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Chernynkaya On May - 13 - 2011

 

You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.

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BUDGET

 

Negotiatin’

digby:

Here are the talking points fthe Andrea Mitchell Reports (with Norah O’Donnell guest hosting) this morning.

John Boehner: Democrats want a free pass to continue to spend more. We’re in a hole and Democrats won’t give up the shovel. Doing nothing is not an option, the American people won’t tolerate it and neither will we.

DebbieWasserman-Shultz: He has some nerve not sitting around the table with Democrats, hammering out some compromise and striking a balance. What President Obama called for a few weeks ago was that we needed to strike a balance. We need to make sure that we engaged in shared sacrifice. So Democrats aren’t just calling for revenue increases and tax increases. What we are calling for is that the wealthiest among us and the middle class and even people who can’t bear any more pain all share the sacrifice to fix our deficit and make sure that we can continue to create jobs and turn this economy around.

I’m sure people are very impressed with the Democrats’ maturity and sobriety with all that talk about “balance.” But it is really a good idea to characterize a tax hike on the wealthiest people in this country a “sacrifice?” What exactly are they sacrificing, an extra couple of days in St Barts? A new Bentley every two years instead of one? Is that really the same thing as asking a family member to quit work because someone needs to stay home to take care of grandma when Medicaid’s been cut off and there’s no money for skilled nursing care? Is it really “shared sacrifice” when wealthy hedge fund managers are asked to pay the same tax rates as your average office worker while teachers, firefighters, cops and state workers lose their jobs and homes? Really?

I’m sure there are plenty of people who think this is a terrific way to show that the Democrats are “serious” about deficit reduction and God knows there’s nothing more important than that. But I will just remind them that actual human beings’ lives are at stake in this and that the last time a president proved that Democrats were responsible fiscal stewards they impeached him for his trouble and gave the money to their rich friends the first chance they got.

You can see by the two comments that the parties are approaching these negotiations in completely different ways. The Republicans are standing their ground and pushing to the limit and the Democrats are appealing to swing voters by promoting themselves as the party willing to compromise just about anything in the hopes that they will sour on the GOP for its intransigence. Maybe that will even work. But the cost is going to be high for the Party in the long run as they willingly help the Republicans systematically destroy their institutional base. And in the short run, millions of those “people who really can’t bear any more pain” as Wasserman Shultz calls them, will be sacrificed on the alter of the Democratic image of rectitude.


California Budget Talks: Too Close for Comfort

California Gov. Jerry Brown is right to call off budget talks with Republicans in Sacramento. There was no point in continuing a conversation with a minority party bent on obstruction and whose hold on political power is predicated on preventing the emergence of solutions to the state’s structural budget deficit. It was clear from the ridiculous demands the Republicans were making that they were only interested in lengthening and delaying the budget process in order to forestall a special election in which California voters would have the opportunity to decide whether they wanted to erase the state’s remaining budget deficit through tax extensions.

 

BUSINESS



Time to Break Up the Telecom Giants

Today, the ‘communications trust’ – AT&T, Verizon and the major cable companies of Comcast and Time Warner – controls the two wires and the wireless networks that link the nation’s homes, businesses, schools and other institutions. The communications trust has failed America. AT&T has proposed a major rate increase, known as ‘broadband caps,’ on high-volume video distribution targeting initially heavy movie users. This sets the stage for a two-tier pricing model that could effectively end net neutrality. The full effect of these and many other actions by the trust, working through ‘captured’ FCC and state public utilities commissions (PUCs), will be the erosion of Universal Service, further harming those most vulnerable.

 

J.P. Morgan’s hunt for Afghan gold

From Fortune Magazine:

To Hannam, chairman of J.P. Morgan Capital Markets, Afghanistan represents a gigantic, untapped opportunity — one of the last great natural-resource frontiers. Landlocked and pinioned by imperial invaders, Afghanistan has been cursed by its geography for thousands of years. Now, for the first time, Hannam believes, that geography could be an asset. The two most resource-starved nations on the planet, China and India, sit next door to Afghanistan, where, according to Pentagon estimates, minerals worth nearly $1 trillion lie buried. True, there is a war under way. And it’s unclear how the death of Osama bin Laden will impact the country’s political and economic environment. But Hannam is not your usual investment banker: A former soldier, he has done business in plenty of strife-torn countries. So have all the members of his team, two of them former special forces soldiers who have fought here.

As he flies to the mine for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Hannam thinks back over the past 12 months. This little mine, where operations have yet to commence, is puny by J.P. Morgan’s (JPM) standards, but he knows it might be the project for which he is remembered. A lot of powerful people, including the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, are counting on him to demonstrate that the country is safe for foreign investors. Hannam has chafed at times under the pressure from the Pentagon, and the cold-eyed realist in him wonders whether unrealistic expectations are being placed on this business venture.

MORE>>>

 

Toys ‘R’ Us Will Install Nation’s Largest Solar Rooftop Array

It was recently announced that the New Jersey distribution center for Toys ‘R’ Us will soon be home to the largest rooftop array of solar panels in North America.

Upon completion, the 5.38 megawatt on-site solar mechanism will occupy 869,294 square feet of the Flanders, New Jersey building, and is estimated to generate 72 percent of the electrical needs for the Toys “R” Us facility.

Generating the same amount of electricity using non-renewable sources would result in the release of an estimated 4,387 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent emissions from 860 passenger vehicles or that of the electricity used to power 532 homes annually.

 

Meet The Workers Who Make Your iPad: 100 Hours Of Overtime, No-Suicide Pacts, Standing For 14 Hours A Day

After much of the international media covered the abuses at Foxconn’s factories, the company, along with the major American corporations it supplies — like Apple and HP — announced that it would be reforming its practices.

Yet a new report from Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM), a Hong Kong-based advocacy and research group, finds that many of the practices that led more than a dozen workers committ suicide continue to live on. SACOM conducted a comprehensive study of practices at several Foxconn factories over the months of March and April and found that a number of shocking policies are in place. Here are some of the highlights of their study:

– Workers Are Being Asked To Work 80-100 Hours Of Overtime: Despite promises by Apple and Foxconn to limit overtime work to 36 hours a month, SACOM researchers found that in some factories, like in Chengdu, it is typical for workers to work 80-100 hours overtime instead. This is actually 2-3 times the legal limit of allowed overtime work.

– Workers Are Being Forced To Sign ‘No-Suicide’ Pacts: In the wake of a huge wave of suicides at Foxconn plants, the company began reforming its practices related to the suicides. Among these changes included installing anti-suicide nets to catch workers who attempted to leap out of company windows. Yet workers are also being forced to sign a non-suicide pact as a condition of employment. As part of the pact, the employees families have to promise “not sue the company, bring excessive demands, take drastic actions that would damage the company’s reputation or cause trouble that would hurt normal operations” in the case of a suicide.

– Employees Regularly Are Forced To Stand For 14 Hours A Day: SACOM found that workers in Chengdu “usually…have to stand for 14 hours a day.” “I don’t understand why we can’t sit. And we can’t bring our cell phone to the shop floor. Even the cell phone without camera is prohibited,” said one worker to the SACOM researchers.

– Employees Are Crammed Together In Dormitories With Squalid Living Conditions: In Chengdu, where almost all workers live in company-owned dormitories, the number of employees placed in a dormitory room range from 6 to 22. Employees’ living quarters are also under factory rules, and workers cannot even bring basic items such as hair dryers into their dorms. “Some of my roommates weep in the dormitory. I want to cry as well but my tears have not come out,” one 19 year-old employee told SACOM

 

ECONOMY


Democratic Senator Calls Big Oil Execs Selfish, Unfeeling — And Unbeatable

The unapologetic — indeed combative — testimony on Thursday by top oil executives summoned to defend multi-billion tax subsidies for their industry infuriated some Senate Democrats, one of whom accused the executives of being “profoundly out of touch” with average Americans.

The heads of the Big Five oil companies, currently enjoying a windfall from high oil prices, soundly rejected a Democratic request that they renounce $2 billion in tax breaks, declaring instead that they were entitled to every penny. […]

It was all too much for Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

“I get the feeling that it’s almost like you’re — like the five of you are like Saudi Arabia. That you’re caught up in your profits, you’re highly defensive, you yield on nothing,” he said. “I think you’re out of touch. Deeply, profoundly out of touch. And deeply and profoundly committed to sharing nothing.”

Congress is facing enormous pressure to make deep cuts in essential government programs, in order to reduce the budget deficit. Americans are struggling to make ends meet — a struggle made dramatically worse by high gas prices. Meanwhile, the Big Five oil companies — Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — made about $34 billion in profits in the first three months of 2011, up 42 percent from a year ago.

“The nature of your life, the nature of your international travel, the nature of the size of your profits — I don’t think you have any idea what the size of your profits does to the American people’s willingness to accept what you have to say,” Rockefeller said.

“I think the main reason that you’re out of touch, particularly with respect to Americans, and the sacrifices that we’re having to look at here in terms of try to balance — trying to come close to balancing the budget — is that you never lose,” Rockefeller said to the executives. “You’ve never lost. You always prevail. You always prevail in the halls of Congress, and you do that for a whole variety of reasons, because of your lobbyists, because of your friends, because of all the places where you do business. And I don’t really know any other business that never loses,” he said.

“I’ve just never seen any industry so successful, so constantly successful. I think you all have a great sense of assurance as you are sitting there. … I don’t think you feel threatened by anything that’s going on here, and I don’t know necessarily that you have any reason to feel threatened, because of the way votes line up in this present Congress.

“I haven’t heard anybody say what they would be willing to do to share in our budget problem and in the total concept of what keeps America together, and that is essentially fairness. That everybody has to lose at some time. That everybody has to give something up for us to be a real country.”

Democrats, starting with President Obama, have seized on oil subsidies as a potent political issue. This week, three senators unveiled legislation that would strip the Big Five of about $21 billion in tax breaks over the next decade.

“Businesses should make a profit — that’s what drives our economy — but do these very profitable companies actually need taxpayer subsidies?” asked Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), as he kicked off Thursday’s hearing. “Energy incentives should help us build the energy future we want to see — not pad oil company profits.”

Rockefeller’s pessimism about the repeal’s chances may be well-founded. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he intends to schedule a vote on the measure next week, but no Republicans have shown any indication that they’ll vote for it — and two “oil patch” Democrats declared their opposition on Wednesday as well.

“My guess is that there aren’t 60 votes to pass it,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) told the executives. But, he said, “when the vote occurs next week and we don’t get 60 votes for Senator Menendez’s proposal, that shouldn’t be the end of the conversation.”

Partisan battle lines were clearly drawn from the start of Thursday’s hearing, when Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the ranking member of the committee, accused Democrats of wanting to increase gas prices, then illustrated his view of the hearing by unveiling a photograph of a dog standing on a pony.

Banter ensued, followed by Hatch’s declaration: “I know who the hores’s ass is.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) was particularly pointed in his interrogation of ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva, whose company on Wednesday described the Democratic subsidy rollback as “un-American.”

Schumer demanded an apology. He didn’t get one.

Describing the trade-offs the budget committee will be making, he asked Mulva, “Do you think that your subsidy is more important that the financial aid that we give to students to go to college?”

Mulva did not give a direct answer.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) brought a video clip from a November 2005 hearing, where he asked oil executives whether or not they agreed with then-President George W. Bush’s assertion that “with $55 [a barrel] oil we don’t need incentives to oil and gas companies to explore. There are plenty of incentives.”

Back then, the executives had all agreed.

“Gentlemen, you all have done, as major oil companies, a dramatic about-face this morning,” Wyden said. “In 2005 — you were there, Mr. Mulva — all of you said you did not need tax incentives to drill for oil. And today you come to say you’ve got to have them when oil is at $100 a barrel. I just think that position defies common sense.”

John Watson, CEO of Chevron, told the panel: “I am an advocate for developing all forms of energy and using energy more wisely,” he said. “But it is wrong to increase taxes on oil and gas companies to subsidize other forms of energy.”

Furthermore, he said: “Singling out five companies because of their size is even more troubling. Such measures are anticompetitive and discriminatory. … Don’t punish our industry for doing its job well.”

Watson also warned that his company could shift its investment strategy. “To the extent that taxes are higher in the United States, we’ll look elsewhere,” he said.

“The real question is not can we afford more taxes,” said Tillerson. “The real question is what do these tax changes mean to that next incremental investment decision that we’re going to make.”

 

The Threats of Business and the Business of Threats

More and more, we hear that nothing can be done to tax major corporations because of the threat of how they would respond. Likewise, we cannot stop their price gouging or even the government subsidies and tax loopholes they enjoy. For example, as the oil majors reap stunning profits from high oil and gas prices, we are told it is impossible to tax their windfall profits or stop the billions they get in government subsidies and tax loopholes. There appears to be no way for the government to secure lower energy prices or seriously impose and enforce environmental protection laws. Likewise, despite high and fast rising drug and medicine prices, we are told that it is impossible to raise taxes on pharmaceutical companies or have the government secure lower pharmaceutical prices. And so on. […]

In plain English, major corporations are threatening us. We are to knuckle under and cut social programs that benefit millions of people (college loan programs, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, nutrition programs, and so on). We are not to demand higher taxes or reduced subsidies and tax loopholes for corporations. We are not to demand government action to lower their soaring prices. And if we do, corporations will punish us.

Of course, there are always two possible responses to any and all threats. One is to cave in, to be intimidated. That has often been the dominant “policy choice” of the US government. That’s why so many corporate tax loopholes exist, why the government does so little to limit price increases, why government does not constrain corporate relocation decisions etc. No surprise there, since corporations have spent lavishly to support the political careers of so many current leaders. […]

When major corporations threaten to cut or relocate production abroad in response to changes in their taxes and subsidies or demands to cut their prices or serious enforcement of environmental protection rules, the US government could promise retaliation. Here’s a brief and partial list of how it might do that (with illustrative examples for the energy and pharmaceutical industries):

  1. Inform such threatening businesses that the US government will shift its purchases to other enterprises.

  2. Inform them that top officials will tour the US to urge citizens to follow the government’s example and shift their purchases as well.

  3. Inform them that the government will proceed to finance and organize state-operated companies to compete directly with threatening businesses.

  4. Immediately and strictly enforce all applicable rules governing health and safety conditions for workers, environmental protection laws, equal employment and advancement opportunity etc.

  5. Present and promote passage of new laws governing enterprise relocation (giving local, regional and national authorities veto power over corporate relocation decisions).

  6. Purchase energy and pharmaceutical outputs in bulk for mass resale to the US public, passing on all the savings from bulk purchases.

  7. Seize assets of enterprises that seek to evade or frustrate increased taxes or reduced subsidies.

Laws enabling such actions either already exist in the US or could be enacted. In other countries today, existing models of such laws have performed well, often for many years. These could be used and adjusted for US conditions.

Of course, a much better basis than threat and counter-threat is available for sharing the costs of government between individuals and businesses. That basis would be achieved by a transition to an economic system where workers in each enterprise functioned collectively and democratically as their own board of directors. Such worker-directed enterprises eliminate the basic split and conflict inside capitalist corporations between those who make the key business decisions (what, how and where to produce, for example) and those who must live with and most immediately depend on those decisions’ results (the mass of employees). […]

In effect, corporate boards of directors and major shareholders seek to shift tax burdens onto employees. Their success over the last half-century is clear. Tax receipts of the US government have increasingly come (1) from individual rather than corporate income taxes and (2) from middle and lower individual income groups rather than from the rich. In worker-directed enterprises, the incentive for such shifts would vanish because the people who would be paying enterprise taxes are the same people who would be paying individual income taxes. Taxation would finally become genuinely democratic. The people would collectively decide how to distribute taxes on what would genuinely be their own businesses and their own individual incomes.

 


Pulte corporation got a $880M tax refund for job creation, but instead laid off workers

 

Warren Buffett And Bill Gates On Why The Wealthy Need To Pay More Taxes

 

Bernanke, fellow regulators update Congress on efforts to overhaul US financial rulebook

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and other regulators gave Congress an update Thursday on their efforts to implement the biggest overhaul of the nation’s financial rules since the Great Depression.

In testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke said the Fed will unveil new regulations this summer that would protect the U.S. economy from another meltdown of the nation’s largest banks and financial companies.

 

EDUCATION


Koch Brothers Fueling Far-Right Academic Centers Across the US

As reporter Kris Hundley notes, Koch virtually owns much of George Mason University, another public university, through grants and direct control over think tanks within the school. For instance, Koch controls the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, an institute that set much of the Bush administration’s environmental deregulation policy. And similar conditional agreements have been made with schools like Clemson and West Virginia University. ThinkProgress has analyzed data from the Charles Koch Foundation, and found that this trend is actually much larger than previously known.

 

Improving the Science of Teaching Science

Over the past few years, scientists have been working to transform education from the inside out, by applying findings from learning and memory research where they could do the most good, in the classroom. A study appearing in the journal Science on Thursday illustrates how promising this work can be — and how treacherous.

The research comes from a closely watched group led by Carl Wieman, a Nobel laureate in physics at the University of British Columbia who leads a $12 million initiative to improve science instruction using research-backed methods for both testing students’ understanding and improving how science is taught.

In one of the initiative’s most visible studies, Dr. Wieman’s team reports that students in an introductory college physics course did especially well on an exam after attending experimental, collaborative classes during the 12th week of the course. By contrast, students taking the same course from another instructor — who did not use the experimental approach and continued with lectures as usual — scored much lower on the same exam.

In teleconference on Wednesday, Dr. Wieman and his co-authors said that some instructors at the university were already eager to adopt the new approach and that it should improve classroom learning broadly, in other sciences and at many levels. […]

In the study, Dr. Wieman had two advanced students take over one of the two introductory physics classes during the 12th week of the term, teaching the material in a radically different way from the usual lectures. Both this class and the comparison one were large, lecture-hall courses, each with more than 260 students enrolled. Instead of delivering lectures, the new co-instructors conducted collaborative classes, in which students worked in teams to answer questions about electromagnetic waves. The new teachers circulated among the students, picking up on common questions and points of confusion, and gave immediate feedback on study teams’ answers.

The techniques are rooted in an approach to learning known as deliberate practice, which previous research suggests is what leads to the acquisition of real expertise.

MORE>>>

ENVIRONMENT

 

Scientists’ Report Stresses Urgency of Limiting Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The nation’s scientific establishment issued a stark warning to the American public on Thursday: Not only is global warming real, but the effects are already becoming serious and the need has become “pressing” for a strong national policy to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases.

The report, by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, did not endorse any specific legislative approach, but it did say that attaching some kind of price to emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, would ideally be an essential component of any plan.

“The risks associated with doing business as usual are a much greater concern than the risks associated with engaging in ambitious but measured response efforts,” the report concludes. “This is because many aspects of an ‘overly ambitious’ policy response could be reversed or otherwise addressed, if needed, through subsequent policy change, whereas adverse changes in the climate system are much more difficult (indeed, on the time scale of our lifetimes, may be impossible) to ‘undo.’ ”

The report, “America’s Climate Choices,” was ordered by Congress several years ago to offer “action-oriented advice” on how the nation should be reacting to the potential consequences of climate change.

But the answer comes at a time when efforts to adopt a climate-change policy have stalled in Washington, with many of the Republicans who control the House expressing open skepticism about the science of climate change. Other legislators, including some Democrats, worry that any new law would translate into higher energy prices and hurt the economy.

Not only is the science behind the climate-change forecast solid, the report found, but the risks to future generations from further inaction are profound. Already, the report noted, sea level is rising in many American towns and the average United States air temperature has increased by two degrees in the last 50 years.

The report’s authors — an unusual combination of climate scientists, businessmen and politicians — said they were very aware that the political mood on climate change had changed significantly from when the committee was formed in 2009. Because the report was also about policy advice, the council named nonscientists, including Jim Geringer, a conservative Republican and a former governor of Wyoming. […]

“It is an urgent problem to turn to, and what we’ve done differently is to look at this as a risk management problem,” Dr. Carnesale said. […]

“The federal government,” the report said, “should immediately undertake the development of a national adaptation strategy and build durable institutions to implement that strategy and improve it over time.” Finally, while this report was designed, in contrast to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to be by Americans for Americans, the authors noted that climate change was a global problem and the nation had an obligation to remain engaged with the international community on possible solutions.

MORE>>>

 

The Vatican Urges People to Take Climate Science Seriously

Pope Benedict XVI has been an ardent supporter for many years of recognizing the truth of climate change and the collective responsibility to reduce carbon emissions and preserve clean air and clean water.

For many Tea Party leaders and their representatives in Congress, it is an “article of faith” that the Earth was given to humans by God for their exploitation and dominion. Many have used this distorted theology to support destructive mining and drilling projects, and to pass legislation attempting to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate planet-warming carbon pollution. Conservative members of Congress would rather the federal government subsidize oil companies than invest in clean energy technology.

But such reckless disregard for the Earth, its people, and natural resources is being challenged by a broad base of faith leaders who point to the many passages in the Bible that call for humans to be caretakers and good stewards of the planet. We can now add to their voices those of a working group of scientists appointed by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, a nonsectarian organization presided over by Werner Arber, a Nobel laureate and a Protestant. The academy has just issued a report that declares, without qualification and with utmost urgency, that global climate change is occurring, that humans bear responsibility for it, and that it is our gravest moral imperative to reduce carbon emissions as quickly as possible.

 

Thunderstorm in Forth Worth, Texas Creates Colorful Light Show

 

HEALTH CARE


Will the Courts Wreck Health Care?

E.J. Dionne Jr.:

As you watch the suits against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act work their way through the courts, consider that what you are really seeing is a great republic tying itself into as many knots as possible to avoid facing up to a challenge that every other wealthy capitalist democracy in the world has met.

Yes, all the others have decided that it’s both more just and more efficient for all its citizens to have health insurance. Countries do this in different ways. Some rely primarily on government, others on a mix of private and public resources. But given the costs of health care, even the most conservative governments have concluded that the public sector has to play a large role in its provision. […]

Conservatives talk an excellent game about individual responsibility and the idea that there is no such thing as a free lunch. They have a point, which makes it all the more astonishing that their legal attack has focused on the health law’s requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance. (Mitt Romney actually understands this. That’s why he’s in the midst of trying to square his own support for an individual mandate in Massachusetts with anti-mandate orthodoxy among GOP primary voters.)

There’s a simple truth here. People who get sick and show up at emergency rooms will get care whether they have insurance or not — and they should. Under a law signed by President Reagan — the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act of 1986 — nearly every hospital is required to offer treatment to those in urgent need of help. The law stops private hospitals from “dumping” (the word of art in the medical profession) patients onto public hospitals.

The way things work now, the cost of treating those patients falls onto those who already pay for insurance, or onto the taxpayers. The mandate is designed to get everyone inside the system and have them pay something. The new law also provides subsidies for those who can’t afford the full cost of insurance.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli made a revealing argument against the mandate. He kept referring to health insurance as a “private product.”

There’s the rub. Health care is anything but a “private product.” The system is replete with cross-subsidies from hospitals, taxpayers and the already insured. There is no law requiring a car dealer to give you a new Lexus if you just walk onto the lot that compares to the statute requiring hospitals to treat you if you show up. We consider health care a largely public good, but we don’t pay for it that way. That’s foolish.

 

IMMIGRATION


Immigrants For SaleWatch The Video

 

JUSTICE


Billionaire Investor Found Guilty of Fraud and Conspiracy

Raj Rajaratnam, the billionaire investor who once ran one of the world’s largest hedge funds, was found guilty of fraud and conspiracy on Wednesday by a federal jury in Manhattan. He is the most prominent figure convicted in the government’s crackdown on insider trading on Wall Street. Mr. Rajaratnam, who was convicted on all 14 counts, could face as much as 19 and a half years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, prosecutors said on Wednesday. He will be sentenced on July 29.

 

MEDIA

 

John Boehner says Bush tax cuts created 8 million jobs over 10 years [AND GOT AWAY WITH THE LIE.]

PolitiFact:

The Bush tax cuts “created about 8 million jobs over the first 10 years that they were in existence. We’ve lost about 5 million of those jobs during this recession.”

John Boehner on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show

Truth-O-Meter Verdict: FALSE


Senate Probes Privacy Practices of Google, Apple

Executives from Google and Apple defended their mobile privacy policies at a Congressional hearing Tuesday as Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) called attention to recent reports that iPhones androids and other devices secretly collected user data and locations without permission.

Under current federal law, Franken said, creators of mobile phones are often “free to disclose your location information and other sensitive information to almost anyone they please without letting you know.”

Under current federal law, Franken said, creators of mobile phones are often “free to disclose your location information and other sensitive information to almost anyone they please without letting you know.”

Legislators on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law said that without sufficient privacy measures, mobile devices carry the genuine potential for security breaches, like the recent attacks on Sony and Epsilon, or criminal activity such as stalking. However, panel members also assured the testifying officials that their mission was not to end location-based services, but to create strong consumer protections as mobile technology continues to evolve. […]

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) said the relationship between mobile operators and third-party app makers is a “wild West,” as the ever-changing technological landscape makes it difficult for legislators to create laws that protect consumers without stifling innovation. At least four bills attempting to navigate mobile and online privacy were introduced during this legislative session, but none have come to the forefront as being likely to pass.

Ashkan Soltani, an independent security researcher, said the best way to tackle mobile privacy was to increase transparency and create more specific guidelines for terms like “opt-in,” “third parties” and even “location.”

 

Jim Lehrer to retire as regular anchor

 

Fun With Charts: Making the Rich Look Poor

Jon Chait takes a closer look at a Wall Street Journal chart intended to suggest that the middle class has all the money:

The chart has been making the conservative blog rounds, from Powerline to Hoosierpundit to Reihan Salam to (not really conservative) Andrew Sullivan, who reproduces it under the headline “Where the Money Is.” The chart most certainly does not demonstrate the Journal’s point. It instead relies upon an optical illusion. Democrats have been arguing that their tax increases should solely affect income over $250,00 a year. The Journal makes that pot of income appear small by divvying it up into seven different lines. See, the $100,000-$200,000 line is tall, and all the other lines to the right of it are short. That tall line must be where the money is!

As a public service, I’ve redrawn the chart for the Journal. On the left is the original. On the right is the chart that shows the actual amount of money earned by the tiny handful of people making over $200,000. It’s a lot.

 

MILITARY


House Republicans Shred Constitution With Backdoor Proposal of Permanent War

Now, however, with a backdoor plan to commit the United States to a course of permanent warmaking, they are affronting the most basic premises of a Constitution that requires congressional declarations of all wars and direct and engaged oversight of military missions.

The House Republican leadership, working in conjunction with House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-California, has included in the 2012 defense authorization bill language (borrowed from the sweeping Detainee Security Act) that would effectively declare a state of permanent war against unnamed and ill-defined foreign forces “associated” with the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The means that, despite the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan (which GOP leaders in the House have refused to officially recognize as a significant development), the Department of Defense will be authorized to maintain a permanent occupation of Afghanistan, a country bin Laden abandoned years ago, and a global war against what remains of bin Laden’s fragmented operation.

Instead of an explicit declaration of war with Afghanistan or the ill-defined global conflict, the GOP leaders has slipped language into the spending bill that simply announced theU.S. is “engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces” and that claims an old “Authorization for Use of Military Force necessarily includes the authority to address the continuing and evolving threat posed by these groups.”

That’s about a wide-ranging as it gets, and the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee argues that the language makes a mockery of the Constitutional requirement that Congress check and balance the executive branch and the Department of Defense when it comes to questions of extending wars.

(The language included in the spending bill) would appear to grant the President near unfettered authority to initiate military action around the world without further congressional approval,” argues Congressman John Conyers, D-Michigan. “Such authority must not be ceded to the President without careful deliberation from Congress.”

Conyers and 32 House Democrats have written Armed Services Committee Chairman McKeon asking that he “immediately call hearings… so that the American people have an opportunity to consider the serious impacts that this legislation could have on our national security.”

MORE>>>


House Democrats Plan Amendment To Strike New AUMF Language

House Democrats who released a letter criticizing the new authorization against military force contained in the National Defense Authorization Act earlier this week are planning on introducing an amendment after the recess that they say would prevent Republicans from authorizing an open ended global “war on terror.

“From the perspective of congressional prerogative to declare war and peace, this would just further undermine Congress’ decisions about going to war by affirming that we’re at war with entities without describing who those entities are,” said a Democratic House aide. Republicans have argued that a new AUMF would simply put the administration on firmer legal footing for operations it is already engaged in against groups like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which did not exist at the time of the 9/11 attacks but still pose a security threat.

Pentagon Counsel Jeh Johnson however, told the House Armed Services Committee two months ago that the administration believes existing authority is sufficient. And in addition to a new AUMF, the House bill would make it impossible to try terrorists captured abroad in federal courts and make it more difficult for Gitmo detainees to be transferred to third countries. […]

Still, says Karen Greenberg, Executive Director of the New York University Center on Law and Security, Congress needs to assess the significance of Osama bin Laden‘s death before preparing to authorize a wider legal basis for the use of military force against terrorist suspects. Congress, to borrow a phrase, first has to tell the American people how this ends.

“What does it mean for the war to be over? How do you define the cessation of hostilites? Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men?” Greenberg says. “There are always going to be violent groups around the world…We’ve killed bin Laden. We need to see, and assess, what that actually means.”

The House aide said that Democrats were concerned that the language of the AUMF, citing the threat from “Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces,” was so broad it could be used against groups that aren’t yet targeting the United States. “We’re getting away from the tight nexus of the 9/11 attacks and who we’re at war with,” the aide said. “We’re going down this path where there’s no reference to any time frame, no particular places, we’re just at war any where any time.”

 

Obama unveils cybersecurity plan

Protecting the U.S. government’s computer system while protecting civil liberties are components of President Obama’s cybersecurity proposal revealed Thursday.

Among other things, the plan — which the administration says it hopes Congress will use as a framework to develop legislation — includes national data breach reporting, stiffer penalties for computer crimes, rules clarifying what assistance the Department of Homeland Security can provide on cybersecurity issues in the private sector, and cybersecurity audits for critical infrastructure providers, the White House said in a statement.

“Our nation is at risk,” the White House said. “The cybersecurity vulnerabilities in our government and critical infrastructure are a risk to national security, public safety and economic prosperity.”

The statement said the plan was developed at the request of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and six committee chairmen, who contacted Obama to seek his input on cybersecurity legislation.

 

Blackwater’s New Ethics Chief: John Ashcroft

The consortium in charge of restructuring the world’s most infamous private-security firm just added a new chief in charge of keeping the company on the straight and narrow. Yes, John Ashcroft, the former U.S. attorney general, is now an “independent director” of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater.Ashcroft will head Xe’s new “subcommittee on governance,” its backers announced early Wednesday in a statement. The subcommittee is designed to “maximize governance, compliance and accountability” and “promote the highest degrees of ethics and professionalism within the private-security industry.”

In other words, no more shooting civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, no more signing for weapons its guards aren’t authorized to carry in war zones, no more impersonations of cartoon characters to acquire said weaponry, and no more ‘roids and coke on the job.

Ashcroft’s arrival at Xe is yet another clear signal it’s not giving up the quest for lucrative government security contracts now that it’s no longer owned by founder Erik Prince, even as it emphasizes the side of its business that trains law enforcement officers. In September, it won part of a $10 billion State Department contract to protect diplomats, starting with the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. […]

To some, Ashcroft will be forever known as the face of Bush-era counterterrorism: the official who vigorously defended the Patriot Act’s sweeping surveillance powers; told civil libertarians that their dissents “only aid terrorists,” and covered up the Spirit of Justice’s boob. At the same time, when Ashcroft was critically ill in 2005, he resisted a White House mission to his hospital bed entreating him to reauthorize warrantless surveillance in defiance of the acting attorney general.

 

 

Panetta killed the whole Blackwater/CIA hit squad idea.

Huge report on the background of the Bin Ladin killing. Worth the read.

 

John McCain to Bush apologists: Stop lying about Bin Laden and torture

 

POLITICS


Obama’s Latino Strategy Takes Shape

Jonathan Chait:

Here are three stories that don’t make a ton of sense individually, but make a great deal of sense taken together. First, the Obama reelection campaign is claiming it’s going to compete hard in Texas, reports Glenn Thrush: […]

Meanwhile, Obama and Senate Democrats are making a public push on immigration reform: […]

And third, Democrats have recruited General Ricardo Sanchez to run for Senate in Texas: […]

This looks to me like different pieces of the same strategy. Here’s my read of it. In the narrow analysis, Texas is a deeply Republican state. Obama lost it by a dozen points in 2008. It can’t possibly help him win in 2012. If he does win the state, which could conceivably happen only in some kind of blowout scenario, he’d easily have enough electoral votes elsewhere to win.

However, there is long-term potential in Texas. The Latino population there is as large a proportion as in California, but it’s heavily demobilized. A concerted campaign to register Latino voters could eventually change the dynamic. The catch is that you have to be willing to spend $20 million or so in order to register them — a huge investment that is hard to justify short term. But Obama might have enough money in 2012 to spare for a long-term investment. And a high-profile Latino Senate candidate like Sanchez could lure a lot of previously unregistered Latinos. The only way to make this work is to create an energizing atmosphere for Latinos.

What’s more, Obama does need to mobilize the Latino vote in general, especially in states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida. That’s where the immigration push comes in. Obama failed to pass immigration legislation because a coalition of Republicans and red state Democrats killed it. Because the bills never had a high profile vote, though, it looked a lot like Obama simply didn’t care. That’s why Democrats are making a high profile push now. Obviously, passing something is the best case scenario. But if Republicans want to kill comprehensive reform or even the very modest DREAM Act, the point is to make them do it in a high profile setting that clarifies just who killed it. That kind of clarification is necessary to make the mass mobilization they’re planning in Texas effective. You can’t carry out a mass registration campaign in an atmosphere where the stakes are perceived to be low.

And since Texas is such a vital center of the Latino community, a large scale effort to register Latinos, plus the Sanchez candidacy, would reverberate nationwide

What’s more, Obama does need to mobilize the Latino vote in general, especially in states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida. That’s where the immigration push comes in. Obama failed to pass immigration legislation because a coalition of Republicans and red state Democrats killed it. Because the bills never had a high profile vote, though, it looked a lot like Obama simply didn’t care. That’s why Democrats are making a high profile push now. Obviously, passing something is the best case scenario. But if Republicans want to kill comprehensive reform or even the very modest DREAM Act, the point is to make them do it in a high profile setting that clarifies just who killed it. That kind of clarification is necessary to make the mass mobilization they’re planning in Texas effective. You can’t carry out a mass registration campaign in an atmosphere where the stakes are perceived to be low.

And since Texas is such a vital center of the Latino community, a large scale effort to register Latinos, plus the Sanchez candidacy, would reverberate nationwide…[…]

So the plan is to make the long-term investment in registering Hispanics in Texas, hastening the state’s eventual turn to purple, while maaaybe getting a competitive Senate race (Sanchez is a general running on a centrist message) and helping mobilize Latino voters in true swing states. Add it all together, and three decisions that make little or no sense on their own suddenly make a great deal of sense.

 

Panel Says Ensign Was Warned on Illegality of Act

Senator John Ensign’s top aide warned him in 2008 that his office might be breaking the law by helping a former staff member build up a lobbying business. The senator let out a long groan, then said they should help the former employee anyway, according to a remarkably detailed Senate report that urged the government to consider criminal charges against Mr. Ensign.

The report issued Thursday, a result of the most extensive Senate ethics investigation in at least two decades, describes the actions inside the senator’s office as he sought to manage the fallout from an affair with the wife of one of his former senior aides. […]

Ms. Boxer said that despite the Justice Department’s earlier decision not to pursue charges against the senator, she was confident that prosecutors would examine closely the Ethics Committee’s findings of numerous potential violations of the law, including perjury and obstruction of justice.

“They will look at it,” she said. “They have to look at it.”

Specifically, in its letter (pdf) to Attorney General Eric Holder, the ethics committee’s members presented evidentiary materials showing Ensign “aided and abetted violations of the one-year post-employment contract restriction,” “conspired to violate that restriction,” “made false statements to the Federal Election Commission,” “violated campaign finance laws,” and “obstructed the Committee’s preliminary inquiry.”

Full story here.


Video: GOP Must Stand Up to Big Oil

Today in the Senate, Democrats are holding a hearing on eliminating unnecessary tax breaks for oil and gas companies — and to discuss the need to combat rising energy prices. In the face of staggering oil industry profits, President Obama and congressional Democrats are pressing for an end to these unneeded government subsidies. Republicans, however, are refusing all efforts to roll back Big Oil’s $4 billion taxpayer payday.

Check out this video produced by the Senate Democrats:

 

I.R.S. Moves to Tax Gifts to Groups Active in Politics

Big donors like David H. Koch and George Soros could owe taxes on their millions of dollars in contributions to nonprofit advocacy groups that are playing an increasing role in American politics.

Invoking a provision that had rarely, if ever, been enforced, the Internal Revenue Service said it had sent letters to five donors, who were not identified, informing them that their contributions may be subject to gift taxes depending on whether the donations exceeded limits under the tax laws.

These advocacy groups have been drawing more scrutiny, from President Obama as well as others, as they have proliferated and funneled vast sums of money in support of campaigns and causes, without having to publicly disclose their donors.

During the midterm cycle, for example, groups like Crossroads GPS, which has ties to the Republican strategist Karl Rove, and Americans for Prosperity, backed by Mr. Koch and his brother Charles, were heavily involved in politicking, spurring campaign finance watchdogs to complain that they were flouting election and nonprofit laws.

“There are a whole heck of a lot of people misusing (c)(4) groups as a means of getting around campaign finance regulations, and we lack a coherent system of laws to deal with that,” said Donald B. Tobin, a legal expert on campaign finance and tax laws at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University. “Now here’s a stick, frankly, that says there are consequences for doing that.”

In a statement released Thursday, Michelle L. Eldridge, a spokeswoman for the I.R.S., said that the inquiries were initiated by agency employees, not White House or other Obama administration officials, “as part of their increased efforts in the area of nonfiling of gift and estate tax returns.”

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McConnell: Use the “Debt Ceiling Moment” for Entitlement Reform

Discussing what Republicans needed in order to raise the debt ceiling today, Mitch McConnell went a little further than John Boehner. Like Boehner, he said that the party wanted entitlement reform as part of a deal. He didn’t get too specific, other than saying the deal would have to be reform, not studying reform.

“Not to be argumentative, but the things I’m talking about have been studied to death,” said McConnell. “We don’t need more hearings. All the options are on the table, thanks to the president’s deficit reduction commission. It’s a question of what you want to pick up and really do.”

The main argument: If the president met Republicans and agreed to entitlement reform — with no tax increases — then both parties would be inured from political damage. […]

The irony of McConnell using this example is that the 1983 deal raised taxes, and he’s now ruling that out. Republicans choked down a rise in the payroll tax; Democrats settled for a raise in the retirement age. Also worth remembering: the 1983 crisis was explicitly about Social Security becoming insoluble. The current campaign is to use the debt limit as a conveyance for cuts, when even S&P says a deal that raised taxes as well as cutting spending would prove that the United States was tackling debt seriously.

 

Mike Huckabee produces video “History” for kids

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BKDD3BDNHg&feature=player_embedded

 

Obama Seeks to Extend FBI Chief’s Term by Two Years

In the past several weeks, the Obama administration has shuffled personnel in the upper echelons of the CIA and the Defense Department, but noted that Mueller’s continued presence would offer stability amid the changes. […]

Attorney General Eric Holder agreed with Obama’s proposal to retain Mueller for another two years, citing the agency’s transformation in the past decade. “He has earned the confidence of two presidents for his ability to lead and his calmness under fire,” Holder said in a written statement issued on Thursday.

 

Democrats slam Issa for rejecting witness

Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee invited Fred Wertheimer, president of campaign finance watchdog Democracy 21, to testify at a joint hearing hosted by the Oversight panel and the House Small Business Committee. The two committees are looking into President Obama’s draft executive order that would force government contractors to disclose their political contributions.

Issa, Oversight’s chairman, has denied Wertheimer a seat at the witness table, according to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the committee’s ranking member. That has left only one minority-invited witness: Lawrie Hollingsworth, who is testifying on behalf of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce and was invited by Democratic members of the Small Business panel.

A total of seven witnesses will appear at the hearing.

Wertheimer was expected to testify on behalf of a coalition of public interest groups that support the draft order.

“It is deeply troubling that Chairman Issa refused to allow testimony from this coalition of independent experts,” said Cummings in a statement. “Denying their testimony is a disservice to members of Congress and the public, and it tarnishes the integrity of the committee. Our committee should be a model for others to follow. Especially in a debate about openness and transparency, we should be open and transparent ourselves.”

A spokesman for Issa said Republicans accepted the first request for a minority witness it received, which was for Hollingsworth, at the request of the Small Business panel’s ranking member, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.). […]

Spokesman Frederick Hill said the Obama administration’s viewpoint should be provided by another witness, Daniel Gordon, the Office of Management and Budget’s administrator for federal procurement policy. […]

The draft order has attracted intense opposition from Republicans and several business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. They charge that the order would inject politics into the federal contracting process, allowing the Obama administration to target GOP supporters.

The draft order comes after the White House failed last Congress to pass the Disclose Act — legislation that would have had outside groups disclose their donors — when it stalled in the Senate. That was in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January 2010 that allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds on electioneering activities and set off a wave of advertising before the midterm elections.

 

Point By Point: Senate Ethics Committee’s Findings In John Ensign Case

The Senate Ethic Committee’s report on former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) makes several findings about the Nevada Republican’s affair with the wife of his former chief of staff.

Here’s a bullet point list taken from the report by Special Counsel Carol Elder Bruce. A full copy of the report is embedded below.

  • There Is Substantial Credible Evidence That Senator Ensign Conspired to Violate, and Aided and Abetted Mr. Hampton’s Violations of The Post Employment Contact Ban, 18 U.S.C. § 207.
  • There Is Substantial Credible Evidence That Senator Ensign and His Parents Made False or Misleading Statements to the Federal Election Commission Regarding the $96,000 Payment to the Hamptons.
  • There is Substantial Credible Evidence That a Portion of the $96,000 Payment Constituted an Unlawful and Unreported Campaign Contribution and Violated Federal Law and a Senate Rule Prohibiting Unofficial Office Accounts
  • There Is Substantial Credible Evidence That Senator Ensign Permitted Spoliation of Documents and Engaged in Potential Obstruction of Justice Violations.
  • There Is Substantial Credible Evidence That Senator Ensign Discriminated on the Basis of Sex and Engaged in Improper Conduct Reflecting Upon the Senate by Terminating the Hamptons Employment Because of the Affair.
  • There Is Substantial Credible Evidence That Senator Ensign Violated His Own Senate Office Policies.

The Last Senate Expulsion: 1862 (With Some Close Calls Since)

 

The GOP’s New Constitutional Amendment: Give States Veto Power Over Federal Laws

A group of Republicans in the House and Senate are proposing an amendment to the Constitution that would allow a vote by two-thirds of the states’ legislatures to override any federal law they did not agree with.

The proposed constitutional amendment, a tea party favorite, is being touted by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the Senate and co-sponsored by Sens. John Barasso (R-WY) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). In the House, Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Morgan Griffith (R-VA) and Paul Broun (R-GA) are leading the charge. […]

Here’s how the plan would work, from an op-ed Bishop wrote in Daily Caller announcing the Amendment:

[I]f two-thirds of the states collectively find a federal law or regulation abhorrent or misguided, they should have the power to repeal said law or regulation. The law would then be sent back to Washington for further consideration, at which time Congress may choose not to act again on the matter, or they may vote to override the states’ repeal and pass it in finality.

[…]

Supporters of the so-called Repeal Amendment say that it was the 17th Amendment, added to the Constitution in 1913, that helped lead the country down the path of too much federal power. Tea partiers have suggested repealing the 17th Amendment — which allows for direct election of senators — but Republicans have balked.

Marianne Moran, executive director of the Repeal Amendment, told TPM creating a new constitutional amendment may be easier to swallow then repealing the 17th. […]

The idea that the framework of the union as we know it today should be fundamentally altered in favor of granting final veto power over federal law to states has been kicking around Republican politics for a while now. Last year, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) signaled his support for a plan in the Virginia legislature to call a Constitutional Convention to consider the Repeal Amendment.

Though it’s never been tried, a Constitutional Convention can be called by a vote of 2/3 of the states, triggering an amendment process. The customary way an amendment begins is with a vote in Congress that then requires ratification by the states to become part of the Constitution. Bishop last introduced his Repeal Amendment in Congress last year.

Meanwhile, GOP-controlled state legislatures have been passing their own laws aimed at knocking down the federal government’s ability to pass laws via the means laid out by the founders. More than one legislatures has considered bills allowing individual states to nullify the federal laws they don’t like, and only abide by the ones that they do.

Moran insists her scheme is drastically different from those nullification proposals, which are legally dubious at best.

 

The Tenfold Path to Guts, Solidarity and the Defeat of the Corporate Elite

Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and author of “Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite” His web site is www.brucelevine.net.

Some activists insist that this political passivity problem is caused by Americans’ ignorance due to corporate media propaganda, and others claim that political passivity is caused by the inability to organize due to a lack of money. However, polls show that on the important issues of our day – from senseless wars, to Wall Street bailouts, to corporate tax-dodging, to health insurance rip-offs – the majority of Americans are not ignorant to the reality that they are being screwed. And American history is replete with organizational examples – from the Underground Railroad, to the Great Populist Revolt, to the Flint sit-down strike, to large wildcat strikes a generation ago – of successful rebels who had little money but lots of guts and solidarity.

The elite spend their lives stockpiling money and have the financial clout to bribe, divide and conquer the rest of us. The only way to overcome the power of money is with the power of courage and solidarity. When we regain our guts and solidarity, we can then more wisely select from – and implement – time-honored strategies and tactics that oppressed peoples have long used to defeat the elite. So, how do we regain our guts and solidarity?

1. Create the Cultural and Psychological “Building Blocks” for Democratic Movements […]

For Goodwyn, the cultural and psychological building blocks of democratic movements are individual self-respect and collective self-confidence. Without individual self-respect, we do not believe that we are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and we accept as our role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, we do not believe that we can succeed in wresting away power from our rulers.

Thus, it is the job of all of us – from parents, to students, to teachers, to journalists, to clergy, to psychologists, to artists and EVERYBODY who gives a damn about genuine democracy – to create individual self-respect and collective self-confidence.

2. Confront and Transform ALL Institutions that Have Destroyed Individual Self-Respect and Collective Self-Confidence

In “Get Up, Stand Up, ” I detail 12 major institutional and cultural areas that have broken people’s sprit of resistance, and all are “battlefields for democracy” in which we can fight to regain our individual self-respect and collective self confidence:

  • Television
  • Isolation and bureaucratization
  • “Fundamentalist consumerism” and advertising/propaganda
  • Student loan debt and indentured servitude
  • Surveillance
  • The decline of unions/solidarity among working people
  • Greed and a “money-centric” culture
  • Fear-based schools that teach obedience
  • Psychopathologizing noncompliance
  • Elitism via professional training
  • The corporate media
  • The US electoral system

3. Side Each Day in Every Way With Anti-Authoritarians

We must recognize that in virtually every aspect of our life in every day, we can either be on the side of authoritarianism and the corporatocracy or on the side of anti-authoritarianism and democracy. Specifically, we can question the legitimacy of government, media, religious, educational and other authorities in our lives, and if we establish that an authority is not legitimate, we can resist it. And we can support others who are resisting illegitimate authorities. A huge part of solidarity comes from supporting others who are resisting the illegitimate authorities in their lives. Walt Whitman had it right: “Resist much, obey little. Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved.”

4. Regain Morale by Thinking More Critically About Our Critical Thinking

While we need critical thinking to effectively question and challenge illegitimate authority – and to wisely select the best strategies and tactics to defeat the elite – critical thinking can reveal some ugly truths about reality, which can result in defeatism. Thus, critical thinkers must also think critically about their defeatism, and realize that it can cripple the will and destroy motivation, thus perpetuating the status quo. […]

[William]James, a critical thinker, had little stomach for what we now call “positive thinking,” but he also came to understand how losing belief in a possible outcome can guarantee its defeat.

5. Restore Courage in Young People

We must also stop shaming intelligent young people who reject college, and we must instead recreate an economy that respects all kinds of intelligence and education. While the corporatocracy exploits student loan debt to both rake in easy money and break young people’s spirit of resistance, the rest of us need to rebel against student loan debt and indentured servitude. And parents and mental health professionals need to stop behavior-modifying and medicating young people who are resisting illegitimate authority.

6. Focus on Democracy Battlefields Where the Corporate Elite Don’t Have Such a Large Financial Advantage […]

7. Heal from “Corporatocracy Abuse” and “Battered People’s Syndrome” to Gain Strength

Activists routinely become frustrated when truths about lies, victimization and oppression don’t set people free to take action. But when we human beings eat crap for too long, we gradually lose our self-respect to the point that we become psychologically too weak to take action. Many Americans are embarrassed to accept that, after years of corporatocracy subjugation, we have developed “battered people’s syndrome” and what Bob Marley called “mental slavery.” To emancipate ourselves and others, we must:

  • Move out of denial and accept that we are a subjugated people.
  • Admit that we have bought into many lies. There is a dignity, humility, and strength in facing the fact that, while we may have once bought into some lies, we no longer do so.
  • Forgive ourselves and others for accepting the abuser’s lies. Remember the liars  we face are often quite good at lying.
  • Maintain a sense of humor. Victims of horrific abuse, including those in  concentration camps and slave plantations, have discovered that pain can either  immobilize us or be transformed by humor into energy.
  • Stop beating ourselves up for having been in an abusive relationship. The energy  we have is better spent on healing and then working to change the abusive system;  this provides more energy, and when we use this energy to provide respect and  confidence for others, everybody gets energized.

8. Unite Populists by Rejecting Corporate Media’s Political Divisions

The corporate media routinely divides Americans as “liberals,” “conservatives” and “moderates,” a useful division for the corporatocracy, because no matter which of these groups is the current electoral winner, the corporatocracy retains power. In order to defeat the corporatocracy, it’s more useful to divide people in terms of authoritarians versus anti-authoritarians, elitists versus populists and corporatists versus anticorporatists. Both left anti-authoritarians and libertarian anti-authoritarians passionately oppose current US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Wall Street bailout, the PATRIOT Act, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the so-called “war on drugs” and several other corporatocracy policies. There are differences between anti-authoritarians but, as Ralph Nader and Ron Paul have together recently publicly discussed, we can form coalitions and alliances on these important power-money issues. […]

9. Unite “Comfortable Anti-Authoritarians” and “Afflicted Anti-Authoritarians

Some comfortable anti-authoritarians assume that people’s inactions are caused by ignorance. This not only sounds and smells like elitism, it creates resentment for many in the afflicted class who lack the energy to be engaged in any activism. Respect, resources and anything that concretely reduces their level of pain is likely to be far more energizing than a scolding lecture. That’s the lesson of many democratic movements, including the Great Populist Revolt.

10. Do Not Let Debate Divide Anti-Authoritarians

Spirited debate is what democracy is all about, but when debate turns to mutual antipathy and divides anti-authoritarians, it plays into the hands of the elite. One such divide among anti-elitists is over the magnitude of change that should be worked for and celebrated. On one extreme are people who think that anything is better than nothing at all. At the other extreme are people who reject any incremental change and hold out for total transformation. We can better unite by asking these questions: Does the change increase individual self-respect and collective self-confidence, and increase one’s energy level to pursue even greater democracy? Or does it feel like a sellout that decreases individual self-respect and collective self-confidence, and de-energizes us? Utilizing the criteria of increased self-respect and collective self-confidence, those of us who believe in genuine democracy can more constructively debate whether the change is going to increase strength to gain democracy or is going to take the steam out of a democratic movement. Respecting both sides of this debate makes for greater solidarity and better decisions.

 

I’m Korean. [Oy vey.]

 

Forbes:Protest Movement Starts ‘Rebranding’ Billionaire Koch Brothers

 

Romney’s game plan: Take a beating now on health care and hope it goes away later

Greg Sargent:

After watching Mitt Romney’s painful speech on health care — in which he strongly defended Romneycare’s individual mandate while denouncing Obamacare as tyranny — I think I’ve got his game plan figured out. Romney knows he’s going to take a massive beating on health reform, so he has decided to get it out of the way now, in hopes it fades as an issue by the time the 2012 GOP primary gets going in earnest.

Romney defied predictions by using this speech to mount a surprisingly spirited defense of the individual mandate. And ironically enough, he actually seemed at his most enthusiastic and genuine when defending that provision — even though it’s also his greatest liability. Because Romney is rightly proud of his achievement, and also because he recognizes the political impossiblity of disavowing his number one accomplishment, he instead doubled down on his only option. He argued — as he has for months — that the mandate was a great idea in Massachusetts but constitutes an unacceptable “power grab” on the federal level. […]

Romney’s fundamental problem is that he disagrees with conservatives on an issue of enormous importance to them. He views the mandate on the state level as a genuinely exciting policy idea; conservatives view it as tyranny. […]

The problem for Romney is that conservatives will never view his mandate as a minor transgression, and will continue to see it as proof that Romney at his core never has been, and never will be, one of them. No matter how hard he tries to wrap Romneycare’s mandate in the language of states rights and freedom, conservatives will not forgive this fundamental difference.

 

Newt’s presidential run … explained in cartoons

 

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POLLS

 

75% of Americans Have Never Heard of Climate-Gate, Study Reveals

In the course of investigating a recent piece for Slate on how climate skeptics can “convert” to believe in the science, I spoke with Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, the Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. He has a working paper on Climate-Gate pending publication, and it focuses on the impact the event had on American belief in climate change.

“That paper shows that Climate-Gate did have a significant impact on public opinion,” he tells me. “We found that, first of all, 75% of the public didn’t even know about it.”

I had to ask him to repeat himself: Was that did, or didn’t? After all, an event that only one in four Americans knows about is rarely considered hugely controversial on the national stae. It certainly wouldn’t seem worthy of a ‘-Gate’ suffix. Yet it appeared so ubiquitous: The cable news coverage was dreadful and never-ending, the climate skeptic politicians and pundits were opportunistically declaring global warming a hoax, and the trolls were never noisier on the comment boards.

And indeed, therein lies the impact:

“But of the 25% that did hear about it, about half, 12-13%, said that it caused them to disbelieve that climate change was happening, to distrust the scientists… that scientists were involved in a conspiracy, essentially. So it did have a significant impact,” Leiserowitz says.

It appears that the biggest impact of Climate-Gate was essentially to turn doubters into disbelievers. Those whose political and ideological beliefs had already made them wary of climate change found their smoking gun in the hacked emails (even though in reality they were anything but). The noisiest core of climate skeptics grew, and Climate-Gate gave them a specific event to rally around and take to the blogosphere to decry. It was a political event more than a scientific one — that much has been painfully obvious since the beginning.

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UNIONS

 

Revolt of law enforcement against anti-worker GOP continues

 

The Post-Wisconsin Game Plan

Post-Wisconsin, there is a tentative but emerging consensus that mass movements at the state level might matter just as much to the broader goals of labor and the left as traditional election-oriented campaigning. As Steve Cobble, former political director of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition campaigns of the 1980s, argues, “The energy that’s developed in Wisconsin and Ohio, and that could develop in a lot of other states, is what’s needed to renew the coalitions that can re-elect Obama in 2012 and elect a lot of Democrats. But it should go further than that. With the right organizing push, unions can build a base that forces Obama and the Democrats to take more progressive stands and to govern accordingly.”

The size of the demonstrations in the states, and the agility with which protest movements have pivoted to political fights that could shift control of governorships and legislatures, has prompted this reassessment of strategy by labor and its allies. Rather than a single-minded focus on electing Democrats—or the rare friendly Republican—the idea is that more might be accomplished by directing cash and organizing hours to (as one SEIU draft document suggests) “mobilizing underpaid, underemployed, and unemployed workers” and “channeling anger about jobs into action for positive change.”

Not everyone, even within the progressive labor world, has full confidence in this approach. Henry has conceded that the decision to focus more on nonunion workers is risky. […]

Despite differences over precise strategies, however, there is a growing understanding that the greatest threats to unions as forces in the workplace and in political life are posed at the state level—where GOP governors and legislators are attacking collective bargaining rights while proposing brutal cuts in spending on education and services, and where the cuts proposed by some Democratic governors are only slightly less painful. Unions are recognizing the need for more flexible, independent and aggressive organizing to meet those challenges.

SEIU and other national labor and progressive organizations will still commit significant resources to re-electing Obama, hedging their bets at a moment when fears about the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling have created pressure to match the spending of anti-Obama forces.

 

AFL-CIO Embraces Immigrant Workforce

The AFL-CIO announced new partnerships with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Guestworker Alliance, two unions whose memberships are heavily immigrant and predominantly minority. They also have more young workers, something the labor movement badly needs.

This is further evidence that the AFL-CIO, which has been criticized in the past for not embracing immigrants, increasingly recognizes the importance of organizing the hard-to-outsource service industries dominated by minority workers. The labor giant’s embrace of Latinos and other immigrants offers a chance to reverse a steady membership decline.

Last year, 12 percent of American workers were union members, down from about 20 percent in the early 1980s. In the 1950s, more than one-third of U.S. workers belonged to unions. The next years hold even greater peril for the labor movement as many union members head toward retirement: 16 percent of workers ages 55 to 64 are represented by unions, compared with 10 percent of those ages 25 to 34.

In announcing the new partnerships with the Domestic Workers Alliance and the Guestworker Alliance on Tuesday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka tacitly acknowledged his organization’s demographic dilemma, urging participants at the Excluded Workers Congress to bring under the union umbrella “single moms, new immigrants, African Americans, young people, [and] Latinos.”

The Domestic Workers Alliance includes 33 organizations in 11 states, which seek to organize the 2.5 million domestic workers in the United States. The Guestworker Alliance is a newer, smaller organization developed in response to abusive treatment of guestworkers who came to the U.S. to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

The groups’ joint statement reads like a call to arms for a shift in unions’ thinking.

“The AFL-CIO and the National Guestworkers’ Alliance set out to forge a powerful partnership… to build a new labor movement for a new economy,” the statement reads. “Compelled by the transformation of industry and the forces of the global economy, we are setting out to create new forms of organization and new methods of bargaining that include guestworkers.”

 

Postal Workers Ratify New Contract

By a margin of more than three-to-one, members of the Postal Workers (APWU) ratified a new four-and-one-half-year contract with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) that calls for increasing wages by 3.5 percent over term, creates new positions and provides job security. […]

New contracting out provisions will give the union the opportunity to develop proposals to compete with contractors for work. If APWU-represented employees can perform the work less expensively than contractors, the work must be performed by the APWU-represented employees, according to the union’s summary of the contract.

The contract covers some 176,000 USPS employees. More than 90,000 APWU members returned mail ballots in the month-long vote.

