Monthly Archives: August, 2011

Friday Grab Bag: Yes, black people still face discrimination!

For many self-righteous whites, racism against blacks can only exist if there is a white sheet, a burning cross or a lynching involved.  By making these overt, violent acts (now largely consigned to history), the de-facto threshold for discrimination, they effectively sidestep any responsibility for ongoing, lingering prejudice and its effects on our society.  In fact in a nation where the standard of living is dropping and competition for employment is cutthroat, many have embraced a new cult of white victimhood and resentment.  SP

“Republican guru Karl Rove recently appeared on Fox News to dispute the idea that America is a “Christian nation.” And he was right to do so, but not because our country lacks an overarching canon. We certainly do have a national religion — it’s just not Christianity. It’s Denialism.

Some branches of this religion deny the science documenting humans’ role in climate change. Others deny tax cuts’ connection to deficits and deregulation’s role in the recession. But regardless of the issue, Denialists all share a basic hostility to facts.

As this know-nothing theology expands, none of its denominations claims a bigger membership than the one obsessed with race. Today, many reject the fact that black people typically face bigger obstacles to economic and political success than whites. Instead, they insist that whites are oppressed.”

via Yes, black people still face discrimination – Race –

The Alliance for Progressive Values’ statement on the August 23rd 2011 East Coast Earthquake and its significance in the debate over Nuclear Power.

The Alliance for Progressive Values’ statement on the August 23rd 2011 East Coast Earthquake and its significance in the debate over Nuclear Power.

Just before 2 p.m. on the afternoon of August 23rd an earthquake, centered near Mineral, Virginia, but felt as far away as New York City and Boston struck the East Coast of the United States. The quake has been measured at between a 5.8 and 5.9 on the Richter scale, making it a strong seismic event. While initial reports indicated that the quake occurred comparatively near the earth’s surface and caused little immediately visible damage and no loss of life, it raises serious questions nonetheless about the ability of the many nuclear power facilities in the affected area to withstand a severely disruptive seismic event.

The power industry has been quick to down play the chances of any particular event happening in any particular year. They have lauded their safety measures in the “remote” event such a disaster did occur and a reactor was damaged, and they have consistently minimized the impact of such damage on the communities near the facilities. Until very recently the threat of earthquakes to plants in the Eastern region of the country has been ignored. Yet a study commission by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2005 (and still not completed), on seismic hazards to the domestic commercial nuclear power industry identified serious concerns with two dozen plants, mostly in the Midwest and East. The study expresses specific concerns over a magnitude 6 earthquake occurring and quote “surprising us” in the East. In August of 2010 the NRC released estimates of the risks associated with the nation’s 104 existing commercial facilities: of the top ten reactors in the most danger of damage from earthquake, nine (9) were in the East including the North Anna site in Virginia whose risk factor increased by 38%. In light of these factors and the ongoing catastrophic events in Japan stemming from the earthquake/tsunami/meltdown less than six months ago, and with the repeated questions about security, design and fail-safe issues that continue to dog the industry, APV believes it is time to step back and seriously reconsider the future of nuclear power in Virginia and in the United States.

In Virginia, the two reactors at the aging North Anna nuclear power plant in Louisa County (7 out of 10 on the NRC risk list) shut down during the quake. The North Anna facility lost outside power and was forced to use its diesel generators (one of which failed), to power the pumps that keep the fuel rods from overheating and the reactor from melting down. Dominion Power, which operates the plant at North Anna, claims that the generators can provide enough electricity to supply power to emergency safety systems indefinitely, but of course this presupposes that the generators themselves have not been damaged and have enough fuel to operate, and that the Lake Anna Dam which supplies water to the plant has not been damaged as well, neither of which is assured during an ongoing disaster. Had the quake’s damage to local roads and rail lines been more severe, as is often the case in major seismic events, we might now be counting down the hours until the generators ceased to work and a crisis ensued. North Anna sits a mere forty (40) miles northwest of the state capitol in Richmond (metropolitan area population 1.2 million). Moving such a large group of people in the short time frame generated by a possible core meltdown would be nearly impossible under the best of circumstances, and in the event of a serious emergency (earthquake, hurricane, tornadoes) with transportation, communications and other logistical apparatus compromised, the idea of mass evacuations is simply laughable. And Richmond is not alone. There’s a nuclear plant fifty (50) miles outside of the nation’s capitol in Maryland, and the Indian Point facility (Ramapo Fault Line), is within twenty five (25) miles of the New York City skyline (8.3 million people). Twelve (12) facilities from North Carolina to Michigan reported unusual events on the 23rd. We can be glad that no serious damage appears to have been done this time, but we cannot remain complacent in the face of real threats.

As the catastrophe in Fukushima prefecture illustrates, large scale, devastating events do occur. These are not hypothetical worst case scenarios. The Surry plant in southeastern Virginia shut down in April of 2011 due to damage from tornadoes. While earthquakes are not common on the East Coast, they are clearly not unheard of as recent events prove and the North Anna plant (which Dominion Power is planning to expand), was built directly on the Spotsylvania Fault Line that runs through central Virginia. The Mid-Atlantic is prone to hurricanes the severity and frequency of which are predicted to rise in the future due to global climate change. Again, in the event of possible widespread damage to infrastructure in affected areas, there are legitimate questions about how well the emergency measures for the facilities will perform.

Nuclear technology is inherently unsafe. Even under the best of circumstances the reactors are incredibly complex systems designed to use some of the most dangerous substances in the world to essentially boil water. Even with multiple safe guards, things can go wrong, the unexpected can happen, a series of small events can cascade out of control in a short time and very bad things can occur, affecting large populations and national and international economies.

To the existing and very real dangers posed by tornadoes, hurricanes, forest fires, flooding, terrorist attacks, design flaws and human error we must now reconsider the threat of damage from earthquakes. The North Anna plant was rated to withstand an earthquake of 5.9 to 6.2, the East Coast quake was variously reported at 5.8, 5.9 and 6.0. We can’t know exactly what the seismic readings at the plant were during the quake since the equipment used to measure and collect the data was removed over a decade ago because of budget cuts.

Nuclear energy is not clean (uranium mining is dangerous to the environment, local populations and the miners doing the digging, and there is still no widely accepted long term plan for storing the deadly radioactive waste the reactors produce).

Nuclear energy is not safe (reactors are tempting targets for terrorist sabotage or theft of nuclear material).

Nuclear energy is not cheap (nuclear energy costs a fortune to develop and still requires subsidies to keep rates competitive, and when one factors in the price of clean-up following an accident the cost skyrockets).

The events of August 23rd 2011 should be a wake up call for the people of Virginia and the nation as a whole to rethink in what direction we should go with our energy future. We will be told that because nothing very bad happened this time, that we can ignore the looming threat posed by an energy system predicated on the perpetual control of highly unstable radioactive materials by fallible humans. The Alliance for Progressive Values suggests a moratorium on further plant construction until more study can be done into minimizing the dangers posed by already existing plants and with an eye to their eventual decommission. We call for a renewed emphasis on clean, renewable, non-centralized sources of energy like wind, solar and tidal to power our state and nation in the 21st century.

In our relief at the relative lack of harm done by the east coast quake, let us not lose sight of the lesson we have been taught.

Stephanie Rodriguez, President, Alliance for Progressive Values.

SEC Cover Up

Matt Taibbi covers the bases in this Rolling Stone Politics article by addressing the continued good efforts by our whistleblowers, the disintegrating rule of law in America and an SEC cover up scheme that makes Watergate seem tame. Where at one time corruption in the news was startling, this is just this week’s best article on “bad behavior”.

Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes?
A whistle-blower claims that over the past two decades, the agency has destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s worst financial criminals.

Cry Havoc

(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

Rebels captured another strategic base in Libya this weekend. Earlier in the week they took control of a major oil refinery thus cutting off Moammar Gaddafi from much needed fuel for what remains of his army. Gaddafi has been reduced to being the master of Tripoli and its suburbs, NATO controls the air over the city and the seas outside the port. Soon if not already, supplies will start running short and the few smart folks that remain in the regime are going to be looking for ways to get out, or make a deal before the noose becomes too tight.

