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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.”

Distrust But Verify

By: David Swanson Friday January 23, 2015 10:35 am

What the U.S. government does openly is many times worse than anything it can be doing secretly, and yet the secrets fascinate us.

If you compare polling on majority views on most political topics with actual U.S. policy, there’s little overlap. Scholars now produce reports finding that the United States is an oligarchy. Most people don’t vote. Those who try to engage with U.S. politics get excited when the Democrats fall back into the minority and start pretending to favor popular policies again. People hope to find reflected bits of decency in official rhetoric during a two-year-long period of pretended governance that amounts to a public sales pitch and a private wink to the campaign funding overlords.

Our government openly subsidizes the destruction of our planet’s climate, openly allows corporations to pay negative taxes, openly redistributes wealth upward, openly funds a military as costly as the rest of the globe’s nations’ combined, openly serves as the marketing firm for the U.S. weapons that make up much of that other half of the globe’s armed forces, openly enacts corporate trade policies that ruin economies and the environment, openly denies us basic human services, openly prosecutes whistleblowers, openly restricts our civil liberties, openly murders large numbers of people with drone strikes. We can watch a police officer in New York choke a man to death on video and walk away without being prosecuted for any crime. We can watch the U.S. Congress take direction in promoting a new war from a foreign leader (tune in February 11 for the latest), and yet what goes on in secret obsesses us.

I don’t mean the lies that have been exposed, the false excuses for wars, the miscalculations, the “misplacement” of billions of dollars. I mean the human drama. It’s not enough to know that Obamacare is a grotesque and deadly monstrosity; we want to know about the insurance executives’ roles in writing it. It’s not enough to know that Iraq has been destroyed. We want to hear about the oil barons drawing up the plans with Dick Cheney. It’s not enough to know that a tragic crime was used to launch catastrophic wars, we want to know whether the crime was staged. We want to know who was behind every assassination, and every powerful bit of propaganda. We want to know whether each CIA operation can be explained by evil or incompetence. We’re like Mark Twain, who said, “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.”

This is what I wonder in looking at Operation Merlin, over which Jeffrey Sterling is now on trial as a whistleblower. Whether giving nuclear weapons plans to Iran can be explained by incompetence that surpasses my understanding or must be explained by evil, the U.S. government is openly trying to incarcerate a whistleblower who did his legal duty. I just happen to have read a book by Donald Jeffries called Hidden History: An Expose of Modern Crimes, Conspiracies, and Cover-ups in American Politics. I’ve been thinking over dozens of alleged conspiracies from the killing of President Kennedy to the supposed forging of Obama’s birth certificate. Some I think are real, others nonsense. The point is that I think there may be a hybrid solution. I may not have to choose incompetence or evil to explain the CIA giving nukes to Iran. I can choose incompetence combined with bureaucratic dysfunction combined with evil priorities.

If the CIA’s top priority was nuclear disarmament, it wouldn’t have tried, as it claims to have tried, to slow down an Iranian nuclear weapons program (if one existed, it didn’t know) by giving Iran nuclear plans. The CIA officers involved testified in court that they knew their action risked proliferating nuclear weapons technology. That also means that if their top priority had been obeying the law, they wouldn’t have created Operation Merlin. But if their top priority was being involved, appearing to be doing something important, and if they were risking an outcome that didn’t much worry them, Operation Merlin is exactly what they would have done — assuming gargantuan levels of incompetence. That is, if they didn’t much care if Iran got nukes, if they in fact thought it would be a pretty cool excuse to start a war if Iran could be shown to be working on nukes, well then, why the heck not find the most outlandishly stupid and illegal way in which to try to slow Iran down — a way that could very well speed Iran up?

This same hybrid explanation applies to other mysteries as well, of course. If the U.S. government’s top priority had been preventing a crime like 911, it would have stopped bombing and occupying Muslim nations, adopted an approach of cooperation and generosity with the world, and invested at least a wee bit of effort into preventing the crime, especially when the president was handed a memo warning about it and when his top advisor was shouting about the need.  But if the people running the U.S. government didn’t really give much of a damn about preventing such a crime, and if they in fact thought it would be just about the only way to get new wars started, well then, they would have done at least what we know them to have done and perhaps more that we could learn from a proper investigation.  Part incompetent, part evil — how evil, we don’t know. But we don’t need to conclude that the hijackers didn’t exist or a missile hit the Pentagon or the World Trade Center was blown up from within to achieve a satisfactory explanation. All such things could coexist with this theory, but they’re not needed.

What argues against such explanations of unknown government misdeeds is not the degree of evilness. Remember, we’re talking about a government that has used 911 as an excuse to destroy whole countries and kill upwards of a million human beings. Blowing up a couple of buildings is perfectly acceptable to most people who would launch wars. The exception is anyone whose sincere nationalism actually makes them value U.S. lives while considering non-U.S. lives to be worthless. But, remember, we’re talking about the U.S. government. They send U.S. troops off to kill and die in the process of slaughtering the foreigners. They allow millions in the U.S. to die for lack of basic services while they dump funding into war preparations. Dick Cheney contemplated a proposal to stage a shooting of U.S. troops disguised as Iranians. The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved Operation Northwoods, which would have murdered Americans to frame Cuba. At question is not level of evil, but particular level of competent engagement in particular acts of evil.

Jeffries’ book mixes a half century of well-documented crimes with pure speculation. I don’t think the inclusion in a book of dubious conspiracies should hurt the inclusion of likely ones. If we aren’t open to questioning everything, we’ll miss lots of things. But it’s simply not possible that every unusual plane crash over a period of decades has been an assassination. At least one or two of them must have been accidents. That Jeffries throws in completely random silliness, such as that Janet Reno was rumored to be gay (so what?) or that a couple killed on 911 had been married at the Vatican (gasp!), or that he thinks the Institute for Policy Studies is part of the elite establishment, doesn’t mean that Lee Harvey Oswald actually killed Kennedy. I think we have to look at every case seriously and go where the evidence leads. I think that our approach should be: Distrust but verify. Begin with the assumption that the government is lying, and see if it can prove itself honest.

When I read that Karl Rove views religion as a useful tool for manipulating the gullible or that Bill Clinton had a seat on a jet known for providing sex with underage girls, I don’t think such gossip is as significant as trade, energy, and war policies that will result in millions of deaths. But I don’t think the public interest in such stories is completely beside the point either. “Whether important policy decisions are made at Bohemian Grove or not,” writes Jeffries, “it is at the very least disturbing to know that our leaders are gathering together to worship a massive owl, dress in robes, and recite occult incantations.” Is it? We just had a president who openly said God had told him to attack Afghanistan and Iraq. Who cares if he worships an owl, unless it was the owl who told him that? But it is disturbing because of the secrecy. Politicians who will pretend they want to end wars or tax billionaires whenever they’re in the minority and in no danger of actually doing it are politicians with contempt for you and me; they are people who believe they are above us and can, like Henry V, make their own laws. Of course Michael Hastings’ death could have been an accident, but to assume so, and to suggest that investigating it as a murder would be loony is to demonstrate a remarkable ignorance of history.  Recently, with each new FBI terror plot foiled and celebrated, I’ve assumed it would be shown to have been a case of entrapment in which the FBI encouraged the crime before preventing it. In each case, I’ve been right. That doesn’t mean that tomorrow the FBI won’t capture a terrorist it had nothing to do with creating; it just means: Distrust but verify.

Distrusting may have started with Kennedy’s assassination, even if the need for distrusting today can be advanced further through an honest retelling of Pearl Harbor, and myths of losing innocence ought by all rights to go back to the genocide of the Native Americans if not to the agricultural revolution. Hidden History is not where I think people should start reading about Kennedy (James Douglass’s book might be better). But I learned new things about Kennedy from Hidden History and think we should all consider Jeffries’ remark: “[O]nce I realized that the president of the United States could be killed in broad daylight, without a single high-ranking public official questioning what really happened, and without any supposed journalist having the slightest curiosity about the subject, I understood that anything was possible.”

Jeffries’ book roams chronologically through a long list of scandals. He briefly mentions numerous outrages that are not really in dispute: Northwoods, Tonkin, Mongoose, Mockingbird, MK-Ultra, Cointelpro,  Fred Hampton, etc., etc. He focuses at greater length on a smaller number of possible conspiracies, providing good summaries of what’s known about the killing of JFK and RFK in particular. On Chappaquiddick he’s less convincing, on the October Surprise he’s vague and truly bizarre (but could have been completely convincing as I think the evidence is well established). He strays into economics and politics and general corruption, speculates on AIDS, Vince Foster, Oklahoma City, etc. His sections on JFK Jr. and on the Anthrax scare are of interest, I think.

Do the surveillance state and the proliferation of private cameras end these mysteries? Imagine Kennedy shot in Dallas today. The video footage would be voluminous, and it would be around the world on the internet before the blood dried. But imagine Abdulrahman al Awlaki’s killing today. Much of the world doesn’t have the same technology one could expect in Dallas. And imagine Eric Garner’s killing today. We have the video, but we’re told not to believe our lying eyes. What could end bad government — as well as misplaced suspicions of bad government — would be open government, including the elimination of secret agencies. And what could accomplish that would be if the public, including Jeffrey Sterling’s jury, assumed that anything the CIA said was more than likely a lie.

US media lies – Video proof the NAF delivered the Kiev regime an astounding defeat two days ago

By: operationmindcrime Friday January 23, 2015 9:55 am

5 days ago the US media reported (across the board) that the Kiev regime had taken Donetsk airport and delt the rebels of Novorossiya an astounding defeat. Nothing could be further from the truth as proven by the videos below.

The rebels not only took complete control of the airport, they wiped out an entire Kiev battalion of over 500 men and took over 50 prisoners. How did they do this? They led the Kiev ‘cyborgs’ (their own nickname) into a trap of their own making. They flanked them on both sides as the Kiev soldiers entered the new terminal which they had become accustomed to fighting from. At the same time the NAF attacked directly from the front bravely losing over a dozen soldiers. The Kiev regime had no idea that the ceilings in the new terminal had been rigged with explosives during the time the NAF had recently held the building. In the midst of the massive firefight the NAF blew up and dropped the entire ceiling on the Kiev battalion. Hence, the reason so many of them surrendered as seen in the videos below. Please keep in mind that the Kiev spokesperson reported that only 8 troops were captured and the US media parroted that lie (across the board) as usual. These videos prove that many, many more were captured.

Graphic warnings for all the videos below:

The first video is an amazing video that shows the true difference between the NAF freedom fighters and the Ukrainian ‘cyborgs’. Their spirits are high. They show understanding and respect the enemy. Notice the level of enthusiasm as the tanks drive by. They remind the world that they voted to be free of the Kiev fascist regime. This is an example of true democracy, humanity and fighting for a good cause.

Videos of the captured Ukrainian ‘cyborg’ child killers. They do not seem to be smiling as much as they were when they were killing innocent women, children and elderly civilians.

8 Bandera Right Sector captured in this one.

In this one 3 captured conscripts confess what is really happening.

Many of these poor conscripts are being drafted from the poorest western Ukrainian villages and sent to their deaths with little or no training. It is rumored that they were ordered to take the airport once again in order to impress the US General that was visiting Kiev. It backfired and they were simply used as cannon fodder by the fascist Kiev regime.

This link is to 7 more captured.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=425005234321318&set=vb.308938099261366&type=2&theater

People can watch the videos for themselves and see how those prisoners are doing and what they think about the US initiated war they are participating in. This next one is of the captured Ukrainian battalion commander having his ass handed to him by the locals whose family members he has been killing.

Graphic Warnings: Videos feature dead soldiers

Graham Phillips also has plenty of videos up of the Ukrainian troops that have been killed at the airport. Graphic Warning:

Link to video showing over 25 more captured Ukrainian military personnel. They are losing on a large scale. It is no wonder they now want another cease fire.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=1411515615808110&set=vb.100008490547850&type=2&theater

Even the Kiev Post is now admitting they lost the battle for the airport. http://www.kyivpost.com/content/ukraine/donetsk-airport-overrun-by-rebels-say-army-volunteers-378037.html
Finally some western media outlets (in Europe) are showing some humanity and portraying a little bit of truth about what the Ukrainian army are doing. Kudos to Agency press France.

http://news.yahoo.com/father-buries-4-old-son-curses-ukraines-war-141947336.html

A father buries his 4-year-old son and curses Ukraine’s war – Yahoo/Agence Presse France
Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) – Vladimir Bobryshchev was returning home early on a recent morning after a long night of work when a rocket ripped through the sky, falling straight toward his home.

He saw it hit his house, and he rushed over to save his two sons and his wife. This week, he stood in a cemetery in the rebel bastion of Donetsk burying his four-year-old boy Artyom while his wife and seven-year-old were in a hospital with serious wounds.

“My son was a terrorist like they say?” he said in anger, blaming Ukrainian forces for the rocket strike and referring to the label authorities in Kiev use for the rebels they are fighting.

His hands covered with scars, the 30-year-old metal-worker said through tears: “I tried to get them out of the debris … But I couldn’t save my son.”

For Vladimir, those who fired the rocket that wrecked his home and killed his son intended to hit civilians.

“There is no military target within a kilometre all around. They targeted houses!” he shouted, calling for those responsible to be brought to justice.

In the cemetery in the Kirovskiy neighbourhood in the once-bustling industrial city under thick fog and light rain, about 10 people gathered around the boy’s open casket with candles and blank faces.

Artyom’s grandmother was unable to hold back her tears and cries, and she sought a way to comfort him one last time.

“He needs his rabbit,” she said before placing a stuffed animal in the coffin.

Vladimir’s wife, meanwhile, remained in serious condition, having lost a leg, and his seven-year-old son Mikhail may have to lose one of his eyes.

“He doesn’t know yet that he no longer has a brother,” the father said of his hospitalised son.

He then pulled out an apple juice and piece of candy from his pocket. Artyom had been waiting for his father to return home on the morning the rocket hit.

“It was for him,” he said of the small gifts in his pocket.

http://news.yahoo.com/father-buries-4-old-son-curses-ukraines-war-141947336.html

This final video is a weird video circulating on Facebook from after the airport battle. In the video rebel leader Motorola shows small solar powered digital recorders that he says the Ukrainian troops had on them at the airport. The recorders play religious end time messages of US preacher Charles Stanley from Georgia and seem to have a hypnotic affect on the Ukrainian ‘cyborgs’ that were in possession of them. Over 30 of the recorders were found on dead Ukrainian soldiers bodies. Link here to You Tube video of the find: