Archive for the ‘News and Commentary’ Category

Will Obama Find Those Shoes?

In the flashback quote of the day at Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire, he mentions a quote candidate Obama made to Slate in 2007. That quote is as follows:

If American workers are being denied their right to organize when I’m in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes and I will walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States.

Well, we will see it? Or will it end up like the closing of Guantanamo Bay, a public option, or restoring constitutional checks and balances? He has given credence lately to false framing from the right with his freezing of pay of government workers, extention of the Bush tax cuts, a “deficit commission”, more budget cutting, and lip service to looking into deregulation when deregulation led us to financial collapse. Will he find those shoes?


The War on American Wage Earners, Public Employees, And The Poor Heats Up. Reports from Wisconsin and Beyond. Wisconsin Governor Walker Spills The Beans on How He Plans to End Things In Prank Call.

In Wisconsin, Governor moves to destroy collective bargaining rights.

Wisconsin’s new extreme right-wing Republican governor, Scott Walker, played a little budget sabotage and then proffered Wisconsin needed an austerity plan to “repair it” called the Budget Repair Bill. What it of course boils down to, is an effort by him and the billionaires that funded his candidacy, to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of public workers in Wisconsin and beyond. According to Wisconsin’s equivalent to the nation’s Congressional Budget Office, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, there is no budget crisis that would require such extreme measures as to destroy Wisconsin’s collective bargaining rights for its public employees. In fact, in its January 31st, 2011 report, it shows a balance for the end of the fiscal year. It also shows that budget shortfall and budget shortfall projections are caused, in large part, to the governor’s own legislative initiatives passed by the newly minted Republican legislature

Our analysis indicates that for the three-year period, aggregate, general fund tax collections will be $202.8 million lower than those reflected in the November/December reports. More than half of the lower estimate ($117.2 million) is due to the impact of Special Session Senate Bill 2
(health savings accounts), Assembly Bill 3 (tax deductions/credits for relocated businesses), and
Assembly Bill 7 (tax exclusion for new employees).

This is the crony capitalism of supply side “economics” in microcosm. Tax cuts at the top for billionaires and business creates a budget deficit. Domestic spending to benefit the public is blamed such as education, safety net and subsistence, public employees, medicare and medicare, etc., prompting budget cuts further contracting the economy, reducing demand, adding to unemployment, reducing tax revenues and creating further deficits. More tax cuts at the top are proposed to “create” jobs and the cycle is repeated. This is nothing but robbing the public sector, middle class, and the poor to benefit the top. It is sold on the fallacy that tax cuts creates jobs, not demand. And when you have policies in Washington that promote free trade instead of reciprocal trade thereby taking more jobs overseas as well as tax revenues, the problem is compounded. The economy is being cannibalized.

The people have responded in Wisconsin with the message their welfare will not be sacrificed for the have mores with large ongoing protests in support of its public workforce. People around the nation and internationally are watching with protestors in Egypt even sending in pizza orders at Ian’s pizza as a show of solidarity.

Local Democratic Party Senators have shown courage by leaving.

Unlike national Democratic Party leaders who have remained largely silent and absent, 14 local Democratic Party senators have decided so far to show solidarity with the public and the middle class in pre-Reagan deity tradition by crossing over into Illinois to avoid a quorum which would allow the “budget repair” bill to go through. There is some indication though that the rich and powerful could get their way in destroying the bargaining rights of Wisconsin’s public workforce in the recent words of state senator Cullen,

“Right now, everybody is solid. I don’t think anybody wants to be the one person who provides the 20th vote. But we are not oblivious to political opinion, and we shouldn’t be oblivious to it. I think there’s a shelf life to staying here. …I didn’t run for Senate to spend the rest of my life in Illinois.”

as reported in The Janesville Gazette. At this point in history, this could prove tragic for both Wisconsin and the nation as Americans seem headed for banana republic status.

Send out the troopers.

Governor Walker was hoping for support from state and local police by preserving their collective bargaining rights while taking the bargaining rights away from other state employees and particularly public education, the perennially proclaimed villain by crony politicians nationwide. He and the Republicans were hoping they could round-up wayward missing Democrats. They, however, have decided to stand by their fellow state employees.

Send in the clowns. The billionaire Koch brothers bus in yellow flag confederates to counter protest and stir up trouble.

The billionaire Koch brothers, major funders of the “tea party” movement and WI Governor Scott Walker, are behind the effort to destroy public unions as reported by Rick Ungar of Forbes. As indicated by Mother Jones

According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Walker’s gubernatorial campaign received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC during the 2010 election. That donation was his campaign’s second-highest, behind $43,125 in contributions from housing and realtor groups in Wisconsin. The Koch’s PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used political maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points. The Koch money, no doubt, helped greatly.


Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. The Kochs also invited Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union outfit, to a June 2010 confab in Aspen, Colorado

So the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity bused in their usual activists and their tea party rubes to counter the protests of those that were losing their rights to bargain for their pay and benefits, people who said they would negotiate for lower wages, but Governor Walker has refused. So what’s in it for billionaire Kochs? Think Progress offers this

Koch owns a coal company subsidiary with facilities in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan; six timber plants throughout the state; and a large network of pipelines in Wisconsin. While Koch controls much of the infrastructure in the state, they have laid off workers to boost profits. At a time when Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch awarded themselves an extra $11 billion of income from the company, Koch slashed jobs at their Green Bay plant.

And how might they be rewarded? Consider the following from the bill:

“16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

Wondering if this connection is an exaggeration? Governor Walker spilled the beans of his plan to end the standoff in a prank call by Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast posing as David Koch. In the conversation was the following concerning Walker’s plan to bring this to an end. Jason Linkins reporting at the Huffington Post

one tactic they are exploring to bring the wayward Senate Democrats back to the state is stopping the direct deposit of their paychecks. “Koch” asks, “Now you’re not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?” The other man replies that there is one, state Sen. Tim Cullen, who might be approachable, though he cautions, “He’s pretty reasonable, but he’s not one of us.”

The conversation continued

WALKER: You’ve got a few of the radical ones — unfortunately, one of them’s the minority leader — but most of the rest of them are just looking for a way to get out of this. They’re scared out of their minds. They don’t know what it means. There’s a bunch of recalls up against them. They’d really like to just get back up here and get it over with. So the paycheck thing, some of the other things threatening them, I think collectively there’s enough going on, and as long as they don’t think I’m going to cave, which again we have no interest in. An interesting idea that was brought up to me by my chief of staff, we won’t do it until tomorrow, is putting out an appeal to the Democratic leader. I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders–talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn–but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly. They can recess it… the reason for that, we’re verifying it this afternoon, legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum because it’s turned out that way. So we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capitol with all 14 of them. My sense is, hell. I’ll talk. If they want to yell at me for an hour, I’m used to that. I can deal with that. But I’m not negotiating.

Of course, Governor Walker has been trying about every tactic to bust the union and their protest up from bringing in the National Guard to cutting internet access off to the protestors at the state capital.

A 15 state strategy is underway.

Andy Stern of The Daily Beast reports this is a 15 state strategy underway by the GOP. Exempting police and fire fighters and changing laws to affect legal standings of unions is a political move, not an economic one. Does an economy benefit from low wages and laid off public employees? The answer is no. It contracts economic activity even more. How many low wage countries are prosperous countries? The answer is none. There is no such thing as a prosperous low wage country.

Are Americans being subject to the shock doctrine? It would appear so. We shock doctrined Chile in 1973 and Iraq with the Bremer orders. While it has been part of our foreign policy to do it on behalf of multi-national corporations, the US hasn’t fully implemented it here due to the unpopularity of it among populations. But the last 30 years, the corporate state has slowly marched forward implementing tax cuts and steadily privatizing government services. With the Citizens United case recently minted by our corporatist Supreme Court and so-called “austerity” plans, it appears our time has come lest we fight back and fight back now. Remember, austerity is for the average citizen, not the billionaires that will profit from citizen suffering once implemented.

American Hypocrisy. Former C.I.A. Analyst And Army Veteran Beaten And Jailed At Clinton Speech.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was at George Washington University yesterday giving a speech criticizing governments that arrest protestors and deny or restrict free expression or air grievances that are critical. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, age 71, who became at activist for truth after the Bush administration’s lies to war and is a peace activist was in attendance and standing in the audience and he turned his back as Clinton spoke while wearing a Veterans For Peace T shirt. McGovern was grabbed by an unidentified plain clothes official and officers (in full view of her). McGovern remarked as he was carried out the door, “So this is America?”. McGovern was brutalized and left bleeding and bruised in jail as reported at the Partnership for Civil Justice.

McGovern will be represented by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF). “It is the ultimate definition of lip service that Secretary of State Clinton would be trumpeting the U.S. government’s supposed concerns for free speech rights and this man would be simultaneously brutalized and arrested for engaging in a peaceful act of dissent at her speech,” stated attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the PCJF.

