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look out dc, big bro has its hands up your no-no bits

2011/04/14

Look out DC, Big Brother has its hands up your collective vages! I haven’t posted in a while due to a mixture of laziness and apathy, but the story below has my shnizzy all sorts of angry.

41 Protestors Including D.C. Mayor Arrested During Protest Of Abortion Rider In Budget Deal (VIDEO)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and 40 other protesters — including members of the city council — were arrested by Capitol Police on Monday after they blocked Constitution Avenue near the Capitol in protest of aspects of the budget deal reached by Congress which limit the city’s autonomy, specifically prohibiting the use of DC public funds for abortions.

The deal reached between Democrats and Republicans to avert a government shutdown and fund the government for the rest if the fiscal year bans the use of DC government funding for abortion in D.C. (TBD has an explainer here). President Barack Obama told House Speaker John Boehner that he would give in on the abortion funding issue, but said he was “not happy about it,” according to the Washington Post.

DC Rider Protest

Somewhere around 300 protesters and onlookers gathered on the sidewalks off Constitution Avenue.

Laura Meyers, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, said her organization was supportive of opposition to the D.C. rider which “effectively strips D.C.’s ability to spend its own locally raised tax funds to fund medication abortion for low-income women.”

The mayor said in a statement issued by city hall that the deal was “an absolute travesty” and that “D.C. deserves to be free. All we want to do is spend our own money.”

“Why should women in the District of Columbia be subjected to a set of rules that no other woman is subjected to?,” Gray said.

Other officials arrested included City Council Member Muriel Browser, City Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, Council members Yvette Alexander, Tommy Wells, Michael Brown and Sekou Biddle.

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Slow Jam The News: Brian Williams Edition (3/2/11)

2011/03/06

If this doesn’t put you in the mood to get sexy, organized labor style, nothing will.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Slow Jam The News: Brian Williams Edition (3/2/11), posted with vodpod

the koch saga continues…

2011/02/24

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker: Funded by the Koch Bros.

— By Andy Kroll

| Fri Feb. 18, 2011 9:12 AM PST

Protesters surrounded Wisconsin's capitol building in Madison this week to register their opposition to GOP Giv. Scott Walker's plan to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees. Via Flickr[UPDATE: Since I reported on Koch Industries PAC’s donations to Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, the New York Times and Washington Post both published their own stories the Kochs’ involvement. Both are worth reading. UPDATE 2: On February 22, an alt-news editor posing as David Koch called Walker’s office to talk about the union protests in Wisconsin. Walker answered, and the alt-weekly editor recorded the entire 20-minute conversation. My colleague Adam Weinstein has the story and the audio here: Did Scott Walker Get Crank-Call Pwned? (AUDIO) UPDATE: YES.]

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker, whose bill to kill collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions has caused an uproar among state employees, might not be where he is today without the Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch are conservative titans of industry who have infamously used their vast wealth to undermine President Obama and fight legislation they detest, such as the cap-and-trade climate bill, the health care reform act, and the economic stimulus package. For years, the billionaires have made extensive political donations to Republican candidates across the country and have provided millions of dollars to astroturf right-wing organizations. Koch Industries’ political action committee has doled out more than $2.6 million to candidates. And one prominent beneficiary of the Koch brothers’ largess is Scott Walker.

According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Walker’s gubernatorial campaign received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC during the 2010 election. That donation was his campaign’s second-highest, behind $43,125 in contributions from housing and realtor groups in Wisconsin. The Koch’s PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used political maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker’s opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points. The Koch money, no doubt, helped greatly.

The Kochs also assisted Walker’s current GOP allies in the fight against the public-sector unions. Last year, Republicans took control of the both houses of the Wisconsin state legislature, which has made Walker’s assault on these unions possible. And according to data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Koch Industries PAC spent $6,500 in support of 16 Wisconsin Republican state legislative candidates, who each won his or her election.

Walker’s plan to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees is right out of the Koch brothers’ playbook. Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. The Kochs also invited (PDF) Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union outfit, to a June 2010 confab in Aspen, Colorado; Mix said in a recent interview that he supports Governor Walker’s collective-bargaining bill. In Wisconsin, this conservative, anti-union view is being placed into action by lawmakers in sync with the deep-pocketed donors who helped them obtain power. (Walker also opposes the state’s Clean Energy Job Act, which would compel the state to increase its use of alternative energy.) At this moment—even with the Wisconsin uprising unresolved—the Koch brothers’ investment in Walker appears to be paying off.

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wisconsin’s troubling message for progressives

2011/02/23

Wisconsin’s Troubling Message for Progressives

February 23, 2011 By Randy Shaw

It’s great to see the mass protests in Wisconsin. Labor activists have not been so publicly militant since the 2008 elections, and some see the rallies as part of increasing worker resistance across the globe. But much as I appreciate efforts to link Cairo with Madison, a very troubling message underlies the Wisconsin fight. A Republican Governor is using the 2010 election results as a mandate for attacks on organized labor, a key progressive and Democratic Party constituency.

Yet after Democrats won far greater voter support for change in the 2008 national elections, President Obama failed to declare a similar mandate to mobilize public support on behalf of labor unions and other constituencies responsible for the sweeping Democratic victory. Instead, Obama emphasized “bipartisanship” — a foreign concept for single-minded Republicans. Wisconsin again shows that Republican politicians are far more committed to their agendas — and that, unlike their Democratic counterparts, they play to win.

As progressives cheer those fighting to save collective bargaining for Wisconsin’s public employees, let’s recognize the actual terms of the fight. As a result of a single midterm election that brought Republicans control of the Governor’s office and Legislature, public employees will incur steep drops in state contributions to their pensions and health care.

And that’s the best-case outcome.

The worst case is Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public employees, a position for which he claims a voter “mandate.” Yet Madison-based correspondent John Nichols of The Nation told Pacifica’s Democracy Now last week that Walker never promoted this during his fall campaign.

I looked in vain for other media to highlight Nichols’ point, but to no avail. In fact, most of the media accepted Walker’s claim of a mandate to end collective bargaining. Hardball’s Chris Matthews even expressed opposition to, and was shocked by, the very idea that Wisconsin’s public employees were required to pay union dues (so much for MSNBC’s “lean forward” campaign.)

Republicans Ruffle Feathers

Scott Fitzgerald, Republican majority leader in the Wisconsin State Senate whose brother is speaker of the Assembly, told the New York Times that “Scott Walker and I and my brother Jeff went into this session with the understanding that we had to deliver on campaign promises, that people wanted the Republicans to make change, that the more feathers you ruffle this time, the better you’ll be.”

When is the last time one heard a powerful Democratic politician pledging to ruffle feathers? Hasn’t Fitzgerald heard about the importance of bipartisanship?

Walker, Fitzgerald and other Republicans understand that justifying actions as “mandated” by election results is a powerful frame. And as George W. Bush showed after losing the popular vote and securing the White House solely via judicial fiat in 2000, and then narrowly winning 2004 (by a margin less than Obama’s in 2008), one can use even the most questionable “mandate” to reward political allies and punish opponents.

That’s what the Wisconsin furor is all about. Walker and his crew know that simply cutting compensation to public employees is not enough; they want to weaken public employee unions so that they have fewer resources to support Democrats against Republicans in the 2012 election and beyond.

That’s what is called a game-changer. And it’s what Republican politicians in Ohio, New Jersey and other states are also seeking, which is to use a temporary political edge to permanently weaken the Democratic Party rather than remaining satisfied with smaller reforms.

To use a football analogy: Republicans are throwing deep passes down field while Democrats rely on three yards and a cloud of dust. In a system where election victories routinely shift between parties, this always leaves Republicans with better field position.

Obama’s Failure to Boost Allies

The furor over Wisconsin makes it easy to forget the foreseeability of the state fiscal crises now used to justify attacks on public employees. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi valiantly fought to include billions more in stimulus funds to help the states, but could not sway Obama or her Senate colleagues.

Why didn’t Obama try to mobilize the public through Organizing for America and use his bully pulpit to get states the funds they would need to prevent these attacks on public employees? Because he did not want a public fight with Republicans over this issue. And while Obama expressed support for unionized public sector employees last week — which excited many progressives — Obama failed to take the preemptive actions necessary to help protect one of the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituencies.

That failure is the signature of the Obama presidency. Elected on a mandate for real change, Obama has refused to “ruffle feathers” over labor law reform, or any other measure that would boost union membership and power. Nor would he claim a public mandate for comprehensive immigration reform, granting immigrant rights supporters only increased deportations and a state-led backlash justified by the federal government’s lack of action.

For those who argue that progressives failed to mount the necessary massive public campaign to pass such measures, consider the absence of any grassroots movement in Wisconsin supporting the denial of public employees collective bargaining rights. If grassroots activism were a prerequisite for Obama’s actions, he would not have unilaterally escalated the war in Afghanistan or frozen federal employees pay for two years.

Obama did claim a mandate for health care reform, but was prepared to give up on the issue in late 2009 until Nancy Pelosi pressured him to act. And the passage of health care reform was not seen as sufficiently important to key Democratic constituencies like young people and racial minorities as to mobilize them to the polls in 2010.

To be fair, some believe Obama did push his 2008 mandate. According to a front-page story in the February 21 New York Times, it was precisely such “overreaching” that led to the “electoral backlash” against Democrats last November.

Really? Millions of Obama voters in 2008 stayed home in 2010 because he went too far delivering on his campaign agenda for change?

That’s hard to believe. But it is consistent with a media message that says the political center is always best, even if it means that the United States has greater income inequality than Egypt, rising numbers living in poverty, and among the highest unemployment rates in the industrial world.

The Progressive Dilemma

Here’s what the Wisconsin struggle highlights: Republicans nominate true believers, even if this risks losing the general election because they see great upside and little downside — they don’t fear that the winning Democrat will do much to hurt conservative interests.

In contrast, Democrats are so scared that Republican politicians will take truly destructive actions, that they feel bound to support Democratic politicians regardless of how little they deliver to Democratic constituencies. In this mindset, criticizing Obama simply boosts Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee, and is political folly.

This is why organized labor, immigrant rights groups, the DC-based anti-poverty groups, and other constituencies rarely if ever criticize Obama regardless of his actions. I even heard Howard Dean on MSNBC downplaying Obama’s failure to cut much military spending from the budget, while slashing CDBG, subsidized home heating oil, and community service grants. Dean instead highlighted how much better Obama’s budget was than that of House Republicans.

Democrats will win elections by playing not to lose, but these victories will not change the country’s fundamental direction. And as long as Democrats fail to hold those they elect politically accountable, and refuse to demand that their political leaders “ruffle feathers” in pursuing change, this dynamic will continue.

Let’s hope that Wisconsin is the wake-up call that starts to change

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who left bachmann’s cage open again?

2011/01/25

Just when you think you Sarah Palin is the battiest broad in all the land in marches Michelle Bachmann sporting her crazypants(uit) spouting facts she just made up off the top of her head. Did you know that we had a founding father by the name of “Tom Addison, the Tom Adams, err, John Adamses?” I did not. Stammering idiot antics aside, if the speech she gave last week (see below) is any indication of her unbelievable talent for rewriting history we are in for a really rough rebuttal tonight.

Skip through the first bit. No scratch that– listen to her stumble over the names of our founding fathers first but then forward to around 9:30 to learn some interesting “facts” about that intellectual thief Thomas Jefferson’s and his plagiarisms of the Mayflower Contract. Shame on you TJ, I take back all the nice things I said about you in and around your memorial. Skip to 9:45 if you want to hear the “truth” about slavery and indentured servitude. I bet you thought those things existed! WRONG!

Eighteenth-century America: “It didn’t matter the color of their skin, it didn’t matter their language, it didn’t matter their economic status… it made no difference. Once you got here, we were all the same. Isn’t that remarkable.”

Yes, yes it certainly is!

I did my best to watch the whole thing but I couldn’t do it. I needed a breather after 12:30 where she talks about the auto bailouts. Yes, she even get shamefully recent history wrong.

“Did you ever think in your lifetime that you would see the federal government purchase the largest car companies in the United States?” she asks hands a-waving. 

No. Because most people, those of us who believe in things like “sales figures” and “reported profits” realize GM and Chrysler aren’t the two largest car companies in the United States. Whoops. Also anyone who can google can easily find out that the government didn’t even really buy these companies: one is a private company, and the other is publicly traded.

“We are in for a treat tonight” – Stephanie Domingo

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let’s compare and contrast

2011/01/13

This is NOT a rant.

Let’s compare and contrast these responses to the tragedy in Tucson.

Shall we?

I was lucky enough to have this story break over brunch last weekend with my dear friend and political advisor. Yes, I have a political advisor, nbd guys! Although we didn’t have any real details Saturday afternoon (though that didn’t stop the NY Post from announcing that Giffords died within hours of the story breaking–can someone please get these people a Pulitzer??) we talked briefly about the timing. I have no real commentary on this story. I thought the president’s response was appropriate. What does one say when a disgruntled man shoots an unarmed congresswoman in the head from 4ft away with an automatic weapon? All I can say is that it was just matter of time before some unstable person took the violent political rhetoric to these extremes.

That was NOT a rant.

cash rules everything around me

2010/12/24

U.S. Approved Business With Blacklisted Nations

Read this article and two things came to mind:

  • Wu Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M.
  • US Treasury Dept being a giant self-collapsing vortex of hypocrisy.

“American businesses were permitted to deal with foreign companies believed to be involved in terrorism or weapons proliferation.”-NYT

Does Jack Bauer know about this??