Monthly Archives: July, 2011

Poster Child

By: Mary McCurnin
























Multiculturalism or neoliberalism?

Targeting Norway’s Labour Party and killing for “invented purity”, Anders Breivik’s acts of insanity shook the world and have become a topic of focus and much debate. In The biggest threat to Western values, Tarak Barkawi makes the case for a culprit closer to home. Neoliberalism – a threat from within.

“Multiculturalism does not pose a significant danger to Western values – but neoliberalism does.”

Note for example the ways in which the great professional vocations of the West – lawyers, journalists, academics, doctors – have been co-opted and corrupted by bottom line thinking. Money and “efficiency” are the values by which we stand, not law, truth or health. Students are imagined as “customers”, citizens as “stakeholders”. Professional associations worry about the risk to their bottom line rather than furthering the values they exist to represent. Graduates of elite Western universities, imbued with the learning of our great thinkers, are sent off to corporations like News International. There they learn to shut up, obey, and collaborate in the dark work of exploitation for profit, for which they will be well rewarded, at least financially speaking.

Banksy # 344














Internet woes or all out attack?

This 2003 documentary, Orwell Rolls In His Grave, is right on target as Bernie Sanders and others describe our “corporate” media and election fraud, with ominous warnings about what would happen to the Internet if we failed to stop a corporate takeover.

Going into another election with an eye on the media, the Internet and its intended level playing field are under attack – right on schedule. “Top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said [today] they are investigating whether the Federal Communications Commission improperly coordinated with the White House and public interest groups in the development of the network neutrality rules adopted in December.” It is clearly an attempt to reverse the only “fairness” the FCC was able to hold on to in that disappointing ruling.

Additionally, the proposed merger of AT&T/T-Mobile needs strong opposition. Lots of money went out from AT&T well in advance to buy support. Our right to communicate and share ideas without having corporations control the span and cost of information is something we should fight for vigorously.

The FCC (notorious for allowing consolidation of radio and TV networks), along with the Department of Justice will either support the people by forbidding this merger or they will approve it in favor of corporations. According to Al Franken, “The merger of AT&T and T-Mobile would be a major step towards the creation of an entrenched duopoly in the wireless industry. It would concentrate enormous power over the entire telecommunications sector in the hands of only two companies, and it would incentivize AT&T and Verizon to coordinate prices to the detriment of consumers.”

Only with a sustained effort to fight corporate money and influence, and a willingness to focus on the creation of MORE Internet competitors, rather than fewer – will we preserve any semblance of the Internet we use today. Any act or concerted plan that stifles innovation and prevents small businesses from competing in the market usurps our freedom “to inform and be informed” without corporate oversight, and needs to be stopped.

In another concerning development, “the Attorneys General of eleven states sent a letter late yesterday to the FCC and Department of Justice asking for a quick review and the formal approval of the highly contested and controversial transaction…”  Hopefully, more attention and a public outcry will gain the support needed to fight the merger before the FCC rules on it.

Bend over

Go out and pick the switch I’m going to hit you with.

Oh, “we’re broke,” huh? Nine GOP senators use Wisconsinites’ tax dollars to pay for their ALEC memberships!

“The one class of voters that ALEC seeks to protect with resolutions and model legislation—overseas military voters—happens to be likely to vote Republican.”

“At the same time, ALEC urges legislators to fight the “federal takeover” of state election procedures, objecting in particular to universal standards for voting procedures.”

“Once they set the rules for elections and campaigns,” says Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan, a longtime ALEC critic, “ALEC will pretty much call the shots.”

ALEC Exposed: Rigging Elections

ALEC Exposed

Democracy, Voter Rights, and Federal Power


Turns out we’re not alone in our anger and disappointment.

Like a lot of people next year I will probably pull the lever for this president, if for no other reason than my terror at the thought of a Romney or Perry presidency, but that doesn’t mean I’m not mad as hell and it turns out I’m not alone.

“It’s one thing to be willing to go vote for a candidate on Election Day (or, more accurately, against the other candidate); it’s another entirely to be willing to donate scarce money, canvass and evangelize, and infuse the campaign with passion and energy.”

via Obama and the Left: a problem for the WH? – Democratic Party –

“Even small defections, along with pervasive cynicism, disappointment, and apathy, can sink Obama’s campaign.”

In 2008 I raised money and I worked to get Obama elected and that election night was one I’ll always be proud of… But I’m a progressive and he’s not and worse, what he’s doing now is hurting our nation by colluding with the same people who did so much damage over the last decade.  There’s no walking back ending Social Security and Medicare, gutting education, jobs programs, healthcare, selling off our heritage and our future all to pay for tax cuts so that corporations don’t have to pay for their private jets.

“It’s not merely that he lacks a fear of liberal dissatisfaction; it’s that he affirmatively craves it.”

I’m on all there mailing lists and donor sheets, they’ll be calling soon and they’re about to get an earful.


Whistling in the dark

The dominant purpose of the First Amendment was to prohibit the widespread practice of government suppression of embarrassing information. ~ William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice

It must have been embarrassing for our government to learn that they had been given a considerable amount of warning one month in advance of the 911 attacks. They were warned “in FBI Headquarters in over 60 emails and frantic telephone calls that “this is a guy who could fly into the World Trade Center.” Afterwards, we shouldn’t have needed a whistleblower to tell us that a national security breach like that had been covered up – but we did. That’s a good example of how the national security concerns over whistleblowing run in both directions.

When we have adequate protections in place to guard against their abuse, whistleblowers come forward to help us, though it always seems like a bitter win. That a corporation in America would manipulate the chemicals in cigarettes to addict more people while knowing the dire health risks is quite disturbing. Whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand put a stop to that practice at great personal risk and loss.

It became our duty in 1777 when the Continental Congress went to bat for whistleblowers and wrote the first legislation to protect them. “That it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or any other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.”

Thomas Drake was recently set free, but in May, Jane Mayer wrote The Secret Sharer, a great article about his frightening experience as a whistleblower under our two recent administrations. Who knows how much money we spent trying to put him in jail, but according to the New York Times, “The visibly angry judge [Richard D. Bennett] said that Mr. Drake had been through “four years of hell” and that the dragging out of the investigation — and then the dropping of the major charges on the eve of trial — was “unconscionable.”

How readily whistleblowers come forward is probably commensurate with the amount of risk they have to face. Even with recent bolstering in Section 922 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, overall protection for them has been backsliding and it’s often called window dressing. At one time, president Obama admitted that “Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism should be encouraged rather than stifled.”

Congressional acts to stifle their voices are not representative of the people’s interest and should be stopped like S5172. Despicably framed as a national security issue, it was in fact designed to punish animal rights whistleblowers.

It’s hard to imagine where we would be without some of our famous whistleblowers. If we encourage and honor them with impunity, they won’t be whistling in the dark.

Whistleblower Jan Karski's memorial, New York East 37th Street at Madison, outside the Polish Consulate

Friday Grab Bag

I suppose if this guy had taken a picture of his privates and sent it to someone (in violation of no actual laws), then we could hound him out of Congress, otherwise… no.

Rivera Disputes Report of FBI and IRS Investigations

Or you could threaten to shoot union members, not figuratively, literally… Maybe that could get you removed from office… er, no.

NH GOP Politician to Unions: ‘Better Not F#%k with Me’ Or I’ll Shoot

Of course if they do get you out of office, don’t worry, no matter how bad the economy is for everyone else, there’s always some work out there until you can get back in…

Chart of the Day: The Shortcut From K Street to Capitol Hill

Imagine living in a country where the government actually investigates real corporate crime.

More discrepancies come to light in the Murdoch scandal

Greenpeace just released a report highlighting the connection between 15 members of Congress and the coal companies that “own” them.

Polluting Democracy: Coal Plays Dirty on the Hill

And look, here’s Eric Cantor popping up once again…

From the report:

Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), District 7

“Safety and environmental concerns are legitimate and must be addressed. That much

we can all agree on.”

House Majority Leader

In top 25% of House members receiving campaign cash from fossil fuel companies7

Coal Plants Polluting Cantor’s District23

Bremo Bluff (owner, Dominion Virginia Power [a subsidiary of Dominion]), in district.

• No mercury controls.

• Minimal nitrogen dioxide controls.

• No sulfur dioxide controls.

Potomac River Generating Station (owner, GenOn Energy), within 100 miles of district.

• No mercury controls.

• Minimal nitrogen dioxide controls.

• Minimal sulfur dioxide controls.

Chesterfield Power Station (owner, Dominion Virginia Power

[a subsidiary of Dominion]), within 100 miles of district.

• No mercury controls.

• Minimal nitrogen dioxide controls.

• Minimal sulfur dioxide controls.

There are 2 other coal-fired power plant within 100 miles of District 7.

Impact Annually of These Three Coal Plants6

• Deaths: 154

• Heart Attacks: 317

• Asthma Attacks: 2,600

• Hospital Admissions: 116

• Chronic Bronchitis: 96

• Asthma ER Visits: 129

Yearly Costs: $1,191,860,0006

Coal Polluters Support Representative Cantor

Fossil fuel industry has given Cantor $655,547 since the 2000 election season. Coal donors include Dominion

Resources ($157,947), National Rural Electric Cooperative Association ($24,900), and NiSource Inc ($18,750).7

Slug Slow Equality

Our military has decided at long last that including gays won’t compromise our national security, and today they will meet to advise president Obama that they’ll be ready for inclusion in September.

