Monday, February 28, 2011

Libya Learns from US Right's Approach to Wikileaks-- Treats Journalists as Terrorists

By Rob Kall

James_Redfield, author of the bestselling Celestine Prophecy, recently tweeted a quote from his new book, The Twelth Insight, "..Karma has nothing to do with payback. It reflects back to you what you're doing."

Now, we are seeing the regime of perhaps the worst, most despicable dictator, Muamar Gaddafi, doing to American journalists what America's "Right" has done to the journalists at Wikileaks, treating them like terrorists. I can't imagine a more ironic, real reflection of Redfield's definition of Karma.

The US State department has issued a warning:

Notice to the Press
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 24, 2011

In meetings with senior Libyan government officials, U.S. diplomats were told that some members of CNN, BBC Arabic and Al Arabiya would be allowed into the country to report on the current situation. These same senior officials also said that some reporters had entered the country illegally and that the Libyan government now considered these reporters Al Qaida collaborators.

The Libyan government said that it was not responsible for the safety of these journalists, who risked immediate arrest on the full range of possible immigration charges. Foreign journalists already in Libya who are not part of the approved teams were urged to immediately join the approved teams in-country.

Be advised, entering Libya to report on the events unfolding there is additionally hazardous with the government labeling unauthorized media as terrorist collaborators and claiming they will be arrested if caught.

This is what happens when members of congress, like Peter King, (R-NY) call for treating a genuine, revolutionary, heroic news organization like Wikileaks as a terrorist group. King wrote, ""WikiLeaks appears to meet the legal criteria... WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States."

CNET reports that on November 28, on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough challenged King, saying, "But you know you can't--you can't designate them a terror outfit."

King replied, "Oh, Joe, I mean, we have to--I don't think we should write that off that quickly and say we can't do it. I mean, they are assisting in terrorist activity. The information they are giving is being used by al-Qaeda. It's being used by our enemies."

Even that nuance, from King, tying our journalists to Al Qaeda, was picked up by Gaddafi.

Fox News took a position on Wikileaks, with an article titled, "Yes, WikiLeaks Is a Terrorist Organization and the Time to Act Is NOW," penned by K.T. McFarland, a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of's DefCon 3 10 AM propagandashow.

Representative King is now the Chairman of the Homeland Security committee. He's just getting started setting examples that dictators, fascists and tyrants can model and use to excuse their behavior. This is what the tea party has wrought, putting a right wing majority into power in the United States.

What Is Globalization?

The American Dream
Waking People Up And Getting Them To Realize That The American Dream Is Quickly Becoming The American Nightmare

What is globalization? Well, if you ask 100 different Americans you will probably get 100 different answers. Many people view globalization as harmless or even as a good thing. Other Americans believe that the United States will never be integrated into a global economic and political system. Still others view it as a future threat that has not arrived yet. Those that consider it to be a future threat are concerned that at some point American sovereignty will end and at that point economic and political power will be handed over to a "world government". Well, the truth is that all of those points of view are missing the point.

Globalization has been happening for decades and it is already very, very far advanced. The U.S. government has already surrendered massive amounts of political and economic power to global organizations such as the UN, the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank. In particular, our economy has been almost entirely merged into the emerging one world economy. Just because we still have a government in Washington D.C. and just because we are still using U.S. dollars does not mean that we still possess our economic independence. The truth is that global bureaucrats have a stunning amount of control over our economy right now, and even as you read this most of the consumer products sold in our stores are made on the other side of the world.

So what is globalization? In an economic sense, it is the integration of the national economies of the world. Just because we don't have a "one world government" yet and just because we all aren't paying our bills with implantable microchips yet does not mean that the global economic system has not arrived.

In fact, if someday the United States is merged into a one world government, that doesn't mean that our current government would disappear. It is likely that it would just be made subordinate to the global government, kind of like how our state governments have been made subordinate to the federal government in Washington D.C.

Trade is one of the primary tools of those seeking to implement globalization. This is something that a large percentage of those that are concerned about a "New World Order" fail to realize. Most people keep their eyes focused on the political realm, but the globalists realize that once you get control of money and trade you are a long way towards winning the game.

Wikipedia defines globalization in this manner....
"Globalization describes the process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a global network of political ideas through communication, transportation, and trade."

That is exactly what is happening right now. Our "regional economy" and culture are becoming integrated with the rest of the world. Many applaud this change, but it also means that everything that once made America "exceptional" is being lost as we are merged into a new global system.

Fortunately, many Americans are starting to wake up to the threat of globalization. In particular, large numbers of Americans now realize that globalization is sending millions of our jobs overseas and it is destroying the standard of living of America's middle class.

According to a brand new Washington Post poll, only 36 percent of Americans consider "the increasing interconnection of the global economy" to be a positive thing. Back in 2001, 60 percent of Americans believed that globalization was a positive thing.

In particular, the decline in support for globalization has been the most pronounced among Republicans. Back in 2001, 57 percent of Republicans considered globalization to be beneficial, but only 27 percent of Republicans do so today.

That is a monumental shift in just ten years. It demonstrates that the endless propaganda that leaders from both political parties have been feeding us is not working.

We were promised that free trade agreements such as NAFTA and conferring "most favored nation" status on nations such as China would be incredibly good for our economy.

But now it is evident that our politicians were dead wrong about globalization.

As millions upon millions of Americans families have lost their jobs and their homes, the mood in the country towards all of these free trade agreements has turned sour. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last year discovered that 69 percent of Americans now believe that free trade agreements have cost America jobs.

Not only that, but there is strong "anti-globalization" sentiment in the new political movements that have sprung up in this country. For example, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll referenced above found that 61 percent of "Tea Party sympathizers" believe that free trade has hurt the United States.

So exactly how have these free trade agreements hurt us?

In a previous article, I described what has been happening to so many of the good jobs that the U.S. economy used to produce....
Do you need a job? Are you wondering where all the good jobs went? Well, the next time you are out just walk into a store and start looking at the product labels. Most of the things that are sold in our stores are now made out of the country. So if you need a good paying job to support your family that is just too bad - you have been merged into a global labor pool where you must compete for jobs with people on the other side of the globe willing to work for less than a tenth of what you usually make. Welcome to the "one world economy" where big global corporations make a fortune exploiting slave labor on the other side of the world while "overly expensive American workers" get dumped out on the street.

In the new global system, multinational corporations can shop for labor almost anywhere they want. So why should they give American workers good wages and good benefits when they can legally pay large numbers of workers on the other side of the globe slave labor wages and get away with it?

For blue collar American workers, globalization has turned out to be a very, very bad deal. Most blue collar workers only have their labor to offer in the marketplace. But now since they must compete with slave labor in other countries, the labor of these blue collar workers has become greatly devalued.

This is having a devastating impact on manufacturing in the United States. In 1959, manufacturing represented 28 percent of all U.S. economic output. In 2008, it represented only 11.5 percent and it continues to fall.

Much of the jobs and industries that have been outsourced have gone to nations such as China. The American public sees this and is beginning to view China as a tremendous economic threat. A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted earlier this month found that 61 percent of Americans consider China to be a threat to our jobs and economic security.

But Barack Obama and most of the other top politicians in this country continue to insist that we need even stronger economic ties with nations such as China.

It is absolute insanity.

So if we have decided that we are not going to make things in this country anymore, what kind of jobs are average Americans going to do in this new global economy?

Well, millions of Americans are just going to have to learn such phrases as....

"Welcome to Wal-Mart!"

"Our specials tonight are...."

"Would you like fries with that?"

For millions of other Americans there simply will not be any jobs.

If you don't like that I guess you can just move to China and apply for a $1.50 an hour job with no benefits.

You see, one of the things that globalization is ultimately all about is transferring power, wealth and control out of the hands of the middle class and into the hands of the global elite. The entire system is designed to funnel money into their hands and leave the rest of humanity fighting over a smaller and smaller slice of the pie.

This is not communism and it is certainly not capitalism. It is probably best described as "neo-feudalism", and it is a system that will strip virtually all of our liberties and freedoms away if we allow it to.

If you don't believe this is already happening, then please see an article I previously authored entitled "No Jobs, No Hope, No Future: 27 Signs That America’s Poverty Class Is Rapidly Becoming Larger Than America’s Middle Class" that lists 27 statistics that prove that the U.S. middle class is being rapidly wiped out.

Unless the American people wake up and take back control of the political process, global economic trends will eventually almost completely wipe out our once massive middle class.

Globalization is here and it is happening right now. It is destroying what still remains of the once great U.S. capitalist system. As our economy continues to be merged with the economies of the rest of the world, our standard of living will inevitably sink to match the standard of living that the rest of the world enjoys.

The entire game is changing. All of the things that you were taught about trade and economics as you were growing up are being turned upside down. Globalization is a complete and total nightmare. Hopefully the American people will wake up before it is too late.

Are public unions our convenient economic scapegoats?

Fortune: CNN
By Elizabeth G. Olson, contributor

The tumultuous scenes in Wisconsin's capital -- with public workers fiercely defending their collective bargaining rights and opponents calling for their curtailment -- might seem to come out of nowhere.

But the recent events in Madison are part of a long, and rocky, history between public employees and the governments they serve -- a relationship that often turns especially sour during harsh economic times.

The vast majority of states have allowed collective bargaining for some 50 years, and three-fourths of states allow it for most or all public sector employees.

"It's largely been non-controversial, and the basic right to bargain has been well established for decades," says Joseph Slater, a professor of labor law at the University of Toledo College of Law.

Such rights became commonplace after World War II. In 1959, Wisconsin, ironically enough, became the first state to allow public employees to bargain collectively.

But despite the middle-class financial security that union-negotiated pacts bring to workers, their ranks have steadily diminished over the years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that last year just under 12% of American workers were unionized. That figure was lower than previous years, and was nearly half the 20.1% of unionized workers recorded in 1983, the first year such information was collected officially.

Union membership for public sector workers, however, has always been a rocky proposition for the American public. The latest federal figures, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, show that union membership among public sector workers was 36.2% last year, a rate about five times higher than the 6.9% for private sector workers -- a divide that appears to have been widened by the troubled economy.

The current conflict, which already has spread to Ohio and Indiana, states that are also facing crippling budget problems, highlights a continuing public unease over whether public workers should unionize.

The inflammatory issue has cropped up from time to time, notably when former President Ronald Reagan fired the nation's air traffic controllers en masse when they refused to return to work after striking for better working conditions.

The issue surfaced again during the George W. Bush years over whether government employees who work in homeland or airport security could join unions, and have the right to strike. And, public resentment and anger flared recently when Detroit automakers needed federal assistance to dig out of their financial hole, some of which was blamed on overly generous wage and benefit packages for unionized auto workers.

This time, gaping shortfalls in state budgets have pushed the contentious issue to the fore, as public officials scramble to slash expenditures without taking the universally unpopular step of raising taxes.

Some officials blame generous union-negotiated health and other benefits for budget overruns. Scott Walker, Wisconsin's Republican governor, is trying to limit union bargaining strictly to wages, and eliminate negotiation over other aspects including working hours, health care and vacations. So far, the state's assembly -- without a quorum that requires Democratic lawmakers -- voted to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights in an early-morning vote last Friday, but the conflict is far from settled.

Union critics, such as James Sherk, a labor economist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, call union benefits "gold-plated" and far more generous than what other workers receive -- using money, he maintains, that should be spent on services or returned to taxpayers.

Public unions, he says, "don't negotiate over how to divide profits, they negotiate for the government to spend more on their members."

As a result, he said, "unionized government employees enjoy benefits that few private-sector workers can dream of." That includes job security, retiring with a full pension in their mid-50s, contributing little or nothing to their health-care costs and ample health benefits.

These benefits, he argues, "are driving state and local governments into insolvency." Retirement plans for state and local governments are "$3 trillion in the red."

Despite what are viewed as steep overruns generated by public benefits programs, are unions and public employee benefits really to blame for the enormous budget crises throughout the nation?

"Unionized workers didn't sow the seeds of the economic downturn, deregulation of the financial industry did," says Robert Bruno, a University of Illinois professor of labor and employment relations. "We've suffered billions in losses because of greed, gross mismanagement and illegal activity in the financial industry."

"Unions are an easy target because the largest cost in a state budget is always labor," says Bruno, who studies employee and union issues. "Why are we scapegoating teachers? Is the American love affair with capitalism so irrational that it knows no bounds?"

Joseph Slater at Toledo's law school agrees: "It's easy to paint a portrait of public workers as overpaid, not working very hard and being fat cats on the tax dollar. But there's no correlation between collective bargaining and the state budget crises."

For example, huge state pension obligations - which have grabbed headlines because of state underfunding, and which Sherk points to as a major deficit-maker for states, are not the result of collective bargaining.

"The vast majority of states have pensions set by law, not by collective bargaining," Slater says. "So it's a common misperception that these costs are a result of collective bargaining."

For now, cash-strapped states are not allowed to go bankrupt, but negotiated public employee benefits and wages could be wiped out if states like Wisconsin or Ohio require a bailout from the federal government.

If states were allowed to declare bankruptcy, Bruno says, "that could spell the wholesale destruction of all state-based union contracts, as well as provisions for pensions and health care.

"In one broad stroke, you could de-unionize the public sector," says Bruno.

Labor supporters fear that in the short-term labor unions may well be dealt a major blow. President Barack Obama did not help, says Bruno, when he ordered a two-year freeze of government employee salaries as part of trimming the federal government deficit.

"He sent a signal that public sector workers do not merit a raise, therefore they are part of the problem," Bruno says.

Abridging worker rights "can do serious damage to a modern working economy," he says. "A whole lot more is at risk than balancing the budget in a few states."

But by trying to eviscerate collective bargaining, officials also may "tap into the American sense of fair play and things could change," he adds, "Americans don't like bullies."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Way We Live Now: Fact-Free Science

The New York Times

President Obama has made scientific innovation the cornerstone of his plans for “winning the future,” requesting in his recent budget proposal large financing increases for scientific research and education and, in particular, sustained attention to developing alternative energy sources and technologies. “This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” he declared in his State of the Union address last month.

It would be easier to believe in this great moment of scientific reawakening, of course, if more than half of the Republicans in the House and three-quarters of Republican senators did not now say that the threat of global warming, as a man-made and highly threatening phenomenon, is at best an exaggeration and at worst an utter “hoax,” as James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, once put it. These grim numbers, compiled by the Center for American Progress, describe a troubling new reality: the rise of the Tea Party and its anti-intellectual, anti-establishment, anti-elite worldview has brought both a mainstreaming and a radicalization of antiscientific thought.

The politicization of science isn’t particularly new; the Bush administration was famous for pressuring government agencies to bring their vision of reality in line with White House imperatives. In response to this, and with a renewed culture war over the very nature of scientific reality clearly brewing, the Obama administration tried to initiate a pre-emptive strike earlier this winter, issuing a set of “scientific integrity” guidelines aimed at keeping the work of government scientists free from ideological pollution. But since taking over the House of Representatives, the Republicans have packed science-related committees with lawmakers who refute such basic findings as the reality of global warming and the threats of climate change. Fred Upton, the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has said outright that he does not believe that global warming is man-made. John Shimkus of Illinois, who also sits on the committee — as well as on the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment — has said that the government doesn’t need to make a priority of regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, because as he put it late last year, “God said the earth would not be destroyed by a flood.”

Whoever emerges as the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 will very likely have to embrace climate-change denial. Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee, all of whom once expressed some support for action on global warming, have notably distanced themselves from these views. Saying no to mainstream climate science, notes Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow and director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress, is now a required practice for Republicans eager to play to an emboldened conservative base. “Opposing the belief that global warming is human-caused has become systematic, like opposition to abortion,” he says. “It’s seen as another way for government to control people’s lives. It’s become a cultural issue.”

That taking on the scientific establishment has become a favored activity of the right is quite a turnabout. After all, questioning accepted fact, revealing the myths and politics behind established certainties, is a tactic straight out of the left-wing playbook. In the 1960s and 1970s, the push back against scientific authority brought us the patients’ rights movement and was a key component of women’s rights activism. That questioning of authority veered in a more radical direction in the academy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when left-wing scholars doing “science studies” increasingly began taking on the very idea of scientific truth.

This was the era of the culture wars, the years when the conservative University of Chicago philosopher Allan Bloom warned in his book “The Closing of the American Mind” of the dangers of liberal know-nothing relativism. But somehow, in the passage from Bush I to Bush II and beyond, the politics changed. By the mid-1990s, even some progressives said that the assault on truth, particularly scientific truth, had gone too far, a point made most famously in 1996 by the progressive New York University physicist Alan Sokal, who managed to trick the left-wing academic journal Social Text into printing a tongue-in-cheek article, written in an overblown parody of dense academic jargon, that argued that physical reality, as we know it, may not exist.

Following the Sokal hoax, many on the academic left experienced some real embarrassment. But the genie was out of the bottle. And as the political zeitgeist shifted, attacking science became a sport of the radical right. “Some standard left arguments, combined with the left-populist distrust of ‘experts’ and ‘professionals’ and assorted high-and-mighty muckety-mucks who think they’re the boss of us, were fashioned by the right into a powerful device for delegitimating scientific research,” Michael Bérubé, a literature professor at Pennsylvania State University, said of this evolution recently in the journal Democracy. He quoted the disillusioned French theorist Bruno Latour, a pioneer of science studies who was horrified by the climate-change-denying machinations of the right: “Entire Ph.D. programs are still running to make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth . . . while dangerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives.”

Some conservatives argue that the Republican war on science is bad politics and that catering to the “climate-denier sect” in the party is a dangerous strategy, as David Jenkins, a member of Republicans for Environmental Protection wrote recently on the FrumForum blog. Public opinion, after all, has not kept pace with Republican rhetoric on the topic of climate change. A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted in January found that 83 percent of Americans want Congress to pass legislation promoting alternative energy, and a recent poll by the Opinion Research Corporation found that almost two-thirds want the Environmental Protection Agency to be more aggressive.

For those who have staked out extreme positions, backtracking may not be easy: “It is very difficult to get a man to understand something when his tribal identity depends on his not understanding it,” Bérubé notes. Maybe it’s time for some new identity politics.

America: D.O.A.

What if...America is dead and we just don't know it???

The once great United States of America Inc.has now dropped to the 34th ranking country where one should live when considering issues such as: freedom/lifestyle/health/health care/entertainment/living standards/life expectancy/cost of living/education/crime/weather/etc...

Most Americans rarely travel abroad - and when they do they are increasingly unwelcome due to their government's inhumane foreign policy. Most Americans do not know that Canadians for example, trust the Chinese more than their once favourite brother, the great neighbour to the south. All Americans have been brainwashed since birth through the media, culture and the edcational system that America is the best country in the world to live in. Unfortunately it is a delusion that the American sheeple swallow like chili dogs. Pigs in their fecal-laden mud do not know the wonders of the world. Travel to the South American islands, to Hong Kong, St. Maarten, beyond the equator. Most of Europe is friendly and relatively non-toxic compared to the filth which engulfs most major U.S. cities.

Italy, Poland, Russia - all greet visitors as guests to their countries and are treated with respect. Unfortunately Americans are greeted with little respect do to their government's increasingly madness and brutality towards innocent, defenseless nations. Yet these facts are hidden from the corporate controlled media. The recently deceased honourable truth-seeker and investigative journalist Sherman Skolnik referred to the the media as "...the oil-soaked monopoly press.." The view of America from afar for many is that of an ugly octopus with slimy tentacles whose aim is to control, manipulate and disfigure governments, economies, currencies and military configurations into its favour.

The ugly slimy octopus which requires "human sacrifice", the sucking of cheap labour from third world countries, astronomical debt and confidence with the American people in it's Orwellian "Homeland" is about to come to an end. America has sold much of its assets off to foreign lands to forestall foreclosure on the inevitable, waged wars to distract the world and its "citizens" but the end is at hand. In fact it has arrived. Just as a spider's legs keep moving after they are cut off, that is what has happened to America, the great octopus.

America the Beautiful? America is dead and is in rigor mortise. The decaying corpse, shaking in its misery now borrows $1.8 billion each and every day to pay the interest on its debt. This amount equates to an incredible 80% of the rest of the world's entire day's savings! Yet the American sheeple are asleep to these facts. American Idol, CNN and '24' just don't mention these non-important facts. Keep the sheeple focused on illegal immigrunts and the increasing price of gas. The lie lives hence the economy is booming. As Dictator Bush said, "Go out and shop..." Walmart/Chinamart is run by the Chinese military. Chinamart now controls 8% of America's retail sales. How much longer can the American public even afford $30 dvd players to support the Chinese government when all that they get in return are U.S. notes which are basically notes of debt?

The jig is up... The collapse of America has been planned for many years. No voting for any party will make any difference. Americans are living in a fantasy world where they think that the party will just keep on going - and that the only problem is with their government. Simple economics does not enter the minds of the dumbed down, buttered turkey stuffed social security numbered owners of massive debt that cannot be repayed due to the massive Federal Reserve pyramid scheme fraud which creates money out of nothing.

The once great United States of America at one time held 3 years of grain in reserve for its citizens in case of a natural disaster. Don't worry, there is enough food in stores across the country to last the population now for 3 days. Hungry when the bottom drops? Time to fight for food. Did you throw away your Y2K food?

Illegal immigrants that do not belong in your country can gather 700,000 wetbacks to sway Congressional policy. American have become soft and fat. They wouldn't rally for anything unless they could drive their SUVs or pickups to a barbecue with free steaks.The poor Gringo has no idea of the power which our treasonous government has to trigger immediate havoc with respect to racial war with the already invaded army of Mexicans. Bush and Vincente Fox, an admitted Jew, have likely prepositioned those who believe parts of America belong to Mexico to ignite the "fire." Who will stand up to America and its foundation of being a Democratic Republic?

The treasonous government would love to impose martial law and watch the slaughter and chaos. From chaos comes order. Take a look at your dollar bill. As for Americans, a few would fight back, but most are conditioned to cower in fear and wait for FEMA to rescue them. Few understand that FEMA is designed to protect the President and the shadow government, only 10% of its funding is put towards disaster/emergency relief. Remember, you have to protect the speech reader/President just in case the sheeple wake up and realize that just maybe the corruption comes from the visible top. Unfortunately the real decision makers, the Bildeberg Group will be meeting in Ottawa, Canada on June 8.

Where are the Hippies of the 70's??? They are old and mostly satiated with wealth or looking after their grown up children. Where is the new rejuvenated generation which recognizes the fascist regime that has taken over our government? Well, the planned Communistic dumbing down of the public system has worked wonders. A generation of youth/young adults have been poisoned with over 30 vaccinations, 1,000's of diet sodas containing aspartame, food laced with excitotoxins and water complete with all the fluoride Nazis used to make concentration camp occupants compliant.

Americans, get out while you can... because they will chip you like animals and dispose of you and or let you starve.

Beck is losing it before our eyes

MSNBC Morning Joe

On Friday's "Morning Joe," Joe Scarborough said Glenn Beck has gone "out of control" and is "bad for the conservative movement."

Scarborough started by playing a clip of a particularly agitated and angry Beck. He was not happy with what he saw.

"I've been telling conservatives for about two years, this guy is bad for the movement," Scarborough said. "This guy is losing it before our eyes. He's bad for the conservative movement. He's bad for the Republican Party. He's bad for Fox News...even guys over at Fox News have to start thinking, this can't last. He's out of control."

Scarborough then read a blog post by conservative commentator Peter Wehner. "Glenn Beck has become the most disturbing personality on cable television," Wehner wrote. Scarborough clearly seemed to agree with that assessment.

"He throws bombs out all the time," he said. "It's the conspiracy theories that are the most dangerous because that gets people acting out."

Scarborough has previously said that Beck is delivering a "vile message" to the country.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The 10 Craziest Glenn Beck Quotes of All Time
Ridiculous, Paranoid and Insane Utterances by FOX News Channel's Glenn Beck
By Daniel Kurtzman, Guide

1. "This president I think has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture....I'm not saying he doesn't like white people, I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist." –on President Obama, sparking an advertiser exodus from his FOX News show, July 28, 2009 (Source)

2. "I'm thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I'm wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. ... No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out. Is this wrong? I stopped wearing my What Would Jesus -- band -- Do, and I've lost all sense of right and wrong now. I used to be able to say, 'Yeah, I'd kill Michael Moore,' and then I'd see the little band: What Would Jesus Do? And then I'd realize, 'Oh, you wouldn't kill Michael Moore. Or at least you wouldn't choke him to death.' And you know, well, I'm not sure." –responding to the question "What would people do for $50 million?", "The Glenn Beck Program," May 17, 2005 (Source)

3. "When I see a 9/11 victim family on television, or whatever, I'm just like, 'Oh shut up' I'm so sick of them because they're always complaining." –"The Glenn Beck Program," Sept. 9, 2005 (Source)

4. "The only [Katrina victims] we're seeing on television are the scumbags." –"The Glenn Beck Program," Sept. 9, 2005 (Source)

5. "I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today." –on why people who lost their homes in forest fires in California had it coming, "The Glenn Beck Program," Oct. 22, 2007 (Source)

6. "I have been nervous about this interview with you because what I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies. ... And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way." –interviewing Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim U.S. congressman, Glen Beck's show on CNN's Headline News, Nov. 14, 2006 (Source)

7. "Al Gore's not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization...And you must silence all dissenting voices. That's what Hitler did. That's what Al Gore, the U.N., and everybody on the global warming bandwagon [are doing]." –"The Glenn Beck Program," May 1, 2007 (Source)

8. "So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research. ... Eugenics. In case you don't know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person. ... The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening." –"The Glenn Beck Program," March 9, 2009 (Source)

9. "You have the artwork of Mussolini there, here in New York at Rockefeller Plaza." –analyzing the artwork decorating Rockefeller Plaza, which he said contained a hammer and sickle, Glenn Beck show on FOX News Channel, Sept. 2, 2009 (Source)

10. "O-L-I-G-A-R-H-Y." –misspelling "oligarchy" on his chalk board while claiming he had deciphered a secret code that he said was proof President Obama was trying to create an "Oligarhy," Aug. 27, 2009, Glenn Beck show on FOX News Channel (Source)

Beck is a danger to America

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tea Party Shows Support for Wis. Gov. Walker, Reforms

The New American
Written by Alex Newman

After several days of enormous demonstrations organized by socialists, government-worker unions, and Democrats, a coalition of conservative and Tea Party groups rallied on Saturday, February 19, in Madison, Wisconsin, to support newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his proposals to rein in a massive budget deficit while reducing the power of state- and municipal-employee unions.

Organized in part by American Majority and other groups, the conservative rally went under the banner "I Stand with Walker." A line-up of several nationally known conservative leaders spoke to the assembled activists. Among them were “Joe the Plumber,” conservative news-media boss Andrew Breitbert, and potential presidential candidate and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain. Cain told the cheering crowd,

Over the last couple of days, America has heard from the ten percent of the workforce that now has a chance to hear from the 90 percent of the workforce. And let me tell you something about the 90 percent of the workforce that maybe the ten percent have forgotten: We pay the bills!

Cain, wearing a black cowboy hat, declared that the people of Wisconsin had elected Gov. Walker to lead, “and he is leading.” And after blaming high government spending for lost jobs and businesses, Cain suggested Wisconsin was "ground zero for taking back our nation one state at a time." The crowd cheered wildly. Finally, Cain said the state was on the verge of bankruptcy and that Gov. Walker was attempting to prevent a total disaster — being “dead broke.”

Andrew Breitbart, who runs the conservative news website and others like it, complained that teachers were calling in sick when they were not, in order to protest against the reforms. "What kind of lesson" does it teach the children that their instructors were "willing to lie," he wondered.

Executive Director Tim Phillips of the free-market activist group Americans for Prosperity, which also helped organize the rally, spoke as well. "We are going to win,” he told the crowd. “We are going to win our nation and our values." The group has collected more than 55,000 signatures so far on a petition supporting Gov. Walker.

Telling the audience that "the eyes of the entire nation are on you today," Phillips said America was undergoing a "revolution” of “fiscal sanity." He also led the activists in chanting “do your job,” referring to runaway State Senate Democrats who fled Wisconsin in an effort to prevent a vote on Gov. Walker’s proposed reforms.

Many anti-Walker protesters were also at the capitol during the tea party rally. Though some intense exchanges took place between them and tea partiers (sometimes nose to nose), physical violence did not break out and police reported there were no arrests that day. "If the eyes of the nation and the world are truly upon us, then I think we've been able to show that democracy can work well, even if those who have passionate views on different sides come together," Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

During the controversy, however, some anti-Walker protesters have been expressing their "passionate views" via violent rhetoric and signage, suggesting that physical violence is a very real possibility.

Estimates of the crowd size on Saturday varied widely, but there were at least tens of thousands of people around the capitol and several thousand Tea Party activists. One speaker at the pro-Walker rally said there were 10,000 people at the rally, while officials cited in news reports estimated the overall crowd around the capitol (both pro- and anti-Walker) at about 60,000.

On a number of occasions, the Tea Partiers chanted "pass the bill, pass the bill." They carried flags and signs in support of Gov. Walker and his proposed reforms — some humorous, other straight and to the point. Meanwhile, anti-Walker demonstrators marched around the capitol building banging drums and shouting “kill the bill, kill the bill,” among other slogans.

The Wall Street Journal, in a piece headlined “Wisconsin Protest Becomes Proxy Fight for Washington,” noted that national-level politicians including President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner had already spoken out regarding the situation in the state. The paper said the battle raging in Madison was somewhat of a microcosm for what will soon play out at the federal level and in states across the nation.

Plans for a larger, nationwide rally in support of Gov. Walker are already underway for later in the week. The non-profit American Majority, through the website, is “calling for a national demonstration of support for Scott Walker and leaders across the country who have the courage to fight the public sector union bosses — on Wednesday, February 23rd,” the group’s President, Ned Ryun, said in a statement. “This is the moment and opportunity for the tea partiers, and those who want limited government and support the free market, to stand firm against the greed and dangerous statist philosophy of the public sector unions.”

The call to action urged activists to host or attend a rally or candlelight vigil in support of Walker, Wisconsin legislators, and others like them. Another option was writing a blog post or an op-ed on the issue. Finally, Ryun asked activists to update their Facebook statuses and use the Twitter social-networking service to show their support of Gov. Walker and his policies. “We must show our politicians that we can make just as much noise when they are doing the right things as well,” Ryun said. “Now is the time to fight.”

Gov. Walker has said he will not be intimidated by the government-union protestors and that he intends to continue pushing the reforms. State Senate Democrats, meanwhile, have vowed to stay out of Wisconsin and prevent a vote on the proposals until Republicans are willing to compromise. Teachers who forced some schools to shut down by skipping work are expected to return to their posts by early this week, but more protests are likely coming as the battle spreads to other states.

Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.

The New York Times
Opinion Pages
by Paul Krugman

Here’s a thought: maybe Madison, Wis., isn’t Cairo after all. Maybe it’s Baghdad — specifically, Baghdad in 2003, when the Bush administration put Iraq under the rule of officials chosen for loyalty and political reliability rather than experience and competence.

As many readers may recall, the results were spectacular — in a bad way. Instead of focusing on the urgent problems of a shattered economy and society, which would soon descend into a murderous civil war, those Bush appointees were obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision. Indeed, with looters still prowling the streets of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy, told a Washington Post reporter that one of his top priorities was to “corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises” — Mr. Bremer’s words, not the reporter’s — and to “wean people from the idea the state supports everything.”

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.

For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.

And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”

If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it’s interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?

The good news from Wisconsin is that the upsurge of public outrage — aided by the maneuvering of Democrats in the State Senate, who absented themselves to deny Republicans a quorum — has slowed the bum’s rush. If Mr. Walker’s plan was to push his bill through before anyone had a chance to realize his true goals, that plan has been foiled. And events in Wisconsin may have given pause to other Republican governors, who seem to be backing off similar moves.

But don’t expect either Mr. Walker or the rest of his party to change those goals. Union-busting and privatization remain G.O.P. priorities, and the party will continue its efforts to smuggle those priorities through in the name of balanced budgets.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Big Oil Lobby Announces It Will Start Donating Directly To Candidates

Pat Garofalo

The American Petroleum Institute, the Big Oil industry’s chief lobbying organization, will start directly backing political candidates in the second quarter of this year. API, whose membership includes oil giants like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, already spends tens of millions of dollars every year on lobbying, advertisements and Astroturf campaigns to support the the oil industry agenda. As CAP’s Dan Weiss wrote, API “wants to drill in fragile, sensitive places, keep government tax breaks, expand offshore drilling without reforms, and block global warming pollution reduction requirements.”

“This is adding one more tool to our toolkit,” Martin Durbin, API’s executive vice president for government affairs, told Bloomberg News. “At the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy debate.” As Bloomberg pointed out, oil-supported political action committees like the Independent Petroleum Association of America overwhelmingly donate to Republican candidates.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, API spent $6.7 million on lobbying alone last year, after clearing $7 million in 2009. In 2010, API was the seventh most prolific spender in the oil and gas industry, following ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Koch Industries and BP.

API’s turn toward direct political donations is doubly problematic because, in addition to acting as the industry’s chief lobbyists, the institute runs technical committees that set standards for the oil industry. In its official report, the commission that investigated the BP oil spill found that API was too “compromised” to be setting industry standards. “Because they would make oil and gas industry operations potentially more costly, API regularly resists agency rulemakings that government regulators believe would make those operations safer, and API favors rulemaking that promotes industry autonomy from government oversight,” the commission found. And this was before API established a political action committee!

In its proposed 2012 budget, the Obama administration suggested, once again, removing the billions in subsidies that taxpayers give oil companies every year. API has been at the forefront of the lobbying fight to preserve Big Oil’s subsidies, demonizing the removal of them as new “energy taxes,” even while admitting that cutting the subsidies and plowing the money back into clean energy technology would create “a lot more jobs.”

Oil Group Starts Political Giving as Congress Weighs Repeal of Tax Breaks
By Jim Snyder

The American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil and gas industry trade group, will start backing political candidates this year as the U.S. considers repealing $46 billion in subsidies and imposing pollution rules.

The group, whose members include Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., would make donations separately from industry executives and employees, who gave $27.6 million mostly to Republican candidates for Congress last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. API has paid for advertising on policy issues and to lobby on legislation.

“This is adding one more tool to our toolkit,” said Martin Durbin, API’s executive vice president for government affairs, in an interview. “At the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy debate.”

The Obama administration is proposing to end tax breaks for energy companies and to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, actions the API says will cost jobs and cut domestic production as fuel costs rise.

Durbin declined to say how much the Washington-based group hoped to donate. API spent $7.3 million to lobby Congress and the White House last year, ranking seventh behind six oil-and- gas companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Former Republican and Democratic aides in Congress and from the White House lobby for the group. They include David Castagnetti, an ex-chief of staff to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, and Bruce Mehlman, a Commerce Department official under George W. Bush.

Balancing Donations
The oil group, which filed to set up the committee with the Federal Election Commission in May, will start distributing donations in the second quarter of this year, Durbin said. API has more than 460 members.

“Do we really need another oil-industry PAC in this city?” said Michael Gravitz, a lobbyist for Environment America who has opposed energy-industry efforts to open more areas offshore for drilling. “Their level of influence is pretty obvious, and large.”

The energy industry succeeded in blocking efforts by Congress to raise the liability oil companies would face for spills and to repeal subsidies the industry receives, he said.

Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a campaign-finance watchdog in Washington, said API may see opportunities to advance its agenda with Republicans in control of the U.S. House.

“This is the way the game is played,” she said.

Republican Donations
Oil and gas companies and groups with political committees, such as the Washington-based Independent Petroleum Association of America, gave about 77 percent, or $19.6 million, of their total contributions for 2009-2010 to the Republican party, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Oil and gas companies were the 15th largest source of political contributions leading up to the 2010 election.

Koch Industries Inc. was the industry’s largest contributor, giving $1.79 million to candidates, more than 90 percent of whom were Republicans. Exxon, which gave $1.33 million to congressional campaigns, was the second largest. More than 80 percent of Exxon’s money went to Republicans.

President Barack Obama’s proposed budget calls on Congress to repeal subsidies that would be valued at $3.6 billion for oil and gas companies in 2012. In a decade, the administration estimates the repeal would yield about $46 billion. Obama said in his State of the Union address that the industry can afford to pay higher taxes.

Tax Breaks Repealed
Congress has twice rejected requests to repeal the breaks.

The proposal would “lower revenue to the government by many billions of dollars as a result of foregone revenues from projects the tax hikes would prevent going forward,” Jack Gerard, the group’s chief executive officer, said in a statement.

API has said greenhouse-gas regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency are burdensome and a threat to the economic recovery. The agency says the rules support cleaner technologies and will lead to more “green” jobs.

America Is Losing the Resource Race

American Thinker
By Jeffrey Folks

SPaul note: It is always fascinating to me how a Conservative Republican can so clearly state an argument with so many bits of erroneous "facts". Case in point: In his diatribe, Mr. Folks states, "The anti-growth regulatory actions of the Obama administration are far too numerous to cite here, but they include the EPA's finding that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, the EPA's apparently baseless investigation of groundwater pollution from hydraulic fracturing." I wonder is he lives anywhere near the trouble zones like the Appalachia where mountaintop removal is poisoning the water supply to the point where it has become life threatening. I also have to wonder what kind of polluted environment he would create for our children by incessantly clinging to old standards of excess instead of trying to forge a path toward our future.

The Right will try to convince us all until their last breath that there is no harm in dumping deisel fuel into the ground or oil companies do not cause irreversible damage to an entire body of water like the Gulf of Mexico all to maintain a life style of gluttony and selfishness. I feel very sorry for future generations who will have to live in a world created under this type of purposeful ignorance.

Although the Obama administration seems completely oblivious of the fact, the U.S. has now embarked on a race of global proportions, one that will have even greater consequences than did the space race of fifty years ago. The resource race in which we are now engaged will determine the future prosperity, security, and very survival of America as a nation.

Our main rival in the resource race is China. Unlike our present leadership in Washington, the Chinese leadership recognizes the vital importance of natural resources. In response, they have adopted a long-term strategy to secure rights to crucial natural resources on every continent. From iron ore to coal, from farmland to oil and gas, Chinese state-controlled companies are determined to acquire the energy, minerals, and food supplies that will be necessary to propel China into the forefront of nations by the middle of the 21st century.

Evidence of this effort surfaces daily. In 2011, the Chinese are expected to acquire five times the amount of overseas resources as they did in 2004. In April 2010, the Chinese oil company "Sinopec" purchased a large stake in Canadian oil sands. Chinese companies have bought up iron ore rights in West Africa and acquired massive Australian coal reserves. In October 2010, CNOOC, a state-run Chinese oil company, acquired substantial lease rights from Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy. In joint deals with American gas-producers, the Chinese are set to acquire advanced technology necessary to exploit shale gas fields at home and overseas. They have entered into long-term joint ventures with Russia, Mongolia, Brazil, and dozens of other countries to assure a plentiful and affordable supply of resources.

What of the United States? How are we faring in the resource race?

It is true that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has spoken of an "energy race" with China, but his use of the phrase in just another Obama-appointee exercise in Orwellian newspeak. Secretary Chu is a man with no experience in the production of conventional fuels or in the private sector generally, and when he speaks of the energy race, he does not mean a race to develop greater energy resources, as one might assume. Instead, he means the destruction of our current sources of energy and their replacement by unproven and costly alternative fuels.

In other words, America has an energy secretary who is fixated on subsidizing technologies that supply only one percent of our nation's energy needs. Meanwhile, he is ignoring -- and, worse than that, undermining -- the development of the other 99%. He believes that by starving America of fossil fuels, intentionally driving up the price of gasoline to $4 a gallon, and more, he can force the public to espouse less efficient but politically correct green technologies.

Unlike China, which is pursuing a well-coordinated policy of securing resource rights, America is hobbled by an administration that is ideologically hostile to the exploitation of natural resources. Obama's fetish for green solutions has created a regulatory climate that has blocked the development of domestic resources, including mountaintop coal and offshore oil. The same bias has resulted in tax and regulatory policies such as SEC ruling 1504, which forces American resource companies to disclose lease pricing while overseas companies do not. That ruling, driven by ideological bias rather than reason, puts American companies at a disadvantage when it comes to acquiring overseas resource rights.

Another case in point is the report recently issued by the president's hand-picked drilling commission -- a commission stacked with academics, environmentalists, and Democratic politicians, but not a single representative of any resource company. By laying blame on "structural problems" in the oil industry and inadequate regulation of said industry, the commission has set the stage for greater bureaucratic control by government. The commission's recommendations include increased funding for new regulation and the lifting of liability caps on energy companies. These recommendations will delay energy exploration in the Gulf and drive all but the largest companies out of the region.

As it is, Obama's regulators have not approved a single new deep-water drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon accident, nor are they expected to until well into 2012 at the earliest. Now the president's drilling commission tells us that this is not regulation enough!

The drilling commission was one of a thousand cuts intended to bring down America's resource companies. The anti-growth regulatory actions of the Obama administration are far too numerous to cite here, but they include the EPA's finding that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, the EPA's apparently baseless investigation of groundwater pollution from hydraulic fracturing, the EPA's "war with Texas" over state-level environmental regulation of industry, the raising of CAFÉ standards for cars and trucks and the subsidy of electric vehicles, the SEC's proposal that all listed companies must assess the potential effects of climate change in their annual reports, the presidential directive to extend wilderness protections to as much as 140 million acres of public land, the blocking of offshore drilling along both coasts and offshore Alaska, and on and on.

Not content to bleed resource industries dry by regulation and taxation, the Obama administration has facilitated environmental and class-action lawsuits directed against resource companies. The Justice Department has made no effort to support companies such as Chevron facing lawsuits drummed up by American tort lawyers on the behalf of overseas peasant plaintiffs. Nor has the administration created a business-friendly legal climate in the United States, as it might by introducing "loser pays" and other fair protections for defendants against frivolous legal actions. As a result, resource companies, which are often the target of such suits, are drained of capital, and projects are stalled for decades.

In effect, Obama has sold out his country to every special interest group opposed to resource development and economic growth. Sadly, Americans will be paying the price for this administration's enslavement to these special interests for decades to come.

Unless government changes direction quickly, America is going to lose the resource race. When that happens, the effects will be devastating and permanent. Without access to cheap and reliable fuels and other resources, the U.S. will sink to the level of a second-rate nation. Having won the resource race, China will stride ahead, eventually surpassing America as a military and economic powerhouse. And for this, America will have Barack Obama to blame.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Budget Debate: Why the Only Choice We're Being Offered Is Between Bad and Worse

The Huffington Post
by Arianna Huffington

We are now locked in the great budget battle of 2011. Who will win, the president or House Republicans? It's impossible to say yet, but I do know who is going to lose: us. In fact, we've already lost. This is due, in part, to the fact that our country no longer seems capable of coming up with anything other than what Tom Friedman once called "suboptimal" solutions to our problems.

Just look at this so-called "debate" we're having. The problem ostensibly on the table is the deficit. But, without any context, the raw deficit number is meaningless. If the country's debt were, say, $50 million, that wouldn't be a big deal. If some average American suddenly found himself $50 million in debt, well, that would be a big deal. And that's because the country's GDP is a lot bigger than the average person's income. So what we're talking about is really the debt-to-GDP ratio.

Yet the debate is concentrated almost entirely on the debt side of the equation and barely at all on ways to increase the GDP side. How has the playing field of what is acceptable in this debate been so shrunken that the only two competing proposals still allowed on the field are the president's cuts and the House GOP's draconian cuts?

Well, it was no accident. And, as it turns out, there's an entire field of study based on the dynamic being played out: Agnotology. Coined by Robert Proctor, a historian of science at Stanford University, the word means the study of ignorance that is deliberately manufactured or politically or culturally generated. "People always assume that if someone doesn't know something, it's because they haven't paid attention or haven't yet figured it out," Proctor says. "But ignorance also comes from people literally suppressing truth -- or drowning it out -- or trying to make it so confusing that people stop caring about what's true and what's not."

Sound familiar? It's the process underlying practically every crisis that has befallen this country in the last decade or so. But you don't need to be a professional agnotologist to see that this pattern is endangering the future of the country.

And here we are in the middle of another budget "debate" in which the only choices being offered are largely confined to which programs in the non-military discretionary budget are going to be cut and by how much. That means almost all the cuts are limited to a portion of the budget that makes up just over 12 percent of our spending.

And the way to enact these "necessary" cuts is, to quote Council of Economic Advisers Chair Austan Goolsbee, OMB Director Jacob Lew, and President Obama himself, to make "tough choices."

But curiously omitted from all this self-congratulatory talk about making "tough choices" is any mention that the president just gave away nearly $120 billion by extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

In fact, had the administration done the right thing in December, it would have had the public on its side. Only 26 percent favored extending the cuts for everybody, with 53 percent wanting them extended only for those making less than $250,000. But the public doesn't make the rules for the debate. And so now our "tough choices" are limited to bad and worse.

The reason is easy to understand, concluded Steve Benen in the Washington Monthly: "Pesky Americans may think jobs and the economy are the most pressing national issue, but the political world has no use for such parochial concerns. The establishment has moved on."

But not only are the solutions allowed on the table by the establishment inadequate to the crisis, they'll actually do long-term damage to the country. "Slashing spending while the economy is still deeply depressed," wrote Paul Krugman last week, "is a recipe for slower economic growth, which means lower tax receipts." And, of course, that will mean (all together now) more "tough choices"!

It's a vicious circle. But it's not inevitable. It's happening because this is the choice -- and not a "tough" one -- of those who control our political debate.

We all know basically how this "debate" is going to end -- with lots of unnecessary suffering. Whether we're going to have to deal with bad choices or worse choices might still be up in the air, but let's at least stop pretending that it's a real debate and that nothing else was possible.

Union Battle in Wisconsin: Is RI Next?

by Stephen Beale, GoLocalProv News Editor

A plan to strip Wisconsin public workers of their collective bargaining rights has ignited a national controversy and drawn thousands of protestors to the state capital.

Some state reps say it’s just what Rhode Island needs—minus, perhaps, all those protests.

“I would try it in a heartbeat. Absolutely. No two ways about it,” said Doreen Costa, a freshman Republican rep from Exeter. “This state’s broke. Everybody’s got to cut.”

Costa, who is a leader in the Tea Party movement, is not alone. “I’m going to looking into putting the bill in Rhode Island just to see what happens,” said state Rep. Joe Trillo, R-Warwick. “I think the hard reality has set in, in Wisconsin. Rhode Island is still delusional.”

As part of his plan, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker also wants state workers to pay 5.8 percent toward their pensions and 12 percent of their health care benefits—saving an estimated $30 million in the last three months of the current fiscal year, which has a $137 million deficit.

Like Wisconsin, Trillo said Rhode Island has to rein in the cost of health care and retirement benefits for public employees. A Rhode Island version of what Walker has proposed, as harsh as it may sound, is better than the alternative, according to Trillo. “It’s either that or go bankrupt,” he said. “I’m thinking it’s still worth a shot to try to convince people we need to do something radical.”

‘We may be forced into a situation that may resemble Wisconsin’

One Republican leader in the state Senate agreed that the Wisconsin scenario could play out in Rhode Island. “I question if leadership in organized labor realizes that the path we are on is unsustainable,” said Frank Maher, the Deputy Minority Leader and a Republican from Exeter. “If labor is not willing to make serious concessions on behalf of their current or future membership, we may be forced into a situation that may resemble Wisconsin. I hope that doesn’t happen but the answer is not related to more taxes to fund the liability or obligations we have.”

Senator Marc Cote, D-Woonsocket, North Smithfield, also said he hopes Rhode Island doesn’t end up like Wisconsin. “I don’t think it’s necessary if you have people that are reasonable and come to the table,” Cote said. “If it can’t be achieved through that, that may be what has to happen, but I would hope that it doesn’t come to that.”

It’s not clear just how far such a proposal could get. The current political climates in the two states could not be more different: In Wisconsin, the GOP swept to power in the House and Senate in the last election while the Rhode Island General Assembly remains solidly Democratic. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a Tea Party favorite. Governor Lincoln Chafee is seen as a union ally.

State Senator John Tassoni, D-Smithfield, dismissed any local Republican efforts to replicate the Wisconsin proposal as attempts to get attention. “When they do things like this, it’s not about solutions, it’s about grabbing headlines,” said Tassoni, who is a member of the executive board of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO.

Tassoni said the tactics being used in Illinois reminded him of something out of former Gov. Don Carcieri’s playbook. But he expects better from Chafee—not necessarily because he is a union supporter, but because of the new governor’s overall approach to working with others, Tassoni said. “This is not something like rocket science,” he said. “It’s about listening to people … trying to fix the problems we have.”

‘A total devastating effect’ on unions

Stripping away collective bargaining rights would have a “devastating” impact on workers, according to the head of Rhode Island Council 94 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. “It would change everything,” said J. Michael Downey, president of the union. “You couldn’t negotiate a contract. It would just be told to you. It would have a total devastating effect on collective bargaining.”

“I think it’s a shame that people would try to strip workers of their rights,” Downey added. “We have fought long and hard … for rights in the workplace.”

He says states don’t need to whittle away collective bargaining rights in order to win concessions from unions. He points to the recent agreement between Gov. Don Carcieri and state workers on increases to health care co-pays and a dozen furlough days between 2010 and 2011 as evidence that the collective bargaining process works.

Union leader: We pay taxes too

If lawmakers are really interested in cutting the budget, Downey says they should take a look at how many outside contractors and temporary workers the state hires. A private plumber, he said, makes three to four times the hourly wage that a state-employed plumber does. Eliminating outside contractors, he said, would save money. He said reps and senators should also take a hard look at the pension benefits their former colleagues receive.

“When you can save taxpayer money, we want to know about it,” Downey said. “Public employees pay taxes too.”

Wisconsin and Rhode Island: How do they compare?

In Wisconsin, the projected deficit for fiscal year 2012 is considerably higher than Rhode Island’s—$1.8 billion compared to $290 million, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But when the deficit is viewed as a percent of their respective 2011 budgets, the two states are closer. In Wisconsin, the 2012 deficit equals 12.8 percent of what is being spent in the current year. In Rhode Island, the deficit is 9.9 percent.

When it comes to unfunded pension liabilities, however, Rhode Island is actually worse off than Wisconsin. The Badger State has an unfunded pension liability in the millions, while Rhode Island’s liability is in the billions—$252.6 million versus $4.3 billion, according to the Pew Center on the States. The center rates Wisconsin’s state pension system as a “solid performer” while Rhode Island is labeled as having “serious concerns.”

Costa and Trillo say they still have some research to do before they know how they would try to adapt the Wisconsin reforms to Rhode Island.

For one thing, it’s not clear which unions would be most affected. As in Wisconsin, Trillo said he would exempt police officers and firefighters. He also wasn’t sure state workers would be included.

He said the focus should be on teachers and municipal workers. “That’s where the most serious problems are,” Trillo said. “Unfunded pension liabilities are astronomical. They’re unsustainable and the only solution cities and towns have is to cut back services and you can’t cut enough services to solve the problem.”

Other states, such as Ohio and Indiana, are already following Wisconsin’s lead. “I think Wisconsin is going to be a bellwether for issues that are going to be blowing across America. Whether it takes root in Rhode Island remains to be seen,” said House Minority Leader Bob Watson, R-East Greenwich.

“The solutions that may be necessary in Rhode Island may or may not mirror what’s going on in Wisconsin,” he added.

Political Fight Over Unions Escalates

Wall Street Journal

The clash between Republicans and unions that caught fire in Wisconsin last week escalated Monday: Labor leaders planned to take their protests to dozens of other capitals and Democrats in a second state considered a walkout to stall bills that would limit union power.

The protests have ignited a wider national debate over the role of labor unions and who should shoulder sacrifices as states scramble to tackle yawning budget deficits. Governors in both political parties are looking for union concessions as they struggle to balance budgets. Some are pushing aggressively to curtail the power of unions to organize or collect dues.

On Monday, thousands of steelworkers, autoworkers and other labor activists surrounded the Indiana state capitol to protest a bill before the legislature to dramatically weaken the clout of private-sector unions. This is in contrast to Wisconsin, where a newly elected Republican governor is in a standoff with public-sector unions and their allies.

In Ohio, union officials are expecting 5,000 or more protesters Tuesday at the state house, where a legislative panel is considering a Republican-backed bill that would restrict collective-bargaining rights for about 400,000 public employees. Republican Gov. John Kasich supports the bill, a spokesman said.

In Indiana, a House committee on Monday approved legislation to change state law so that private-sector workers no longer would be required to pay dues or belong to a union that bargains on their behalf. Unions say this would erode union membership, and eventually their finances and political clout, if workers decided not to join or pay dues. Supporters say the change would make the state more competitive and attract employers.

Democratic representatives in Indiana caucused into the night Monday, discussing a possible walkout to deny Republicans a quorum. They plan to meet again Tuesday morning. Rep. David Niezgodski of South Bend said Monday night that some Democrats are considering a walkout, contending the majority "are waging a war on the middle class now, in a way we've never seen before."

About 22 states, mostly across the South, have laws similar to the one before Indiana lawmakers. In Indiana currently, if a union bargains for a group of employees at a workplace, all workers covered by the contract must belong to the union.

Indiana's Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has aggressively gone after the state's public-sector unions, taking away their collective-bargaining rights on his first day in office in 2005. He is also pushing the state legislature this session to weaken tenure protection for teachers. But he has opposed the right-to-work bill that is now stirring anger in Indianapolis, fearing it would distract from his main legislative priorities.

The protests in Indiana were reminiscent of ones that have choked the Wisconsin capital over the past week as teachers, students and prison guards continue to oppose a bill to limit public-sector unions' collective-bargaining powers. Democratic lawmakers there fled the state last week to thwart a vote on the bill.

Republican and Democratic leaders and strategists appear to be relishing the broadening fight over labor unions, feeling it is energizing their core supporters and clarifying key differences between the two parties.

Democrats claim the fight has injected fresh energy into the ranks of labor unions, which are a major supplier of campaign money and volunteers for Democratic candidates. Republicans say the showdowns show they are the ones willing to make tough decisions to cut government spending and take on entrenched powers.

The various clashes over union benefits and clout hold implications for the 2012 elections as they spread to Indiana, Ohio and other presidential swing states.

Many of the potential GOP presidential candidates, including Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty and Alaska's Sarah Palin, have backed Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and criticized President Barack Obama for taking the side of the public-sector unions.

The AFL-CIO has seized on the Wisconsin protests to energize labor activism across the country. Union organizers say they are planning rallies and protests in dozens of state capitals this week as they scramble to tap into a surge of anger over the Wisconsin bill.

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the nation's largest public-sector union, said the moves in various state capitals to target state employees were an explicit effort to undermine a key source of Democratic funds.

"They know how much we spent in the last campaign," he said. "They're going to try and shoot us down."

The 1.6 million-member AFSCME last year tapped emergency accounts and took out loans as it poured more than $90 million into Democratic campaign efforts in the mid-term elections.

Overall, unions put around $400 million into the 2008 campaign to help elect Mr. Obama and other Democrats.

Officials from both parties agreed the Wisconsin fight was freighted with consequence. But some also acknowledge that it was unclear so far which side the public would back.

"The country will stand behind us as long as Republicans stand for fiscal responsibility and continue to govern as we campaigned," said Reince Priebus, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee and former head of the Wisconsin GOP.

Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said Gov. Walker's efforts to weaken the unions' collective-bargain rights left Democrats no choice but to fight back vigorously.

"For myself and most Democrats, this represents a core value, one that goes back in our history to the New Deal," he said.

But Mr. Durbin said it was still too early to know whether voters would rally to the Democrats' side. "Public opinion is still volatile at this point," he said. "Those on the center stripe are paying close attention to who is being fair here and who is doing the right thing."

Other Democrats were more openly cheered by the struggle. Former Wisconsin congressman David Obey said the fight "has energized progressive forces like nothing I have seen in a long time."

For the White House, the state budget fights pose a quandary. The president wants to show support for the unions, but the White House is also eager to show he is ready to make tough decision to cut the federal debt.

Mr. Obama leapt to the defense of the Wisconsin unions last week, saying Gov. Walker's attempts to weaken their collective-bargaining rights amounted to "an assault." But White House officials over the weekend continued to point out that the president understands the need for shared sacrifice as states worked to conquer deficits.

The White House is also eager to distance itself from the array of mobilization actions that the Democratic National Committee unleashed last week to bulk up the rallies in Wisconsin and other states.

The national stakes for both political parties in Wisconsin itself are particularly high. Mr. Obama won the state by a wide margin in 2008, as every successful Democratic presidential candidate has since John F. Kennedy.

But Wisconsin turned sharply to the right in last year's election. If the current budget battle redounds to the Republican's favor, that could weaken Mr. Obama's odds in the state next year, and even his chances for re-election.

Kochs brothers' plan for 2012: raise $88 million


In an expansion of their political footprint, the billionaire Koch brothers plan to contribute and steer a total of $88 million to conservative causes during the 2012 election cycle, according to sources, funding a new voter micro-targeting initiative, grass-roots organizing efforts and television advertising campaigns.

In fact, as the annual Conservative Political Action Conference meets this week in Washington and conservatives assess the state of their movement, the Koch network of nonprofit groups, once centered on sleepy free-enterprise think tanks, seems to be emerging as a more ideological counterweight to the independent Republican political machine conceived by Bush-era GOP operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie before the 2010 midterm elections.

The aggressive embrace of political activism by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, has cheered fiscal conservatives, who hope they will reorient the conservative political apparatus around free-market, small government principles and candidates, and away from the electability-over-principles approach they see Rove and Gillespie as embodying.

But not everyone on the right is happy about the brothers’ increasing political profile. Some conservatives complain that the political operatives who work for the Kochs don’t play well with others in the movement and worry that their efforts to steer big money to favored groups undermines other, potentially valuable conservative efforts.

Among leaders of conservative groups “there is the impression that there is a lot of favoritism, not necessarily from the Kochs, but from those the Koch brothers rely on to administer the money, and there are concerns about whether the best groups are being helped, or whether it’s just the groups that they happen to play favorites with,” said Erick Erickson, founder of the influential Red State blog and a CNN political analyst.

Erickson has spoken at events organized by the Koch brothers’ primary political vehicle, a nonprofit group called Americans for Prosperity, which he called “a very worthwhile organization,” but he said the Kochs “need to broaden the diversity of their grass-roots apparatus. … People want to get in on the action and have a hard time getting in on the action.”

Charles and David Koch reportedly have a net worth of $21.5 billion each, thanks to their stakes in Koch Industries, their privately owned oil, chemical and consumer products company.

For decades, they’ve been generous donors to academic institutions and public policy think tanks – some of which they founded – that promote small government and free-market conservatism. But in recent years, they have increasingly focused their giving on more activist groups, and, perhaps more significantly, they have used their influence to help guide millions more in contributions from other major conservative benefactors, primarily through twice-a-year donor summits the Kochs have been organizing since 2003.

The conferences, which are sponsored by Koch Industries, bring together roughly 150 wealthy conservative business titans or their representatives to hear presentations from handpicked Republican politicians and thought leaders, as well as the heads of conservative groups hoping to secure big checks to fund their nonprofits.

At the most recent summit, held in January at a Rancho Mirage, Calif., resort, the Kochs and their invited donors pledged to contribute $49 million toward an $88-million budget goal for policy and political projects planned for the 2012 election cycle, which were sketched out at the conference, according to a source with knowledge of the summit.

To put that in perspective, the twin political groups conceived by Rove and Gillespie – Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies and American Crossroads — raised $70 million for their efforts in the 2010 midterm campaign, during which they were among the most active of the independent political operators.

Unlike the fundraising for those groups — and most political nonprofits, for that matter — most of the donations pledged at the Koch summits goes into a pool, which typically include a mix of cash from invitees as well as a healthy share from the Koch brothers themselves. The brothers’ political advisers distribute the money at their discretion to political and policy groups featured at their conferences.

Groups with tighter Koch ties tend to reap more money from the pool than others, according to sources familiar with the Kochs’ philanthropy and meetings, one of whom said the Koch brothers typically invited a handful of groups less closely linked to them “to create an illusion of spreading the wealth.”

The Kochs swear summit attendees to secrecy and few will talk publicly about the meetings or the brothers’ philanthropy for fear of jeopardizing relationships with — and potentially funding from — the Kochs, who have a reputation in conservative circles for retaliating against allies and former allies deemed insufficiently loyal.

Technically, the Kochs don’t control any groups, rather they exert significant influence through their contributions, board positions and patronage of the leaders of outfits that have been prominently featured at their donor conferences, such as Americans for Prosperity and Themis, a fledgling voter micro-targeting initiative spearheaded by former Koch staffer Karl Crow that in some ways seems designed to compete with an effort launched last year by the Rove and Gillespie-backed Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies.

Sean Noble, another top Koch operative, has been hired by Americans for Limited Government, another group that sources say received donations from Koch conference attendees for its efforts to attack Democrats during the 2010 midterm campaign.

Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government, said he met Noble, a former House chief of staff who now runs his own consulting shop, during the effort to stop the Democratic health care overhaul from passing into law. He said he did not know whether sought contributions from the Koch conference, but did say his group did not get any direct donations from the Kochs or their company.

Wilson said personal connections won’t get you very far raising money from the Kochs, who — he said — make their political investment decisions based on business-like calculations about potential impact.

“They’ve been aggressive in their business, and they’re going to be aggressive in their politics,” Wilson said. “They know what they want and what they believe, and they move aggressively to advance those beliefs. You didn’t build that size of a business, and you can’t be that successful, unless you’re decisive — and they’re decisive.”

It’s difficult to determine how much of their own money the Kochs have directed or contributed to political efforts in recent years because most of the groups to which they’ve steered cash don’t have to report their donors, or even most details of their political spending.

Take Americans for Prosperity — which is comprised of two separate nonprofits, both of which the Kochs helped found and fund, and one of which, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, is chaired by David Koch.

Americans for Prosperity is chaired by Art Pope, a North Carolina businessman and major donor who has attended a handful of Koch donor seminars, including this year’s, and who characterized the Kochs’ political philanthropy as merely an effort to keep up with Democratic-leaning groups funded by major liberal donors who similarly meet in private to divvy up cash.

The Prosperity groups are separately registered under sections 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 of the tax code, which don’t require them to disclose the donors or much detail on their political spending. Their tax returns show their contribution intake nearly doubled between 2008 and 2009, when they reported receiving $26.8 million in donations and emerged as a key organizing group behind the populist tea party movement, helping drum up grass-roots opposition to the health care overhaul pushed by President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress.

Last year, Americans for Prosperity pledged to spend $45 million on rallies, canvassing and hard-hitting radio and television ads, criticizing Democrats in 50 swing House districts and half a dozen targeted Senate races. Though spending by the groups and their allies has been credited with helping the GOP retake the House, Americans for Prosperity’s ads ran throughout the year and didn’t expressly support Republicans or oppose Democrats, requiring only some of them to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Pope, the Americans for Prosperity chair, said some big donors regard as safe bets groups that the Kochs support, because “they have very high standards for their business that they apply to the non-profits that they support.”

But Pope, whose own foundation has given $775,000 to Americans for Prosperity since Obama took office, dismissed the idea that the Kochs discriminate against groups to which they don’t have strong ties.

“In the donor community at large that I am involved in, most of them are very well informed and independent-minded donors.” While he said donors often “exchange ideas about ‘do you think this is a good organization?’” he said “the donors pretty well make their own decisions” and he added “I don’t know of any blacklist.”

And, he said Americans for Prosperity was more than happy to coordinate with other conservative political groups.

While Koch-linked operatives communicated with representatives of the Crossroads groups and affiliated outfits during the midterms, an anonymous Republican fundraiser complained to NBC’s Michael Isikoff that during regular conference calls between the groups to coordinate midterm election spending plans, representatives of Koch-backed groups were reluctant to share information.

At the January 2010 Koch donor meeting, though, Noble and Gillespie sat on a panel together analyzing the coming midterm elections. Entitled “the opportunity of 2010: understanding voter attitudes and the electoral map,” the panel also featured the AFP director Pope and veteran GOP operative Jim Ellis, who had been indicted in 2005 on campaign finance charges , for which he is awaiting an April trial, in connection with his work for ex-House Republican Leader Tom Delay, who this year was convicted of campaign violations.

In the weeks before this year’s Rancho Mirage meeting, Ellis crafted a 501(c)4 proposal for Noble seeking $4.75 million for a group that would spread anti-Obama messages in key states in the run-up to the 2012 presidential race.

Ellis told POLITICO the proposals were merely “draft internal documents from my private computer” and contended they “weren’t sent to anyone, including Sean Noble.”

Noble did receive a proposal from Ellis, but never submitted it for consideration by Koch donors, said a Koch source. The source added, though, that Koch-affiliated donors were providing seed funding to similar projects.

“President Obama is planning on spending $1 billion in 2012, and is giving a green light to Democrats to support outside groups with no disclosure and no oversight,” said the source, though, in fact, Obama political aides have stressed that they’d like any Democratic spending efforts to disclose donors.

“Conservatives aren’t likely to come close to matching that number but we’re determined to try,” said the source.