Monday, February 28, 2011

John Nichols: "Wisconsin Capitol is the People’s House" (video)

GRITtv, with video (03:52):
"This has transitioned into a struggle for Wisconsin, and maybe even a struggle for America," says John Nichols. It's been more than two weeks since protesters in Madison, Wisconsin have occupied the capitol building, and John Nichols notes that what's going on there is uniquely Wisconsin--from the politeness to the support and solidarity for union workers. He spoke to Laura outside the capitol this weekend, as protesters lined up in the freezing cold to get back into the building.

"Scapegoating Social Spending" (cartoon)

Khalil, cartoon (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE).
Congress is about to slaughter social spending but leave a lot of sacred cows alone.
Howie P.S.: About Khalil Bendib:
Largely utilizing the internet, Bendib now distributes his political cartoons independently to alternative media outlets outside of the corporate mainstream media. By August 2007, when his first book, "Mission Accomplished: Wicked Cartoons by America's Most Wanted Political Cartoonist," was published, Bendib's cartoons had appeared in more than 1,700 small and mid-sized newspapers. MORE...

"Amid hoots and hollers, City Council rejects McGinn’s tunnel veto"

Chris Grygiel (
Before a packed chamber filled with emotional and often rowdy people, the City Council on Monday overrode Mayor Mike McGinn’s veto of a deal between Seattle and the state to proceed with the tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The eight to one vote was a foregone conclusion, but the arguments in the audience and between the Councilmembers were acrimonious and pitched.

“This is not Seattle at its best,” Councilman Bruce Harrell said before the eight to one vote.

Councilman Mike O’Brien, who will push for a public vote on the project, was the lone Councilman to support McGinn. McGinn vetoed the legislation Feb. 17. The veto was McGinn’s second as mayor. In April he nixed an ordinance the Council passed that would’ve allowed police to ticket aggressive beggars. That veto stood. MORE...
Howie P.S.: The Seattle Times story today features comments by Nic Licata, Vlad Oustimovitch, Chris Gregoire and a local labor representative.

NPR: "Gregoire leads by example" (with audio)

Darryl ( with audio (04:01):
...Walker could have had all the budget savings necessary simply by negotiating compensation adjustments with the unions.

You know…like Gov. Christine Gregoire (D-WA) did!

This morning on NPR’s Weekend Edition, host Liane Hansen spoke with Gregoire (who is suffering laryngitis) about public employee unions and the Washington state solution:

Last fall, Gregoire was elected Chair of the National Governors Association, establishing that she has the trust and respect of her peers.

So in this forth year of the Bush Recession, when almost every state is struggling with budget issues, maybe newly elected gubernatorial nut cases like Scott Walker should study and emulate the successes of the more experienced and respected Governors in the nation. MORE...

KING5 News: "Thousands march in Olympia over union rights" (video)

KING5 News, with video (01:41):
More than 2,500 people gathered on the capitol lawn in Olympia on Saturday in support of union workers.

It was part of a national day of union members fighting in Wisconsin to retain their rights to represent workers and negotiate contracts.

"If workers don't make a decent living American won't be a decent place to live because we're workers," said Jim Hoerst, who drove from Woodinville. "If we don't make any money we don't spend any money, nobody makes any money so they gotta pay us if they want a good country." MORE...

"How Egypt inspired Wisconsin"

Andy Kroll (The War Room-Salon):
Egypt is a presence here in all sorts of obvious ways, as well as ways harder to put your finger on. The walls of the capital, to take one example, offer regular reminders of Egypt's feat. I saw, for instance, multiple copies of that famous photo on Facebook of an Egyptian man, his face half-obscured, holding a sign that reads: "EGYPT Supports Wisconsin Workers: One World, One Pain." The picture is all the more striking for what's going on around the man with the sign: a sea of cheering demonstrators are waving Egyptian flags, hands held aloft. The man, however, faces in the opposite direction, as if showing support for brethren halfway around the world was important enough to break away from the historic celebrations erupting around him.

Similarly, I've seen multiple copies of a statement by Kamal Abbas, the general coordinator for Egypt's Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services, taped to the walls of the state capitol. Not long after Egypt's January Revolution triumphed and Wisconsin's protests began, Abbas announced his group's support for the Wisconsin labor protesters in a page-long declaration that said in part: "We want you to know that we stand on your side. Stand firm and don't waiver. Don't give up on your rights. Victory always belongs to the people who stand firm and demand their just rights."


"The Mubarak of the Midwest"

On the Sunday after I arrived, I was wandering the halls of the Capitol when I met Scott Graham, a third-grade teacher who lives in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. Over the cheers of the crowd, I asked Graham whether he saw a connection between the events in Egypt and those here in Wisconsin. His response caught the mood of the moment. "Watching Egypt's story for a week or two very intently, I was inspired by the Egyptian people, you know, striving for their own self-determination and democracy in their country," Graham told me. "I was very inspired by that. And when I got here I sensed that everyone's in it together. The sense of solidarity is just amazing."

A few days later, I stood outside the capitol building in the frigid cold and talked about Egypt with two local teachers. The most obvious connection between Egypt and Wisconsin was the role and power of young people, said Ann Wachter, a federal employee who joined our conversation when she overheard me mention Egypt. There, it was tech-savvy young people who helped keep the protests alive and the same, she said, applied in Madison. "You go in there everyday and it's the youth that carries it throughout hours that we're working, or we're running our errands, whatever we do. They do whatever they do as young people to keep it alive. After all, I'm at the end of my working career; it's their future."

