Job cuts at the U.S. Postal Service

Posted by J.D. On Tuesday, March 31, 2009 0 comments
In a world where a junior high school advertises an opening for a janitor and receives 700 applications...the job market isn't good.

Ordinarily there is a certain degree of security in working for a government agency. Not any more.

The news is that the U.S. Postal Service wants to cut its huge losses by letting 150,000 employees -- that's more than the population of Hampton, Va. -- take early retirement.

Early retirement is just one aspect of the Postal Service's plans. Many employees will simply lose their jobs.

The Postal Service says it is trying to save $100 million annually through a series of measures that include closing offices and eliminating positions.

Postal district-level administrative positions are being cut by 15 percent, or about 1,400 people. Another 1,400 mail processing supervisors and management positions are being eliminated at almost 400 facilities nationwide.

And six offices -- in Lake Mary, Fla.; North Reading, Mass.; Manchester, N.H.; Edison, N.J.; Erie, Pa., and Spokane, Wash. -- will close.

According to the postal facts on the USPS website, the USPS has is the nation’s second largest employer and has 656,000 career employees. If all 150,000 take early retirement, that will cut the job force down to 506,000. Three months ago the USPS offered early retirement, but only 9,000 employees took advantage of the offer at that time.

For those who are lucky enough to keep their jobs, they may be doing less of those jobs.

Postmaster General John Potter told the House that the post office may run out of money by the end of the year if it does not get aid...

...The postmaster said he will pay all the salaries, but that other bills might just have to wait. He also asked that mail delivery drop to five days per week.

This wouldn't be the first time that the mail schedule was altered. Mail was delivered seven days a week until 1912. Sunday was removed as a delivery day in deference to churches. For one month in 1957, Saturday delivery was halted due to low funds.

So 150,000 employees are being offered early retirement. 2,800 jobs will simply disappear. Six offices will be permanently closed.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds...but the economy will.

Republicans: tax the poor and drug test the needy

Posted by J.D. On 0 comments
Republicans really care about people. The common man and woman. Truly.

While they have been crowing about their "leaner budget", Citizens for Tax Justice has looked over the GOP plan and crunched some numbers. This is what they came up with:

Over a fourth of taxpayers, mostly low-income families, would pay more in taxes under the House GOP plan than they would under the President’s plan.

The richest one percent of taxpayers would pay $100,000 less, on average, under the House GOP plan than they would under the President’s plan.

The income tax proposals in the House GOP plan, which is presented as a fiscally responsible alternative to the President’s plan, would cost over $300 billion more than the Obama income tax cuts in 2011 alone.

Yep. Their much vaunted proposal will actually cost low-income families more and benefit only the richest one percent. And the whole thing costs more than Obama's plan.

If that doesn't prove how much they care about common folk, how about their new plan to push for mandatory drug testing for everyone on government assistance?

"Nobody's being forced into these assistance programs," said Craig Blair, a Republican in the West Virginia Legislature who has created a Web site — — that bears a bobble-headed likeness of himself advocating this position. "If so many jobs require random drug tests these days, why not these benefits?"

Sure, Mr. Blair. Nobody is being forced to use assistance. They could just as easily be homeless and live under a bridge. Blair feels the need to list his religion in his bio on his website but I'm not seeing a great deal of Christian compassion in his actions.

These drug test cost roughly $400 per test. Who's paying for these tests? Who do you think? Taxpayers. Should this come to pass, everyone who applies for a welfare check, food stamps or unemployment benefits is subject to random drug tests...paid for by you.

I wonder where Rick Santelli is on this one. Shouldn't he be throwing another big ole Tea Party of rage about his tax dollars? Considering that Santelli's Chicago Tea Party was just Republican astroturfing and the drug tests are being pushed by Republicans...I wouldn't hold my breath.

But it gets better. In other states they are looking to be even more restrictive

Drug testing is not the only restriction envisioned for people receiving public assistance: a bill in the Tennessee Legislature would cap lottery winnings for recipients at $600.

Yep. Even though as Blair says "Nobody's being forced into these assistance programs" they government sure as hell is going to let you climb your way out with lottery winnings. If you win too much...they won't let you have it. Which, of course, means you have to stay on that government assistance that nobody is forcing you into.

Torture didn't protect us

Posted by J.D. On Monday, March 30, 2009 1 comments
Earlier, I wrote of revelations of torture during the Bush administration and one person referenced was supposedly a senior member of Al Qaeda. Well, it turns out that just plain isn't true.

When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President George W. Bush had publicly described him as "al-Qaeda's chief of operations," and other top officials called him a "trusted associate" of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.

Abu Zubaida was not even an official member of al-Qaeda, according to a portrait of the man that emerges from court documents and interviews with current and former intelligence, law enforcement and military sources. Rather, he was a "fixer" for radical Muslim ideologues, and he ended up working directly with al-Qaeda only after Sept. 11 -- and that was because the United States stood ready to invade Afghanistan.

Which means he was taken from his cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around his neck and then proceeded to swing him around and smash him against the walls...for nothing.

No real intelligence was gathered. Quite the contrary. American intelligence agents were sent all over the globe following up on untruths told by a man who just desperately wanted to stop being tortured.

You know, there is a very good reason that coerced confessions don't hold up in court...when facing threats and/or violence, people will generally say whatever it takes to avoid more punishment. Regardless of the veracity or lack thereof.

The use of torture has not only made America look awful in the eyes of the rest of the world, but it has further inflamed those who hate America. And, as it now turns out, the torture didn't get us valid intelligence. That is kind of the opposite of a win.

"They couldn't stand the idea that there wasn't anything new," the official said. "They'd say, 'You aren't working hard enough.' There was both a disbelief in what he was saying and also a desire for retribution -- a feeling that 'He's going to talk, and if he doesn't talk, we'll do whatever.' "

The application of techniques such as waterboarding -- a form of simulated drowning that U.S. officials had previously deemed a crime -- prompted a sudden torrent of names and facts. Abu Zubaida began unspooling the details of various al-Qaeda plots, including plans to unleash weapons of mass destruction.

Abu Zubaida's revelations triggered a series of alerts and sent hundreds of CIA and FBI investigators scurrying in pursuit of phantoms. The interrogations led directly to the arrest of Jose Padilla, the man Abu Zubaida identified as heading an effort to explode a radiological "dirty bomb" in an American city. Padilla was held in a naval brig for 3 1/2 years on the allegation but was never charged in any such plot. Every other lead ultimately dissolved into smoke and shadow, according to high-ranking former U.S. officials with access to classified reports.

"We spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms," one former intelligence official said.

Millions were spent "chasing false alarms". Why? Because American intelligence agents were just positive that a wee bit more torture would ferret out some more information. And all they got was made up shit from a man who just wanted the torture to end.

This isn't the way America is supposed to be acting. Not only is it immoral, but clearly it is counterproductive, too. There is no valid argument for torture and the only argument that right-wingers ever had (that we are learning important information) turns out to be total hogwash.

Despite the poor results, Bush White House officials and CIA leaders continued to insist that the harsh measures applied against Abu Zubaida and others produced useful intelligence that disrupted terrorist plots and saved American lives.

It doesn't count as stopping a threat when the "threat" was a complete fabrication from a man in physical and psychological pain.

Thoughts for Sunday

Posted by J.D. On Sunday, March 29, 2009 0 comments
The essence of trade unionism is social uplift. The labor movement has been the haven for the dispossessed, the despised, the neglected, the downtrodden, the poor. - A. Philip Randolph

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. - Abraham Lincoln

What is a labour victory? I maintain that it is a twofold thing. Workers must gain economic advantage, but they must also gain revolutionary spirit, in order to achieve a complete victory. For workers to gain a few cents more a day, a few minutes less a day, and go back to work with the same psychology, the same attitude toward society is to achieve a temporary gain and not a lasting victory. - Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in men, than any other association of men. - Clarence Darrow

Ten thousand times has the labor movement stumbled and bruised itself. We have been enjoined by the courts, assaulted by thugs, charged by the militia, traduced by the press, frowned upon in public opinion, and deceived by politicians. 'But notwithstanding all this and all these, labor is today the most vital and potential power this planet has ever known, and its historic mission is as certain of ultimate realization as is the setting of the sun. - Eugene V. Debs

The people united will never be defeated. - César Chávez

Immigration in America

Posted by J.D. On Saturday, March 28, 2009 2 comments
Rigo Padilla is a 21-year-old college student. He has lived in America since he was six. Padilla was pulled over for a traffic violation and then everything went downhill.

On January 18, Rigo Padilla, a leader of the Organization of Latin American Students at Harold Washington College, was detained for a traffic violation. A public defender interviewed him and noted that Padilla was not a U.S. citizen. The public defender then walked out of the first and only interview they had.

Within minutes, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent arrived. Padilla was interrogated about what country he was originally from, how old he was when he came to the U.S., how he came to be in the U.S., and where the rest of his family resides. After the interview, he was transferred to a federal prison, where a second ICE agent interrogated him.

What makes this especially ridiculous is that this whole thing is illegal. Chicago is a sanctuary city.

Since 1985, city employees have been prohibited from enforcing federal immigration laws via an executive order issued by then-Mayor Harold Washington, later affirmed by the current mayor, Richard Daley. The policy was subsequently turned into law in 2006.

But now Padilla is looking at being deported to Mexico, a country he hasn't seen since he was six.

But there are far more ludicrous actions by the federal government. Take this example:

Nasin Mauricio Rivera died in San Bernardino County in August and his body was shipped to his native El Salvador for burial.

Seven months later, the federal government is still proceeding with the deportation case against him. A hearing is scheduled for this summer.

While people complain about tax dollars paying for bailout bonuses (and they should be pissed about that) there should be similar outrage about tax money going towards deporting dead people.

As I noted previously, in the coming years America will increasingly be altered by the growing number of minorities. Personally, I have absolutely no problem with that. But many others do.

On May 11, 2006 Fox News' John Gibson stated:

"Do your duty. Make more babies... half of the kids in this country under five years old are minorities. By far the greatest number are Hispanic. You know what that means? Twenty-five years and the majority of the population is Hispanic. Why is that? Well, the Hispanics are having more kids than others. Notably the ones Hispanics call gabachos, white people, are having fewer."

Much of the immigration debate is in actuality about racism. People claim that immigrants take job from Americans...but what many actually fear is that those immigrants will become Americans in such numbers that white folks will be the minority. And that scares the shit out of them.

Unless you are 100% Native American, you descended from immigrants. It is absolutely wrong for past generations to come to this country from all over the world...and then slam the door shut behind them.

On the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is a sonnet by Emma Lazarus entitled "The New Colossus".

..."Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

For generations, the Statue of Liberty has welcomed visitors and immigrants. Should America continue to persecute those huddled masses yearning to breathe free...why don't we just removed the torch and instead have Lady Liberty giving the middle finger to all? It seems like that image better reflects America's immigration policy.
Last December, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $352 million to settle 63 lawsuits across the nation.

Now Wal-Mart is facing the largest sexual discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history.

The lawsuit argues that female workers were paid less and received fewer promotions at Wal-Mart than male counterparts and that the firm's corporate structure fostered this gender discrimination and made it pervasive at over 3,000 U.S. stores...

...The suit originated with a Wal-Mart worker named Betty Dukes who sued for sexual discrimination in 2001 with six other plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit that extended the case to all women who had worked at the company since 1998.

A lower court ruled to allow 2 million current and former female Wal-Mart workers to sue in a class action suit against Wal-Mart, but the company is now asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to undo class-action certification.

The plaintiffs are seeking an undetermined amount in lost pay and punitive damages, together with injunctive and declaratory relief, which would require Wal-Mart to rectify the pay and promotion inequities.

Should Wal-Mart lose this round, the only option left is the U.S. Supreme Court.


Non-profit newspapers?

Posted by J.D. On Friday, March 27, 2009 0 comments
With much ink spilled (and computer text typed) about the death of old media, Democratic senator Benjamin Cardin has introduced a bill which would allow newspapers to restructure and possibly regain some lost luster. Much akin to the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970, Cardin's bill could act as a life preserver for failing newspapers.

With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks...

...Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt, and contributions to support news coverage or operations could be tax deductible.

Over the past few months, many newspapers have been forced to stop daily publication or stop publication entirely. Some of the papers:

*Seattle Post-Intelligencer
*Rocky Mountain News
*Baltimore Examiner
*San Francisco Chronicle

Last December the Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy protection. The Tribune Company owns numerous newspapers including The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times. Those papers may be forced to cease operations as well.

Unlike the infotainment of much television "news", newspapers can be a very important aspect of society shining a light on our leaders and pointing out when the proverbial emperor has no clothes.

The Detroit Free Press uncovered the existence of more than 14,000 text messages exchanged between Kilpatrick and his chief of staff Christine Beatty. Those messages revealed the use of city funds to arrange romantic getaways, circumventing the bidding process to grant preferential treatment to friend and businessman Bobby Ferguson, among other things.

Two reporters for The Washington Post, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, were responsible for investigating the first Watergate break-in and ensuing scandal including the Saturday Night Massacre.

On August 28, 2007, The Idaho Statesman ran an article about three allegations involving former Republican Senator Larry Craig's sexual conduct.

Personally, I think non-profit newspapers are a brilliant idea. Once the need for amassing large amounts of ad revenue is removed from the equation, newspapers can get back to real journalism. No more gossip and tabloid crap. No more mindless mouthpieces for the U.S. government. Real investigative journalism.

I hope some other senators step forward and support Cardin's bill (which currently has no co-sponsors) as this seems to be an original and possibly genius way to assist the old media without recourse to more giant financial bailouts.

Hillary: The Movie goes to court

Posted by J.D. On Thursday, March 26, 2009 0 comments
David Bossie is a former Republican congressional aide. He was also the chief investigator for the Whitewater hearings held by Senator Lauch Faircloth and an investigator for Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), the chairman of the House investigation into alleged Clinton campaign finance abuses.

Since that time, Bossie has produced a 90-minute anti-Clinton film entitled Hillary: The Movie which he intended to air during the 2008 primaries.

Bossie is the president of conservative group Citizens United. Who are Citizen's United?

Citizens United is an organization dedicated to restoring our government to citizens' control. Through a combination of education, advocacy, and grass roots organization, Citizens United seeks to reassert the traditional American values of limited government, freedom of enterprise, strong families, and national sovereignty and security. Citizens United's goal is to restore the founding fathers' vision of a free nation, guided by the honesty, common sense, and good will of its citizens.

