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"It is the death of humanity to know the price of everything but the value of nothing." ~Unknown

Monday, February 28, 2011

Democracy In Action ~ Madison, Wisconsin at 1pm on Sunday February 27th, 2011 to protest Governor Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill.

http://vimeo.com/20446982

Les Miserables, "Do You Hear the People Sing?" was sung in the capitol rotunda in Madison, Wisconsin at 1pm on Sunday February 27th, 2011 to protest Governor Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill.

This video was taken from the 2nd floor balcony with a canon powershot SD500 digital elph camera (so very low quality).

Soloists in the middle of the rotunda sang the first and second verses, while people throughout the entire capitol on all levels jumped in for the chorus.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/25/opinion/25krugman.html?_r=1


Here’s a thought: maybe Madison, Wis., isn’t Cairo after all. Maybe it’s Baghdad — specifically, Baghdad in 2003, when the Bush administration put Iraq under the rule of officials chosen for loyalty and political reliability rather than experience and competence.

As many readers may recall, the results were spectacular — in a bad way. Instead of focusing on the urgent problems of a shattered economy and society, which would soon descend into a murderous civil war, those Bush appointees were obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision. Indeed, with looters still prowling the streets of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy, told a Washington Post reporter that one of his top priorities was to “corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises” — Mr. Bremer’s words, not the reporter’s — and to “wean people from the idea the state supports everything.”

The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine,” which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display.
In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.

For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.

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

What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”

If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it’s interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?

The good news from Wisconsin is that the upsurge of public outrage — aided by the maneuvering of Democrats in the State Senate, who absented themselves to deny Republicans a quorum — has slowed the bum’s rush. If Mr. Walker’s plan was to push his bill through before anyone had a chance to realize his true goals, that plan has been foiled. And events in Wisconsin may have given pause to other Republican governors, who seem to be backing off similar moves.

But don’t expect either Mr. Walker or the rest of his party to change those goals. Union-busting and privatization remain G.O.P. priorities, and the party will continue its efforts to smuggle those priorities through in the name of balanced budgets.        

$hared $acrifice

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/02/23-4

What's left of The Middle Class, The Poor, The Unemployed, The Elderly & The Disabled are told they must participate in the 'Shared Sacrifice'  while Looters like Wall Street Bankers,  Big Corporations and the like of The Koch Brothers are are 'sharing' in the wealth that's been plundered from Labor & The American Tax Payers.    Just my opinion.


More Evidence Wall Street Pay at Near Record Levels

by Shira Ovide
For Wall Street, 2010 may not have been the halcyon days of 2007. But it was still pretty darn good.
 

Cash bonuses for New York City financial-sector employees reached $20.8 billion in 2010, according to a newly released analysis from the New York comptroller’s office. Still, the bonus levels were about one-third less than in 2007, and down 8% from 2009.
(The record cash bonus year was 2006, when the state official said $34.3 billion in bonuses were paid out to New York financial workers.)

While cash bonuses declined from 2009 to 2010, overall compensation rose 6%, according to the state comptroller, as Wall Street was forced to pay out smaller cash bonuses and more stock-based pay and salaries.

“Cash bonuses are down, but that’s not an indicator of a weakness on Wall Street,” said Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “Wall Street is changing its compensation practices in response to regulatory reforms adopted in the aftermath of the greatest financial meltdown since the Great Depression. Past practices rewarded short-term gains at the expense of long-term profitability.”

Last year’s profits on Wall Street landed in second place, behind only the lofty perch reached in 2009 with the help of government bailouts, the comptroller found.

The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of Wall Street banks and securities firms earlier found total compensation and benefits reached a record $135 billion in 2010, and revenue rose a fraction from the year before to another all-time high.

The comptroller’s office counts a smaller subset of employee compensation: only cash bonuses paid out to financial employees who live and work in New York City.

The GOPs Contempt Towards Labor

Dave Weigel captures footage of Democrats screaming after the assembly quickly approved Wisconsin's controversial budget proposal:


Today 7:59 AM Wis. Minority Leader Not Happy With How Anti-Union Bill Was Passed 
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca is not happy with the way Assembly Republicans quickly approved Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting budget bill.
“The contempt displayed this evening toward democracy and the people of Wisconsin by the Republicans in the Assembly was appalling," Barca said in a statement. “And Republicans in the Assembly knew their cause was so flawed that they rushed a vote in seconds, cheating Democratic representatives of the opportunity to vote against this horrible legislation. Then they fled the chamber surrounded by armed law enforcement agents refusing to explain their actions to the media or face the citizens who were gathered outside."
The bill still has to go through the state Senate. Senate Democrats have been hiding in Illinois for the past week, making it impossible for the upper chamber to pass the bill. Assembly Democrats have said they have no idea when Senate Democrats plan to return.

The Corrupt Supreme Court ~ The American People Don't Stand A Chance


Top 4 Victories Handed to Corporate America by the Supreme Court -- So Far
By Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown

February 19, 2011
http://www.alternet.org/story/149861/


One of the great works of American political literature is Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary, first published in 1906. From A-Z, Bierce offered about a thousand irreverent definitions of political, legal, and cultural terms, getting much closer to the truth of what the words really mean than the formal definitions you'll find in Webster's. For example, consider this stinger: "LAWFUL, adj. Compatible with the will of a judge having jurisdiction."

A century later, Bierce's elucidation of the term pretty well nails the Roberts Court, the five-man junta of Chief Justice John Roberts and his fellow black-robed corporados on the Supreme Court: Sam Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. For these extremist judicial activists, 'lawful' is whatever they will it to mean, even if their rulings defy logic, reality, the will of the people, the Founders' clear intentions, legal precedent, common sense, and any sane measure of justice.

While the executive and legislative branches of government receive constant (and often scathing) media scrutiny, the daily decrees of the judicial branch are given only sporadic and mostly superficial coverage. Yet, at the judiciary's highest level, the Roberts Court has become openly and aggressively political, deliberately rigging the scales of justice to enthrone big corporations -- the least democratic force in our society -- over the rest of us.

From behind the imposing marble walls of Washington's majestic Supreme Court building, this slim majority of five unelected, unaccountable government officials with lifelong tenure has been hurling bombs at our democracy. They've hit us with decision after decision enhancing the power of corporations at the direct expense of workers, consumers, local communities, our air and water, voters, the elderly, and... well, anyone and everyone who stands up in court to resist the rise of corporate hegemony in America.

[INTERESTING ASIDE: Teabag-wagging mad-as-hellers say that the overriding purpose of their uprising is to restore political authority to 'the people' by shrinking the intrusive power of an out-of-touch, big, bad federal government. So, where are they? You don't get bigger, badder, more intrusive, and more out of touch than having a cabal of federal judges operating from a secretive government bunker twisting the law of our land for the sole benefit of America's largest, self-serving corporations. The Supreme Court's corporate bloc has evolved into the most dangerous branch of the federal government, routinely using its arbitrary power to undermine the people's democratic authority over our country's economy, environment, and political process. But we hear not a peep about this from Tea Party leaders, or from such camp followers as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and certainly not from the congressional Republican leaders who now purport to be the carriers of the teabag agenda. Curious, huh?]

The four biggest corporate hits of the Roberts Court

To comprehend the depths of this court's mendacity, we have to start with a rude fact: John Roberts lied.

When nominated by George W in 2005 to be America's top jurist, Roberts had to convince skeptical Senate Democrats that he would not be a partisan hack and/or a corporate shill who'd use his judicial gavel to hammer the law into shapes favored by the moneyed powers. The skepticism was richly deserved, for Roberts had long served corporations as a Washington lawyer (making him a millionaire) and had been a faithful GOP team player (including his legal work in 2000 to help George W wrest Florida and the presidency away from Al Gore).

