Friday, September 29, 2006

Here I Am - In the Center

"What the heck is he talking about?" "He's about as left as they come, what 'center' does he think he represents?" I'll tell you what center; my own damn center.

Okay, I'm not getting all new-agey on you, I'm just trying to make a point here. The reactionary right wingers who have seized control of our country over the last decade have done it NOT by responding to what Americans believe or want, but steadfastly refusing to compromise.

Instead, they simply declared themselves to be the center. The did it loudly and repeatedly and effectively. They knew full well that they were out of step with America, but they claimed their positions represented the great center ground, and through shrewd communications skills forced the country to re-organize around them.

And so now, even with a failed president whose approval rating is a dismal 43%, most Americans still believe that the Republicans represent "the center" and buy the crap that anybody who opposes the administration is un-American and out-of-touch. (Read What's wrong with America.)

And so we deal with the consequences. The latest being the passage of the 'detainee bill' that sets human rights back about eight hundred years. Sure, there was a bit of a show of "opposition" and "dialogue" to assure us that Congress did still have the power to check and balance the president, but the end result is a "compromise" that is an insult to all civilized people.

And, yes, I said eight hundred years. While much of the mock debate on the bill revolved around conflicts with the Geneva Conventions, the final bill still allows the president to put an indefinite hold on any person suspected of being "an enemy combatant." Not proven to be an enemy content, but suspected. That, I'd say, is a bit of a conflict with the grandaddy of all common law, the Magna Carta:
No free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised, neither will we attack him or send anyone to attack him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. (39)

To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay right or justice. (40)
Oh, yeah, and in conflict with the Geneva Conventions and a few other modern laws as well. Oh, and the U.S. Constitution. Oh, and with democracy.

Not that any of that matters anymore. After all, Bush represents the might center and anybody who disagrees is an out-of-touch extremist.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Round Nine

Welcome to Round Nine of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyMr. Purpleslog begins this week's roundup with Democracy != Elections, Modern Democracies are... - Is the simple act of voting enough to say a nation is a democracy? Read and find out.

Hippo Campy presents us with The United States of Standard Deviants - including a simple chart showing the 2% of voices at each extreme of the political spectrum and the great majority in the middle, with no voice.

The Agonist (Shaula Evans) submits Princess Diana Moments. - How do those in power create "sacred narratives" that bind communities and nations together, and how is that power abused?

Phil for Humanity has something to say about Stop Pork Barrel Politics - and asks us to "imagine a government where pork barrel politics is not practiced and even illegal..."

Wa Salaam (Abu Sahajj) gives some background on Privacy and Government Snooping. - Also discussed are some pioneers in cryptology and the fight for online privacy.

Avant News informs us that there are Nearly 21 Million Iraqis Not Yet Killed (Satire). - News of the future from Donald Rumsfeld's "Office of Looking on the Bright Side."

Bill Losapio gives an accounting of False Flags (Conspiracy?) - A few of the holes in the official story of 9/11. You may dismiss them all, but there are some good questions here.

Each alternate Monday when it is time to select the posts to include here the decision gets more difficult. There were many other excellent posts, but the point of the carnival is to weed through all of them and select the best, the most relevant to the topic, and still maintain a broad array of viewpoints. I hope that you've enjoyed my selections for this week.

Thank you for joining us on our bi-weekly look at the decline of democracy (and occasionally hopeful responses to it). The next edition of the Carnival will be posted on Monday, October 9th, with entries requested by Saturday, October 7th, at midnight.

Submit your blog post for the next edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy using our carnival submission form. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Osama and Twain

By now you've heard the leaked intelligence reports that Osama Bin Laden may be dead. But then again, he might not be. Must be a slow news day.

Now, the theory is that the news of his death was made up and deliberately "leaked" in order to get him to show his face and prove that he's still alive. I suppose they expect him to make some sort of reference to Mark Twain and make a new video saying, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. Oh, and Death to America."

So far it hasn't worked. Either he's still alive and not so easily tricked into exposing himself, or he really is quite dead, or he's just not a big fan of 19th century American humorists.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

The viral nature of the 'net & a scary quiz

As you've probably heard me talk about before, my brother Steve runs a web site called Beneath Los Angeles, which is a collection of his cemetery photos of "the Famous, the Infamous, and the Just Plain Dead."

I selected about 60 of the photos, assembled them into a video, dubbed in some music, and posted it on YouTube last week. In the last couple of days I've noticed the hits to that video skyrocketing (about 3,500).

A friend provided the answer when he noticed it included on the infamous "Defamer" Hollywood gossip blog. There's also a link, and very nice write-up, on the Franklin Avenue blog, and even on the "Official" Tate-La Bianca Murders blog (due to Sharon Tate's inclusion in the video).

My fascination with YouTube, and how it can be used to communicate with lots of people quickly, continues to grow. And all I've done so far is play around and have some fun. (View the BLA video.)

Meanwhile, I took an online quiz to find out "What modern president are you most like?" Here are the terrifying results:
You Are Most Like George H. W. Bush

You're considered boring by people that don't know you well. But like Bush senior, you do crazy things. Maybe you'll end up banning broccoli in your house, or puking on the Prime minister of Japan!

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Barriers to democracy

I've said it before, but sometimes it bears repeating by somebody with a little more clout:
In no other Western democracy do third-party or independent candidates confront more obstacles and exclusions from contributing to a competitive democratic process than in the United States. These include both legal obstacles and an abject lack of media coverage.

Legal impediments include ballot access barriers, such as requiring huge numbers of verified signatures subject to arbitrary challenges by state officials, as well as a winner-take-all system without the benefit of instant runoff voting or proportional representation.
That's the opening of a recent posting on Going beyond the usual listing of barriers and complaints, Nader goes on to explain that "It was not always this way."...
In the 19th century, it was much easier for third parties to get on the ballot. Over and over, a plethora of smaller parties and their candidates challenged the major parties by pioneering major reforms that we now take for granted.

There were parties that advocated for the abolition of slavery before the Civil War and parties that championed for the right of women to vote. There were parties that fought for many reforms for workers, including the 40-hour workweek and a living wage. There were parties that demanded federal regulation of the giant corporations and monopolies and urged the graduated income tax and health and safety protections.
Ballot access and other barriers became much more difficult during the first half of the 20th century. These restrictions on third parties and independent campaigns largely remain on the books, with regular additional accretions legislated by both major parties. They do not welcome small electoral starts.
[Regarding why the media won't cover 3rd parties]:
After all, only one of the two major candidates is going to win, right? Foregone conclusion, right? Self-fulfilling prophecy, right?

These are mindsets that no open democracy can ever embrace. For down that road is stagnation, complacency, corruption and the stifling of any public expectation for renewal. Imagine if nature did not allow seeds to sprout or if laws allowed major businesses to block small entrepreneurs from emerging.
Read the full posting at, and do something about it.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Bad TV - Good TV

There's only about 50 days left till the mid-term elections, and it's about 50 days too long if I have to keep watching campaign ads. One that I've seen a few times recently is the latest from California Gubernatorial candidate, Phil Angelides.

Phil, of course, is nowhere to be seen in the ad, because nobody wants to see Phil. Instead we see Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and President George Bush. The scene is a campaign rally for Bush, and Arnold is speaking. As Arnold smirks his way through what a great president Bush will be, the sub-titles remind us of the 130,000 soldiers in Iraq, that gas prices have more than doubled, and that the national debt is out of control again (etc.).

The spot ends with the slogan, "Arnold Schwarzenegger is for George W. Bush - Is he for you?"

Alright, if you've been here before you know I'm not a huge fan of either Schwarzenegger or Bush, but what has this commercial got to say about the race for California's chief executive?

As an attempt at a negative ad, it fails miserably. It's a great negative ad if Bush were running for governor, but he isn't. Arnold has been in office a few years now, he's got a record to look at, and the worst Phil can say is "Arnold voted for Bush?" If Angelides can't think of anything bad that Schwarzenegger has done as Governor, it makes me wonder if maybe Arnold ain't so bad after all.

I've got an idea! How about Phil Angelides actually tries to tell us something positive about himself? Naaah.... that'll never work.

One of the times I saw this ad was during the premier of Aaron Sorkin's new NBC show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The opening sequence, with Judd Hirsch pulling a scene out of Network was brilliant. The rest of the hour showed promise, but the opening alone is why I will be tuning in again next week to see what else they can do.

Mik Moore, on the jspot blog, has pointed out the similarities between the Studio 60 opening episode and the first episode of Sorkin's West Wing. Basically, Aaron Sorkin, it seems, doesn't like Pat Robertson. But, Sorkin is very careful to point out that he can talk with moderate Christians. Nuance, folks - nuance.

I've been a Sorkin fan since long before West Wing - I still miss the short-lived Sports Night (1998-2000) - and am pleased to see good, crisp writing return to network TV.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Third Party Think Tank

I don't think I've posted this one before, but for the past few weeks I've been corresponding with J. C. Adamson, "The Muser," about his latest web site, the Third Party Think Tank.

He's written several essays on his positions regarding third party politics, and how he sees viable third parties could develop. J. C. is interested in getting other people involved in his site, and in possibly starting a related nonprofit organization.

This idea is similar to a site I had years ago (1999-2001, no longer active) called "the Alliance for a Multi-Party Democracy." I never really got the "Alliance" off the ground as an organization, but a few of the essays are still posted on my web site and you can still find it on the Internet Wayback Machine.

Anyway, if you are interested in third party and independent politics, check out the think tank pages, and use the response form to let J. C. know how you'd like to help out. I'll be writing a few essays for the site soon and will help out with the nonprofit, if he gets that up and running.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Gee Dub (Yeah) Blues

This is a song I wrote nearly a year ago called The Gee Dub (Yeah) Blues. I wrote it last October (lyrics posted here), but it's still relevant today.

I never got around to doing a full recording of it last year, so I just did an acoustic version on video this week to post as part of my YouTube obsession.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Republicans with balls? Or just savvy?

Much is being made today of the rift in the Republican majority as the mid-term elections are just about 55 days away. What has happened is that several key Republican Senators have rejected the administration's "security agenda" along with other Republican leaders, including former Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

At issue (again) is whether or not the Geneva Conventions should apply to terror suspects. After all, this isn't traditional warfare, and these aren't traditional prisoners of war. The battle against terrorism is a special case, requiring special tools. At least, this is Bush and his cronies would like us all to believe.

This time, however, the Democrats aren't the only ones to be pointing out the foolishness of this position. This time around, they are being joined by:
... Republican veterans of the uniformed services, arguing that the president's proposal would effectively gut the nearly 60-year-old Geneva Conventions, sending a dark signal to the rest of the world and leaving U.S. military personnel without adequate protection against torture and mistreatment.
On the one hand, this could be the beginning of the end for the chicken hawks in power, and the Republican Senators should be applauded for standing up for principal against their own party leader and president.

On the other hand, it doesn't take much guts to oppose a politician with low approval ratings when you've got an election coming in less that two months. This shrewd show of guts and distance could well be just a ploy to hold on to power through the election cycle before giving W everything he wants in December. points out that while the media has focused on where the Senate differs from the White House, what has been missed in the story is all the areas where they agree - and it's frightening. Part of the bill they did approve...
... extends this unchecked detention authority into the future: Not only non-citizens, but also U.S. citizens in the United States would be vulnerable to seizure and unending lock-up at the president's whim.

A provision of the bill defines "unlawful enemy combatants" to include those "engaged in hostilities against the United States." This definition is significant because it makes non-citizen "unlawful enemy combatants" the only category of persons subject to trial by military commission. So it might see that the definition has a limited purpose, as a gateway to commissions. But the Supreme Court in 2004 suggested that an "enemy combatant" could also be detained for the length of the relevant hostilities. The bill, in other words, could well be read not only to define who can be tried, but also who can be detained.
Detained... "for the length of the relevant hostilities." The war in Iraq may end. But the "War on Terror" is defined as an open ended fight. We must "always be on guard" against plots against us. The war on terror is not a war that ends with the surrender of a single enemy, or a decisive victory in a single battle. It is the new world order. And they can hold you indefinitely if they think you might be a danger.

Oh, sure, the Republican Senators have made a dramatic stand. Yipee. Somehow, it doesn't make me feel any safer.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

George W. Christ?

A gentleman named William "Bill" Smatt - who calls himself the Messenger of God (dot com) has written a book entitled The Messiah (subtitled: The Chosen One, Republican, Hon. George W. Bush, President of THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA).

Well, the subtitle kind of gives it all away, doesn't it? Yes, Smatt is serious. Yes, he classifies his book as non-fiction. And, yes, he's most likely insane (check out his picture on the web site).