...and that actually doesn't explain much at all.

While they claim to want freedom and honesty, they actually only want Republicans in government. The organization has made the aforementioned Hillary: The Movie, Obama: The Hype Effect, an anti-Clinton ad timed to coincide with the release of Bill Clinton's book, and an online petition directed at John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and calling on them to "stop politicizing the actions of a few rogue military personnel" at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

So what is this Hillary: The Movie thing about?

The movie is unquestionably anti-Clinton, featuring commentary from conservative pundits, some of whom specifically say Clinton was not fit to be commander in chief.

One scene, which was used in an ad, has Dick Morris, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton who is now a critic of the Clintons, saying the senator is "the closest thing we have in America to a European socialist."

After being shown in a whopping eight theaters, Bossie attempted to air the film in key election states and through on-demand cable. Unfortunately for Bossie, the courts said no.

Federal courts said the ads would violate the McCain-Feingold law, the popular name for 2002 revisions to the nation's campaign finance laws. Judges called Hillary: The Movie a 90-minute attack ad, rulings that would require Citizens United to identify the financial backers for the ads if they were to appear on television.

The court also said that if Bossie's group showed the movie on cable television, financial backers would have to be named and the group would have to pay the cost of airing the movie.

Why is this funny to me?

Back in 2004, Bosse and his Citizens United group tried to block Farenheit 911 claiming it violated federal election law.

No kidding.

Citizens United in 2004 sought to keep filmmaker Michael Moore from advertising "Fahrenheit 9/11" — which was critical of President George W. Bush — in the run-up to the presidential election.

The Federal Election Commission, charged with enforcing the McCain-Feingold law, dismissed the complaint after Moore said he had no plans to run the ads during election season.

So the complaint was dismissed based on Moore agreeing to not run ads during election season. Based on that, these conservative activists believe that their attack films should be able to be advertised during election season. Make sense? Nope. Not at all.

Citizens United has appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. While the group argues that there is nothing in the movie urging people to vote against Clinton...the website set up to promote the film has a quote right on the main page saying:

"Senator Clinton has an extraordinary ability to obfuscate, to refuse to answer questions, to avoid confrontations; and up until now has been given a pass on it" - Bob Novak

The main trailer has a talking head straight up call her a liar within the first 30 seconds and another claim "...she is steeped in controversy, steeped in sleeze..." while yet another claims "The Hilary Clinton I know is not equipped nor qualified to be our commander in chief."

The ten second ad on the site begins with a voice over: "First, a kind word about Hilary Clinton"...and then we cut to Ann Coulter. Ann Fucking Coulter. "Looks good in a pant suit." Then the voice over resumes with "Now a movie about everything else."

Sure. That isn't urging people to vote against is merely urging people not to vote for Clinton. And also calling her a liar.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have filed a brief on behalf of Citizens United for fear that the court case could tighten up restrictions on journalistic criticisms of candidates during election seasons.

No it won't.

Bossie isn't a journalist. He is a partisan attack dog. That is a very different thing.

Arlen Specter...not supporting EFCA

Posted by J.D. On Wednesday, March 25, 2009 0 comments
Earlier, I wrote about how Arlen Specter might be in trouble based on his support for President Obama's economic stimulus plan.

The silver lining for Specter was that the AFL-CIO was willing to go to bat for Specter in his re-election campaign if he would support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Senior officials with the powerful AFL-CIO have privately assured GOP Senator Arlen Specter that they’ll throw their full support behind him in the 2010 Senate race if he votes for the Employee Free Choice Act, a senior labor strategist working closely with the AFL on the issue tells me.

Many commentators have been saying that Specter should think about switching to the Democratic party, or at bare minimum going independent.

But Specter has decided to stay Republican...and not support the EFCA.

Sen. Arlen Specter has told a business lobbying group he will vote against a bill that makes it easier for workers to form unions.

The Pennsylvania Republican's decision is a major blow to organized labor's efforts to pass the Employee Free Choice Act this year.

Two years ago, Specter supported EFCA but apparently he has changed his mind.

Specter said his vote to end debate on the bill two years ago was not support for the merits, but instead for Congress to take up the issue of labor law reform.

The bill would allow a majority of employees at a company to organize by signing cards, a change from current practice that allows employers to mandate secret ballot elections. It also would boost penalties for retaliation against workers seeking to organize and calls for arbitration if management and the union cannot agree on a first contract.

Specter called the secret ballot "the cornerstone of how contests are decided in a Democratic society." And he said the requirement for mandatory arbitration may subject employers to a deal they cannot live with.

His decision will make it difficult for Democratic leaders to move forward with the bill, which unions consider their No. 1 priority, but some business groups have labeled "Armageddon."

Specter has faced unusually heavy pressure from both groups as he faces re-election next year.

"It is very hard to disappoint many friends who have supported me many years on either side who are urging me to vote their way," Specter said.

He also said his announcement "should end the rumor mill that I have made some deal for political advantage."

Unfortunately, it appears that Specter has latched on to the Big Business talking point that EFCA will remove secret ballots. Untrue.

I will reiterate: the EFCA does not get rid of secret ballots. Not at all. Even The Wall Street Journal finally conceded that the EFCA doesn't eliminate secret ballots.

I noted before my belief that Specter wouldn't switch to the Democratic party and I don't believe it would have been a good match had he done so.

Specter sided with the GOP on 62 percent of votes from when he entered the Senate in 1981 through last year, according to a University of San Diego database of votes. His highest party unity score: 81 percent in 2003-2004, when Toomey last challenged him.

I guess Specter has decided not only to stay with the Republicans, but to vote party line to save his job. Sad.

Pink slips and protests for California teachers

Posted by J.D. On Tuesday, March 24, 2009 0 comments
Debbie Winsteen was one of 11 elementary teachers from Burbank Unified School District who received a Teacher of the Year honor for the 2008-2009 school year. Earlier this year she was on of 25,000 to receive a pink slip.

School districts have handed out more than 25,000 pink slips statewide in the face of about $11 billion in state cuts to education funding, according to the California Teachers Association.

The notices are "precautionary." Under the State Education Code, schools must notify employees who might be laid off by March 15, but that does not necessarily mean all of them will lose their jobs.

The state Legislature approved deep budget cuts -- including to education -- and raised taxes last month to cope with a budget gap of nearly $42 billion over the next 18 months.

With budget shortfalls reaching $718 million for the 2009-10 school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced possible layoffs for 8,846 teachers and administrative staff.

The California Teachers Association initiated Pink Friday, an event that took place on March 13th asking people to wear pink in solidarity with teachers.

In Santa Maria, protesters - wearing pink in commiseration with the 26,000 California teachers handed pink slips Friday - lined Broadway and marched several blocks from Santa Maria High School's Ethel Pope Auditorium to the city library and back.

"Education is the glue that holds together the threads of our American way of life," said Nancy Iarossi, president of the union that represents teachers in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. "Education and its availability is the soul of what makes America."

A few days later, students got involved.

Hundreds of students from five downtown high schools walked out of class on March 16 to protest teacher layoffs. They marched to the LA Unified School District administration building in response to 8,800 "reduction in force" letters that were delivered on Friday to teachers and other school employees.

The protest was initiated and organized by students at the various campuses, who spread the word through text messages. The rally was spirited and energetic; students held signs and homemade posters to support their teachers and demand a decent education. Chants of "No pink slips!" and "Don't lay off our teachers!" rang out.

