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Boston Bombing News: the embarassing Mr. O’Toole – part II

By: woodybox Monday January 26, 2015 9:26 am

When the courtroom for the Tsarnaev trial opened last Friday, the media crowd was expecting an indignant judge telling off the defense for their last – the third – motion for change of venue. The day before O’Toole had chided the motion, calling it “improper” because it allegedly revealed the identity of jurors and thereby damaging the process.

Michael Hayes:

expecting a bit of fire from Judge O’Toole, who’s angry re: yesterday’s defense motion

Alysha Palumbo:

The judge has not yet ruled on the defense motion to change the venue, but he did issue a scathing order on it last night

Mike Hayes:

Day 9 of Tsarnaev jury selection. Should start with an awkward conversation about confidential juror responses made public by the defense.

But minutes before the session started, a response filing of the defense already circulated: a motion to strike the word “improper”. The paper is a well reasoned and determined denial of any wrongdoing, especially when it comes to the revealing of IDs. The crowd was surprised.

Jim Armstrong:

Minutes ago, Tsarnaev’s defense team responded, asking judge to strike the word “improper”  from his filing, saying they did nothing wrong.

Mike Hayes:

Tsarnaev’s lawyers file a response to the judge’s criticism of their Change of Venue motion, calling it “unwarranted”;

J. M. Lawrence:

Tsarnaev defense fires back at Judge’s finding, say no damage done revealing anonymous quotes from juror questionnaires.Judge said improper

No wigging from the judge – the filings were not even mentioned at the session. The defense lawyers were very careful in formulating the motion. It exercises pressure on the judge, if he likes it or not. The answers of the potential jurors show that the necessity of a change of venue in order to constitute a neutral jury is obvious in the Tsarnaev case. David Bruck left no doubt that a refusal to move the trial out of Boston will lead to an appeal.

What’s up with judge O’Toole? Independent observers like E.F. Beall, James Henry or Harvey Silverglate have expressed deep discomfort with his onesided rulings. About a year ago, David Frank predicted a myriad of appeals and judicial complications if O’Toole would stick to his tight time schedule. But he did. The two months shift from November 2014 to January 2015 was little more than a cosmetic operation.

O’Toole’s next job is to pick a jury. Given his past behavior it is almost certain that the prosecution has his ear again in this important matter and the defense is impelled to fruitless gesticulations. This doesn’t bode well for the composition of the jury and will probably deliver more fodder for appeal.

So in all probability the trial will start in Boston with two or three weeks delay. O’Toole’s hope might be to go over the case details as quickly as possible. But he was probably not told by the prosecutors how weak their case actually is. If the cases collapses – because things turn out to be different and more awkward than written down in the indictment – this will also be a heavy blowback for Mr. O’Toole personally. His former decisions will be scrutinized and he has good chances to become the most prominent judge in recent history. But not in a way he will like.

 

Many thanks to pbszebra for preserving the tweets

 

Miller and Schivone, Bringing the Battlefield to the Border

By: Tom Engelhardt Monday January 26, 2015 8:52 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: For those of you fascinated by America’s borderlands, note that for another week you can get a signed, personalized copy of Todd Miller’s book Border Patrol Nation in return for a $100 contribution to this site, as you can my book Shadow Government, Maya Schenwar’s new book, Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work and How We Can Do Better, and other offerings. Just check out our donation page for the details. Tom]

Predator drones, tested out in this country’s distant war zones, have played an increasingly prominent role in the up-armoring of the U.S.-Mexican border. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) launched its first Predator in 2004, but only really ramped up drone use in March 2013.  There have been approximately 10,000 Predator flights along that border since. The agency had plans to expand its ten-Predator fleet — nine after a $12 million maritime drone crashed off the California coast, as those robotic planes are wont to do — to 24. It was going to dispatch some of them to the Canadian border as well. (You never know, after all, what dark forces might descend on us from the chilly north.) The CBP even got into the chummy habit of encouraging interagency drone-addiction by loaning its Predators out to the FBI, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the U.S. Forest Service, among other places. You might say that the CBP was distinctly high on drones.

Only one problem: the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general recently audited the use of drones on the border and issued a scathing report, calling them “dubious achievers” and essentially declaring them an enormous waste of money, time, and personnel.  At $12,255 a flight hour (when not simply grounded), military-grade drones turned out to cost way more than the CBP estimated or reported, flew far less often, and helped find a mere 2% of the immigrants crossing the border without papers.  As Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post reported, “Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of border-crossing apprehensions were attributed to drone detection.”  The inspector general suggested that the CBP should, among other things, shelve its plans to expand its drone fleet (at the cost of a mere $443 million).

Based on such a report from the IG — the CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security — you might assume that it would be curtains for the drone program.  But if you’re a betting kind of guy in twenty-first-century Washington, you’re not going to put your money on any self-respecting part of the national security state giving up, or even cutting back, on its high-tech toys.  Drones, after all, are sexy as hell and what self-respecting government official wouldn’t want a machine onto which you could attach even more seductively high-tech devices like Vader (think deep, breathy voice, though the acronym stands for “Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar”), a set of sensors that can detect motion on the ground. So CBP has instead struck back, accusing the inspector general of cherry-picking his data and misconstruing more or less everything.

Meanwhile, the drones continue to fly and the CBP, as Todd Miller who covers the militarization of America’s borders for TomDispatch has long noted, remains gaga for high-tech border toys of just about any sort. Today, Miller and Gabriel Schivone suggest that, whatever waste and extravagance may be involved, our already heavily technologized borders and the increasingly robot-filled skies over them are just at the beginning of an era of border-closing high-tech extravaganzas.  When it comes to visions of how to shut down the world, it’s evidently time to call in the real experts, the Israelis, who live in a country without fully demarcated borders, and yet have had a remarkable amount of experience building high-tech wallsTom

Gaza in Arizona
How Israeli High-Tech Firms Will Up-Armor the U.S.-Mexican Border
By Todd Miller and Gabriel M. Schivone

It was October 2012. Roei Elkabetz, a brigadier general for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), was explaining his country’s border policing strategies. In his PowerPoint presentation, a photo of the enclosure wall that isolates the Gaza Strip from Israel clicked onscreen. “We have learned lots from Gaza,” he told the audience. “It’s a great laboratory.”

Elkabetz was speaking at a border technology conference and fair surrounded by a dazzling display of technology — the components of his boundary-building lab. There were surveillance balloons with high-powered cameras floating over a desert-camouflaged armored vehicle made by Lockheed Martin. There were seismic sensor systems used to detect the movement of people and other wonders of the modern border-policing world. Around Elkabetz, you could see vivid examples of where the future of such policing was heading, as imagined not by a dystopian science fiction writer but by some of the top corporate techno-innovators on the planet.

Swimming in a sea of border security, the brigadier general was, however, not surrounded by the Mediterranean but by a parched West Texas landscape. He was in El Paso, a 10-minute walk from the wall that separates the United States from Mexico.

Just a few more minutes on foot and Elkabetz could have watched green-striped U.S. Border Patrol vehicles inching along the trickling Rio Grande in front of Ciudad Juarez, one of Mexico’s largest cities filled with U.S. factories and the dead of that country’s drug wars. The Border Patrol agents whom the general might have spotted were then being up-armored with a lethal combination of surveillance technologies, military hardware, assault rifles, helicopters, and drones. This once-peaceful place was being transformed into what Timothy Dunn, in his book The Militarization of the U.S. Mexico Border, terms a state of “low-intensity warfare.”

The Border Surge

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration reform. Addressing the American people, he referred to bipartisan immigration legislation passed by the Senate in June 2013 that would, among other things, further up-armor the same landscape in what’s been termed — in language adopted from recent U.S. war zones — a “border surge.” The president bemoaned the fact that the bill had been stalled in the House of Representatives, hailing it as a “compromise” that “reflected common sense.” It would, he pointed out, “have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship.”

In the wake of his announcement, including executive actions that would protect five to six million of those immigrants from future deportation, the national debate was quickly framed as a conflict between Republicans and Democrats. Missed in this partisan war of words was one thing: the initial executive action that Obama announced involved a further militarization of the border supported by both parties.

“First,” the president said, “we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings and speed the return of those who do cross over.” Without further elaboration, he then moved on to other matters.

If, however, the United States follows the “common sense” of the border-surge bill, the result could add more than $40 billion dollars worth of agents, advanced technologies, walls, and other barriers to an already unparalleled border enforcement apparatus. And a crucial signal would be sent to the private sector that, as the trade magazine Homeland Security Today puts it, another “treasure trove” of profit is on the way for a border control market already, according to the latest forecasts, in an “unprecedented boom period.”

Like the Gaza Strip for the Israelis, the U.S. borderlands, dubbed a “constitution-free zone” by the ACLU, are becoming a vast open-air laboratory for tech companies. There, almost any form of surveillance and “security” can be developed, tested, and showcased, as if in a militarized shopping mall, for other nations across the planet to consider. In this fashion, border security is becoming a global industry and few corporate complexes can be more pleased by this than the one that has developed in Elkabetz’s Israel.

The Palestine-Mexico Border

Consider the IDF brigadier general’s presence in El Paso two years ago an omen. After all, in February 2014, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency in charge of policing our borders, contracted with Israel’s giant private military manufacturer Elbit Systems to build a “virtual wall,” a technological barrier set back from the actual international divide in the Arizona desert. That company, whose U.S.-traded stock shot up by 6% during Israel’s massive military operation against Gaza in the summer of 2014, will bring the same databank of technology used in Israel’s borderlands — Gaza and the West Bank — to Southern Arizona through its subsidiary Elbit Systems of America.

With approximately 12,000 employees and, as it boasts, “10+ years securing the world’s most challenging borders,” Elbit produces an arsenal of “homeland security systems.” These include surveillance land vehicles, mini-unmanned aerial systems, and “smart fences,” highly fortified steel barriers that have the ability to sense a person’s touch or movement. In its role as lead system integrator for Israel’s border technology plan, the company has already installed smart fences in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

In Arizona, with up to a billion dollars potentially at its disposal, CBP has tasked Elbit with creating a “wall” of “integrated fixed towers” containing the latest in cameras, radar, motion sensors, and control rooms. Construction will start in the rugged, desert canyons around Nogales. Once a DHS evaluation deems that part of the project effective, the rest will be built to monitor the full length of the state’s borderlands with Mexico. Keep in mind, however, that these towers are only one part of a broader operation, the Arizona Border Surveillance Technology Plan. At this stage, it’s essentially a blueprint for an unprecedented infrastructure of high-tech border fortifications that has attracted the attention of many companies. 

This is not the first time Israeli companies have been involved in a U.S. border build-up. In fact, in 2004, Elbit’s Hermes drones were the first unmanned aerial vehicles to take to the skies to patrol the southern border. In 2007, according to Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine, the Golan Group, an Israeli consulting company made up of former IDF Special Forces officers, provided an intensive eight-day course for special DHS immigration agents covering “everything from hand-to-hand combat to target practice to ‘getting proactive with their SUV.’” The Israeli company NICE Systems even supplied Arizona’s Joe Arpaio,“America’s toughest sheriff,” with a surveillance system to watch one of his jails.

As such border cooperation intensified, journalist Jimmy Johnson coined the apt phrase “Palestine-Mexico border” to catch what was happening. In 2012, Arizona state legislators, sensing the potential economic benefit of this growing collaboration, declared their desert state and Israel to be natural “trade partners,” adding that it was “a relationship we seek to enhance.”

In this way, the doors were opened to a new world order in which the United States and Israel are to become partners in the “laboratory” that is the U.S.-Mexican borderlands. Its testing grounds are to be in Arizona. There, largely through a program known as Global Advantage, American academic and corporate knowhow and Mexican low-wage manufacturing are to fuse with Israel’s border and homeland security companies.

The Border: Open for Business

No one may frame the budding romance between Israel’s high-tech companies and Arizona better than Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “If you go to Israel and you come to Southern Arizona and close your eyes and spin yourself a few times,” he says, “you might not be able to tell the difference.”

Global Advantage is a business project based on a partnership between the University of Arizona’s Tech Parks Arizona and the Offshore Group, a business advisory and housing firm which offers “nearshore solutions for manufacturers of any size” just across the border in Mexico. Tech Parks Arizona has the lawyers, accountants, and scholars, as well as the technical knowhow, to help any foreign company land softly and set up shop in the state. It will aid that company in addressing legal issues, achieving regulatory compliance, and even finding qualified employees — and through a program it’s called the Israel Business Initiative, Global Advantage has identified its target country.

Think of it as the perfect example of a post-NAFTA world in which companies dedicated to stopping border crossers are ever freer to cross the same borders themselves. In the spirit of free trade that created the NAFTA treaty, the latest border fortification programs are designed to eliminate borders when it comes to letting high-tech companies from across the seas set up in the United States and make use of Mexico’s manufacturing base to create their products. While Israel and Arizona may be separated by thousands of miles, Rothschild assured TomDispatch that in “economics, there are no borders.”

Of course, what the mayor appreciates, above all, is the way new border technology could bring money and jobs into an area with a nearly 23% poverty rate. How those jobs might be created matters far less to him. According to Molly Gilbert, the director of community engagement for the Tech Parks Arizona, “It’s really about development, and we want to create technology jobs in our borderlands.”

So consider it anything but an irony that, in this developing global set of boundary-busting partnerships, the factories that will produce the border fortresses designed by Elbit and other Israeli and U.S. high-tech firms will mainly be located in Mexico. Ill-paid Mexican blue-collar workers will, then, manufacture the very components of a future surveillance regime, which may well help locate, detain, arrest, incarcerate, and expel some of them if they try to cross into the United States.

Think of Global Advantage as a multinational assembly line, a place where homeland security meets NAFTA. Right now there are reportedly 10 to 20 Israeli companies in active discussion about joining the program. Bruce Wright, the CEO of Tech Parks Arizona, tells TomDispatch that his organization has a “nondisclosure” agreement with any companies that sign on and so cannot reveal their names.

Though cautious about officially claiming success for Global Advantage’s Israel Business Initiative, Wright brims with optimism about his organization’s cross-national planning. As he talks in a conference room located on the 1,345-acre park on the southern outskirts of Tucson, it’s apparent that he’s buoyed by predictions that the Homeland Security market will grow from a $51 billion annual business in 2012 to $81 billion in the United States alone by 2020, and $544 billion worldwide by 2018.

Wright knows as well that submarkets for border-related products like video surveillance, non-lethal weaponry, and people-screening technologies are all advancing rapidly and that the U.S. market for drones is poised to create 70,000 new jobs by 2016. Partially fueling this growth is what the Associated Press calls an “unheralded shift” to drone surveillance on the U.S. southern divide. More than 10,000 drone flights have been launched into border air space since March 2013, with plans for many more, especially after the Border Patrol doubles its fleet.

When Wright speaks, it’s clear he knows that his park sits atop a twenty-first-century gold mine. As he sees it, Southern Arizona, aided by his tech park, will become the perfect laboratory for the first cluster of border security companies in North America. He’s not only thinking about the 57 southern Arizona companies already identified as working in border security and management, but similar companies nationwide and across the globe, especially in Israel.

In fact, Wright’s aim is to follow Israel’s lead, as it is now the number-one place for such groupings. In his case, the Mexican border would simply replace that country’s highly marketed Palestinian testing grounds. The 18,000 linear feet that surround the tech park’s solar panel farm would, for example, be a perfect spot to test out motion sensors. Companies could also deploy, evaluate, and test their products “in the field,” as he likes to say — that is, where real people are crossing real borders — just as Elbit Systems did before CBP gave it the contract.

“If we’re going to be in bed with the border on a day-to-day basis, with all of its problems and issues, and there’s a solution to it,” Wright said in a 2012 interview, “why shouldn’t we be the place where the issue is solved and we get the commercial benefit from it?”

From the Battlefield to the Border

When Naomi Weiner, project coordinator for the Israel Business Initiative, returned from a trip to that country with University of Arizona researchers in tow, she couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about the possibilities for collaboration. She arrived back in November, just a day before Obama announced his new executive actions — a promising declaration for those, like her, in the business of bolstering border defenses.

“We’ve chosen areas where Israel is very strong and Southern Arizona is very strong,” Weiner explained to TomDispatch, pointing to the surveillance industry “synergy” between the two places. For example, one firm her team met with in Israel was Brightway Vision, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems. If it decides to set up shop in Arizona, it could use tech park expertise to further develop and refine its thermal imaging cameras and goggles, while exploring ways to repurpose those military products for border surveillance applications. The Offshore Group would then manufacture the cameras and goggles in Mexico.

Arizona, as Weiner puts it, possesses the “complete package” for such Israeli companies. “We’re sitting right on the border, close to Fort Huachuca,” a nearby military base where, among other things, technicians control the drones surveilling the borderlands. “We have the relationship with Customs and Border Protection, so there’s a lot going on here. And we’re also the Center of Excellence on Homeland Security.”

Weiner is referring to the fact that, in 2008, DHS designated the University of Arizona the lead school for the Center of Excellence on Border Security and Immigration. Thanks to that, it has since received millions of dollars in federal grants. Focusing on research and development of border-policing technologies, the center is a place where, among other things, engineers are studying locust wings in order to create miniature drones equipped with cameras that can get into the tiniest of spaces near ground level, while large drones like the Predator B continue to buzz over the borderlands at 30,000 feet (despite the fact that a recent audit by the inspector general of homeland security found them a waste of money).

Although the Arizona-Israeli romance is still in the courtship stage, excitement about its possibilities is growing. Officials from Tech Parks Arizona see Global Advantage as the perfect way to strengthen the U.S.-Israel “special relationship.” There is no other place in the world with a higher concentration of homeland security tech companies than Israel. Six hundred tech start-ups are launched in Tel Aviv alone every year. During the Gaza offensive last summer, Bloomberg reported that investment in such companies had “actually accelerated.” However, despite the periodic military operations in Gaza and the incessant build-up of the Israeli homeland security regime, there are serious limitations to the local market.

The Israeli Ministry of Economy is painfully aware of this. Its officials know that the growth of the Israeli economy is “largely fueled by a steady increase in exports and foreign investment.” The government coddles, cultivates, and supports these start-up tech companies until their products are market-ready. Among them have been innovations like the “skunk,” a liquid with a putrid odor meant to stop unruly crowds in their tracks. The ministry has also been successful in taking such products to market across the globe. In the decade following 9/11, sales of Israeli “security exports” rose from $2 billion to $7 billion annually.

Israeli companies have sold surveillance drones to Latin American countries like Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, and massive security systems to India and Brazil, where an electro-optic surveillance system will be deployed along the country’s borders with Paraguay and Bolivia. They have also been involved in preparations for policing the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The products of Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries are now in use from the Americas and Europe to Australia. Meanwhile, that mammoth security firm is ever more involved in finding “civilian applications” for its war technologies. It is also ever more dedicated to bringing the battlefield to the world’s borderlands, including southern Arizona.

As geographer Joseph Nevins notes, although there are many differences between the political situations of the U.S. and Israel, both Israel-Palestine and Arizona share a focus on keeping out “those deemed permanent outsiders,” whether Palestinians, undocumented Latin Americans, or indigenous people.

Mohyeddin Abdulaziz has seen this “special relationship” from both sides, as a Palestinian refugee whose home and village Israeli military forces destroyed in 1967 and as a long-time resident of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. A founding member of the Southern Arizona BDS Network, whose goal is to pressure U.S. divestment from Israeli companies, Abdulaziz opposes any program like Global Advantage that will contribute to the further militarization of the border, especially when it also sanitizes Israel’s “violations of human rights and international law.”

Such violations matter little, of course, when there is money to be made, as Brigadier General Elkabetz indicated at that 2012 border technology conference. Given the direction that both the U.S. and Israel are taking when it comes to their borderlands, the deals being brokered at the University of Arizona look increasingly like matches made in heaven (or perhaps hell).  As a result, there is truth packed into journalist Dan Cohen’s comment that “Arizona is the Israel of the United States.”

Todd Miller, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security. He has written on border and immigration issues for the New York Times, Al Jazeera America, and NACLA Report on the Americas and its blog Border Wars, among other places. You can follow him on twitter @memomiller and view more of his work at toddwmiller.wordpress.com.

Gabriel M. Schivone, a writer from Tucson, has worked as a humanitarian volunteer in the Mexico-U.S. borderlands for more than six years. He blogs at Electronic Intifada and Huffington Post’s “Latino Voices.” His articles have appeared in the Arizona Daily Star, the Arizona Republic, StudentNation, the Guardian, and McClatchy Newspapers, among other publications. You can follow him on Twitter @GSchivone.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Todd Miller and Gabriel M. Schivone

Wisconsin Faces $283 Million Deficit at the End of this Fiscal Year

By: WI Budget Project Monday January 26, 2015 6:53 am

The Very Bad Fiscal News for this Year Offsets Improved Revenue Estimates for the Next Biennium

New budget figures from the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) indicate that Wisconsin is on track to have a $283 million deficit at the end of the fiscal year. That hole is $153 million deeper than what the Department of Administration (DOA) had indicated in November.

Of course, the Fiscal Bureau isn’t predicting that the state will actually finish the fiscal year with a substantial deficit; they are sizing up the amount of red ink that Governor Scott Walker’s administration and state legislators have to eliminate in order to meet the constitutional requirement to have a balanced budget.

On many occasions in 2014, we expressed concerns that state lawmakers were going to have to make painful budget cuts before the end of fiscal year 2014-15 because the tax cuts enacted early last year were based on overly optimistic revenue estimates and because the state was planning to draw down almost all of the anticipated balance. Unfortunately, our fears have proven to be correct, and substantial cuts are now needed to get the budget for this fiscal year out of the red.

Over the last two months, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) suggested that revenue estimates for the current fiscal year were looking up and would help close the deficit projected in November. Based on those assurances, I was a little more optimistic in a blog post I wrote just a few days ago. However, the new figures from the nonpartisan Fiscal Bureau show slower rather than faster revenue growth, with the projected tax revenue for this fiscal year dropping by $173.5 million relative to the estimates in the November 20th report from DOA. (A DOR letter sent today to the DOA Secretary projects somewhat higher revenue collections this year than the new LFB estimate, but less than what DOR was suggesting earlier this week, when the department continued to indicate that 2014-15 revenue would exceed the November estimate.)

Not all of the fiscal news in the new LFB document is bad. Compared to the DOA numbers released in November, the LFB projects almost $111 million more tax revenue in 2015-16 than DOA had estimated, and nearly $66 million more in 2016-17. Although that positive news for the 2015-17 biennium offsets the very worrisome increase in the deficit for the current fiscal year, it’s very disappointing that the latest changes in projections for fiscal years 2015 through 2017 are essentially a wash. The cumulative shortfall is essentially the same as it appeared to be two months ago, when the DOA figures showed a $2.2 billion gap between projected revenue and the agency budget requests for 2015-17 (on top of a $183 million shortfall in 2014-15).

Circling back to the $283 million deficit now anticipated by the LFB for the end of this fiscal year, a couple of technical points should be kept in mind. First, that figure assumes that the state will completely eliminate the $65 million reserve lawmakers are supposed to maintain at the end of each fiscal year. Rebuilding that minimum reserve means the “net balance” is -$348 million. On the other hand, those figures don’t include tribal gaming revenues that the Forest County Potawatomi withheld while the Governor was considering a Kenosha casino proposed by the Menominee. Now that the Kenosha casino has been rejected, the Governor expects the Potawatomi to make those payments, which would lessen this year’s shortfall.

The bottom line is that Wisconsin lawmakers have to find ways to close a total budget shortfall of roughly $2.3 billion between now and the end of the 2015-17 biennium. Granted, not all of the agency requests have to be approved, but it’s a mistake to think that all of the proposed increases in spending can be dismissed without any pain. Many of the requested increases are needed to maintain entitlement programs, such as Medicaid, and others are needed simply to adjust costs for inflation.

The next five months are going to be very difficult for Wisconsin lawmakers who don’t relish making substantial budget cuts.

From www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org.

ACM: The Black & White of the Civil Rights Movement Then and Now: Is It About Justice or “Just Us?” by Geminijen

By: Anti-Capitalist Meetup Sunday January 25, 2015 2:30 pm

Finally saw the movie Selma last week, right after the MLK Day march. Found it to be an exhilarating fictionalized rendition of one of the more important moments in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It is, above all else, a reminder that this struggle is primarily of, by and for black folks. And yet, most of the press, even prior to the movie opening, was about how it was historically inaccurate and, more importantly to these critics, misrepresented and denigrated (I chose my words carefully here) the role of Lyndon Baines Johnson who was president at the time of the struggle.

In Politico’s “What Selma Gets Wrong,” (12/22/14), LBJ Presidential Library director Mark Updegrove charged that the fictional film’s depiction of the epic voting-rights battle in the Alabama town portrayed the relationship between [Martin Luther] King and President Lyndon Baines Johnson as “contentious.” This served, Updegrove scolded, to “bastardize one of the most hallowed chapters in the civil rights movement by suggesting that the president himself stood in the way of progress.” Johnson adviser Joseph Califano struck next in the Washington Post (12/26/14)suggesting that in fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea.” Califano asks of the filmmakers: Did “they” [quotes are mine] feel no obligation to check the facts? You even had Post columnist Richard Cohen (1/5/15) lamenting that Selma is a lie that tarnishes Johnson’s legacy to exalt King’s.

Without getting too much into the details of the controversy and who gets to determine “facts”, the accusation here is that the black female director Ava Devernay (and by implication the black community)was willing to distort the history of the white role in the civil rights movement to promote black biases of black importance in the struggle. In other words, the black community doesn’t care about accuracy, about truth and “justice,” but only about “just us” (i.e.the black community promoting its own importance in history).

There is, in fact, evidence to support DeVernay’s representation of LBJ and I would submit that it is the white supremist myth of white people bringing justice to the poor downtrodden blacks that is the bias that DuVernay is challenging and has caused all the criticism of the film. That the “us” in “just us” is really white folks angered that it is the myth of white moral superiority that is being challenged and that DeVarnay’s film provides a healthy corrective.

It is important to note why the fight about Selma The Movie is so important now. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner highlight the increase in police violence in low income non-white communities or perhaps it has just increased the exposure of police brutality due to the new technologies of cell phones and social media. Either way, it has increased racial tensions. At the same time, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 combined with efforts to roll back voting rights with new voter suppression laws in many states, has also contributed to increased awareness of racial inequality. In volatile times, society and the dominant culture are especially interested in how they can control the “story” to maintain the status quo.

While there are many documentaries which present an excellent and accurate record of the civil rights struggle (notably in my mind, “Eyes on the Prize”) this is more about how popular cultural representations shape a society’s perspective. I would venture to say that most Americans’ deepest emotional beliefs about their identity and place in history and the world are formed at least in part, if not wholly, through the cultural representations around them rather than through academic research and factual reasoning. In this context it appears that most white Americans still believe that white people are innately superior to black people by virtue of our role in helping black people escape their oppression and poverty (the cause of which is conveniently vague –oh yeah, there was slavery, but I wasn’t alive then so its not my fault, besides we were the good guys in WW!! saving the Jews from the Nazis–which gets two weeks in most American high school curricula while slavery gets one day).

Of course these days popular and social media far outweigh what you learn in school as the social arbiters so I would like to take a moment here to put Selma in the context of the factual history vs. the other fictionalized media accounts of racial struggle and racial advancement in the last few years.
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Even before it was released on Christmas Day, Selma was under attack. And I admit the historian in me felt that, since the film so closely mirrors actual events there should be some effort to be factually honest and the quotes from the Johnson library did disturb me. But the facts offered by the film’s critics do far more to distort the reality of King’s relationship with Johnson than the fictional film does.

The sometimes bitter tactical divisions between LBJ and King are not an invention of the filmmakers. Here’s an account by Bruce Hartford in The Selma Voting Rights Struggle; March to Montgomery, which notes that the attempt to lead a voting-rights march from Selma to the capital in Montgomery was happening at the same time Johnson was first sending ground troops to Vietnam:

Behind the scenes, President Johnson pressures Dr. King to cancel the Tuesday march…. …news stories and images of Marines wading ashore to “defend democracy” in Vietnam clash with images of real-life American democracy in action on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Johnson [was] furious, and wants no risk of any repeat violence on Tuesday that might compete with his public relations strategy, or continue to give the lie to his “freedom” rhetoric.

If Johnson was actually the architect of the Selma strategy, as Califano asserts, you might wonder why civil rights activists were staging sit-ins at the Justice Department and the White House to protest the Johnson administration’s failure to protect marchers. These sit-ins were not invented by the filmmakers, nor was the anger LBJ expressed in response to them. Here’s Johnson afterwards telling his aide Bill Moyers what should be said to King–not from the movie script, but from a tape made by the White House recording system:

I would take a much tougher line than we’re going to with him. I think that it’s absolutely disgraceful that they would get in the Justice Department building and have to be hauled out of there. And I don’t care if we never serve another hour. They’re going to respect the law while they do. He better get to behaving himself or all of them are going to be put in jail … I think that we really ought to be firm on it myself. I just think it’s outrageous what’s on TV. I’ve been watching it here, and looks like that man’s in charge of the country and taking it over. I just don’t think we can afford to have that kind of character running. And I’d remind him what he had said and take a very firm line with him.”


Threatening to throw Martin Luther King in jail–that’s rather “contentious,” wouldn’t you say? The words of someone who is “at odds” with King?

The part of the film that seems to have most riled Johnson’s defenders is the film’s suggestion–not directly stated, but implied–that Johnson authorized FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to use secret tape recordings of sexual encounters against the civil rights leader. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Nick Kotz quotes from a memo written to Hoover by one of his top aides, Cartha DeLoach, who had just delivered a summary of a particularly incriminating tape to Johnson’s chief assistant, Walter Jenkins. DeLoach said Jenkins told him he would pass on the material to the president, adding:
Jenkins was of the opinion that the FBI could perform a good service to the country if this tape was released to the press.

Finally, the larger picture of LBJ promoted in his legacy touts him as the follower of FDR, and I respect his War on Poverty programs which were instrumental in reducing the economic gap between white and black families more than any other policy before or since that time. But this should not permit us to ignore the historical reality of a politician who had to survive as a Senator in segregationist Texas. Whatever Johnson’s feelings and long term intent, it is a fact that for 20 years –from 1939 to 1955 — Johnson voted a straight 100% segregationist ticket.

The thing about the attacks on the film Selma is that they distort the relationship between King and Johnson as it is actually portrayed in the film. In fact, the movie presents him as a complicated figure who under prodding accomplishes something great. (The speech he gives in support of the Voting Rights Act near the end of the film is an emotional high point.) But he’s not the moral center of the film – that’s King. And the portrayal of King is also not that of a sainted hero, but of an organizer with strategies for using direct action such as public marches to expose state violence against black people. It also shows how this strategy is viewed as superficial by the grassroots activists in the younger Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and alludes to the conflict between King and Malcolm X. Duvernay also uses these dynamics to pose larger ongoing historical questions of strategies of struggle in the black community such as whether political (W.E.B. DuBois) or economic strategies (Booker T. Washington) should be given priority.

In USA Today (1/7/15), Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund wrote a response to the complainers:

Any effort to hijack the attention this film richly deserves because of its portrayal of LBJ reflects everything that has been wrong with most civil rights films from Mississippi Burning to The Help – films that concern themselves principally with the heroism of white people in a movement that was created, driven and shaped by black people.

The most notable one “Mississippi Burning” (1988)is an almost pure fiction set around the Civil Rights struggle, To this day, “Mississippi Burning” is still cited as one of those movies made by white Hollywood liberals to make white liberals the heroes of the Civil Rights movement while relegating his black characters to little more than noble victims.While it only won one Oscar for Cinematography, it was nominated in numerous categories including best, actor, best director and best film.

But let’s look at other more recent films. In 2012, Lincoln a movie notable for portraying how President Lincoln and the all white Congress passed the 13th Amendment ending slavery (how could it be otherwise since blacks couldn’t vote?). Lincoln took top honors at the Academy Awards with 12 nominations. A year earlier we had The Help (2011) where Jessica Chastain (white southern woman) received an Oscar as Best supporting Actress for her role “helping” the “help” in her town get their due recognition and respect. To give credit where it is due, two of the black actresses – Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis received Oscars as well.

Going back to the 2009 Oscars, we had a double feature — the year where everyone – black and white got Oscars. For her leading role in The Blindside, Sandra Bullock received an Oscar for her chirpy portrayal of an NRA gun toting white Republican Mom who both saves a young black football player from the ghetto and his crack addled Mom and helps him become an NFL star. At the same awards ceremony the black actress Monique received a supporting actress award for her role in Precious as a vicious self indulgent Welfare Mom who let’s her boyfriend sexually abuse her daughter. The Blind Side is based on a true story – Hollywoodized version. Precious was, in fact, a serious and controversial film. But in both cases it is interesting to see what stereotypes America rewards for which community. What is a poor young African American girl or boy to do when looking for role models?

We can easily go back through the films that were recognized in recent years and see the white hand-print. Somehow it still seems as if the black community is offered the Caliban roles of the “primitive” with a white Prospero sitting up high and pulling the strings (i.e., In Monster’s Ball, the role for which Hallie Berry won best actress and established her rise to fame, her character ends up being “saved” by the white guy who executed her husband who was on death row. Even in (1996) Ghosts of Mississippi, the story of Medgar Evers is told from the point of view of the white star Alex Baldwin who “helps” Whoopi Goldberg (who did win an Oscar) get justice for the murder of her husband, Medgar Evers.

While my memory may be a little faulty and we can argue statistics of who got awards, who was the lead character and what kind of role they played … you get the general picture. The winner gets to tell the story and sets the cultural representations and in the United States that is still predominantly both the liberal and conservative white supremist community. And in the white community’s vision I would suggest that the black community either doesn’t exist at all (Lincoln) or is the benign helping hand trying to end the horrors the black community faces.

At this point it is important to note that — when it comes to Selma, the Oscar Academy only gave the film only one – one — nomination as best movie. No nominations – none – for actors or directors or other technical categories. You might wonder why this is important. Outside of the fact that the Oscar Awards (as one of the biggest TV watching communal experiences next to the Super Bowl and probably surpassing the President’s State of the Union address) is still the major determinant in whether or not a film gets distributed or actors get more roles.

Not only does lack of Academy support for Selma have a negative financial impact on individuals in the multi-billion film dollar business, but some folks have suggested that the academy has specifically set out to punish Selma and the black community for daring to suggest that it is actually black folks, not white, who are in charge of ending black oppression. This is not an unreasonably assumption since the Oscars still represent the main cultural arbiter of the dominant culture in the film industry.

White society is threatened whenever any group or cultural representation messes with this long standing myth of the beneficent (and morally, intellectually and emotionally superior) white person taking pity on poor ignorant black folk. As long as we stick to the basic biological superiority we don’t have to look at real causes of who is responsible for racial oppression and how it is used to prop up all types of class, race and gender oppression.

Thus young black women are the main group stuck in minimum wage jobs because they are less intelligent and not hard workers (which also justifies not paying them more) not because for hundreds of years slavery and segregation kept them out of jobs that allowed for wealth accumulation and which were available to white people. Even white women, if you consider that white women were often able to have some access to accumulated wealth through their husbands (if they were willing to put up with subjugation under marriage). Black men, on the other hand, again due to the history of slavery and segregation, could not offer the same potential resources to black women.


Send McDonald’s a message: Racist harassment like this is NOT ok. End it – and pay the fired workers back pay and damages NOW

I was fired from McDonald’s because I don’t “fit the profile.”

What profile? Well, my boss never said. But she did say:

“There are too many black people in the store.”

And she did say: “We need to get the ghetto out of the store.”

And: “It’s dark in here and needs more lightening.”

If one can keep the myth of benign white superiority alive one does not have to consider how the institution of slavery divided the working class both before and after the civil war, resulting in two types of workers and the exclusion of people of color from unions for many years. It just seems natural that unions which are made up of white middle class workers with good jobs and benefits are due to whites’ superior work ethic and skills while most nonwhite workers are relegated to the category of the poor and are not even called workers, even if they work 60 hour weeks with no sick days in the informal economy.

If you have a young black man shot down in the street by a white or even nonwhite cop who represents the white supremist power establishment and the cop’s guilt depends on whether you believe the intent of the cop was to murder the young man, who are you going to believe? Because, if there is no other physical evidence (and sometimes even if there is), in a federal civil rights case of a criminal nature, that is the standard you have to meet – to prove the officer’s intent was to murder the young man because of his race, not just the effect of his actions. Will you believe the cop representing the moral superiority of the white power structure or the young man who has been labeled as a morally inferior thug? If Michael Brown were white he would probably be perceived as a young man with no record who probably played football in high school and was headed off to college in the fall. A young man who was sowing his wild oats ripping off a couple of cigars and maybe, at worst, had poor judgment in how he reacted to the actions of a police officer. But certainly not a life threatening figure. And that is how we end up with a black Attorney General (one of the success stories of the civil rights movement) failing to bring charges, even at the Federal civil rights level, against the officer for the murder of Michael Brown.

So why is it so important to idealize LBJ at the expense of the black community? Why is it so important to keep alive the myth that beneficent whites are necessary to help lift black people out of racial oppression? (hint: Without the myth we might notice that without the white community maybe black people in the United States would never would have been enslaved in the first place).

“We murdered some folks” in Guantanamo

By: David Swanson Sunday January 25, 2015 8:20 am

Murder at Camp Delta is a new book by Joseph Hickman, a former guard at Guantanamo. It’s neither fiction nor speculation. When President Obama says “We tortured some folks,” Hickman provides at least three cases — in addition to many others we know about from secret sites around the world — in which the statement needs to be modified to “We murdered some folks.” Of course, murder is supposed to be acceptable in war (and in whatever you call what Obama does with drones) while torture is supposed to be, or used to be, a scandal. But what about tortures to death? What about deadly human experimentation? Does that have a Nazi enough ring to disturb anyone?

We should be able to answer that question soon, at least for that segment of the population that searches aggressively for news or actually — I’m not making this up — reads books. Murder at Camp Delta is a book of, by, and for true believers in patriotism and militarism. You can start out viewing Dick Cheney as a leftist and never be offended by this book, unless documented facts that the author himself was deeply disturbed to discover offend you. The first line of the book is “I am a patriotic American.” The author never retracts it. Following a riot at Guantanamo, which he led the suppression of, he observes:

“As much as I blamed the inmates for the riot, I respected how hard they’d fought. They were ready to fight nearly to the death. If we had been running a good detention facility, I would have thought they were motivated by strong religious or political ideals. The sad truth was that they probably fought so hard because our poor facilities and shabby treatment had pushed them beyond normal human limits. Their motivation might not have been radical Islam at all but the simple fact that they had nothing to live for and nothing left to lose.”

As far as I know, Hickman has not yet applied the same logic to debunking the absurd pretense that people fight back in Afghanistan or Iraq because their religion is murderous or because they hate us for our freedoms. Hickman will be a guest on Talk Nation Radio soon, so perhaps I’ll ask him. But first I’ll thank him. And not for his “service.” For his book.

He describes a hideous death camp in which guards were trained to view the prisoners as sub-human and much greater care was taken to protect the well-being of iguanas than homo sapiens. Chaos was the norm, and physical abuse of the prisoners was standard.  Col. Mike Bumgarner made it a top priority that everyone stand in formation when he entered his office in the morning to the sounds of Beethoven’s Fifth or “Bad Boys.” Hickman relates that certain vans were permitted to drive in and out of the camp uninspected, making a mockery of elaborate attempts at security. He didn’t know the reasoning behind this until he happened to discover a secret camp not included on any maps, a place he called Camp No but the CIA called Penny Lane.

To make things worse at Guantanamo would require a particular sort of idiocy that apparently Admiral Harry Harris possessed. He began blasting the Star Spangled Banner into the prisoners’ cages, which predictably resulted in the guards abusing prisoners who did not stand and pretend to worship the U.S. flag. Tensions and violence rose. When Hickman was called on to lead an assault on prisoners who would not allow their Korans to be searched, he proposed that a Muslim interpreter do the searching. Bumgarner and gang had never thought of that, and it worked like a charm. But the aforementioned riot took place in another part of the prison where Harris rejected the interpreter idea; and the lies that the military told the media about the riot had an impact on Hickman’s view of things. So did the media’s willingness to lap up absurd and unsubstantiated lies: “Half the reporters covering the military should have just enlisted; they seemed even more eager to believe the things our commanders said than we did.”

After the riot, some of the prisoners went on hunger strike. On June 9, 2006, during the hunger strike, Hickman was in charge of guards on watch from towers, etc., overseeing the camp that night. He and every other guard observed that, just as the Navy Criminal Investigative Service report on the matter would later say, some prisoners were taken out of their cells. In fact, the van that took prisoners to Penny Lane took three prisoners, on three trips, out of their camp. Hickman watched each prisoner being loaded into the van, and the third time he followed the van far enough to see that it was headed to Penny Lane. He later observed the van return and back up to the medical facilities, where a friend of his informed him that three bodies were brought in with socks or rags stuffed down their throats.

Bumgarner gathered staff together and told them three prisoners had committed suicide by stuffing rags down their own throats in their cells, but that the media would report it a different way. Everyone was strictly forbidden to say a word. The next morning the media reported, as instructed, that the three men had hung themselves in their cells. The military called these “suicides” a “coordinated protest” and an act of “asymmetrical warfare.” Even James Risen, in his role as New York Times stenographer, conveyed this nonsense to the public. No reporter or editor apparently thought it useful to ask how prisoners could have possibly hung themselves in open cages in which they are always visible; how they could have acquired enough sheets and other materials to supposedly create dummies of themselves; how they could have gone unnoticed for at least two hours; how in fact they had supposedly bound their own ankles and wrists, gagged themselves, put on face masks, and then all hanged themselves simultaneously; why there were no videos or photos; why no guards were disciplined or even questioned for ensuing reports; why supposedly radically lax and preferential treatment had been given to three prisoners who were on hunger strike; how the corpses had supposedly suffered rigor mortis faster than is physically possible, etc.

Three months after Hickman returned to the U.S. he heard on the news of another very similar “suicide” at Guantanamo. Who could Hickman turn to with what he knew? He found a law professor named Mark Denbeaux at the Seton Hall University Law School’s Center for Policy and Research. With his, and his colleagues’, help Hickman tried reporting the matter through proper channels. Obama’s Justice Department, NBC, ABC, and 60 Minutes all expressed interest, were told the facts, and refused to do a thing about it. But Scott Horton wrote it up in Harpers, which Keith Olbermann reported on but the rest of the corporate media ignored.

Hickman and Seton Hall researchers found out that the CIA had been administering huge doses of a drug called mefloquine to prisoners, including the three killed, which an army doctor told Hickman would induce terror and amounted to “psychological waterboarding.” Over at Truthout.org Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye reported that every new arrival at Guantanamo was given mefloquine, supposedly for malaria, but it was only given to every prisoner, never to a single guard or to any third-country staff people from countries with high risk of malaria, and never to the Haitian refugees housed at Guantanamo in 1991 and 1992. Hickman had begun his “service” at Guantanamo believing the prisoners were “the worst of the worst,” but had since learned that at least most of them were nothing of the sort, having been picked up for bounties with little knowledge of what they’d done. Why, he wondered,

“were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they’d been taken into custody? Even if they’d had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it ‘America’s battle lab.’”

Video: The Original Right/Left Debate They Desperately Still Avoid

By: jbade Sunday January 25, 2015 8:16 am

Noam Chomsky  has been destroying “the right” for generations. William Buckley, the darling of the right for a generation and originator of a large part of the right’sdoctrine it forwards this day. Noam demonstrates the weakness of the right’s argument for righteous war. The same argument that is not allowed on television anymore, you know the one that forwards facts to support the assertions being made and offers an opposing opinion. Today it is MSNBC/FOX forwarding no facts to support their opinions, instead you get the Fox 5 and Morning Joe where 4 or 5 people validate the same opinion/each others opinions in slightly varied ways. This falls under “if you say it enough times people will believe it”

This is still one of the great debates of all time. Still the gold standard for destroying right-wing talking points. In the case present he was so effective he gets Buckley to  threaten him on a nationally televised debate. One should note that this quality of debate does not occur anymore except on Democracy Now , RT.com

An Open Letter to the Democrats and Those Who Elect Them “The Purveyors of Evil”

By: jbade Saturday January 24, 2015 11:17 am

When Obama came to office he maintained and/or strengthened all important right-wing policies.

1.On monetary policy exactly the same as Bush.

2. Dems and their supporters  are aptly described as the main protector/enabler of wall street’s extraction of wealth from the middle-class.

3.On war-making, they stayed in Iraq .until forced by the Iraqis/American People to leave and escalated to  122, 000 active combat troops from under 100,000 for Bush.

4. They have, legislatively, made Afghanistan a forever war. Approaching 2 trillion in costs. Those costs made permanent.

5.They have showered the military industrial complex with continuously escalating riches.

6.They have redefined war, to allow the slaughter of all as long as Americans don’t die.

7. They have redefined casualties of war to, by example, exclude 70,000 Libyan men, women and children.  They  have ingrained this policy by  legislation  requiring  that we not acknowledge any deaths  from our bombs we  are, presently, dropping in Iraq/Syria.

8. The Huff Post, the Dems most important propaganda tool, is really just a stenographer for, warmongering AP.  If you can stomach reading the Huff Post, you are a hard core Democrat partisan. You need therapy to jolt you from your right wing delusion.

9.They have decreased the tax burden on the wealthy/corporations while increasing the burdens on average Americans.

10. The real question- has the Obama Administration employed anyone who is not from wall street. who is that person, what have they accomplished?

11. Trying to out-do Bill Clinton as A corporate shill, Obama is raising his NAFTA bid with a Trans Pacific  Trade reaming that will stop our kids/grand-kids from undoing what we have bound  them to- you can not break or alter a trade pact and/or security  pact. There are indications that our children/ grand children, the 30 and unders  have rejected both parties in favor of the facts and common sense. This generation must do their duty to their corporate masters and bind the next generation to wars/warmaking(afagn) and corporate fidelity they have implemented- nutured, the declining standard of living they  have assured, their loyalty oaths to MSNBC and the Huff Post must be maintained- the next generation must be stopped from altering what we have wrought.

12. Dems have enacted legislation that allows the the Government to kill any American without Judicial due process. Like the redefinition of war, casualties- due process is just given a new meaning that takes dissolves that civil liberty not to be killed by your government without some ability to challenge your assassination.  Orwell.

13. I could go on to 100 and not labor at all.

14Unprecedented assault on whistle-blowers.

15. Unprecedented assault on journalists/ the truth

If you ever voted for Obama or Democrats you are the intended recipient of this open letter.  If you are forwarding hopeful diaries directed at what  the Dems might do, that Obama is talking about the middle class(better late than never), ect yeah! your part of the problem not the cure.

Obama forwarded as a young man of color who against all odds climbed to the world’s highest office solely by by the content of his character and brilliance, a feat that should inspire every and all Americans and the world.  If  the democrat herd would have put out the slightest bit of effort it  would have revealed a very articulate young man of privilege travelling to Europe and the world being groomed for high office. A man who received his first job from  Henry Kissinger, A man whose deep political connections got him into Harvard and  into the politically not academically achieved  position as President of Harvard Law. His immediate elevation into the machine did not have the sheep asking a single question– just hope because they knew how effective their hope had been at making meaningful progress.

Then the sheep got what they deserved for their lack of due diligence, coupled with their lack of any effective demands and receiving  no assurances of  any progressive progress, nothing! The first things I remember  from Obama after his election were:   that federal employee’s retirement was a big problem and he was taking action to remedy that and That Social Security and Medicare caid were on the table to be cut- two weeks before he took office. Since then he has engaged in right-wing policies and hiring practices at every opportunity.

I remember posting against his policies/actions after/before his election and being branded by many on this site as hating him because he was black. That shielded Obama for years and when it became  overwhelming apparent that he was Bush, they were forced to shut their pie-holes, but that did little to mitigate the damage of their unquestioning fidelity to “the one bringing hope”. Now, at the stroke of midnight, we are subjected to Obama’s worn-out rhetoric one more time in his state of the union. As in his campaign rhetoric of “08 he has immediately moved farther to the right after election doubling down on his efforts for the   1 %  with his advocacy for Trns pacific sell out of workers/ global empowerment of multi-national corporations and his advocacy for  a fairer tax code for those multi-national corporations to continue working in the interest of workers/ the middle-class by shifting the tax burden from Corps.  Obama pleads for an Authorization on Iraq/Syria that will allow the war to become permanent allow us to continue and escalate the money that we send over seas to build our communities here at home.

Yes, I have no respect for those who have voted for dems starting with the Corporatist Bill Clinton through the Obama years. That some of the brain-dead have had some sort of an epiphany, as of late, after devotedly voting for dems is the same thing as – running your car into me at a 4-way stop at which I had been advocating for stop signs because  there are three wrecks a week there. instead of reasonably advocating for  stop signs you assert it is racist to challenge the lack of stop signs and  now admit that it was right to advocate for them in the first place . Nice, but it does not mitigate the damage that you caused by your careless, uninformed at best,  vote, your lack of desire or effort to access the basic reality of facts to reasonably support your belief that your vote , against stop signs,would do some good and not even have a requirement that  the facts would support your vote- just Hope was sufficient. the definition of being a sheep.

That would be all good and well, except for the delusion that you have no part, no responsibility in what your vote has wrought. You are a democrat. incapable of change. For you I have  the Lybia Award that sums up what your apathy, at best, has helped support.  This is one of 70,000 victims of your vote( sorry could not find the Libyan Boy missing his jaw but still alive-very moving). see Video, that child is no longer here thanks to your vote. But the child is here to help you understand the burden of your vote- if for a second people were moral enough to equate that child to a child of  theirs or next door we could end war, we don’t even come close Madeliene Albright- pillar of the democrat establishment slaughter of 500,000 children in a single outing- her position supported, forwarded, advocated for those who supported Dems, by their vote.

I will never, ever, ever even remotely support that evil, others can answer for why they did/do. Why it wasn’t  ’important enough to not vote for?

That would be the equivalent of a vote to sell my soul.

 

 

 

Federal Court Order: Explosive DOT-111 “Bomb Train” Oil Tank Cars Can Continue to Roll

By: Steve Horn Friday January 23, 2015 3:39 pm


Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A U.S. federal court has ordered a halt in proceedings until May in a case centering around oil-by-rail tankers pitting the Sierra Club and ForestEthics against the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). As a result, potentially explosive DOT-111 oil tank cars, dubbed “bomb trains” by activists, can continue to roll through towns and cities across the U.S.indefinitely.

“The briefing schedule previously established by the court is vacated,” wrote Chris Goelz, a mediator for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. “This appeal is stayed until May 12, 2015, or pending publication in the Federal Register of the final tank car standards and phase out of DOT-111 tank cars, whichever occurs first.”

Filing its initial petition for review on December 2, the Sierra Club/ForestEthics lawsuit had barely gotten off the ground before being delayed.

That initial petition called for a judicial review of the DOT’s denial of a July 15, 2014 Petition to Issue an Emergency Order Prohibiting the Shipment of Bakken Crude Oil in Unsafe Tank Cars written by EarthJustice on behalf of the two groups. On November 7, DOT denied Earthjustice’s petition, leading the groups to file the lawsuit.

Initially, DOT told the public it would release its draft updated oil-by-rail regulations by March 31, but now will wait until May 12 to do so. As reported by The Journal News, the delay came in the aftermath of pressure from Big Oil and Big Rail.

“In a joint filing, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) contend the tank car industry doesn’t have the capacity to retrofit the estimated 143,000 tank cars that would need to be modernized to meet the new specifications,” wrote The Journal News. “Nor can manufacturers build new tank cars fast enough, they say.”

The “bomb trains” carrying volatile crude oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from the Bakken Shale, then, will continue to roll unimpeded for the foreseeable future. They will do so in the same DOT-111 rail cars that put the fracked oil-by-rail safety issue on the map to begin with — the July 2013 deadly explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec.

And as DeSmogBlog has reported, industry promises to phase-out DOT-111s on a voluntary basis have rung hollow.

“The courts and the administration are dragging their feet on common sense safety steps that will take the most dangerous oil tanker cars off the tracks, slow down these trains, and help emergency responders prepare for accidents,” Eddie Scher, communications director for ForestEthics, told DeSmogBlog.

“We filed our lawsuit because the DOT is not moving fast enough on safety. This court’s decision ignored the imminent threat to the 25 million Americans who live in the blast zone and the communities around the nation that don’t have the luxury of waiting for DOT and the rail and oil industry lobbyists to finish their rule.”