And of course, let's not forget those almost omnipresent signs that link the young governor of Wisconsin to the aging Hosni Mubarak. They typically label Walker the "Mubarak of the Midwest" or "Mini-Mubarak," or demand the recall of "Scott 'Mubarak.'" In a public talk on Thursday night, journalist Amy Goodman quipped, "Walker would be wise to negotiate. It's not a good season for tyrants." MORE...

"The Deficit Hawks are Circling" (cartoon)

Balloon Juice, cartoon (CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE).

H/t to Emiliana Chavez.

"White House Requests Meeting with Seattle Times to Bully Against Pro-Pot Editorials"

Dominic Holden (SLOG):
The Stranger has learned that immediately after the Seattle Times ran an editorial last week supporting a bill to tax and regulate marijuana, the newspaper got a phone call from Washington, D.C. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske wanted to fly to Seattle to speak personally with the paper's full editorial board.

The meeting is scheduled for next Friday, an apparent attempt by the federal government to pressure the state's largest newspaper to oppose marijuana legalization. Or at least turn down the volume on its new-found bullhorn to legalize pot.

Bruce Ramsey, the Seattle Times editorial writer who wrote the unbylined piece, says the White House called right “right after our editorial ran, so I drew the obvious conclusion… he didn’t like our editorial.”

“MARIJUANA should be legalized, regulated and taxed,” the newspaper wrote on February 18. “The push to repeal federal prohibition should come from the states, and it should begin with the state of Washington."

This isn't the first time the Obama Administration has campaigned to keep pot illegal. Kerlikowske, who is also Seattle's former police chief, also traveled to California last fall to campaign against Prop 19, a measure to decriminalize marijuana and authorize jurisdictions to tax and regulate it.

Is the Seattle Times the more reticent to speak up? Apparently not. It ran another pro-pot editorial in today’s paper.

Kerlikowske's office has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Howie P.S.: Give Thanks and Praises to those Libertarians @ The Seattle Times.

"Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker slams Wall Street probes" (with video)

Raw Story with video (02:21):
Documentary filmmaker Charles Ferguson was honored last night at the Academy Awards for his film “Inside Job,” studying the financial crisis of 2008. During his speech, he took the opportunity to issue a scathing critique of the government’s post-crisis investigations.

“Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong,” he said.

In perhaps a stroke of cosmic irony, Monday morning’s edition of New York Magazine featured quotes from jailed Ponzi scheme ripoff artist Bernie Madoff, who said “it’s unbelievable” that no criminal convictions had been issued. He said it led him to believe that President Obama’s financial reforms were a “joke” and that “the whole government is a Ponzi scheme.”
Howie P.S.: The video is the official trailer for the movie.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Politics at the Oscars -- Union Support" (with video)

Chris Marderosian (The Note-ABC News), with video (00:32):
At the Academy Awards tonight, best cinematography winner Wally Pfister made a point during his acceptance speech of thanking his union crew on “Inception.”

Backstage he went further, expressing shock at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal, which would limit union’s collective bargaining powers. Opponents of the plan have been protesting at the state capitol for 21 days.

“I think that what is going on in Wisconsin is kind of madness right now,” Pfister says. “I have been a union member for 30 years and what the union has given to me is security for my family. They have given me health care in a country that doesn’t provide health care and I think unions are a very important part of the middle class in America all we are trying to do is get a decent wage and have medical care.

"Inside Job: Best Documentary Oscar Winner Notes Nobody Has Served Jail Time For Financial Meltdown" (with video)

MEDIAite with video (01:25):
As of this evening, Charles Ferguson is no longer just a documentary filmmaker, he is now a Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker for his film Inside Job. The film focused on the connections between the government and financial institutions that led to insane levels of profit-taking which endangered the global economy. Mr. Ferguson will also be known for creating perhaps the most entertaining and contentious moment during a thus far lackluster Academy Awards when he pointedly noted that no one has gone to jail for the financial misconduct.

It was the first quasi-political moment In a broadcast that has been remarkably devoid of any controversial comments (and pure entertainment value) and one that will surely be noted in the days of recap coverage that will come in the following days.

Rich: "The 2011 rebels are to the right of their 1995 antecedents..."

(Click on image enlarge) That's sweat, not tears, coming off Boehner's face.

Frank Rich:
That’s why this battle, ostensibly over the deficit, is so much larger than the sum of its line-item parts. The highest priority of America’s current political radicals is not to balance government budgets but to wage ideological warfare in Washington and state capitals alike. The relatively few dollars that would be saved by the proposed slashing of federal spending on Planned Parenthood and Head Start don’t dent the deficit; the cuts merely savage programs the right abhors. In Wisconsin, where state workers capitulated to Gov. Scott Walker’s demands for financial concessions, the radical Republicans’ only remaining task is to destroy labor’s right to collective bargaining.

That’s not to say there is no fiscal mission in the right’s agenda, both nationally and locally — only that the mission has nothing to do with deficit reduction. The real goal is to reward the G.O.P.’s wealthiest patrons by crippling what remains of organized labor, by wrecking the government agencies charged with regulating and policing corporations, and, as always, by rewarding the wealthiest with more tax breaks. The bankrupt moral equation codified in the Bush era — that tax cuts tilted to the highest bracket were a higher priority even than paying for two wars — is now a given. The once-bedrock American values of shared sacrifice and equal economic opportunity have been overrun.
Here again, the dollars that will be saved are minute in terms of the federal deficit, but the payoff to Koch interests from a weakened E.P.A. is priceless. The same dynamic is at play in the House’s reduced spending for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service. and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (charged with regulation of the esoteric Wall Street derivatives that greased the financial crisis). The reduction in the deficit will be minimal, but the bottom lines for the Kochs and their peers, especially on Wall Street, will swell.

