselves for our labor and environmental practices. But here is what the rest of the world sees when they look at our labor practices.

We give average workers no paid sick leave and no paid long-term illness leave. In other countries these are matters of right, as well as health care and more generous unemployment and retirement benefits. English media says more than our own media about how US workers have a raw deal and how our media enables our condition. But fewer benefits also gives the US a competitive advantage that Europe views much the way we view China's: they don't want to be dragged down to our level.

Right now we are stuck in the middle between prosperity and poverty, but the middle will not hold forever. We have to choose sides. Right now we still have a choice. And we can talk all we want about noble ideals, but the rest of the world is going to look at what we do, not at what we say. And as Vladimir Putin has shown, if we don't choose where we want to be, the rest of the world will choose for us.

By the way, my first source for the Putin news was not CNN or WaPo or even Rachel Maddow, but a blog called Check it out and follow @edwardnh on Twitter.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Has the GOP Turned Unpatriotic?

Most liberal bloggers, including me, preach to the choir. We share information, but we don't have to explain the language of liberalism to each other. If we ever want true egalitarian democracy to grow beyond a niche, we have to learn how to make arguments that independents and misled conservatives will recognize and relate to before we can ever hope to win them over. We also have to stop being defensive and put the greedy SOB corporatists on the defensive--but again, in a way that is familiar to their base and can potentially put a wedge between them and their base. We have to change the narrative. Here is a start. I chose words and spin for specific impact:

It's not what Americans expect to see. Conventional wisdom is that the right is all about military, fiscal responsibility, and patriotism. But the right has turned into something alien that true conservatives don't recognize anymore.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was willing to throw our troops under the bus for party political gain

Senior senator John McCain is still willing to undermine the military against the advice of top military leaders

Bryan Fischer criticized recent war heroes. Fischer is Director of Issues Analysis for the conservative American Family Association and spoke at the far-right Values Voter summit.

The military budget under the stewardship of the GOP has become a sticky web of corrupt contracts that do not benefit the nation or the troops. During the last decade, spending ballooned and defense contractors got rich while troops on the ground lacked basic protection.

The GOP favors hiring disreputable mercenaries who have hurt our image, our credibility, and our own troops overseas and overcharged us at home. We need soldiers who serve our country, not a thug squad for hire.

Glenn Beck, of right-wing Fox News, accused Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America, the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for veterans of the wars of the past decade, of being communists and a political front group.

EACH of the GOP presidents of the last 30 years have added to the deficit more than Democrats Carter and Clinton.

George W. Bush continued to irresponsibly overspend when the economy was good instead of setting reserves aside for a rainy day. When the rainy day came, we were already deep in debt.

A high GOP priority continues to be tax cuts for the wealthy, which raise the deficit by $700 billion and have not helped the economy. Put another way, if you told a farmer downstream that a dam upstream would give him more water, he'd look around for what you hit your head on.

Under GOP urging, the military budget has nearly tripled since 1997. Our military is larger than the next 11 countries combined, including China. (Got enough dynamite, there, Butch?) Part of why Europe enjoys a more leisurely lifestyle is that we are guarding it.

The GOP lied about the financial effects of the health care bill. The bill that passed actually reduces the budget deficit. Both the public option and single payer plans would have reduced the deficit even more.

The Bush administration (likely Karl Rove) deliberately compromised an active undercover member of the CIA, resulting in lives lost.

Senator Jim De Mint traveled abroad and urged foreign leaders not to deal in good faith with the United States government.

The right used to tell us to trust government beyond what was reasonable given human nature. Today, opinion leaders on the right from bloggers up to senators say we must never trust the government. Both extremes are impractical, but never trusting the government prevents the government from serving the people.

George W. Bush ordered inferior (and illegal) interrogation methods that damaged our anti-terrorist efforts.

There was a day when Republicans would have led the charge to try people like this for treason. Who will stand up for America today?

