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Why would anyone choose the wealthy to govern us simply because they made a lot of money?


We would not expect someone to have the talent to pitch for the New York Yankees simply because he is wealthy, so why would we give to the wealthy, solely because they have been successful in making money, the right to tell us how we live, how our money invested in government is to be spent and a host of other things of common interest. After all, their expertise is limited to making money, usually in a very narrow field of endeavor. Why would we not expect their advice to be biased to favor them making more money?

We would; we do. Except, of course, when we choose a snake oil salesman to Make America Great Again.


Memories of The Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI).



While rooting through the bowels of my computer for something or other I came across the following notice. It mentions one of the few things in my life of which I am truly proud.


Sheppard Mullin and Joseph Petrillo to Be Recognized for Work to Benefit the Homeless; San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to Honor Firm’s Efforts.


Business Editors & Legal Writers


The Treasure Island Homeless Development Initiative (TIHDI) has announced it will honor the law firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP and partner Joseph Petrillo at TIHDI’s annual fundraising dinner this Thursday night, April 25. On TIHDI’s behalf, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown will honor Petrillo, TIHDI’s Fundraising Chair, “for his extraordinary dedication and commitment to building a new San Francisco neighborhood from the ground up.”

“I am deeply honored that Sheppard Mullin is being recognized for its commitment to the community,” Petrillo said, “but I am even more proud of TIHDI’s success.”

Through Petrillo and Sheppard Mullin, TIHDI has benefited from pro bono legal services including work that has resulted in subleases for housing and service spaces. Sheppard Mullin has also provided important assistance in the development of memorandums of understanding between member agencies and the TIHDI Board of Directors.

Petrillo practices in the Real Estate, Land Use and Natural Resources practice group in Sheppard Mullin’s San Francisco office. One of California’s pre-eminent land use lawyers, he was principal author and administrator of California’s monumental coastal program. He has represented public and private clients throughout the United States in resolving urban development, natural resources, environmental and land use conflicts. Petrillo was recently appointed to the High-Speed Rail Authority Board by Governor Gray Davis. Petrillo served as chief counsel to the California Coastal Commission from 1973-1975, chief counsel to the California State Senate Select Committee on Land Use Management from 1975-1977, and executive officer of the California State Coastal Conservancy from 1977 to 1985.


Wake Up America: Charlottesville, the American Kristallnacht.


The title of this post may appear over broad. I am sure some people will be happy to point out the many differences between the two events. But, look at it this way:

We have a group of heavily armed men attacking mostly innocent civilians. In this case breaking bodies instead of glass, but the message is all too similar. The response of progressives or right thinking citizens and social media express shock and outrage but also urge calm. Meanwhile, the evil buffoon heading the nation at first supports the thugs and then realizing they may be becoming politically dangerous and not under control issues a tepid criticism of them.

Imagine then — what if the Nation’s leader and his cronies create an anti-terrorism entity to subdue these Alt-right terrorists and all other groups or individuals they or the entity decides are terrorists? Sounds Familiar doesn’t it? Did that not happen not too long after Kristallnacht with the suppression of Brown Shirts and their replacement with the SS. Could it happen here in America? No, well think again.

Just a few weeks after Charlottesville, the Leader of the Nation reversed an order of the prior President and permitted the release the Nation’s stockpile of military hardware to local police departments in order combat terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Progressives and others will probably still call for a reasoned careful response that will not place their supporters in harm’s way, or to wait for the hoped for return of the rule of law and reason.

This is madness. Shouldn’t we now rather think about what the German Progressives, liberals and people of good sense the very morning following Kristallnacht could have done to prevent the catastrophe that ultimately occurred?

Like then, this is no time for tepid hopes and half steps. Like it or not, the war has already begun and we either confront it now or we certainly will suffer its consequences later.

Fascism and the politics of hate have no place in any just society. It is time for Americans to throw back at these evil gangsters their own slogan and say, “No more, Not in our Country and Not on our Soil.” It is time to act massively. And if it comes to millions of citizens surrounding the White House and dragging these criminals out by their heels so be it.

ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY: The right to advisors committed to fair distribution of wealth income and power.



We would not expect someone to have the talent to pitch for the New York Yankees simply because he is wealthy, so why would we give to the wealthy, solely because they have been successful in making money, the right to tell us how we live, how our money invested in government is to be spent and a host of other things of common interest. After all their expertise is limited to making money, usually in a very narrow field of endeavor. Why would we not expect their advice to be biased to favor them making more money? Yet for the past 80 years, that is what we have done. That is one of the things that must change if we want to travel the road to Economic Democracy.

Our current President, an often failed business man and entertainer, not only is an example of exactly the type of person who should not be leading this nation, but he has insisted on appointing the unqualified and irresponsible to manage important governmental entities.

One would think, as their professional economist toadies promised us, that by putting our money into the pockets of modern masters of the universe, productivity, wealth, and happiness would burst forth forever. What happened? In the early 2000s it took only a few years of mismanagement to distort the entire world’s economy? How could people we thought were so smart be so wrong? Why didn’t these brilliant minds see it coming? Of course, there is not a lot one can see coming while he is kissing Mammon’s a**. Yet we still ask these same people who were paid to advocate on behalf of their paymaster’s interest, what it is we should do to solve the economic problems that they caused.

It is absurd, in the case of Wall Street, whose denizens sole expertise is in how to game a system given to them by others, to advise us on how to keep that system from harming all of us. It would be like asking the Taliban how to wage the war in Afghanistan or hiring Osama Bin Laden as Secretary of Defense. Nevertheless, out last twelve presidential administrations have done just that when it comes to Wall Street.

We would not use a general who had just suffered a disastrous defeat due to his own ineptitude to lead us into the next battle, why do we do so here?

The Roman Republic after suffering a catastrophic defeat at the hands of Hannibal that left the Italian peninsula open to the victorious general’s depredations for twenty or so years ordered their own generals to never again take the field with their army unless they were absolutely assured of victory. The result was almost 700 years of marital success.

The entire classical economic system is wrong and is a fraud. It is based on taking some arcane transactions that occurred in a few coffee houses in London in the sixteenth century and extrapolating it as a metaphor for all transactions of any kind everywhere.

What is even more amazing to me is that it did not even have adequate predictive value for those rudimentary sixteenth century London coffee house transactions and still does not do so today.

It never ceases to surprise me that we optimistic Americans, who so pride ourselves on our ability to solve any problems that we as individuals may meet, are so willing to accept this deterministic drivel.

Yet for the past 80 years, we have followed the nostrums of this academic arrogant class of agents of the rich and powerful as though we were still living in caves and falling down in terror before the ravings of the local shaman.

Keynes, Galbreath and others like them are right, so called economic problems require practical solutions that fit the situation at hand and not some vague academically popular theory that never worked anyway. Economics follows the goal we set for it. Economics does not set the goal.

The right to an equitable sharing of contributions to the common good.

Wake up America

Economic Democracy — basic rights fundamental to a society committed to a fair distribution of wealth, income, and power:


Because there are so many sensible fixes for the tax system discussed in the progressive blog-o-sphere and elsewhere that are readily available to anyone, it would be unnecessary for me to discuss them here. It is sufficient to mention that whatever the tax if it is not truly progressive and if it encourages capital accumulation at the expense of labor or consumption of practical necessities, it is not consistent with Economic Democracy. Dealing with the deficit hysteria is of greater immediate concern.

The deficit hysteria a fraud. The Republicans knew it when they ran up the deficit to pay for their tax cuts to the wealthy. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that the masters of the Republican Party would have you believe, the wealthy are not, I repeat they are not, the productive element of society but are the primary beneficiaries of that productivity. In fact the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, statistics show the percentage of value added to our society from manufacturing since 1950 has steadily dropped until now it is less than the both the financial sector and the professional services (lawyers and accountants) sectors.

Even though anguish at the size of the deficit is a phony tactic used to scare the public into transferring more of their wealth into the hands of the fortunate few, the principles implied by Economic Democracy require the deficit, if it is going to be reduced, be reduced first from funds transferred from those that can most afford it and who have benefited the most from society’s largess. After all, what kind of a society have we become when we will give untold amount of wealth to our wealthiest and often least socially productive citizens and stand strangely quiet when our public deficit balloons, and then turn and blame the teachers of our children for increasing the deficit by their asking for a few dollars raise in pay and then demanding that they give back raises they had already received to help reduce the defect that under no rational analysis could they conceivably had a hand in causing? Where has been the cry for them who received the public benefits that caused whatever deficit crisis we now face to give back the money? A fair and just society would not just cancel the gift of public funds at some time in the future, but demand that what they received be paid back with interest.

Obviously, a necessary and essential step is to allow tax cuts for the wealthy to lapse and they get back to paying a fairer share of the costs of the society that so greatly benefited them. The Republican Party also managed a twofer with the tax cuts during the Bush administration, not only did the already wealthy benefit, but Wall Street also made billions in commissions for transacting the loans the government required to pay for the tax cut.

The two wars that we are waging must be ended sooner rather than later. There is no reason in the world why the most powerful country in the world would or should allow itself get bogged down in a war of attrition. Either the enemy is a real threat to our existence and freedom, like the Soviet Union may have been, in which case we may need to use whatever means we have available to deal with it or we should not place American lives and treasure at risk. The wars themselves take our tax dollars and spend them all too often on war profiteers and in foreign countries on goods and services that do not benefit the American worker or small business.

Although the defense budget may be grossly inflated and need of pruning an even more fundamental question needs to be addressed. Why is it we allow the defense industries to make a profit on our common defense needs and then permit them use these profits to lobby our government to purchase more equipment? Why do we ask our sons and daughters to put themselves in harms way to fight and die for the rest of us while the owners of the companies supplying their equipment reap huge profits? War profiteering is wrong. The profits should be going instead of into the pockets of the profiteers, into the hands of the men and women doing the fighting and dying and their families. The argument is, of course, that if we don’t pay them their unconscionable profits, they will not supply us the goods we need and our defense will suffer. And that threat apparently, according to the Republican Party, represents the highest form of patriotism

If the defense of our country requires giving bribes to those unwilling to bear the risks that the defense of democracy entails, we will not long be the strongest country in the world nor long be free. During WWII under some of the greatest threats and economic stresses this country had ever faced, stringent war profiteering controls were imposed. We need independent auditors and investigators to prevent the continuing waste of the countries defense budget by the defense industry, probably more so than a review of the defense budget itself.





Economic Democracy includes the right to be protected from contributing community funds to those who are able to compete in the market.


We all know that tax shelters, large corporate subsidies and tax loopholes are inimical to Economic Democracy because they represent transfers of wealth from the rest of us, you and me, into the hands of those with the most ability to compete in a free enterprise market society. They need to be phased out and eliminated.

For example, take the “Oil Depletion Allowance”. Does anyone in the world believe that any oil company would not drill for oil without it? And if they did need it, why is it that once they do find oil they do not pay us back (it is our money after all) with interest? They certainly would make us pay it back if we borrowed money from them (and make us put up security as well). And why after they used our money to find and drill for the oil, do they sell the oil back to us at the highest price offered? (Remember whoever offers the highest price gets the oil. They are not competing for our dollars we are competing for their oil).

The same should occur with agricultural subsidies to large agricultural entities. Why is it that these large entities like the oil companies and agribusiness cannot compete without subsidies from you and me and why don’t they pay us back?

These redistributions of wealth need to be eliminated before we cut governmental expenditures of any kind. If there is to be a pain to be suffered to get the budget under control, the pain should start there. And, if it is argued that these entities are too big and too powerful, then that is precisely what Economic Democracy is intended to combat.






Economic Democracy includes the right to be as free from the purchase of our democratic rights as we are from their denial by force.

Money is not speech nor is it a metaphor for speech. Money can buy speech and it can prohibit speech. If the right of free speech is so fundamental that government cannot abridge it, then it is so fundamental that government must assure that no one abridges the free speech of another by financial, political or physical power. A government that does not protect the general public from the abridgment of their fundamental rights by anyone or any entity foreign or domestic is a government that conspires to deprive those citizens of those fundamental rights and risks losing its legitimacy.

As with most fundamental freedoms, preventing those who wish to abridge the fundamental rights of others is a more important role of government than encouraging the exercise of those rights. Exercising our rights are our individual jobs, protecting us from those who would abridge our rights is the duty we collectively give to government. If a government is not the guarantor of Freedom then it is a tyranny.

The Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United v FEC decision. This is potentially the most serious blow to both political and economic democracy in the history of the United States. It is as dolorous a blow to political and economic democracy as the Dred Scott decision was to the cause of abolition. Like the Dred Scott decision that recognized the fact of slavery over morality and the fundamental right of all to freedom, the Supreme Court in Citizens United recognized the fact of the gains over the past forty years of corporate political power and wealth, over the fundamental political rights of the individual under the Constitution and the democratic economic rights of the people as a whole.

I believe that in the long run, no issue will adversely affect the continuing freedoms that American’s now enjoy than this decision. It codifies and enhances dominance of juridical institutions over the individual

We should consider a prohibition on any person or institution receiving a governmental contract over a certain amount from lobbying or providing campaign funds for any purpose for a period before, during and after the contract without full disclosure and transparent approval by a public entity that conflict of interest rules have not been nor will not be violated. In fact, a rule like this should apply to any governmental subsidy over a certain amount received by anyone.


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