These high school students know that laying off teachers will affect them as well. Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR), a four-year class-size study, found:

*Students in small classes are more likely to pursue college
*Small classes lead to higher graduation rates
*Students in small classes achieve at higher levels

It isn't just high school students who walked out. San Francisco college students got involved, too.

Under the blaze of a hot California sun, several hundred college students walked out of their schools to protest the state's cuts to the education budget. Their chants echoed those of student marches in the late 1960's that ushered in a new era of student power.

Their banners proclaimed "Education for liberation, not for profit," "Bailout students, not bankers" and "Shut it down like '68." San Francisco State University (SFSU) president Robert Corrigan with his annual salary of some $280,000 drew special attention from the crowd.

While Corrigan gets rich, his administration is carrying out the education cuts, such as fee hikes for students.

I have written previously about the fiscal crisis in California and how it is affecting the school system. If you have read that article, you will recall that one high school in California was selling ad space on tests to be able to afford to print the test for students.

If you are interested in helping, check out the Pink Friday website for upcoming events and other information. Alternately, you can contact the California Teachers Association.

Obama to speak at Notre Dame; conservatives complain

Posted by J.D. On Monday, March 23, 2009 1 comments
The University of Notre Dame has announced this years commencement speaker...President Barack Obama.

President Barack Obama will be the principal speaker and the recipient of an honorary doctor of laws degree at the University of Notre Dame’s 164th University Commencement Ceremony at 2 p.m. May 17 (Sunday) in the Joyce Center on campus.

Mr. Obama will be the ninth U.S. president to be awarded an honorary degree by the University and the sixth to be the Commencement speaker.

You would think that many affiliated with Notre Dame would be honored to have the President give the commencement speech. But you would be wrong.

There have been open letters and even petitions to stop Obama from speaking. Why? Because he is pro-choice.

Who have they had speak in the past? No less that the great American hero Ronald Reagan.

Now, Ronnie was anti-abortion. Of course, he was pro-death penalty, pro-war, and called Voting Rights Act of 1965 "humiliating to South".

Hell, Reagan was willing to help fight hunger when his USDA tried to declare ketchup as a vegetable. OK...they actually did it to save money on free lunches for poorer kids so...bad example.

Wait. Isn't the Catholic Church supposed to support all life? So if Reagan was pro-war and pro-death penalty...he wasn't exactly pro-life now was he?

See, contrary to what anti-abortion folk believe...if you want to validly call yourself pro-life you have to literally be pro-life...not simply anti-abortion. If you aren't against war and the death aren't pro-life. You are just anti-abortion.

So were these same people protesting when Reagan was invited to speak? Hell no.

Doesn't the Catholic Church ostensibly support social justice? In fact, the website for the Office for Social Justice of St. Paul and Minneapolis outlines the beliefs.

Economic Justice

The economy must serve people, not the other way around. All workers have a right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to safe working conditions. They also have a fundamental right to organize and join unions. People have a right to economic initiative and private property, but these rights have limits. No one is allowed to amass excessive wealth when others lack the basic necessities of life.

Note that last sentence. That one kinda contradicts Reagan's trickle-down economics. Also, workers have a right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to safe working conditions. But Reagan fired 11,345 striking air traffic controllers in 1981. Whoops.

Let's try another speaker. Elizabeth Dole.

Dole supports use of federal death I guess she isn't pro-life either. Nevermind.

OK. Moving on. How about J. Edgar Hoover?

Hoover created COINTELPRO which targeted individuals and organizations Hoover didn't like (MLK, Black Panthers, anti-war protesters, etc.). Hoover's FBI infiltrated the organizations with undercover agents to goad the organizations into committing illegal actions. They also carried out burglaries, illegal wiretaps, planting forged documents and spreading false rumors. Nice, eh?

Hoover also hatched a devious plan on July 7, 1950:

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty.

Let's go back to the Office for Social Justice of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Hoover's actions would kind of go against the following:

Role of Government and Subsidiarity

The state has a positive moral function. It is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights, and build the common good. All people have a right and a responsibility to participate in political institutions so that government can achieve its proper goals.


All people have a right to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of society. It is a fundamental demand of justice and a requirement for human dignity that all people be assured a minimum level of participation in the community. It is wrong for a person or a group to be excluded unfairly or to be unable to participate in society.

You see, when 12,000 people are jailed they can't exactly participate in political institutions or the community.

So why exactly are these people complaining about Obama?

Oh yeah. He's a liberal.

Thoughts for Sunday

Posted by J.D. On Sunday, March 22, 2009 0 comments
You measure a democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists. - Abbie Hoffman

I'm worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel - let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they're doing. I'm concerned that students not become passive acceptors of the official doctrine that's handed down to them from the White House, the media, textbooks, teachers and preachers. - Howard Zinn

There has been a striking change in the behavior of the intellectual class in recent years. The left intellectuals who 60 years ago would have been teaching in working class schools, writing books like "mathematics for the millions" (which made mathematics intelligible to millions of people), participating in and speaking for popular organizations, etc., are now largely disengaged from such activities, and although quick to tell us that they are far more radical than thou, are not to be found, it seems, when there is such an obvious and growing need and even explicit request for the work they could do out there in the world of people with live problems and concerns. That's not a small problem. This country, right now, is in a very strange and ominous state. People are frightened, angry, disillusioned, skeptical, confused. That's an organizer's dream, as I once heard Mike say. It's also fertile ground for demagogues and fanatics, who can (and in fact already do) rally substantial popular support with messages that are not unfamiliar from their predecessors in somewhat similar circumstances. We know where it has led in the past; it could again. There's a huge gap that once was at least partially filled by left intellectuals willing to engage with the general public and their problems. It has ominous implications, in my opinion. - Noam Chomsky

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its mighty waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. - Frederick Douglass

To teach, one must know something. It is necessary to direct toward change because "the system" is debilitating, repressive, and non-aesthetic....The corporate entity ordinarily has no morality. This must be the difference in a sea of savagery. There is to be no distinction between public behavior and private behavior. Do in public what you do in private, or stop doing it in private. - Ronnie Davis

Is America Liberal?

Posted by J.D. On Saturday, March 21, 2009 1 comments
With Democratic Party majorities in both chambers of Congress and a Democratic President, many are wondering if America is turning to the left.

Back in 2007 McClatchy Newspapers ran an article about the Democratic party shifting more to the left.

The Democratic Party is growing more liberal for the first time in a generation.

It's more antiwar than at any time since 1972. Support is growing for such traditionally liberal values as using the federal government to help the poor. And 40 percent of Democrats now call themselves liberal, the highest in more than three decades and twice the low-water mark recorded as the conservative Reagan revolution swept the country in the early 1980s.

This month, The American Prospect ran an article entitled "So Long, Alex P. Keaton" about the millennial generation turning to the left and how that could affect politics for the future.

In 1984, 59 percent of the nation's Alex P. Keatons voted for Reagan, an extraordinary percentage for a Republican (and just over his proportion of the popular vote as a whole). What was going on? As E.J. Dionne, then a reporter for The New York Times, wrote near the end of Reagan's tenure in the fall of 1988, "Academics and political consultants who have studied the youth vote have many explanations for their movement toward the Republicans, but the most powerful is the simplest: Young Americans have known only Mr. Reagan and Mr. Carter as President, and Mr. Reagan is the overwhelming favorite. Similarly, many people who first voted in the Depression still see politics in terms of the Democratic President Roosevelt and the Republican President Hoover...