From other sources:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grow Up Already

I am so sick of hearing:

I don't have kids. Why should I pay for schools when I get no benefit?
I didn't get the carpet dirty. Why should I vacuum it?
Why should I pay for museums I don't go to?
Why do I have to go?
I don't want biodegradable chip bags! They're too noisy!
Because the trash can is way over therrrre!
Why do I have to subsidize sick, disabled, and unemployed people?
Why do I have to be around old people? They smell funny.
Taxes are tyranny!
I have to use my own money????

My two kids are in high school. At one time or another, each one has said (whined) the things in blue. They wouldn't dare say any of those things today. They know better. We have taught them the principles of taking care of themselves, paying their own way, and helping those less fortunate.

We don't have any greater "sense of community" in our lives than other suburbanites--probably less because we don't attend church. And yet my teens are already better citizens than the greedy and immature people whose miserly sense of worthiness stops at their own front gate.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President:

You are a brilliant and disciplined man, and I'm glad you are president. However, I'm concerned about how you see your role in the current economic fight between a wealthy few and the rest of the nation.

Your insistence on bipartisanship and compromise that is not reciprocated hark back to the passive protests of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. You seem to want to be a role model of peace and persistence. They were great men, but you are not called upon to play that role.

Dignity and passive resistance was an effective tool for civil rights in the 1960s because there were powerful people in the government (Harry Truman, JFK, LBJ, the Supreme Court) willing to stand up for the oppressed. As President, you need to step up and be the champion that the middle class has been waiting for.

You have already moved some wealth through the Stimulus and extensions of unemployment, but the wealth redistribution was positioned as other things. Health care was also helpful, but it did not change the fundamental problem. Wealth distribution is an ideological and moral issue--in this it is like Civil Rights--and in our current state of inequality, redistribution is a worthy end in itself. You need to change your language to reflect this.

Studies show that average people think our wealth distribution is closer to Sweden's than what it really is. As Champion, you must bust that myth and decry the economic inequality that exists here today (and do it frequently). You must take advantage of the easy opportunities to put things right and build momentum.

1. Let the tax cuts for the rich expire. The public supports this, and even favors letting all Bush tax cuts expire.

2. Add a greed tax to the large bonuses given to bank employees and the incomes of hedge fund managers. Hedge fund managers have wangled a capped tax that has to go.

3. Don't be afraid to shame Congressmen. Who in Congress would stand up for banker perks if they knew they would be publicly branded for it? I know the media is not your friend, and you have found clever ways to deal with this, but some of them are only after a juicy story. If you can give it to them, they'll switch sides easily enough.

There is one fundamental difference between Civil Rights and the current economic fight. Granting the same human rights to everyone lifts everyone. In contrast, there is only so much money to go around. Giving it to some means taking it from others. More wealth equality does lift the whole economy, but greedy people will never see it that way.

But not everyone is greedy. Warren Buffett has already spoken out against the unfairness of his own low tax rate. There are more millionaires who would be willing to say the same. Use them to spread the word.

It is not enough to stand against something. You need to stand for something the way you stood for health care. You have the power to change how we talk about wealth distribution in this country and to start to undo 30 years of propaganda by conservatives.

Start by refusing to extend tax cuts to the wealthy. This is not negotiable. Bail on this, and you signal that the wealthy own you.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why It is Still Bush's Fault

In the building meme to give President George Bush a better place in history than he deserves, the first shot fired across the bow was, "How can you say the economy is still Bush's fault after Obama has been in charge for two years?"

Well, let's take a look at how that works.

The responsibility for causing a problem is not the same thing as the responsibility for solving a problem. Calvin Coolidge was POTUS for most of the 1920s. He overspent, he let the balance of wealth get tipped, he oversaw the accumulation of unsupported paper wealth, and a lot of other familiar things. The Wall Street crash that launched the Depression happened less than a year after he left office. Thus, Coolidge is blamed for eight years of policies that led to the Crash.