Al Jazeera Reports Its Egyptian Bureau Shut Down

Al Jazeera is reporting that Al Jazeera Arabic and Al Jazeera English are off the air in Egypt. Al Jazeera’s license was pulled by the Egyptian government and its bureau shut down. More later today in a comprehensive report regarding the situation in Egypt and other countries where this brush fire revolt is taking place.

On The Occasion Of Olbermann’s Departure. Good Night And Good Luck.

As many have discussed, the Friday news dumps are where the American press sometimes dumps major news items never to pick them back up the following week. It always seems to return to entertainment or tabloid news or modified government stenography. This Friday, Keith Olbermann and Countdown, MSNBC’s most viewed program, was dumped to a largely stunned audience. Some agreement apparently had been reached between Comcast (the new owner of the latest corporate consolidation of media in this second Robber Baron era) and Olbermann following the departure of Jeff Zucker, known protector of Countdown.

After Keith returned from his November suspension from MSNBC, I wrote a tribute titled, “On The Occasion Of Olbermann’s Return“. For some reason, it seems more relevant now, especially after losing the special place Countdown inhabited in an era of media monopoly control of information and no progressive executive branch or Congress to tackle the problem in the manner of Teddy Roosevelt. So here it follows:

On The Occasion Of Olbermann’s Return

A Tribute To Keith Olbermann

One night around four years ago, I was lamenting the complete and utter end of real American journalism in a country that I grew up in but could no longer recognize. It had become a country of “pre-emptive war” but as a student of history, I recognized it as “preventive war”, something that Eisenhower described as

“That isn’t preventive war; that is war.
I don’t believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing.
… It seems to me that when, by definition, a term is just ridiculous in itself, there is no use in going any further.”

and also,

“All of us have heard this term “preventive war” since the earliest days of Hitler. I recall that is about the first time I heard it.”

Not only had this foreign concept gripped my country’s foreign policy due to hegemonic dreams of the neoconservative movement, but a system of torture (and even death) prisons which is against domestic, Constitutional, and international law was set up complete with it’s own tribunal judgement system outside the rule of law to circumvent the rule of law much like “the People’s Court” of World War II Germany. Journalistic questioning of the administration and its lies to commit this nation to war could cause one to lose their job in journalism as was shown in the firing of Phil Donohue, Ashley Banfield, Dan Rather, or producer Mary Mapes. It was under this setting of 21st century McCarthyism of which there were no Walter Cronkites or Edward R. Murrows emerging to push back. That is, not until Keith Olbermann stepped forth that night in question to take on Donald Rumsfeld who in his speech, impugned all Americans who questioned the administration’s war in Iraq.

The Rumsfeld speech in question was his address at the 88th Annual American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake Utah on Tuesday, August 29th, 2006. In this loathsome speech, Rumsfeld attacked America’s newspapers, Newsweek, CNN, and Amnesty International for their questioning of the war. Some of it was typical apologist type of criticism calling those that seek truthful answers or that notice inconsistencies to the administration’s rhetoric and explanations as the “blame America first crowd” that could be made by any political liar or hate talker on right wing radio or television. But what was particularly disgusting was his descriptive terminology of critics with “moral or intellectual confusion” and called on the legion to have a “watchdog role” in keeping the media and others “straight”. All in all, it was typical attack the messenger stuff usually characteristic of that administration.

As I sat in the kitchen next to the den where Countdown was being watched by my family, Keith began his “special comment” on the matter and as those words drifted to my seat in the kitchen, it was if I were hit by a sharp shock of electricity. I turned immediately to those watching in the den and yelled “record”. He even invoked Murrow and it really hit me that someone was standing up and saying, “enough” ! It was what we had been missing for years from a generally uninformative and complacent press that had led a cheerleading role in the lies that had launched the war. Maybe that is why today, many in the press try pushing the idea Olbermann is the left equivalent of Bill O’Reilly. Maybe through their false equivalency of giving “balance” to both sides of an argument, even when one side is false, continues to drive corporate oversight over content in what should be in the public interest instead. There is no comparison with speaking truth to power and lies and never will be. Welcome back Keith.

Farewell Keith. Good Night And Good Luck.

Working Class Hero: American Commentary’s 2010 Person of the Year

Deciding on who would be best as Person of the Year was difficult when it came down to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and the Senator who dared stand up against the multi-national corporate interests and the deal to extend failed Reaganomic ideology further in the Obama and Republican Party tax cut extentions. After careful consideration, it goes to Senator Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont for standing up for the shrinking middle class and growing lower income class of Americans who have been run over in the 21st century. If America is ever going to get back on its feet, it will take a movement motivated by people of Senator Sanders’s quality and moral certitude.

Senator Sanders begins his speech against the tax deal done without Democratic Party Congressional input and the take it or leave it approach.

Senator Sanders speaks out against the deal to cut social security funding with the so called payroll tax holiday.

Senator Sanders speaks out against the greed of the influencial monied interests.

Senator Sanders reads constituent letters.

Senator Sanders fights to amend the bad deal.

The 16 Words, WikiLeaks, And Rank Hypocrisy

The last few weeks concerning WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, the London arrest, the interpol red alerts for arrest, and the 250,000 pages of the diplomatic document dump have been interesting to say the least. Adding to the intrique has been Prosecutor Ny’s changing proclamations, no official charges but yet an arrest by appointment with no bail (until recently), cyber attacks on WikiLeak’s enemies by Anonymous, and the flight of one of Assange’s sex crimes accusers, Anna Ardin, to the Palestinian territories along with some reports she may be linked to the CIA. Could the most creative of screen writers come up with more twists for a plot line for a movie than this? Its so convoluted that it has led some to suggest it may be a psy ops operation to shut down or control information available on the internet. But what is not intriguing is the onerous and dangerous suggestions from Obama’s DOJ and elected officials in Washington of invoking some of the darkness of America’s past abuses of power such as the 1917 Espionage Act in going after Julian Assange.

Senators Lieberman and Feinstein have voiced such an approach of using the 1917 Espionage Act to go after and/or prosecute Julian Assange. While such a call might fly with a propaganized mind with no comprehension of the past, this is very much a direct assault on freedom and a free press. In a piece by author Naomi Wolf at the Huffington Post, she explains this dubious historical abuse of power which is titled, “Espionage Act: How the Government Can Engage in Serious Agression Against the People of the United States“. It was a period whereby even prominent Americans such as E.E. Cummings served jail time and many Americans were rounded up. It was used to treat journalism that told the truth and also to frame dissent both as treasonous. This runs counter to a free society. And Senator Lieberman has also added that the New York Times should be investigated. Eric Holder and the Obama Department of Justice have also weighed in quite dubiously by saying “significant” actions are being taken in the “criminal investigation” of WikiLeaks though what crimes WikiLeaks has committed seem to be uncertain under the constitution, domestic law, and international law. WikiLeaks is supposed to be a news organization, and Assange is neither a spy or leaker, engaged in espionage, or even an American citizen. In fact, the leaker of much of this, Pfc. Bradley Manning is in jail. And concerning The Espionage Act, Holder said,

That is not the only tool we have to use in the investigation of this matter. People would be misimpressioned if they think the only thing we are looking at is the Espionage Act

And then Holder added,

“National security of the United States has been put at risk. The lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk. The American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that I believe are arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way. We are doing everything that we can.”

One would say hypocrite is thy name, Eric Holder. Along with interpol’s red alert arrest warrant for Assange also came one for former Vice President Dick Cheney relating to bribery charges in Nigeria (of which Halliburton is currently negotiating a $250 million settlement). Where was the quick arrest and extradition in that? And isn’t that the same Dick Cheney who’s office was involved in leaking classified information to the press? Did that not put the “national security of the United States at risk”? Also in quoting you, “the lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk”, wasn’t the leaking of a covert agent in the employ of the C.I.A. thus putting all operations past and present she was involved in and the lives of all operatives and contacts in those operations put at risk? Were “significant” actions undertaken in the criminal investigation of that? Was the 1917 Espionage Act called upon to investigate the New York Times or Bob Novak? How about the Office of Vice President? Or did the Department of Justice under the administration that leaked the information engage in a much narrower defined investigation under a prosecutor? And if the Office of the Vice President had the authority to declassify her name, did it also declassify those C.I.A. operations or the identities of those involved when our nation’s enemies began their own investigations concerning her contacts in their countries? And all for what? Because former Ambassador Joe Wilson felt compelled to tell the truth in a newspaper op-ed that he did not find evidence that Iraq had sought a deal for yellow cake uranium in Niger? To cover the 16 words in the Bush state of the union address Bush knew came from a forged document? The Obama DOJ finds no threat to US security in that lie, nor the lies from the Office of Special Plans created solely to lie a nation into an illegal war of aggression? No call for the Obama DOJ to reopen the AIPAC spy scandal and invoke the Espionage Act, a real case of espionage? No, but Eric Holder, the administration, members of Congress want to invoke the Espionage Act on journalists for publishing these cables. Yale Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science Bruce Ackerman claims prosecuting Assange under this act would be unconstitutional. So just how “secret” are these cables and what matters of national security do they reveal? Are they really revealing secrets or just embarrassing information the administration doesn’t want the American people to know? Let’s take a look.

It seems that in a report by France 24 that these cables were not “top secret” so that alone should stop any notion of invoking The Espionage Act. In fact, it indicates that SPIRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) by which these cables were transmitted is accessed by some 2.5 million Americans in the U.S. government’s employ and that “top secret” cables are transmitted on a more restricted network. And if someone wants to use the diplomatic cables as a guide to determine whether this is true or not, they may find they bear that out. Around the year before the events of September 11th, 2001 through the launch of the Afghan war and the attack and invasion of Iraq and with all the reported “chatter” of terror networks, one would expect quite a bit of activity concerning diplomatic cables. So let’s take a look at the time distribution and nation distribution of what has been released so far, particularly from the years of 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003.

No diplomatic cables.

1 cable Caracas Venezuela, 7 cables Bogota Colombia, 12 cables Kinshara Congo, 307 cables Harare Zimbabwe, 4 cables Pretoria South Africa, 86 cables Hanoi Vietnam.

349 cables Rome Italy, 2 cables Jerusalem, 326 cables Abuja Nigeria, 419 Harare Zimbabwe, 1 Pretoria South Africa, 1 Maputo Mozambique, 102 cables Hanoi Vietnam, 24 cables Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam, 4 Jakarta Indonesia.

290 cables Ottawa Ontario, 19 Montreal Quebec, 15 cables State Department, 23 cables Nova Scotia, 243 cables Guatemala City Guatamala, 282 cables Teguigalpa Honduras, 5 Bogota Colombia, 45 Brasilia Brazil, 1 Santiago Chile, 52 Frankfurt Germany, 188 Zagreb Croatia, 1 Sofia Turkey, 80 Istanbul, 1173 Ankara, 747 Amman Jordan, 460 Kuwait, 542 Abu Dhabi, 273 Sanaa Yemen, 344 Abuja Nigeria, 122 Lagos Nigeria, 5 Kinshasa Congo, 504 Harare Zimbabwe, 17 Kabul Afghanistan, 288 Katmandu, 560 Colombo Sri Lanka, 199 Rangoon Myanmar, 183 Hanoi Vietnam, and 73 Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam.

Hardly a treasure trove of secrets that would define the events that have shaped the U.S. since the year 2000 through 2003 when its character changed. No cables to the Taliban government regarding the negotiations over the TAPI pipeline, the breakdown of those negotiations and the demand for Bin Laden before the events of September 11th, 2001. No cables to Pakistan or the involvement of the Pakistani ISI. No cables from Saudi Arabia, home of the 9/11 hijackers, the Bin Laden family and its oil partnership with the U.S. No cables from Downing Street and Bush’s poodle and co-conspirator over Iraq. Not very much in cable traffic from countries deeply involved in deep state matters during this period over the U.S.’s Middle East and Central Asia foreign policy, Israel and Turkey, except 2 from Jerusalem in 2002 and several cities in Turkey, but not until 2003. In the overall release of the 251,287 cables, probably the countries with most concern would be the US (8,017), Turkey (7,918) from US diplomats in Ankara, Iraq, and possibly Japan, but a concern from more of a political nature rather than a direct security threat nature. Instead of releasing these cables directly itself , WikiLeaks decided to release them through the mainstream media sources Le Monde, El Pais, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, and The New York Times. They will be researched, analyzed, and vetted by editorial boards and names of people who may be endangered by any revelation protected before publishing. This shows a deeper concern for security and lives than the U.S. government officials showed when they leaked the name of a covert agent. And one of The New York Times point persons in covering the WikiLeaks documents is David E. Sanger who is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Aspen Strategy Group. Could the US government with its neoconservatives and neoliberals have hand picked anyone safer from their point of view? And Julian Assange himself says he does not question the US government accounts surrounding the events of September 11th, 2001 and immediate aftermath which one would suppose includes the 9/11 Commission Report. That was a hand picked commission of neoconservatives and neoliberals that were for the invasion of Iraq and headed by the Bush administration’s point man Thomas Kean, keeper of the flame, and whose report repeated the Bush Administration’s lie that Wilson’s wife sent him to Niger.

It appears what we have going on is a case of the emperor having no clothes. Let’s not end freedom of the press and freedom of speech by invoking The Espionage Act because some want to put those clothes back on.