...Start with the obvious: 67 percent of voters under 29 cast their ballot for Barack Obama, a result unequalled since exit polling began. (If you're interested, exit-poll data dating back to 1976 can be found at the Roper Center.) Despite periodic proclamations that young conservatives are poised for a comeback (see, for instance, this lengthy portrait in The New York Times Magazine only six years ago of the "Young Hipublicans" who were ready to take the country by storm), young people aren't finding much to like about today's GOP. And as a pair of new reports from the Center for American Progress on the present and future of American ideology show, those feelings are likely to run much deeper than a single election or a single candidate.

Even the esteemed Wall Street Journal has chimed in with an article entitled "Why the GOP Can't Win With Minorities".

Today conservatism is stigmatized in our culture as an antiminority political philosophy. In certain quarters, conservatism is simply racism by another name. And minorities who openly identify themselves as conservatives are still novelties, fish out of water.

Yet there is now the feeling that without an appeal to minorities, conservatism is at risk of marginalization. The recent election revealed a Republican Party -- largely white, male and Southern -- seemingly on its way to becoming a "regional" party.

If the GOP can't reach out to minorities, the future for them will be grim indeed. Especially according to a recent projection released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 2050, the Census Bureau expects, minorities will make up 54% of the country's population. The Census Bureau defines minorities as everyone except for non-Hispanic, single-race whites.

Also by the century's halfway point, the 65-and-older age group will more than double from 38.7 million to 88.5 million, making up more than 20% of the U.S. population in 2050 compared with the current level of 13%. The 85-and-older population will more than triple between 2008 and 2050, according to the forecast.

In December 2007, the Pew Hispanic Center reported that 57% of Hispanic registered voters now call themselves Democrats or say they lean to the Democratic Party.

Keep in mind, that liberal 18 year old people who voted for Obama in 2008 will be 60 in 2050. In 2006, people aged 45 to 54 accounted for 53.8% of voters. If those millenials stay liberal, their voice will continue to guide politics at that time. As will the projected 54% of the population that will be minorities...who currently don't vote GOP in any appreciable amount.

Is America liberal? Maybe not at this time. Leaning slightly? Yes.

But the future? It's looking more and more progressive.

As a side note, when I visited The American Prospect site which proclaims it was founded in 1990 as an authoritative magazine of liberal ideas it had a google banner at the top of the page...showing a large banner proclaiming "Ann Coulter - Free". I laughed.

Obama and Afghanistan

Posted by J.D. On Friday, March 20, 2009 1 comments
NATO statistics show that attacks by Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan are on the increase.

Roadside bombs in Afghanistan have become the single biggest killer of civilians, coalition and Afghan troops, according to U.S. and coalition military documents obtained by CNN.

The documents, based on NATO statistics, show more than a 30 percent increase in such attacks on Afghan roads around the country from January to December 2008.

The statistics of overall attacks around the country show a more dire picture. Last year, attacks by Taliban and al Qaeda forces around the country increased 31 percent...

...Since January 2008, U.S. and NATO troop deaths have risen 26 percent, according to the statistics. Afghan security forces deaths are up 64 percent in the same period.

Back in January, as Obama was taking office, a spokesman for the Taliban asked Obama to simply leave Afghanistan and allow Afghans to decide their own fate.

"We have no problem with Obama," a spokesman for the extremist Islamist movement [said] after the inauguration of the new US president. However, "he must learn lessons from [former US president George W. Bush] and before that the Soviets," Yousuf Ahmadi said by telephone.

Is Obama leaving? Hell no. Tuesday, Obama approved a significant troop increase for Afghanistan.

As CNN notes:

The ancient Persians called it "the land of the unruly." Historians call it "the graveyard of empires." President Obama calls Afghanistan something else: The "central front" in the battle against terrorism.

Afghanistan has defied armies led by military leaders including Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan. Now Obama's new administration will attempt to accomplish what few leaders have been able to do: stabilize Afghanistan....

...Milton Bearden, a former CIA station chief who worked in Afghanistan, once called the country a "graveyard of empires" in a Foreign Affairs magazine essay. He says its tribesmen almost killed Alexander the Great when he invaded and bloodied Genghis Khan's armies so much that the Mongol leader gained control "only after reaching painful accommodations with the Afghans."

Now looking to the far off past might just be poetic license to make for a better CNN story, but the truth is that even military experts think that there is no clear military solution for Afghanistan.

"Controlling the Afghan people is a losing proposition," says Stephen Tanner, author of "Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban." "No one has ever been able to control the country."

Even the operational commander of all coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2005 (Eric T. Olson) believes that there is no clear strategy and a surge is doomed to fail.

The beefed-up effort has been fueled by the belief that the successful surge in Iraq can be replicated in Afghanistan.

It can't.

I speak from experience: For a year, I was the operational commander for all coalition forces in Afghanistan. Later, I was the deputy director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office. The conditions that favored success in Iraq are conspicuously lacking in Afghanistan....

...Some US military officials have warned that what worked in Iraq probably won't work in Afghanistan. Yet Washington's strategy still seems based more on hope than judgment.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that Mr. Olson knows what he is talking about. A surge isn't going to solve the problem and will most likely exacerbate the situation.

So what to do?

Stephen Tanner, the aforementioned author of "Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban", believes we should negotiate with the Taliban.

"The Taliban are no longer all hardcore fanatics," Tanner says. "There are a lot of moderate elements. You have to bring the Taliban into the Afghan government, not to take it over but to at least participate."

Is that the solution? I don't know. But I will agree with the military experts that a surge will not bring forth anything good. Quite the contrary.

Frankly, I think we should just leave Afghanistan to find their own path. Let them rule themselves. Not because the Taliban asked us to, but because it is the right thing to do. We have no business empire building. That behavior ultimately killed Rome, then the British Empire, and we will be next.

With the economy in turmoil, America can't continue on the path of shelling out money to support military occupation of other countries. We need to free that money up to turn the U.S. around.


Missouri Information Analysis Center says you might be a terrorist

Posted by J.D. On Thursday, March 19, 2009 4 comments
If, like me, you support third parties...Missouri law enforcement agencies may consider you a terrorist.

A document compiled by the Missouri Information Analysis Center for Missouri law enforcement agencies had some sketchy information about warning signs for domestic terrorists.

The Feb. 20 report called "The Modern Militia Movement" mentions such red flags as political bumper stickers for third-party candidates, such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for president last year; talk of conspiracy theories, such as the plan for a superhighway linking Canada to Mexico; and possession of subversive literature.

The document was leaked by which is generally a conspiracy website and easy to discount.

It might be easy to discount if a spokesman for the Missouri law enforcement, Lt. John Hotz, hadn't come forward to defend the document and downplay its importance.

"All this is an educational thing," Hotz said of the report. "Troopers have been shot by members of groups, so it's our job to let law enforcement officers know what the trends are in the modern militia movement."...

...But Hotz said using factors in the report to determine whether someone could be a terrorist is not profiling. He said people who display signs or bumper stickers from third-party groups are not in danger of harassment from police.

"It's giving the makeup of militia members and their political beliefs," Hotz said of the report. "It's not saying that everybody who supports these candidates is involved in a militia. It's not even saying that all militias are bad."

