Tag Archives: United States

Chomsky-ish

POSTED BY ORHAN

Applying some of the ideas in last week’s Chomsky post

First, take a look at this map:

MiddleEast-map-iran-iraq-israel-us

Now, consider this hypothetical scenario:

  1. Iran invades and occupies both Canada and Mexico.
  2. Iranian aircraft carriers and destroyers are patrolling the waters ten miles off the coast of Northern Virginia (as today American warships patrol the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz) to “protect Iranian interests.”
  3. The President of the United States announces that, if attacked, America will defend itself.
  4. Iran, before the UN, and using the President’s declaration as proof of US aggression and bellicosity, demands the international community enact economic sanctions and threatens military action “to contain the American threat.”

As an American, what would you think? What would you feel? What would you say?

Pity the children

POSTED BY ORHAN

drone-childrenThe outpouring of grief over the Sandy Hook shootings continues. That one nation, if not the whole world, can express such pain and grief over the murders of these twenty children speaks to us of our innate human capacity for empathy and compassion.

Some pointed out the obvious almost as soon as it happened, but it didn’t seem right. After all, the horror of one act of brutality does not detract from the horror of another. To mourn the dreadful loss of one group of people takes nothing away from the suffering of another.

And yet the frenzy of national soul-searching continues unabated. So, amid the endless replays of interviews with sobbing parents, the minute cross-examination of media-sick residents, the near-nationwide outrage and demands that Something Must Be Done, can we pause to remember that hundreds of children have been murdered by US drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

And can we demand that here, too, Something Must Be Done?

What YOU Can Do on May Day

POSTED BY ORHAN

May Day is an international day of celebration to honor the labor movement. This year the Occupy movement has made a call for mass action—the May First General Strike (#M1GS): a day without the 99%. Over 115 US cities have organized in solidarity with this call to action.

A general strike is a way to build and demonstrate the power of the people. It’s a way to show this is a system that only exists because we allow it to. If we can withdraw from the system for one day we can use that day to build community and mutual aid. We can find inspiration and faith—not in any leaders or bosses but in each other and in ourselves.

If you are inspired by the day of action but don’t live near any organized events you can still take part. If you can’t strike, take the first step. We can work to shift the balance of power back into the hands of the people little by little in our everyday lives.

Here are some examples to get you thinking:

  1. Move Your Money: If you haven’t already, May Day is as good as any to move your money out of a national, corporate bank into a local bank or credit union. Support your local community and break up the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks that threaten our economic system. Learn more about moving your money here: www.moveyourmoneyproject.org
  2. Have a Potluck: Share a meal with others and and talk about subsidized agriculture and factory farming or make a meal with friends to serve to local homeless people a la Food Not Bombs.
  3. Start a Personal/Community Garden: On May Day, start or pledge to start a personal or community garden. Growing our own food means independence from corporate farms. This is one more way to take your self out of a system bent on keeping us complacent.
  4. Have a Free Store/FairGet together and share your unwanted items with others. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You could be helping someone who was about to go out and buy a (fill in your item here) anyway.
  5. Ride your bike to work/carpool with friends: Ride your bike or arrange a carpool to work. When you do this you are lessening our country’s dependency on outdated, unclean energies.
  6. Screen a Movie: Invite your friends or neighbors over to watch a documentary. After, have a discussion about how it relates to your values or the ideas of Occupy. You can watch political documentaries online at the following links for free:
    http://http://crimethinc.com/movies/

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/category/politics/

    http://www.documentarytube.com/category/political-documentaries
    http://freedocumentaries.org/
  7. Have a Skill Share: Give a free class to share your skills and knowledge. This could be as simple as giving a knitting demonstration or as complex as teaching someone a new language.

We have the power in our hands to change the course of our day to day realities if we are willing to participate and reach out to our neighbors and communities. In the words of Steven Biko, ”the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Big business should not be in control of us, we are the many and they are the few.

(Source)

Don’t forget to look for actions in your area here or here.

May Day 2012: a real Labor Day

POSTED BY ORHAN

ImageSpring is in the air, and you know what that means–that’s right, Occupy Wall Street is back, bigger and better than ever! Although actions have been ongoing for several weeks, the first major action will be the worldwide General Strike called for May 1st. From OccupyWallSt.org:

May 1st, also known as International Workers’ Day, is the annual commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, when Chicago police fired on workers during a General Strike for the eight-hour workday. In many countries, May 1st is observed as a holiday. But in the United States, despite the eventual success of the eight-hour-workday campaign, the holiday is not officially recognized.

Now, in response to call-outs from Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Oakland, and other General Assemblies and affinity groups, the Occupy Movement is preparing to mobilize a General Strike this May 1st in solidarity with struggles already underway to defend the rights of workers, immigrants, and other communities who are resisting oppression. Dozens of Occupations in cities and towns throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia have already endorsed May Day.

To quote the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, who recently called for a national General Strike in Spain on March 29th to protest labor reforms:

For the CNT, the strike on March 29 must be only the beginning of a growing and sustained process of mobilization, one which includes the entire working class and the sectors that are most disadvantaged and affected by the capitalist crisis. This mobilization must put the brakes on the dynamic of constant assaults on our rights, while laying the bases for the recovery and conquest of new social rights with the goal of a deep social transformation.

I’ll be at the NYC action; hope to see you there! I’ll post links and updates as they become available.

Thief of Baghdad

POSTED BY ORHAN

Several times a day what I read in the news makes me want to throw up, but this sentence on MSN took me way beyond the dry heaves to something I can only call brainpuke, the involuntary expulsion of ideas so vile that they and sanity cannot be retained by the mind simultaneously. Here we see the media in action, already manufacturing the “Iraq War” that will be inscribed in the history books:

President Barack Obama meets Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki Monday, marking America’s exit from a war launched in a aerial “shock and awe” assault that went on to deeply wound both nations.

The notion of some sort of equivalence or mutuality of suffering between Iraq and the United States–some kind of shared pain experienced by both sides in this war, or even that it can be called a “war”: it was an invasion and occupation, on a false pretext, and it laid waste to a nation that had done nothing to ours; almost 5000 US soldiers dead, compared to between 100,000 and a million Iraqis; millions of internal and external refugees, infrastructure ravaged, cities reduced to rubble, children playing in streets strewn with depleted uranium, civil society extinguished, civil war continuing to rage–should be beyond the conceivable and the civilized; yet it’s what we need to believe and so we do, safely ensconced in our sense of moral certitude.

Hail to the chief

POSTED BY ORHAN

Despite the media hoopla and the Obama administration’s braggadocio surrounding the troop exit from Iraq, the US planned to maintain troops in the country indefinitely. The only reason for the withdrawal is that the Iraqi government refused to grant future immunity to US troops.

It was a slick move by Maliki, and demonstrates Obama’s lack of negotiating skills, even when he’s holding the big stick. He should have asked George W. Bush for advice.

In any event, only a neocon could be unhappy with the outcome: US troops out of Iraq.

Meet the new boss

POSTED BY ORHAN

According to today’s BBC, “an Iraqi judicial committee has issued an arrest warrant for the mainly Shia Arab country’s Sunni Arab Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi. The warrant was issued under anti-terrorism laws…”

The main Sunni political party is now boycotting the cabinet and accuses Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki of “monopolizing power”.

Meanwhile Danny Schechter reports, “Maliki has dipped into Saddam’s playbook by deploying his own secret police and military to round up hundreds of former Baathist supporters…A US think-tank documenting his crackdown is saying that Maliki is primarily concerned with his own survival.” Sort of like, uh, Saddam Hussein. And, like Saddam, “he too uses his son, Ahmad, to evict US firms from the Green Zone in Baghdad and do his father’s forceful bidding. And human rights groups are criticizing him for running secret jails, imprisoning journalists and critics, and firing 100 professors from a university in Saddam’s old hometown of Tikrit.”

Schecter continues, “With Maliki now terrorizing his own enemies, often in the name of questionable “plots” to overthrow him, Iraq will remain volatile. Bear in mind that after all these years, the Iraqis are still suffering from a broken electricity system as well as serious food and medical shortages.”

Breitbart’s half-inch weiner

POSTED BY ORHAN
Little comment is required on this, although volumes could be written.

  • Andrew Breitbart really, really wants violent civil war in America.
  • The projection of his own hatred, violent impulses, and sense of inferiority is unambiguous.  This guy calling others bullies and thugs is bizarre.
  • Katie Couric?

Everything’s bigger in Texas (except the salaries)

POSTED BY ORHAN

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich analyzes data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on Texas job growth:

While Texas leads the nation in job growth, a majority of Texas’s workforce is paid hourly wages rather than salaries. And the median hourly wage there was $11.20, compared to the national median of $12.50 an hour.

Texas has also been specializing in minimum-wage jobs. From 2007 to 2010, the number of minimum wage workers there rose from 221,000 to 550,000 – that’s an increase of nearly 150 percent. And 9.5 percent of Texas workers earn the minimum wage or below – compared to about 6 percent for the rest of the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state also has the highest percentage of workers without health insurance.

He concludes:

…how can lower incomes possibly be an answer to America’s economic problem? Lower incomes mean less overall demand for goods and services — which translates into even fewer jobs and even lower wages.

Good question.

Never forget this either

POSTED BY ORHAN

Since 9/11, America has dished out a lot more than was done to us that day.

Some of the “achievements” that resulted from the 9/11 attacks include: the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, and displacement of up to four million more, as well as strengthening Iran’s influence in the region; the murders of hundreds of innocents by drone attacks in Pakistan, destabilizing the government and triggering the rise of the Pakistani Taliban; the breakdown of the rule of law, including preventive war and detention, kidnappings and renditions, extrajudicial murders, outsourcing of torture; the normalization and popular acceptance of torture techniques that we hanged war criminals for after WWII; the massive expansion of executive power to the point the President now asserts the authority to order the killing of anyone, Americans included, anytime, anywhere in the world, without explanation or justification; the expansion of domestic government surveillance of all Americans, including logging all internet activity and monitoring of phone conversations and financial transactions; normalization and acceptance of stop-and-search, humiliating pat-downs at airports, machine gun-wielding soldiers on streets and in subways, arrests of anti-war activists; expansion of the propaganda machine used to keep the population in perpetual fear, e.g., the three Pakistanis supposedly on their way to the US yesterday to attack by car bomb.

All this is old news, but it must be remembered, too. Today’s ceremonies are an integral part of the propaganda machine, even allowing for the fact that our tears are real; the cry “never forget” is now part of the national DNA. And we won’t forget: a hundred years from now, if America still exists, 9/11 will be used as an excuse for bombing third-world countries. 9/11 has become little more than a pretext for endless war and repression.

UPDATE FROM MOE: I just came accross this graphic at Sekan’s blog, along with a related story. I think it’s a perfect compliment to Orhan’s post and adds even more perspective, so I throwing it in.

Fool me once . . . fool me twice . . .

But S&P said . . . oh shit!

So the wise men who issued peachy pluperfect ratings to all those investment banks awash in credit default swaps in 2008 -  gushing, my dears, just gushing about a brilliant future mere days before Lehman bit the dust – have now passed judgement on the credit worthiness of the United States of America. And they’re being taken seriously.

Judging whether the downgrade is warranted or not - well above my pay grade; I haven’t a clue. But I will venture to ask . . . WTF??

Obama gives good speech

POSTED BY ORHAN

Measured and persuasive, last night President Obama was the soul of moderation, rationality, and responsibility as he made the case for passing his version of the debt deal. But he did leave a few items out of his story:

He blamed his predecessor for squandering the budget on two wars and a prescription drug program. But he neglected to mention that he continued those wars, and expanded American military operations into new countries; meanwhile he secretly bargained away the public option with the same pharmaceutical companies that had benefitted from the drug program he criticized.

He pointed out that Americans making under $250K would see no tax increase at all. But he neglected to mention that those same Americans will be in fact paying more, by having to make up for the cuts to Social Security and Medicare out of their own pockets.

He called his plan a balanced approach and said no one would be required to sacrifice too much, while acknowledging the cuts would be “painful”. But he neglected to mention that he was planning Social Security and Medicare cuts as far back as January 2009; the kind of cuts a Republican president could never push through.

Obama’s narrative of reason and compromise heroically standing up to the Tea Party’s barbarian hordes was quite stirring, and if one ignores the fact that he just happened to shit-can fundamental Democratic principles and programs as the first step in the process, quite true. No doubt at this moment, Democrats are battling tooth and nail to get his version of the debt ceiling deal passed, a deal they would have fought to the death if proposed by George W. Bush.

All in all, it was an excellent speech; classic Obama.

A dime’s worth of difference?

POSTED BY ORHAN

So Obama offers a debt deal to the Republicans: he’ll cut Social Security and Medicare. In exchange, the Republicans will, maybe, allow the Bush tax cuts to expire. Or hike some other taxes; whatever.

Now the Republicans are saying no deal, they’ll only accept spending cuts; they’ll cut Social Security and Medicare, plus keep the Bush cuts, but deep-six the tax hikes.

So, let’s see, that means if Option 1, the Democratic plan, had been accepted, the rich would have been back to where they were under Clinton, and the poor and middle would have been worse off. But if Option 2, the Republican plan, is enacted, the rich will keep what they got from Bush, and the poor and middle will be worse off.

What can we say about America’s future from the horns of this little dilemma? If it plays out the way the health care farce did, we can make a few predictions:

The Tea Party will be left swinging in the breeze. The folks who screamed, “Keep your hands off my Medicare!” are about to have their Social Security and Medicare seriously FUBARed. Even the most hardcore non-rich Tea Partier will realize sooner or later there’s nothing here but, as the song says, the promise of an early death.

The Democratic base will be left swinging in the breeze, after having its veins opened, its throat slit, and a dagger slipped between its ribs. The new default “far left” bargaining position will start with Social Security and Medicare cuts. Obama will initiate his trademark “compromising” from there. Predicting which once-sacrosanct progressive program he’ll negotiate away next will be all the rage in DC.

Mainstream middle and working class Republicans will be left swinging in the breeze; it’ll just take them a while to figure it out. Sooner or later the most diehard trickle-down true believer will realize the upcoming corporate cash infusion (via “amnesty” or any other method) isn’t going to create any jobs for Americans, other than the corner-office and lobbying jobs for the politicians who sold us all down the river; but CEOs will no doubt receive some kickass bonuses over the next few years.

Life is about to get one hell of a lot harder for most Americans. Thanks to Democrats. And Republicans.

Fox Still Misrepresenting NLRB’s Case Against Boeing

POSTED BY ORHAN

From Media Matters:

Fox News has repeatedly suggested that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is engaging in unlawful or “anti-American” activity by filing a complaint against Boeing for deciding to build a new plant in the “right to work” state of South Carolina. But the NLRB complaint alleges that Boeing moved to South Carolina in retaliation for union workers’ decision to strike, and experts say that allegations in the case represent an “absolutely standard violation” of federal labor law.

The article also points to falsehoods about the story in another Rupert Murdoch propaganda mill, the Wall Street Journal.

Ellsberg: All Nixon’s crimes against me now legal

POSTED BY ORHAN

Via Juan Cole, Daniel Ellsberg interviewed on CNN’s “In the Arena”:

[CNN]: These days, when you find yourself thinking about Richard Nixon, what comes to mind?

[Ellsberg]: “Richard Nixon, if he were alive today, might take bittersweet satisfaction to know that he was not the last smart president to prolong unjustifiably a senseless, unwinnable war, at great cost in human life. (And his aide Henry Kissinger was not the last American official to win an undeserved Nobel Peace Prize.)

He would probably also feel vindicated (and envious) that ALL the crimes he committed against me-which forced his resignation facing impeachment-are now legal.

That includes burglarizing my former psychoanalyst’s office (for material to blackmail me into silence), warrantless wiretapping, using the CIA against an American citizen in the US, and authorizing a White House hit squad to “incapacitate me totally” (on the steps of the Capitol on May 3, 1971). All the above were to prevent me from exposing guilty secrets of his own administration that went beyond the Pentagon Papers. But under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, with the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendment Act, and (for the hit squad) President Obama’s executive orders, they have all become legal.

There is no further need for present or future presidents to commit obstructions of justice (like Nixon’s bribes to potential witnesses) to conceal such acts. Under the new laws, Nixon would have stayed in office, and the Vietnam War would have continued at least several more years.”

Bin Laden and Nixon are probably laughing in Hell right now.

Who are we really? Part II

I’m skimming through Empire of Illusions: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges, who wrote the best-seller War Is A Force That Gives Life Meaning. In it he explores the “mechanisms used to divert us from confronting the economic, political and moral collapse around us. “

From Chapter V –  The Illusion of America

I used to live in a country called America. It was not a perfect country . . . but there was always hope that it could be better. It was a country I loved nad honored. It paid its workers wages envied around the world. . . . it offered good public education . . . it held in regard the rule of law including international law, and respect for human rights. It took care of the weakest among us . . it had a system of government that, however flawed, worked to protect the interests of most of its citizens. It offered the possibility of democratic change. It had a diverse and independent press that imparted to us unpleasant truths and challenged the powerful. . . we had much to atone for, but there was so much that was good, decent and honorable in our country. . .

The country I live in today still uses the same civic, patriotic, and historical language to describe itself, the same symbols and  iconography, the same national myths . . . but only the shell remains. The America we celebrate is an illusion.

The country of my birth, of my fathers back to the founding generation, is so diminished as to be unrecognizable.

Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow selfish, political and economic elite - a small and privileged group . . . who in the name of patriotism and democracy, in the name of all the values that were once part of the American system . . . has systematically destroyed the manufacturing sector, looted the treasury, corrupted our democracy, and trashed the financial system.

. . . the government, stripped of any real sovereignty, provides little more than technical expertise for elites and corporations that lack moral restraints and any concept of the common good.

I could go on but I don’t need to. You get it. Bread and circuses forever.

Take that, Newsweek

POSTED BY ORHAN

The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan responded to a Newsweek article calling GR one of America’s “dying cities” with conceivably one of the greatest production numbers ever, performed in one uninterrupted shot by what appears to be the whole city (actually only 5000 humans). For me it eerily segues from Moe’s Gettysburg Address post earlier today–death, rebirth, the triumph of the human spirit–plus it makes me want to go there:

Hate is just so damned lucrative these days

POSTED BY ORHAN

Chris Hedges has a long post at Truthdig describing the Muslim Menace industry, a group of right-wing organizations that bill themselves as “counterterrorism specialists and experts on the Muslim world”, and make big bucks indoctrinating US law enforcement and security agencies in the evils of Islam.

The indoctrination is done through seminars paid for with public funds and “preach that Islam is a terrorist religion, that an Islamic “fifth column” or “stealth jihad” is subverting the United States from within, that mainstream American Muslims have ties to terrorist groups, that Muslims use litigation, free speech and other legal means (something the trainers have nicknamed “Lawfare”) to advance the subversive Muslim agenda and that the goal of Muslims in the United States is to replace the Constitution with Islamic or Shariah law.”

Below is a sample of modern-day witch hunter and Christian fundamentalist Walid Shoebat, whose presentation is titled “The Jihad Mindset and How to Defeat It: Why We Want to Kill You.” According to Hedges, “Shoebat, who bills himself as a reformed terrorist and who speaks to law enforcement officials around the country, tells his listeners that mainstream Muslim organizations such as the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American-Islamic Relations are terrorist fronts and that Islamists are by nature violent extremists and pedophiles.”

Here Shoebat explains to a group of extremely gullible Christians why the Mark of the Beast, usually referred to as 666, really means Muslims, who owe allegiance only to the Antichrist. The part that gets me is when he says “It’s so clear! The reverse of what you believe is what they believe. The antithesis of the Bible is what they believe in.” And Shoebat and his colleagues are spewing their racist garbage at taxpayer expense.

Super-rich “cool” with higher taxes

POSTED BY ORHAN

Via Andrew Sullivan:

Mark Zuckerberg recently remarked that he’s “cool” with raising taxes on the rich – himself included. Gary Rivlin finds this disingenuous:

It’s a hollow gesture to say the federal government should raise the tax rate on the country’s top wage earners when the likes of Zuckerberg have most of their wealth tied up in stock. Many of the super-rich see virtually all their income as capital gains, and capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate—15 percent—than ordinary income. When Warren Buffett talks about paying a lower tax rate than his secretary, that’s because she sees most of her pay through a paycheck, while the bulk of his compensation comes in the form of capital gains and dividends. In 2006, for instance, Buffett paid 17.7 percent in taxes on the $46 million he booked that year, while his secretary lost 30 percent of her $60,000 salary to the government.

“It’s easy to say ‘Raise taxes’ when you know you’re not going to have to pay those taxes,” [Bruce] Bartlett says. “What I don’t hear is ‘Let’s raise the capital-gains tax.’”

A Bin Laden Reader

POSTED BY ORHAN

ProPublica posted this about 1:30pm; I found it helpful:

Bin Laden Reading Guide: How to Cut Through the Coverage

by Marian Wang and Braden Goyette

The death of Osama bin Laden has sent news organizations scrambling for details on how it happened, where it happened, and what it all means.

We’ve rounded up some of the best coverage, being careful to note what’s been said, what’s already being disputed, and what still remains to be seen.

How they found the most wanted man in the world:

The New York Times has a vivid account of the hunt for bin Laden in the weeks leading up to the strike, with dialogue straight from the situation room as the operation unfolded. As for the specific trail of intelligence, the Associated Press traces how detainees in both the CIA’s secret network of prisons and in Guantanamo provided clues about the trusted courier who ultimately led the United States to bin Laden’s hideaway. The AP cites former officials asserting Continue reading

Rush tea bags Obama’s base

The Daily RushVia MediaMatters, Rush on Obama’s base from his April 14 show:

…his base is made up of people even more vile than he is…walking human debris…those savages that make up the Obama base are fit to be tied…their orgasm is for Obama to savage us…

Etc., etc., etc….

Libya: 20 more years

POSTED BY ORHAN

Norwegian peace studies founder Johan Galtung predicts the Libyan war will last 20 years. Then he points out that if Qadaffi is killed by NATO, it will make him a martyr, and the war will last more than 20 years. He draws some conclusions about the outcome:

“Who the rebels are is not clear; no doubt many, most, all, are strongly and rightly against Gadhafi’s dictatorship. But what are they for, their goals? Educated guess: they will accommodate direct foreign investment, in oil, and a base or two; out of gratitude and to solidify the victory. And the USA has what it has tried for a long time: a NATO base in Africa; and the more so the less peace.

RomneyCare: The Spin Begins

POSTED BY ORHAN

Anticipating the coming 2012 campaign, FactCheck.org takes a detailed look at the results of the 2006 Massachusetts health care law. Because of the similarities to the federal bill, much spin is predicted. FactCheck summarizes its findings:

  • The major components of the state and federal law are similar, but details vary. The federal law put a greater emphasis on cost-control measures, for instance. Massachusetts is just now tackling that.
  • The state law was successful on one big goal: A little more than 98 percent of state residents now have insurance.
  • Claims that the law is “bankrupting” the state are greatly exaggerated. Costs rose more quickly than expected in the first few years, but are now in line with what the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation had estimated.
  • Small-business owners are perhaps the least happy stakeholders. Cheaper health plans for them through the state exchange haven’t materialized, as they hoped.
  • Despite claims to the contrary, there’s no clear evidence that the law had an adverse effect on waiting times. In fact, 62 percent of physicians say it didn’t.
  • Public support has been high. One poll found that 68.5 percent of nonelderly adults supported the law in 2006; 67 percent still do.

The article is long but worth a read. Check the section “What Happened to Premiums?” (The short answer is that overall they went down — but, of course, it’s much more complicated than that.) Prepare to consume mass quantities of hot air in the lead-up to the election.

Joe Bageant, 1946-2011
Joe Bageant, author of the incomparable Deer Hunting with Jesus and the recently-released Rainbow Pie died yesterday following a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 64. Joe wrote about poverty and class in America with humor and love. His work will live on.

It’s official: Bush was right all along

POSTED BY ORHAN

President Obama’s executive order signed Monday that sets up a system of indefinite detention for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay contains tons of verbiage defining initial reviews, triennial reviews, file reviews, Review Committees, and giving detainees rights to government representatives and private counsel.

Nevertheless, close reading shows there will be a single test used to determine whether a prisoner is deserving of our everlasting hospitality: “if it is necessary to protect against a significant threat to the security of the United States.

Who decides? A Periodic Review Board comprised of one rep each from “the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, as well as the Offices of the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff”.

Glenn Greenwald exhaustively lays out the case against Obama’s continuation of the Bush/Cheney policies.

Most Americans back the unions

POSTED BY ORHAN

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll, “Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions”, shows some interesting results.  Americans overall are against cutting the collective bargaining rights of public unions by almost two to one.  Breaking out the results by political affiliation, a slight majority of Republicans supported removing some bargaining rights, but were outnumbered by opposing majorities of Democrats and independents.  On the whole, Americans (including close to half of Republicans) are not opposed to public workers engaging in collective bargaining.

I think both the politicians and pundits are in for a rude awakening.

UPDATE BY MOE: Public Policy Polling, a Wall Street Journal fav, says it’s about 52/48 in Wisconsin right now, leaning in favor of the unions. There will no doubt be more polls in the coming days.

It’s Tuesday

I am today (was yesterday and will be for days to come) slaving in the soil of a yard-sale-to-be – set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Four houses on my street are joined in this endeavor – I qualify with my garage full of goods that have fallen off my sister’s moving truck, as she and her husband prepare to re-retire in San Francisco.

As I work, headphones are firmly in place and I hear a CSpan conversation about ‘what government is for’.

The Constitution was written, or so it says:

“. . . in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty . . . “

Works for me. (I don’t see much about personal wealth in there . . . )

Meanwhile, blogging will remain light.

The politics of public despair

POSTED BY ORHAN

I’ve been listening to Part 1 and Part 2 of the Ian Murphy prank call to Scott Walker, where Murphy impersonates billionaire David Koch.  Only Walker knows what was in his mind at the time, but a few conclusions about him can be drawn from the exchange.

The word “compromise” is not in Walker’s lexicon: “…if they think I’m caving, they’ve been asleep for the last eight years”, “I’m not negotiating”, “I’ve taken on every major battle in Milwaukee County and won, even in a county where I’m overwhelmingly overpowered politically,…’cause I don’t budge.”

Walker sees his base as consisting of two main groups: 1) wealthy business leaders, and 2) resentful working people, regular people who’ve either been savaged by the system or are just scraping by and are telling themselves, “I don’t have a secure middle class job with benefits and a pension, why should the other guy have those things?”  Today there are a lot of folks like this in America, and Walker taps into this feeling.  He brings up a story in the New York Times that highlights “a guy who was laid off two years ago…he’s been laid off twice by GM…everybody else in his town has had to sacrifice except for all these public employees and it’s about damn time they do”.  Back in the thirties, muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens captured it perfectly when he quoted a Pennsylvania politician, “We know that public despair is possible and that that is good politics.

Walker is a conservative true believer with the sense that he is riding the crest of history.  He talks about conservatives the way evangelicals talk about themselves: he refers to people as being “one of us” or “not one of us”.  He refers to a Democratic senator who made a lot of money in the private sector as “a little more open-minded” but “he’s not a…conservative. He’s just a pragmatist.”  Towards the end of the call he likens Ronald Reagan’s firing of the air-traffic controllers to the “first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism” and compares it to the current situation in Wisconsin: “this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history”, “…we’re doing the just and right thing for the right reasons, and it’s all about getting our freedoms back”, “The bottom line is we’re gonna get the world moving here because it’s the right thing to do.”

The notion that Walker’s legislation is an emergency measure required by the current crisis is ludicrous.  It’s just a continuation of the agenda he’s
championed his entire career: privatization, deregulation, tax cuts, cuts in social services to poor and working people.  And it’s been the plan all along.

Reprise: Infrastructure? We don’t need no stinkin’ infrastructure.

Christie: Take yer tunnel and _____ it!

Without comment (from Crooks & Liars via Memeorandum)

On Tuesday, the residents of New Jersey saw the future – in China. On the same day that Governor Chris Christie killed funding for the badly needed second Hudson River rail tunnel, Beijing rolled out its fastest bullet train yet. As it turns out, Christie’s budget ax is just the latest symptom of a growing epidemic. Across the country, the United States is walking away from its crumbling infrastructure even as America’s competitors commit the resources to win in the 21st century global economy.

To be sure, China is making those investments. America’s largest creditor not only dominates the U.S. in launching cleaner coal-fired power plants, but by January leapfrogged the West to become the world’s largest producer of wind turbines and solar panels. Just last week, an Australian study found that the China, the globe’s biggest polluter, is now the clear leader in clean energy efforts.