Equality in America is a slug slow process at the end of a steep uphill fight for rights long ago provided for in the constitution and its amendments. Step by slow step, the LGBT community continues to climb, gaining ground, widening the path of civil rights activists and easing the way for other groups long discriminated against. Maybe one fine day we will see a similar announcement providing EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK.

In the mean time, congratulations to those Americans working to change policies of discrimination and exclusion. May the wind be always at your back.


If McCain Had Won

Would our country be better off today If McCain Had Won?

He would probably have approved a failed troop surge in Afghanistan, engaged in worldwide extrajudicial assassination, destabilized nuclear-armed Pakistan, failed to bring Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to the negotiating table, expanded prosecution of whistle-blowers, sought to expand executive branch power, failed to close Guantanamo, failed to act on climate change, pushed both nuclear energy and opened new areas to domestic oil drilling, failed to reform the financial sector enough to prevent another financial catastrophe, supported an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, presided over a growing divide between rich and poor, and failed to lower the jobless rate.

As we watch an array of potential candidates lining up for 2012, Fred Branfman uses ‘what if’ to point out some of our setbacks under President Obama with an imaginative eye on a McCain/Palin win in 2008. He finds that the Democratic party would be stronger today based on several interesting assumptions that are worth thinking about, but falls short of addressing others like Supreme Court appointments and the prospect of a President Palin. His conclusion, however – our need to challenge elite power, is not lost to exclusions, but rather accentuated by the similarities drawn in the comparison.

But however important the 2012 election, far more energy needs to be devoted to building mass organizations that challenge elite power and develop the kinds of policies—including massive investment in a “clean energy economic revolution,” a carbon tax and other tough measures to stave off climate change, regulating and breaking up the financial sector, cost-effective entitlements like single-payer health insurance, and public financing of primary and general elections—which alone can save America and its democracy in the painful decade to come.

As is usually the case, the comments to the author cover the spectrum from agreement to disagreement with a few that stand out. This one gets there with resigning verve:

I voted for Obama. But then after eight years of Bush
I would have voted for a monkey wearing a fez and a
sequined vest if that was who was running against a
Republican. And let’s call that Republican “McCain.”

This article is basically the argument that the
Democratic Party is better at being the outsider than
the insider because being the outsider makes you
stronger. The argument is cinched with the statement
“…a kind of “Disaster Progressivism” often occurs
when self-interested elites cause so much suffering
that policies favoring democracy and the majority
become possible.” This resembles the old Trotskyist
arguments: let’s work to get the worst possible
people elected because if things get bad enough then
the conditions for revolution will become actualized.
This is rather like shooting yourself in the foot to
get over cancer.

But sooner or later the outsiders have to seize the
day. This is precisely where the Democrats fell to
pieces. A Democrat in the White House and both the
Senate and House of Representatives strongly in the
Democrat camp—and still the Democratic Party
couldn’t get anything done. Two years of Democrats
versus Democrats and a great deal of that was (is)
Obama’s fault for failing to provide leadership and
vision. At this time in American history We
desperately needed an FDR—and got Millard Fillmore.

The Democratic Party lacks a coherent political
vision. Much has been made of the fault lines inside
the Republican Party but the Democratic Party has its
fissures as well. One short list group of Democrats
represents its Liberal and Progressive wing and the
rest is essentially Republicans of the Jack
Kemp/George Bush Sr. variety. Obama is of the latter.
One useful point this article tries to make is that
regardless of who is President, the same elites still
dictate the overall shape of American policy. In
other words, essentially Obama IS McCain—without the
crazy. ~by Peetawonkus, July 19


BREAD – A Warning Ignored

Detail of George Segal's "Depression Bread Line" at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ

Tomgram: Christian Parenti, Staff of Life, Bread of Death

And this, the experts tell us, is only the beginning.  The price of our loaf of bread is forecast to increase by up to 90% over the next 20 years. That will mean yet more upheavals, more protest, greater desperation, heightened conflicts over water, increased migration, roiling ethnic and religious violence, banditry, civil war, and (if past history is any judge) possibly a raft of new interventions by imperial and possibly regional powers.

And how are we responding to this gathering crisis?

Well, there’s room for improvement. In fact, our contribution of military aggression seems to be counter-productive. Realizing the nature and causes of regional hunger is critical to predicting violent conflict and government failure at home and elsewhere. Our humanitarian fabric is weakened by state policy. Fleeing hunger, a move to survive, is an unraveling condition forced on our neighbors in the world today, and unheeded, unattended will certainly be part of our undoing.

“Already the poorest on this planet spend 80% of what incomes they have on food staples and those prices are expected to double in the next two decades.”

This is a good article that includes Breaking Bread – a TOMCAST EPISODE with Christian Parenti discussing critical issues that cause hunger, and his well received new book. Climate change, crop shortages, drug cash, state policy and violent conflict are merged into a recipe for disaster – a warning that should not be ignored.

A recent case in point, the mass exodus of starving Somalis is here.