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Thursday, February 24, 2011

US Army Uses Psy-Ops on US Politicians to Support War; The Right Lies About and Attacks On Unions; Republican Racists; Blood Type Means Nothing; more

- US Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators
    The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.
- The Case For Not Ignoring Beck and Palin
    I understand what Lind is getting at, and there's something to be said for taking the high road and cultivating an accessible progressive media culture to explain "how liberalism is rooted in American values and history." But that's not mutually exclusive of documenting the eccentricities of the right's blowhards and malcontents. Actually, I think those two concepts work pretty well in concert with one another. But in the end, whatever blowback the left receives from mocking Palin and Beck will be insignificant compared to the damage that could be done by ignoring them.
- You are What You Bleed: In Japan and Other East Asian Countries Some Believe Blood Type Dictates Personality
    Although researchers have established that no scientific basis exists for ketsueki-gata [the belief that blood type dictates personality], why does the theory continue to pervade popular Japanese culture? According to Tokyo Woman’s Christian University psychology professor Kiyoshi Ando, blood types could be a convenient topic of conversation, hold appeal as a predictor of destiny and behavior, and can serve as an outside authority for people to rely upon in order to avoid complex thinking and judgment. At extremes, blood typing can influence how people understand and describe their world, how they define themselves, and shape how decisions are made.
- 'Chamber Gate 2011':  Leaked E-mails Validate Aggressive Tactics
    opponents of the [Republican supporting] Chamber of Commerce and its pro-business agenda, the aggressive push-back described in the documents served both as confirmation of the hardball tactics employed by conservatives and as a backhanded validation of the kind of guerrilla strategy they hope to employ to undercut the Chamber and other big-spending, corporate-funded groups in the next election cycle.
- 'Growing Anger in Pakistan Over US CIA/Blackwater Killings
    New revelations about a CIA contractor in custody for shooting two men dead heaped pressure on Pakistan's fragile government Tuesday and exposed burning public mistrust of Washington.
- American Who Sparked Diplomatic Crisis Over Lahore Shooting was CIA Spy
    The American who shot dead two men in Lahore, triggering a diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and the US, is a CIA agent who was on assignment at the time.
- Limbaugh Falsely Claims Wisconsin's Union-Busting Proposal Will Help Resolve State's Budget Deficit
    Rush Limbaugh claimed that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's proposed union-busting bill is designed to "save union jobs" from a budget crisis that would necessitate layoffs. In reality, the parts of the bill restricting collective bargaining would not affect Wisconsin's budget shortfall.
- Egypt offers Support to US Workers Facing Republican Attacks
    With protesters holding firm in Wisconsin and rockers showing up in support, a stirring statement of solidarity from Egyptian activist Kamal Abbasand, head of an umbrella organization of independent unions. From Michael Moore.
- Uprisings: From the Middle East to the Midwest
    As many as 80,000 people marched to the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison on Saturday as part of an ongoing protest against newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to not just badger the state’s public employee unions, but to break them. The Madison uprising follows on the heels of those in the Middle East. A sign held by one university student, an Iraq War vet, read, “I went to Iraq and came home to Egypt?” Another read, “Walker: Mubarak of the Midwest.” Likewise, a photo has circulated in Madison of a young man at a rally in Cairo, with a sign reading, “Egypt supports Wisconsin workers: One world, one pain.”
- Torturing Detroit's Kids for Racist Fun and Profit
    Corporate America and its servants in the [conservative] Democratic and [entire] Republican parties care nothing for the education of Black, inner city school children, and the proof is in Detroit, for all to see. The State of Michigan, controlled, like every other state in the country, by business interests, has ordered Detroit to close down half of its public schools, and increase class sizes to 60 students. That’s double the number that any respectable educator considers suitable for classroom work, and tantamount to a declaration that Detroit’s public school students will not be provided an education. In a modern society, this is the equivalent of declaring Detroit – an overwhelmingly Black metropolis – a failed state.

[Right Wing Climate Change Deniers and Tea Party Organizers] Koch Brothers "Prank" No Laughing Matter
by Mary Bottari
Published February 24, 2011 on

Embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker came under fire today after news broke about statements he made in a 20-minute phone call from a Boston-area alternative news reporter posing as David Koch, a billionaire whose PAC directly supported Walker and who has given millions to groups that have run ads to aid Walker's rise to the state's highest office. (Listen to the call here.)

As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, the Koch PAC not only spent $43,000 directly on Walkers race, but Koch personally donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association which spent $5 million in the state. Besides the Governor, the Koch brothers have other “vested interests" in the state.

They include Koch Pipeline Company, which operates a pipeline system that crosses Wisconsin. It also owns Flint Hill Resources, which distributes refined fuel through pipelines and terminals in Junction City, Waupun, Madison and Milwaukee. Koch Industries also owns the C. Reiss Coal Company, a power plant company located in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan.

The Koch brothers opened a lobby shop in Wisconsin two days after Walker was elected, and many protesters have suspected that the “budget repair bill” provisions allowing the no-bid sell-off of any state-owned heating, cooling, or power plant, plus new rules on pipeline transport may be of interest to Koch. The company has denied any interest in these assets.

Pink Slips as Poker Chips Raises Legal Concerns

At the start of the conversation Walker eagerly reports on all he is doing: 

 First, he tells the fake Koch brother about a plan to change Senate rules on pay to reel-in the out-of state Democratic senators who are holding out to protect collective bargaining. The new rule would force the Senators to pick up their paychecks in person. This rule was passed in a partisan vote in the Senate yesterday -- a move that went unnoticed by the mainstream press. 

The fake Koch asks Walker how they might get others in Senate to vote to stop collective bargaining. Walker responds that he's involved the Justice Department in investigating whether the union is paying the absent Democratic senators to remain out of state, or providing them with food, shelter, etc., saying it would be an ethics violation or potentially a felony. Wisconsin legislators are well aware of these rules and have already stated they are using their own money while they are out of state.

But the Governor also explains how he is going to lay off thousands of Wisconsin workers as a tactic to get the Democrats to cooperate: "So, we’re trying about four or five different angles. Each day we crank up a little bit more pressure. The other thing is I’ve got layoff notices ready, we put out the at-risk notices, we’ll announce Thursday, they’ll go out early next week and we’ll probably get five to six thousand state workers will get at-risk notices for layoffs. We might
 ratchet that up a little bit too."

The move has been called “despicable” and “ruthless “ and “sickening.” But most importantly, if Walker is choosing to lay off workers as a political tactic when he wasn’t otherwise planning to do so, then it is not just morally repugnant, but legally questionable. State and federal contract and labor law has protections against this type of abusive behavior and inappropriate quid pro quo.

This morning the Capital Times quotes the state’s former Attorney General: “There clearly are potential ethics violations, and there are potential election-law violations and there are a lot of what look to me like labor-law violations,” said Peg Lautenschlager, a Democrat who served as Wisconsin’s Attorney General after serving for many years as a U.S. Attorney. The head of the state teacher's association, Mary Bell, reminds us: “He literally planned to use five to six thousand hardworking Wisconsin taxpayers as political pawns in his political game. He actually thought through a strategy to lay people off -- deny them the ability to feed their families -- and use it as leverage for his political goals."

Kids and Hired Thugs

Walker also says he considers then rejected the idea of hiring trouble makers to disrupt the rallies which have been packed with elementary school children and highs schoolers. When fake Koch says "We’ll back you any way we can. But what we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers." Walker says: "we thought about that," but he rejected the idea in case it back-fired. He didn’t want to "scare the public into thinking maybe the governor as to settle to avoid all these problems."

Wisconsin Ethics Rules

Wisconsin has the toughest ethics law in the nation. Public officials are prohibited from soliciting or receiving anything of value if it could reasonably be expected to influence or reward official actions. The rules against “pay-to-play politics” say a public official is prohibited from taking official action in exchange for political contributions, or anything else of value for the benefit of a candidate, political party, or any person making certain candidate-related communications. You can’t even take a cup of coffee from a lobbyist.

Earlier in the call, Walker had asked the fake Koch for help “spreading the word,” especially in the "swing" districts, in defense of his determination to break the unions, and help get calls in to shore up his Republican allies in the legislature. Walker benefited from a high-dollar "issue ad" campaign by groups funded by Koch group before the election. Americans for Prosperity, which Koch chairs, promoted and funded a couple thousand counter-protestors last Saturday.

On the same day that the scandal broke here in Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity went up with a $342,000 TV ad campaign in support of Walker –- an enormous sum in a state like Wisconsin. If such ads are effectively coordinated with the Governor's office, they may be subject to rules requiring greater disclosure of expenditures and contributors.

Toward the end of the call, the fake Koch offers to fly Walker out to California, after they "crush the bastards," and show him "a good time," to which Walker responds enthusiastically, "All right, that would be outstanding." But,Wisconsin rules bar state officials from taking action for something of value. After Walker agrees to the junket, the fake Koch adds, "And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well" to which Walker responds, "Well that's just it."


So while Walker did not apparently not recognize Koch's voice, he certainly recognized his name, eagerly recounting his efforts to crush collective bargaining in Wisconsin to an out-of-state billioniare backer and thanking him for all Koch had done for him. The entire conversation raises ethical concerns that warrant much closer examination, especially with Wisconsin's tough pay-to-play rules. A week ago the Center for Media and Democracy filed an open records request for the Governor's phone records, email records, and other communications. Perhaps these records will help us understand all the influences behind the Governor's recent radical actions.

Wisconsin is not Illinois, it has a reputation for being a squeaky clean state where lesser scandals than this have brought down political officials. Governor Walker likes to complain of “outside agitators.” It's hard to imagine an agitator with more influence and money than the Koch-family.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why Republicans Suck? Because they are Insane, Greedy and Dishonest; Republicans Honor KKK Leader; Ayn Rand Was a Hypocrite; Dolphins in Gulf Dying (BP Oil Spill); more

- Ex-aide's book paints harsh portrait of Sarah Palin
    The still-unpublished manuscript, obtained by POLITICO, reveals Palin, as a candidate for governor, penning letters-to-the-editor in praise of herself, to be sent under other names. It blames the candidate for inflaming, rather than ignoring, scurrilous rumors. And it quotes her pledging to avoid appearing on any network other than Fox News, referring to the rest as “the bad guys.”Bailey, a former Alaska Airlines manager who worked on her 2006 gubernatorial campaign, also shares scores of emails he claims are from Palin that reinforce the worst perceptions of her.

    The former governor has pointed to her portrayal in the news media to explain her sagging poll numbers. But in Bailey’s manuscript it’s her own apparent words that do the greatest damage.
- When a Country Goes Insane
    It’s the poor, the working, and the middle classes that must be made to pay, for in the Republicans’ psychotic world, government is existentially bad because it is through government that democracy tries to modulate the worst excesses of capitalism, which is existentially good.
- Introducing The 'American Dream' Movement
    In the past 24 months, those of us who longed for positive change have gone from hope to heartbreak. But hope is returning to America -- at last -- thanks largely to the courageous stand of the heroes and heroines of Wisconsin. Reinvigorated by the idealism and fighting spirit on display right now in America's heartland, the movement for "hope and change" has a rare, second chance. It can renew itself and become again a national force with which to be reckoned.
- In Ohio, Thousands Rally Against Plan to Eliminate Collective Bargaining
    The State Highway Patrol limited access to the Statehouse today as thousands of protesters stood outside in the cold, many angry they could not get inside to register their opposition to a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining for state employees.
- Wisconsin's Political Crisis Is A Good Deal More Serious Than Its Fiscal Crisis
    What we cannot figure out is this: Why, if the state is in so much trouble, did Walker engineer the enactment of roughly $140 million in new tax breaks for multinational corporations, which the legislature passed in January? Why did he rush to reject federal transportation funding that other states – states with similar or worse fiscal challenges -- have rushed to collect? Why, in the very week that he was pushing his budget repair bill, did the governor reject federal broadband development money that Wisconsin's rural counties have been seeking for years? The answer to all of these questions is that the governor has made his budget decisions not with an eye toward fiscal responsibility but with an eye toward rewarding his political benefactors.
- Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About
    Income inequality has grown dramatically since the mid-'70s—far more in the US than in most advanced countries—and the gap is only partly related to college grads outperforming high-school grads. Rather, the bulk of our growing inequality has been a product of skyrocketing incomes among the richest 1 percent and—even more dramatically—among the top 0.1 percent. It has, in other words, been CEOs and Wall Street traders at the very tippy-top who are hoovering up vast sums of money from everyone, even those who by ordinary standards are pretty well off.
- Billionaire Brothers’ Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute
    State records also show that [climate change deniers] Koch Industries, their energy and consumer products conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., was one of the biggest contributors to the election campaign of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a Republican who has championed the proposed cuts.Even before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown, Mr. Phillips said in an interview on Monday.
- Idaho Teachers Unions Protest Against Proposed Cuts
    Hundreds of people rallied in Boise and ten other Idaho cities on Monday to protest a plan by the state's schools chief to lay off hundreds of teachers and curtail their collective bargaining.
- Fox Falsely Blames Public Unions For WI Budget Shortfall*
    Wisconsin Faces Shortfall "Due Largely To Anticipated Medicaid Expenses And A Court-Ordered Repayment To A Fund That Was Raided Four Years Ago," And Walker's Tax Policies "Actually Make The State's Ongoing Budget Problem Worse."
- Epic Tea Party FAIL: Anti-union "protesters" out-numbered 35-to-1 in Madison!
    The crowd of protesters on the Capitol Square this afternoon has grown to as many as 60,000, according Joel DeSpain, a spokesman for the Madison Police Department.Early estimates of the pro-Walker (republican, anti-union) crowd were around 2,000.
- Spike Reported in Number of Stillborn Dolphins on Coast
    Solangi called the high number of deaths an anomaly and told the Sun Herald that it is significant, especially in light of the BP oil spill throughout the spring and summer last year when millions of barrels of crude oil containing toxins and carcinogens spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.
- Ayn Rand and the VIP-DIPers
    Miss Rand, famously a believer in rugged individualism and personal responsibility, was a strong defender of self-interest. She was a staunch opponent of government programs from the New Deal and Social Security to the Great Society and Medicare.A Library of Congress survey of the most influential books on American readers, "Atlas Shrugged" ranked second only to the Bible. Rand's influence is encyclopedic ranging from Alan Greenspan to Paul "I grew up on Ayn Rand" Ryan (R-Wis), a "Young Gun" who aims to cut or privatize Medicare and Social Security.

    The Right should be commended politically for their ability to develop and stick to a unified message. But close inspection of this unified message reveals a disappointing secret identified by a student of the Godfather of Neo-conservatism, --- the University of Chicago's Leo Strauss. The student, Anne Norton ("Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire") identified what she called VIP-DIP meaning Venerated in Public, Disdained in Private. "Do as I say, not as I do." The list of vip-dipers on the Right runs from Harold Bloom to Newt Gingrich, but certainly not Ayn Rand. Right?

    A heavy smoker who refused to believe that smoking causes cancer brings to mind those today who are equally certain there is no such thing as global warming. Unfortunately, Miss Rand was a fatal victim of lung cancer.

    However, it was revealed in the recent "Oral History of Ayn Rand" by Scott McConnell (founder of the media department at the Ayn Rand Institute) that in the end Ayn was a vip-dipper as well. An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand's law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand's behalf she secured Rand's Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O'Connor (husband Frank O'Connor).
- Miss. License Plate Proposed To Honor KKK Leader
    A fight is brewing in Mississippi over a proposal [supported by Republicans] to issue specialty license plates honoring Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Priorities? GOP Governors Shift Burden To Poor, Middle Class To Pay For Tax Breaks For Rich, Corporations
by Josh Dorner
Published on Tuesday, February 22, 2011 by ThinkProgress

State budgets across the country are in disarray as a weak economy, the end of tens of billions in Recovery Act funds, and a GOP-led House that is pushing for deep cuts to many programs that benefit state and local governments set the stage for massive in shortfalls over the next two years. Instead of making the tough choices necessary to help their states weather the current crisis with some semblance of the social safety net and basic government services intact, Republican governors are instead using it as an opportunity to advance several longtime GOP projects: union busting, draconian cuts to social programs, and massive corporate tax breaks. These misplaced priorities mean that the poor and middle class will shoulder the burden of fiscal austerity, even as the rich and corporations are asked to contribute even less. Here’s a detailed look at how the GOP’s war on the poor and middle class is playing out at the state level:

Arizona: Following months of national outcry and at least two deaths, Gov. Jan Brewer’s administration has finally relented on what many likened to real-life “death panels” that denied care to those in need of transplants in order to save the state just over a million dollars. Now, however, Governor Jan Brewer is proposing to kick some 280,000 Arizonans, mostly childless adults, off the state’s Medicaid rolls. Brewer claims such a move is the only way to get the state’s fiscal house in order, as it would save $541.5 million in general funding spending. Brewer also wants to save $79.8 million by dropping 5,200 “seriously mentally ill” people from the state’s Medicaid program. Instead of balancing out these draconian cuts with additional revenue increases or simply not making the cuts in the first place, Brewer instead signed $538 million in corporate tax cuts into law two weeks ago.

Florida: Last week, Gov. Rick Scott announced that he was canceling a proposed high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa — something that will cause Florida to forego $2 billion in federally-funded investments and cost the state at least 24,000 jobs.
Scott’s move is opposed even by the Republican chairman of the U.S. House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Obama administration officials are seeking ways to bypass Scott to keep the project moving.

Scott’s radical budget proposal, unveiled at a tea party event, includes $4.6 billion in spending cuts that would result in the direct loss of more than 8,000 jobs. It would also privatize large areas of state services, including juvenile justice facilities, Medicaid, and some hospitals. Education spending would be cut by more than $3 billion and teachers and other public employees would see their pensions under threat. Such deep cuts in essential programs and services are necessary to offset Scott’s proposal to cut corporate and property taxes by at least $4 billion.

Michigan: While newly-elected Gov. Rick Snyder has said he won’t “pick fights” with unions, his budget plan echoes the misguided priorities of other GOP governors. As Matt Yglesias has noted, Snyder has an innovative definition of “shared sacrifice.” His plan calls for “$1.2 billion in cuts to schools, universities, local governments and other areas while asking public employees for $180 million in concessions.” In addition, it would raise taxes on individuals by ending many deductions and taxing pensions — all in order to pay for $1.8 billion in tax cuts for businesses. Since the state’s entire budget shortfall this year is only about $1.7 billion, all or most of the cuts to services and programs important to the poor and middle class (many of whom will also see their taxes increases) could be avoided if the governor was willing to forego corporate tax breaks.

New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie has become a right-wing sensation, particularly because of his war on public employees — especially New Jersey’s teachers. He’s often lauded by the conservative punditocracy for his tough talk and for balancing the state’s budget last year without raising taxes. Unfortunately, a look behind the curtain reveals that Christie’s numbers simply don’t add up. After vetoing Democrats’ plans to raise taxes on New Jersey’s millionaires, Christie closed the state’s multi-billion dollar shortfall through a combination of measures, including simply refusing to make contributions to the state’s pension fund and steep cuts in education funding and assistance to municipalities.
Democrats accused Christie of simply shifting the burden to local governments, which caused New Jersey’s already-high property tax rates to double even as the state was slashing funding to its property tax rebate program. (Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty used a similar gimmick during his final year in office.) Christie is also being sued by Federal Transit Administration for keeping $271 million in federal funding for a tunnel under the Hudson — money he insists on keeping even after having personally canceled the project.

New Jersey is staring down another large deficit and Christie’s budget, expected to be released today, will pair continuing austerity for education and local governments with further cuts to the state’s Medicaid program. The austerity measures and cuts to programs for the poor will have to be all the deeper this year as Christie is also insisting on cutting corporate tax rates.

Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin after the jump.

Ohio: Gov. John Kasich demonstrated an early propensity for making future-losing choices when he made good on a campaign promise to kill Ohio’s federally-funded high-speed rail project — a move that will cost Ohio $400 million in badly-needed infrastructure investment, cost thousands of jobs, and derail millions of dollars in related private sector investments in economic development. Kasich, along with numerous other Ohio Republicans, has signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge that rules out any tax increases to help the state make ends meet. Even though the state has an $8 billion budget shortfall, Kasich has gone even further in proposing a variety of tax cuts that would benefit corporations and the wealthy. In addition to going after public employees (who Kasich thinks should not ever have the right to strike) and essential government programs, he has proposed a variety dubious privatization schemes to finance such massive tax breaks.

Kasich has voiced support for radical Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s assault on the middle class and workers. The Ohio Senate takes up SB5, its version of anti-union legislation, today; at least 8 Republican Ohio state senators have already come out in opposition to the current proposal. The current proposal goes even further than the Walker plan in eliminating collective bargaining rights for Ohio’s public employees.

Texas: As ThinkProgress has reported, Gov. Perry spent the last two years traveling around the country attacking the stimulus and other Obama administration initiatives, all while touting the “Texas Miracle” (low taxes, low services, and low regulations). However, as Matt Yglesias noted, “It looks like the secret behind Texas’ ability to avoid the kind of budget woes that afflicted so many states last year was two-year budgeting rather than the miracle of low-tax, low-service, lax-regulation policies.” Moreover, Perry relied more on the stimulus than any other state to fill his 2010 budget gap, with stimulus funds plugging a full 97 percent of the gap.

In facing down a $25 billion budget crisis on par with that of California, Perry categorically rejected any tax increases. Texas, as Paul Krugman said, already takes a “hard, you might say brutal, line toward its most vulnerable citizens,” as indicated by its poor educational performance and sky-high 25 percent child poverty rate. Still, Perry also refuses to use any of the $9.4 billion in the state’s rainy day fund (some of which, ironically, comes from stimulus funds intended to help states stave off draconian cuts that Perry instead squirreled away) and is instead contemplating deep cuts to child services programs and education, among other things. Perry even floated a plan to drop Medicaid entirely. Perry’s proposed education cuts are so deep that they prompted an unlikely source to take to the pages of the Houston Chronicle to write in opposition to them — none other than former First Lady Laura Bush. Bond ratings agency Standard & Poors has also weighed in, saying Texas’ cuts-only approach “won’t solve the state’s long-term fiscal problems” and that revenue increases need to be considered alongside the deep cuts being proposed.

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker first gained national headlines for joining Ohio’s Kasich in a future-losing decision to cancel an $800 million investment — fully paid for the by the federal government — in high-speed rail. This decision prompted train manufacturer Talgo to announce it was leaving the state and will likely cost the state thousands of jobs.

Walker is of course now famous for his high-stakes war against Wisconsin’s workers. Walker has used a very small short-term shortfall and larger shortfall to come (which is still smaller than shortfalls the state has faced in recent years) to move forward with an unpopular plan to destroy the state’s public employee unions. As Ezra Klein and many others have noted, Wisconsin’s unions aren’t to blame for the state’s budget problems and taking away their collective bargaining rights will have no impact on the state’s fiscal situation. Indeed, the unions offered to concede to all of Walker’s financial demands, so long as they could retain their collective bargaining rights. Walker balked at this offer, betraying his true motive: busting unions. Walker is also late in offering his budget, but it is believed that in spite of the supposed “crisis” and being “broke,” as Walker himself has said, his budget plans will include “a LOT more tax breaks” for the rich and corporations that will have to be balanced on the backs of workers or with painful cuts to state services and the state’s Medicaid programs, BadgerCare. It’s also worth noting that the last time Scott Walker went union busting, it turned into a massive boondoggle when he was overruled by an arbiter, wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars in the process.

When Republican governors speak of “shared sacrifice,” it seems that the only thing they mean is sacrifices by the poor and middle class in order to fund massive tax breaks for the rich and corporations. As governors from across the country gather in Washington, D.C. at the end of this week at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, ThinkProgress hopes to catch up with some governors to discuss their priorities — misplaced or otherwise.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Nazi Republican Party; Veggie Diet Makes You Smarter; Racist Republicans; Republican Gov Threaten Workers with Troops; Chevron Dumps Oil in Amazon; Republican/Tea Party US Supreme Court Judge Tied to Oil Lobbyists; Donna Karan Butchers Bunnies

- A 'Dictator' Republican Governor in Wisconsin Sets Out to Cut Wages, Slash Benefits and Destroy Public Unions, Threatens to Call Up National Guard to Stop Protests
    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to strip public employees of most collective bargaining rights, cut pay and gut benefits without any negotiation the most radical assault yet by the current crop of Republican governors on the rights of workers has inspired outrage in a historically progressive and pro-labor state.With unions calling on members an allies to “fight back” against a “blatant power grab,” tensions are running so high that the governor, who took office in January, is threatening to call out the National Guard in case of industrial action by state, county and municipal employees.
- As Budget Debates Begin, Republicans Put NPR, PBS on Chopping Block
    As the House prepares for debate today on the budget, Republicans are trying to cut off public funding for NPR and the Public Broadcasting Service, which run such iconic programs as "Sesame Street" and "Morning Edition."
- Defector Admits to WMD Lies That Helped Trigger Iraq War
    The defector who convinced the White House that Iraq had a secret biological weapons programme has admitted for the first time that he lied about his story, then watched in shock as it was used to justify the war.
- Common Cause Questions Justice Thomas' Koch Connection
    Common Cause maintains that Justice Thomas should have disqualified himself from last year’s landmark campaign finance ruling in the Citizens United case, partly because of his ties to the Koch brothers [lobbyists for the fossil fuel industry, big insurance, etc]
- Chevron Fined $8.6 Billion for Pollution in Ecuador
    A court in Ecuador has told oil giant Chevron Corp to pay $8.6bn in environmental damages, but the US company has termed the court order as "illegitimate and unenforceable" [even though they promised to stand by the court's decision prior to its ruling] and said it would appeal.
- KS Republican Congresswoman Connie O’Brien Says She Can Tell Who Is ‘Illegal’ Because They Have ‘The Olive Complexion’
    O’Brien has been the target of scathing media coverage since her remark, and numerous Kansas Democratic Party lawmakers have asked her to apologize.
- Junk Food Linked to Lower IQs in Children
    And now researchers who reviewed data by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children have found an additional disturbing consequence for unhealthy eating habits: lower IQs. While kids who ate a diet high in fruits, vegetables, rice, and pasta at 3 years old showed higher IQs at age 8 1/2, kids who ate processed food high in sugar and fat at 3 years old actually showed lower IQs later on. "This suggests that any cognitive/behavioural effects relating to eating habits in early childhood may well persist into later childhood, despite any subsequent changes (including improvements) to dietary intake," said the researchers.
- Donna Karan Bunny Butcher
    Bunnies, cows, pigs, fish, birds, they are all the same. No animal should suffer like this. If you can't watch, then you shouldn't be eating meat or wearing leather or fur. Go vegan.

White Nationalists Converge on Day Two at Republican Convention (Conservative Political Action Conference)
February 12, 2011 by Imagine 2050 Editors

While many young conservatives waited in long lines to hear Ron Paul speak in the main ballroom of yesterday’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), another event, ‘Will Immigration Kill the GOP,’ was drawing a crowd of its own.

The seminar was sponsored by Youth for Western Civilization, a group that debuted at CPAC in 2009 and aims to defend western culture on college campuses. The group invited former Congressman Virgil Goode, anti-immigrant activist Bay Buchannan and anti-immigrant former Congressman Tom Tancredo to speak on its panel. A special guest who joined  later was newly elected Pennsylvania Congressman Lou Barletta, famous for an anti-immigrant ordinance he passed in the town of Hazleton, PA.

Barletta was even presented with an award by one of the attendees. None other than Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minutemen Project. Jim Gilchrist was closely tied to Shawna Forde right up to her arrest for murder in 2009.

More disturbing than the actual lineup of anti-immigrant activists was the white nationalists that the event attracted.

Sitting on one side of the room was William Johnson, chairman of the white nationalist political party American Third Position (A3P). The mission statement of A3P reads: “The American Third Position exists to represent the political interests of White Americans.”
Johnson wrote of American immigration, “No person shall be a citizen of the United States unless he is a non-Hispanic white of the European race. … Only citizens shall have the right and privilege to reside permanently in the United States.”

Sitting across the aisle from Johnson was Jared Taylor, the white nationalist founder of American Renaissance, a magazine which routinely writes about the inferiority of non-whites. Taylor’s 2011 American Renaissance conference was shut down last week in Charlotte after a city councilman convinced city hotels not to provide a venue for the event.

Other attendees included Youth for Western Civilization members who have attended Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC) conferences in the past. The CofCC is a blatantly white supremacist organization that has called blacks a “retrograde species of humanity.”

Another member of Youth for Western Civilization in attendance was Tim Dionisopoulos, a member of the anti-immigrant group Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, a group listed on the Federation for American Immigration Reform’s website as a state contact group. Dionisopoulos spoke last October at an anti-immigrant event in Rhode Island where he quoted Sam Francis, a now deceased white nationalist and former editor of the CofCC’s  newsletter.

Youth for Western Civilization’s booth at CPAC was distributing free copies of the Social Contract, a journal published by white nationalist John Tanton, the founder of the modern day anti-immigrant movement. Ironically, in the booth right next to Youth for Western Civilization was the anti-immigrant organization ProEnglish, founded by Tanton, who still sits on the organization’s board of directors.

Youth for Western Civilization claims that it is not a racist group, but its ties to the CofCC and the fact that it has attracted some of the most famous white nationalists in the country to its panel cannot be overlooked.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Super Bowl Selling Materialism and Military; Climate Change Ignored by Media; Scientology Fake; Peak Oil Acknowledged by US and Saudis; US Still Backing Dictators; Huffington Post/AOL Merger Bad

- The Planet Keeps Warming, But U.S. Media Interest Cools
    ...there has been a "steep slide" in climate reporting this year, Columbia Journalism Review’s science blog noted. Few major corporate news media outlets even planned to send reporters to Cancún [to the climate talks]; as Washington Post lead environmental writer Juliet Eilperin told Observatory, "It feels like there is absolutely no momentum…. What will there even be to cover in Cancún in terms of public policy or reader interest?"Setting aside the oddness of an often-reactive news media predicting the (lack of) news, if a meeting of the world’s nations upon which the fate of the Earth potentially hinges isn’t a story, what is?
- It Ain't Just Mubarak -- 7 of the Worst Dictators the U.S. Is Backing to the Hilt
    Embattled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, whose regime has received billions in U.S. aid, has been in the global media spotlight of late. He's long been "our bastard," but he's not alone.Let's take a look at the other dictators from around the planet who are fortunate enough to be on Uncle Sam's good side... 
- Basis of Scientology Proven False
    As I reported in the article, I discussed Hubbard’s war record with Tommy Davis, the spokesman for the Church of Scientology. He said that "if it was true that Hubbard had not been injured, then "the injuries that he handled by the use of Dianetics procedures were never handled, because they were injuries that never existed; therefore, Dianetics is based on a lie; therefore, Scientology is based on a lie".
- WikiLeaks Cables: Saudi/US Officials Acknowledge 'Peak Oil' Approaches
    The US fears that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest crude oil exporter, may not have enough reserves to prevent oil prices escalating, confidential cables from its embassy in Riyadh show.
- Vermont Governor Lays Out Details for Single Payer Pathway
    [The Governor of Vermont] released the legislative details of how to move the state to a single payer health care system, with the first steps beginning this summer.
- Obama’s Deal with the US Chamber of Commerce is Disaster for Workers
    I've been watching (and occasionally trying to deal with) the Chamber for years, and all I know is it has a deep, abiding belief in cutting taxes on the wealthy, eroding regulations that constrain Wall Street, cutting back on rules that promote worker health and safety, getting rid of the minimum wage, repealing the new health-care law, fighting unions, cutting back Medicare and Social Security, reducing or eliminating corporate taxes, and, in general, taking the nation back to the days before the New Deal.
- AOL and HuffPo. The loser? Journalism
    That's borne out by a memo from AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong on where his company's journalism is going. It's fairly chilling reading, ordering the company's editors to evaluate all future stories on the basis of "traffic potential, revenue potential, edit quality and turnaround time." All stories, it stressed, are to be evaluated according to their "profitability consideration."
- The Left Built Huffington, and We CanTear it Down Too
    Socialite Arianna Huffington built a blog-empire on the backs of thousands of citizen journalists. She exploited our idealism and let us labor under the illusion that the Huffington Post was different, independent and leftist. Now she’s cashed in and three thousand indie bloggers find themselves working for a megacorp.

The Stink in the Super Bowl
by Robert Shetterly
Published on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 by

"Part of the main plan of imperialism… is that we will give you your history, we will write it for you, we will re-order the past…What’s more truly frightening is the defacement, the mutilation, and ultimately the eradication of history…"
--- Edward Said

It would be hard to imagine any ardent advocate of the military/industrial complex not reveling in what the Super Bowl has become --- a veritable marketing orgy of violence and consumption --- advertisers spending millions per minute to pander to our desire to own more stuff while fighter jets roar overhead reminding us of how the right-to-stuff is protected. Why must a football game become a vehicle for materialism and the power that defends it?  I like football, played it pretty well in high school, and still think that in spite of the performance enhancing drugs & obscene salaries, the game itself is one of the few more or less honest of our mass cultural diversions. But the integrity of the game itself drowns in the toxic soup of values being dished up.

However, I have no need to belabor what should be obvious to anyone.
Instead, something far more insidious was presented to the world minutes before the opening kick-off. A short video, 111 seconds, narrated by the actor Michael Douglas, portrayed The Journey of American History --- its culmination being Super Bowl XLV.

The video consisted of a quick series of icons, both events and people, from our history, each one meant to strike a chord of collective pride, courage, triumph or suffering. In quick succession we saw in black and white the Statue of Liberty, suffragists marching, an image from the Dust Bowl, a landing craft at D-day, John Lennon’s image on a peace poster, JFK at his inaugural saying, "Ask not….," MLK, Jr. intoning, "I have a dream…," Rosa Parks, the Challenger lifting off, someone pick axing the Berlin Wall, the floods of Katrina, FDR speaking, Muhammad Ali gesticulating over a downed opponent, Ronald Reagan smiling, Lindbergh, the flag raising at Iwo Jima, a similar flag raising at 9/11, Amelia Earhart, Ray Charles, the moon landing, a scene from the Depression …. I’m sure I’ve missed a few.
Michael Douglas’s minimal narration began by saying that this was our journey. And after Dr. King’s image, Douglas picked up the theme of the dream, our dream & our belief in that dream. With the images of 9/11, he said that this was our darkest day…. But the flag as still there! He said, "We never give up. How could we?"

And then the video shifted to the teams in the Super Bowl. Douglas said that tonight we are united in the journey of these teams as quick images of chicken packers in Green Bay and a steel mill in Pittsburgh flashed by. Douglas said that dreaming and believing have brought us to this moment of collective celebration and that that is Our Journey. 

That’s our journey? It began with the Statue of Liberty? Not with the genocide of Native Americans, slavery and the crucial assumption that nature was to be feared, conquered and exploited? If I claim that I am telling you about my journey, and tell you only the good parts, what have I told you? What have we learned about the nature of journeys?

If I tell you that my darkest day was the time I was victimized and fail to mention the time I victimized someone else, what do you think I have learned from my experience?

More importantly, the video portrayed a series of American moments and heroic people and equated them with the Super Bowl as though they are all on a continuum of social progress and equally indicative of our finest character. In the parlance of our time, it was simply a portrayal of connecting the dots: Statue of Liberty, suffragists, FDR, D-day, JFK, Rosa Parks, MLK, Jr. … Super Bowl. All on the same line, of equal weight. If this is the trail of dots we need to follow, it’s a trail that leads us deeper into the dark woods, not out of it.

Obviously the Super Bowl is an excuse to celebrate materialism and militarism. Weren’t those two of the "triplets" (the other being racism) that Dr. King identified as being the forces that were destroying the values of this country and leading us to spiritual death?
Many of the dots in that time line figure one way or another in the struggle for some kind of justice. How does the Super Bowl do that? It does, but only if you consider the real triumph of this country not its democratic values but its economic system, capitalism. And you can’t tell the difference.

In his "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. King described the American Dream as consisting of the "riches of freedom and the security of justice." The blatant message of Super Bowl is the freedom of riches and the justice of security.  Very different things.

People, like many of our students today, who know little history except for the façade of history, and people, like many students today, who have not been taught to think deeply, would accept the message of Michael Douglas’s version of our journey. Without any critique, it felt good.

Who wrote that script for him? 

Clearly its intent was to equate the apotheosis of violence and consumption with the struggle for social justice. Its intent was to drain the real courage and meaning of our most important and most necessary social struggles by equating them with corporate power --- corporate power being the same force that did and does impede social and economic justice. The video’s intent was to show that the behavior and interests of Halliburton are on the same moral timeline as the behavior and interests of Rosa Parks.

We generally think of imperialism, as Edward Said was when he made the comment above, as the military/economic process of one country exploiting another. Imperialism, though, is the same within a country. Propaganda and false history, combined with poor education and a corporate press, are used to subjugate people to the benefit of their own powerful elites. It stinks. It stinks in Iraq and it stinks in Wichita.

Douglas said, "We never give up. How could we?" Give up what? Fighting for justice or fighting for profit?  His choice of words reminded me of another person who asked the same question. Dorothea Lange went into internment camps in the western US during WW II where our government had imprisoned Japanese Americans. She photographed what was being done to these people in the name of the freedom of security. She went to bear witness. Most Americans had no idea nor wanted to. Fear justifies most anything and denies the consequences. After being there & witnessing this crime against humanity, Dorothea Lange said, "This is what we did. How could it happen? How could we?"

What is our journey?

I know little about Michael Douglas except that he is a fine actor and that he recently survived a bout with serious throat cancer. I suspect that both of those factors made him a good choice as the narrator for this bit of dangerous propaganda. Conquering a deadly disease tends to add credibility to one’s professed integrity. But with this video he was helping to proliferate a cultural cancer that is destroying us all.

I noticed that he was sitting right behind George Bush and Condoleezza Rice in the luxury boxes.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Chomsky Says Republicans Will Destroy Earth; US Journalism=Failure; Climate Change Made Worse by Meat Eaters; Capitalism Dead; Homeless Animals; Bush Cancels Trip Due to Potential Arrest; more

- Republicans’ 2010 Election Triumph will Fuel Civilization’s Demise, Chomsky says
    The Republican Party's triumph in the 2010 congressional elections, coupled with the rapid depletion of the earth's natural resources, signaled the impending collapse of human civilization, according to a world-renowned scholar known for his left-wing politics.“You could almost interpret [the election] as a kind of a death knell for the species," Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a recent interview.
    But he's not the only one worried; the US business press is, too.
    Chomsky continued, "There was an article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, you know – not a radical rag exactly. They’re running through the new Republicans coming to Congress, and they’re worried about them.”
    The cause for concern is that these newly-elected conservative members that now comprise the majority in Congress believe that global climate change is not the result of human industrial activities.
- WikiLeaks, Revolution, and the Lost Cojones of American Journalism
    Now that the WikiLeaks releases about Tunisian corruption have directly sparked a peoples' uprising in Tunisia; now that Egypt is in the throes of pro-democracy protest driven in large measure by WikiLeaks' revelation in the Palestine Papers about US manipulation of Palestine, surely one would expect key U.S. news organizations and journalists to rally prominently to the defense of the right to publish that that site represents. One would expect lead editorials supporting Assange's right to publish from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and USAToday, not to mention every major TV outlet. But instead, what we have heard is the deafening sounds of what middle-schoolers call 'crickets' -- that is, an awkward silence. As Nancy Youssef in the McClatchy papers reported recently, most U.S. journalists -- and, even more shamefully, journalists' organizations -- decided, regarding supporting Wikileaks' freedom to publish, to "take a pass."
- The Siege of Planned Parenthood
    Maybe it’s all part of a grand theme. Last month, they [the republicans] voted to repeal the health care law. This month, they’re going after an organization that provides millions of women with both family-planning services and basic health medical care, like pap smears and screening for diabetes, breast cancer, cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.Our [republican] legislative slogan for 2011: Let Them Use Leeches.
- Working Class Hero Lula Says Capitalism Is Dead
    Brazil's first working class president and an icon of the downtrodden said Monday that the global financial crisis proves capitalism is broken. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also said it was time for affluent countries to begin paying attention to nations like Senegal, ranked as one of the world's poorest.
- 'Fixing' Animal Homelessness the Right Way
    The animal overpopulation crisis is like water flooding into a sinking ship. We don't need more people bailing; we need to fix the gaping hole in the bottom of the boat!
- Pox Americana: Driving Through the Gates of Hell and Other American Pastimes in the Greater Middle East
    As we've watched the dramatic events in the Middle East, you would hardly know that we had a thing to do with them.  Oh yes, in the name of its War on Terror, Washington had for years backed most of the thuggish governments now under siege or anxious that they may be next in line to hear from their people. 
- Devoutly To Be Wished
    Today, the ninth anniversary of the day George Bush decided that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to "enemy combatants," two torture victims filed legal complaints asking that Swiss officials investigate Bush for war crimes. Bush is safe for now, having scrapped plans for a Switzerland visit. But activists say an indictment is waiting for him. The welcome message: "Be careful in your travel plans."

Meatless Monday: The Missing Link
by Ellen Kanner
Feb 7 2001 Huffington Post

You may be chilly now, but on the global scale, things are heating up. Recent findings by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) conclude climate change will affect food security by 2050. Crop yields are forecast to be lower, and food prices, accordingly, will be higher, with staples like rice going up as much as 78 percent. That means we're going to have to work hard not to go hungry. Or as Charles Darwin might have put it, we adapt or perish.

One way to adapt could have huge positive consequences. The United Nations International Panel of Sustainable Resource Management has called for "a substantial worldwide diet change away from animal products." A UN panel analysis indicates meat and dairy production accounts for 70% of our global water supply and more than a third of our land use. We're going to need every inch of arable land to grow food. Reducing meat consumption might be what saves us.

No one liked what Darwin had to say, either. All the guy did was observe the natural world. Darwin didn't make up the idea of natural selection. He wasn't pushing any kind of agenda, just reporting his findings after years of research -- findings which pissed many people off. We're supposed to be God's appointed rulers of this earthly dominion, damnit, and it really fried our collective ass to think all that separated us from the apes were a few links in the evolutionary chain. It was easier to brand Darwin as a heretic and a wingnut than to buy his theory on the origin of the species. Many people still deride Darwin's notion and the man's been dead since 1882.

Similarly, the link between meat production and climate change has its host of detractors, too. It's easier to blame or defame the messenger than it is to change, to reduce the amount of meat we eat or face the fact we're out on a rapidly melting polar ice cap (thanks, climate change).
Maybe, despite the evidence, you don't believe in global warming. Or you think it's just part of God or nature's plan, that the planet is (intelligently) designed to throw climate curveballs every millenium or so. And in the long run, we're all going to die, anyway. That doesn't mean we need to hurry the process along, globally or personally.

The new USDA and Human Health Services dietary guideline tell you what you've already known -- making the move to a plant-based diet is good for you. Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society links daily meat consumption with heightened mortality risk. Eating meat shortens your life.

Change is hard, whether it's a matter of changing your world view or your diet. But all evidence points away from eating meat, if you want to stick around. To quote Darwin, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. . . but the one most adaptable to change."

It's not to late to adapt. That's what life on earth is about. As Darwin wrote, this is where "endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."


Friday, February 4, 2011

Egypt and What We Do to Oppress Them; Chomsky Correctly Says US Fears Arab Independence; Climate Change Equals Storms but Republicans Too Stupid to Know That; Glenn Beck Ratings Sinking Fast; more

- It's Not Radical Islam that Worries the US – it's Independence By Noam Chomsky
    Washington and its allies keep to the well-established principle that democracy is acceptable only insofar as it conforms to strategic and economic objectives...
- The Tragic US Strategy in Afghanistan
    The results of the surge of tens of thousands of additional troops into the “graveyard of empires” are now evident. More soldiers, humanitarian workers, and civilians were killed in 2010 than any year since the United States invaded. One tally put the dead at more than 10,000 last year alone.If the Obama administration is truly concerned with rooting out the Taliban and undermining terrorism, it must rethink its goals in Afghanistan and dramatically change gears. Rather than pointing to an ever-higher Taliban body count as a sign of success, the U.S. should stop backing the corrupt warlords that currently dominate the Afghan government, remove its troops from the country, and redirect the more than $2 billion per week that is currently being squandered on the war to meet the basic needs of everyday Afghans. Only when the people of Afghanistan are free from foreign occupation and have a functioning, democratic government--along with real hope for a better life--will the lure of the Taliban and extremism disappear.
- What if Fox News Preempted Glenn Beck Every Night?
    As we’ve noted, Beck’s ratings have been down so far in 2011.  He averaged just fewer than 1.8 million viewers each night last month. Really, they’ve been down since November. And yes, they're down hugely from 12 months ago when Glenn Beck was averaging 3 million viewers each night. (i.e. Beck has lost more than one million viewers in the last year.) But has the current slump gotten to the point where Glenn Beck’s ratings are just fine even when Beck himself doesn’t show up for work...
- Global Food Prices Hit Record High
    Rising food prices have been cited among the driving forces behind the recent popular revolts in north Africa, including the uprising in Egypt and the toppling of Tunisia's long-time president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
- Mass Tree Deaths Prompt Fears of Amazon 'Climate Tipping Point'
    Billions of trees died in the record drought that struck the Amazon in 2010, raising fears that the vast forest is on the verge of a tipping point, where it will stop absorbing greenhouse gas emissions and instead increase them.
- Al Gore Explains Winter Snow To A Perplexed Bill O'Reilly
    This week, storms across the globe have brought massive snow falls, flooding, record low temperatures to the USA and cyclones, record rain and more to Australia and other parts of the world. Two storms that hit the USA and Australia were about 2000 miles wide! And since it's snowing here in the USA, the Right-wing media starts laughing at the concept of Global Warming, totally unaware of the science that says Climate Change actually causes the exact conditions we're facing, including snow and cold temperatures, while also being totally unaware of events elsewhere in the world that have nothing to do with cold temperatures. But of course, nothing exists outside the borders of the USA for Republicans.

We All Helped Suppress the Egyptians. So How Do We Change?
Very few British people would beat up a poor person to get cheaper petrol. But our governments do it all the time. Why?
by Johann Hari
Published on Friday, February 4, 2011 by The Independent/UK

The old slogan from the 1960s has come true: the revolution has been televised. The world is watching the Bastille fall on 24/7 rolling news. An elderly thug is trying to buy and beat and tear-gas himself enough time to smuggle his family's estimated $25bn in loot out of the country, and to install a successor friendly to his interests. The Egyptian people – half of whom live on less than $2 a day – seem determined to prevent the pillage and not to wait until September to drive out a dictator dripping in blood and bad hair dye.

The great Czech dissident Vaclav Havel outlined the "as if" principle. He said people trapped under a dictatorship need to act "as if they are free". They need to act as if the dictator has no power over them. The Egyptians are trying – and however many of them Mubarak murders on his way out the door, the direction in which fear flows has been successfully reversed. The tyrant has become terrified of "his" people.

Of course, there is a danger that what follows will be worse. My family lived for a time under the torturing tyranny of the Shah of Iran, and cheered the revolution in 1979. Yet he was replaced by the even more vicious Ayatollahs. But this is not the only model, nor the most likely. Events in Egypt look more like the Indonesian revolution, where in 1998 a popular uprising toppled a US-backed tyrant after 32 years of oppression – and went on to build the largest and most plural democracy in the Muslim world.

But the discussion here in the West should focus on the factor we are responsible for and can influence – the role our governments have played in suppressing the Egyptian people. Your taxes have been used to arm, fund and fuel this dictatorship. You have unwittingly helped to keep these people down. The tear-gas canisters fired at pro-democracy protesters have "Made in America" stamped on them, with British machine guns and grenade launchers held in the background.

Very few British people would praise a murderer and sell him weapons. Very few British people would beat up a poor person to get cheaper petrol. But our governments do it all the time. Why? British foreign policy does not follow the everyday moral principles of the British people, because it is not formulated by us. This might sound like an odd thing to say about a country that prides itself on being a democracy, but it is true.

The former Labour MP Lorna Fitzsimons spoke at a conference for Israel's leaders last year and assured them they didn't have to worry about the British people's growing opposition to their policies because "public opinion does not influence foreign policy in Britain. Foreign policy is an elite issue". This is repellent but right. It is formulated in the interests of big business and their demand for access to resources, and influential sectional interest groups.

You can see this most clearly if you go through the three reasons our governments give, sometimes publicly, sometimes privately, for their behavior in the Middle East. Explanation One: Oil. Some 60 per cent of the world's remaining petrol is in the Middle East. We are all addicted to it, so our governments support strongmen and murderers who will keep the oil-taps gushing without interruption. Egypt doesn't have oil, but it has crucial oil pipelines and supply routes, and it is part of a chain of regional dictators we don't want broken in case they all fall taking the petrol pump with it. Addicts don't stand up to their dealers: they fawn before them.

There is an obvious medium-term solution: break our addiction. The technology exists – wind, wave and especially solar power – to fuel our societies without oil. It would free us from our support for dictators and horrific wars of plunder like Iraq. It's our society's route to rehab – but it is being blocked by the hugely influential oil companies, who would lose a fortune. Like everybody who needs to go to rehab, the first step is to come out of denial about why we are still hooked.

Explanation Two: Israel and the "peace process". Over the past week, we have persistently been told that Mubarak was a key plank in supporting "peace in the Middle East". The opposite is the truth. Mubarak has been at the forefront of waging war on the Palestinian population. There are 1.5 million people imprisoned on the Gaza Strip denied access to necessities like food and centrifuges for their blood transfusion service. They are being punished for voting "the wrong way" in a democratic election.

Israel blockades Gaza to one side, and Mubarak blockades it to the other. I've stood in Gaza and watched Egyptian soldiers refusing to let sick and dying people out for treatment they can't get in Gaza's collapsing hospitals. In return for this, Mubarak receives $1.5bn a year from the US. Far from contributing to peace, this is marinating the Gazan people in understandable hatred and dreams of vengeance. This is bad even for Israel herself – but we are so servile to the demands of the country's self-harming government, and to its loudest and angriest lobbyists here, that our governments obey.

Explanation Three: Strongmen suppress jihadism. Our governments claim that without dictators to suppress, torture and disappear Islamic fundamentalists, they will be unleashed and come after us. Indeed, they often outsourced torture to the Egyptian regime, sending suspects there to face things that would be illegal at home. Robert Baer, once a senior figure in black ops at the CIA, said: "If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear, you send them to Egypt."

Western governments claim all this makes us safer. The opposite is the truth. In his acclaimed history of al-Qa'ida, The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright explains: "America's tragedy on September 11th was born in the prisons of Egypt." Modern jihadism was invented by Sayeed Qutb as he was electrocuted and lashed in Egyptian jails and grew under successive tyrannies. Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, was Egyptian, and named US backing for his country's tyrant as one of the main reasons for the massacre.

When we fund the violent suppression of people, they hate us, and want to fight back. None of these factors that drove our governments to back Mubarak's dictatorship in Egypt have changed. So we should strongly suspect they will now talk sweet words about democracy in public, and try to secure a more PR-friendly Mubarak in private.

It doesn't have to be like this. We could make our governments as moral as we, the British people, are in our everyday lives. We could stop them trampling on the weak, and fattening thugs. But to achieve it, we have to democratise our own societies and claim control of our foreign policy. We would have to monitor and campaign over it, and let our governments know there is a price for behaving viciously abroad. The Egyptian people have shown this week they will risk everything to stop being abused. What will we risk to stop our governments being abusers?


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

US Inequality Worse than Egypt's; Egypt Unrest Spurred by Food Prices, Climate Change, and US Policy; Afghan Deaths Hit Record Levels; Guns; War Protests

- Egypt's Unrest May Have Roots in Food Prices, US Fed Policy
    Economists and experts in food security have warned repeatedly in recent years that an unbridled rise in food prices could trigger the very kind of explosion of citizen anger that's now threatening to topple the Egyptian government. Such anger is likely to rise elsewhere, too.
- Afghan Civilian Deaths Hit Record Levels In 2010
    At least 2,421 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year, a record high since the U.S. invasion in 2001, according to a new report.
- Tucson Shooting: Undercover Agents Expose Loophole in US Gun Laws
    Undercover investigators have exposed the ease with which high-powered guns can be bought in the US, purchasing the same type of pistol used in the Tucson massacre just two weeks later in a neighbouring city – with no questions asked.
- The Torture Career of Egypt's New Vice President: Omar Suleiman and the Rendition to Torture Program
    In response to the mass protests of recent days, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appointed his first Vice President in his over 30 years rule, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. When Suleiman was first announced, Aljazeera commentators were describing him as a "distinguished" and "respected " man. It turns out, however, that he is distinguished for, among other things, his central role in Egyptian torture and in the US rendition to torture program. Further, he is "respected" by US officials for his cooperation with their torture plans, among other initiatives.
- The Verdict: Guilty of Protesting US Drones
    Guilty!  My friends and I have tried every legal means possible to stop our government from its terrorist drone bombing attacks on civilians in Afghanistan, and so we journeyed to the drone headquarters at Creech AFB  near Las Vegas on Holy Thursday to kneel in prayer and beg for an end to the bombings. This nonviolent intervention is determined to be criminal - not the regular drone bombing attacks on children in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    I expected this ruling, but it was sad nonetheless. The judge missed a great opportunity to take a stand for justice and peace, to do the right thing, to help end terrorism. Instead, he sided with the war machine. Worse, he dismissed the loss of life caused by our drone attacks. It does not matter that civilians are being killed by our drones, he said in effect. Some lives are not worth as much as others, he ruled.
    "It's criminal for the U.S. to spend 2 billion dollars per week for war in Afghanistan that maims, kills and displaces innocent civilians who've meant us no harm," she said.

    "We are attacking people in an Islamic country," Brad Lyttle said. "We are shooting missiles and killing them in an arbitrary manner.  It is generating great hatred, and these people have the means to access weapons to cause us tremendous harm.  We need to establish peaceful, just ways to resolve disputes.  This is the message I would like to have people examine and think about.
    We have to develop non-military means for achieving justice and therefore peace."

Inequality Drives Egyptians to Streets, But Ours Worse
by Laura Flanders
Published on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 by GRITtv

It's amazing what inequality can drive people to, eventually. Just look at Egypt.

“These big guys are stealing all the money,” one 24-year-old textile worker standing at his second job as a fruit peddler told a reporter this weekend. "People are desperate.”

"I wish we could be like the United States with a democracy, but we cannot," said another.
And so they protest, regardless of police batons, curfews and shootings. With over a 150 estimated dead, a march of millions is scheduled for Tuesday.

In spite of what some on Fox News (and the Israel lobby's camp) sought to argue this weekend -- namely that the protests were all the work of Islamist radicals -- every report from the ground contradicts that. As in Tunisia, the protesters are driven by fury at poverty, lack of options, and the looting of their state by the super powerful.

It's an equation we understand -- elsewhere: a massive gap between rich and poor is inconsistent with democracy. But before you get carried away with third world conditions there, try here. On Friday a guest blogger at Yves Smith's Naked Capitalism blog noted a remarkable fact: the U.S. actually has much greater inequality than Egypt—or Tunisia, or Yemen.

The Gini Coefficient is a number economists use to measure inequality, and the U.S. is ranked as the 42nd most unequal nation — Egypt is 90th.

It's not just numbers — we can see it every day. As Edwidge Danticat told us last week, “There are places in the US that are like Haiti, that are like Zimbabwe.”

While 22 million were searching  for jobs in the US this week, Goldman Sachs tripled Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein's base salary and awarded him $12.6 million of stock, a 42 percent increase from '09. The billionaire Koch brothers threw a lavish secret party for their looter cronies, to talk about their election plans.

The average American may not be suffering the way the average Egyptian has been but as Danticat noted, there's a tendency to exaggerate the suffering of what we think of as the “third world” while assuming that the U.S. has it better.

As for that anti-democratic gap between rich and poor -- not better, worse. And here too, our democracy is suffering. What are we going to do about it?