During the billionaire Koch brothers' secret Summer Seminar near Vail, Colorado, on June 26th, their secret superstar keynote speaker, New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie, criticized President Barack Obama, charging that he "had failed the fundamental test of leadership, which I believe is to tell the people who hired you the truth, unvarnished truth."
Never mind that until our exposé at Mother Jones last week, based on a complete audio recording of his secret speech, Christie himself had failed to tell the truth to those who had hired him, by concealing the fact that he had flown half way across the country to address the Koch's gathering...just a few months after he had also secretly met with billionaire brother David Koch himself one-on-one, "for about two hours --- just the two of us," as Koch revealed during his introductory remarks, in the oil and chemical magnate's New York City office. That secret meeting took place just prior to a major announcement by Christie to unilaterally withdraw from a Northeast greenhouse gas initiative which Koch had been long advocating against.
So what are the local media obsessed with, given so many of the revelations that suddenly came to light in both our detailed report and its accompanying audio and transcript? Whether or not one of the state's top Democrats, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, should step down from her position!
Naturally. Heckuva job, New Jersey media! (And Democrats!)...
While I may have something else to share with you on this later tonight, for now, just a few very thoughts on today's somber 10th anniversary of 9/11. While my thoughts this afternoon are, naturally, with the families of those who lost their lives on 9/11, they are as much today with those exponentially many more families who have lost loved ones, needlessly, in this nation's childish and/or cynical and/or opportunistic and/or cowardly responses to that horrific day.
I am also thinking of those countless many --- a great number of whom also lost family members on both 9/11 and during our response --- who carried on with exceptional courageousness nonetheless during the course of our lost decade since. To those who were not cowed by the events of 9/11 --- and by our far more damaging responses to it --- I thank you today, again, for your selfless persistence in exercising your freedoms and liberties to do what is right, as opposed to what, no doubt, would have been far easier and far less costly on so many levels.
Beyond that (and beyond the additional thoughts, as noted, I may have later tonight), I suspect you've seen plenty in relation to the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 by now. So allow me to offer just a few short links to a few short and sweet articles or clips, all very much worth reading or watching, from over the last several weeks, as they offer a great deal about what now seems to matter most --- even as much of the nation's media choose instead to travel the very same road today as they did back then, and ever since...
• MSNBC: And in additional support of Edmonds' thoughts above, another clip from Day of Destruction, Decade of War, this one on the cynical, systematic, and criminal (if still shamelessly uncharged) use of tactics once known, and prosecuted by our country, as "torture"...
Noting that someone earning $106,000 a year contributes the same amount as a billionaire, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced his intention to introduce the "Keeping Social Security Promises Act."
The legislation, modeled after a promise President Obama made during his 2008 campaign, would attach the Social Security payroll tax to all incomes over $250,000.
Sanders cited the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, who said that the move would "ensure that Social Security can pay out all benefits for at least the next 75 years."
Receiving a standing ovation from some 3,000 labor leaders at last week's Las Vegas United Steelworkers Convention (see video below), Sanders blasted both Republicans and those Democrats who've called for cuts to Social Security. He noted that as Social Security is funded by the payroll tax and not the U.S. Treasury, it "has not contributed one nickle to the deficit."
"In fact," said Sanders, "according to...the Congressional Budget Office, Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus."
"When [Social Security] was developed, 50% of seniors lived in poverty," explained Sanders. "Today…that number is 10%. Social Security has done exactly what it was designed to do….For 75 years…Social Security has paid out every nickel owed to every eligible American."
The Senator went on to tell the union workers in Vegas that he'd "be damned if they're going to cut Social Security."
Video of Sen. Sanders' speech at the United Steelworkers convention follows...
Yesterday, The Post & Courier of Charleston, South Carolina reported that a local "Council of Governments [COG] approved a resolution...asking for the state to audit how its voting machines are working."
The "machines" are the 100% unverifiable ES&S iVotronic touch-screen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems.
The Post & Courier not only mentions the fact that state election officials insist that the "iVotronic machines reliably tally votes," but buys into the canard that "increased skepticism" is based upon [emphasis added] "human errors made during last year's elections." It adds that the COG resolution expressed "a concern [that the] voting machines...do not incorporate a 'paper trail' that could facilitate unequivocal confirmation of election results."
If there is any state in the nation that should realize that casting a vote on the ES&S iVotronic amounts to an exercise in blind-faith, with or without a so-called "Voter-Verifiable Paper Audit Trail" (VVPAT), it would be South Carolina...
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...