Money can’t buy love, but apparently money buys litigation.

Finance Sector Gave 51 Percent More to House Bailout Backers

The Center for Responsive Politics is reporting members of the House of Representatives who supported bailing out the financial sector have received 51 percent more in campaign contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sector in their congressional careers than those who opposed the emergency legislation.

Democracy Now! headlines from September 30, 2008

Immunity-Backing Dems Netted Higher Share of Telecom Donations

[A] new analysis shows Democratic Congress members who changed their vote to support immunizing telecom companies in last week’s FISA bill have on average received thousands more from phone companies than those Democrats who have voted consistently against immunity. Ninety-four Democrats voted against immunity as recently as March but changed their votes to support it last week. According to, these Democrats have received an average $8,000 in telecom contributions over the last three years. The 116 Democrats who remain opposed to immunity received on average nearly $5,000.

Democracy Now! headlines from June 25, 2008 also has analysis on “FISA Flipfloppers”.

Links to relevant research has been added.

Real debates need more candidates and more views

Lawrence Lessig calls for “Open Debates”:

  1. The presidential debates are for the benefit of the public. Therefore, the right to speak about the debates ought to be “owned” by the public, not controlled by the media.
  2. “Town hall” Internet questions should be chosen by the people, not solely by the media.

and expands on these principles in his letter signed by 23 people.

A much better Open Debates is found online at Lessig’s call to action is timid and doesn’t address the most salient problem with the Commission on Presidential Debates (or CPD) “debates”—the slim distance between the only two participants allowed on the floor makes for a very narrow discussion. Allowing any candidate who has enough ballot access to theoretically win the presidency would change the debates from a predictable snoozefest to being something worth watching.

The CPD “debates” were designed to only allow in the Democratic and Republican nominees. Under the CPD’s leadership the candidates never face questions outside the range of allowable debate:

  • pro-war—whom shall we bomb or invade instead of whether we go to war; if you’re poor and your children are headed to the military to try and get a government-funded college education, these two candidates are asking you where you want your children to die: Iraq (McCain), Afghanistan (Obama), or Iran (McCain/Obama). If Obama gets his way, Pakistan may be on the list as well.
  • anti-universal single-payer health insurance—McCain’s comment in the first CPD “debate” (“I want to make sure we’re not handing the health care system over to the federal government which is basically what would ultimately happen with Senator Obama’s health care plan.”) was intended to be a dig at Obama but it fell flat because Obama is just as much against single-payer universal health insurance as McCain. This despite recent CBS and CNN polls that 60-64% of Americans want “guarantee[d] health insurance for all”.
  • pro-corporate bailout—neither candidate needs to explain clearly why it’s the American public’s job to take on the loans the lending institutions don’t want to carry, nor any clear guarantee of responsibilities should we bail them out. Instead viewers get more talk along the lines of how quickly we must engage what is called the “rescue” legislation. Should this not work, will the Democrats come to the corporation’s rescue again and call off any talk of investigation or trial like they rescued Pres. G. W. Bush by taking impeachment “off the table”?
  • Expressing outrage at Russia for an illegal invasion without acknowledging recent illegal American invasions.

I’m for placing the raw footage in the public domain but increased access to these recordings won’t address any of the more important life and death/big money issues above. And to Lessig’s second principle: it’s trivially easy for the CPD to game that system with shills who won’t ask questions outside the allowable range of debate. Other candidates in real debates would bring up issues and views that the corporate-funded candidates don’t want to answer and offer the American public better perspectives on important issues of the day.

Update (2008-10-12): Amy Goodman’s column focuses on this issue as well providing more background on the CPD (audio, transcript).

Job-based health insurance premiums double while speculators profit

Democracy Now! has the scoop: (link added)

In healthcare news, a new study says job-based health insurance premiums have doubled in the last decade. The Kaiser Family Foundation says the increase far out-paces the accompanying rise in inflation over the same period.

Read the full report (PDF, local copy of PDF, HTML)

Keep that in mind when you hear the President tell us

The government’s top economic experts warn that without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic, and a distressing scenario would unfold. More banks could fail, including some in your community. The stock market would drop even more, which would reduce the value of your retirement account. The value of your home could plummet. Foreclosures would rise dramatically. And if you own a business or a farm, you would find it harder and more expensive to get credit. More businesses would close their doors, and millions of Americans could lose their jobs. Even if you have good credit history, it would be more difficult for you to get the loans you need to buy a car or send your children to college. And ultimately, our country could experience a long and painful recession. Fellow citizens, we must not let this happen.

and corporatists from the Democrats and Republicans tell us the same.
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…but do we have the will to preserve our software freedom?

Bruce Byfield is writing good sense about free software, and he asks a good question: do we have the will to pursue our freedom or will we settle for something less than full control of our computers? We should want freedom not just because it gives us all sorts of practical advantages but because we can treat other people with the respect they deserve too. We can share with friends, even if we’re not terribly technical users (that’s what aggravates proprietary software developers, or so we’re told). One can’t ethically defend constraining another’s freedom to share and modify even if one has no interest in doing so.

When AIG funds campaigns who benefits?

According to, AIG was happy to fund Democrats and Republicans:

Of all the companies making headlines this week, AIG has been the most nonpartisan in its contributions, splitting evenly the $9.7 million it has contributed over time. Sen. Chris Dodd, chair of the Senate banking committee, has racked up the most from AIG, with a total of $281,400, while Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of both the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, takes second with $116,400. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama collected $103,000 and $82,600 from AIG, respectively.