These special interests will stay in the closet next week when the Tea Partiers in the House argue (as the Gingrich cohort once did) that their only agenda is old-fashioned fiscal prudence. The G.O.P. is also banking on the presumption that Obama will bide his time too long, as he did in the protracted health care and tax-cut melees, and allow the Fox News megaphone, not yet in place in ’95, to frame the debate. Listening to the right’s incessant propaganda, you’d never know that the latest Pew survey found that Americans want to increase, not decrease, most areas of federal spending — and by large margins in the cases of health care and education.
Current House leaders, mindful that their ’95 counterparts’ bravado backfired, constantly reiterate that they are “not looking for a government shutdown,” as Paul Ryan puts it. They seem to believe that if they repeat this locution often enough it will inoculate them from blame should a shutdown happen anyway — when, presumably, they are not looking.

Maybe, but no less an authority than Dick Armey, these days a leading Tea Party operative, thinks otherwise. Back in ’95, as a Gingrich deputy, he had been more bellicose than most in threatening a shutdown, as Bill Clinton recounts in his memoirs. But in 2006, Armey told a different story when reminiscing to an interviewer, Ryan Sager: “Newt’s position was, presidents get blamed for shutdowns, and he cited Ronald Reagan. My position was, Republicans get blamed for shutdowns. I argued that it is counterintuitive to the average American to think that the Democrat wants to shut down the government. They’re the advocates of the government. It is perfectly logical to them that Republicans would shut it down, because we’re seen as antithetical to government.”

Armey’s logic is perfect indeed, but logic is not the rage among his ideological compatriots this year. Otherwise, the Tea Party radicals might have figured out the single biggest difference between 1995 and 2011 — the state of the economy. Last time around, America was more or less humming along with an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent. This time we are still digging out of the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression, with an unemployment rate of 9 percent and oil prices on the rise. To even toy with shutting down the government in this uncertain climate is to risk destabilizing the nascent recovery, with those in need of the government safety net (including 43 million Americans on food stamps) doing most of the suffering. MORE...

"Full Council votes Mon. whether to extend millions in 'MFTE' tax breaks to developers‏"

John V. Fox (Press Release-Seattle Displacement Coalition-206-632-0668):

$90 million given away to developers since 2004 and the public got little in return! Council will vote whether to extend the "MFTE" program thru 2015 this coming Monday:

Seattle City Council will vote Monday to extend millions in property tax breaks to developers who promise to "set aside" only a handful of units priced above what even the average tenant in our city can afford! We're not kidding! Council will vote whether to extend the City’s (MFTE) Multi-Family Tax Exemption Program.
At a time when property owners are facing an avalanche of increased costs and will be called on to support passage of two extremely important and valuable levies this Fall – the Families and Education levy and another one to continue funding for needed veterans housing and services - The Council’s decision to continue this program would be one of the most egregious actions we’ve seem them take in years.

For these reasons, we strongly recommend that the Council suspend this program or drop the price of units developers are required to set aside below what would be affordable to households truly in need in our city – those with incomes below 50% of median.
Howie P.S.: For more information, call John V. Fox @ (206) 632-0668.

Egypt: "History's shifting sands"

Protesters in Egypt offered words of support to union workers in the US state of Wisconsin [GALLO/GETTY]

Mark LeVine (
The revolutions sweeping the Arab world indicate a tectonic shift in the global balance of people power.---It now seems clear that hoping for the Obama administration to support real democracy in the Middle East is probably too much to ask, since it cannot even support full democracy and economic and social rights for the majority of people at home. More and more, the US feels not just increasingly "irrelevant" on the world stage, as many commentators have described its waning position in the Middle East, but like a giant ship heading for an iceberg while the passengers and crew argue about how to arrange the deck chairs.

Luckily, inspiration has arrived, albeit from what to a 'Western' eye seems like the unlikeliest of sources. The question is: Can the US have a Tahrir moment, or as the great Arab historian Ibn Khaldun would have predicted, has it entered the irreversible downward spiral that is the fate of all great civilizations once they lose the social purpose and solidarity that helped make them great in the first place?

It is still too early to say for sure, but as of today it seems that the reins of history have surely passed out of America's hands. MORE...
Howie P.S.: H/t to Marcia Kato. If you're wondering who Mark LeVine is:
Mark LeVine is a professor of history at UC Irvine and senior visiting researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University in Sweden. He has authored several books including Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv and the Struggle for Palestine (University of California Press, 2005) and An Impossible Peace: Israel/Palestine Since 1989 (Zed Books, 2009).

"On Police, Guns and Fear"

The photo of Mr. Falkenbury (above) is only one I could find on the Google---it's from 2002.

Dick Falkenbury, op-ed(
You cannot make a case that someone with a three inch knife is any threat to an officer in a patrol car with the windows rolled up (there was no evidence that the officer thought that Willimas was armed with a gun).

And that brings me to my point: the problem is, we are still asking officers to confront and, in every case, subdue the bad guys. We ask officers to go into the house to investigate domestic violence when it is much better to call on a phone and ask the people to come outside, separately, to speak with the officers (who should remain safely behind their cars at a safe distane). We should make it public policy that officers take the slow, methodical and safest way out of a confrontation.

This will take longer. More hostage situations will develop and it may even cost more.

But I think that it would be good public policy to err on the side of reducing shooting, be they police shooting civilians or hopefully civilians shooting police. In the Wild West, there were two kinds of lawman. Wild Bill Hickok was a great one for shooting miscreants. He shot many men who violated the law in his town. Meanwhile, Bat Matterson was the lawman in another town. He took a different approach. He took the guns away from everyone before the trouble started. Now, we can’t take the guns away from everyone and I am not advocating that. What I am advocating is trying to solve the problem in the least confrontational style. And I am well aware that sometimes, too often, there needs to be a confrontation and of the most violent sort. The officer who shot Maurice Clemons without a word or allowing Clemons to surrender was not only right, he should be commended.

Sometimes this distinction will be difficult if not impossible to make. We ask our police officers to make life-and-death decisions all the time. All I am suggesting is that we no longer demand that they assume a confrontational style of action. We should encourage police to try to handle the situation in the least confrontational manner available to them.

We should not demand of our police that they take down the bad guy, or what they perceive as a bad guy, everytime. MORE...
Howie P.S.: If you don't know much about Dick, here's a little bio:
Dick Falkenbury grew up and spent most of his life in the Roosevelt area of Seattle. He began driving cabs in 1978, later becoming a tour driver and tour bus driver in 1992. In 1996, having worked in many liberal political campaigns in the Seattle area, Falkenbury wrote and led an initiative effort to build a monorail throughout Seattle.

Cheesehead Mania Strikes Olympia (WA)

In addition to turning up in other state capitols around the US yesterday, Cheeseheads made an appearance here yesterday in Washington state (above). Go Packers!

Is it just an eerie coincidence that Barack Obama recently visited WI? If you listen to his speech there, audio (00:15) you can hear him say "Let them come" to Wisconsin to see "the incredible promise of our country." Is Wisconsin what California was in sixties, the epicenter of a national cultural transformation? Probably not. But it's still pretty cool. Today, we are all Cheeseheads.
Howie P.S. Many more photos (some with Cheeseheads) from Olympia here.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Rank and Vile: The Police Union Blames Gotcha Media for Its Own PR Mess"

Dominic Holden (The Stranger):
America got a double treat a couple years ago when, first, Sarah Palin couldn't name a single newspaper she reads during her famously embarrassing interview with Katie Couric. And then, for her second act of idiocy, Palin went on Fox News in an attempt to clean up the mess and blamed not herself but "the state that is so sorry today of journalism."

Which brings us to Seattle this week. Some readers may be familiar with the Guardian, the internal union newspaper of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, written by and for the city's 1,350 sworn cops. A controversy ensued in January after The Stranger republished recent officer-written editorials that slammed the city's "socialist" agenda and "the enemy" at City Hall, spoke of wanting to repeal racial and social justice training, exhibited contempt for oversight, and joked about shooting at the ACLU and African American leaders. That exploded into a firestorm picked up by the Seattle Times, KING 5, KIRO FM, and other outlets. MORE...

Let the flashbacks to 1968 officially begin: DNC Pressures Obama for "Swift End To Afghanistan War"

Amanda Terkel (HuffPo):
Members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) showed a rare break from President Obama on Saturday, adopting a resolution attempting to push the administration toward a speedier withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The DNC is currently holding its annual winter meeting, where its hundreds of members from all around the country converge in Washington, D.C. to discuss finances, debate resolutions, and of course, figure out how elect (and re-elect) Democrats -- including Obama -- in 2012.

The resolution adopted Saturday states that "the Democratic Party supports prioritizing job creation and a swift withdrawal of U.S. armed forces and military contractors in Afghanistan which must include a significant and sizable reduction no later than July 2011." MORE...
Howie P.S.: Let the flashbacks to 1968 officially begin.

Herbert: "Absorbing the Pain"

Bob Herbert (NY Times):
It would be a mistake to think that this fight is solely about the right of public employees to collectively bargain. As important as that issue is, it’s just one skirmish in what’s shaping up as a long, bitter campaign to keep ordinary workers, whether union members or not, from being completely overwhelmed by the forces of unrestrained greed in this society.

The predators at the top, billionaires and millionaires, are pitting ordinary workers against one another. So we’re left with the bizarre situation of unionized workers with a pension being resented by nonunion workers without one. The swells are in the background, having a good laugh.

I asked Lynda Hiller if she felt generally optimistic or pessimistic. She was quiet for a moment, then said: “I don’t think things are going to get any better. I think we’re going to hit rock bottom. The big shots are in charge, and they just don’t give a darn about the little person.” MORE...

Political Pundits Enjoy "Solidarity brunch" (photo)

From Joan Walsh (Twitter) with Lizz Winstead (photo).

"Watch the Rallies to Save the American Dream Live" (streaming video)

Watch live streaming video from moveonorg at, streaming video: will be livestreaming rallies in all fifty state capitals Saturday Feb.26!

(Seattle) Breaking: "Union rally downtown" (photo)

From threadnews (Twitter).

"MSNBC Anchor Bashes Obama For Not Supporting Wisconsin Unions" (with video)

MEDIAite with video (05:35):
President Barack Obama’s response to labor protests in Wisconsin hasn’t been forceful enough for many political leaders in his party, but what’s likely the most scathing critique the president’s received for his actions (or lack thereof) came earlier today via MSNBC’s Cenk Uygur. Uygur lambasted Obama for not showing more solidarity with the workers – even though back when he was running for president, he vowed he would. MORE...
Howie P.S.: Private message to President Obama: Do you need to stimulate the economy by purchasing a new comfortable pair of shoes, that were Made in America?

"City Council proposes sweeping police reforms"

Joel Connelly (
Seattle City Council members are proposing far-reaching reforms to improve the training, the hiring, on-line supervision and accountability of Seattle Police Department officers.

The initiatives range from "mandatory and timely" drug and alcohol tests for officers involved in deadly force incidents to preferential recruiting and hiring of officers with a post-secondary education.

The 11 recommendations were unveiled in a late Friday letter (PDF) signed by Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Sally Bagshaw and Sally Clark, all members of the Council's Public Safety and Education Committee. Burgess is chair of the committee.

The specific reforms were revealed soon after Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn proclaimed Sunday "John T. Williams Day" after a native woodcarver slain by a Seattle Police officer in August.

A Council source said privately that the city's legislators were taking the initiative, and proposing initiatives, because they have doubts about McGinn's background in and "ear" for police and public safety issues. MORE...
Howie P.S.: Private message to Hizzonner: "Can you hear us now?" This is a little more to the point than declaring tomorrow, 'John T. Williams Day.'

He's baaack...Guess Who has a new blog today? Keith Olbermann

For some reason it's called the FOK News Channel.

DOD Secy Gates on TRMS: "Any future DOD who advises sending a big land Army into Asia or the Middle East should have his head examined" (video)

MSNBC-TRMS, video (04:20).

Seattle Times: "Seattle school Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson should resign"

The Seattle Times Editorial Board:
THE emerging details of the financial scandal at the Seattle Public Schools suggest one conclusion: Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson should resign. If she doesn't, the board should fire her.

She was brought here from South Carolina in 2007 to fix several problems, the first of which was the district's lax control of its money. The latest mess shows the task has not been done. MORE...
Howie P.S.: The "Seattle Public Schools community blog," is asking people to "Please send an e-mail as soon as you can with what you think the Board should be doing." Another group, the "seattleshadowschoolboard" has created an online petition, "Declaration of No Confidence in Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson by the Parents & Community of Seattle Public Schools." You can sign here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Krugman: "Shock Doctrine, U.S.A."

Paul Krugman:

The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine,” which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display.

In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside. MORE...

Reich: "The Republican Shakedown"

Robert Reich:
The Republican message is bloated government is responsible for the lousy economy that most people continue to experience. Cut the bloat and jobs and wages will return.

Nothing could be further from the truth, but for some reason Obama and the Democrats aren’t responding with the truth. Their response is: We agree but you’re going too far. Government employees should give up some more wages and benefits but don’t take away their bargaining rights. Private-sector unionized workers should make more concessions but don’t bust the unions. Non-defense discretionary spending should be cut but don’t cut so much.

In the face of showdowns and shutdowns, the “you’re right but you’re going too far” response doesn’t hack it. If Republicans are correct on principle, they’re more likely to be seen as taking a strong principled stand than as going “too far.” If they’re basically correct that the problem is too much government spending why not go as far as possible to cut the bloat?

The truth that Obama and Democrats must tell is government spending has absolutely nothing to do with high unemployment, declining wages, falling home prices, and all the other horribles that continue to haunt most Americans.
The final truth is as income and wealth have risen to the top, so has political power. The reason all of this is proving so difficult to get across is the super-rich, such as the Koch brothers, have been using their billions to corrupt politics, hoodwink the public, and enlarge and entrench their outsized fortunes. They’re bankrolling Republicans who are mounting showdowns and threatening shutdowns, and who want the public to believe government spending is the problem.

They are behind the Republican shakedown. MORE...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why I Don't Like the Sunday Network "public-affairs" Shows

Amanda Terkel (HuffPo):
Though thousands of Americans have turned out this week to show solidarity with Wisconsin's public employees and oppose a threat to their collective bargaining rights, union officials say they have not been able to place a labor voice on this Sunday's editions of the weekly public-affairs TV shows. The shows' producers, they complain, are shutting out the workers' perspective.

A union official told The Huffington Post that when none of the Sunday shows' producers reached out to them to book a labor representative this week, several unions started to pitch the shows with affected workers and local and national leaders who they felt could discuss the protests. The official said the response from the shows was essentially "thanks, but no thanks." MORE...

"Obama Quiet As Union Protests Grow In Swing States" (with audio)

UPDATE: "Sparring Unions Now Working as One" (Wall Street Journal):
Leaders of major public and private sector unions have agreed to set aside longstanding divisions and turf battles and coordinate in a campaign to counter challenges to their political and contract-bargaining power in a growing number of states.

The plan requires each union to commit a certain amount of money to fund a $30 million campaign. Funds will be dedicated to paid media, lobbying, work-site leaflets, and a range of other campaign items, including opposition research into groups that unions believe could be funding state efforts to restrict union rights, such as the Koch Brothers, and the Scaife and Walton Foundations. MORE...
President Obama greets supporters after giving closing remarks Tuesday at a small business forum at Cleveland State University. Obama has only weighed in once on the union protests in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.

NPR with audio (03:58):
Union organizers are ramping up their efforts in state capitals across the country, emphasizing that what began in Madison could have national consequences. Although there are real stakes for Washington, President Obama's team is working to keep the focus on the statehouse, not the White House. MORE...
Howie P.S.: The Daily Beast says "16 States Going to War on Unions." Can you guess what state is #10 on their list? A little hint:
On Saturday, February 26, at noon local time, we are organizing rallies in front of every statehouse and in every major city to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin. Go here to see where the "RALLY TO SAVE THE AMERICAN DREAM" is planned in your state.

Nucor Seattle: "News Or Promotion? MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan Cheers On His Sponsor While On The Road" (with video)

MEDIAite, with video from MSNBC (05:27)
Given that Ratigan frequently mentions Nucor is a partner on the series, at least viewers are made aware of the rationale for why such flattering coverage is lavished on the company. However, the fact remains that watching Ratigan’s segment, which easily could have been confused for a human resources video to boost Nucor employee morale, was a bit off-putting. MORE...

"He's Wrong. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg Should Not Have Let Killer Cop Ian Birk Off the Hook"

Cienna Madrid (The Stranger):
Some lawyers agree with the protesters. They say Birk could, and should, be charged with murder. They argue that Satterberg is reading the law wrong.

"Officer Birk could have been prosecuted under the current law," says Lisa Daugaard, a King County public defender. "I respectfully disagree with [Satterberg's] reading of the statute."
But Daugaard, the public defender, says that Satterberg is reading the law wrong: "The statute doesn't talk about a 'good faith belief' in general. It talks about good faith that the action—the use of force—was justified under the statute."

In other words, believing you're doing the right thing isn't enough if you're an armed cop. You still have to be following the law, and the law says force is justifiable when an officer reasonably believes the person they're apprehending "has attempted to commit, is committing, or is attempting to commit a felony."

Birk never claimed that Williams was committing a felony. Birk contacted Williams because he saw Williams crossing a busy street while holding a knife and that struck him as "suspicious." But walking down the street with a woodcarving knife isn't a felony. Neither is acting suspicious.

Satterberg ties in the felony requirement by arguing that Birk believed he was going to be attacked by Williams, and attacking an officer with a knife is a felony. But Birk's peers and commanders at the Seattle Police Department (SPD) refute this argument. After a lengthy internal investigation, a seven- member board unanimously concluded that Williams wasn't an immediate threat to Birk—that Williams's actions did not justify a use of deadly force, said Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer, who headed an internal Firearms Review Board investigation. "Williams had not even moved into a position where he could've gone into a straight line, a position of attack," Kimerer said. Their report condemns Birk's flagrant disregard for training protocol and found that "it would have been a reasonable alternative to allow the suspect to escape without resorting to the use of a firearm." MORE...
H/t to Revel Smith.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Howard Fineman Discusses Wisconsin And Unions On MSNBC's 'The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell" (with video)

HuffPost TV with video (06:16):
The Huffington Post's Senior Political Editor Howard Fineman appeared Tuesday night on MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" to discuss Wisconsin and the current dispute over labor unions.

Fineman pointed out that "the public is already on the side of the public employee unions." He elaborated, "lots of other Republican governors, Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, Rick Scott in Florida, all have said to one degree or another that they would not go after employee bargaining rights in order to cut the budget...the Governor of Wisconsin is way out there on a limb and Obama wants to just leave him there."

Expanding on the political calculations of the White House, Fineman said, "the President and his advisors feel that they're getting some political benefit out of this nationally. And one way they are is a fired up labor movement."

"Walker Punked By Fake Koch Brothers Call" (with audio/video)

fdl,with audio/video (10:00):
This is priceless. Ian Murphy of Buffalo Beast (the site appears to be down at the moment, but twolf1 has posted both videos on MyFDL) called up Gov. Scott Walker, posing as wealthy industrialist and campaign donor David Koch. They had a 20-minute chat. Here’s an excerpt: MORE...

Dylan Ratigan Tweets: "SteelonWheels kicks off again from Seattle today at 4pm ET (1pm Pacific)" (with video)

UPDATE: Dylan Ratigan reports: "Melting pot at Nucor Steel’s Seattle Plant":
In one minute, Nucor’s metal melting machine generates enough energy to power 20 American homes for an entire week.

MSNBC-Today Show, video (02:02).

Howie P,S.: Nucor Steel, one of the sponsors of the tour, has over 200 locations in the U.S. Their Seattle location is at the West Seattle side of the West Seattle bridge and is a short walk from my domicile. I might wander over there and see what's happening later today.

"Wisconsin's Political Crisis Is a Good Deal More Serious Than Its Fiscal Crisis"

Cartoon by David Horsey (

John Nichols (The Nation):
What we cannot figure out is this: Why, if the state is in so much trouble, did Walker engineer the enactment of roughly $140 million in new tax breaks for multinational corporations, which the legislature passed in January? Why did he rush to reject federal transportation funding that other states—states with similar or worse fiscal challenges—have rushed to collect? Why, in the very week that he was pushing his budget repair bill, did the governor reject federal broadband development money that Wisconsin’s rural counties have been seeking for years?

The answer to all of these questions is that the governor has made his budget decisions not with an eye toward fiscal responsibility but with an eye toward rewarding his political benefactors. Out-of-state corporations, road-building interests that did not want competition from high-speed rail, telecommunications corporations that want to cash in on the demand for broadband all benefitted from the decisions made by the governor in January. Now, in February, the governor says that Wisconsin needs to end collective bargaining for public employees and teachers and alter the way in which the state operates on multiple levels in order to address a fiscal “crisis.” MORE...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WA: MJ Legalization Bill Dies in State Legislature (with video)

Now that Sen. Dickerson's Pot legalization bill, video (02:20) has died in the WA State Senate, Sensible Washington's new initiative campaign (I-1135) will be only way for this to happen here in 2011.

Matt Taibbi: "Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?" (video)

Democracy Now! with video (10:33):
"Nobody goes to jail,” writes Matt Taibbi in the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine. “This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth." Taibbi explains how the American people have been defrauded by Wall Street investors and how the financial crisis is connected to the situations in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio.

"President Barack Obama holds a copy of 'Griftopia' during a meeting in the Oval office with the American Booksellers Association January 20, 2011."

Surprised?: "Billionaire Brothers’ Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute" (NY Times)

UPDATE: John Nichols & Matt Rothschild discuss the lesser-known, but huge, implications of the "Wisconsin Union-Busting," GRITtv, video (13:00)

"David H. Koch, left, and Charles G. Koch have long used their wallets to promote fiscal conservatism and combat regulation."

Eric Lipton (NY Times):
Among the thousands of demonstrators who jammed the Wisconsin State Capitol grounds this weekend was a well-financed advocate from Washington who was there to voice praise for cutting state spending by slashing union benefits and bargaining rights.

The visitor, Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, told a large group of counterprotesters who had gathered Saturday at one edge of what otherwise was a mostly union crowd that the cuts were not only necessary, but they also represented the start of a much-needed nationwide move to slash public-sector union benefits.

“We are going to bring fiscal sanity back to this great nation,” he said.

What Mr. Phillips did not mention was that his Virginia-based nonprofit group, whose budget surged to $40 million in 2010 from $7 million three years ago, was created and financed in part by the secretive billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch. MORE...

"John T. Williams "Police Brutality" By:K.R.U.E." (video)

cloughchandler88, video (04:11):
This song was written by KRUE in hopes that people will stop backing down from police when they start abusing their power. John T. Williams was a talented man that had made some mistakes in his life but had every right to live. That right was taken away when another case of seattle police brutality occurred, this time the end result was a man's life.
H/t to Revel Smith.

Monday, February 21, 2011

(Updated with video ) "The Coming Shutdowns and Showdowns: What’s Really at Stake"

UPDATE: Richard Wolff looks at this issue from another angle: He asks does "stimulus" work and who should pay when it doesn't, truthout, video, (05:12)?

Robert Reich:
So the problem isn't that "we've" been spending too much. It's that most Americans have been getting a steadily smaller share of the nation's total income.

At the same time, the super-rich have been contributing a steadily-declining share of their own incomes in taxes to support what the nation needs -- both at the federal and at the state levels.

The coming showdowns and shutdowns must not mask what's going on. Democrats should make sure the public understands what's really at stake.

Yes, of course, wasteful and unnecessary spending should be cut. That means much of the defense budget, along with agricultural subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare. MORE...

"Wisconsin Revolts: A Stirring Video Chronicle"

Peter Rothberg (The Nation), with video (05:38):
We want to commend University of Wisconsin, Madison staff member and former student Matthew Wisniewski [1] for his superb video chronicle of the protests in Madison and recommend it as essential viewing to understand why Madison just witnessed the largest protest in its protest-rich history. [2]

A masterful videographer, Wisniewski won the 2008 Wisconsin News Photographers Association’s College Photographer of the Year Award and brings his nuanced eye, as well as his good taste in music, to these videos.

The short film illuminates the passions that have been provoked, the broad-based opposition to Governor Scott Walker's efforts to destroy public sector unionism in his state, and, just possibly, the stirrings of a popular grassroots movement largely dormant since the week-long protests in Seattle [3] against the WTO more than a decade ago. (And watch at 2:30 of the first video for a stirring cameo by The Nation's John Nichols.)

Howie P.S.: From "Jesse Jackson Tells 50,000 in Wisconsin: 'This is a Martin Luther King Moment!'" (John Nichols-The Nation):
There is no question that the Wisconsinites have taken inspiration from international events. They say as much, mocking the governor as “Hosni Walker.”

But the real connection, the deeper connection, is to the civil rights era, when Wisconsin students and labor leaders were among the most ardent northern backers of the freedom struggle. Union halls in Wisconsin invariably post photos from when King visited, or when their members joined the March or Washington for Jobs and Freedom. And prominent Wisconsinites of a certain age, such as Ed Garvey, the future leader of the National Football Players Association and Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate, proudly recall “going south” as Freedom Riders.

Now, says Jackson, with Walker’s attempt to break the state’s public employee and teachers unions. Jackson sees an attempt to bring some of the crudest structural characteristics of the South to Northern states such as Wisconsin. “The right-to-work laws, the barriers to unions, these were put in place to prevent workers from coming together, to keep black and white divided, to make it impossible for everyone to rise together,” explained Jackson. “Now, after all these years, they are bringing them north.” MORE...

Message War: "The Tea Party is winning"

E. J. Dionne:
The media are full of commentary on President Obama's "failure of leadership." There is some truth to the critique but not in the way the charge is typically made.

Obama is not at fault for his budget proposals. But any fair examination of the news suggests that he is in danger of losing control of the national narrative again, just as he did during the stimulus and health-care battles.

In his State of the Union address, Obama made a good case that budget cutting is too small an agenda and that this is also a time for more government - yes, more government - in areas that would expand opportunities and strengthen the economy. That argument has been entirely drowned out. If politics is reduced to a crabbed and crabby accountants' war, Obama loses. The country will, too.MORE...

Howie P.S.: I think it's a mistake to say the Tea Party is "winning." They are just the willing pawns (mouthpieces, if you prefer) for the extremely wealthy and powerful interests who are behind them.

Chris Bowers : "Are you watching what’s happening in Wisconsin?"

Chris Bowers (Daily Kos):
Are you watching what’s happening in Wisconsin? I’m so inspired by the teachers, nurses, firefighters and everyone who is rising up against the corporate teabagger agenda that I can hardly sleep!

I’ve got some amazing news. Whether it’s people fighting back against a Republican attempt to dismantle workers’ rights in their own state, or it’s a gathering to show solidarity for those fighting back elsewhere, the rallies are spreading around the country. In fact, one is happening this week close to where you live.

Our friends at SEIU have compiled a list of all these rallies. Click here to see the list. Then find the one near you, RSVP, and hit the streets.

This could be a turning point for our movement. We can defend workers' rights and reclaim the political energy nationwide, but we have to act immediately.

Please, RSVP to attend a solidarity rally near you.

In solidarity,
Chris Bowers
Campaign Director, Daily Kos

Frank Rich on "The G.O.P.’s Post-Tucson Traumatic Stress Disorder"

Frank Rich:
An opposition this adrift from reality — whether about Obama’s birth certificate, history unfolding in the Middle East or the consequences of a federal or state government shutdown — is a paper tiger. It’s a golden chance for the president to seize the moment. What we don’t know is if he sees it that way. As we’ve learned from his track record both in the 2008 campaign and in the White House, he sometimes coasts at these junctures or lapses into a pro forma bipartisanship that amounts, for all practical purposes, to inertia.

Obama’s outspokenness about the labor battle in Wisconsin offers a glimmer of hope that he might lead the fight for what many Americans, not just Democrats, care about — from job creation to an energy plan to an attack on the deficit that brackets the high-end Bush-era tax cuts with serious Medicare/Medicaid reform and further strengthening of the health care law. Will he do so? The answer to that question is at least as mysterious as the identity of whatever candidate the desperate G.O.P. finds to run against him. MORE...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bob Marley—"Get Up Stand Up" (video)

National Geographic, with video (03:36):
Bob Marley and the Wailers introduced the world to Jamaican reggae in the 1970s. This 1973 classic remains an anthem for human rights today.

"Conason: Why do Social Security's self-described saviors 'hate Social Security'?"

Joan McCarter (Daily Kos):
He presents those facts: the benefits are very modest, averaging $1,170 a month, or about $14,000 a year (among the least generous retirement programs among all the developed nations); Social Security as is will be solvent until 2037, and the measures required to extend solvency beyond that are minor. As Conason says, there is no reason to panic, and "certainly no reason to consider wholesale changes in benefits." MORE...
Howie P.S.: Full disclosure---I am now "on the dole," as one of my Palin-loving friends @ work told me. Yes, I have a few Palin-loving friends. Somebody has to be there for them when they need to reboot. BTW that's Joan in the photo, above.

"Conn. governor's approach to budget mess is unique"

While other governors are waging tense battles with state employees, proposing deep spending cuts and taking no-tax-increase pledges to cover their budget shortfalls, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy - whose wealthy state faces the largest per capita deficit in the nation - is taking a different tack.

The state's first Democratic governor in two decades, Malloy is unapologetic about proposing a budget that raises taxes on everything from personal income to haircuts. And while he's calling for $2 billion in savings and labor concessions over two years from state employees, Malloy acknowledges he doesn't want to carry through on a threat to lay off thousands if a deal can't be reached.

Malloy also admits he's "not one of those people who dislikes government," a defiant political statement these days given the national tea party movement and demands for major cuts in government spending.

"I think we're a very different state. I think our people want different things and I'm trying to find the right match of cuts, consolidations and revenue, and that's what I'm trying to do," Malloy told The Associated Press during an interview in his Capitol office. "We need a Connecticut approach that works for Connecticut." MORE...
Howie P.S.: I lived in the "Constitution State" for two months long ago and I can still feel the nostalgia. Jeepers! Here's another governor with a crazy idea: "Minnesota Governor Proposes Tax Increase for Wealthiest Residents" (NY Times).

Lakoff: "What Conservatives Really Want"

George Lakoff:
The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.

The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women's rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting and on and on.

Budget deficits are a ruse, as we've seen in Wisconsin, where the Governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement. MORE...
Howie P.S.: I ran into Rep. Eileen Cody (WA-34) and thanked her for her bill to "cut $150 million in corporate tax breaks" in Washington state.

"Ed Schultz Demands Rush Limbaugh “Wrap [His] Fat Ass In The Flag” Over WI Protests" (with video)

Frances Martel (MEDIAite) with video (03:51) from MSNBC-ED Show:
Sometimes, watching Ed Schultz in front of a crowd shouting about politics, one can’t help wonder if he is the reincarnated spirit of some controversial figure of the French Revolution. Schultz has been having a field day with the Wisconsin union protests, reporting live on the scene as a mass of hundreds behind him approve of every word he says. The more vulgar, the louder the crowd– Schultz’s most popular being a demand to Rush Limbaugh to go “wrap your fat ass in the flag.”

That demand came about in response to several claims from Limbaugh against the protesters– calling the union members “freeloaders” and questioning their patriotism. Schultz went through one of his trademark angry tirades against Limbaugh, bringing up his past drug use and ultimately calling for him to “wrap your fat ass in the flag.” Before arriving at that substantive conclusion, however, he thanked the firefighters who worked on the response to the September 11th attacks before accusing Limbaugh of calling them specifically freeloaders (for which Limbaugh received some boos from the crowd). He also played some call-and-response with the crowd, asking if they were freeloaders. MORE...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Sec. Hillary Clinton Defends Reproductive Rights and Family Planning" (video)

RH Reality Check, video (03:26):
Hillary Clinton provides perhaps the best argument defending Planned Parenthood (Video, 2009).

LiveStreaming Video from Madison, Wisconsin (video)

theuptake on Broadcast Live Free

The Uptake, live streaming video.

Howie P.S.:
From the NY Times,"Wisconsin Leads Way as Workers Fight State Cuts":
The unrest in Wisconsin this week over Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to cut the bargaining rights and benefits of public workers is spreading to other states.

Already, protests erupted in Ohio this week, where another newly elected Republican governor, John Kasich, has been seeking to take away collective bargaining rights from unions.

In Tennessee, a law that would abolish collective bargaining rights for teachers passed a State Senate committee this week despite teachers’ objections. Indiana is weighing proposals to weaken unions. Union members in Pennsylvania, who are not necessarily facing an attack on their bargaining rights, said Friday that they planned to wear red next week to show solidarity with the workers in Wisconsin.

In many states, Republicans who came to power in the November elections, often by defeating union-backed Democrats, are taking aim not only at union wages, but at union power as they face budget gaps in the years ahead.

The images from Wisconsin — with its protests, shutdown of some public services and missing Democratic senators, who fled the state to block a vote — evoked the Middle East more than the Midwest.

The parallels raise the inevitable question: Is Wisconsin the Tunisia of collective bargaining rights? MORE...
UPDATE II: Just now the crowd is singing Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up!"

UPDATE III: Now the crowd is singing labor songs.