So a document released to law enforcement specifically states that support of third parties is a red flag for potential domestic terrorism and to look out for said red flags...but acting on that information wouldn't be profiling. No. Not at all.

So who exactly is this organization that compiled the document?

Lt. John Hotz of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the report comes from publicly available, trend data on militias. It was compiled by the Missouri Information Analysis Center, a "fusion center" in Jefferson City that combines resources from the federal Department of Homeland Security and other agencies. The center, which opened in 2005, was set up to collect local intelligence to better combat terrorism and other criminal activity, he said.

A "fusion center". In February the ACLU released information about a Texas "fusion center" that they claimed was an example of inappropriate police intelligence operations targeting political, religious and social activists for investigation.

The North Central Texas Fusion System bulletin states that it is “imperative for law enforcement officers to report” the activities of lobbying groups, Muslim civil rights organizations and anti-war protest groups in their areas.

“This memo is not a plea for legitimate intelligence, and seems to endorse discrimination against Muslims,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The idea that the tolerance advocated by the groups being targeted would be treated as a menace to American security demonstrates a disregard for civil liberties and a disdain for democracy itself. The kind of indiscriminate and unlawful investigations this bulletin calls for always results in a chilling effect on free speech and association.”

So don't support third parties in Missouri, and if you are Muslim and/or anti-war...stay the hell out of Texas.

Actually, you might not be safe in other states. The ACLU release notes that there are currently 70 fusion centers across the United States. That gives a comforting thought don't you think?

I'm not a Libertarian. Not by a long shot. Nor am I in any way right-wing. But this is America. People should be allowed to believe whatever political philosophy they want to believe...without government harassment.

To be honest, these "fusion centers" would probably have a field day with most of the blogs on the internet, and many posts from this one. I've made it clear that I am anti-war...should I be profiled for that?

Would you think it fair to be pulled over because of something you wrote on a blog? For a bumper sticker? Because you wore a political T-Shirt that was critical of the government?

America shouldn't be policing people's political views. That's not freedom. That's not right at all.

Arlen Specter might be in trouble

Posted by J.D. On Wednesday, March 18, 2009 2 comments
Arlen Specter might be spending his final days as a Republican senator. Once Specter crossed the aisle to vote for President Obama's economic stimulus measure, the GOP began targeting him for elimination.

Former congressman Pat Toomey has announced that he is thinking about running against Specter in the 2010 primary.

Now, anti-abortion activist Peg Luksik is running, too.

A conservative activist from Johnstown who ran for governor three times in the 1990s says she'll challenge Arlen Specter for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate next year.

Peg Luksik said today she is not deterred by the prospective candidacy of former congressman Pat Toomey, a fellow conservative who narrowly lost to Specter in the 2004 primary.

Some commentators believe that Specter should switch to the Democratic Party. Specter was a Democrat early in his career but switched to the Republican Party in 1965 before running for District Attorney in Philadelphia.

Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell recently claimed that he has been trying to get Specter to switch parties...with the help of some other big names.

"We've tried," said Rendell. "Myself, Senator Casey, Vice President Biden have tried to talk him into it, but he's bound and determined to stay a Republican."

But it isn't as though Specter and the Democratic Party are a match made in heaven. While Specter might be a relatively moderate Republican, he is far more of a Republican than he is a secret Democrat.

His voting record tells the tale:

Specter sided with the GOP on 62 percent of votes from when he entered the Senate in 1981 through last year, according to a University of San Diego database of votes. His highest party unity score: 81 percent in 2003-2004, when Toomey last challenged him.

If Specter stays with the Republican Party, he will have to face an increasingly difficult which political commentators generally give him very little chance of surviving.

And with Specter one of only three Republican senators supporting President Obama's economic- stimulus efforts - an action many conservatives see as worse than opposing Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in 1987 for which Specter was labeled "Benedict Arlen" - the long knives are out...

...There are, for example, 239,000 Pennsylvania voters (mostly Republicans) who switched last year to the Democratic Party. There's little question the vast majority are moderate Specter voters.

That leaves a far-more-conservative pool of GOP primary voters, one in which the 47-year-old Toomey can float but Specter could well sink.

Also, Specter in '04 was endorsed by the state's other incumbent Republican senator, Rick Santorum, and by the incumbent Republican president, George W. Bush.

The only people on the right pushing Arlen this time will be those trying to push him out the door.

Clearly, re-election will be difficult in 2010 for Specter. But then again, re-election often is difficult. It isn't as though he waltzed through the 2004 primary against Toomey. While Specter triumphed in the end, it was a hard battle.

The tough 2004 primary underscored a conundrum of Specter's five-term career. He is more popular with the Pennsylvania electorate as a whole than he is with the conservative constituency that identifies with the Republican Party and votes in its primaries.

Specter took 51 percent of the primary vote to Toomey's 49 percent. In the general election that November, Specter topped then-Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel, the Democratic nominee, by a much more comfortable 53 percent to 42 percent count.

One silver lining? The AFL-CIO is willing to back Specter in his reelection campaign if he votes for the Employee Free Choice Act.

Senior officials with the powerful AFL-CIO have privately assured GOP Senator Arlen Specter that they’ll throw their full support behind him in the 2010 Senate race if he votes for the Employee Free Choice Act, a senior labor strategist working closely with the AFL on the issue tells me.

But with the sea of change with Pennsylvania Republicans (those 239,000 party switchers are going to hurt considerably) even with the backing of the AFL-CIO it might not be enough to help Specter survive a Republican primary.

Unlike Joe Lieberman, Specter cannot lose the Republican primary but still turn around and run as an independent. Pennsylvania law doesn't allow it.

"A candidate who loses in a primary cannot run as an independent in the general election," said Leslie Amoros, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Specter needs to decide if he wants to rejoin the Democratic Party or pull a Jim Jeffords and go independent. The idea of staying with the GOP doesn't appear to be a viable option.

Joe Arpaio is under investigation

Posted by J.D. On Tuesday, March 17, 2009 3 comments
You might not be familiar with Joe Arpaio. He is the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona.

Joe gained fame for making inmates wear pink underwear. He literally brags about it.

The MCSO uniform is now black and white stripes for every inmate and of course our world famous pink boxer shorts....And of course most men, especially those in jail, do not like the color pink.

Joe also brags about having the only all-female chain gang in history. Yeah, he brought back chain gangs.

Joe has crossed the line on quite a few occasions. Last year, a class action suit was initiated against Joe.

In July 2008, five individuals and Somos America, a Latino community-based coalition, sued Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) and Maricopa County, claiming that they or their members were unlawfully stopped and mistreated by law enforcement agents because they were Latino.

The county, of course, asked the U.S. District Court in Arizona to dismiss the lawsuit. This past February, the ruling was handed down.

A federal judge denied a request by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to dismiss a lawsuit against him that alleges his deputies have racially profiled Hispanics.

The ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia allows lawyers for the Hispanic civil rights group Somos America and other plaintiffs to continue pressing their allegations in court.

Now, the U.S. Justice Department is getting involved.

The U.S. Justice Department has launched a civil-rights investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office after months of mounting complaints that deputies are discriminating in their enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Officials from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division notified Sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday that they had begun the investigation, which will focus on whether deputies are engaging in "patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures."

An expert said it is the department's first civil-rights probe related to immigration enforcement.

What's the big deal with Sheriff Joe Arpaio?

*Ole Joe has been ordering deputies to "scour" Latino neighborhoods looking for illegal immigrants based on skin color.

*Joe refuses to grant female inmates reproductive rights. Joe refuses to allow female inmates access to abortion clinics without a court order. Why? Joe claims he doesn't run a taxi service from jail to an abortion clinic and back.

*Ambrett Spencer was nine months pregnant when she was serving her sentence for drunk driving. Unfortunately, she was in Joe's jail. Joe's sergeant on duty decided that Spencer was not top priority. The baby was born dead.

*While Spencer is suing Joe, that is just one lawsuit of the more than 2,500 jail conditions lawsuits that have been filed against Arpaio in federal court alone.

*Joe doesn't allow female inmates to see their babies after birth.

*Joe has built a tent city to house his inmates. Temperatures can reach 138 degrees. Joe's response to complaints? "It's 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents and they didn't commit any crimes, so shut your mouths."

Believe me...those examples are merely samples. There is more. But not everyone thinks Joe is a dick.

Despite criticism from Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arizona Ecumenical Council, and the Anti-Defamation League, The Fox Reality Channel offered Sheriff Arpaio a reality TV show entitled, "Smile, You're Under Arrest." The show centers around elaborate sting operations run by Sheriff Arpaio to capture people wanted on outstanding warrants. programming.

While the U.S. Justice Department is investigating, a petition has been created to urge Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to suspend Arpaio’s 287g agreement that allows him to enforce Federal immigration laws.

Feel free to sign it. Stop police brutality.

No more bailouts for bonuses

Posted by J.D. On 0 comments
I'm sure most of you have read about AIG giving out bonuses even though they received government bailout money. And most of you are pissed about it.

If you are angry about the situation, you might be interested in the petition put together by Firedoglake. The petition text reads:

Dear Members of Congress:

The public needs to know where all our money has gone. Restoring public trust is critical in getting our economy back on its feet. We ask that you move swiftly to re-regulate and bring transparency to a financial system whose rules have been written by bank lobbyists for their own benefit. No additional bank bailout funds should be approved until that happens.

If are are interested in pushing for accountability, please think about signing the petition.

More revelations on torture from the Bush administration

Posted by J.D. On Monday, March 16, 2009 0 comments
After the release of secret Bush documents outlining anti-terror plans, we learned some nasty things about the Bush administration.

"First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully," Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo wrote, adding later: "The current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically."

Even broader exercises of federal power? Yep. They happened.

“I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck; they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room.”

The prisoner was then put in a coffin-like black box, about 4 feet by 3 feet and 6 feet high, “for what I think was about one and a half to two hours.” He added: The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside.... They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury.”

That was from Abu Zubaydah's tale at the hands of the CIA. In 2006, Red Cross officials visited Guantánamo to interview prisoners and monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions. Zubaydah's story is just one of the many.

“On arrival at the place of detention in Afghanistan I was stripped naked. I remained naked for the next two weeks.... I was kept in a standing position, feet flat on the floor, but with my arms above my head and fixed with handcuffs and a chain to a metal bar running across the width of the cell. The cell was dark with no light, artificial or natural.”

This forced standing, with arms shackled above the head, seems to have become standard procedure. It proved especially painful for Mr. bin Attash, who had lost a leg fighting in Afghanistan:

“After some time being held in this position my stump began to hurt so I removed my artificial leg to relieve the pain. Of course my good leg then began to ache and soon started to give way so that I was left hanging with all my weight on my wrists.”

Cold water was used on Mr. bin Attash in combination with beatings and the use of a plastic collar, which seems to have been a refinement of the towel that had been looped around Abu Zubaydah’s neck:

“On a daily basis during the first two weeks a collar was looped around my neck and then used to slam me against the walls of the interrogation room. It was also placed around my neck when being taken out of my cell for interrogation and was used to lead me along the corridor. It was also used to slam me against the walls of the corridor during such movements.

“Also on a daily basis during the first two weeks I was made to lie on a plastic sheet placed on the floor which would then be lifted at the edges. Cold water was then poured onto my body with buckets.... I would be kept wrapped inside the sheet with the cold water for several minutes. I would then be taken for interrogation.”

That was Walid bin Attash. Apparently, wrapping something around a guy's throat and banging him into walls like a rag doll was standard operating procedure.

Now don't misunderstand. I recognize that these two men did or intended to do bad things. Abu Zubaydah was a senior member of Al Qaeda. Walid bin Attash was involved in planning of the 1998 attacks on American embassies in Africa and the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer Cole. These aren't saints. But that is no excuse for our government to use torture.

And make no was the U.S. Government. Not just a couple of guys who acted alone and got out of hand. Not at all.

“It wasn’t up to individual interrogators to decide, ‘Well, I’m going to slap him. Or I’m going to shake him,’” said John Kiriakou, a C.I.A. officer who helped capture Abu Zubaydah, in an interview with ABC News.

Every one of the steps taken with regard to Abu Zubaydah “had to have the approval of the deputy director for operations. So before you laid a hand on him, you had to send in the cable saying, ‘He’s uncooperative. Request permission to do X.’”

He went on: “The cable traffic back and forth was extremely specific.... No one wanted to get in trouble by going overboard.”

In a similar vein Seymour Hersh has come forth with some startling revelations about the CIA. Hersh exposed the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. He later reported on the Abu Ghraib prison. This is not some untalented talking head. Hersh is a real journalist.

In an event at the University of Minnesota featuring Hersh and former Vice President Walter Mondale, Hersh remarked:

After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen.

"Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command -- JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. ...

"Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.

"Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us..."

Assassinations and domestic spying and activities against people considered to be enemies of the state. The Church Committee was supposed to have ended shit like this back in the 1970's. Of course...Bush and Co. were just protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.

Does that last phrase seem familiar? That was the FBI's defense for COINTELPRO. Another illegal and screwed up secret domestic counterintelligence program.

This should terrify you. At the very least, it should piss you off. None of that "if you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear" crap. In a free country you shouldn't be spied on, period. It is irrelevant if you have nothing to hide. You shouldn't have to have that mentality. You should be free.

America shouldn't torture. Period. When you give someone a reason to hate you...they will.

Back in January, I pointed out that violence begets violence and wars simply beget more wars.

Mohammed Abu Hassanin may be a young boy, but he's old enough to know he's scared of the attacks being launched by Israel in Gaza.

"When the Jews bomb us when we are asleep, [Hassanin] says 'We get scared,' " a translator says....

.... They are images Hassanin says he will never forget. He'll keep them stored away until he's old enough to do something about it.

"When we will grow up, we will bomb them back," a CNN translator quoted the boy saying on Hamas TV.

Too often, Bush and Co. spoke of winning hearts and minds. This cannot be done with violence. When you throw a stone at a man, he will find a bigger stone to throw back at you. This, of course, will set you off to find an even bigger stone. The cycle will be endless.

We, as Americans, need to send the message to the new administration that this is done. No more. Let the world know that what Bush and Co. did shouldn't reflect on all Americans. Bush kept this a secret for a reason: he knew that most Americans would find this behavior abhorrent.

We have to push Obama to rectify these past actions and never repeat them again.

As Howard Zinn recently said of Obama:

...With his foreign policy, unfortunately, he shows no signs of departing from the traditional militarism of the Democratic and Republican parties. The idea of sending more troops to Afghanistan is disastrous, really absurd. I mean, almost as soon as he came into office he sent missiles into Pakistan. Civilians were killed. The whole tone of foreign policy, adding more soldiers, leaving 50,000 in Iraq even after withdrawing them in 16 months, all of this is very bad. And, therefore, he's going to need a great big push -- protest, really. He's going to need demonstrations and protest and letters and petitions. He's going to have to face the kind of agitation that Roosevelt faced when he came into office.

Every great President was great not because he was born great, but because the people made him be great. Everyone in America who disagrees with torture, assassinations, and domestic spying needs to make his or her voice heard.

Thoughts for Sunday

Posted by J.D. On Sunday, March 15, 2009 0 comments
If homosexuality is a disease, let's all call in queer to work: "Hello. Can't work today, still queer - Robin Tyler

I'm a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being... by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant. - Paul Newman

They are preserving the sanctity of marriage, so that two gay men who've been together for twenty-five years can't get married, but a guy can still get drunk in Vegas and marry a hooker at the Elvis chapel! The sanctity of marriage is saved! - Lea DeLaria

Disapproval of homosexuality cannot justify invading the houses, hearts and minds of citizens who choose to live their lives differently. - Harry A. Blackmun

From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people. - Howard Dean

Homosexuality, is regarded as shameful by barbarians and by those who live under despotic governments just as philosophy is regarded as shameful by them, because it is apparently not in the interest of such rulers to have great ideas engendered in their subjects, or powerful friendships or passionate love-all of which homosexuality is particularly apt to produce. - Plato

Unemployment and mortgages

Posted by J.D. On Saturday, March 14, 2009 0 comments
As of last Friday, unemployment has reached the highest level in 25 years. Some states have been hit harder than others, but they have all been hit.

In Ohio, as of January unemployment was at 8.8 percent. That's the highest level in two decades. Ohio is also ranked 10th of all states in foreclosures.

In Massillon, Ohio, population 31,325 as of the 2000 census, Edison Junior High School advertised a job opening for a janitor...and received 700 applications.

Officials at Perry Local Schools near Canton in northeast Ohio say they've extended the deadline until Monday to accommodate the overwhelming response to the week-old posting.

The full-time position at Edison Junior High School pays $15 to $16 an hour plus benefits.

Superintendent John Richard says many applicants are laid-off workers with heart-wrenching stories about the tough economic times.

Forty-nine-year-old Donna Croston says she applied after losing jobs at two nearby factories that closed.

Nearby in Canton, there are more layoffs.

Canton, Ohio-based Timken Co., the supplier of bearings to the world’s top five carmakers, said March 2 it would eliminate as many as 400 salaried jobs this year.

Nationally, it is the same story.

Sears last week said it would shutter 24 stores, on top of eight closings announced earlier...

...Slumping sales have caused recent Chapter 11 filings by retailers such as Everything But Water LLC, the largest U.S. retailer of women’s swimwear, and Ritz Camera Centers Inc., the largest chain of camera stores.

With the passage of a recent bill, at least some of these people are now less at risk of losing their homes.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 234-191 to pass H.R.1106, which allows bankruptcy judges to cram down mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure...

...Lawmakers added provisions that seek to make filing for bankruptcy a last resort for struggling homeowners. In its current form, HR1106 calls on bankruptcy judges to decide whether all other foreclosure prevention options were exhausted and whether loan modifications offered by loan servicers adequately reduced mortgage payments. Borrowers must show they reached out to servicers for a modification prior to filing for bankruptcy.

The Congressional Budget Office in a February report said at least 1 million borrowers may benefit from the allowance of cramdowns.

Maintaining their say-no-to-everything strategy, only seven Republicans voted for the bill. One of those seven, however, was Ohio Congressman Mike Turner. Even before the vote, he had broken with the GOP on this bill.

Turner breaks from GOP to support mortgage bill. He's the only Republican sponsor of the bill Boehner called 'the worst idea in the world.'...

Turner, R-Centerville, has supported similar provisions in the past, and last year supported one along with U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, who lost his 2008 re-election bid. This year he's the lone Republican cosponsor of the bill.

And how. This week, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-West Chester, called the proposal "just the worst idea in the world."

It is rare that I get to say something nice about a Republican here at TML...but I salute Turner for having the courage to break from the GOP and do what was best for his constituents.

Employee Free Choice Act = Radical Islam?

Posted by J.D. On Friday, March 13, 2009 1 comments
"...this is the demise of a civilization. This is how a civilization disappears..." - Bernie Marcus (founder of Home Depot)

..."two fundamental threats to society"... - Sheldon Adelson

What do these quotes mean and what are they about?

The Employee Free Choice Act.

Fox News, of course, has been attacking the act. Mostly with lies. 'Cause that's what they do over there in fair and balanced land.

Media Matters has noted that Fox News hosts and contributors have frequently advanced falsehoods about the Employee Free Choice Act. Think Progress has also noted that, in recent days, Fox News has frequently distorted facts when discussing the bill.

Who else doesn't support passage of The Employee Free Choice Act?

*Bank of America and AIG
*Burger King

And now Citigroup Inc.

Embattled financial giant Citigroup Inc., which has received at least $50 billion in federal bailout funds, hosted a private conference call on Wednesday to build opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act.

Luckily, not everyone falls for anti-union campaigns from Big Business and the GOP.

Rachel Maddow has taken a few minutes to explain the truth about The Employee Free Choice Act and what it would actually do for workers...without all the scary stuff that comes from the GOP and Big Business.

As a general rule, if the GOP and Big Business are against's probably going to actually help the common man. Which means it is worth supporting. But read about it yourself. Investigate.

Take a few minutes to learn about the act.


Army fires 11 for being gay

Posted by J.D. On 5 comments
Before taking office, President Obama announced The Obama-Biden Plan to outline what his administration will work towards. One of the proposals was to end don't-ask-don't-tell in the military.

But then the administration backpeddled a little and it became less of a priority.

As we all know, Obama was sworn in as President in January (two times!). That same month, the army fired eleven soldiers for being gay.

The Army fired 11 soldiers in January for violating the military's policy that gay service members must keep their sexuality hidden, according to a Virginia congressman.

Democratic Rep. Jim Moran said he has requested monthly updates from the Pentagon on the impact of the policy until it is repealed. In a statement released on Thursday, Moran said the discharged soldiers included an intelligence collector, a military police officer, four infantry personnel, a health care specialist, a motor-transport operator and a water-treatment specialist.

"How many more good soldiers are we willing to lose due to a bad policy that makes us less safe and secure?" asked Moran, a member of the House panel that oversees military spending.

Last November, it was reported that more than 100 retired generals and admirals have called for the repeal of the policy. Earlier than that in July an ABC News poll showed the same trend with average citizens.

An ABC poll in July found that three-quarters of Americans supported allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military compared to 44 percent of Americans who expressed the same support in 1993, when President Bill Clinton approved "don't ask, don't tell" as what he called an "honorable compromise" that nevertheless bitterly disappointed his supporters in the gay community.

Moran is correct. This policy is terrible. Always was, always will be. It prevents American citizens from joining the military based on outdated and bigoted reasoning. Being gay isn't a crime. It isn't illegal. It shouldn't be a roadblock to being in the military. Or anything else, for that matter.