Sunday, February 27, 2011

Largest crowds since Vietnam War march in Wisconsin

Largest crowds since Vietnam War march in Wisconsin

MADISON, Wisconsin (Reuters) – A crowd estimated at more than 70,000 people on Saturday waved American flags, sang the national anthem and called for the defeat of a Wisconsin plan to curb public sector unions that has galvanized opposition from the American labor movement.

In one of the biggest rallies at the state Capitol since the Vietnam War, union members and their supporters braved frigid temperatures and a light snowfall to show their displeasure.

The mood was upbeat despite the setback their cause suffered earlier this week when the state Assembly approved the Republican-backed restrictions on union collective bargaining rights over fierce Democratic objections.

"I'm deeply honored to be here with you," said Peter Yarrow, a veteran of many social protests during his 50-year folk music career and a founding member of the group Peter, Paul and Mary. "If you persist, you will prevail."

What began two weeks ago as a Republican effort in one small U.S. state to balance the budget has turned into a confrontation with unions that could be the biggest since then President Ronald Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers nearly 30 years ago.

Republicans still must push the measure through the state Senate, which has been unable to muster a quorum for a vote because of a Democratic boycott.

If the plan is approved in Wisconsin, a number of other states where Republicans swept to victory in the 2010 elections could follow. Already, other legislatures including Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Idaho, Tennessee, and Kansas are working on union curbs.

Unlike previous protests, the rally on Saturday brought out thousands of union workers not directly affected by the bill, including the state's firefighters, exempted along with police from the Republican proposal. Dozens of private sector unions were represented as well at the event.

No "Tea Party" supporters of the proposal championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker were spotted on Saturday. They staged a smaller rally of their own in Madison a week ago.


The rally felt more like a party than a protest.

"This is one of the largest sustained protests we have seen in Madison since the Vietnam War. And to my knowledge there were absolutely no problems," Madison Police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.

Scott Sumer, a teacher from Rockford, Illinois, just south of the Wisconsin state line, said he hoped the sustained and broad-based opposition to the Wisconsin bill would discourage lawmakers in other states from considering similar measures.

"Other governors are going to see this and think, 'I don't want to go there.'" Sumer said. "The tenacity of this movement and civility here are impressive."

Demonstrators chanted "Hey hey, ho ho, Scott Walker has got to go," as they stood directly under the office window of the state's new governor, who introduced the controversial measure as part of a budget deficit cutting bill that is moving in the Wisconsin legislature.

The stakes are high for labor because more than a third of U.S. public employees such as teachers, police and civil service workers belong to unions while only 6.9 percent of private sector workers are unionized. Unions are the biggest single source of funding for the Democratic party.

Some of the demonstrators carried signs, others pushed baby carriages, and others walked with their dogs by their sides.

The overwhelming anti-Walker sentiment of the demonstration was telegraphed in many ways, including a sign that read: "Scott Walker for President ... of Libya."

U.S. labor groups also staged rallies across the country to show solidarity with Wisconsin in fighting the proposal they see as trying to break the union movement.


Wearing thick outerwear and her 10-month-old son strapped to her belly, Tamarine Cornelius, 36, carried a sign that read "If Wisconsin is gonna become Mississippi than I am gonna want better weather."

"I understand that there are tough times ahead, things are going to be difficult no matter what. I think most people understand that," said Cornelius, who works for the non-profit Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

People in the state capital of Madison, which is home to unionized state government agencies and the University of Wisconsin, are overwhelmingly opposed to the governor's plan. But Republicans said they believe there is a silent majority who voted Walker into office, and support the efforts.

Republicans appeared defiant in the face of the union protests. In Phoenix, potential Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota, a neighbor of Wisconsin, drew applause from "Tea Party" activists when he blasted President Barack Obama for supporting the Wisconsin unions.

"It says in the Constitution: 'In order to form a more perfect Union.' ... Mr. President, that does not mean coddling out of control public employee unions," he told some 2,000 partisans gathered for a conference.

The Wisconsin changes sought by Walker would make state workers contribute more to health insurance and pensions, end government collection of union dues, let workers opt out of unions and require unions to hold recertification votes every year. Collective bargaining would be allowed only on wage increases up to the rate of inflation.

Liberty's Easy Slide into Tyranny

Liberty's Easy Slide into Tyranny

Go To Original

The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Robert Burns – 1785

No matter how hard we try, no one can control the future, and we cannot assume the future will be like the present.

Woodrow Wilson signed the law that established the Federal Reserve. He later rightly lamented having done so. He writes, "I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men." Oh, how right he is, and oh, the mischief the FED has wrought! But establishing the FED must have seemed right to Wilson when he signed the law.

Harry Truman had similar qualms about the CIA.

[I]t has become necessary to take another look at the purpose and operations of our Central Intelligence Agency. . . .

assuming the President himself possesses a knowledge of our history, a sensitive understanding of our institutions, and an insight into the needs and aspirations of the people, he needs . . . the most accurate and up-to-the-minute information on what is going on everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger spots. . . .

every President has available to him all the information gathered by the many intelligence agencies already in existence. . . .

But their collective information reached the President all too frequently in conflicting conclusions. At times, the intelligence reports tended to be slanted to conform to established positions of a given department. . . .

Therefore, I decided to set up a special organization charged with the collection of all intelligence reports from every available source, and to have those reports reach me as President without department "treatment" or interpretations.

I wanted and needed the information in its "natural raw" state and in as comprehensive a volume as it was practical. . . . But the most important thing about this move was to guard against the chance of intelligence being used to influence or to lead the President into unwise decisions—and I thought it was necessary that the President do his own thinking and evaluating. . . .

For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue. . . .

I, therefore, would like to see the CIA be restored to its original assignment . . . and that its operational duties be terminated. . . .

We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.

Of course, nobody paid any attention. And oh, the mischief the CIA has wrought!

The problem is that what seems like a good idea to someone with pristine motives turns into something horrid when placed in the hands of someone else. Those pristine motives Gang aft agley." So it is with what has come to be known as executive privilege.

Executive privilege is the claim made by members of the executive branch that they can refuse to comply with certain subpoenas and other requests from the legislature and courts, but executive privilege is not mentioned in the Constitution. Some claim the privilege is a form of the common-law principle of deliberative process privilege whose roots are often traced to English Crown Privilege. Viewed that way, it is clearly a monarchial attribute that is distinctly antidemocratic. But the Supreme Court has validated it.

In US v. Nixon, Chief Justice Burger writes: "Whatever the nature of the privilege of confidentiality of Presidential communications in the exercise of Art. II powers, the privilege can be said to [emphasis mine] derive from the supremacy of each branch within its own assigned area of constitutional duties. Certain powers and privileges flow from the nature of enumerated powers; the protection of the confidentiality of Presidential communications has similar constitutional underpinnings." No one, it seems, noticed that "can be said to" is not synonymous with "is."

Chief Justice Burger further writes,

"In United States v. Reynolds . . . the Court said:

It may be possible to satisfy the court, from all the circumstances of the case, that there is a reasonable danger that compulsion of the evidence will expose military matters which, in the interest of national security, should not be divulged. When this is the case, the occasion for the privilege is appropriate, and the court should not jeopardize the security which the privilege is meant to protect by insisting upon an examination of the evidence, even by the judge alone, in chambers."

Mr. Burger seems not to have noticed that he gave the executive branch the combination to the safe in this passage. From this point on, all the executive branch has to do to sustain a claim of executive privilege is to say that complying with the subpoena or request would entail a reasonable danger that military matters would be exposed or the nation's security would be impaired. These claims have now become standard practice.

Until the end of World War II, assertions of executive privilege were rare. In 1796, George Washington refused to comply with a request from the House of Representatives for documents related to the negotiation of the Jay Treaty. The Senate alone plays a role in the ratification of treaties, Washington reasoned, and therefore the House had no legitimate claim to the material. So Washington provided the documents to the Senate but not the House.

Thomas Jefferson asserted the privilege in the trial of Aaron Burr for treason. The Court denied it and he complied with the Court's order.

But from 1947-49, several major security cases arose. A series of investigations followed, ending with the Hiss-Chambers case of 1948. At that point, the Truman Administration issued a sweeping secrecy order blocking congressional efforts from FBI and other executive data on security problems. Security files were moved to the White House and administration officials were banned from testifying before Congress on security issues.

During the Army–McCarthy hearings in 1954, Eisenhower used executive privilege to forbid the "provision of any data about internal conversations, meetings, or written communication among staffers, with no exception to topics or people." Department of Defense employees were also instructed not to testify on any such conversations or produce any such documents. The reasoning behind the order was that there was a need for "candid" exchanges among executive employees in giving "advice" to one another. Eisenhower made the claim 44 times between 1955 and 1960. The Supreme Court has validated such claims saying there is a "valid need for protection of communications between high Government officials and those who advise and assist them in the performance of their manifold duties" and that "[h]uman experience teaches that those who expect public dissemination of their remarks may well temper candor with a concern for appearances and for their own interests to the detriment of the decisionmaking process."

In 1998, President Bill Clinton became the first President since Nixon to assert executive privilege and lose when a Federal judge ruled that Clinton aides could be called to testify in the Lewinsky scandal.

The George W. Bush administration invoked executive privilege on numerous occasions. So has the Obama administration. Executive privilege has now become a tool for not only protecting military secrets and other secrets the revelation of which would endanger the nation's security, but a way of covering up executive branch wrongdoing.

Nixon tried to use executive privilege in an unsuccessful attempt to cover up his administration's complicity in the Watergate break in. Clinton attempted to use executive privilege to cover up his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. George W. Bush asserted executive privilege to deny disclosure of details about the scandal involving the FBI's misuse of organized-crime informants and Justice Department deliberations about President Bill Clinton's fundraising tactics, none of which had anything to do with national security or military secrets. And now it is reported that the Justice Department has in the last few months gotten protective orders from two federal judges keeping details of some software technology out of court because the details if revealed would threaten national security. But others involved in the case say that what the government is trying to avoid is public embarrassment over evidence that the software's designer bamboozled federal officials.

Huge conspiracies aren't what destroys people's freedom, they are too easy to undo. The accumulation of errors, failed policies, and little and big unfairnesses destroy it. It happens because The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men/ Gang aft agley,/ An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain.

The FED, CIA, Executive Privilege, The Patriot Act, Homeland Security, and more, by themselves, are bad but not disastrous. Together, however, they are the tools of tyranny that are tyrannizing America, because they provide people who are not answerable to the people with powers that can be and often are abused. It happens because those who implement ideas that seem sound never ask what happens when the powers these ideas entail fall into the hands of the unscrupulous.

The insidiousness of these tyrannical tools is that they can exist amid the trappings of democracy, along with political parties and regular elections. The result is a tyrannical nation masquerading as a democracy.

All of these agencies as part of the executive branch act secretly. And we have forgotten that, "Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government."—Jeremy Bentham

Americans answer call to protest for workers’ rights

Americans answer call to protest for workers’ rights

Go To Original

This was a live blog of events around the nation related to the workers' rights demonstrations. It ended at 9 pm EST. Look for Raw Story's photo feature on today's protests, coming Monday morning.

Most recent updates appear at top.


8:58 EST: Juneau, Alaksa didn't let the cold get them down. But the real question might be, can they still see Russia from there? (Image from Dan Kantak.)

8:45 EST: In one of the most amazing videos you'll see this year, a member of Wisconsin's police union gives a speech to protesters inside the statehouse. “Mr. Walker, if you’re listening: We know pretty well know who you work for. Now let me tell you who we work for,” he said, eliciting a round of cheers from the crowd. Watch.

8:32 EST: Another look at today's rally in New York City, courtesy of one William Brown.

8:28 EST: The mayor of Lansing, Michigan gave one hell of a speech today. Watch. (Photos here, from the Rochester Citizen.)

8:13 EST: The 'Anonymous News Network' brings us a video view of action at the Indiana statehouse.

8:04 EST: Another couple looks at Denver's solidarity rally, from Twitter user @RadicalRonRand.

7:57 EST: Phoenix, Arizona! Looks like big numbers -- and great pictures too ( from Pat Kofahl).

7:47 EST: A Denver thumbs-up for the freedom to organize, courtesy of Kathy Markle.

7:41 EST: This. Is. ALBANY! (courtesy of Twitter user @_1134)

7:33 EST: Although you can't see his face, the man speaking is Bradley Whitford, an actor from The West Wing. He made an appearance in Madison, Wisconsin today, and Raw reader Jerry Gibbs brings us this shot.

7:25 EST: San Francisco, ever a natural ally to those friendly to progress. A shot from Stephen Pawley.

7:20 EST: Where's the apathy in Tallahassee? Nowhere, apparently! (From Jeanette Castillo -- more here.)

7:15 EST: Sacramento, California with the big showing! Two quick glimpses from Raw reader Robin Kozloff.

7:06 EST: Over a thousand turned out in San Diego, we're hearing. "Hundreds" more in Albany, New York.

7:03 EST: Salt Lake City, Utah -- surely even Joseph Smith loved the working man! (Courtesy of Ryan Kowalchik.)

6:40 EST: Meanwhile, in Austin, Texas ... (photos by Stephen C. Webster)

6:30 EST: Here we are in Augusta, Maine, where people work hard too.

6:20 EST: Jackson, Mississippi -- also not having it. Via Landon Wilson.

6:09 EST: Where's my teachers' union at? Why, Johnson City, Tennessee, of course! Watch here.

5:57 EST: Santa Fe, New Mexico's turnout of "several thousand" by one reader's estimation -- and a PA system that wasn't strong enough to be heard all the way in the back! These are from Alf Abeyta.

5:50 EST: Denver, Colorado turns out for workers -- image courtesy of "McWaters".

5:43 EST: Still scant mention of nation-wide demonstrations in mainstream media. CNN running another Charlie Sheen story.

5:42 EST: Salem, Oregon now too, and they're not happy. (Via 'Derrick'.)

5:33 EST: The situation in Springfield, Illinois, via Wayne Sedgwick.

5:27 EST: Green Bay, Wisconsin gives a frosty reception to Walker's anti-union agenda. Photographer's credit in-image.

5:22 EST: Video from the "Save the American Dream Rally" in Chicago, Illinois.

5:12 EST: Two images from Vermont's capitol, Montpelier, courtesy of one Lance Mills.

5:05 EST: Next up, Ashville, North Carolina -- courtesy of Douglas Ross.

5:01 EST: Boston, Massachusetts isn't taking this sitting down. That's a lot of people! Photo by Rick Tudor.

4:57 EST: This is what democracy looks-- er, reads like: an on-the-ground report from Wisconsin.

4:56 EST: Raw video from workers' solidarity rally in New York City is up: watch it here.

4:53 EST: A reader sends us this image from Boise, Idaho.

4:35 EST: Minimal coverage from mainstream networks on today's events. CNN actually reporting on tea party's second anniversary at the moment.

4:33 EST: Hundreds out in Washington, DC. From readers Jeff Bloom and Josh Williams:

4:25 EST: Solidarity. (Keep sending us your media!)

4:22 EST: Out in Austin, Texas, they're not happy about cuts to Planned Parenthood, as evidenced by this Raw Story-exclusive video. Photos from the protests coming next.

4:52 EST: Live from the epicenter, here's a live video stream from inside the statehouse in Madison, Wisconsin.

4:42 EST: Gary Krug of Spokane, Washington says about 100 people showed up to support Wisconsin workers. Two of his better images:

4:29 EST: Raw Story reader Robert R. Clark estimates "about 1,000" people turned out at the Connecticut statehouse.

2:56 EST: If you've never seen Henry Fonda do Tom Joad's monologue in The Grapes of Wrath, today is a good day to check it out.

2:54 EST: Reader Robert reports, "I just returned from a spirited rally in support of Wisconsin (and other state) public worker unions at the Connecticut State House. My estimate is 1000 people attended. There was a counter rally of about 6 people."

2:52 EST: Sen. Al Franken says Walker is out to "union bust."

2:46 EST: 1000 people gathered in Harrisburg, PA today for a "We Are Wisconsin" rally.

2:30 EST: Hollywood joins the rally in Madison:

Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing"), SAG national board member Gabrielle Carteris ("The Event") and AFTRA national board member Robert Newman ("Guiding Light") are speaking in support of Wisconsin public-sector workers at a large rally in Madison.

2:28 EST: Check out these photos from the rally in Tallahassee earlier today.

2:23 EST: Raw Reader Jacqueline sent this in, "from the Maine UNCUT Bank of America Protest Today":

2:20 EST: From protests earlier today in New York, from @MirezNY

2:15 EST: @tcita tweets: Off duty bus driver picked up all us stray protestors on way to Capitol. Said he was repaying our kindness #wiunion

2:09 EST: Forbes says Walker is lying.

2:03 EST: Raw reader Kate sent this photo in. "These guys were mocking the few tea partiers who showed up and seemed to have a great audience...."

2:01 EST: We've seen ZERO coverage on CNN in the last hour.

2:00 EST: We're seeing several reports that Madison police have joined the protesters after being asked to disperse the crowd.

1:59 EST: Local news reporting 35K in Madison today.

1:48 EST: Crowd of 3500 reported in St. Paul.

1:44 EST: Scott Walker booed, asked to leave at local Wisconsin restaurant.

!:41 EST: Several users on Twitter note that Wisconsin capital is at capacity.

1:35 EST: Folks in DC march in solidarity with Wisconsin union workers. Picture below via @haleyvandyck:

1:19 EST: Citizens gather in downtown Seattle, courtesy of Howie in Seattle:

1:12 pm EST: 1000 protesters reported in St. Paul.

12:59 pm EST: The situation in St. Paul, courtesy of Twitter user @nledit.

12:47 pm EST: Here's a map of the workers' solidarity rallies being put on by US Uncut and Uncut also calls for people to gather at their local banks. Groups likely out there participating today, but not noted or otherwise publicly organized.

12:45 pm EST: Police estimate over 3,000 have turned out to a rally in New York City.

12:43 pm EST: Last week's protest in Wisconsin drew over 70,000. This week, organizers are shooting for more -- and the rally's just begun.

Gates Warns Against More Wars Like Iraq and Afghanistan

Gates Warns Against More Wars Like Iraq and Afghanistan

Go To Original

West Point, N.Y. — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates bluntly told an audience of West Point cadets on Friday that it would be unwise for the United States to ever fight another war like Iraq or Afghanistan, and that the chances of carrying out a change of government in that fashion again were slim.

“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Mr. Gates told an assembly of Army cadets here.

That reality, he said, meant that the Army would have to reshape its budget, since potential conflicts in places like Asia or the Persian Gulf were more likely to be fought with air and sea power, rather than with conventional ground forces.

“As the prospects for another head-on clash of large mechanized land armies seem less likely, the Army will be increasingly challenged to justify the number, size, and cost of its heavy formations,” Mr. Gates warned.

“The odds of repeating another Afghanistan or Iraq — invading, pacifying, and administering a large third-world country — may be low,” Mr. Gates said, but the Army and the rest of the government must focus on capabilities that can “prevent festering problems from growing into full-blown crises which require costly — and controversial — large-scale American military intervention.”

Mr. Gates was brought into the Bush cabinet in late 2006 to repair the war effort in Iraq that was begun under his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and then was kept in office by President Obama. He did not directly criticize the Bush administration’s decisions to go to war. Even so, his never-again formulation was unusually pointed, especially at a time of upheaval across the Arab world and beyond. Mr. Gates has said that he would leave office this year, and the speech at West Point could be heard as his farewell to the Army.

A decade of constant conflict has trained a junior officer corps with exceptional leadership skills, he told the cadets, but the Army may find it difficult in the future to find inspiring work to retain its rising commanders as it fights for the money to keep large, heavy combat units in the field.

Stay informed with free Truthout updates delivered straight to your email inbox. Click here to sign up.

“Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging or reconciling warring tribes, may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting PowerPoint slides, preparing quarterly training briefs, or assigned an ever-expanding array of clerical duties,” Mr. Gates said. “The consequences of this terrify me.”

He said Iraq and Afghanistan had become known as “the captains’ wars” because “officers of lower and lower rank were put in the position of making decisions of higher and higher degrees of consequence and complexity.”

To find inspiring work for its young officers after combat deployments, the Army must encourage unusual career detours, Mr. Gates said, endorsing graduate study, teaching, or duty in a policy research institute or Congressional office.

Mr. Gates said his main worry was that the Army might not overcome the institutional bias that favored traditional career paths. He urged the service to “break up the institutional concrete, its bureaucratic rigidity in its assignments and promotion processes, in order to retain, challenge, and inspire its best, brightest, and most battle-tested young officers to lead the service in the future.”

There will be one specific benefit to the fighting force as the pressures of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan decrease, Mr. Gates said: “The opportunity to conduct the kind of full-spectrum training — including mechanized combined arms exercises — that was neglected to meet the demands of the current wars.”

The Colossal Republican Power Grab

The Colossal Republican Power Grab

Millions of Americans have given up on finding jobs that pay livable wages, medical and retirement benefits. Over 14 million Americans are out of work today and it is estimated that over 46 million have no health care coverage.

The American dream, what is left of it, is being methodically and ruthlessly smashed by armies of Koch brothers-funded Republican wrecking machines who wormed their way into states where millions of the most vulnerable Americans live, the Rust Belt Midwest.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his Republican-controlled state assembly's assaults against public workers, aided and abetted by Fox News, the network that put their faith in the continued dictatorship of Egypt's dictator Hosni Mubarak, are doing their part to carry the water for rapacious corporate greedheads like the billionaire Koch brothers. Their goal: bust every public union they can find, both at the federal and state level.

Congress passed the Federal Pay Comparability Act in 1990 for good reason. During boom times in the American economy when there were pay increases ranging from 5% to 7% plus year-end bonuses for the private sector, Federal employees, however, were lucky to receive 3% or 4% -- and that was in good times.

Congress at that time acknowledged the pay disparity between the private and public sectors and for that reason, passed the Pay Comparability Act, but it has never been followed in the 20 years since it passed. The federal workforce, for those who are unfamiliar with their restrictions (defined in detail in the Hatch Act), are forbidden by law from going on strike. They depend exclusively on the president's recommendations and ultimately on that of Congress for any pay raise, even when it is several percentage points lower than inflation or the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

What we are seeing today, thanks to an ever-gullible mainstream media, are all the hype and distortions being fed to them by Republicans who want to shred union contracts and do away with collective bargaining rights. Until recently, when unions decided to challenge them, we have seen mostly Republican governors and their majorities in the state legislatures who are on the fast track to gut not only pay but workplace health and safety regulations which protect all workers. Now, those who work in the public's interests and serve their needs are fighting back, especially in those Rust Belt states - Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Republicans, at the behest of autocrats like the billionaire Koch brothers, are exploiting the public's anger and frustration over our crumbling economy and record numbers of job layoffs due to years of outsourcing to China, India, Bangladesh and other cheap labor countries. In those countries the pay, health and safety provisions are all subsumed to the corporate greedheads' insatiable appetite for bloating their profits above all else.

Fittingly, considering the short time that Republicans have had almost unbridled control, they have set out to accomplish their goal of obliterating union representation and rights in a blitzkrieg of propaganda and effective use of an obsequious media whose complicity they have recruited to steamroller what they consider to be a quivering, weak-kneed union leadership and their members.

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, "Hence we may learn the lesson that on seizing a state, the usurper should make haste to inflict what injuries he must, at a stroke, that he may not have to renew them daily." He adds, "Injuries, therefore, should be inflicted all at once, that their ill savour being less lasting may the less offend" (Chapter VIII, Of Those Who By Their Crimes Come To Be Princes).

The mainstream media today, just as in the 2010 election when they focused on nincompoops like Christine "I am you" O'Donnell, Second Amendment remedies Sharron Angle, shallow, narcissistic, money-grubbing people like Sarah Palin and baseball-bat wielding Carl "I'll take you out" Paladino (who was about one step removed from preceding Jared Loughner in his maniacal rage and tirades against people he didn't like), began this barrage of government-hating Republican/Tea Party political messaging long before the 2010 election in which they gained huge majorities in the U.S. House and in many state legislatures.

Americans were rolled big time in 2010, buying into the false assertion that the Tea Partiers were ordinary Americans from both political parties and Independents who were fed up with government inaction and sell-outs to foreign labor and foreign markets. Then, the robotic refrain spouted by Congressman John Boehner was, "Where are the jobs?" Voters took that to heart accepting it as part of the Republican "pledge" to create jobs.

But, since taking over the House, that pledge has been all but forgotten. The GOP's first priority: Repeal the health care law that helps all Americans. Then along came the caravan of right-wing cultural war and wedge issues like removing all funds for Planned Parenthood, de-funding Public Broadcasting, gutting EPA standards for regulating greenhouse gases, cutting off funds for the poorest Americans, Food and Drug Administration, IRS (making it harder to audit tax cheats like the Koch brothers), cutting funds for the Securities and Exchange Commission (making it harder to enforce, monitor and prosecute corporate malfeasance), cutting funding for Housing and Urban Development, Commerce Department, U.S. Department of Education (which many Republicans have vowed to abolish completely) and other programs which will kill tens of thousands of jobs and put more Americans at risk.

Tea Partiers were the biggest political ruse Republicans have pulled off in the history of our country. They all ran with a great big R after their names, taking full advantage of the fortuitous U.S Supreme Court edict in Citizens United v. FEC which proclaimed that unlimited, unaccountable and anonymous sources of money could be pumped into political campaigns, effectively giving the green light to the Wall Street swindlers and Ponzi schemers to buy the 2010 election and all future elections. Of course one of the linchpins in the Republican quest for sovereignty depends on removing the hated unions which in turn takes away a huge source of opposition political candidates.

The anti-democracy Republicans are making us all pay the huge price of their "winner take all" rotted ideology that treats American citizens as a burnt out commodity to be tossed on the scrap heap once they are used up and spent out.

We all paid a big price for this unprecedented power grab on November 2, 2010. Two more years of these all-out attacks against workers who teach our children, protect our streets, protect the food we consume, the air we breathe and water we drink, the airspace we fly in and all those who respond to fires and emergencies, unfortunately, is far too much time to prevent the corporate greedheads and billionaire Koch brothers from establishing a permanent oligarchy in America.

If ever there was a truth in the power of numbers, the time has arrived to authenticate the tenet that the United States is a government of, for and by the people.

This quote by Lord Acton from 1887 is his most famous, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." But, he also said, "The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities."

Republicans today govern as if they have absolute power and they intend to wield it in ways totally repugnant to democracy and freedom. We have those Rust Belt citizens to thank for reminding us of what happens when one party, the Republicans, and a handful of their nefarious leaders abuse their oath of office and breach the trust of the people.

Scott Walker and the Koch Brothers: Commitment to Prosperity for the Few

Scott Walker and the Koch Brothers: Commitment to Prosperity for the Few

The infamous billionaire Koch brothers founded "Americans for Prosperity," but cut off the part about it being "prosperity for the few."

This came to mind as I was reading an article in The New York Times this morning and saw a banner ad inviting readers to support Scott Walker. I clicked through and, of course, the web site was sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, which the Koch brothers still generously support.

In fact, you might call the Koch brothers the backers of Walker's campaign for governor in Wisconsin, just as GE invested in Ronald Reagan in grooming him as a political spokesman for corporatism. The prank phone call in which Walker was as responsive as a lapdog to the fake David Koch proved his obeisance to the billionaire brothers.

Yet, today the Kochs are fighting back, claiming that they are being besmirched and that Walker is acting on his own. That's kind of odd, since Americans for Prosperity, the right-wing Club for Growth and FreedomWorks have all been playing a role in spreading propaganda on behalf of Walker's effort to break the backs of unions.

According to TPM, a spokesman for the Kochs defiantly asserted that the:

Koch brothers were not "involved" with Walker's controversial bill, but did say it is "clear Scott Walker is trying to do the right thing for Wisconsin." He also said that while he and the Koch brothers founded and "support" Americans for Prosperity, which has been active in pro-Walker efforts, they are not involved in the group's day to day activities.

For eight years under Bush, the Koch brothers and their oligarchical comrades had a chance to bring prosperity to America - and, instead, helped drive our economy into the ground, leave millions jobless and erode the earning power of what's left of the middle class.

The real name of "Americans for Prosperity" should be "Billionaires for Control of the Government by the Wealthy."

That is an oligarchy. Technically, it's really a plutocracy.

But anyway you look at it, it's a form of government that is a throw back to the European models of rule by the privileged few against which America rebelled.

It was the basis of our revolution.

Rupert Murdoch and David Koch Collude Against Wisconsin Workers

Rupert Murdoch and David Koch Collude Against Wisconsin Workers

Go To Original

In the week-long battle taking place in Wisconsin over Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights, you'd expect Fox News to be doing what it's done: misreporting the story, mistakenly characterizing a poll supporting public workers to mean its opposite, featuring Glenn Beck painting the protests of union workers as something cooked up by Stalinists. And you might be tempted to think, well, that's just Fox playing to its base of frightened Tea Partiers who prefer a fact-free zone to the more challenging territory of actual news, where the answers are never pat, and the world is a bit more complicated than it seems in the realm of Fox Nation.

