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Showing posts from February, 2011

Upwards of 125,000 March in Madison, as Activists Rally Nationwide to Back Wisconsin Workers

John Nichols @ The Nation - members of the Teaching Assistants Association, the oldest graduate employee union in the world, rallied to object to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s plan to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights. The message from the TAA was blunt: “All public sector workers are under attack. Faculty and staff are under attack. The UW as a whole is under attack. With these extreme acts, Scott Walker is seeking to undermine the labor peace of 50 years…. You need to get active now!”

It worked.

Two weeks later, upwards of 125,000 Wisconsinites rallied at the state capitol in Madison, as tens of thousands more rallied in communities across the state that American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union President Gerald McEntee calls “ground-zero in the fight for labor rights. Police estimates from before the crowd hit its peak were in the range of 100,000, but busloads of union members and their allies continued to arrive through the af…

Who Owns the Digital You?

Huffington Post - "Blue Beetle" gets it. He is an online commenter who wrote this about advertiser-driven free sites: "If you aren't paying for it, then you aren't the customer any more, you are the product being sold." He understands deeply what I was trying to express in my last article.

The major players in the Internet space (Facebook, Google, etc.) have moved to a single economic model with a singular goal: to make public, monetize and commodify the "digital you" -- the online persona that is your digital identity in the networked marketplaces we increasingly all inhabit. Read more.

Wisconsin Protesters Resist Police Order To Leave Capitol

Huffington Post - Union leaders and other protesters say they plan to make a peaceful stand when police begin clearing out the state Capitol nearly two weeks after demonstrators first occupied the building.

Police have said they will arrest anyone who refuses to clear out at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Protesters have been camping out in the building since Feb. 15 to speak out against a sweeping anti-union bill put forth by Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Capitol police have allowed the protesters to remain, but the Department of Administration says the building needs to be cleaned.

It's unclear how many protesters plan to be arrested rather than disperse, but the number could be in the hundreds. Protest leaders say they plan to cooperate fully and are urging everyone to remain calm. Read more.

“We’re Broke,” Say the Rich, and the Poor Must Pay

Glen Ford @ Black Agenda Report - The American union movement may be headed for its Waterloo, a final debacle that could occur in Republican-ruled Wisconsin, but might just as easily happen at some later date in Democrat-governed New York. The social compact that unionists must forge in order to survive the desperate struggle with capital has always been skin-thin, ever vulnerable to shredding by issues of race, or issues that can be made to appear to be racial. This fatal U.S. labor weakness is capital’s great American asset – the source of the GOP’s popular base – second only to money, itself. In 2011, the union movement has been successfully niggerized, the ultimate American form of demonization.
Racism is the salvation of late-stage American capitalism. For hundreds of years, real facts of human existence have been routinely turned on their heads, and non-facts accepted as ultimate truths, all to justify white supremacy. A society so afflicted can believe literally anything. Thus, …

Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.

Paul Krugman @ NY Times - Here’s a thought: maybe Madison, Wis., isn’t Cairo after all. Maybe it’s Baghdad — specifically, Baghdad in 2003, when the Bush administration put Iraq under the rule of officials chosen for loyalty and political reliability rather than experience and competence.
As many readers may recall, the results were spectacular — in a bad way. Instead of focusing on the urgent problems of a shattered economy and society, which would soon descend into a murderous civil war, those Bush appointees were obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision. Indeed, with looters still prowling the streets of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy, told a Washington Post reporter that one of his top priorities was to “corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises” — Mr. Bremer’s words, not the reporter’s — and to “wean people from the idea the state supports everything.” Read more.

Climate Change and Agriculture: Biodiverse Ecological Farming Is the Answer, Not Genetic Engineering

Vandana Shiva @ Climate Story Tellers - Industrial globalised agriculture is heavily implicated in climate change. It contributes to the three major greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2) from the use of fossil fuels, nitrogen oxide (N2O) from the use of chemical fertilizers and methane (CH4) from factory farming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC), atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased from a pre–industrial concentration of about 280 parts per million to 379 parts per million in 2005. The global atmospheric concentration of CH4 has increased from pre–industrial concentration of 715 parts per billion to 1774 parts per billion in 2005. The global atmospheric concentration of N2O, largely due to use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture, increased from about 270 parts per billion to 319 parts per billion in 2005.

Industrial agriculture is also more vulnerable to climate change which is intensifying droughts and floods. Monocultures lead to more fr…

The Push of Conscience & Secretary Clinton

Ray McGovern @ Common Dreams - It was not until Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walked to the George Washington University podium last week to enthusiastic applause that I decided I had to dissociate myself from the obsequious adulation of a person responsible for so much death, suffering and destruction.

I was reminded of a spring day in Atlanta almost five years earlier when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld strutted onto a similar stage to loud acclaim from another enraptured audience.

Introducing Rumsfeld on May 4, 2006, the president of the Southern Center for International Policy in Atlanta highlighted his “honesty.” I had just reviewed my notes for an address I was scheduled to give that evening in Atlanta and, alas, the notes demonstrated his dishonesty. Read more.

The Republican Governors Association and the Kochs' Investment in Scott Walker

PR Watch for the Center for Media and Democracy - Walker was elected just over three months ago on the heels of an exceptionally expensive gubernatorial race in the Badger State, fueled by groups funded by the Koch brothers, David and Charles. David Koch, the son of a radical founding member of the John Birch Society, which has long been obsessed with claims about socialism and advocated the repeal of civil rights laws, personally donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA) in June of last year. This was the most he had ever personally given to that group. (Fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch matched Koch's donation to the RGA with a $1 million donation from his company News Corporation, parent company of FOX "News" Channel.) Read more.

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

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

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

Look for the Union Label

WRP @ Truthout - Governor Walker of Wisconsin got up on his hind legs on Monday and blasted public-sector unions for being wasteful. He made it very clear that he intends to continue his push to abolish collective bargaining in his state, which basically means he intends to abolish unions in his state. The polls are not with him, the people are not with him, and a number of Republicans in the legislature look to be going soft on the whole deal, but don't tell Walker that. He thinks he's going to get his way on this, so he can be the big conservative hero, the one who abolished unions, thus setting a trend to be followed in more than a dozen other states.

This is what I know about public-sector employees. This is what I know about unions.

In February of 1978, a snowstorm roared across New England, went out to sea, gained strength, turned back inland, and then stalled. It was for all intents and purposes a hurricane, complete with eye and sustained winds over 100 miles per hour. W…

Scott Walker Gets Punked By Journalist Pretending To Be David Koch

Huffington Post - Here's something for your "can this possibly be for real" file this morning. Over at the Buffalo Beast -- the former print alt-weekly turned online newspaper founded by onetime editor Matt Taibbi, typically best known for its annual list of "The 50 Most Loathsome Americans" -- there appear to be recordings of a phone call between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and current editor Ian Murphy. Now, why on earth would Scott Walker want to talk on the phone with the editor of an online site in Buffalo? Well, he wouldn't.

But what if said editor pretended to be David Koch of the famed Koch Brothers? Well, that's a different story altogether, apparently! And so Walker, believing himself to be on the phone with his patron, seems to have had a long conversation about busting Wisconsin's unions. Read more.

Back to the Future With Comcast

Truthout - After hammering out the details in daily meetings with Comcast over a three-month period in late 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) approved the $30 billion merger of Comcast and NBC/Universal in January 2011. The nation's largest Internet and TV provider is about to get much bigger. The public can comment for 60 days, but it's pretty much a done deal. Read more.

Gov't to fund free entry to China's art galleries, libraries

Xinhaunet - China's government has announced it will finance public libraries, art galleries and cultural centers to allow them to open for free to visitors.

The government would allocate 1.8 billion yuan (274 million U.S. dollars) from the central budget this year to allow institutions to have free entry, said Zhang Shaochun, Vice Minister of Finance, at a national videophone conference of central and local government culture officials, Friday.

The budget would help libraries, art galleries and cultural centers to pay staff and carry out basic public cultural programs, Zhang said. Read more.

State of Washington Attempts to Decriminalize Pot: City attorney, Pulitzer-winning Seattle paper call for marijuana legalization

The Raw Story - Last year, many hopeful drug reform advocates expected California to be the first state to officially overturn the prohibition of marijuana. But after Prop. 19's failure on the state-wide ballot at the end of 2010, few would have expected the next major push for reform would come from Washington.

Yet, here they are: the Washington legislature is poised to consider House Bill 1550, which would legalize and regulate cannabis, and apply taxes on sales.

The effort was enough to prompt a Seattle city attorney and The Seattle Times editorial board to come out in favor of the measure, urging legislators to make Washington State the first in the union to move for a repeal of prohibition. Read more.

Former CIA analyst accosted during Clinton speech about tolerating free expression

The Raw Story - The official position of the US Secretary of State is that countries around the world should respect their citizens' rights to free speech, free expression and free assembly -- and that's precisely what Sec. Hillary Clinton said during a Tuesday speech at George Washington University.

Unfortunately, as she spoke, not 15 feet in front of her, a series of events unfolded that utterly undermined the message.

Former CIA agent Ray McGovern, an outspoken critic of US foreign policy, stood silently in the auditorium's center aisle, and turned his back on Clinton.

For his symbolic and otherwise non-disruptive protest, he was quickly accosted by security agents. As they struggled to pull him out of the room, a CNN news camera caught the tail end of the ordeal. Read more.

U.S. Chamber Plot Update: Malware, Fake Personas, Government Contracts, Public Shame, Bar Complaints, Media Failures and Other News

The Brad Blog - It's strange, difficult and a bit uncomfortable reporting on the $12 million U.S. Chamber disinfo plot and smear campaign after finding myself (and my family), much less VelvetRevolution.us (VR), the non-profit organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG, as direct targets of it. As you might have assumed, there is much going on behind the scenes that I can't report on at this time, but I've been happy to see some fairly decent coverage --- even by some in the print MSM, if not much in the broadcast media yet --- of this important, disturbing and still developing story.

It's easier to talk and opine on what I've learned about the plot, as I've been doing in a lot of media interviews over the past week (a few of those radio appearances are linked below), than it is to actually report on it, per se. Yet, there have been several noteworthy points and advancements in the story over the past week since I originally covered it in depth here on Monday.

New …

Detroit Schools Closing: Michigan Officials Order Robert Bobb To Shut Half The City's Schools

Huffington Post - State education officials have ordered the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools to immediately implement a plan that balances the district's books by closing half its schools.

The Detroit News says the financial restructuring plan will increase high school class sizes to 60 students...read more.

A Roaring Rotunda of Hope in Wisconsin

Mark Karlin - The latest diversionary tactic of the corporate/GOP oligarchy has been to divide union members by attacking public unions as leeches, while going softer on trade unions - although only by a relative standard of vitriol.

The war on public unions and public workers has gained full steam, even pushing the White House to basically acquiesce to the slander.

But if what we are witnessing in Wisconsin is the beginning of a workers' revolt, the Republican assault on the working class may have finally hit a brick wall of outrage and push back. Read more.

Security Forces in Bahrain Open Fire on Mourners

Truthout - Government forces opened fire on hundreds of mourners marching toward Pearl Square Friday, sending people running away in panic amid the boom of concussion grenades. But even as the people fled, at least one helicopter sprayed fire on them and a witness reported seeing mourners crumpling to the ground.

It was not immediately clear what type of ammunition the forces were firing, but some witnesses reported live fire from automatic weapons and the crowd was screaming “live fire, live fire.” At a nearby hospital, witnesses reported seeing people with very serious injuries and gaping wounds, at least some of them caused by rubber bullets that appeared to have been fired at close range. Read more.

Democratic Senators Leave State to Stall Bill as Mass Protests Continue

Truthout - In a continuing attempt to stall a vote on the anti-union bill proposed by Gov. Scott Walker, the 14 Democratic senators have left the state with state troopers dispatched by Republican Senate leaders on their heels.

Without at least one additional senator in the chamber, the GOP does not have the majority quorom to vote on the bill, which has been called the biggest assault on worker's rights in Wisconsin and would effectively strip collective bargaining rights from most public-sector unions. Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to give all public-sector workers bargaining rights in 1959. Read more.

Wisconsin Protests: Tens Of Thousands Turn Out In Madison Against Anti-Union Proposal

Huffington Post - Protests in Wisconsin continue to surge Friday, even as reports from Thursday evening claimed as many as 25,000 demonstrators had taken to the state's capitol building in Madison. Residents are turning out in droves to oppose a bill they view as an anti-union effort that would infringe on the rights of state workers, proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Read more.

The Republican Strategy: A Sledgehammer to America

Robert Reich @ Common Dreams - The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class – pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don’t believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.
By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.
Republicans would rather no one notice their campaign to shrink the pie even further with additional tax cuts for the rich – making the Bush tax cuts permanent, further reducing the estate tax, and allowing the wealthy to shift ever more of their income into capital gains taxed at 15 percent.
The str…

Robin Hood Is Dead

William Rivers Pitt @ Truthout - The streets of Cairo were alive with jubilation on Friday after the announcement that Hosni Mubarak had finally surrendered to the inevitable and lit out of town. After more than two weeks of protest, tension and sheer grit, the deal went down and the air rang with shouts of victorious joy.

In America, by contrast, all was quiet. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, millions of people went without work, and the “news” media kept everyone up to date on the latest criminal doings of Lindsey Lohan.

...but but but...

Things are better in America than they are in Egypt.

Right?

Right?

Well, let’s see.

Corporations are people, and they own the news. Money is speech. Read more.

When Protest Becomes a Crime

Truthdig - Is rudeness a crime, punishable by prison? Yes, says a district attorney as he pursues the prosecution of 11 Muslim students who disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador.

The incident on the University of California’s Irvine campus is the Arab-Israeli conflict in miniature, set in legendarily conservative suburban Orange County. The area has substantial numbers of Muslim and Jewish residents, and this episode reflects the intense enmity felt by both sides.

Most important, it raises this question: Why should a politician-law enforcement officer, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, have the power to limit free speech on a university campus? Read more.

Sea Shepherd Activists Prompt Japan To Suspend Whaling

Huffington Post - Japan has temporarily suspended its annual Antarctic whaling after repeated harassment by a conservationist group, a government official said Wednesday.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ships have been chasing the Japanese whaling fleet for weeks in the icy seas off Antarctica, trying to block Japan's annual whale hunt, planned for up to 945 whales. Read more.

Feds Approve Monsanto Herbicide-Resistant Crops

Truthout - The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved plantings of three genetically engineered (GE) crops in as many weeks, including Monsanto Co.'s Roundup Ready sugar beets and alfalfa that are engineered to tolerate Roundup Ready weed-killing herbicide.

The USDA on February 11 also legalized, without restriction, the world's first GE corn crop meant for biofuel production. Biotech giant Syngenta's Event 3272 seed corn will simplify ethanol production and is not meant to feed animals or humans.

The approvals flew in the face of legal and regulatory challenges posed by GE crop opponents and members of the agricultural industry. Opponents fear the GE crop varieties could contaminate conventional food crops and promote the overuse of herbicides like the glyphosate-based Roundup and more toxic chemicals used to kill glyphosate-resistant weeds.

Monsanto won a victory on February 4 when the USDA partially deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beets. Read more.

Bill Moyers: "Facts still matter..."

A Keynote Speech for History Makers - Thanks to all of you for your welcome - and for the chance to be here among so many kindred spirits. Your dedication to factual broadcasting, to our craft and calling; your passion for telling stories that matter; for connecting the present to the past, has created a community whose work is essential in this disquieting time when "what is happening today, this hour, this very minute, seems to be our sole criterion for judgment and action." It is a sad world that exists only in the present, unaware of the long procession that brought us here. As Milan Kundera’s insight reminds us, the struggle against power "is the struggle of memory against forgetting." Read more.

Egypt Military Leaders Dissolve Parliament, Suspend Constitution

Huffington Post - Egypt's military leaders dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution on Sunday, meeting two key demands of protesters who have been keeping up pressure for immediate steps to push forward the transition to democratic, civilian rule after forcing Hosni Mubarak out of power.

In their latest communique, the military rulers that took over when Mubarak stepped down Friday, said they will run the country for six months, or until presidential and parliament elections can be held.

The military leaders said they were forming a committee to amend the constitution and set the rules for popular referendum to endorse the amendments.

Both the lower and upper houses of parliament are being dissolved. Read more.

Mubarak Steps Down, Ceding Power to Military

Truthout - President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned his post and turned over all power to the military, ending his 30 years of autocratic rule and bowing to a historic popular uprising that has transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world.

The streets of Cairo exploded in shouts of “God is Great” moments after Mr. Mubarak’s vice president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced during evening prayers that Mr. Mubarak has passed all authority to a council of military leaders. Read more.

Torturing Democracy

An excerpt from the book, Heart of Darkness by Henry Giroux: Since the turn of the twenty-first century, we have lived through a historical period in which the United States relinquished its tenuous claim to democracy. The frames through which democracy apprehends others as human beings worthy of respect, dignity, and human rights were sacrificed to a mode of politics and culture that simply became an extension of war, both at home and abroad.

When HuffPost Met AOL: "A Merger of Visions"

Arianna Huffington - I've used this space to make all sorts of important HuffPost announcements: new sections, new additions to the HuffPost team, new HuffPost features and new apps. But none of them can hold a candle to what we are announcing today.

When Kenny Lerer and I launched The Huffington Post on May 9, 2005, we would have been hard-pressed to imagine this moment. The Huffington Post has already been growing at a prodigious rate. But my New Year's resolution for 2011 was to take HuffPost to the next level -- not just incrementally, but exponentially. With the help of our CEO, Eric Hippeau, and our president and head of sales, Greg Coleman, we'd been able to make the site profitable. Now was the time to take leaps.

At the first meeting of our senior team this year, I laid out the five areas on which I wanted us to double down: major expansion of local sections; the launch of international Huffington Post sections (beginning with HuffPost Brazil); more emphasis on the …

Muslim Brotherhood Join Egypt Talks as Mubarak Allies Make Concessions

Truthout - Members of the Muslim Brotherhood joined other opposition groups meeting with Vice President Omar Suleiman on Sunday in what seemed a significant departure in the nation’s uprising and political history.

The Brotherhood is an outlawed Islamist organization often depicted by the authorities as committed to the overthrow of the secular order in the heart of the Middle East. Official attitudes toward it here have swung between outright repression and reluctant tolerance. But it has remained Egypt’s biggest opposition force against the autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak.

After the meeting had started, The Associated Press said that talks included some of the top issues for the opposition — including freedom of the press and the release of those detained since anti-government protests started — as well as agreement to begin setting up a structure to study amending the country’s constitution.

A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, Gamal Nassar, said the huge and sometimes v…

Reagan's Real Legacy

The Nation - As the nation embarks on a celebration this Sunday of the hundredth anniversary of President Ronald Reagan’s birth—with conferences, museum exhibits and lots of speeches—let us not forget that many of the serious problems facing America today began or worsened during Reagan’s presidency.

Why not let Reagan, who died in 2004, rest in peace? Because a growing chorus of journalists, politicians, and pundits are using this hundredth-birthday milestone to rewrite history and bestow on Reagan a Mount Rushmore–like status as one of our greatest presidents.

That’s hogwash. Read more.

A Villa in the Jungle?

Uri Avnery - WE ARE in the middle of a geological event. An earthquake of epoch-making dimensions is changing the landscape of our region. Mountains turn into valleys, islands emerge from the sea, volcanoes cover the land with lava.

People are afraid of change. When it happens, they tend to deny, ignore, pretend that nothing really important is happening.

Israelis are no exception. While in neighboring Egypt earth-shattering events were taking place, Israel was absorbed with a scandal in the army high command. The Minister of Defense abhors the incumbent Chief of Staff and makes no secret of it. The presumptive new chief was exposed as a liar and his appointment canceled. These were the headlines.

But what is happening now in Egypt will change our lives.

AS USUAL, nobody foresaw it. The much-feted Mossad was taken by surprise, as was the CIA and all the other celebrated services of this kind.

Yet there should have been no surprise at all - except about the incredible force of the eruption.…

Tunisia's Spark and Egypt's Flame: the Middle East is Rising

Foreign Policy In Focus - Is this how empires end, with people flooding the streets, demanding the resignation of their leaders and forcing local dictators out? Maybe not entirely, but the breadth and depth of the spreading protests, the helplessness of the U.S.-backed governments to stop them, and the rapidly diminishing ability of the United States to protect its long-time clients, are certainly resulting in a level of revolutionary fervor not visible in the Middle East in a generation. The legacy of U.S.-dominated governments across the region will never be the same. The U.S. empire's reach in the resource-rich and strategically vital Middle East has been shaken to its core. Read more.

Egyptian Government Figures Join Protesters

Truthout - With signs of fracturing within Egypt’s ruling elite, hundreds of thousands of people packed Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Friday, chanting slogans, bowing in prayer and waving Egyptian flags to press a largely peaceful campaign for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.

On this, the 11th day of the uprising, there were few signs of the violent Mubarak supporters who the protesters said were organized and dispatched by the Mubarak government over the last two days in an effort to capture the initiative. Lurking fears among the opposition that their movement may have lost momentum were banished by the sheer numbers of the protesters and the level of their passion. Read more.

Noam Chomsky: "The Arab World is on Fire"

Noam Chomsky @ Truthout - “The Arab world is on fire,” al-Jazeera reported on Jan. 27, while throughout the region, Western allies “are quickly losing their influence.”

The shock wave was set in motion by the dramatic uprising in Tunisia that drove out a Western-backed dictator, with reverberations especially in Egypt, where demonstrators overwhelmed a dictator’s brutal police. Read more.