 

The Urgent New Reality for US Labor Unions

Years of think-tank pondering about beheading organized labor have jumped from the drawing board into practice. Unions managed to ignore the warning signs and were caught completely by surprise. Now, various labor unions are scrambling to respond to the attacks. Lacking, however, is a sobering assessment of how labor was weakened enough to be vulnerable to such an attack, as well as developing a winning strategy that can inspire workers to achieve victory. Take for example a recent speech by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, entitled The Future of Unions. In his speech Trumka puts forth many good ideas which deserve attention, especially the need for international unions/solidarity, the need for more aggressive organizing, the need to do better outreach to the general public etc. But these ideas – however necessary – are insufficient to fight back against the immediate attack.

 

City of Brookfield Ballot Bags Found “Wide Open” in Waukesha County, Wisconsin

Five out of six bags of ballots from first batch to be counted out of the City of Brookfield in Waukesha County, Wisconsin today were discovered “almost wide open” during Day 9 of the statewide Supreme Court election “recount.” The bags were open and unsealed, according to both photographic evidence and an eye-witnesses account from the counting room.

“When the ballot bags were taken out and placed upon the counting table, we were literally stunned,” one of the citizen observers, Mary Magnuson, a Kloppenburg volunteer, told The BRAD BLOG this morning. “5 out of the 6 ballot bags were almost literally wide open, and ballots could be clearly seen.”

The ballots in those bags were among the 14,000 said to have been cast in the April 5th election, but left off of Waukesha County’s tally as reported to the media on Election Night. […]

Moreover, in addition to the open ballots bags, one of them had its serial number crossed out and then replaced by another number to match the one seen on the plastic zip-cord “seal” still attached to the bag — another chain of custody violation. Also, yesterday, ballot bags with six-inch openings in the top, large enough to pull ballots in and out of, were also discovered from Waukesha’s Village of Elm Grove.

The new anomalies come on top of similarly disturbing chain of custody violations previously discovered in at least eight other “counting units,” mostly in Waukesha, but elsewhere in the state as well.

According to the eye-witness Magnuson today, when the unsecured Brookfield ballots were discovered, legal counsel for Kloppenburg “objected to the ballots even being counted and/or included, due to the extremely evident lack of security insofar as the ballots were concerned.” Nonetheless the Kloppenburg volunteer observer told The BRAD BLOG, “Prosser’s counsel argued in favor of counting the ballots and Judge Mawdsley ruled in favor of counting them.”

Kloppenburg excercised her right to this “recount” after the unverified results of the post-election canvass by all 72 counties in the Badger State found her to be just 7,316 votes shy of Prosser out of some 1.5 million ballots cast in the hotly-contested April 5th election. The 0.488% unofficial margin entitled her to a state-sponsored count, which she requested after learning that some 14,000 votes from the City of Brookfield were allegedly left out of Waukesha County’s originally reported Election Night tally.

It is those votes which were scheduled to be “recounted” today in Waukesha and discovered to have been left wide open in unsecured bags, as documented in photographs taken by Magnuson, who has been observing the count for several days over the past week since counting began last Wednesday.

MORE>>>

 

WEDGE ISSUES

 

Who Has Abortions?

Bob Cesca:


Seven years in prison for doctors: Missouri abortion bill just passed

Although already rare in Missouri, women seeking late-term abortions would face even more restrictions under legislation given final approval Thursday by state lawmakers who have been attempting for decades to gradually make it more difficult for abortions to occur.

The legislation sent to the governor would remove a general exception for a woman’s health from an existing law against aborting viable fetuses. Instead, it would allow such abortions only when a woman’s life is endangered or the pregnancy poses a serious risk of a permanent physical impairment.

Doctors who abort a viable fetus when a woman does not qualify for an exception could face prison sentences of up to seven years, fines up to $50,000 and the loss of their medical licenses. Hospitals and surgical centers allowing such abortions also could lose their state licenses.

But those penalties may never come into play. The state health department says just 63 of the 6,881 abortions recorded in Missouri in 2009 were on fetuses at least 21 weeks old, and none were reported as being viable.

 

NYC Police Commissioner: Would-Be Synagogue Bombers Said ‘I Hate Jews, I Want To Kill Them’

 

Tim LaHaye: The King of the Apocalyp$e Returns, Enjoying the Rapture all the Way to the Bank

In light of tumultuous times Tyndall House Publishers has repackaged Tim LaHaye’s ‘Left Behind’ series of best-selling apocalyptic novels. And LaHaye himself is pressing forward with plans for ‘The Resurrection’ a movie depicting ‘ten post-resurrection appearances of Christ.’ […]

No matter how many pastors, preachers, novelists, and self-described prophets (think Harold Camping, Joel Rosenberg, Pastor John Hagee) might try to stake a claim to that title, LaHaye sewed it up several years ago when he, along with co-author Jerry Jenkins, managed to sell more than 63 million copies of the “Left Behind” series of apocalyptic novels.

As “King of the Apocalypse”  LaHaye is highly critical of Harold Camping, the Oakland, California-based owner of several fundamentalist Christian radio stations who has grabbed headlines by claiming “that Jesus Christ will come to rapture believers on May 21, 2011” and that “God will destroy this world on October 21, 2011.”

“No one knows the day or the hour when that merciful and blessed day [Jesus’ return] will come,”

A recent survey of its board of directors conducted by the National Association of Evangelicals found that “A majority [65%] of evangelical leaders believe that Jesus Christ will return to earth and then reign with his followers for 1,000 years,” The Christian Post reported in early March.

A PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey poll, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service following the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan, found that while most Americans do not believe that God plays a direct role in natural disasters, “among White evangelicals, 67% believe that natural disasters are evidence of what the Bible calls the ‘end times’ compared to 52% who see it as evidence of global climate change.

“Among Republicans, 52% believe that natural disasters are evidence of what the Bible calls the ‘end times’ compared to 41% who see it as evidence of global climate change.” […]

“The Bible tells us in Matthew 24 that one of the signs of the last days – one of the birth pangs to occur – is an increase in earthquake activity and intensity,” LaHaye said. “We’re seeing that happen here. It’s not just earthquakes, but hurricanes and all kinds of natural disasters.” […]

According to LaHaye, he is working on the project with Lionel Chetwynd – a screenwriter whose credits include the Academy Award nominated “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” and The Hanoi Hilton” — and its working title is “The Resurrection.”  “My prayer,” writes LaHaye, “is that we may be able to release the movie to the public by pre-Easter of 2012.”

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…


Citing modesty concerns, hipster website removes “sexually suggestive” male images from Sit Room Photo

Sorry folks, we were finding those images of a tense Obama and Biden too scintillating to handle.

 

TAKE ACTION

 

Guerilla Action NAILS NYC’s David Koch Theater During Red Carpet Event

Last night the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City went through a process of identity correction. 1,000 people gathered to watch a short film about the billionaire Koch Brothers projected on the front of their own building. Simultaneously, the giant sticker pictured above was placed on the front of the theater. The animated crowd was treated to a live marching band, free popcorn, and – most importantly – the truth about the Koch Brothers.

Tweet this image and share it on Facebook if you like it – and look at some of the other images from our event.



Help Letter Carriers ‘Stamp Out Hunger’ May 14

You can help “Stamp Out Hunger” this weekend by joining with the Letter Carriers’ (NALC) in the largest one-day food drive in the nation. NALC asks that you collect canned goods and dry food, such as tuna, canned meat, soups, pasta, rice and cereal, and leave them in a bag or box by your mailbox on Sat., May 14. Your letter carriers will pick them up as they deliver your mail. NALC members will deliver the goods to local food banks, pantries and shelters to help needy families in 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states and U.S. jurisdictions.

This is NALC’s 19th annual food drive, held on the second Saturday in May. National and local NALC food drive coordinators hope to expand on last year’s record of 77.1 million pounds of donations collected along postal routes. Over the past 18 years, NALC members have collecetd and donated more than one billion pounds of food to help feed hungry Americans.

Demands for food assistance have reached record levels. More than 50 million people—including 17.2 million children—live in households that are hungry or at risk of hunger, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a 30 percent increase in one year and represents more than one in seven households in the country (14.6 percent).

Postal employees and rural letter carriers are assisting in the effort, as are members of other unions and thousands of volunteers. More information about the drive is available at helpstampouthunger.com. In addition to “liking” the Facebook page, you can also follow StampOutHunger on Twitter.

 

Immigrants For Sale Watch The Video

Immigrants are for sale in this country. Sold to private prison corporations who are locking them up for obscene profits!

Here are the top 3 things YOU need to know about the Private Prison money scheme:

  1. The victims: Private prisons don’t care about who they lock up. At a rate of $200 per immigrant a night at their prisons, this is a money making scheme that destroys families and lives.
  2. The players: CCA (Corrections Corporation of America), The Geo Group and Management and Training corporations—combined these private prisons currently profit more than $5 billion a year.
  3. The money: These private prisons have spent over $20 million lobbying state legislators to make sure they get state anti-immigrant laws approved and ensure access to more immigrant inmates.

How is all this possible? They profit from locking people up.

Will you stand with Cuéntame’s “Immigrants For Sale” campaign and become part of a nationwide network of Prison Watchers as we follow and expose the players, the money and the victims in this corrupt money making racket? YES, I WANT TO!

Yours,
Robert Greenwald, Axel Caballero, Ofelia Yañez
and Brave New Foundation’s Cuéntame team

 

Don’t let a North Carolina judge use Alaina Giordano’s breast cancer as reason to take away her kids.


My sister, a loving and devoted mother,  lost custody of her children last Monday due to the fact that she has cancer.  The North Carolina Judge stated that she was uncomfortable not knowing how long Alaina had to live.  So she must give up FULL CUSTODY to their father.  He moved to another state months ago and was never more than a weekend dad at best.  The children do not want to go live with him, uproot their lives and most of all leave their mother.  They are Sofia, age 11 and Bud, age 5.  Please help us to get this story out so my sister has a chance to overturn this ruling and keep her children.  Please hear our voice!  She should only be fighting cancer, not to have to keep her children.

Thank You, Lauren Giordano-Kupillas

She has just two weeks to appeal, and her hope is that a huge outcry from the public and local elected officials can help reverse the decision.

Thankfully, that outcry is growing quickly. A petition started by Alaina’s sister Lauren has more than 7,000 signatures, Alaina was interviewed on Good Morning America and the Today Show, and media throughout North Carolina and the U.S. are now covering the injustice.

But time is short, and the wrong outcome here sets a dangerous precedent for mothers and fathers with cancer or other serious diseases. Please sign Lauren’s petition asking that Alaina Giordano’s breast cancer not be used as a reason to take away her kids:

http://www.change.org/petitions/do-not-allow-nc-judge-to-take-alaina-giordanos-children-just-because-she-has-cancer

Thanks for taking action,

– Shelby and the Change.org team

P.S. Alaina is urgently looking for a lawyer who can help with her appeal, pro bono. If you’re qualified to practice law in North Carolina and can help, shoot me an email at Shelby.Knox@Change.org.


END Big Oil Tax Breaks

The Big 5 oil companies just raked in profits of $32 BILLION. IN 3 MONTHS.

But Republicans insist the oil companies need taxpayer subsidies. So Big Oil gets you twice – once at the pump, and again in the paycheck. This corporate welfare has got to end. Now.

Just a few days from now the Senate will vote to cut off the taxpayer cash flow. Republicans will try to defend their petroleum pals, so we need you in this fight.

40,000 grassroots activists have already signed our petition. Will you join us?

Click here to support Democratic efforts to end Big Oil subsidies. Big Oil makes obscene profits. They shouldn’t be receiving our tax dollars, too.

Oil companies are doing just fine without our help. Join Senate Democrats in cutting off the public infusions of cash and standing up to Republicans.


Gorillas Could Become Extinct

Gorillas are gentle giants. Like us, they play, hug, and laugh. But they’re endangered and under assault – from illegal hunting, mining, agriculture, and infectious diseases.

And if we don’t act now, they’ll soon have another threat. Federal lawmakers are planning to cut vital funding for international conservation programs that save gorillas’ lives and protect their habitats.

Send a letter to your members of Congress right now and urge them to stand up for Africa’s gorillas.

Dear Friend of Wildlife,

Adult gorillas weigh a colossal 500 lbs and stand six feet tall, but they don’t eat meat. Instead, after they’ve eaten enough of the very tastiest plants they can find, they do what we do – play, hug, and laugh.

But right now these gentle giants are facing a three-fold struggle for existence: they are killed for their meat; their habitats are destroyed by logging, mining, agriculture, and other invasive activities; and infectious diseases ravage their families.

Today, the U.S. government funds vital programs that help alleviate these threats to gorillas. But the newly-released federal budget is promising deep cuts in these programs – putting the future of these animals and other threatened wildlife in even greater jeopardy.

Tell your members of Congress to rescue funding for these gorillas, before it’s too late.

These are just some of the critical international conservation programs that could be crippled if we don’t speak up now:

  • The USAID Biodiversity and Sustainable Landscapes programs support the Central African Regional Partnership for the Environment (CARPE), which brings together seven central African countries to work together to find ways to protect forests that serve as vital gorilla habitats.
  • The Great Ape Conservation Fund, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, protects gorillas in the wild in Africa through support to anti-poaching, monitoring, and collaboration between conservation organizations, governments, and timber companies to stop illegal hunting and bushmeat sales.
  • The Wildlife Without Borders program, which trains local wildlife managers on how to tackle issues as far-ranging as climate change, the bushmeat trade, infectious diseases, and local community development.
  • Programs that enable the U.S. Forest Service to work with African land management agencies to promote sustainable forest management and slow the destruction of the rainforests.

We are facing an uphill battle today. Programs protecting the world’s wildlife and wild places amount to only a miniscule part of the overall federal budget. While we all recognize the need for responsible spending, skimming off funding for international conservation programs won’t solve our budget problems. But it will strike a devastating blow to species already on the brink of extinction.

Send a strong message to lawmakers: These animals are already endangered. Don’t rob us of our chance to save them with shortsighted cuts to international conservation.

The tight budget season makes an urgent situation for these critically endangered animals all the more dangerous – please, join our call to action today. Make sure Congress knows that conservation is a priority for their constituents.

Thank you for standing with us.


News just broke that FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker is leaving the FCC to become a lobbyist for Comcast – just four months after she voted to approve the Comcast-NBC merger. It’s no wonder the American people are disgusted by Washington.

Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has raised concerns about alleged ethical violations at the FCC. He must immediately launch an investigation into Baker’s seemingly clear conflict of interest. If we don’t act now, business as usual in Washington will continue to undermine our media system and endanger our democracy.

Help us close the revolving door. Demand that Congress investigate Baker’s conflict of interest.

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Nothing is so strongly fortified that it cannot be taken by money. ~ Cicero

 

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

25 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. Dbos says:

    Great as usual; like to be able to comment on each thread immediately after reading, it would make for great discussions and lively debate on all threads.

  2. Khirad says:

    I thought Senator Cantwell’s question on speculation was a long time coming, too.

    Huckabee, this is how you do religio-political propaganda:


    • Chernynkaya says:

      Khirad, Whew! Ok, I only watched 18 minutes (which, BTW is the gamatria number for “life”, coincidentally,)But it was fascinating! Very effective, but those types of arguments always are effective, because one can make the case for the end times all the time, it seems to me. But I never heard of Imam Mahdi, and I thank you for that immensely. I can totally see why people would believe it.

  3. Chernynkaya says:

    Here’s more on the guerilla action at the Koch Theater in NYC. You can enter to rename the theater!

    We’ll take the top 10 funniest theater titles for our next video and put them to a vote. The winning title will earn you a prize and a place on our winners page.
    Rename the Koch theater to hold David accountable for his track record of oil spills, union busting and right wing funding. We’ll contact finalists via email with a big congratulations.

    Here’s a new short viddie from Robert Greenwald:


  4. funksands says:

    Cher, two things: First the Comcast thing really frosts my ass, this reminds me of the GOP Congressman that championed Medicare Part D, resigning, getting a waiver passed by the House, and taking a job as the head of a pharmacutical firm. Rotten to the core.

    Second, private prisons simply make the poor more profitable to society in prison than outside of prison. Its horrible. They have become a natural resource to be burned slowly over a period of 70-80 years to promote job growth and profits for corporations.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Funk--the Comcast thing should be a huge scandal and get top billing in the news, IMO. It is a textbook case of corruption and I thought there was a waiting period against allowing an official do this--but maybe that’s just for Congress. It is an absolute outrage! The FCC should revoke the deal based on this. How more obvious can it be, for god’s sake??

      The prison story is another among so many outrages too. This is why the private sector is never better than government and of smacks of literal slavery.

  5. escribacat says:

    Now I’ve heard everything: employees must sign a non-suicide pact? Is that like a non-disclosure agreement? For Gawd’s sake. What is wrong with the human race? We open up the borders to “free trade” and two seconds later the captains of industry go running across the world to a place where they can start the abuses of the industrial revolution all over again. It seems to me that most people have evolved beyond wanting to run slave labor camps, but no, not the captains of industry. They are still the same vicious soulless carcasses they were hundreds of years ago. Society evolves but leaves the capitalists behind. Wow.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      E’cat--first, I just want to say how much I enjoyed (and actually smiled at) the way you wrote that. I don’t know why, but it just sounded so like you! Second--YES! I think people need to realize this before they consider buying an iPad. Greedy, soulless bastards doesn’t even say it.

    • audadvnc says:

      Ever notice the similarity between the words “capitalism” and “cannibalism”?

    • Buddy McCue says:

      “Captains of Industry” is too kind a phrase for these people.

      As far as that non-suicide pact… how could they punish those who violate that pact? Will they seek to punish the surviving members of their families?

  6. agrippa says:

    This WI recount mess is really OTT. It seems to be either gross fraud or spectacular incompetence.

    “This is a fine mess you got us into, Scott!”

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Agrippa, seriously, I think the feds should investigate that entire election! It stinks to high heaven. I sincerely hope that after the recount the FEC does something and indicts some people, but I wish they could do something sooner.

  7. agrippa says:

    The GOP does not give a tinker’s dam about either spending or the deficit. That is, merely, a talking point. That is all that it is. The Democrats should know that. And, proceed on that basis.

    The swing voter -- that ca 10% of the voting public -- is what wins or loses an election. So, being reasonable may be a useful way to proceed.

  8. audadvnc says:

    It’s interesting that a Rockefeller would come out against the obscene greed of Big Oil, considering that’s how the family gained its place in society:

    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/John_D._Rockefeller

    When people talk about abusive corporate monopolies, Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust is the textbook case.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Yep, the senior Rockefeller was one of the worst Robber Barons. And Joseph Kennedy was a rum runner and Wall Streeter--and a rabid anti-semite. It is interesting to see how their offspring (especially the Kennedys) became champions of the working folks.

      • agrippa says:

        It is funny what FDR did to Joe Kennedy. He made Kennedy head of SEC ( it takes a thief to catch a thief). Then FDR made him
        the ambassador to the UK. Kennedy was a rabid anglophobe. At the same time, FDR had a private correspondence with WSC.
        FDR was quite crafty.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Joseph Kennedy was an awful person, and I am so glad he was kept in check by FDR. But he actually neutered himself with his Hitler appeasement and his disparaging comments about Great Britain. But you have to hand it to him, he had quite a life.

  9. whatsthatsound says:

    Today’s news is practically a historical record of how greed undoes a once-great nation. The Bruce Levine article is excellent, as is the one reprinted from Truthout.

    Glad you’re back, Cher!

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Hey, whts! I’m glad to get back to the fight. Those two articles were my favorites too because they offer concrete solutions--difficult as they may be. Professor Wolff has become one of my very favorite teachers about the economy. Whenever and whatever he writes, I post. He’s also done some excellent and short videos on YouTube explaining the economy in a way even my right-only brain can understand.

    • Buddy McCue says:

      I like that Truthout piece too. The language of threat and counter-threat is perfectly appropriate to the situation.


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