You might think it's all about what brings in the advertising dollars for Rupert Murdoch, CEO of Fox's parent company, News Corporation. But it runs much deeper than that, involving key players at the Wall Street Journal, News Corp.'s crown jewel. The informal partnership between billionaire David Koch, whose campaign dollars and astroturf group, Americans for Prosperity, have fomented the Wisconsin crisis, and billionaire Rupert Murdoch, is profoundly ideological -- the ideology being the exponential enrichment of the two men's heirs, all dressed up in the language of libertarianism and free enterprise. Together with his brother, Charles -- also a big donor to right-wing causes --David Koch runs Koch Industries, the conglomerate that sprang from the oil and gas company founded by his father.

King of the World and Lord of His Majesty's Media

Ginning up the right-wing rabble is a Fox News specialty. Glenn Beck is more than a talk-show host; he's Rupert Murdoch's community organizer. Like Koch, Murdoch embraces a completely deregulatory agenda: one that would leave giant corporations such as News Corp., the second largest entertainment company in the world, according to Fortune magazine, with nary a single regulation to stand in the way of profit-taking. Like Koch, Murdoch has no use for unions, having famously broken the unions of the newspapers he runs in the U.K. Like Koch, Murdoch gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association least year, the only difference being that Koch wrote a personal check for his contribution, while Murdoch's check was written on a News Corp. account.

In AlterNet's coverage of the Kochs and Murdoch over the last two years, we reported how Koch's Americans for Prosperity Foundation synced an annual conference with Glenn Beck's rally last summer at the Lincoln Memorial, offering discounted hotel rooms and bus travel to attendees, as well as day-long shuttle service between the conference hotel and the rally. Perhaps you remember the collusion we reported between Americans for Prosperity and Fox News in creating the furor that pushed Van Jones from the White House. You may recall our report on a 2009 Americans for Prosperity Foundation conference at which one-third of the speakers on a 15-speaker plenary agenda were on the payroll of a Murdoch entity. Two of those speakers, John Fund and Stephen Moore, hail from the Wall Street Journal; Moore sits on the newspaper's editorial board. So it should come as no surprise to find both Fund and Moore carrying Koch's water in this fight.

Together, Fund and Moore play a very particular role in the war to make David Koch king of the world, and Rupert Murdoch his favorite lord. (Murdoch is the lesser of the two billionaires, worth a mere $6 or $7 billion, to Koch's $20-plus billion.) While Fund and Moore talk to those regular folks who find their thrills watching Fox News, they also speak to the elite readers of WSJ, the investors to whom the two sell the notion that what's good for David Koch is good for everybody's bottom line. Writing on the Wall Street Journal Web site last week, Fund offered the standard right-wing rhetoric that paints President Barack Obama in thuggish terms:

[Obama] accused the new Republican governor, Scott Walker, of launching an "assault" on unions with his emergency legislation aimed at cutting the state budget.

The real assault this week was led by Organizing for America, the successor to President's Obama's 2008 campaign organization. It helped fill buses of protesters who flooded the state capital of Madison and ran 15 phone banks urging people to call state legislators.

WSJ's Fund: No Free Speech For the Little People

Speaking directly to Wall Street Journal readers, Fund laid out his case against organized protests in a video on the paper's Web site: they tend to inconvenience upper-middle-class people who are just trying to have a nice life. He complained about a protest staged outside Wisconsin Gov. Walker's Wauwatosa home. "[T]he protesters showed up there, they put up signs, they yelled, and the neighbors were upset because they said, look, this is just a stunt; the governor's not even here. Go up to Madison; go to the governor's mansion. So, again, if it were just the people involved, it would be one thing, but there are neighbors and children involved, and I think this goes too far."

Fund told horror stories of a protest staged outside the Washington, D.C., home of House Speaker John Boehner, in response to an $80 million cut to the federal appropriation, another mounted against the developer who is building a Wal-Mart in D.C., and a demonstration in front of the home of a Bank of America executive.

"So these protests, I think, are violating people's rights," Fund said, "not just engaging in free speech."

When I last saw Fund, he was presenting on a panel at the annual RightOnline conference convened by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, which is chaired by David Koch, who also founded the organization. There, appearing before an audience of managers and business-owners, Fund got all folksy, telling a tale of how Ronald Reagan, while in the employ of General Electric, saw firsthand the virtue of "educating" workers in a business-friendly view of economics. The session offered tips on how to talk to one's employees about the Employee Free Choice Act legislation, which would make it easier for workers to organize (panelist Tim Nerenz of the Oldenburg Group said he simply tells his workers, "We don't run a union facility"), and was moderated by Linda Hansen, a close associate of Mark Block, who was then the state director for the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity. Block now runs the potential presidential campaign of Herman Cain, the radio talk-show host and former CEO of Godfather's Pizza.

WSJ's Moore: Created By Koch, Employed By Murdoch

But in the realm of cable news, it's WSJ editorial board member Stephen Moore who seems ubiquitous. Moore takes speaking fees from Americans for Prosperity, for which he seems to have a pretty steady gig. "We pay Stephen Moore a speaker’s fee on an event-by-event basis, which is based on a specific negotiated honorarium," Americans for Prosperity spokesperson Mary Ellen Burke emailed to me. "This is the same process we would follow when asking any public figure to speak at an AFP event."

Americans for Prosperity is directly involved in mounting support for Walker's plan; last week, the group attempted to bus in counter-protesters to Madison, but apparently got few takers. Undaunted, AFP took part in a "Stand With Scott Walker" rally on Feb. 19, and released a television ad this week by that title. That didn't stop Stephen Moore from presenting himself as nothing more than a journalist to the investors who watched CNBC on February 22, presenting figures in a deceptive way about the level of benefits received by public employees, and couching the battle in Wisconsin as one over pension and benefits -- even though the major unions have offered to yield to the governor's demands for greater worker contributions in those areas.

The Economic Policy Institute released a study showing that when benefits and pay packages are taken together as a whole, public employees earn less than comparably educated private-sector workers. None of those facts stopped Moore from framing the debate as a fight over benefits, which he claimed public employees scarfed up at a 50-percent higher level than those in the private sector.

When delivering the goods for those speaking fees coughed up by AFP, Moore may be apt to throw a little more red meat, engaging a cause almost as close to David Koch's heart as union-bashing -- that of climate-change denial. (Remember, Koch's billions originate in the the oil and natural gas industries; Koch Industries has some 4,000 miles of pipeline in Wisconsin alone. And buried in the bill, according to the blog, Gin and Tacos, is a provision that would allow the no-bid sell-off of public utilities, such as those that produce energy.) At the 2009 RightOnline conference in Pittsburgh, Moore told the cheering crowd he thought global warming was "the greatest hoax of the last 100 years." He went on to say that the agenda to hold the line on climate change was "not just evil, but…contrary to the free-market system that made this country great."

Journalist or Handsomely Paid Activist? You Decide

Moore's career has, in large part, been shaped from the beginning by the fortunes of Charles and David Koch. After getting his masters from George Mason University, at which Koch funds the Mercatus Institute, a free-market economic think-tank, Moore became a fellow at the Koch-funded Heritage Foundation, and later at the Cato Institute. From there, he became the founding president of the Club for Growth, which, coincidentally, put out a pro-Walker ad last week about the showdown with public employees in Wisconsin. (Moore was ousted from the club in 2004, and replaced with Pat Toomey, who is now the junior U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.) Moore also served on senior economist of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee under then-Chairman Dick Armey, R-Tex., who now chairs the astroturf group FreedomWorks, which was founded with Koch money.

When Rupert Murdoch added the Wall Street Journal to his holdings in 2007, he became the titular boss of Moore, one of David Koch's favorite sons. Perhaps it works like one of those royal marriages of yore. With those bonds, the lord of right-wing media cemented, perhaps, his standing in the realm of the man who would be king of the world.tea

Media Blacks Out Third Court Decision Upholding Health Care Reform

Media Blacks Out Third Court Decision Upholding Health Care Reform

Go To Original

HCR Coverage

There's now been three rulings upholding the constitutionality of health care reform, but you'd have to be paying pretty close attention to find that out from the media.

As you can see in the chart at the top of the post, created by the Office of the Democratic Leader based on data compiled by Steve Benen, the media has all but ignored the decision earlier this week by U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler in favor of reform.

There's really no excuse for to have ignored the ruling, especially compared with the coverage given to the two anti-reform rulings. Sure, maybe the first two rulings in favor of reform weren't as significant, but once the anti-reform rulings started getting outsized coverage, don't you think the responsible thing for the media to do would have been to give some ink to this latest ruling, especially given the strength of Kessler's arguments?

As it turns out, even though it was buried on page A14, The New York Times' article on the Kessler ruling was actually quite good at explaining her core rationale:

Judge Kessler adopted the government’s position on whether Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce is so broad that it can require people to buy a commercial product. Past Supreme Court decisions have established the standard that Congress can control “activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.”

The judge suggested in her 64-page opinion that not buying insurance was an active choice that had clear effects on the marketplace by burdening other payers with the cost of uncompensated medical care.

“Because of this cost-shifting effect,” she wrote, “the individual decision to forgo health insurance, when considered in the aggregate, leads to substantially higher insurance premiums for those other individuals who do obtain coverage.”

Judge Kessler added: “It is pure semantics to argue that an individual who makes a choice to forgo health insurance is not ‘acting,’ especially given the serious economic and health-related consequences to every individual of that choice. Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something.”

As you can see, the problem with The New York Times' coverage wasn't that it was bad -- it's that it was buried. Even though the reporter wrote a good piece with compelling information, it got nowhere near the play of the the Vinson ruling, which was granted page A1 prominence. Still, at least The Times covered the ruling, which is more than we can say about the Washington Post.

The bottom line is that the Kessler ruling was at least as important as the Vinson ruling, but the media ignored it. Sure, covering Kessler's ruling might not be as sexy as covering the rantings of a Federalist society nutjob, but it's an important part of the story and it's wrong to ignore it.

The Security Budget vs. the Necessities of Americans.

The Security Budget vs. the Necessities of Americans.

How does military spending impact Americans?

Go To Original

President Obama and the Congress have taken 66% of discretionary spending in the federal budget off the table –the SecurityBudget – while proposing a freeze to the rest of the budget and deep cuts to some programs that provide necessities for the American people. His budget crystalizes a choice that U.S. presidents have been making since President Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex – investment in the military vs. investment in the civilian economy.

The bloated and sacrosanct security budget – the military, domestic security and intelligence budgets –all saw rapid growth under President Bush when the DoD doubled its budget. Under President Obama the trendhas continuedwith record military, intelligence and domestic security budgets.

And, while the so-called recovery has only been a recovery for Wall Street and big business, the administration and congress are focused more on the deficit then on re-starting the economy for the rest of us. But there is more talk of cutting Social Security and Medicare than cuttingthe security budget. In fact, these two items are called entitlements because they are a contract with working Americans who pay for them in every paycheck. For this reason they should not even be considered part of the deficit. Payrolltaxes fund these two programs that are essential for older Americans in their retirement years. Both face budget challenges but can be fixed, indeed Social Security has more than $2.5 trillion in Treasury Notes in reserve.

President Obama has proposed the largest DoD budget since World War II, $553 billion (not including war funding and nuclear weapons funding in the Department of Energy). Much attention has been shined on Secretary of Defense Gates’proposal to “cut” $78 billion inthe Pentagonbudget. Those “cuts” take place over five years with reductions taking place after the 2012 election in 2014 and 2015. And, the “cuts” do not include the cost of wars. The Afghanistan war alone could eat up projected “savings” and if the CIA’s war in Pakistan escalates that will be an even bigger budget item. Further, we have not seen what the continuing U.S. military footprint in Iraq will cost. These projected cuts are more image than reality.

How does military spending impact Americans? President Reagan’s former assistant secretary of defenseLawrenceKorb describes the military budget as “an annual tax of more than $7,000 on every household in the country.”While increasing the security budget, Obama and the Democrats have proposed widespread cuts to critical programs from a 50% cut in low-income heating assistance to nearly a 30% cut to the clean drinking water fund. They have also proposed a 25% cut ($1.3 billion) to the community development block grants used to fund local community development including affordable housing, anti-poverty programs, and infrastructure development. These are essential services needed for Americans health, safety and economic security.Of course, Republican cuts in the House budget are even more extreme but Obama set the table for them by making the debate about deficits and both parties will not touch the security budget. Military analyst, William Hartung, writes “These cuts will be painful, and they will be felt in every middle- and lower-income household in America.”

Cities and states are cutting essential services to balance their budgets. U.S. taxpayers will spend $737billion for Pentagon spending for FY2011 including war funding). To get a sense of what these means, for the same amount of money tax payers could provide funding for 11.3 million elementary school teachers for one year or 93.5 million scholarships for university students for one year or restart the economy by providing 166.9 million households with renewable electricity - solar photovoltaic for one year.Instead all these programs face cutbacks, while military spending grows.

To get a sense of the absurdity of protecting all military spending, the federal government spends $500 million each year for military marching bands. In comparison it spends $430 million a year on public broadcasting. More than half of all Americans use PBS each year, 170 million people, but PBS faces cutbacks while military bands are protected from budget cuts.

The greater damage will be in the failure to restart the economy. Economists like Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, are convincingly urging more spending. Big business is sitting on $2 trillion in cash stifling job creation and a real economic recovery. There are no signs of inflation because the recoveryif you can even it call it a recovery is non-existent for working Americans and the unemployed/underemployed whose consumer purchases are needed to drive the economy. Obama risks a 1937 mistake – cutting spending too soon and causing another collapse.

Cutting $1 trillion from the federal budget is the goal of the Obama administration deficit plan. All of these cuts could come from military spending and still leave the U.S. militarily dominant. In fact, since the administration has projected an increase in spending of $6.5 trillion from 2011 to 2020, even a trillion would be a slowing of growth more than a real cut. Lawrence Korb lays out a five point plan to reduce military spending by $1 trillion without jeopardizing national security and thereby protecting U.S. economic security.

He is not alone, the Sustainable Defense Task Force provides specific cuts without harming U.S. national security including:

•The $238 billion Joint Strike Fighter program: Cancelling the program and relying instead on upgraded versions of current aircraft would save almost $50 billion over ten years.

•The MV-22 Osprey: Replacing this dangerous, overpriced, and underperforming aircraft with cheaper alternatives would save over $10 billion over ten years.

•Reducing the number of U.S. troops in Europe and Asia to 100,000 from current levels of 150,000 would save $80 billion over a decade.

•Reforming Pentagon health care systems so that retirees pay modest, reasonable premiums could save $60 billion over a decade.

•Scaling back missile defense and space weapons programs could save over $50 billion over a decade.

•Further reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, including deployment of fewer ballistic-missile launching submarines, could save over $100 billion in a ten year period, much of it in operating costs.

•Reducing the size of the Navy from 286 to 230 ships would save over $125 billion over ten years.

If you combine these recommendations of the five point plan of Lawrence Korb, which includes items like bringing home 50,000 of the 150,000 troops stationed in Asia and Europe, reducing the size of the Army and Marine Corps to their pre-Iraq invasion level and reducing nuclear weapons from 1,968 to the 311 the Military War College says is needed for defense, the U.S. would save another $200 billion.

For many, these would only be the starting points of correctly prioritizing military spending. President Eisenhowerwarned about the military industrial complex 50 year ago. During that time, U.S. spending on the military adjusted for inflation has more than doubled and we have moved to a permanent war state. Columbia University’s Seymour Melman, a professor of industrial engineering, pointed out that “Industrial productivity, the foundation of every nation’s economic growth, is eroded by the relentlessly predatory effects of the military economy.” In fact, we have seen – as we see in the Obama budget – a constant conflict between the military economy and the civilian economy. The civilian economy is losing that battle.

Thomas Woods, Jr. recently wrote in the American Conservative that military spending is parasitic as it feeds off the economy rather than grows it. The scale of resources used by the military is exorbitant, Woods writes: “To train a single combat pilot, for instance, costs between $5 million and $7 million. Over a period of two years, the average U.S. motorist uses about as much fuel as does a single F-16 training jet in less than an hour. The Abrams tank uses up 3.8 gallons of fuel in traveling one mile. Between 2 and 11 percent of the world’s use of 14 important minerals, from copper to aluminum to zinc, is consumed by the military, as is about 6 percent of the world’s consumption of petroleum. The Pentagon’s energy use in a single year could power all U.S. mass transit systems for nearly 14 years.”

To get a sense of the competition between the civilian and military economy, the Department of Commerce estimated the value of the nation’s plants, equipment, and infrastructure (capital stock) at just over $7.29 trillion in 1985; and from 1947 to 1987 the military spent the equivalent, $7.62 trillion in capital resources.

With the long record of the ascendency of military spending it is not surprising to see the U.S. economy in collapse, industry disappearing and the infrastructure crumbling. Not only has the U.S. failed to win a major war since World War II, but the cost of the standing army has become a burden on all of us and a drag on the economy. Some describe the U.S. Empire in decline and others see a collapse as possible at any moment.

The failure of President Obama to confront military spending in this time of economic collapse and perceived deficit crisis, when tax dollars are needed to restart the domestic economy, is not only a short term budget failure but does not face up to the long-term damaging economic impact of the American military empire.

Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About

Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About

How screwing unions screws the entire middle class.
Go To OriginalLinks: