Saturday, June 9, 2012

88% of the Money fort 53% of the Vote + mourning Ray Bradbury

Hi.  In the middle 1950's I worked part-time at Martindale's Book Store in Beverly Hills, while going to UCLA.  Ray Bradbury rode his bike to the store regularly to buy at least a dozen books, every couple of weeks.  As the new kid, it was my job to follow him around with a box while he made the most eclectic selection of titles and subjects I'd never imagined.  We discussed them as he strolled, after I got over being stunned in the company of one of my heroes.  He was a warm, gracious and un-pretentious man, with a great sense of humor.  One day, we heard a great commotion going on in the front part of the store.  A man had come into the store and seen copies of papers in the newspaper/magazine section, and began  tearing them up.  Owner Walter Martindale had rushed down from his cubbyhole office, picked up the man and literallly threw him out of the store.  Walter came up to us and said. "I make money on those papers.  No sumbitch is going to screw me out of that!"  Mr. Bradbury said, with a wry smile: "I may have to revise some of my books."  Walter and Ray - what a pair.  (A very nice homage to Ray Bradbury is at the bottom)
 From: []
Walker Spent 88% of the Money to Get 53% of the Vote
By Peter Dreier, Reader Supported News

06 June 12  
 Here's a headline you won't see, but should: "Scott Walker Spent 88% of the Money to Get 53% of the Vote."

Political pundits will spend the next few days and weeks analyzing the Wisconsin recall election, examining exit polls, spilling lots of ink over how different demographic groups - income, race, religious, union membership, gender, party affiliation, independents, liberals/conservatives/moderates, etc - voted on Tuesday.

But the real winner in Wisconsin on Tuesday was not Gov. Scott Walker, but Big Money. And the real loser was not Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, but democracy.

Walker's Republican campaign outspent Barrett's Democratic campaign by $30.5 million to $4 million - that's a 7.5 to 1 advantage. Another way of saying this is that of the $34.5 million spent on their campaigns, Walker spend 88% of the money.

Walker beat Barrett by 1,316,989 votes to 1,145,190 votes - 53% to 46% (with 1% going to an independent candidate).

Here's another way of saying that: Walker spent $23 for each vote he received, while Barrett spent only $3.47 per vote.

But the reality is even worse than this, because the $34.5 million figure does not include so-called independent expenditures and issue ads paid for primarily by out-of-state billionaires (like the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and Joe Rickets), business groups, and the National Rifle Association, which were skewed even more heavily toward Walker. Once all this additional spending is calculated, we'll see that total spending in this race could be more than double the $34.5 billion number, that Walker and his business allies outspent Barrett by an even wider margin, and that he had to spend even more than $23 for each vote.

In other words, business and billionaires bought this election for Walker. The money paid for non-stop TV and radio ads as well as mailers. There's no doubt that if the Barrett campaign had even one-third of the war- chest that Walker had, it would have been able to mount an even more formidable grassroots get-out-the-vote campaign and put more money into the TV and radio air war. Under those circumstances, it is likely that Barrett would have prevailed.

Pundits can have a field day pontificating about the Wisconsin election, but in the end its about how Big Money hijacked democracy in the Badger State on Tuesday, and how they're trying to do it again in November.

Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy program at Occidental College. He is the co-author of "Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century" and "The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City." He writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and American Prospect. His next book, "The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame," will be published by Nation Books in the spring.

 * * *

The Walker Recall
By Robert Borosage
June 6, 2012 - recall

That Gov. Scott Walker survived the recall in Wisconsin is a tragic setback for the stunning citizen’s movement that challenged his extremist agenda in Wisconsin.
Its implications are likely to be exaggerated by the right, and underplayed by progressives. Here are some thoughts on its meaning.

1. Extremism will be challenged
Scott Walker is now a conservative hero. The right’s mighty Wurlitzer will argue that Republican Governors and legislators will be emboldened because he survived. The attack on public sector workers and basic worker rights, the sweeping cuts in education combined with top end tax cuts, the efforts to restrict voting rights, they will boast, will now spread even more rapidly across the country.

Really? Walker barely survived the backlash his policies caused. He lost effective control of the Senate even before last night’s recall returns are known. He had to go through a brutal recall, and watch his popularity plummet.

I suspect that most governors with a clue will see this as a calamity that they want to avoid. They’ll be looking to find ways to compromise, to avoid this brutal backlash. No question that the Tea Party and big money right will be lusting for more blood. But I suspect that Walker’s travails -- and those of John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida – will sober Republicans up a bit.

2. This is only Round One
That said, progressives should not dismiss the recall as idiosyncratic, dismissing its import since exit polls showed President Obama would win the state against Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and many voters voted for Walker because they objected to the recall itself, not because they endorsed his policies.

Conservative columnist Russ Douthat suggests that Wisconsin represents the new era of American politics, where scarcity and slow growth limits the ability of politicians to find win-win compromises. Instead, he predicts more Wisconsin-like battles, “grinding struggles in which sweeping legislation is passed by party- line votes and then the politicians responsible hunker down and try to survive the backlash.” As noted above, I think more politicians will seek to find middle ground than Douthat suggests. He, for example, risibly argues that Obama’s first two years were an example of sweeping partisan legislation. In fact, Obama’s two years were devoted to painful efforts to find middle ground – compromising on the stimulus, wasting months on Democratic Sen. Max Baucus’ phantom health care negotiations with “Republican moderates,” pre- diluting Wall Street reform.

But Douthat is right that the country has to make big choices. Will working and poor people continue to pay the cost for the mess caused by 30 years of failed conservative policies? Or will people succeed in sending the bill to those that caused the mess? Will we continue to see America starve its public services – from schools to health care to retirement security to internal improvements in everything from clean water to sensible energy? Or will we rebuild our commonwealth with fair taxes on private wealth? Will we empower workers to gain a fair share of the profits and productivity that they help to create or will we continue to give CEOs multimillion-dollar personal incentives to ship jobs abroad, break unions, cook the books, plunder their own companies to meet short- term expectations? Will America continue to police the world or will we put our attention and priority on rebuilding our own country?

Scarcity and slow growth will make choices necessary – and these will be brutal fights, even with moderate leaders like Barack Obama who are looking for common ground.

3. Money counts
And in these fights, big money is mobilized to protect its interests. Walker outspent his opponent by more than seven to one. In the post-Citizens United world, we don’t even have an accurate count of how much money was spent by outside groups. And money counts. It not only floods the airwaves with ads, but it pays for identifying allied voters, registering them, and getting them to the polls.

Wisconsin is a sterling example of what elections will be: the power of mobilized right-wing and corporate money against the power of mobilized people. The union-led We Are One movement that opposed Walker ran a powerful popular mobilization effort. They handed in almost one million signatures on the recall petition, about 40 percent of the vote. They knocked on doors and stayed on the phones. But the $47 million that Walker and outside allied groups spent enabled him to frame the election early with unopposed ads, and to gear up his own sophisticated ground operation.

Wisconsin is a clear warning to progressives. We’ll have to work harder, stretch more, educate more, reach out more and build more to match the increasing force of big money.

This flood of money has another corrosive effect. Democratic candidates and causes will seek to be financially competitive. Unions and progressive small-donor-based operations will be less able to provide the resources needed. Democrats will dilute their agenda and dull their message to appeal for funds from deep- pocket donors. So while mobilized money is likely to sharpen the right-wing agenda, it is likely to dull the Democratic response. That puts even more of a burden on building an independent progressive citizens’ movement that can frame the stakes, make the case and get out the vote.

4. The potential of millennials
In Wisconsin, according to exit polls, seniors were 18 percent of the vote. Walker won 56 percent of their vote. Young people – aged 18- 29 – were only 16 percent of the vote. They voted for Barrett 51-47 percent. The turnout – 2.4 million – was higher than it was in the Republican sweep in 2010, but lower than the 3 million that turned out in 2008.

In elections across the country, the biggest generation – the millennials – will decide much by how they vote and whether they turn out or tune out. The enthusiasm of 2008 has been lost in the disappointments of the Obama years and the harsh economy that young people are facing. But this is a generation that carries very different perspectives than its boomer parents and grandparents. It is far more comfortable with diversity, far more socially liberal, far more concerned about the environment.

The economic prospects of millennials are also far more difficult, as they struggle with the worst jobs market since the Great Depression, declining wages and rising debts. How they react—and how engaged they become in the political process—will say much about the direction this country takes.

5. Union power and weakness
Wisconsin showed that unions are still a mighty force in American politics. They were at the center of the We are One movement and drove the recall campaign. As noted, they sent a message to conservative politicians across the country.

That said, Walker won 38 percent of the vote of people who said they were members of a union household. In an election framed by Walker’s assault on basic worker rights, that is a dispiriting number, not much different than normal election results.

Clearly, the divide and conquer tactics of pitting public workers against private workers had some traction. It also suggests that unions have serious work to do in educating and mobilizing their own members about the existential threat that they now face.


Future Tense: Mourning the Political Ray Bradbury

By Richard (RJ) Eskow mourning-political-ray-bradbury-0

Ray Bradbury, whose death at the age of 91 was announced today, played an important role for an entire generation of kids like me. Important? You might even call it "lifesaving." When things around us seemed unbearable, or incomprehensible, or soul-killing, his books opened a doorway - an escape hatch - through which we could leave "real life" and enter other worlds.

Ray Bradbury created many worlds. Some were in the future. Others were in parallel universes. Others were in the present or the past, but with a twist that changed their meaning completely. Some of those worlds were better than this one, some worse.

But they were all different from this one, which offered young people like me some measure of relief. And the people in them were always the same kind of people we have in this world, which offered us something even more valuable: understanding.

What does that have to do with politics? A lot.

Ray Bradbury was never afraid to open himself up, whatever the risks. The culture of the 1950s and 1960s was male-dominated. "This is a man's world," sang James Brown. "Men build the houses ... the cars ... the roads ..." But, as if demanding payment for their dominance, society also rigidly controlled the emotional lives of boys and men. (Needless to say, society also chained women to a life of severely limited emotional, personal, and professional options.)

Yet even in that world Ray Bradbury was never afraid to show his emotions: a childlike sense of wonder, an unrestrained idealism, or that now-tarnished emotion called "hope." He even displayed that most forbidden of male emotions: Fear. He toyed with his own fear, cherished it, nurtured it, made you feel it too.

And there was a lot to be afraid of in the world of the 1950s. That's why Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451, his most overtly political book. He was responding to McCarthyism, Red-baiting, the blacklists. And to the totalitarian impulses that always seem to come back into style: The paranoia, with its search for hidden enemies that don't exist. The hatred of the Other.

Bradbury was responding to that era's strain of revulsion and contempt toward intelligence itself. You can see that same revulsion today: in the anti-science movement which denies climate change and even evolution, in Rick Santorum's sneering comments about college graduates, in the firing of teachers, the soaring cost of a college education, and our contemptuous and careless discharge of our debt-ridden young people into a world of unemployment, underemployment and bank predation.

Ray Bradbury gave the world another gift, too. He could see the present as a stranger might see it - as if it were fiction, as if our own lives were being written by some 18th or 19th Century Bradbury. That kind of vision opened up a million imaginations. (I talked with Paul Krugman about the role sci-fi played in his career choices.)

Back then I scoured books on science fiction - even tried to write some at age eleven and twelve - and read something Bradbury had written which stunned me:

"... Only a few weeks ago, in Beverly Hills one night, a husband and wife passed me, walking their dog ... The woman held in one hand a small cigarette-package-sized radio, its antenna quivering. From this sprang tiny copper wires which ended in a dainty cone plugged into her right ear. There she was, oblivious to man and dog, listening to far winds and whispers and soap-opera cries, sleep-walking, helped up and down curbs by a husband who might just as well not have been there."
I suspect that the transistor radio, a pretty high-tech device in those days, was more likely playing a song. But what mattered most was the image he summoned: of the street, the daylight, the radio's antenna glistening in the midday sun. And of the dehumanizing impact of this very modest technology on the life of one little family.

Ray Bradbury saw the science-fiction aspects of our world. The implications of that are profound. It reminds us that our society, our economy, our world, is a product of human action. That means we can imagine other worlds for ourselves, other stories, other futures.

Better ones.

It was a Ray Bradbury story, "A Sound of Thunder," that first told the world about "the butterfly effect." In the story a time traveler goes to the distant past, where he's not supposed to touch anything, and makes one simple mistake: he steps on a butterfly. He returns to his own time, where a Presidential campaign is underway, and finds that everything has changed. An election considered a shoo-in for the good guy has instead been won by the "iron man" candidate, a dictator-in-the-making named Deutscher.

Later he learns that everything - even everyday language - is different and uglier.

When Bradbury wrote the story he was an outspoken political voice himself. As a young, widely popular science-fiction writer in the 1950's (he appeared on Time Magazine's cover as "the Poet of the Pulps"), he was the voice of that decade's focus on the future. After Eisenhower defeated Stevenson, Bradbury took out a full-page ad in one of the Hollywood trade papers in 1952 attacking McCarthyism. He declared himself a Democrat, defended the right of dissent, and said he would not hide his beliefs in the aftermath of the election - no matter now much Red-baiting he faced.

Pretty brave of him, but we'd expect no less from the guy who wrote Fahrenheit 451.

In Bradbury's story the butterfly died at election time. It wasn't a special election, like yesterday's in Wisconsin, but it might as well have been. Yesterday's election was decided by the unrestrained power of money from corporations which distorted judges have turned, cyborg-like, into "persons."

That's our world. We need eyes like Ray Bradbury's to help us see it.

Look around: Bankers committing public crimes without punishment, keeping their riches, and then whining to compliant reporters that people aren't kind enough to them. Flying robots killing our own citizens and attacking wedding parties and caravans around the globe without the rule of law. Giant databases buying and selling our own homes while concealing the real holders of the mortgage, even from courts and governments.

In fact, the whole 21st Century has been straight out of a science- fiction movie: An election decided by a politicized Supreme Court and not the voters. A once-independent set of newspapers and broadcasters turned into a nearly-unified, government-manipulated cartel. Lies transmitted at the speed of light over a variety of old and new technologies. The apocalyptic devastation of 9/11 in the heart of New York City. Elections stolen through computerized fraud. Runaway wiretapping and electronic eavesdropping.

And now? The robotic Romney, with his perfect hair and an elevator inside the house for his cars. A Democratic Party whose leaders won't speak the truth and run from their own party's signature achievements.

Bradbury himself became somewhat less of a progressive firebrand in later years. Emotionally, he was a 'conservative' who never lost his nostalgia for the small-town Midwestern world of his youth. But he clung fiercely to the rule of reality and reason over the dictatorships of ignorance, fear and rage.

Which gets us to another emotion that Ray Bradbury wasn't afraid to show: Anger. He was lyrical and sweet, and he could carry that lyricism a little too far sometimes. Okay, so once in a while he used a few too many adjectives, "ahas!" and "My Gods!" He occasionally populated his Midwestern summer skies with a few too many fireflies.

But for all his gentleness and lyricism, Ray Bradbury could work up a righteous anger. He said once that he wrote Fahrenheit 451 to express his "hatred for people who burn books." His anger still burns, and it lights a way forward the way for people who still read that book today. But, as Bradbury also said, ""You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them."

We saw that book-hating rage displayed against Occupy Wall Street, too. (We wrote about it, thanks to Bradbury, in a piece called "From Alexandria's Library to Zuccotti Park: They've Been Destroying Books for 2000 Years.")

Ray Bradbury was angry about totalitarianism, and prejudice, and ignorance. He was angry that people tried to make their world smaller and not bigger. He was angry that so much of human existence took the form of unnecessary suffering, wasted potential, and missed opportunities for wonder and joy.

But he was a hopeless romantic about people, an unstoppable optimist about the future, and an unswerving believer in the power of love. "We are an impossibility in an impossible universe," he said, "the miracle of matter an form making itself into imagination and will ... the Life Force experiment with forms."

Bradbury loved imagining possible worlds. That's a social activist's, or any citizen's, first and highest duty: To imagine a better world. And while he loved our human possibilities, he was no technocratic slave. He thought that e-book readers were "burnt metal."

Ray Bradbury's politics were the politics of emotion: hope, love, joy, wonder. They were the politics of truth - at any price. They were the politics of justice. They were the politics of unfolding humanness. They were not the politics of techno-faddism or technofascism. And they were never, never the politics of the inevitable. Above all else, he believed in our ability to resist seemingly irresistible forces and choose our own destinies.

"I don't try to describe the future," said Ray Bradbury. "I try to prevent it."

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