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That's a serious question.

For my entire life, I've assumed that Capitalism, an economic philosophy, and Democracy, a form of government, co-existed peacefully in the United States. The will of the market and the will of the people worked together, mostly symbiotically, to advance our common interests, creating opportunity and rewarding initiative while providing safety nets and protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

Government and business filling different, mutually reinforcing roles.

But now, I am starting to realize that this is not a symbiotic relationship.There is no actual peace; rather, there has been what you might call an uneasy truce. Government imposes regulations on industry only as far as industry permits it to. Via extensive lobbying and, increasingly, the direct shaping of elections, industry is beginning to flex its political muscles to the extent that everyday citizens -- voters -- will soon be largely irrelevant to the outcomes of elections.

Am I paranoid? Am I a conspiracy theorist? No, I am neither. In fact, I've discounted the tin-foil-hat-wearing crowd more times than I can count. But the evidence is becoming overwhelming that a new effort is taking shape within the forces of industry to seize control of the government -- OUR government -- as quickly as it can. Maybe not overtly, but it will have enough influence that the government will no longer be "of the people, by the people, for the people."

Some examples:
1. Owners and directors of corporations large and small are beginning to influence, intimidate, and threaten their employees into voting for the Republican party. http://www.cnbc.com/...
http://www.cnbc.com/...
http://inthesetimes.com/...

2. Republican Congressmen, like Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), are publicly suggesting to business owners that they direct their employees to vote for the GOP. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

3. GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney asked employers to instruct their employees how to vote in the upcoming election. http://thinkprogress.org/...

4. Companies loyal to Republican politicians, if not partly owned by Republican politicians, are now building, owning, and operating electronic voting machines and directly collecting the vote tallies before the election boards see them! http://www.politicususa.com/...

The pattern seems fairly clear and, frankly, alarming. Democracy, where the PEOPLE choose their government, is not compatible with Plutocracy, where the government is controlled by a small number of very wealthy and powerful people.

Capitalism run amok has lead to unprecedented levels of wealth concentration in the United States. This wealth concentration has lead us to this point, where a small number of business owners can coerce thousands, if not millions, of their employees to vote into office a set of politicians who are favorable to further shifting power from the government to industry.

That leads directly to Plutocracy IF WE DO NOT ACT SWIFTLY.

You and I have no say in how corporations are run, but we DO have a say in how our government is run. As long as we insist that our government be accountable solely to us, the people, we can direct it to maintain a healthy relationship with industry and our corporations. But, if we permit the government to cede too much power to those industries that are now seeking to usurp control, we are surely on a path that has no corrective measure but outright revolution.

We can avoid that. We MUST avoid that. But to do so, we must not give the government over to the party that industry is so confident will be a partner in the wholesale dismantling of our representative Democracy. The Republican party wants nothing more than a private take-over of all things public. That is not in your best interest and it is not in mine. Your vote this November is your best tool for ensuring that we, the people, retain our voice.

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Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 09:57 PM PST

The Great Conspiracy

by craigf

I'm not a conspiracy-minded man. Really. Most people and groups are too incompetent to manage any endeavor so complex and nefarious as to merit the title of conspiracy. But one exception is starting to become clear, and it's being perpetrated by conscienceless corporate power-brokers.

As a business professor, I'm both intellectually and professionally curious about how business should work, what it should accomplish, and how it should get along with government.  When I think about the long-term implications of corporations having so much influence over government, it starts to become scary.

Laws control people. Governments control laws. And people are supposed to control governments, just to make a nice, virtuous circle.  However, if corporations control governments (as they already do to a huge extent), and "the people" have very little control over corporations (see what influence those 100 shares you own get you at the next board meeting), then that circle becomes a unidirectional line, with business at the top and everything else at the bottom.

And the recent wave of Republican muscle-flexing is clearly, obviously aimed at supporting the eventual control of everything by corporations. Why? Money. And power. Well, there's not much difference between those, since they mutually reinforce each other...have one and you'll get the other, etc., etc.