There's not much detail posted on his site, but the folks over at the Left Bumper blog have read the book so we don't have to. From their review:
I have a copy of this waste of paper here in front of me as I write, and every time I touch it I feel just a little dirty. It's a very badly produced, large print, roughly 5x8 softcover "book" that repeatedly proclaims George W. Bush to be "the Chosen One, the Messiah". I just cant bring myself to give it a serious reading, but a quick scan shows it to be a predictably selective mish-mash of recent politics peppered with assertions of Dubya's divinity - devoid of even a Coulterian level of supporting references.

I can't even begin to imagine what sort of sinister, diseased mind would write, let alone knowingly distribute this drivel. All I can say is that it sorely tests my deep belief in tolerance and equality. There just aren't enough sanitariums in the world to hold these people, it seems.
Also on the Left Bumper site is more background on the mysterious Mr. Smatt.

This would be amusing if there weren't other people who do think W is some sort of savior sent from Heaven. Luckily, there are also smart people who put out parodies of these morons, such as the folks behind Bush is Lord (dot com), "Building a safer world, one Christian at a time."

Amen, and pass the potatoes.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Still alive? Or have you been sucked into the YouTube?

Well, it seems that the prophecies of the House of Yahweh were wrong: No nuclear war began yesterday. So, there they are now, with egg on their face.

Of course, I hadn't planned on anything to post today, just in case they were right.

Frankly, I found myself wondering this morning if this blog is worth even keeping up. Of course, I'll continue to post whether or not anybody reads it - I'm just sick in that regard.

What has me thinking this is my experience on YouTube over the last couple of weeks. I posted my first video there on September 1, and have since posted a few more. Those videos have received a total of 2,117 views (as of this morning), and already 30 people have signed up to "subscribe" to my next videos. (Click here to see my "channel" if you're interested.)

By way of contrast, this blog has only received 554 hits in the same period (September 1-12), and my subscriber base is a bit less than 30. I've been writing this blog for five-and-a-half years. I've been on YouTube less than two weeks.

I haven't fully decided what to make of this data yet, or where it will lead me in my writing, etc. While the videos I've posted so far have not been very deep (deliberately not), I am impressed by the ability to reach so many people is such a short time.

A friend the other day told me that YouTube was a "time sink." I agree. But I'm fascinated never-the-less.

What about you? Are you the only person left who actually reads? Have you started watching YouTube? Love it or hate it, the revolution is being streamed right now.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Osama Bin Laden Speaks...

From the beach in Acupulco, Mexico, comes this short video of Osama Bin Laden explaining how happy he is that Americans have decided to freak out and abandon their democracy for his sake. (video by NYProgressive)

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Round Eight

Before beginning this week's festivities, I would like to say a few words about September 11, and its relationship to this carnival.

I want to assure you that when I began this blog carnival a few months ago I did not realize that one of our regular posting dates would fall on this anniversary of a national tragedy. I considered changing the date of this round, out of respect for those murdered five years ago today.

Then, I realized that I had to post the carnival, out of respect for those who were murdered five years ago today. If, as the administration tells us, they died because of our freedoms, then the best way to honor them is to fight for our freedoms, including freedom of speech.

While the writers here typically don't agree with the current inhabitants of the White House, there is not one of them who would dishonor those killed on 9/11/01. The right to openly question our leaders' judgment is the democracy that we try to defend in these posts.

If you are offended, I apologize. But, as a wise man once said, "Free speech means having to put up with some stupid shit." Now, on with it...

Welcome to Round Eight of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyWith that long-winded introduction out of the way, I am going to dispense with some of my usual commentary, and just give you this week's postings:

Phil for Humanity gives us two postings: The Effects of Globalization on the United States of America - and - A Solution for Politicians.

Brandon Peele weighs in with Politics is Philosophy for the Intellectually Lazy.

Madeleine Begun Kane lightens the mood with The Rumsfeld Trap, Political Haiku.

Steve Faber asks Senatorial Sensorship Alive and Well?

As a final note, I would like to refer you to my original postings of September 11, 2001 and of September 12. Heck, look at the whole September 2001 archive if you like.

Thank you for joining us on our bi-weekly look at the decline of democracy (and occasionally hopeful responses to it). The next edition of the Carnival will be posted on Monday, September 25th, with entries requested by Saturday, September 23rd, at midnight.