So now you know where some of AIG’s money went. Maybe now that a majority of AIG is nationalized (see, socialism is okay now! It all depends on who the beneficiaries are!) their campaign contributions will change.

Probably not.

Nader: I predicted Fannie/Freddie bailout 8 years ago

“Nader Rips Mae and Mac,” declared the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal on June 16, 2000. “Ralph Nader, warning of a potential taxpayer bailout similar to the savings and loan crisis, urged lawmakers to cut government benefits to mortgage-market giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – which he called ‘poster children for corporate welfare.'”

This year Nader, who is also running for president as an independent, is getting credit for his prescience.

“Give one presidential candidate credit for identifying the problem and getting the policy right – and doing so before the twin government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went into the tank in mid-July,” wrote Lou Dubose in The Washington Spectator on Aug. 1. Dubose went on to quote Nader’s June 15, 2000 Congressional testimony about HR 3703, a bill that would have reigned in some of the most dangerous tendencies of GSE’s, had it passed.


Be sure to read Nader’s “10-point plan to cool off the financial markets meltdown”

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Ralph Nader remembers Peter Miguel Camejo

Ralph Nader remembers a champion of social justice and former running-mate Peter Miguel Camejo. Camejo died this past Saturday, as his gubernatorial website put it, “due to the aggressiveness of his cancer and the strength of the drugs used to combat his disease”.

I remember seeing Peter Camejo on TV in 2003 debate to become California’s governor in the recall election. I was impressed: He spoke with concision and eloquence, made Progressive arguments for social ills—not surprisingly the same list of ideas Ralph Nader defends in his current presidential campaign. I also remember laughing as Arianna Huffington referred to Camejo as a “spoiler” in a televised debate while they were competing against hundreds of other candidates, some of whom were invited to be part of that debate. In late September 2003 I enjoyed a small bit of schadenfreude when she dropped out and he continued his candidacy to the end of the race. I’m glad I voted for him for US Vice President.

Magnatune makes it easy to find new music from a publisher that treats you right

John Buckman at has updated the Magnatune home page to include the 100 most recently released albums at Magnatune. This should make it easier to find their latest music if you visit their homepage.

How does Magnatune treat you right? They offer their catalog:

Try some new music from a record label that’s not out to sue you when you treat friends like friends.

Update (2008-12-25): Magnatune has sweetened the deal with their subscription all-you-can-eat model by reducing the minimum subscription period to 1 month. Since you pay for the subscription per month, this change basically eliminates the minimum subscription period.

Corporate welfare today: Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac

Putting to rest any belief about the market being “free”, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced another taxpayer-sponsored bailout of an American corporation yesterday. Reminiscent of the recent Bear Stearns bailout, the beneficiaries are also private corporations: Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Together, Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee just under half of the country’s $12 trillion in mortgage debt:

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven in our financial system that a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil in the financial markets here at home and around the globe. This turmoil would directly and negatively impact household wealth, from family budgets to home values, to savings for college and retirement. A failure would affect the ability of Americans to get home loans, auto loans and other consumer credit and business finance. And a failure would be harmful to economic growth and job creation. That is why we have taken these actions today.Henry Paulson, 8 September 2008

A free market would allow all mismanaged business to fail and their higher-ups suffer the slings and arrows of competition, just like the government routinely does for small businesses. So the question is who gets the benefit of business-friendly government largesse, not whether we have a free market.

[W]e’re watching the death of the free market ideology. It hasn’t been announced. But increasingly, the policies, the way we talk, the way we make legislation all but formally abandons the notion that the market can do it right, the government will do it wrong, and that government intervention is a bad idea. It turns out that government intervention is a bad idea, unless you want and need money from the government, in which case it becomes a fine idea, and bring on the government cash. So it might be unfortunate when somebody who’s having a tough time in their life wants a free piece of cheese, but when a bunch of executives want a free $100 billion, it turns out that’s the kind of government intervention we can all get behind, we can all believe in.Max Fraad Wolff (audio, video, transcript)

Candy everybody wants?

Chris Blizzard celebrates Lawrence Lessig’s recent pro-Obama remarks noting how “positiv[ity]” and “Not talking about differences or what the other guy is doing” are the characteristics that make Lessig’s closing so good. Lessig’s remarks seem to be available exclusively in Flash format. I don’t have a Flash player because I find Flash to be annoying and there isn’t yet any good way to delineate what a Flash player should be able to access (what information it should be allowed to convey to a website, for instance). So I’ll take it from Blizzard’s blog that Lessig’s quote is accurate.

I hope the rest of what Lessig has to say isn’t as devoid of substantive content as his ending. I’m reminded of Obama’s sloganeering: “Hope” and “change” are not policies.

If anyone honestly discusses “what the other guy is doing” they’d reveal the unbroken pattern that the two corporate-funded candidates have so much in common on the most important issues of the day that their similarities dwarf their few differences. This is not surprising when you consider that both parties get their money from the same sources, both dialing for the same dollars. Anyone who seriously undertook this endeavor would also understand how neither candidate ever offers what the American public wants. From ending wars of aggression, to investigating and impeaching those who backed such wars, a strong universal single-payer health care system, strong working and air/water environment restrictions, to real food safety regulation, polls show us that these are among the things the US public wants but are famously “off the table” for those in power.

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