His successor, Herbert Hoover, completely underestimated the scope of the problem left to him. He called on volunteers to help with economic problems. He let banks and other businesses go out of business, contributing to public fear and instability. He did not put more money into circulation after the crash sucked out a substantial portion of the money supply (though in fairness, the gold standard and Coolidge's overspending limited how much he could have added). Over three years, his policies turned a recession into a Great Depression, and he gets the historical blame for the Depression.

Franklin Roosevelt spent a lot longer dealing with the Depression than did Hoover: almost a decade of high unemployment, anemic economic conditions, and false recoveries. And yet, at no time did it ever change from Hoover's Depression to Roosevelt's Depression.

That's because the responsibility for causing a problem is not the same thing as the responsibility for solving a problem. Causation is fixed in the past, and the past does not change. Coolidge gets blame for the 1929 Crash even though Hoover was President at the time of the actual crash. Hoover made the economy worse, and he gets the blame for that. Roosevelt spent much longer bringing the economy back, but overall his policies caused steady economic improvement, so he gets credit for that.

Though the economic trends that led to the recent crash had built for decades, George Bush was President for the last eight critical years when the worst damage could have been prevented. Even preventing wealth siphoning starting in 2006 and limiting subprime real estate loans starting in 2007 could have turned a crash into a simple real estate slump. He absolutely deserves the blame for the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and time won't change that.

However, just to make the contrast clear, President Obama's policies have helped the economy. After the 1929 Wall Street crash, the economy went on a four-year slide. President Obama came into office less than a year after the 2008 crash. Within months, his policies were producing measurable improvements. Had the timing been different, it could have been much worse for us.

Yes, it is still Bush's fault, it will ALWAYS be Bush's fault, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Rally to Restore Balance

Throughout history, countries have tried to manage tensions between the few wealthy and the many other. It's not been true of every culture, but enough to call it a trend.

The U.S. has existed this way from its inception. For all their talk of freedom and liberty, the founding fathers created an underclass with fewer rights than they had. Even as more classes of people gained full citizenship rights, there has always been a vulnerable underclass.

Our politics has been characterized by tension between business/haves and labor/have nots. Haves are few in number but have always had more money and more resources to push their agenda. Have Nots don't have money or resources, but they are far more numerous.

I'm intentionally not saying Democrats and Republicans because these are labels that can change meaning over time. It's not about the history of a party, it's about the history of wealth trying to cement its hold on power.

When our politics are balanced, the rich don't have enough wealth to shut out the public, and the public is not organized enough to shut out the wealthy. Our economy is the most effective and prosperous then.

When the economy has shifted too far toward wealth, as it has now, the rest of the people need to come together to oppose wealth and push a more public agenda. The wealthy know this, and so they have set out to prevent this from happening.

The propaganda of the wealthy has pitted demographic group against demographic group. They have discouraged voting. They have portrayed the opposition government, the traditional champion of public rights against the excesses of the wealthy, as the enemy of the people. The mainstream media, that other traditional champion of public rights, has been meekly lured to support the wealthy through the combination of pressure from the Fox machine, the lure of business advertising dollars, and the additional lure of post-Citizens United campaign dollars. Anyone who dares disagree with the house spin on events is painted as biased, extremist, and unpatriotic.

This is the world in 2010: a world in which the wealthy have taken power and used the lessons of history to prevent a restoration of balance, even when that balance would benefit them as well. Before we can rebalance the economy, we need to do two very different things. We need to speak up and make the truth heard, and we need to join with our brainwashed brethren until we have a critical mass that can topple the wealthy.

These are two very different movements that should not be led by the same people. One is about confrontation and the other is about harmony. One shames the opposition, and the other makes it possible for members of both sides to save face.

To shout down the false propagandists, we have people like @shoq and @keitholbermann. They are passionate, they are angry, occasionally they are hyperbolic, but they are always right. Through them, I met more polite people like Rachel @maddow, @ezraklein, @karoli, @cdashiell, @StrandedWind, and more. But it's the leaders who inspire others to get involved and get the word out, and they take the heat for being in front.

Creating a critical mass of public unity is as essential as getting the truth out. Yet what major public figure other than President Obama have you heard calling for unity between sniping political groups? Who is out there building a bridge and creating a forum allowing people to work together who currently can't even listen to each other?

Jon Stewart has stepped in to fill the role of neutral unifier. He brought a quarter of a million people together in person and more watching at home. His primary message was that we're all pretty good people, we already get along and work together every day, and we can work out politics too. This is a great message and the first step to creating a critical mass of the electorate to oppose the wealthy. Positioning this message right before the election reminds voters not to be taken in by the divisive ads, which mostly come from the right.

I loved the traffic analogy. We are all anonymous in traffic, with little accountability to each other, and yet we cooperate. After creating that sense of commonality, he then reminded us that the real enemies are the jerks who cut in (the closest he came to demonizing any anonymous group).

Did Stewart completely ignore the fact that there are bad people out there who are doing terrible things to the public? Except for the traffic assholes, yes. However, it is not the place of the unifier to point this out, at least not at this stage. That is the place of the confrontational people. And they do a great job; may there be more of them.

Did Stewart completely strain credibility with false equivalencies between the confrontational people spreading truth and the propagandists spreading lies? Absolutely. Did he have to do this to get the brainwashed people to feel included? So they could save face? Perhaps, but I'd bet that at least Stewart felt he had to do this. And I think that Olbermann understands the purpose behind the slap, though a slap is never pleasant (and ok, the Scott Brown comment that Stewart used was hyperbolic and KO already apologized for that).

It's a gamble for Stewart to position himself as a unifier. He won't stop needling politicians who do dumb things, and right now the easiest political targets are all tea partiers. It will be difficult to move the people who seem proud to be "out of the fray" toward civic participation, which must happen to support real progress. He has laid the groundwork with talk of responsibility and doing what we have to do even when we don't want to.

We need a way for ordinary people to put aside their differences while saving face, come together, and trust each other enough to fight our common enemy. It won't happen in a confrontational environment. I don't know if Jon Stewart will be able to pull it off, but kudos to him for trying.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

We Have Met The Enemy

...thanks to a leak to ThinkProgress and support by RawStory re the list of invitees to a secret strategy meeting last June called by the infamous Koch brothers to plan GOP strategy for the 2010 midterms and 2012 election.

The original list is in alphabetical order by person. For those of you who want to steer your consumer dollars away from these businesses, here is the list sorted by industry:





Jack and Rose Marie Anderson

Financial Advisor

Culver Corp, Rose Marie and Jack R. Anderson Foundation- Financial Advisor

Nate and Lynda Bachman

Financial Advisor

The Bachman Group-Financial Advisor

Ken and Frayda Levy

Investment Mgmt

JLM Investment Mgmt

Cliff Asness


AQR Capital Management

Fred and Marlene Malek

Investment Mgmt

Thayer Capital Partners

Jerry and Caroline Milbank

Investment Mgmt

CEO/Principal, Milbank Winthrop & Co.

Peter Schiff and Martha O’Brien

Investment Mgmt

Schiff: Euro Pacific Capital Inc.,

Scott Kirkpatrick


Teton Capital

Jerry and Caroline Milbank

Investment Management

CEO/Principal, Milbank Winthrop & Co.

Steve and Christine Schwarzman

Financial Services

CEO/founder, Blackstone Group

Earl Wright


AMG National Trust

Cliff and Susan Yonce

Investment Banking

Goldman Sachs

Frank and Kathy Baxter


Ambassador Frank E. Baxter is Chairman Emeritus of Jefferies and Company, Inc., a global investment bank focusing on mid-cap companies.

Bill Cooper and Kristin Tollefson


CEO of TCF Financial

Tom Petrie


Co-founder of BofA Merrill Lynch Petrie Divestiture Advisors

Dennis Kuester


Retired CEO of M&I Bank

Jerry and Nanette Finger


Managing Partner, Finger Interests LTD

Charlie and Kaye Lynn Fote


Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Fotec Group LLC

Dick Strong

Investment Services

Strong/Corneliuson Capital Mgmt

Michael Sullivan

Investment Services

CR Intrinsic Investors

Lynn Tilton

Investment Management

CEO, Patriarch Partners LLC

Neil Anderson and Amy Fisher-Smith

Runs Rose Marie and Jack R. Anderson Foundation

Dan and Kellie Peters

Not-for Profit

Daniel S. Peters is president of the Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio

Foster Friess


Mr. Foster Stephen Friess is the Founder and Chairman of Friess Associates, LLC

Andre Lacy


Chairman, Lacy Diversified Industries

Bill and Sarah Walton

Real Estate

Allied Capital Corp

Dick Weekley

Real Estate

Weekley Properties

Fred and Susie Wehba

Real Estate

Bentley Forbes Real Estate

Annie Dickerson

Real Estate

CBRE analyst

Nestor Weigand and Darcy Buehler

Real Estate

JP Weigand & Sons Real Estate

Larry and Lorraine Winnerman

Real Estate

Win Win Enterprises

Patrick and Paula Broe

Real Estate

Founder and CEO of Denver-based real estate asset management firm, The Broe Group

Mike and Beth Kasser

Real Estate

President, Holualoa Inc

Dick and Mary Beth Weiss

Life Insurance

Wells Fargo, Hawthorne Rances

Howard and Rhonda Wilkins


Diversified Insurance

John Childs


Chairman and CEO of J.W. Childs and Associates

Of course there are the usual suspects--Goldman, Merrill, Blackstone. But remember Peter Schiff? He was the "it" fund manager of 2008 for predicting the 2008 crash. He wasn't right about the result (he predicted investors would flock to foreign companies like the ones in his fund; instead they flocked to U.S. treasuries), but he got a lot of points for calling the fall.

Cliff Asness at AQR straddles the worlds of retail and academic finance. The Q in AQR is Quantitative, as in the long-term, growth-oriented, academically based investing that benefits both the economy and investors--the opposite of short-term speculative investment that evaporates money from the economy into bankers' pockets. And yet here is Asness included in the speculators' club. Hmmm.

What you have here is people who can not only influence thought about the economy, particularly the market, but manipulate the market to make it conform to their predictions.





Rich and Helen DeVos


Founder and CEO of Amway

Ron and Kris Erickson


Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Holiday Companies

Dick and Ethie Haworth


Head of Haworth Furniture, Multi-national corporation, 3rd largest corporate furniture company in US

Ken and Elaine Langone


Invemed, Home Depot

Tom Love


CEO, President, Love’s Country Stores

Jack and Goldie Miller


CEO/President, Quill Corp., the largest mail-order office supply retailer in the United States with revenues of $1.3B per year and EBITDA of over 20%

Rick and Sherry Sharp


Former CEO, Circuit City

Gerry and Kathryn Kingen


Red Robin restaurants, Happy Guests Int’l

Mike and Lin Simmonds


CEO, Simmonds Restaurant Mgmt

Steve and Regina Hennessy


Auto Sales





Robin and Barbara Hayes


Former NC Congressman

John and Joan Hotchkis


Board of Directors for Teach for America UC Berkeley

Ken and Randy Kendrick


Founder, Chairman, co-owner Datatel, pvt co providing software pkg for higher ed.

Don and Deede Meyers


Self Employed

Russ Roberts


Roberts, Ashby & Parrish

Teach for America is a well-respected organization that sends young college grads to teach in the most challenging public schools--a model of public service. I can't quite imagine what that org is doing on this list. Perhaps toward privatization of education?

I think the researchers who identified these people were in a bit of a hurry because some of the notes are incomplete or outdated. I added on to a few, but be on notice as you look at these.





Stan and Karen Hubbard


Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc.

Phil and Nancy Anschutz


Industrialist, Owner, Weekly Standard, Examiner newspapers

Kurt and Nancy Pfotenhauer


President of MediaSpeak Strategies/former political commentator on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC and former Senior Policy Advisor and National Spokesperson with the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign

Steve Moore


member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board

Ramesh Ponnuru


National Review magazine

Michael Barone


Fox News

Glenn Beck


Fox News

Tim Carney


Political Columnist, Washington Examiner

Glen and Diane Meakem


Radio talk host and technology multimillionaire

Tim O’Shaughnessy


Hungry Machine, Inc., doing business as, is a social discovery and cataloging network.

Susie Coelho


founder and CEO of Susie Coelho Enterprises Inc.

Bob and Mary Sue Hawk


President of Hawk Communications

Karl and Stevie Eller


Karl Crow

Think Tank

Policy Analyst Capital Research Center

Veronique de Rugy

Think Tank

Senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center

Arthur Brooks

Think Tank

President, American Enterprise Institute

Peter Wallison

Think Tank

Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Ed Meese

Think Tank

Heritage Foundation

David and Ann Brown

Think Tank

Heritage Foundation

Susan Gore

Think Tank

Founder, Wyoming Liberty Group

James and Heather Higgins

Think Tank

Independent Women’s Forum

Ethelmae Humphreys

Think Tank

Cato Institute

Tim Phillips

Front Group

president, Americans for Prosperity

Phil and Joanna Kerpen

Front Group

VP of Policy, Americans for Prosperity

Jeff Crank

Front Group/Media

Radio Pundit and Americans For Prosperity State Director

Sean Noble

Front Group

Americans for Prosperity

Eric O’Keefe

Front Group

Sam Adams Alliance

Teresa Oelke

Front Group

State Director of Americans for Prosperity,

Mark Mix

Advocacy Group

President, National Right to Work Committee

David Chavern


Executive Vice President and COO at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Steve Twist


Rose & Allyn PR Consultants

Manley and Mary Johnson

Political Consultant

Andrew Kupersmith


MD, Cardiology Consultants

Whitney Ball


Owner of a firm that helps corporations give anonymous gifts to front groups (Money Launderer)

I love how they identify Amer for Prosperity as a front group. The "money launderer" description is mine. The Fox News people are less surprising, but the WSJ editorial board member is a clear signal (if its content wasn't clear enough) that the WSJ is no longer unbiased and no longer deserves to be respected.





David Murfin


President, Murfin Drilling Co.

Larry and Polly Nichols


Executive Chairman, Devon Energy Corp

Karen Wright


Ariel CEO

Tom Rastin


vice president of marketing and engineering, Ariel Corp

Shelby and Nell Bush


Vice President, Legal and Administration – Hillwood Energy

Corbin and Barbara Robertson


President, Quintana Minerals Corp

Alex Cranberg


Aspect Holdings, LLC – Chairman

Richard Fink

Koch Industries

Director of Georgia-Pacific, EVP of Koch Industries

Charles and Liz Koch

Koch Industries

Chase and Annie Koch

Koch Industries

David and Julia Koch

Koch Industries

Elizabeth Koch

Koch Industries

Bob and Cindy Koch

Koch Industries

Joe and Mary Moeller

Koch Industries

Vice Chairman

Richard and Leslie Gilliam


President of Cumberland Resources Corporation

Joe Craft


president, chief executive officer and director of Alliance Resource Partners LP

Kevin Crutchfield


Chief Executive Officer of Alpha Coal Sales Co., LLC.

Bob and Martha Buford


President and owner of Zenith Drilling Corporation

Alan and Lisa Boeckmann


CEO Fluor Corporation

Jim and Dorothy Patterson


Gulf Stream Petroleum

Fred and Jane Hamilton


President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of BHP Petroleum, Hamilton Oil Company and various Hamilton Oil Corporation subsid/affiliates

Dave and Melanie True



Lew and Myra Ward


Ward Petroleum Corporation engages in oil and gas exploration and production.

Don and Sue Wills


Randy and Jean Foutch


Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Laredo Petroleum, Inc.