Submit your blog post for the next edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy using our carnival submission form. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Remembering September 10th

"What's that? September 10th? Doesn't he mean September 11th?" No, I mean September 10th. Here, from Rigorous Intuition is a recollection of the events of September 10, 2001 that bear remembering:
  • The last day for suspicious trading on American and United Airlines. ... the Chicago Exchange sees the purchase of 4,516 put options on American to only 748 call - 60 times above normal. On the Pacific Exchange, the trading ratio on United is 25 times greater than normal. Later, investigators can't help but notice that no other airlines saw such trading in their put options. ...
  • The last day for suspicious trading on Morgan Stanley, one of the World Trade Center's largest tenants. Between Sept. 7 and Sept. 10, the company experiences an increase of 27 times in the purchase of put options on its shares. ...
  • Regarding the spike of unusual stock activity, Dylan Ratigan of Bloomberg says on Sept 20, "This could very well be insider trading at the worst, most horrific, most evil use you've ever seen in your entire life... This would be one of the most extraordinary coincidences in the history of mankind if it was a coincidence." ...
  • Mohammed Atta calls Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the operational planner of 9/11, and receives final approval for the attacks. The call is monitored and translated by the US, though how quickly is unknown, as are the contents of the conversation. ...
  • As reported in Newsweek, on September 10 a number of senior Pentagon officials cancel their commercial flights for the following morning due to security considerations. ...
  • A FEMA team arrives in New York City for the "Tripod II" bioterror exercise. Before the 9/11 commission, Rudy Giuliani acknowledged that the FEMA camp was already in place to receive victims of the attack, and was larger and better equipped than the NYC terror response unit that was lost in the collapse of WTC building 7. ...
Not that I want to help spread conspiracy theories or anything, but you might want to look at the full timeline posting at Rigorous Intuition.

Of course, if thinking about September 10 and 11 have got you down, you could look forward to September 12. That's the day when the House of Yahweh says that the nuclear war is set to begin. But don't worry, odds are you'll survive the start and linger to perish a bit later on:
Beginning September 12, 2006 nuclear war will start that will kill a third part of man over a forth part of the earth; but that is not the end. The end will come thirteen months later with four-fifths of the population destroyed. Yes, the sin-filled religions are supporting their sinful governments to prepare for a mass slaughter. The Savior said the world would engage in nuclear war that will darken the sun.
You may laugh at this prophecy today - but come Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning, you'll be searching through your web browsing history trying to find that link to see what's coming next. If, that is, you've managed to be among the initial survivors.

Enjoy the weekend. Or, what's left of it, anyway.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

"We're here not to agree but to hear each other"

Over the Labor Day weekend, more than 250 Jews, Muslims, and Christians from the Mid-East, Northern California, and elsewhere, gathered in the woods of Tuolumne County, California, near Yosemite National Park, to talk about peace.

Len and Libby Traubman have been running a group for local Palestinians and Jews in San Mateo, CA since the early 1990s to try and create a dialogue for peace. They began the camp three years ago because, as Len says, "Government itself can't do it. It doesn't have the consent or the will or the imagination."
Some campers said they were drawn to the weekend retreat because they dread another war in the Middle East. Others came to heal their wounds.
"I see ourselves as two sides of the same coin, but it's a volatile situation," [an Israeli participant] said. "I think Israel was born out of absolute desperation. They needed a place to live, and they didn't give a hell who they pushed out. ... I don't think anything will be solved with violence. Someday, people will get tired of fighting."
[A Palestinian man], who lived the first 18 years of his life in Ramallah on the West Bank, said suicide bombings are acts of ultimate desperation. "I imagine there were many people at Auschwitz who would have been ready to be suicide bombers if given the chance."
Across the glen, pairs were engaged in similar conversations. At the end of their dialogue, a young Jewish woman and a Palestinian man hugged in a long, tear-streamed embrace.
This annual camp began with only 45 attendees. This year there were more applicants than could fit. The people are hungry for peace. Included in the group this year were former Israeli soldiers, Palestinian fighters, and citizens from all over who have experienced the hatred and the fear and have tired of it.

At one point during the long weekend, the campers heard a story from the Coast Miwok, whose tribal ancestors once inhabited the Sierra region where they were gathered:
A boy tells his grandfather: "I feel that I have two wolves fighting inside of me. One is angry and violent. The other is loving and compassionate. Who will win?"

The grandfather responds: "The one you feed."
Read the full story at TUOLUMNE COUNTY: Peaceful setting, intense dialogue.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Corporations are our big cuddly friends who always look out for us

Sometimes I'm just surfing around through the blogosphere and I read something just makes me bang my head against my desk and ask, "Huh?"

This mornings' Huh moment came when I somehow stumbled across the "Esdena: Student Marketplace" blog and read a post called "Welcome back MIT! and Why Do People Hate Corporations." Now, I'm fine with the MIT part (welcome back to school), it's the rest of the post where logic leaves the writer behind.

The writer, Dominic Lee, says (in part - typos included):
I don't know about elsewhere, but at least here at Rice, people HATE corporations. Businesses and extreprenuers are seen as mercenary, greedy pigs that care only about money.

These people just never seem to remember their own parents probably will not have a job if it werent for these businesses...

There are several questions I want to ask:
Did Greenpeace invented Hybrid cars? Or did Toyota?
Did Friends of the Earth revolutionized the energy industry by introducing more efficient fuels? Or did BP?

My point here is, I believe for-profit corporations are more effective than non-profits organizations in achieving social means. ...
Okay. Good introduction. Good questions. Wrong conclusion.

First off, I don't hate corporations. I hate corrupt corporations, of which there are many. But I am not a knee-jerk, anti-business death-to-McDonald's type. In fact, I am a small businessperson with two companies of my own, one of which is consulting to nonprofit organizations. So, while I am very much "in the nonprofit world" I am also a businessperson.

Back to the question ... "Did Greenpeace invented [sic] Hybrid cars? Or did Toyota?" Well, obviously it was Toyota (or Honda, or whatever). But it does not logically follow that Toyota is more effective at achieving environmental mission than Greenpeace.

Greenpeace is not organized to invent technology. They are not in the field of engineering. They are advocates and activists. Their mission is about education and getting the public involved in environmental issues.

Toyota is not organized to solve the world's problems. They are organized to devise and sell vehicles that are in current demand by the marketplace.

It's a fairly simple chain reaction:
Greenpeace (and others) influence public opinion on fossil fuels -> Public demands more fuel-efficient vehicles -> Toyota (and Honda, etc.) develop hybrid engines -> Toyota Prius becomes top seller.

I applaud Toyota for their work. I mean to take nothing away from it. But, it is the work of Greenpeace (and a dozen other major and hundreds of smaller nonprofits) that made the change in society that resulted in the Prius being a top seller.

The same chain of nonprofits influencing public opinion, to the public demanding something from the marketplace, also holds true for the Friends of the Earth / BP question. Thank you BP for coming up with cleaner fuels. But first thank you to Friends of the Earth for getting out the message and influencing the market.

See how it works? Nonprofits influence the market. Corporations deliver in the market. They each play an important role. And then there are the thousands of things nonprofits do that have no market solution - or where the market is part of the problem - such as in the fields of hunger and housing.

Mr. Lee goes on to explain why corporations are better at achieving social goals:
Why? Because of tax breaks provided to companies when they make donations.

What? Yes, because of the tax breaks, very often, a company almost HAVE to donate some money. I mean, financially, they will have to pay anyway, they might as well build a good rep by donating those money they would otherwise in paying in form of tax.
Again, Mr. Lee states a fact (corporations give to nonprofits), but draws the wrong conclusion.

Corporate donations only make up about 4 to 5% of all charitable contributions. It's very nice, and we appreciate it very much, but this alone is certainly not what "achieves social means."

Final quote from the post:
... businesses will always donate to non-profits which fit the following criteria:

1. Have close connections with the corporations
2. Throw a good (by good, I mean luxurious most of the time) charity event
3. Able to create good PR for the business

Ok, so NONE of these 3 says anything about the non-profits ability to achieve their social goals.
Mr. Lee obviously knows nothing about the nonprofit sector, and his picture of the sector as providing nothing but good PR, tax breaks, and party invitations would be insulting if it weren't so laughable.

Mr. Lee, how about I ask you a few questions? Can you show me legitimate examples of where corporations have done a consistently better job of achieving the social goals of feeding the homeless, or rescuing wildlife, or fighting for civil rights?

Every social advance and achievement in this country over the past century was accomplished almost exclusively through the hard work and dedication of the nonprofit sector.

Yes, corporations have been involved (as they should be). But typically only after the change has been effected in the court of public opinion. The power of the marketplace to complete changes is incredible, and I mean to take nothing away from that. But, without the power of nonprofits to advocate for causes and lead the charges, very little would ever be accomplished in the area of social change.

You can disagree with me, but this is what I know.

Crossposted to the Nonprofit Consultant Blog

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

PERRspectives on the slippery marriage slope

When you are defending the denial of basic civil rights to people, you've got to have a darn good argument. One the arguments conservatives love to trot out in defending discriminatory marriage laws is the slippery slope.

You know the argument: "If marriage isn't limited to just one man and one woman, why not open it up to 15 women and one man, or one man and a child, or a man and a box turtle." Yes, those arguments have all been used - even the box turtle.

A posting today on PERRspectives blog takes on Warren Jeffs, Tucker Carlson and Conservatives' Uses of Polygamy and explains why these arguments are just a distraction.
Same-sex marriage advocates merely argue that the state should recognize the loving relationships that free, autonomous and equal individuals choose to enter into and maintain. And that's where the analogy of gay marriage to polygamy ends.

By definition, polygamy institutionalizes a state of inequality between the spouses engaged in it. Whether involving multiple wives or husbands, the practice enshrines marital disadvantage in family standing, in livelihood, and in, well, consortium. Since the end of the Civil War at least, the United States has not looked kindly on involuntary servitude and has forbid individuals to enter (even freely) contracts that will abridge their freedom and equality in the future. Men and women are not free to be unfree.
This is an excellent post, but one additional point that I would add is to remember this: Warren Jeffs didn't make it to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list simply for polygamy. He got to be a top fugitive from justice for trafficking in underage women and forcing them into servitude.

The legal side of marriage is a civil contract. The last I checked, you needed to be an adult to enter into a binding contract. Not a child, not a dog, and not a box turtle. And, the last time I checked, and as PERRspectives points out, you could not legally enter into a contract that abridges your freedom.

No slippery slope. Just more excuses for denying citizens their rights based on sexual preference.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

From the folks who brought you the weekend

Happy Labor Day - I hope you're enjoying this day away from labor, and not one of those whose jobs require them to work on holidays. I hope you'll also take a moment to think about what it means to have one day each year to take time off to honor the labor movement in this country.

I can hear many of you whining now, claiming you never benefited any from the labor movement. You've done it all yourselves, every raise, every benefit, every day off - it's what you've earned all on your own. Yeah, right.

Labor unions have fallen upon difficult times, with dropping membership and fewer successes. But they've also been instrumental in making the workplace safer and more humane. The 40-hour work week, the end of child labor, health care benefits - these (and much more) were all brought about as a result of organized labor.

Yes, we're a nation that prides itself on us all being "rugged individuals." But, the fact is, much of our history flies in the face of that oft-repeated myth. Collective action and working in community with each other is what has always made us strong, and is responsible for our greatest achievements.

It is only the achievements we have accomplished by sticking together and supporting each other that have allowed us the freedom to be "rugged individuals" in the rest of our lives.

As a self-employed writer/consultant, I am not in any unions. In the past, I have been a member of AFSCME, and a member (and one-time president) of SHRA-EA. My wife has just finished up three years as the CTA rep for her school. We know first-hand that organized labor is not always as organized as we might like. We know the frustrations of paying dues and dealing with the national union bureaucracy. And we know what we've achieved through collective bargaining when we've brought new contracts to our co-workers. It's all worth it.

Have a toast to labor!

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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Humans rule! (follow-up)

Back in June I wrote about a web site called that gave tips on getting around automated phone systems and actually talking to actual customer service humans at various companies.

Yesterday, I received an email telling me about a new service that goes one step further. "BRINGO" claims to eliminate the phone trees altogether. What you do is search for the company you want to reach on their site, then enter your phone number on the site. They make the call, get through to a person, and ring you up when the human is on the line!

I haven't tried it yet, but if it works as advertised, it would be like having a personal secretary making the calls for you, and could save you (me!) a lot of stress and wasted time. The service is free to users (the site is full of ads that will hopefully support the cost of the phone lines).

Right now they're still in beta, so there aren't a lot of companies listed. But, if the ad revenue is enough to keep the service free, this could grow into something very helpful indeed.

Take that, you darn machines!

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Friday, September 01, 2006

I'm on the YouTube...

I've been watching YouTube for a week or two, seeing the different types of videos people post, and thinking about it. But rather than write about YouTube, I'll just tell you in video...

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