Thus, to soothe the senators and charm the media, Roberts began his Senate confirmation hearing by drawing a folksy, Norman-Rockwellesque sports analogy to his judicial philosophy: "Judges are like umpires. Umpires don't make the rules. They apply them... They make sure everyone plays by the rules. But it's a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire." He added that the distinguishing mark of his court would be one of "modesty and humility."

Roberts' entire confirmation performance was a pants-on-fire lie, but neither the Democrats nor the media called him on it. As a result, we were stuck with a chief justice who quickly forged a narrow 5-4 majority and went on a rampage of slash-and-burn judicial activism. By stomping on traditional principles of conservative jurisprudence, jettisoning clear Court precedents, perverting constitutional and statutory language, ignoring logic, distorting legislative intent, and simply making up laws, these Supremes have delivered a rash of sweeping victories to the corporate class, including these four top hits:

1. Lilly Ledbetter, 2007. For decades, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. had quietly been stiffing this longtime, loyal employee on her paycheck. A manager in the tire giant's Alabama plant, Ledbetter was unaware that she was being paid substantially less than her male counterparts -- a clear violation of federal anti-discrimination laws. Only learning of this maltreatment late in her career, Ledbetter sued Goodyear for the back pay she was owed. The corporation fought her all the way to the Supreme Court.
No go, ruled Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas. Under the statute, they sniffed, employees must file any bias suit within 180 days after the discrim-ination begins, and Ledbetter's suit had come 21 years after Goodyear started cheating her, so... tough luck, lady.

Forget heartless, this ruling was mindless. And needlessly picayune. Obviously, your honors, Ms. Ledbetter could not have filed within 180 days, since she didn't know she was being shorted! The honest way to interpret the statute would be that the 180-day limit begins after she became aware of the violation. But the Roberts Five were not looking for rationality, much less justice -- they were on a deliberate mission to rewrite and restrict the pay discrimination law for the benefit of corporate discriminators.

This decision sparked genuine public outrage, making it a flashpoint issue in the 2008 presidential race. Upon taking office in January 2009, Obama and the Democratic Congress pushed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, shoving the justices' corporate bias right back in their faces.

2. Making up law to help polluters, 2008. The catastrophic environmental and economic disaster caused in Alaska by the Exxon Valdez supertanker in 1989 resulted in a jury award of $5 billion to the local people who were harmed. The oil behemoth's battalion of lawyers, however, stalled pay- ment for years with various legal maneuvers, before getting a federal court of appeals to cut the sum in half. Still, despite the corporation's egregious malfeasance, Exxon pushed for an even sweeter deal, finally steering the case to the safe harbor of the Roberts Court.

In 2008, nearly 20 years after the disaster, another five-man majority led by Roberts slashed the damage award to $500 million, a mere tenth of the original jury assessment -- and less than two days worth of Exxon profits.
Actually, four of the justices tried to eliminate the award altogether, arguing that a corporation should not be responsible for the reckless acts of its own managers! They fell only one vote short of imposing this creative rewrite of corporate law on us. Nonetheless, the Roberts Court satisfied its impulse to legislate from the bench by dictating a new, corporate-pleasing formula for determining punitive damages under maritime law -- a formula not found in the statute and not intended by Congress -- thus making up a law to benefit polluters.

3. Binding the EPA, 2009. The fearless five took up their legislative pens once again in two cases involving the Clean Water Act. Under this law, electric power companies must use "the best technology available" to keep from harming fish and other aquatic life when they draw from the public waterways to cool their generators.

In an environmental lawsuit involving Entergy Corporation, a giant electric utility based in New Orleans, Louisiana, the RAKST quintet came out of right field to rule that the EPA should consider the cost to the power companies when evaluating "the best" environmental technologies. This generous gift to utilities was not included in the law by the legislative branch, so the five judicial branch activists thought- fully added it themselves.

Later that same year, they also diluted the Clean Water law by siding with a mining corporation named Couer Alaska. This outfit wanted to dump a waste product called "tailings" directly into lakes. The five (plus Justice Stephen Breyer this time) cheerfully decided that this pollution is okay, as long as the polluter holds an Army Corps of Engineers permit. Never mind that such dumping is expressly banned by EPA rules, the Supremes were on a roll.

4. The grandest giveaway of all, 2010. In January of last year, these five potentates of plutocracy issued a ruling that has caused a massively destructive tectonic shift in America's political process, thrusting mountains of corporate money high above the people's democratic power. The Lowdown has covered the impact and import of the now infamous Citizens United decree by the Court (see Lowdown issues September 2009 and March 2010). But it's important to add here that the Court's edict, which magically turned inanimate corporations into "persons" (with constitutionally protected electioneering 'rights' that make them politically superior to actual persons), is not only an absurd and intolerable overreach in logic, but also in process.

"Judicial activism" is way too tame a phrase for what Roberts & Company did here. This was a coup -- a plotted overthrow of the orderly judicial process in order to enthrone corporate political interests over all others.

In June 2009, the Court quietly reached into its caseload and plucked out an obscure case brought by Citizens United, a corporate-funded political front that was challenging a mundane point in federal election law. After hearing oral arguments in this ordinary case, the Roberts majority did something extraordinary: the justices arbitrarily altered the case that had been brought to them, completely rewriting Citizens United's complaint.

Instead of addressing the group's minor question, the Court issued an order for the parties to address whether unlimited and unreported sums of corporate money should be allowed in all US elections. In other words, these scoundrels in robes created their own case proposing a sweeping change in America's democratic system.

They then rushed to judgment, giving the lawyers involved only a single month to prepare arguments on this entirely new, momentous question. They also hurried the case to the front of the line, scheduling oral arguments on it in September, before the Court would normally be in session.

In January 2010, only seven months after they'd sprung their Citizens United surprise, the five issued their constitutional rewrite. It imposes their will (i.e., egos and personal ideological bias) over: (1) the clear intention of our Constitution's framers to keep corporations out of politics; (2) a century of settled congressional law banning corporate funds in elections; (3) the laws of 22 states that prohibit corporate spending in their elections; (4) many decades of the Court's own precedents affirming the wisdom of outlawing corporate electioneering cash; and (5) the overwhelming belief of the American people, that only humans, not corporations, should be election participants.

So, exercising exquisite judicial imperiousness, five judges decided that they're wiser than all of the above, unilaterally pulling off a sneak attack that, in the words of People For The American Way, amounts to the "constitutionalization of corporate political power."

The hits keep coming!

Unfortunately, the work of the Roberts Court has only begun. Corporate CEOs and their legal/political cohorts know that the scales of justice in the federal judiciary are now weighted in their favor. The selection of most judges gets almost no attention (much less opposition) from Congress, the media, and the public. This has allowed Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II to slide hordes of corporatists onto the bench, from district courts through the Supremes. As a result, corporations are ever more inclined to run to court, where they are winning incremental and wholesale increases of corporate power over employees, environmentalists, and the rest of us.

Walmart. This retailing colossus is presently trying to weaken the ability of its mistreated workers to join together in class-action lawsuits. In the largest job bias case in US history, hundreds of thousands of women employees claim that Walmart discriminated against them in pay and promotion.

As individuals, they would not have the wherewithal to challenge one of the world's largest corporations, but by combining their grievances in a class action, they have a chance for justice. Against Walmart's vehement opposition, a court of appeals ruled last April that the ladies could band together.

In December, however, the Supremes came riding to the corporation's rescue. Seizing the case prematurely from lower courts and -- once again -- rewriting the question raised in the lawsuit, the Roberts Gang has taken jurisdiction. It will hear arguments this spring and is expected to rule in June on the fate and the future of class-action lawsuits.

AT&T. This one will affect anyone who (whether they know it or not) has a "mandatory arbitration" clause written into employment, consumer, or other contract with a corporation. These clauses restrict or even eliminate people's right to go to court if they're wronged by the corporation. A California couple alleges that AT&T bilked them on the purchase of a mobile phone, so they joined other deceived customers in a class action suit.

No, you don't, shrieked the giant's lawyers, pointing out that the arbitration clause in AT&T's phone contracts prohibits class actions. California's top state court, however, ruled against the corporation, calling its one-sided prohibition "unconscionable." So, naturally, the corporate lawyers made a mad dash to Washington, demanding that the federal justices overrule the state court. A decision is due any day now.

Clean elections. Arizona seems to have more than its share of craziness going on, but there's one area in which it has shown exemplary sanity: public financing of state elections. Despite relentless efforts by corporate lobbyists and politicos to kill the state's clean elections alternative, the law has survived since 1998. This is because it works and is widely popular, even among Republicans.

Unable to win locally, the corporate forces have now enlisted the top federal court to intervene and crush the clearly stated will of the state's people. Last November, the Roberts Court agreed to hear a challenge to Arizona's law -- an attack coming through the grossly misnamed Institute for Justice, yet another right-wing front group funded by the Koch brothers.

Even before hearing arguments on the case, the federal justices ordered that a key component of Arizona's public financing mechanism be suspended. This was in the middle of last year's state elections -- a deliberate monkey wrenching that suggests the Court will again rule against the people.

Judges gone wild

Forget modesty and humility, an aloof and arrogant judicial branch of government has arisen and become openly political. Federal judges across the country are flagrantly abusing their authority and public trust by rigging America's economic and political rules for the further enrichment of already powerful and privileged corporations. The 'umpires' have taken sides against us, and it's time to call them out.

Progressives, along with honest conservatives, must focus more on this corporate takeover of the judiciary and directly challenge the judges' service to the moneyed elites. Let me be blunt: John Roberts, the leader of the pack, has turned into an autocratic, unelected national lawmaker, imposing his political vision as the law of our land. He is doing major structural damage to America's unifying sense of fairness and justice. We can't allow him to keep hiding behind the judicial robe while he mugs us and our democratic ideals. He should be impeached.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the new book, "Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow." (Wiley, March 2008) He publishes the monthly "Hightower Lowdown," co-edited by Phillip Frazer.
© 2011 Hightower Lowdown All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/149861/ 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Top Six Revelations in the Call Between Fake David Koch and Governor Scott Walker

Jesse Berney: Top Six Revelations in the Call Between Fake David Koch and Governor Scott Walker

The call made by a Buffalo blogger pretending to be billionaire right-wing activist David Koch to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is quickly making an impact on the news cycle. (You can listen to the call on YouTube: Part 1 | Part 2.)

Walker is extremely frank with the man he believes to be an important financial supporter, both of his own campaign and right-wing causes. Below are the six most important revelations we learn from listening to the Governor speak his mind.

1. Walker and the Senate Republicans are conspiring to withhold Democratic lawmakers' paychecks.

A minute into the call, Governor Walker describes a plan by the Senate Majority Leader to institute a new rule that would stop automatic deductions of lawmakers' paychecks if they do not appear in the Senate for more than two days. It would require lawmakers to appear in person to collect their checks.

Walker describes this as part of a plan he is working on with GOP Senators: "Each day, we're going to rachet this up a little bit."

2. Walker sees billionaire David Koch as "one of us."

Two and a half minutes in, Walker is describing a conversation he had with a Democratic state lawmaker, Tim Cullen, who Walker says is the "only reasonable" one among the Democrats. When the man pretending to be Koch suggests he calls Cullen, Walker says that although Cullen is reasonable, he is not "one of us." Who is the "us" that includes Walker and out-of-state billionaire Koch, but not an elected state legislator?

3. Walker is planning to threaten state workers with layoffs.

Five minutes into the call, Governor Walker says he is planning to issue between 5,000 and 6,000 "risk notices" to state workers announcing that they are at risk of being laid off. He makes this statement in the context of what he is planning to do to put pressure on Democrats to cave into his demands, not what is necessary due to the budget crunch. "If they want to start sacrificing thousands of public workers to be laid off," he says, "sooner or later there's gonna be pressure on Senators to come back. We're not going to compromise."

4. Walker has a plan to lie to Senate Democrats and pass the bill while they are not aware of the vote.

Seven minutes in, Walker describes a plan created by his chief of staff to call Senate Democrats back to "hear what they have to say." While he is discussing the issues with the Democrats, the Senate would be in recess. In actuality, once Democrats come back to the state assembly, Republicans would be able to pass the bill eliminating collective bargaining rights while Walker is in discussions with Democrats.

5. Walker considered planting fake protesters to cause trouble among the real protesters.

Fourteen and a half minutes in, the fake David Koch says that they are considering "planing some troublemakers" among the crowd of protesters. Walker responds with, "we thought about that." He expresses no moral objection to the plan, but says that he thinks it is the wrong strategy, because a "ruckus" would make people think he should compromise.

6. Walker is corrupt.

Although early in Walker says they are investigating the Democratic Senators to see if they are committing ethics violations by accepting union funds, when the fake David Koch says he will fly Walker "out to Cali and really show you a good time," Walker responds by saying "that would be outstanding."

 

Follow Jesse Berney on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jesseberney




Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Prove it was a miscarriage or face felony charges


Georgia state Rep. Bobby Franklin (R) has made a name for himself by introducing far-right extremist bills. He has introduced legislation barring the state from requiring vaccinations, eliminating income taxes and replacing them with nothing, and requiring state taxpayers to only pay in gold or silver.

Now, he has introduced what may be his most offensive and extreme bill yet. Last week he unveiled HB 1, which would, as the parenting blog Babble explains, “require proof that a miscarriage occured naturally.” If proof could not be provided, the mother could face “felony charges”:

State Rep. Bobby Franklin of Georgia introduced a bill in his state last week that, if enacted, would require proof that a miscarriage occurred naturally. If a woman can’t prove that her miscarriage–or spontaneous abortion–occurred without intervention, she could face felony charges.

Posted from my Android Phone

Journalist Returning from Abroad Has Notes, Computer and Cameras Searched and Copied by US Authorities at Airport

AlterNet: Journalist Returning from Abroad Has Notes, Computer and Cameras Searched and Copied by US Authorities at Airport
AlterNet
Journalist Returning from Abroad Has Notes, Computer and Cameras Searched and Copied by US Authorities at Airport
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
Posted on February 21, 2011, Printed on February 23, 2011
http://www.alternet.org/story/149995/

Independent journalist Brandon Jourdan recently returned from Haiti after being on assignment documenting the rebuilding of schools in the earthquake-devastated country. However, when he returned to the United States, he was immediately detained after deboarding the plane by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He was questioned about his travels and had all of his documents, computer, phone and camera flash drives searched and copied. This is the seventh time Jourdan says he has been subjected to lengthy searches in five years, and has been told by officials that he is “on a list.” Jourdan joins us in our studio. Catherine Crump, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, says that Jourdan is not the only one facing such treatment by the Obama administration. Crump says many journalists and lawyers who often work abroad have also experienced similar interrogations—and the ACLU believes the First and Fourth Amendments must be honored within U.S. airports.

AMY GOODMAN: U.S. citizens returning home from foreign travel can be searched by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents just like anyone else. But our next guest is an independent journalist who estimates he’s been subjected to lengthy searches at least seven times in the last five years.

Brandon Jourdan most recently worked as a videographer for Democracy Now! covering the G-20 protests in Canada. This past weekend, Brandon was returning to New York from Haiti when ICE subjected him to a five-hour search and copied the contents of his laptop, along with his external hard drive and phone.

Brandon Jourdan joins me here in New York. We’re also joined by Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, specializing in free speech and privacy issues.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Brandon, talk about what happened to you when you flew into JFK Airport from Port-au-Prince.

BRANDON JOURDAN: When I flew into New York from Haiti, after I’d worked for two weeks covering rebuilding projects on schools in Haiti, I had first heard on the intercom that they wanted everyone to have their passports out. I pulled my passport out. When I walked out onto the skyway, two Immigration and Customers Enforcement officers took me by the arm and led me to a Homeland Security room.

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, so are saying that they told everyone to have their passports out because actually they were looking for you?

BRANDON JOURDAN: They were looking for me.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, how do you know, once you left, that they didn’t go through everyone else’s passports on the plane?

BRANDON JOURDAN: They left with me. They didn’t continue—they didn’t continue looking at passports.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they do? Where did they take you?

BRANDON JOURDAN: They took me to, I guess, a Homeland Security office within the JFK airport. At that point, they began looking through all of my clothes, everything. I strategically put a copy of the First and Fourth Amendment in my bags, because this has happened before, and also on my computer and my smartphone and on my hard drives. They took my journal, all my business cards, all that. They said they were going to photocopy them all. They took—

AMY GOODMAN: Did they explain why they were doing this?

BRANDON JOURDAN: I asked them, “Why are you doing this?” They basically said, “You’re on a list. We don’t know why. These are orders"—

AMY GOODMAN: You’re on a list?

BRANDON JOURDAN: Yeah. And “These are orders from Washington.” And they copied my hard drive. They copied my laptop. They copied every single one of my compact flash cards that I use for my camera, which is absurd to me, because I was documenting people building schools and a country devastated by an earthquake.

AMY GOODMAN: And then they gave everything back, after many hours?

BRANDON JOURDAN: I think, if I’m correct, around 6:30, I left the airport. I mean, around 6:30, I left the plane, and it was 10:30, 11:00 before I left, which is about medium for what I have to go through.

AMY GOODMAN: Catherine Crump, you’re with the ACLU. What rights does a passenger have coming into the airport?

CATHERINE CRUMP: The ACLU believes that people have a First and Fourth Amendment right not to have the materials they bring with them, specifically their expressive materials—their laptops, their cell phones, their papers—searched unless the government has a reasonable suspicion that they have engaged in wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the Obama administration, like the Bush administration, has taken the view that it can search people’s electronic devices at the border for any reason or no reason at all. So they think they don’t have to have any suspicion that the laptop contains evidence of a crime before they search it.

AMY GOODMAN: The Obama administration?

CATHERINE CRUMP: The Obama administration believes that. And we filed a lawsuit challenging that policy, because we think that the Constitution says otherwise.

AMY GOODMAN: Brandon Jourdan, this isn’t the first time.

BRANDON JOURDAN: No.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened before this?

BRANDON JOURDAN: OK, well, for instance, on November 7, 2010, I had just got back from seeing my girlfriend, now my fiancée, who is a professor at the University of Leiden. Before I got on the plane—

AMY GOODMAN: And this was in the plane where?

BRANDON JOURDAN: This was in Amsterdam at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Before I even got on the plane, ICE approached me and questioned me.

AMY GOODMAN: American authorities.

BRANDON JOURDAN: American authorities in Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, ICE, questioned me. They asked what I had been doing. I said, “I went and saw my girlfriend, Marianne Maeckelbergh. She’s a professor,” which I thought was really weird. I mean, why do they care? And then they asked me, “You sure you didn’t go anywhere else in Europe?” And if I had of went somewhere else in Europe, there’s nothing criminal about that.

Then I got back. I got back to the United States. I was pulled off the plane. This time they announced my name over the intercom. They said, “Everyone have their passports out. William Jourdan,”—William is my first name—“report to the cabin crew.” I reported to them. Once again, everything was photocopied. My computer, everything was copied. I was held for, I think, approximately about six hours. I was tired. I was jet-lagged. I just wanted to go home. I hadn’t done anything wrong. My work as a journalist is protected, or should be protected.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they say to you then, why they were doing this?

BRANDON JOURDAN: I, honestly—they didn’t really respond at all. They were more forthcoming with information this time than they had in the past. All they’ve usually said in the past is like, “You’re on a list,” or “We don’t know.”

AMY GOODMAN: When did this all start?

BRANDON JOURDAN: Well, I worked in 2008 in the Gaza Strip. I was working—I was commissioned by a nonprofit called the Council for National Interest, which is a bunch of former State Department people, whatnot, who basically collect information on what’s happening in the Middle East. Now, during that time, we interviewed a lot of people, for instance, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry—the former Egyptian Foreign Minister, the U.S. embassies. And we went into the Gaza Strip, and we interviewed people from the U.N., and we also interviewed Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, a controversial figure, but the work I was doing was documenting something and something that I feel serves a public good.

AMY GOODMAN: So, after Gaza, what happened?

BRANDON JOURDAN: After Gaza—the first time, I don’t think they pulled me from the plane. The first time, I just went through. When I was going through the regular customs thing, they pulled me aside, and then they questioned me. They photocopied all my journal. They photocopied all my business cards. They were really interested in anything that was in Arabic. And that’s when it began.

And then, the same summer, within—I flew back to New York. I finished up some work in Washington, as well, and then I flew to Japan, where I was invited to speak at the G-8 protests that were happening, not at the protest, but at some universities while it was going on. I did a lot of work on the movement against corporate globalization. And when I came back, that was when they really started pulling me from the plane. And that was when I realized that the way I travel was forever altered, that I’m on a list, and this is the way—this is a routine now. This is protocol for how they handle me.

AMY GOODMAN: When you came back from Haiti, you had a camera?

BRANDON JOURDAN: Oh, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: They took the camera?

BRANDON JOURDAN: They took my camera. They took anything—anything that had media that they could copy, they copied it. And when I worked for the—

AMY GOODMAN: They know how to work the camera?

BRANDON JOURDAN: They took the flash card. They didn’t really need the camera. Now, when I came back from—when I worked for Democracy Now! at the G-20 protests, they asked me how to use my camera. They took my tapes.

AMY GOODMAN: And then they said?

BRANDON JOURDAN: They said, you know, “How do we turn this on?”

AMY GOODMAN: Catherine Crump?

CATHERINE CRUMP: This is a distressingly common scenario. One of the plaintiffs in our ongoing lawsuit is the National Press Photographers Association. Their members have been searched previously, just like you’ve been searched. And of course, journalists have a special interest in not having their expressive materials searched. Many people speak to confidential sources and often become very concerned that their sources overseas aren’t going to be able to trust them anymore, if they know that talking to a journalist means that when you cross the border, the U.S. government may access the journalist’s notes or pictures and so forth. So it’s a real problem.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, a journalist then becomes an agent of the state, because they are just gathering information that is then collected by the state when they return.

CATHERINE CRUMP: That’s right. And the problem even goes beyond journalists. It certainly affects journalists, but lawyers who are defending people have the same problem. Many people who have defended Guantánamo detainees have had to go overseas to gather evidence. And the idea that they would be gathering evidence to defend someone who’s being prosecuted by the U.S. government and then, by crossing the border, turned all of that over to the U.S. government is something that really threatens a lawyer’s ability to do their job, just like it threatens journalists’ ability to do their jobs. But, you know, even people who aren’t part of the professions often have very sensitive information on their computers. When you think about it, people have their financial records, their family photographs, their personal diaries. And the idea that we, as Americans, should have to show all of that stuff to the government just because we travel internationally is really contrary to our basic values.

AMY GOODMAN: Brandon, did you have journals?

BRANDON JOURDAN: I mean, after this situation started, I quit writing down certain details. If I have to, I find another way to get it home. I’m also very cognitive of the fact that I can jeopardize the subjects that I’m trying to record. And so, I take—and Amy, I have to go through this all the time. I mean, I just had to do a deposition for some footage that I shot at the inauguration in 2005. And I willingly did that, because it was actually for activists, and I didn’t mind going forward because it helped their case.

AMY GOODMAN: How does this make you feel when you go through this?

BRANDON JOURDAN: It makes me paranoid. It makes me angry. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Will you sue?

BRANDON JOURDAN: Of course. As soon as I find a lawyer to do it, I will sue everyone until I can be removed from this list, until I can get justice. And I’m not an individualist. I’m doing this because—out of principle, because if I’m getting searched, I guarantee you there are a whole bunch of people that have a similar experience.

AMY GOODMAN: Catherine Crump, who are you representing in your suit?

CATHERINE CRUMP: We represent two organizations and an individual. We represent the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the National Press Photographers Association and a man named Pascal Abidor. He is a U.S. citizen who’s studying in Canada. And when he was coming across the border on the train, a border agent stopped him, asked what he studied—he said he studied Islamic studies—and asked where he’d been—and he had been to Jordan and Lebanon—and on that basis, hauled him to the cafe car, opened up his laptop, and proceeded to require him to turn over his passport and—password to his laptop, and then searched the contents. I don’t believe that the mere fact that someone chooses to study Islamic studies means that the government has a good reason to go through their laptop.

AMY GOODMAN: Catherine, do passengers have any rights to privacy under the Obama administration?

CATHERINE CRUMP: Unfortunately, the Obama administration has taken a very anti-privacy view here. The policy is extremely broad. It’s not just that the government can search the contents of your laptop.

AMY GOODMAN: We have just ten seconds.

CATHERINE CRUMP: They can copy it. They can even detain it for, they say, as long as they need to make sure that you’re not carrying anything criminal. And we think they need reasonable suspicion in order to do so.

Amy Goodman is the host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!.
© 2011 Democracy Now! All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/149995/


Indiana Dep. Atterny General, Jeff Cox: Use 'Live Ammunition' Against Wisconsin Protesters

Indiana Dep. AG: Use 'Live Ammunition' Against Wisconsin Protesters | TPMDC


Indiana Deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox

This week, a Mother Jones editor named Adam Weinstein got into a Twitter tête à tête with an Indiana lawyer who called on riot police in Madison to use "live ammunition" to clear protesters out of the state Capitol.

It turned out that lawyer, Jeff Cox, is a deputy attorney general in the state. And -- perhaps unsurprisingly -- he's left a long online trail of controversial statements and diktats.

"[A]gainst thugs physically threatening legally-elected state legislators & governor?" he tweeted back at Weinstein. "You're damn right I advocate deadly force."

Six days ago he opined, "Planned Parenthood could help themselves if the only abortions they performed were retroactive."

And on his personal blog, Pro Cynic (now deleted), he compared former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich to a Nazi, and concluded that George W. Bush's words to the Iraqi people -- "Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country" -- are appropriate for citizens of America under Barack Obama, among other inflammatory statements.

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the Attorney General's office told Mother Jones "We do not condone any comments that would threaten or imply violence or intimidation toward anyone." Corbin did not respond to an inquiry Wednesday morning. I subsequently tried to reach Cox directly but was redirected back to Corbin's office

It's worth noting that there are over 140 deputy attorneys general in Indiana. It's a career job, not a political appointment. And Cox last tweeted just after midnight on Monday, more than 48 hours ago. You can see screencaps of them below.



Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Religious Right Cheers The Destruction Of The Wisconsin Teachers Union

The Religious Right Cheers For Wisconsin Teachers Union Destruction

There are myriad reasons why some Americans hate union labor and the past week has proven that for every benefit unions are responsible for, detractors come up with nonsense reasons unions are anti-American. Some reasons people claim unions are bad are that they drain resources from state coffers, produce lazy entitled workers, or are inherently anti-American. Of course all of the reasons are untrue, but truth has never been important to conservatives and especially Republicans. There is one group that is quietly cheering Governor Scott Walker and all Republican governors who have been paid off by the Koch brothers to break unions, and that is the religious right.

Governor Walker claims that union pensions are the cause of the state’s budget woes, but the teacher’s union has offered to renegotiate the pension deal they legally made with the state. Walker has ignored the offer because he wants the unions out of the picture all together. Walker is a Baptist minister’s son, and by all accounts is a devout Christian. He is an anti-abortion crusader who wants an all-out ban on abortions and was endorsed by a Pro Life group. Walker is a typical Christian conservative who is not above lying to promote his policies whether it is that the unions are causing budget deficits or that he did not squander a budget surplus by giving tax breaks to oil companies.

Walker is doing the bidding of David and Charles Koch in trying to break the unions, but there is another benefit Christian conservatives are praying for. If unions can be broken and public education privatized, religious schools can usher in theocratic curriculum for every child. It may sound far-fetched, but there is plenty of reason to believe if Walker and enough Republican governors and politicians can defund and end public education in America, Christians can institute their own curriculum and religious freedom as we know it in America is finished.

The evangelical Christian community is anti-public schools because they claim that liberal union teachers have been “driving God out of our history” and eliminating school prayers for years. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee circulated a letter promoting a book by Newt Gingrich titled, “Rediscovering God in America,” that pushes the myth that America is a Christian nation, and that “radical leftists and atheists…want to drive all religion out of American life.” Huckabee promotes a popular theme among Christian conservatives who want to, “train a new generation of leaders who will defend religious liberty in our schools.”

Huckabee is a former governor who took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution so he should be familiar with the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom, but he is a preacher whose first obligation is to “make disciples.” Huckabee and his cohorts like Governor Walker see an opportunity to use Koch money to break unions so they can install their own teachers who will teach a Christian curriculum regardless the Constitution’s express prohibition of a state-sponsored religion. It is noteworthy that although the Koch brothers want to break unions for monetary gains, they are also conservative Christians who will use any means to achieve their goals of ruling America.

Unions or teachers are not responsible for curriculum that any state adopts and they are not interested in taking anyone’s religious freedoms away. Huckabee claims that there has been “nearly a half-century of orchestrated, intentional liberal attacks on faith in our schools,” and that the alleged attacks are the work of leftists and unions. He goes on to say that, “after 50 years of driving God from our schools, America is facing some of the most potentially devastating crises we have ever faced.”

Christian Reconstructionists and Dominionists see unions as a socialist movement that is striving to turn America into a secular state and are un-American. According to Huckabee’s version of history, the Founding Fathers intended America to be a faith-based country that follows the Ten Commandments instead of the Constitution. Huckabee believes that, “America …was created out of the providence of God, because of the prayers of people who, on their knees, begged for a place where they could be free and raise their children in faith.” Whether or not the Founders got on their knees and prayed is not the issue, but they certainly did not mean for America to be a Christian nation or they would have written it into the Constitution.

All across the country Christians are making their play to move the country toward a theocracy and the Koch brothers are funding that movement vicariously. If they can break the unions once and for all, a governor can install the teachers they choose, and like Texas, rewrite history to support their distorted view of the origins of America. Union teachers are held to a standard that forces them to follow the Constitution and laws in each state that forbid religious teaching in public schools unless it is a specific course on religion. Christians would love nothing more than to eliminate unions and install their own unqualified teachers who will follow church doctrine instead of a state’s curriculum.

Wisconsin has the 2nd highest graduation rate in the country and it is in part because of union representation. Christians like Walker and Huckabee are using a fabricated budget deficit to eliminate the teacher’s union’s collective bargaining agreement with the state. If Walker was a true Christian, he would not lie and blame the state’s budget deficit on the teachers and their union. The union is not responsible for the shortfall, but they are willing to take pay cuts and restructure the pension plan they have with the state. Walker never mentions that the union is willing to negotiate lower wages, benefit packages, and pension plans. The union made the existing agreement in good faith, but Walker is unwilling to renegotiate because the union will still exist. Even if the union and teachers conceded everything that Walker demands, the deficit will remain.

The teachers in Wisconsin are fighting for the right to bargain and not to drive God out of the schools or to promote a liberal atheist agenda like Huckabee claims. Conservatives and Republicans’ biggest fear is that they will not be able to control the public with fear of a secular government like the Founders intended. The Koch brothers may want to break the unions to control the government, but Christians want the godless union eliminated so they can “tell the liberals that our rights, liberty and prosperity come from God.” As Mike Huckabee claims with utmost sincerity and conviction; Christians need to “fight to win back our schools” from the unions and radical leftists. Despite the rhetoric on the religious right, unions are part and parcel of freedom and the defenders of the Constitution and religious freedom in our schools.



'So This is America'

'So This is America': Veteran Ray McGovern Bloodied and Arrested At Clinton Speech | Common Dreams

'So This is America': Veteran Ray McGovern Bloodied and Arrested At Clinton Speech

by Partnership for Civil Justice

From the Partnership for Civil Justice:

As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her speech at George Washington University yesterday condemning governments that arrest protestors and do not allow free expression, 71-year-old Ray McGovern was grabbed from the audience in plain view of her by police and an unidentified official in plain clothes, brutalized and left bleeding in jail. She never paused speaking. When Secretary Clinton began her speech, Mr. McGovern remained standing silently in the audience and turned his back. Mr. McGovern, a veteran Army officer who also worked as a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years, was wearing a Veterans for Peace t-shirt.

Blind-sided by security officers who pounced upon him, Mr. McGovern remarked, as he was hauled out the door, "So this is America?" Mr. McGovern is covered with bruises, lacerations and contusions inflicted in the assault.

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

Mr. McGovern now works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C.



Monday, February 21, 2011

Fascist America

Fighting the 5 Fascisms in Wisconsin and Ohio | Common Dreams

Fighting the 5 Fascisms in Wisconsin and Ohio

The escalating confrontations in Wisconsin and Ohio are ultimately about preventing the United States from becoming a full-on fascist state. 

The stakes could not be higher---or more clear. 

As defined by its inventor, Benito Mussolini, fascism is "corporate control of the state." There are ways to beat around the Bush---Paul Krugman has recently written about "oligarchy"---but it's time to end all illusions and call what we now confront by its true name. 

The fights in Wisconsin, Ohio, and in numerous other states are about saving the last shreds of American democracy. They burn down to five basic realities: 

1) The bulwark of modern democracy is the trade union. This has been true since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. All social programs can trace their roots to union activism, as can the protection of our civil liberties. 

The first Germans Hitler put in concentration camps were neither Jews nor gypsies---they were trade unionists. 

The attacks on state workers in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere have nothing to do with balancing budgets. That could easily be done without destroying collective bargaining. 

For the hard-right, this is about busting unions, the last organized force standing in the way of total corporate control of the United States by the rich and richer. 

2) The material essence of fascism is the extreme separation of rich and poor, a massive transfer of wealth from those on the bottom to those on the top. 

The unbalanced budgets in Ohio and Wisconsin are rooted in huge tax cuts given to the rich at the expense of the middle and lower classes. Widespread poverty among those who might otherwise rebel is essential to fascist control of a government. 

A largely ignored aspect of this fight is the hundreds of billions of dollars currently locked up in union, government and Social Security pension funds. With unions destroyed, this huge cache of dollars will fall quickly into corporate hands. The additional "benefit" for the financial elite will be tens of millions of impoverished elders desperate for low-wage jobs in virtual slave labor situations.

3) The crisis crippling states everywhere is directly related to the massive destruction of social resources by war. Since the end of the New Deal and World War II, the American elite has engineered the biggest dump of material wealth by military means in human history. 

The trillions of dollars of pure martial waste poured into the Cold War and those in Southeast Asia, central America, the Middle East, Southwest Asia and elsewhere could easily have clothed, housed, fed, educated, and provided otherwise decent lives for all human beings the world over. 

Instead, poverty, desperation and stratification have been guaranteed. 

The entire economic crisis now gripping the United States can be directly traced to the military budget, which exceeds the sum of what's being spent by all other nations combined. In a brilliant recent column, Robert Greenwald points out that the entire alleged shortfall in Wisconsin could be covered by bringing just 180 troops home from Afghanistan. 

But the purpose of that deployment is to undermine national security, not to protect it. A frightened, impoverished, insecure nation is one dependent on its fascist elite. 

Democracy demands and protects true material security among the people as a whole. That's what's really at stake in the battle to cut the military budget. The fights in Ohio and Wisconsin are surface manifestations of that bigger battle. 

4) Mussolini also made it clear that corporate control of the media is essential to fascist rule. Whoever would seize power first took the radio stations, then the television stations. Now the internet is under attack. The free flow of information is fascism's ultimate enemy. 

So the relentless Foxist portrayal of the battles in Wisconsin and Ohio as pitting "responsible, austerity-minded" governors versus "lazy, irresponsible state workers" is utterly predictable. 

So is the appearance of the media-created Tea Party "movement" on the side of the corporations. It's standard corporate procedure to invent a faux "grassroots" to fight unions and working people. So finding phony corporate "populists" like Sarah Palin and New Jersey's Chris Christie in the right-wing media limelight is utterly predictable. 

5) It is no accident that the "job loving" union-hating governors of Wisconsin and Ohio (along with Florida) have rejected billions in federal funds for re-building passenger rail service that would create thousands of jobs. 

A corporate state relies on central control of "King CONG" energy---coal, oil, nukes and gas. Rail service threatens the power of the oil and auto lobbies. Renewable energy would replace centralized fossil/nuclear sources with decentralized Solartopian photovoltaic panels, bio-fuels, windmills, increased efficiency and the like. The push for federal nuclear loan guarantees is central to the corporate state. 

The anti-union governor of Ohio is strongly focused on killing not only train service but all incentives for renewable energy. His energy plan is for extreme right-wing nuke-based monopolies like FirstEnergy to run the show. Atomic power is the ultimate weapon against community control. 

For decades the term "fascist" has been dismissed from use in this country, and perhaps rightly so. Corporations have been dominant in the US since the 1880s, but we have managed to maintain a modicum of democracy. 

It's hard to see that happening if the remnants of the organized labor movement are crushed in Wisconsin and Ohio. Both states have long, important traditions of union activism. 

In the wake of Citizens United, with the courts, media, Congress and presidency firmly in corporate control, we see no easy road to victory for working people. 

"Vote the bastards out" has become a pipedream in the age of electronic voting machines. Especially in Ohio, a reliable electoral vote count is a thing of the past. 

We also have a president who was elected with strong labor support and who is now genuflecting toward the unions. But US history is filled with Democrats who have betrayed their working-class backers, and this one may prove no exception. 

So in the long run, we have only ourselves to rely on. The way to survival is not clear. 

Ultimately, as Martin Luther King said, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." 

But from time to time, it does break. If these uprisings in Wisconsin and Ohio fail, there will---literally---be hell to pay. 

Somehow, we must find a way to make sure they don't.

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored four books on election protection, which are at www.freepress.org, where Bob's FITRAKIS FILES also appear. HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE US is at www.harveywasserman.com, along with SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH. Originally published by http://freepress.org.



Rep. Moore Tells Anti-Choice GOP Where to Shove Black Genocide Lie

I admire this woman for speaking up although her words have fallen on deaf hear. The Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats do not give a damn about the poor, black or white, they just don't give a damn. Their only interest is to feather their nests on the backs of the poor & working class by catering to Bankers & Corporations to ensure they get that million dollar a years postion after they leave office. CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM NOW.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Power To 'The People'

The Invisible, Growing Leaderless Revolution in America | Common Dreams

Two weeks ago I was talking to my brother and I commented to him: People will flood the streets, It's just a matter of time. Even The Tea Partiers need shelter, health care, food and medicine.  Corporations and their Accomplices ie. Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats think they have the power but they don't ....'We The People'  hold the power, it's just a matter of time before we wake up.

The Invisible, Growing Leaderless Revolution in America

At first glance, the “leaderless revolution” in Egypt has nothing in common with the recent closing of Allyson’s, a local deli here in our small Oregon town. Until you hear why the bank called the note. “… the balance and payments are due.”

Quoting from a CommonDreams.org article by David Porter on Egypt, “It is the slowly-accumulating momentum of hundreds of thousands of confrontations with local officials and elites… that slowly develop the courage, confidence and essential horizontal networks bubbling below the surface…”

How many Allyson’s stories are accumulating throughout America? How many business owners and employees, home owners and credit card users have had their lives turned upside down by banker’s decisions like this one, so utterly devoid of humanity?

The banker’s quote appeared in a story carried by our local paper and it wasn’t accompanied by any mitigating compassion. Apparently he didn’t feel it was necessary to show any. It’s the golden rule in action: he who has the gold makes the rules. Period. And, it’s happening everywhere.

A San Francisco friend tells me about his eleven months of futile communication with the bank that holds his mortgage. They lost his paperwork three times. All he wanted was to renegotiate the payments. Finally, he’s walking away. But first, he’s stopped making any payments at all. He’ll live in the house until he is forced to leave. When he does leave, the house will sit empty, tied up in red tape, while homeless people crowd the streets nearby.

A Texas couple fights Blue Cross and Blue Shield who have both denied coverage of life saving heart surgery for their newborn baby, on the basis that it is a pre-existing condition. Pre-existing? He was born with it. Reading the official responses from these companies… it’s the same story. They simply don’t want to pay. They are in business to make money, as are the banks. Providing some sort of service is an irritating necessity. The less actually provided, the more successful these businesses are.

Meanwhile, out on the streets where we live, the anger is building towards a breaking point. How many Allyson’s closing down, how many home owners walking away (or being driven out), how many of us losing our savings to pay for health care, how many “confrontations with local officials and elites” will it take to finally get us out on the streets? When will the world start watching a “leaderless revolution” here in America? We don’t have a dictator to oust. For us, it’s a ruling oligarchy immune to influence by voting. It’s bankers, corporations, multi-whatillionaires, an enabling government, those with the gold, the power and no interest in us, beyond milking us everyday like the docile sheep they believe us to be.

The leaderless revolution in Egypt took years to develop. There wasn’t much news about it along the way. Likewise here in the good old USA. So, when it finally erupts, as it inevitably will, it may seem like a surprise. But it won’t be; it is inevitable. The only question is “When?”

But we’re innovators, at least those of us who’ve survived so far with our imaginations intact. We don’t have to wait for thousands to march together, maybe in Times Square. We’ve actually got a lot of power right now. And, ironically, our power resides in the same place it does for those who rule us: money. Imagine the day when we take our money out of those banks and begin lending it to each other? Fifty friends in our small community coming up with $5,000 each could have saved our favorite deli.

Risky? Not as risky as banks and the carnage they wreak in our communities every day. So, am I suggesting local, citizen-operated banks? Sort of. But what I imagine is more neighborly than the word “bank” can possibly ever convey now, it’s meaning forever corrupted by the heartless behavior we’re witnessing. It’s simpler, more like friends just supporting each other. Financially. What a concept. And imagine not charging interest. No interest. No taxes. Just favors between trusting friends.

Maybe some day we will be out on the streets and the world will watch breathlessly as the next American Revolution turns tables. But we can start right now without any fanfare at all, taking baby steps to regain our power, one friendly exchange at a time. We hear the stories of grief every day and it’s our friends who are telling them. How about, instead of just sympathizing and worrying that I might be next - which explains why I’m clinging to that $5,000 I’ve got stashed in the stranger’s bank - I respond in the most practical way possible? I take my hoarded wealth and put it in play. “Here, will this help?”

What have I got to lose? Well, my $5,000. So how much have I already lost to investments gone bad? To strangers? (As I write this I’m feeling a bit like I do when I wake up from a weird dream.) Why not lose mine to friends right here in my own community? But, of course, as we all know from experience, true no-strings-attached generosity always returns rewards that far exceed the value of what we offered. We do know that, because we already give and receive with each other that way. But now may be the time to start exchanging cash. It’s been the hold out. For obvious reasons. After all, it’s the symbol of what enslaves us, the currency of the middleman.

This is probably a worst-case scenario for our masters, that we make them and their paper power unnecessary. But if they aren’t going to be neighborly, why would we really want to have anything to do with them?

Will Wilkinson

Will Wilkinson has just completed collaborating on Forgiving The Unforgivable, a book that recounts how survivors of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack forgave their attackers. He lives in Ashland, Oregon. Email: will@imagifi.com



"......tell the governor that the people have spoken: They’re with the unions."

'This Is What Democracy Looks Like' in Wisconsin, as Largest Crowd Yet -- 80,000 -- Opposes Union Busting | Common Dreams

'This Is What Democracy Looks Like' in Wisconsin, as Largest Crowd Yet -- 80,000 -- Opposes Union Busting

by John Nichols

MADISON -- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker finished a bad week with a misstep that emphasized his inability to generate support for his attempt to strip the state’s public employees of collective bargaining rights.

Protesters demonstrate in front of Gov. Scott Walker's office at the State Capitol. (Andy Manis / AP) First, the governor’s radical proposal went to such extremes in its anti-labor bias that it sparked a protest movement so large, so steady and so determined in its demands that it is now commonly compared with the protests that have rocked Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.

Then, the man that badges worn by marchers describe as “The Mubarak of the Middle West” really blew it. Saturday was supposed to be the day when the governor pushed back against the movement that has challenged his radical power grab.  The governor’s Tea Party allies attempted to grab the spotlight with a rally at the state Capital. Unfortunately, the much-hyped event, which national Tea Party groups had poured money and organizing energy into generating, drew an anemic crowd of several thousand. Even by the optimistic estimates of the Tea Partisans themselves, the pro-Walker turnout was one-tenth the size of the crowd that came to oppose the governor’s so-called “budget repair bill.”

The governor made things worse for himself by going on CNN and announcing that he had received 19,000 emails from the “quiet majority” of Wisconsinites since he made his proposal and claimed that most of them were supportive.
 
Dumb move. Really dumb move.
 
Within hours of making his claim, the streets of Madison were filled by what veteran political organizers described as the largest demonstration ever seen in the city. Former Mayor Paul Soglin, a key organizer of anti-Vietnam War protests, said, “We had some big demonstrations in the sixties, but this is bigger.”
 
Organizers of a 2004 rally featuring Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and rocker Bruce Springsteen, where the crowd was estimated at 80,000, pointed out that Saturday’s protest against Walker’s budget filled a significantly larger space. And, they noted, thousands of addition opponents of the governor’s proposal packed the Capitol.
 
Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters Association, which has been a high-profile participant in the demonstrations, surveyed the crowd while recounting Walker’s boast about the 19,000 emails.
 
“I think I have 19,000 people behind me,” said Mitchell.
 
Pointing to one edge of the massive audience arrayed before him, he said: “And 20,000 there.”
 
He pointed to the other edge of the crowd: “And 20,000 there.”
 
Finally, he pointed down State Street, the thoroughfare that stretches from the Capitol to the University of Wisconsin campus, which was packed with students who have backed the unions: “And 20,000 there.”
 
Rallying with Mitchell was Wisconsin Education Association Council president Mary Bell, who picked up on the “this-is-what-democracy-looks-like” theme that has become so central to the marches, rallies and pickets that have swept not just Madison but a state where even small towns have seen protests against Walker’s bill.
 
“The power of government in this state does not come from this Capitol,” she said of the building that was surrounded by teachers, educational assistants, nurses, snow-plow drivers and state engineers, as well as their tens of thousands of backers. “The power comes from the people.”
 
And while Scott Walker may claim a  “quiet majority” of 19,000 emails received by his office, a noisy majority of more than 80,000 Wisconsinites braved a winter day to tell the governor that the people have spoken: They’re with the unions.



Saturday, February 19, 2011

Koch Industries Slashed WI Jobs, Helped Elect Scott Walker, Now Orchestrating Pro-Walker Protest

ThinkProgress » Koch Industries Slashed WI Jobs, Helped Elect Scott Walker, Now Orchestrating Pro-Walker Protest
Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker is facing a growing backlash over his attempt to cut pay and eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in his state. Although Walker is claiming his power grab is an attempt to close a budget gap, the budget “crisis” was engineered by Walker as soon as he got into office. As Brian Beutler reported, half of the budget shortfall comes from Walker’s own tax cuts for businesses and other business giveaways enacted in January.
A number of the big business interests standing with Walker are beneficiaries of his administration’s tax giveaways. But the greatest ally to Walker is the dirty energy company Koch Industries. In response to the growing protests in Madison, Koch fronts are busing in Tea Party protesters to support Walker and his union-busting campaign. Last night, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz reported on the involvement of Club for Growth and the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity in the pro-Walker protest scheduled tomorrow. Watch it:


Koch Industries is a major player in Wisconsin: Koch owns a coal company subsidiary with facilities in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan; six timber plants throughout the state; and a large network of pipelines in Wisconsin. While Koch controls much of the infrastructure in the state, they have laid off workers to boost profits. At a time when Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch awarded themselves an extra $11 billion of income from the company, Koch slashed jobs at their Green Bay plant:
Officials at Georgia-Pacific said the company is laying off 158 workers at its Day Street plant because out-of-date equipment at the facility is being replaced with newer, more-efficient equipment. The company said much of the new, papermaking equipment will be automated. [...] Malach tells FOX 11 that the layoffs are not because of a drop in demand. In fact, Malach said demand is high for the bath tissue and napkins manufactured at the plant.
Koch Industries was one of the biggest contributors to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, funneling $43,000 over the course of last year. In return, Koch front groups are closely guiding the Walker agenda. The American Legislative Exchange Council, another Koch-funded group, advised Walker and the GOP legislature on its anti-labor legislation and its first corporate tax cuts.
According to the EPA, Koch businesses are huge polluters, emitting thousands of pounds of toxic pollutants. As soon as he got into office Walker started cutting environmental regulations and appointed a Republican known for her disregard for environmental regulations to lead the Department of Natural Resources. In addition, Walker has stated his opposition to clean energy jobs policies that might draw workers away from Koch-owned interests.
Moreover, other organizers for the pro-Walker protest are from groups associated with corporate and Koch interests. American Majority, a Virginia-based front group founded by organizers funded by millionaire investor Howie Rich, is on the ground contacting Wisconsin Tea Parties to support Walker in Madison. Austin James, an American Majority official who was caught teaching Tea Party members to spam Amazon.com profiles of liberal books with negative comments, is the contact for the Facebook page organizing the pro-Walker protest. Eric O’Keefe, a longtime conservative operative who helps lead American Majority, attends Koch strategy meetings.
Update Koch's Americans for Prosperity group has launched a new website and petition called www.standwithwalker.com. The new site attacks all collective bargaining, not just for public sector unions. Koch's front group also declares: "In fact, every state should adopt Governor Scott Walker's common sense reforms."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Invisible, Growing Leaderless Revolution in America

The Invisible, Growing Leaderless Revolution in America | Common Dreams


At first glance, the “leaderless revolution” in Egypt has nothing in common with the recent closing of Allyson’s, a local deli here in our small Oregon town. Until you hear why the bank called the note. “… the balance and payments are due.”

Quoting from a CommonDreams.org article by David Porter on Egypt, “It is the slowly-accumulating momentum of hundreds of thousands of confrontations with local officials and elites… that slowly develop the courage, confidence and essential horizontal networks bubbling below the surface…”

How many Allyson’s stories are accumulating throughout America? How many business owners and employees, home owners and credit card users have had their lives turned upside down by banker’s decisions like this one, so utterly devoid of humanity?

The banker’s quote appeared in a story carried by our local paper and it wasn’t accompanied by any mitigating compassion. Apparently he didn’t feel it was necessary to show any. It’s the golden rule in action: he who has the gold makes the rules. Period. And, it’s happening everywhere.

A San Francisco friend tells me about his eleven months of futile communication with the bank that holds his mortgage. They lost his paperwork three times. All he wanted was to renegotiate the payments. Finally, he’s walking away. But first, he’s stopped making any payments at all. He’ll live in the house until he is forced to leave. When he does leave, the house will sit empty, tied up in red tape, while homeless people crowd the streets nearby.

A Texas couple fights Blue Cross and Blue Shield who have both denied coverage of life saving heart surgery for their newborn baby, on the basis that it is a pre-existing condition. Pre-existing? He was born with it. Reading the official responses from these companies… it’s the same story. They simply don’t want to pay. They are in business to make money, as are the banks. Providing some sort of service is an irritating necessity. The less actually provided, the more successful these businesses are.

Meanwhile, out on the streets where we live, the anger is building towards a breaking point. How many Allyson’s closing down, how many home owners walking away (or being driven out), how many of us losing our savings to pay for health care, how many “confrontations with local officials and elites” will it take to finally get us out on the streets? When will the world start watching a “leaderless revolution” here in America? We don’t have a dictator to oust. For us, it’s a ruling oligarchy immune to influence by voting. It’s bankers, corporations, multi-whatillionaires, an enabling government, those with the gold, the power and no interest in us, beyond milking us everyday like the docile sheep they believe us to be.

The leaderless revolution in Egypt took years to develop. There wasn’t much news about it along the way. Likewise here in the good old USA. So, when it finally erupts, as it inevitably will, it may seem like a surprise. But it won’t be; it is inevitable. The only question is “When?”

But we’re innovators, at least those of us who’ve survived so far with our imaginations intact. We don’t have to wait for thousands to march together, maybe in Times Square. We’ve actually got a lot of power right now. And, ironically, our power resides in the same place it does for those who rule us: money. Imagine the day when we take our money out of those banks and begin lending it to each other? Fifty friends in our small community coming up with $5,000 each could have saved our favorite deli.

Risky? Not as risky as banks and the carnage they wreak in our communities every day. So, am I suggesting local, citizen-operated banks? Sort of. But what I imagine is more neighborly than the word “bank” can possibly ever convey now, it’s meaning forever corrupted by the heartless behavior we’re witnessing. It’s simpler, more like friends just supporting each other. Financially. What a concept. And imagine not charging interest. No interest. No taxes. Just favors between trusting friends.

Maybe some day we will be out on the streets and the world will watch breathlessly as the next American Revolution turns tables. But we can start right now without any fanfare at all, taking baby steps to regain our power, one friendly exchange at a time. We hear the stories of grief every day and it’s our friends who are telling them. How about, instead of just sympathizing and worrying that I might be next - which explains why I’m clinging to that $5,000 I’ve got stashed in the stranger’s bank - I respond in the most practical way possible? I take my hoarded wealth and put it in play. “Here, will this help?”

What have I got to lose? Well, my $5,000. So how much have I already lost to investments gone bad? To strangers? (As I write this I’m feeling a bit like I do when I wake up from a weird dream.) Why not lose mine to friends right here in my own community? But, of course, as we all know from experience, true no-strings-attached generosity always returns rewards that far exceed the value of what we offered. We do know that, because we already give and receive with each other that way. But now may be the time to start exchanging cash. It’s been the hold out. For obvious reasons. After all, it’s the symbol of what enslaves us, the currency of the middleman.

This is probably a worst-case scenario for our masters, that we make them and their paper power unnecessary. But if they aren’t going to be neighborly, why would we really want to have anything to do with them?

Will Wilkinson

Will Wilkinson has just completed collaborating on Forgiving The Unforgivable, a book that recounts how survivors of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack forgave their attackers. He lives in Ashland, Oregon. Email: will@imagifi.com

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