We are witnessing the curiously predictable, murderously compelling passion play that marks the final days of a dictator. There’s a chance Gaddafi slides out some back door to wash ashore in ignominious, if safe exile on the endless beach of Saudi Arabia a la Idi Amin or more recently deposed Tunisian leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.  Sadly for Moammar, the old days when third world dictators like Mobutu Sese Seko or Baby Doc Duvalier could retire to the south of France to die in luxury may be gone… although there might be a chance right wing Italian Prime Minister and former Gaddafi BFF, Berlusconi can find him a discrete villa on the luminous coast north of Pisa. Worse for the long suffering people of Tripoli, he might stage his own personal kleine Götterdämmerung, substituting perhaps a tent in this case for a bunker… Least likely but most gratifying,  would be if he is caught and made to pay for his crimes by the same people he’s brought so much misery, for so many years.  All this remains to be seen of course, but the fact is, sometime in the near future, President Obama is going to stride to the podium and declare victory and the Colonel who once sported an all-girl team of bodyguards and a unsurprisingly megalomaniacal sense of personal style in military uniforms will be no more. And how then are we on the left to feel about this?

Moammar Gaddafi is a bad man. He’s murdered his own people in droves, he’s been a player in international terrorism during the 1980s and 90s, when he provided money and hosted training camps for the PLO, the IRA and the Brigate Rosse among others.  He also engaged in his own direct attacks on US service personnel in Germany, and of course the infamous Pan Am bombing over Lockerbie Scotland, 25 years ago last week.. In the 00s, the Europeans and the Bushies bought Gaddafi off and he seems to have settled down to selling oil and persecuting his own people. But in the same way that 9/11 provided an excuse for the Bushies to settle their private scores with sometime ally Saddam Hussein, the recent “Arab Spring” has provided an opening to finally remove what the press liked to call the “Libyan Strongman”. When Gaddafi leaves the stage of world history either head or feet first, it will doubtless be a good thing in that he was in fact a very bad man. Yet, as with the case of Saddam, we can celebrate the end of a villain and still question the many ways in which our government and the international corporate community have conspired to prop up and sustain this dictator for so long, and the extra-legal means now being used to remove him.

We progressives often get chucked under the chin by the Neo-Cons and the ever so thoughtful “USA has a special mission from God to kick ass in the world” types who call us weak kneed and morally impaired when we raise real questions about the blow-back from American adventurism. When the dictators are on the American payroll, we’re told that our naivety about realpolitik blinds us to the important strategic necessities that require keeping so and so in power. Then, when so and so is longer needed we’re pilloried as some new Neville Chamberlainif we complain when the same dictator is trotted out as the new Hitler.

Either way I suppose it’s good for business. War might be the only industry the US can claim to be growing these days, but the price we pay as a people, both in our national treasure and our international reputation are stunningly large. We’ve spent trillions of dollars over the last decade on the Bush wars and what do we have to show for it? Afghanistan is more of a mess (if that’s possible) than when we arrived in 2001, and now they hate us and our corrupt stooge regime to boot. Iraq is in the midst of more sectarian violence and the only thing all the Iraqis can agree on these days is how much they loathe us. Sure, Saddam is gone, and Bin laden is dead, but in terms of expenditures alone, it would have actually been cheaper to buy Saddam out for a mere trillion dollars and send him to the Cote D’azur to write his romance novels. We killed Osama Bin Laden (another very bad man) with good old fashioned police type investigation (and an assassination team that wasn’t exactly legal), that had little to no relationship with the nearly one trillion dollars we now spend yearly on defense and “security” matters combined. Make no mistake, I believe that the US and the other nations of the world have the right and in some cases the moral obligation to act when a regime leaves the community of nations and becomes an outlaw, but I don’t trust the powers that be anymore, if I ever did.  I don’t trust that they have even the semblance of a moral compass. I think they’re playing a game, I suppose one can argue that they always have been.

The last 60 years of international history reads out as one long butchers bill of surrogate wars and coups and black operations that always seem to have unintended consequences and rarely if ever help the local populations in whose name they’re ostensibly carried out. Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panama. Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines… Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan… Cuba, Columbia, Peru, Chile… Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Rhodesia and so many more. The names swim up out of the past covered in blood and paid for by our tax dollars. Each one justified, each one an issue of national security. And now Libya, where of course Gaddafi must go, to be replaced… by someone.  And yet who is it in the end that seems to always come away from these killing fields a winner. The multinationals that always turn up in the midst of these international car wrecks like so many ambulance chasing lawyers ready to sell weapons and “expertise”, ready to sign sweetheart contracts for the oil or the diamonds or the dirt cheap labor or what have you, with whomever they can put into power for the moment… they benefit, but that’s about it. Certainly not the soldiers, paid next to nothing to wreck their bodies and savage their souls, certainly not the civilians who watch one tyrant replaced by another while the their national wealth is syphoned off to a new set of numbered accounts.  And most certainly not the American people, always left with the check while the scoundrels duck out.