Paul Hill


Chief Executive Officer and President of Harvard Developments Inc. since 1978.

Gerry and Priscilla O’Shaughnessy


Co-founded Geopark Holding Limited in 2002.

Jerry and Leah Fullinwider



Vice Chairman, Hillwood International Energy, L.P.

Jim and Zibbie Ferrell

Fuel Oil

Ferrellgas Partners, L.P. engages in the distribution and sale of propane and related equipment primarily in US

Melvyn and Suellen Estrin

Natural Gas

Director of WGL Holdings INC

Dave Fettig

Natural Gas

Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy

Bob Fettig

Natural Gas

Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy

Steve Fettig

Natural Gas

Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy





Peter Smith

Business Conglomerate

CEO, Services Group of America

Bernard and Margaret Blasingame


President and owner of Aqua Dynamics Systems, Inc

Budd and Lauri Florkiewicz


Foam Fabricators

Dan and Carolyn Heard


Executive Officer of John H. Carter Co.,

Allan and Kathy Hubbard

Chemicals and Manufacturing

Founder and Chief Executive Officer, E & A Industries, Inc.

Michael O’Shaunessy

Mfg Technology

Petters Consumer Brands, LLC develops consumer electronics and appliances.

Diane Hendricks


Husband of Ken Hendricks

Steve and Betty Bechtel


Owns the Bechtel Group (Corporation), Largest engineering company in United States

Jim and Shirley Dannenbaum


Mr. Dannenbaum, Chairman of Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation

Tim Oelke


Crossland Construction Corp

Boysie Bollinger


Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Bollinger Shipyards

Eric Crown and Isabella King

Technology Sales

Sell Technology Equipment

Dixon and Carol Doll


Co-Founder and General Partner of DCM




Bob Kohlhepp


Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp. Revenue in 2007 was $3.7 billion and net income was $335 million

Bob Luddy


President, Captive Aire Systems

Ray and Ladeline Thompson


President/CEO, Semitoolworld leader in the design, development, manufacture and support of high performance, precision chemical processing equipment.

Rick and Debra Waller


Owner, Rollmeister Inc

Durk Rorie


United Air Specialists

Pierce Marshall

Administrative Management


Art and Kathy Pope


Senior Exec, Variety Wholesaler

Lew and Suzy Meibergen

Food production

President, Johnston Enterprises/WG Johnston Grain Co

Chris Rufer

Food production

Morningstar Company, Ag processor

Gary and Kathleen Rogers

Food production

Former CEO, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream

Richard Roder and Karin Hsu

Construction Management

CEO, Cmt-Construction Management

Jim and Gayla Von Ehr


CEO, Zyvex Corp

Jay and Sally Lapeyre


Laitram Corp

Fred and Sandra Young


Diversified Search, LLC provides senior-level executive and corporate board search services in the United States and internationally. It provides recruitment services for various organizations in consumer and industrial, education, not-for-profit, arts and culture, financial and professional services, business, healthcare and human services, life sciences, media and entertainment, sports and leisure, energy and utilities, private equity, retail, and technology and communications industries.





Oliver and Carolyn Grace Jr.

Med and Telecom

President and chief executive officer of Anderson Group, Inc.,

Judson and Joyce Green

Energy and Med

Mr. Judson C. Green is the President and Chief Executive Officer of NAVTEQ Corp.

Peter Farrell


Founder of Resmed

Bill Mayer

Health Care

MD, Mayer & Cope Family Practice




Charlies and Marla Chandler

Paul and Lea Clifton

Runs Robert and Marie Hansen Family Foundation

Joe Woodford

Walter and Suzette Negley

Mina Nguyen

Preston Marshall

Elaine Marshall


Ned and Nancy Diefenthal

Tim Busch

Dino and Joan Cortopassi

Ravenell and Beth Curry

Marshall Johnson

Kyle and Kirsten Johnstone

Merritt Johnson

Gretchen Hamel

Steve and Polly Friess

Dick Farmer

John Bryan