Earlier today, Brad Friedman reported that, despite high unemployment and food stamp usage at an all-time record high, U.S. corporations were experiencing record profits.
Simultaneously, Los Angeles Times reported that Senate leaders have reached an accord to pass three more NAFTA-like "free trade" agreements (Panama, Colombia, and South Korea) when Congress returns from its August recess. The Times stated: "Proponents [e.g.,the U.S. Chamber of Commerce] say the trade agreements...will pump as much as $14 billion into the U.S. economy and add more than 250,000 jobs."
The reality was better captured by Ross Perot during a 1992 Presidential Debate when he warned (video reminder below) that NAFTA would produce "a giant sucking sound of jobs headed South"...
On my Pacifica Radio show on KPFK in Los Angeles today, I interviewed Karen Bernal, chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party (CDP) on their new resolution in support of a primary challenge to President Obama. [Audio posted below.]
I was struck during my conversation this afternoon with Bernal when she mentioned the CDP had actually considered "punishment" for the caucus for, apparently, even daring to suggest such a challenge to Obama, much less for overwhelmingly passing a resolution in favor it by some 75 of their members. While attacking the party's nominee might be in violation of the party's rules, the fact is, to my knowledge, the DNC has yet to nominate a candidate for the 2012 Presidential election.
It seems the CDP might do well to remember what the "D" stands for in their name.
Since today's interview, the San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli has posted a column on the matter, including some comments from Bernal and, of more note here, some, uh, colorful comments about the Progressive Caucus resolution and the idea of a primary against the President, by California Democratic Party chair John Burton. It's worth noting, as Garofoli did, that Burton supported the primary challenge against President Jimmy Carter by Sen. Ted Kennedy back in 1980. He's singing a different tune now. Of course, Kennedy didn't win that primary challenge, Carter won the re-nomination and he ended up losing in a landslide to Reagan --- for whatever that comparison may be worth. (Not too much, in my humble opinion.)
Also, progressive author and journalist David Swanson sent me a link to this new website, StopHoping.org, at which you can vote on whether Obama should be primaried and, if so, by whom.
[NOTE: My radio interview today with Karen Bernal, head of the CA Democratic Party's Progressive Caucus, on my KPFK/Pacifica show, about the groups' resolution in support of a Democratic primary challenge to Obama, as detailed below --- and the state party's troubling reaction to it --- is now posted here. - BF]
Nader argued that without a primary challenge and vigorous debate on issues important to the Democratic base, Obama would "be able, for another four years, should he win, which is likely, to turn his back on the liberal progressive base and become Obama/Bush Administration 2. Just look at all the similarities with the Bush Administration."
Host David Shuster challenged Nader by suggesting that "a primary challenge to President Obama would hurt him, cause fissures in the democratic party and possibly impede the party efforts in the the general election."
"Well, it's just the reverse," Nader countered. "It will challenge him, bring the best out of him and there's nothing worse for a candidate in terms of lessening the enthusiastic level for him than to go through an unchallenged routine of repetitious primaries."
The former Green and then independent Presidential candidate discussed a soon-to-emerge, campaign by Democratic progressives to organize an initiative in the coming days "not designed to defeat [Obama], in the Democratic Primary, but designed to generate a robust debate, and put the liberal progressive issues on domestic policies, including job production and foreign and military policy, on the national Presidential agenda in 2012."
He said that without such a challenge, Obama would be allowed to continue serving little more than just "the corporate warlords and corporate barons of Wall Street."
By the way, in an article last January, Canning called on Nader himself to register as a Democrat and consider exactly such a primary challenge to Obama.
Nader is not the only high profile figure to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to the President. Vermont's extremely popular Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said on Thom Hartmann's radio show the Friday before last that he thought "it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition."
Then, over this past weekend, as word of the debt ceiling "deal" brokered between Obama and the Republicans, featuring historic spending cuts but no increases in revenue, leaked out, word came in that some 75 Progressive Caucus members of the California Democratic Party (CDP) had passed a controversial resolution in support of, you guessed it, a Democratic primary challenge to Barack Obama.
According to a statement posted with their resolution at WarisaCrime.org: "Gathering in Anaheim during an Executive Board meeting of the CDP, the group overwhelmingly endorsed the resolution following a discussion on the importance of not only challenging the far-right agenda of unmitigated corporate greed but also the current administration's willingness to slash 650-billion dollars from Social Security and Medicare."
Anti-war sentiments today are strikingly similar to what they had been in March 1968 when Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) challenged fellow Democrat and incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson in the New Hampshire primary. In March 1968 only 41% of Americans said "no" when asked whether we made a mistake in sending troops to Vietnam. Today six out of every ten Americans surveyed (70% of Democrats) favor an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan. Another 59% oppose our involvement in Libya.
While opposition to war is similar, the "democracy deficit" --- what Prof. Noam Chomsky refers to in Failed States as the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives --- is much wider today than it had been in 1968.
Medicare, the centerpiece of President Johnson's Great Society, like Social Security, the centerpiece of FDR's New Deal, remains immensely popular with the American people. As revealed by a recent Washington Post poll, 78% of Americans oppose cutting Medicare. 72% favor raising taxes on incomes over $250,000 and only 17% oppose raising taxes on those making more than $250,000.
Yet, the political elites of both major parties, operating, as they did during the Wall Street bailout of 2008, under a contrived crisis mode, are advancing alternative deficit reduction proposals that will, in the words of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (see video below) "do just the opposite of what the American people want."
While third parties are an option, today we sorely need an option that was available in 1968: a Eugene McCarthy...
"Over the past several decades, Republican methods for winning national power have come to resemble CIA techniques for destabilizing an enemy country --- through the use of black propaganda, political skullduggery and economic disruptions," Parry argues rather convincingly in his article which is also cross-posted at Alternet under the title, "The GOP's CIA Playbook: Destabilize Country to Sweep Back into Power".
So with the GOP doing what they've done now for years, placing party far ahead of country --- and, as Parry explains, mirroring strategies used in the past to take down foreign nations like Chile --- who is really to blame for the destruction they continue to wreak? Them? The media for enabling them? The Democrats for having no apparent strategy to counter them? Or the American public, for being gullible enough to fall for it time and time again?
My conversation with Parry today on all of the above (and a few words about Obama's "draw down" from Afghanistan), follows below.
Republicans in state after state across the country today, Memorial Day 2011, are remembering those who fought and died to protect our democracy by celebrating recent victories in their renewed effort to remove the right to vote for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of legal American voters.
Both of them, as opponents have documented over and over again, will serve to do little more than to disenfranchise far more legal (largely Democratic-leaning) voters than those who will be kept from fraudulently impersonating other voters at the polling place, which, as even most proponents admit when forced, happens almost never --- if it all.
Thankfully in at least one instance since our last report, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) of MN vetoed a photo ID measure passed by Republicans in his state. So there is one case, at least, where the memories of our fallen soldiers might be appropriately honored this weekend, as one governor has remembered to protect the very thing that so many of them died for.
Despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the enactment of Indiana's photo ID law in Crawford vs. Marion County Election Bd. (2008), both the new WI photo ID law, which may cost WI taxpayers $7 million to implement, and both the SC and TX photo ID laws, which do not even recognize student photo IDs, may be subject to significant legal challenges...
As if the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice “recount” isn’t a big enough mess, It appears that the Wisconsin GOP has been engaged in widespread fraud surrounding their attempts to recall democratic senators. Inexplicably, the Republican Party of Wisconsin had relied heavily on people they hired from out of state to collect signatures against democrats, even paying to house these folks in hotel rooms. In all cases, they paid by the signature. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? The decision to pay out of state people when there are plenty of unemployed folks that reside in those senate districts who may actually be invested in the outcome of these recall elections makes no sense at all.
Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning with Brad Friedman
"This was a decisive election about judicial independence," WI Supreme Court Justice David Prosser said at a press conference in Madison last Monday, declaring victory and explaining his opposition to a recount of the April 5th Wisconsin Supreme Court election.
"The people realized that judges should be much more than partisan politicians who wear black robes. Judges should be impartial in theory and in fact. They should faithfully apply the law without fear, and without favor," he told the assembled media.
However, as an investigation by The BRAD BLOG reveals, there is a stunning gap between the lofty ideals of "independence" espoused by the incumbent Justice as quoted above, and the sordid reality of his own personal record as a hard-Right partisan official in Wisconsin, with the state's GOP caucus, and even during his role as a justice on the state's highest court.
It is a reality, well-documented through court records and other sources, finding Prosser and his former Republican colleagues in the WI Assembly enmeshed in a criminal scheme to utilize state employees and resources at taxpayer expense in order to finance and organize WI GOP political campaigns. A reality which includes an astounding legal filing by this same sitting Supreme Court Justice in which he not only acted as an advocate for the accused, but even confessed to his own participation in the alleged crime.
In short, it's a reality which led The BRAD BLOG to wonder whether Prosser was truly better characterized as an 'independent' jurist, as per his self-description, or a partisan criminal in a robe...
Californians are all too familiar with the disturbing image now playing out in DC.
Radical-right ideologues demand extension of the Bush tax cuts, retention of corporate subsidies, deregulation, a squandering of public funds on privatization schemes and pouring what is left of the National Treasury down the economic black hole that is war and the military-industrial complex. Hypocritically, they not only point to the massive deficits they themselves have erected, but hold a gun to the head of government, threatening to shut it down absent drastic concessions designed to extract a pound of flesh from those who can least afford cuts in government services as they target the last vestiges of the New Deal safety net.
In California, a small minority of fiscally irresponsible, radical right-wing ideologues has employed the "give-us-what-we-demand-or-we-shut-down-the-government" tactic for over a decade, with devastating results.
The state's new (again) Governor Jerry Brown (D) would have done well to have read Paul Krugman's The Great Unravelingbefore he re-entered office last January.
Krugman aptly described the radical right that, in 2000, seized the reigns of the federal government as a "revolutionary power" which does not accept the legitimacy of our democratic system and which cannot be expected to negotiate in good faith.
Three months into fruitless negotiations, Brown recently came to realize that even though the state faces a catastrophic $26 billion deficit, CA Republicans would never allow the state's voters to decide whether to extend the temporary taxes on income, sales and vehicles to help cover the short fall.
After negotiations broke down last month, Brown said: "Each and every Republican legislator I've spoken to believes that voters should not have this right to vote unless I agree to an ever-changing list of collateral demands....Republicans demand that out-of-state corporations that keep jobs out of California be given a billion-dollar tax break that will come from our schoolchildren, public safety and our universities. This I am not willing to do."
While the Governor has openly considered by-passing the Republicans in order to permit direct democracy in which Californians themselves would vote on a temporary tax extension, that approach, even if successful, falls well short of the fundamental problem --- that the current 2/3 vote required to pass revenue legislation in the state's legislature permits an irresponsible minority of right wing ideologues to hold the state hostage as it carries out its democracy-destroying and economically unsustainable, privatization agenda...
While it should hardly be necessary, given the extent to which the GOP's billionaire-funded direct assault on workers' rights has exposed the Orwellian deceptions of the so-called 'Tea Party' movement, there are times when the adage, "sex sells," seems unavoidable, especially when it involves exposing the vast gap between the right-wing's professed "family values" and "fiscal responsibility" and a reality that includes infidelity and an eager willingness to squander public funds on friends and the billionaire sociopaths who fund their campaigns.
Last year, Wisconsin Republican state Senator Randy Hopper left his wife to live with a young Republican political operative. Last month, as Governor Scott Walker unveiled legislation calling for deep cuts in state workers' salaries and collective bargaining rights, Hopper's mistress was hired by the state on the advice of Scott Walker's cabinet as a "communications liaison." Further, her salary is 35% higher than her predecessor's.
Randy Hopper is one of the most vulnerable Republicans facing recall. He is a freshman, and only won his seat by 163 votes. A poll conducted by Daily Kos and PPP shows Hopper losing to a generic Democrat 49%-44%.
Mitchell denounced the salacious allegations as a "smear", though he offered no evidence in support of that claim to counter what appears to be an accurate account of Hopper's infidelities and the questionable hiring of his girlfriend, the GOP operative Valerie Cass, by the new administration of Gov. Scott Walker.
While there is always a legitimate question as to whether marital infidelity should disqualify an individual from holding public office, here the issue arises in the context of allegations of nepotism and hypocrisy, not to mention the issue of whether the Fond du Lac Republican could lawfully cast a vote opposing his own recall, now that, as his estranged wife admits, he no longer resides in his own district. He lives with Cass elsewhere.
This new sex scandal adds to a powerful, substantive recall message which has gained a great deal of momentum over the last several weeks...
His remarkable display of contempt for the democratic aspirations of working class Americans comes as little surprise, unfortunately. Mica, during his time in office, has received more than $620,000 in campaign contributions from the airline industry.
The Mica clause would block a rule adopted by the federal National Mediation Board which, according to the Communications Workers of America permitted airline and railroad workers to achieve "union representation based on a majority of votes cast, in line with the National Labor Relations Act rules governing union representation across all other industries." Instead of accepting the rules of a democratically held election of workers, Mica wants to count those who are eligible to vote, but who fail to do so, as votes against unionization.
Over the dissent of three Republicans and every Democratic member of the Committee, the House Transportation Committee rejected "an amendment by Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) to strip Mica's anti-union language from the bill."
Mica's new definition of "democracy" underscores the observations we set forth in "Gov. Walker's Wisconsin 'Union Busting' Exposes 'Tea Party' Scam, Duped Americans" as to how so many working class Americans have been "taken in by the lies and deceptions of billionaire sociopaths, like oil-baron David Koch...[whose] aim is not liberty, freedom, and jobs but American fascism, corporatocracy, and the 'eternal subjugation of the common man.'"
That subjugation flows from the disparity of power that accompanies a growing disparity of wealth, which, in turn, correlates with the demise of unions in the U.S...
The smear is amplified by the propagandists at Fox "News." It reverberates throughout the right-wing echo chamber (which has usurped the majority of our public airwaves to bolster their agenda). The smear is then repeated by pliant mainstream corporate media, which will, at best, offer up a belated, chiseling, inaccurate "correction" --- too little and too late to undo the damage wrought by a Democratic "opposition" which timidly seeks to distance itself from the smeared as they scurry to hand the hard-right what it seeks (e.g., a bill stripping ACORN or NPR of public funds, or the forced resignation of the targeted individual).
There is no doubt but that some of the corporate media complicity derives from common financial interests. As Bill Moyers observed in Moyers on America, "media giants...exalt commercial values at the expense of democratic value...squeezing out the journalism that tries to get as close as possible to the verifiable truth."
But there is another issue, magnified by two recent events: (1) The matter-of-fact acceptance of the prompt resignation of two NPR officials over a secretly taped and deceptively-edited video hit piece in which two of convicted federal criminal and Republican con-man James O'Keefe's flunkies posed as members of a Muslim organization seeking to help fund NPR, and (2) The deafening corporate media silence over an outrageously racist remark by a right-wing Kansas state representative who compared "illegal immigrants" to "feral pigs"...
"This is not a budget issue," the policeman speaking to the cheering protesters jammed inside of the capital rotunda in Madison, WI, shouted this weekend, "This is a civil rights issue!"
"Mr. Walker, if you are listening to me, let me tell you something," he continued through the bullhorn as the crowd rallied, "We know pretty well now who you work for. Let me tell you who we work for. We work for all of these people!"
While a wide swath of Wisconsin society, entailing not only both public and private union members, but students, doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers (like the one mentioned above), and fire fighters have swarmed the streets and public buildings of Madison as part of a mass movement rivaling those we've recently seen on the streets of Cairo, there is one sector of our society who should be especially angry with the Wisconsin branch of Corporate America's wholly-owned, public subsidiary, GOP, Inc.
It is the uninformed and misinformed working class stiffs, aka "Tea Partiers," who should be most disturbed by the scam they've been subjected to over the past two years (and many more). It is they who were taken in by the lies and deceptions of billionaire sociopaths, like oil-baron David Koch of the infamous Koch Industries. Koch's aim is not liberty, freedom, and jobs but American fascism, corporatocracy, and the "eternal subjugation of the common man"...
The scene last night, as the Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly suddenly, and without warning --- quite literally in the middle of the night --- announced and took a vote on Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting "Budget Repair Bill," followed by chants of "Shame! Shame! Shame!" from Democrats inside the chamber after it passed was remarkable.
As it was happening, I was reminded of all of those "Tea Partiers" last year who, despite a full year of committee hearings in both chambers of the U.S. Congress, mark-ups, negotiations, changes and concessions in hopes of bringing Republicans on board with the health care insurance reform bill that had otherwise been discussed and debated for at least a full year prior as well during the Presidential campaign, complained that the bill had been "crammed down the throats" of the American people in defiance of popular protests.
Well, in case you're wondering, Tea Partiers, this is what cramming a bill down throats in defiance of popular protests actually looks like.
This is also what it looks like when Big Government actually votes to take away freedoms from American citizens --- the other matter you folks pretended to once care about during the Health Care bill debate. So why aren't you joining with the protesters in Wisconsin now?
Slate's Dave Weigel, who was in WI's capital as the vote went down last night around 2am, explains what happened and offers this remarkable video...
MADISON, Wisc. --- The debate in the Assembly appeared to be a few hours away from ending when Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer interrupted their speeches and called the vote. It was gaveled in with lightning speed, less than the standard 15 seconds --- it was so fast that 28 members did not even vote on it, some out of protest but some failing to reach their buzzers. There were 51 ayes and 17 nays, and the nays included Republicans Dean Kaufert, Lee Nerison, Richard Spanbauer, and Travis Tranel.
Democrats exploded as soon as the vote was called, yelling "Cowards!" and "Shame!" at the Republicans filing out of the room.
The bill moves to the Senate, which cannot take it up until and unless 14 missing Democrats return. In a short speech to protesters, Democratic Rep. Cory Mason joked that he was "never so happy that we have two chambers."
We previously covered the WI protests by highlighting Rachel Maddow's analysis of the Walker/GOP bill in which she framed the debate as "Billionaires vs. Bake Sales: an existential fight for the survival of the Democratic Party" due to the legislation's blatant goal of busting the state's public unions in hopes of being the first domino to destroy the unions in full, in advance of the 2012 election.
The prank call from the Buffalo Beast's Ian Murphy --- claiming to be "David Koch," one of Walker's billionaire funders --- further underscores the GOP hope that Wisconsin will be "the first domino" in this latest attempt to destroy the politically powerful unions all together. Murphy's phone call to Walker as "David Koch" --- in which the Governor admits to having considered planting "troublemakers" among the peaceful protesters converging over the past week on the capital in Madison, follows in full below...
In a recent article, "The Left Has Nowhere to Go", Chris Hedges joins Ralph Nader in attributing the quadrennial failure of third party candidates to muster a meaningful challenge to the two-party system to a "cowardice" of the left.
Hedges, who described a 2008 vote for either Nader or Cynthia McKinney as "an act of defiance," quotes Nader as stating that "the more outrageous the Republicans become...the more the left has to accept the slightly less outrageous corporate Democrats." Hedges adds:
Nader fears a repeat of the left’s cowardice in the next election, a cowardice that has further empowered the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, maintained the role of the Democratic Party as a lackey for corporations, and accelerated the reconfiguration of the country into a neo-feudalist state. Either we begin to practice a fierce moral autonomy and rise up in multiple acts of physical defiance that have no discernible short-term benefit, or we accept the inevitability of corporate slavery.
While Nader and Hedges have accurately described the existing "lesser evil" paradigm as coming into play during each Presidential election, where only one Republican and one Democrat are perceived as "viable" options, neither Nader nor Hedges acknowledges the extent to which their own tactical inflexibility has reinforced the existing paradigm.
Nader himself would be wise to reflect on that reality in advance of the 2012 primary season...