So when the Marines go into northern Mexico or some shadow war in South America blows up in our faces, we’ll be told by the mainstream media why we just had to pour more money and men in, and there was no other choice… and the cowards on the left don’t support the troops etc. And somewhere, someone will be making a mint on the whole thing. I’m surprised the corporations and banks that increasingly define what constitute our vital national security haven’t gotten us involved in a more formal way in the blood bath in Central Africa by now. For raw, unmitigated misery on this planet the Congo may have no peers… and it’s a treasure house of minerals, precious metals and petroleum. I assume the local strong-men haven’t tried to take too big a cut, or perhaps the media logistics of land war in Africa haven’t been worked out yet… but there’s always next year…

In the midst of all this cynicism I should say that I still believe in the right of peoples throughout the world to fight for their freedom and I am not shy in my belief that the United States should aid them in their just causes, but I’ve lost trust in my government and I have no trust in the corporations that often seem to influence where and when our young men and women fight. Too often yesterday’s ally is todays boogie man is tomorrow’s ally again. I’ll shed no tears for the Colonel when he leaves, but I know a game’s being played when I see one, and I won’t be cheering either.


A Jobs Law?

Under President Kennedy’s leadership, the United States initiated programs that promoted health, education and the opportunity for economic equality. Now celebrating 50 years, The Alliance for Progress was one such initiative. He worked toward a solidarity among nations to fight against autocracy, plutocracy, oligarchy or any other form of governmental control that did not recognize justice and an equitable quality of life for the people as national priorities. Nations agreed that the people’s ability to find work is an essential freedom and governments should correct conditions that are not conducive to the sustainment of employment opportunities and acceptable working conditions for all. Warning against “an imperialism of force and fear”, his outreach was for a compassion among nations, each exhibiting a common commitment to prosperity, “the handmaiden of freedom.”*

That was then. Today, with unemployment at a critical level, our government, the media and most representatives have even ignored the fact that a law – not an initiative, a law that mandated a government jobs program and promoted “proper attention to national priorities”, The Humphrey-Hawkins Act of 1978, was allowed to expire in 2000. It was a way to ensure that a president’s hands were not tied by partisanship when the people needed a jobs program. Today, Rep. John Conyers’ bill (HR 870), “The Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act” – is proposed to mandate job training and other programs designed to curtail our extreme unemployment, “but the bill has no chance as long as Republicans control the House.”

President Obama should stand up for Americans and call for bi-partisan cooperation on passing this bill immediately – and hope for the best.

In this article, The Democratic Stratigest recaps some efforts that recognize the people’s need to work by referencing Jeanne Mirer’s and Marjorie Cohn’s recent post on past mandates and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ standard for employment.

I might add, for what it’s worth, that the U.S. has signed and ratified the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS) to which we pay millions of dollars in membership. Articles 34 and 45 are particularly pertinent.

The Super Committee and the new free trade agreements will cause more job losses in addition to the already increasing unemployment numbers we see escalating American poverty. As the article suggests, we need to protest inactivity! “It was FDR who said “make me do it,” and MLK showed us the way, not only with one demonstration, but with a sustained commitment to mass protest. Now let’s make them do it.”

*President Kennedy was killed the day after the last clip in this video, and the Alliance for Progress became the vessel for many atrocities committed, as such, in his name. However, and in all reasonableness, he and others who were truly infected with the fear of communism, reacted without diplomacy – with horrible and violent consequences for the people more than a few times, as opposed to the “compassion among nations” designed to redefine the people as national priorities. … war is the health of the state.


Unsinkable Ship

. . . a money class fleeces the banking system, while the very trunk of the national tree is permitted to rot and crash.
~Christopher Hitchens

A long time ago, someone handed me a fire extinguisher, doused and lit my English saddle, and suggested I aim at the base of the fire if I wanted to save it. Details aside, that’s what I thought of this morning when I re-read Vanity Fair‘s article by Christopher Hitchens, America the Banana Republic.

When it was reprinted all over the world in 2008, this article was not just a wake-up call … it was an alarm: a dire warning for the people of America, and its undeniable truth smacks even harder today. Nearly three years later, what have we done to reverse the course of a trend that was threatening “to put the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave on a par with Zimbabwe, Venezuela, and Equatorial Guinea”?

Corporations still own the media and are now taking over the Internet. Free access to information, ideas and opinions is essential to Democracy, and the Internet was our alternate source.

The rule of law, a hallmark of Democracy, still doesn’t apply to persons of wealth and power or our government officials.

The Citizens United decision has corrupted the democratic process with corporate personhood.

We are still using electronic election equipment without verifiable results.

As I see it, the media, the rule of law and election integrity are so fundamental to democracy that without them, we are no longer a Democratic American Republic – and if we can’t maintain our own foundation of principles, it’s beyond arrogance to be forcing our system on other nations. It’s not enough anymore to say “our system isn’t perfect, but it’s the best there is to offer”. We’re dangerous. The world’s grandest banana republic also has the most powerful military in the history of the world and the people of America have lost all control over its expansive use.

Some simple truths need to be stated in every venue left for the people to see, and we need to heed the warnings and act now to change the course of history and the future of America.

Where do we go from here? If it were up to me, I would aim at the base of the fire and try to hit some of the above failures. One of the surest ways is to align ourselves with a grass-roots organization willing to work for American values.

Military soldiers – A Praetorian Guard?

Mercenary, by djwudi

Now that military spending is supposedly going to be cut sufficiently enough to make a difference in our economy, this article, U.S. Relies on Contractors in Somalia Conflict – one that tries to make the case for taxpayer funding of private military contractors, is not surprising or early or late. It’s right on schedule as if surreptitiously written by those profiteers who encourage the war ‘games’ being played around the world at the expense of our politically expressed social morals and our economic security.

The article is a loosely woven account with tokens of the good and the bad information about mercenaries – and with an horrific desensitizing quote thrown into the mix – [“Urban fighting is a war of attrition, you nibble, nibble, nibble,” said Mr. Rouget, the Bancroft contractor … Still, he seems to thoroughly enjoy his work. “Give me some technicals” — a term for heavily armed pickup trucks — “and some savages and I’m happy,” he joked.]  And there’s another spooky quote … “No one, not even the president, knows what the N.S.A. is doing,” he said. “The Americans are creating a monster.”

The reality of huge pro-war lobbies and their agendas – far apart from the interests of the American people, represent a cash-cow industry including companies like Bechtel, KBR (Halliburton), Blackwater/Xe, Boughton Protection Services (BPS), Dyncorp and many more.

Though contracted war services are not new, our increased use and dependence on them is staggering. In 2006, the DOD reported a tenfold increase in Private Military Companies in ten years – and this is an industry “reporting” its worth well in excess of $100 billion a year. Recently, DynCorp was criticized for not properly accounting for $1.2 billion in contracts authorized by the State Department for training Iraqi police, and though the class action case against them was dismissed, Blackwater has also fudged on their taxes by listing employees as subcontractors.

Military soldiers who are not members of a nation’s own forces are fighting because they are paid and paid well to fight and kill on the orders of a private corporation. Where and when we use them, I think they embody the ugly American persona to a tee. They are mercenaries regardless of blurred lines drawn by the media, and by the actions of our own, often financially conflicted representatives and lawmakers. They are considered unlawful combatants in the Geneva Conventions and in the US Military Commissions Act.

Most notable for atrocious criminal behavior – like offensive action against unarmed civilians, is Blackwater/Xe, who has been indited for murdering civilians as well as more than 300 violations of our own weapons export control laws. But when it comes to targeting “evildoers”, Blackwater always gets a pass. Our government – its facets not always seeing eye to eye, intercedes in all cases where Blackwater is indited allowing for a monetary settlement at best.

Some good background on that is here, but for examples, in 2007, when federal prosecutors were investigating allegations that Blackwater employees were smuggling weapons into Iraq, weapons later transferred to the Kurdistan Workers Party – a terrorist organization, the FBI took over the investigation and charges have yet to be filed. In 2008, when the Justice Department charged five Blackwater employees, Judge Urbina threw the criminal case right out of court. In a U.S. District Court in Virginia in 2009, a suit was brought against Blackwater for murder, kidnapping, weapons smuggling, money laundering, tax evasion, child prostitution, illegal drug use and destruction of evidence among the many charges. (Allegedly, young Iraqi girls had been brought to the Green Zone to provide oral sex to contractors for $1.) The terms of the settlement were not made public … but Xe reported that it was “pleased” with the resolution.

Blackwater’s New Sugar Daddy: The Obama Administration

“… And a panel that we had said that they can do the job, that they have shaped up their act. So there really was not much choice but to accept that contract.” That was CIA Director Leon Panetta giving contrived and feeble excuses quoted in this excellent article that appeared in The Nation about a year ago when the Obama administration awarded Blackwater/Xe a quarter of a billion dollar contract to work for the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency in Afghanistan. And here’s Rep. Jan Schakowsky, chair of the House Intelligence subcommittee on investigations and oversight:

It’s just outrageous. What does Blackwater have to do to be determined an illegitimate player? While some of Blackwater’s personnel do good work, its employees have proven to be untrustworthy with weapons in combat zones. Whether they are at the center of a mission or are doing static security, we should not be using Blackwater employees. The CIA should not be doing business with this company no matter how many name changes it undergoes.” And Schakowsky on This Week: “We’re talking about murder, a company with a horrible reputation, that really jeopardizes our mission in so many different ways.

If you missed Jeremy Scahill’s opinion back then, you might enjoy it now before any more articles come out on the benefits of Private Military Companies. The light he shines on Blackwater is applicable to other military contractors and our dependency on them that just continues to grow …. But in case you don’t get to read it, here’s Scahill’s astute last line that I won’t forget:

“… Blackwater has been involved with so many sensitive operations for a decade and knows where the bodies are buried and who buried them. Those are not the kind of people you simply cut loose without fear of consequences.”

I believe it was the Roman Praetorian Guard who were initially helpful protecting generals and Emperors and such. Unfortunately, over time they exploited their position and ended up under a bridge somewhere. They’re not generally remembered for the good among them, or the good they did early on. I guess my point is that we should be looking for ways to control our use of Private Military Companies … or we could start looking around for a big bridge.


Who bankrolls the Super Congress?

Reps. Jim Clyburn, Chris Van Hollen and Xavier Becerra

For a refresher, Who bankrolls the Super Congress? | iWatch News gives information (to be updated) on each of the new members, including their “PAC contributions from special interests; the revolving door of staff in and out of the private sector; the lawmakers’ own PACs that dole out donations to favored people running for office; and past earmarks.”

Why they were chosen and what they will in fact do to or for the American people involves another waiting game. But … how, as an entire group of public servants, they can see fit to take a five-week vacation at a time like this, with our nation’s critical need for their undivided attention and cooperation is indicative, I think, of the devotion we can expect from them to helping the American people. I do not find their appointments comforting, especially those with unabashed ties to those corporate “forces” so obviously working against us, such as but certainly not limited to the Koch brothers.

The National Journal reminds us that “House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made it clear from the beginning that no Republican on the panel would vote in favor of tax increases of any kind, and their nominees reinforce that: Kyl, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, and Camp, Hensarling and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan. A former president of the anti-tax Club for Growth, Toomey, in particular, is a signal of the GOP’s unwillingness to bend on taxes.”

In contrast, “In a letter being sent to each of the super committee members Thursday, the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition is urging panelists to seek a centrist path.

“As you prepare for your post on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, we urge you to work with your colleagues to achieve a balanced, bipartisan solution that will control our nation’s debt and ensure that the United States remains the leader in the world economy,” the Blue Dogs write in a draft obtained by POLITICO. “As policymakers, we have a clear choice in front of us: pursue a partisan approach that caters to the political extremes, or work together as Americans to put our nation’s fiscal house in order. Therefore, we urge you to put politics aside and work across party lines to develop a fair and feasible path to fixing our long-term debt.”

Here’s what Bernie Sanders had to say about the committee before members’ names were revealed:

And here’s why – this sort of horse pucky:


On Wisconsin!

As of this moment, it looks as though the recall election in Wisconsin has fallen one seat short of retaking the Senate and preventing Governor Walker from continuing his campaign against organized labor and worker’s rights, among other things. It’s sad of course, a lot of us went to bed last night hoping we’d have something great to celebrate this morning, but this was not the case. It’s a hard blow here at APV in particular. One of the sparks that got us to found this organization was the riveting sight of hundreds of thousands of citizens standing up for their rights against a petty tyrant. Wisconsin was a clarion call to many of us, a signal that it was time to stop whining and start doing something.

I’m here to say that although we fell short in this round, the lessons of Wisconsin still ring true. Stand up for your rights, don’t back down, make it as hard as possible for the corporations and the ideologues to rob us of what’s ours. You may not always win, but fighting back empowers you, it makes you stronger and better hones your arguments and strategies, and this sort of thing build on itself.  Next year the people of Wisconsin will try and recall Scott Walker. The Koch brothers and the GOP will pour money into the effort to keep their man, but it will cost ’em, and they may lose this next race. The point is that these extremists need to understand that when you take a sledge hammer to the people’s rights, there are going to be consequences.

And let’s be clear, last night there were consequences.  This was no picnic for the GOP, they lost two seats in the Senate and barely held the others. They needed to spend tens of millions of dollars and they watched as the Democrats built a powerful political organization heading into 2012. Walker is still widely unpopular less than a year after his election, and while it was hard to turn out Senators from gerrymandered districts, state-wide things may prove different. Some conservatives will crow about this, but they know they dodged a bullet and there are more coming down the line.

From down here in Virginia, where believe me we have our own problems, I say to the good people of Wisconsin, don’t give up the fight! We are with you. On Wisconsin!

Scott Price

Public Policy Director


More Free Trade?

To date, 682,900 U.S. jobs have been lost or displaced since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994, a new Economic Policy Institute study finds. The main reason for the job loss is a $97.2 billion trade deficit with Mexico. In 1993, one year before NAFTA was implemented, the United States had a $1.6 billion trade surplus with Mexico that supported nearly 30,000 U.S. jobs. ~Economic Policy Institute

I guess we all remember that warning and would like to side-step a similar situation now that a breakthrough has been announced and Senate leaders promise swift votes on the trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama after Congress returns next month.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is all for it. “These trade agreements are one of the best ways to create jobs in America now,” said Thomas J. Donohue, president and chief executive.”  The only hang-up, it seems, has been a congressional stall “over a related employment assistance program for U.S. workers who lose their jobs to trade.”

The Trade Adjustment Assistance program ($575-million) should have been included in the trade pacts, but because the cost was frowned on by Republicans, a deal was made to separate the two issues to speed up the trade agreement vote.

Being diligently consistent, “The political trade-off did not please House Democrats, who are concerned that the worker aid program will be left behind.” Hoping out loud that the TAA will in fact be renewed, “the top Democrats on key committees, said in a joint statement. “American workers deserve no less.”

In the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which is designed to help employees who have lost jobs as a result of overseas competition or production moving outside the United States, “74 percent of the trainees get new jobs with average earnings 85 percent of their last paycheck. Not bad considering many were among the most senior and well-compensated at their old jobs and start green in their new positions.”

Where is Obama on all this? “I won’t stand here and tell you that we can — or should — stop free trade, I will not sign another trade agreement unless it has protections for our environment and protections for American workers.” That’s what he said while campaigning in 2008.

This most recent round of trade agreements does include a new, improved “labor chapter” – whether it works or not is left to be seen. The Sierra Club stands against the agreements for a multitude environmental reasons.

As to protecting American workers, here is an interesting article by Tim Robertson, who is the director of the California Fair Trade Coalition. He is not convinced – at least, not in the case of South Korea. “It promotes exports but fails to address imports, which is a big mistake.”

“The president and administration officials have often claimed export increases from the South Korea pact will support 70,000 jobs, which is true. Unfortunately, when including imports, the Economic Policy Institute predicts a net loss of 159,000 U.S. jobs.”

“If President Obama and his team are serious about using trade to create jobs, which they should be, they will abandon the so-called free trade system and work for policy that actually helps U.S. industry, protects U.S. workers and creates U.S. jobs. To do so, they really have to stop ignoring half of the trade equation.”

Hopefully, before the new trade pacts go into effect we will have debated the policies and learned enough to balance past experience with the present and future needs of all parties concerned – especially the American people.