Let's take a look at recent events to work through a hypothetical.  First, GOP governors want to end labor's rights to organize while simultaneously giving big tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy (who are almost universally tied to corporations). This is exactly the same kind of "wealth redistribution" Obama talked about, and which the Right decried as an abomination, during the 2008 election, but in the opposite direction. As labor rights decrease, so do wages and benefits....i.e., wealth. But where does that wealth go? It stays with the corporation, which no longer is forced to distribute that to its employees. If it's a good corporation, that newly conserved wealth gets distributed instead to shareholders, which are generally the wealthiest 10% already. So, now you have wealth from the working poor and middle-class being transferred to other corporations and wealthy individuals.

But that's not the most nefarious part. Not even close. By undermining the tax base, Republicans get to reduce social services and spending on public education. This drives states and local governments to lay off teachers and consolidate schools. That drives the number of kids per class up and the number of extracurricular learning activities and educational materials down. As a result, overall educational quality drops for all those kids not fortunate enough to be able to afford private school. And who would those be? Yep, the kids of the working poor and middle-class.

So these kids get a crappy education, which means it's harder to get into a good college. Not even state schools will be able to take them because they're having to cut rolls or raise tuition (and limit scholarships), if not both, as a result of these same GOP efforts to reduce support for public higher education.  And not to mention the reduction in federal and state education grants, which isn't a universally Republican thing.  This means these kids will have less of a chance to get a good education and will have a harder time competing for the most desirable jobs. Instead, who will get those good jobs? The kids of the wealthy...the ones who initially benefited from the major redistribution of wealth.

This entrenches that wealth transfer by creating a permanent underclass, who are locked into menial and low-paying jobs by virtue of no realistic way to acquire a decent education (the only way most people move up through the socioeconomic hierarchy).  The less they earn, the less taxes their communities generate, which means even less money for education, and the cycle into entrenched poverty is complete.

Also, as voting tendencies correlate with income, the growing number of poor will have less and less influence as to who is making the laws that define their society.  And, Citizens United already granted corporations some citizen-like, or at least person-like, rights that can greatly influence elections. Since these undereducated masses will have little ability to think critically about the information being provided to them, and the "news" networks will continue to use their bully pulpits to push agendas that benefit themselves first and foremost, there's little chance that the masses will get access to good, critical information. And, even if they did, what's the chance they'd be able to comprehend it?  After all, isn't that Dancing with the Stars controversy much more interesting?

You may think I'm being melodramatic. Or that I have a conspiratorial streak in me after all. You could be right...but what if I am?  Education is the fundamental linchpin that holds society together. If we let corporations undermine that, as they are indirectly starting to, we are lost.

Discuss

As a native SW Ohioan, I've been following our two local House races:  Driehaus (D) vs. Chabot (R-Inc.) in OH-01 and Wulsin (D) vs. Schmidt (R-Inc.) in OH-02.

I was fairly convinced that both the Dems were safe bets until I saw a Driehaus ad tonight that claimed, right at the end, "Steve Driehaus supports English as the official language."

And I thought "whaaaat??!?"

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Like many of you, a lot of things in my life have received a lot less attention from me than normal, and I blame this dad-burned election; it's taking up way too much of my time.  My wife claims I'm obsessed.

I wondered about that...am I?

So I've pulled together a quick self-diagnosis quiz:  10 easy questions that will help you determine if you're truly obsessed, or merely intensely interested.

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I'm writing this diary so as to pass on some useful knowledge I gained tonight:  Just because your local paper endorses McCain, do not assume the entire corporation is in the GOP's pocket.  Sometimes it is, but not always.

On Saturday, the Cincinnati Enquirer endorsed John McCain (interesting sidenote: they endorsed John McCain, NOT the McCain-Palin ticket; in fact, Sarah Palin wasn't mentioned a single time in the 24-paragraph endorsement. Curious, no?). The paper endorsed Bush both times, so this wasn't much of a surprise.

But then I went to a bad place (i.e., conspiracy thinking): I suspected Gannett, the owner of the Enquirer, of influencing all its outlets. After all, Gannett's senior execs make many millions a year in total compensation, so they are motivated personally by McCain's tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy.  

So, were Gannett's papers endorsing McCain significantly more frequently than the localities in which they were located?

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Wed Oct 22, 2008 at 07:58 PM PDT

I Am So, So Tired of this Campaign

by craigf

I hate to admit it, especially to the frothing throngs here at DK, but I am absolutely exhausted.

For nearly two years, now, I have kept vigil over the political landscape and followed the candidates as if they were my favorite soap opera stars.

For the past two months, I've stressed over poll numbers, groused publicly about the latest idiotic thing so-and-so said, advised and debated friends and family on issues and individual merits, boobie-trapped my yard sign, and canvassed my and surrounding neighborhoods.

I've given money, time, energy, attention...and now I just want it all to stop.

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In the weeks running up to the 2004 presidential election, my yard sign was often pilfered and/or destroyed.  After the 4th time, I had had enough, and rigged up a fairly simple alarm to help protect my sign.  This post documents how to do it in case you're facing your own First Amendment-hating neighborhood antagonists.

What You'll Need
   • Duct tape
   • A wire hanger
   • Fishing line (string or twine can also be used)
   • A personal alarm (more on this below)

sign_alarm1

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It's glorious in its puffery...you'd think it was written for People:

WASILLA, Alaska (AP) -- Levi Johnston, who's having a baby with Gov. Sarah Palin's daughter, can't believe all the things he's hearing.

No, he wasn't held against his will on the campaign trail. No, he's not being forced into a shotgun wedding with 17-year-old Bristol Palin.

"None of that's true," Johnston, 18, said in a rare interview with The Associated Press. "We both love each other. We both want to marry each other. And that's what we are going to do."

But wait...there's more...

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I was reading the recap of stories about the campaigns' stops in Southern Ohio and came across this gem buried deep in an article about Sarah Palin's visit to a high-dollar fundraiser Friday morning:

"It's great to have here here," Hartmann said. "What a great cheerleader for our ticket, because we've got a lot of work to do."

So there you have it.  Greg Hartmann, a candidate for county commissioner, basically equated the VP nominee on his ticket to a member of a high-school pep rally squad.

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Fri Oct 10, 2008 at 10:22 PM PDT

Obama Visits Cincinnati...in Pictures

by craigf

Barack Obama came to Cincinnati on Thursday, October 9th and visited one of our city's most attractive places...Ault Park.  On an immaculate Fall day, a crowd of roughly 15,000 people waited, some over 4 hours, to hear this future US President speak.  Below are some of the nearly 400 photographs I took at the event.

A Cincinnati Enquirer story gives more details about the rally.  It even includes a video of some of Obama's speech highlights (couldn't embed the video here...sorry).

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Tonight, in the VP debate, both sides laid claim to being part of the middle class.  Joe Biden made many references to his Scranton roots.  Sarah Palin went so far as to suggest that "hockey moms and Joe Six-Packs" should band together with her.

But which of these candidates is really more similar to the middle-class everyman they are trying to appeal to?

The answer may surprise you.

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I've been thinking that it might be nice to have some appropriate theme music for all the drama surrounding the bailout.

Given that the future of the legislation is pretty uncertain right now, you could take this a lot of different ways.  We could mourn over the fact that we're here, be angry at whomever got us here, muse about what the future may hold, or just make light until they come and kick us out of our homes.

So, what should it be?  We have lots of choices...vote on yours below.

Poll

What Should the Bailout Theme Song Be?

20%31 votes
32%49 votes
17%26 votes
1%2 votes
8%12 votes
0%1 votes
0%1 votes
4%6 votes
0%0 votes
1%2 votes
2%3 votes
3%5 votes
4%6 votes
3%5 votes

| 149 votes | Vote | Results

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