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LONDON—The International Monetary Fund urged the U.K. government to counter the effects of its austerity program by raising spending on infrastructure projects to avoid long-term damage to the nation's growth prospects.
Launched in 2010, the austerity program is the government's cornerstone policy, and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has indicated he won't change course.
The IMF had been a backer of the plan, allowing Mr. Osborne to use the fund's approval to validate his measures to improve the country's public finances.
But the IMF now believes that without action to soften the impact of the program, businesses will be reluctant to invest, and that will hinder the U.K.'s ability to generate economic growth by becoming more competitive and raising exports.
"The key risk is that persistent slow growth could permanently damage medium-term growth prospects," the IMF said. "After five years of relatively weak activity, additional measures are needed to raise long-term expectations of potential growth, while rebalancing necessitates a transformation to a high-investment and more export-oriented economy."
The U.K. was one of the first major economies to embark on spending cuts and tax increases to tackle a budget deficit that swelled during the financial crisis. Its progress is closely monitored by other debt-laden Western countries.
Withdrawal of the IMF's backing of the U.K. will add to the wider debate in the U.S. and across Europe over whether austerity has become a major drag on economies, and whether countries should be pursuing more growth-friendly plans.
The IMF said that with borrowing costs very low by historical standards, the U.K. government can afford to ease back on efforts to cut its budget deficit and provide "near-term support to the economy," chiefly by bringing forward planned capital spending and offering guarantees to boost private investment.
"Our view of the fiscal situation is that the discretionary fiscal measures that are planned for this year will likely impart a drag on the economy and it would be desirable to try and offset that drag by bringing forward infrastructure spending and undertaking some tax measures," David Lipton, the IMF's first deputy managing director, said during a news conference in London.
Mr. Lipton wouldn't say how much the government should borrow to invest in infrastructure, but there would be £10 billion ($15 billion) of austerity measures implemented this financial year that need to be offset. He said infrastructure spending would give the economy a "significant kick" and said projects such as building social housing and repairing schools and other public facilities could be started quickly.
Mr. Lipton said the risk of the government not acting was that the unemployment rate would remain high, while the output gap—the difference between what the economy produces and what it could produce if resources such as idling production lines and unemployed workers were in use—would not be reduced.
"People out of work become less employable, the absence of investment leaves you with a smaller stock of capital," Mr. Lipton said. "So there is the peril that the economy will underperform for some time."
Also at the news conference, Mr. Osborne said there were no easy answers to the problems that had built up in the U.K. over many years.
"It's a hard road to recovery, but we are making progress," he said. "Of course there is further to go—and we have to go on confronting the difficult choices to help our economy heal."
The chancellor said he agreed with the IMF's view to prioritize infrastructure investment "where we can."
"That's why we are investing more in capital than my predecessor planned; That's why I've added in the last two years to those plans," Mr. Osborne said. "That will be done within the credible fiscal plan we've set out."
The IMF also said the government should consider a further cut to the tax rate on company profits to boost investment, which it said was at its lowest level relative to economic output since the end of World War II. To balance that cut, it said, the government should consider extending its sales tax to a broader range of goods and services and increase taxes on property.
The IMF urged the Bank of England to keep its "accommodative stance" for an extended period and said the central bank should make that intention clear to households and businesses. "The BOE could provide assurance to households and investors that policy rates will be kept low until the recovery reaches full momentum," the fund said.
That is a show of support for incoming BOE Governor Mark Carney, who will take over from Mervyn King in July and who has made it clear he favors using "forward guidance" as a tool to stimulate economic growth.
Such guidance has taken different forms. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve has promised not to touch short-term rates and to keep buying securities until unemployment falls to 6.5%, barring any meaningful change in prospects for inflation.
However, many of Mr. Carney's future colleagues on the bank's Monetary Policy Committee are openly skeptical about the use of guidance.
The IMF said the MPC should consider increasing its bond purchases using freshly created money, a stimulus program known as quantitative easing.
—Jason Douglas and Alex Brittain contributed to this article.
Original article on Wall Street Journal
Washington, D.C.— Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the No More Ghost Money Act of 2013. The bill would prohibit illegal payments to foreign officials and would require a report to Congress on payments made by the CIA to employees, officers, and elected officials to foreign entities.
Recent revelations that Afghan President Karzai received under the table cash payments from the CIA prompted the Congresswoman and several of her colleagues to introduce the bill.
“‘Ghost money’ payments via suitcases stuffed with cash to corrupt regimes directly contradicts our strategic goals both in Afghanistan and around the world. We’ve got to end this destructive practice, and that’s exactly what my bill will do,” said Congresswoman Lee.
The bill would prohibit any department, agency, or contractor of the Federal Government from making any payment “for purposes of bribery, coercion, or any activity that is illegal or undermines the rule of law.” Also included in the bill is a security waver to ensure that the reporting requirement would not hinder national security.
“This practice is a recipe for economic disaster and shows misplaced priorities. Especially at a time when funding for Head Start and Meals on Wheels is being gutted, we need to know how every dollar is being spent. This is a glaring instance wasted taxpayer dollars,” said Congresswoman Lee.
Original press release on Lee.House.gov
President Barack Obama knows the dangers of not going far enough or fast enough to stop the climate crisis. History will celebrate his decision to lead us toward a clean energy economy that solves climate change and creates long-term, sustainable jobs for Americans.
But achieving this awesome goal requires that we reject the TransCanada Corp.’s proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would cut through the heartland of America.
This is a simple decision for a president who supports protecting our climate and creating jobs.
Returning our economy to stable growth requires Americans to move forward toward the future, not back toward the past. We must put Americans to work building, implementing and maintaining a clean energy infrastructure that will power the economy of tomorrow. The Keystone pipeline is dirty energy infrastructure, reflecting a generations-old approach to energy and environmental questions.
TransCanada Corp. is a Canadian company that wants the Obama administration to provide it with a permit to build the pipeline, which would run oil from Canadian tar sands all the way through our country to the Texas Gulf Coast. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, tar sands oil is an environmental catastrophe — creating three to five times the global warming pollution of traditional oil.
After refining the oil here in the United States, TransCanada plans to export this oil for sale to other countries, enriching Canadians and oil companies but doing little or nothing to decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil.
It is common sense for the president to prevent this pipeline from being built.
According to the State Department, the total number of jobs projected to result from Keystone is 3,900 direct temporary construction jobs over a one- to two-year period, but only 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs will remain after those two years of construction.
Those who are making the case for the pipeline — TransCanada, oil lobbyists and special interest advocacy groups funded by the oil lobby — are spreading misinformation about the numbers of jobs that would be created. TransCanada claims that the project will create 9,000 construction jobs and 7,000 manufacturing jobs; meanwhile, their spokesmen and advocates have been quoted in the media suggesting that “tens of thousands” or “over a hundred thousand” direct and indirect jobs would be created.
This willful misrepresentation about jobs numbers speaks to how little these oil industry leaders, and those who they are funding, actually care about Americans who need jobs. They are selling a jobs pipe dream, so they can build a polluting pipeline.
Consider the struggles of those who have lost their jobs in the recession. Consider the families who cannot pay their bills, who cannot access health care, who cannot send their children to college and who have lost their homes. Then consider how irresponsible it is for oil company lobbyists and their friends to sell this pipeline using inflated job estimates.
The president cares about jobs for Americans, and that is why he should reject the Keystone pipeline. According to a national study from the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, every dollar put into clean energy creates three times as many jobs as putting that same dollar into fossil fuels. Further, median wages are 13 percent higher in the green energy sector than those in other parts of the economy.
Over the past two years, jobs in the solar industry have grown nearly 10 times faster than jobs in the rest of the economy, with only modest investment from federal and state governments. If we were to commit fully to supporting clean energy and putting an end to global warming, then we could create even more jobs. Research from the Brookings Institution has found that job quality is better in the clean energy sector, which is creating medium- and high-credential jobs at twice the rate as the fossil fuel industry.
During his time in office, the president has fought to protect the Environmental Protection Agency, raised auto mileage standards and made the single largest investment in clean energy in the history of the world. That is why common sense points to the answer on the Keystone pipeline: Obama must reject TransCanada’s permit request and ensure that tar sands oil remains below ground. In making this decision, we want the president to know that the American people stand with him. We support his common-sense energy solutions, which will finally move our country forward. The Keystone project is simply too much risk and too little reward to justify approving its creation.
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) is ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee; the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. is president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, a national nonprofit group that represents and engages young voters in the political process.
Original article on Politico
It has been five years since the financial crisis struck, and progress in putting the unemployed back to work still lags, with no end in sight.
With almost 12 million Americans unemployed and millions more underemployed, we have waited long enough for government action. Listen to the stories of the unemployed, and you will realize that we are facing a national tragedy that we would never tolerate if it were caused by a natural disaster. The unemployed deserve swift action to address the devastation of unemployment.
During the calamity of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood the responsibility government bore to its citizens in a time of need. He recognized that it was unconscionable to allow millions of hardworking Americans to suffer while they waited for the economy to recover. Rather than stand idle in the face of such suffering, he created millions of temporary jobs for the jobless. They built roads and schools and parks; they filled schools with teachers and staffed public health projects. They preserved historic sites and brought music, drama and art to public spaces. They turned a national tragedy into a national revival.
Now is the time for us to implement similar job programs. It is time to put America back to work while we wait for the economy to complete its recovery — repairing America’s infrastructure and improving our communities in the process. We can pay for the jobs we need as we go along with a small tax on the financial sector whose excesses led us into this recession.
To do this, we support HR 1000, the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act. By advocating for this legislation, we intend to push Congress to take seriously the federal government’s responsibility to put Americans back to work, and we intend to show that it can be done without raising deficits. This 21st-century New Deal strategy, pioneered in programs like the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps, would create 3.1 million to 6.2 million full-time, market-wage jobs with health insurance benefits in the first two years of program operations, plus 1 million to 2 million private sector jobs from increased spending in the economy.
Over the longer run, this act is designed to eliminate the residual joblessness that burdens poor and disadvantaged workers, even in periods of general prosperity. Job vacancy data shows that our economy still suffers from a serious job shortage even when unemployment falls under 5 percent. Despite what many economists say, it is not full employment if there are not enough jobs available for everyone who wants to work. The Humphrey-Hawkins strategy would allow us to close this job gap without triggering the inflationary tendencies that constrain other job-creation strategies at such times.
This initiative would create several times as many jobs per stimulus dollar as alternative stimulus options, such as deficit spending and tax cuts. The jobs would also be created much faster and with a targeted focus where work is most needed. It also would provide American businesses with what they really need — paying customers with steady work. For those who want to see government assistance reduced or not given at all, making sure jobs are available for those who need them is the only solution.
Original article on Roll Call
The streets are so much darker now, since money for streetlights is rarely available to municipal governments. The national parks began closing down years ago. Some are already being subdivided and sold to the highest bidder. Reports on bridges crumbling or even collapsing are commonplace.
The air in city after city hangs brown and heavy (and rates of childhood asthma and other lung diseases have shot up), because funding that would allow the enforcement of clean air standards by the Environmental Protection Agency is a distant memory. Public education has been cut to the bone, making good schools a luxury and, according to the Department of Education, two of every five students won’t graduate from high school.
It’s 2023 -- and this is America 10 years after the first across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration went into effect. They went on for a decade, making no exception for effective programs vital to America’s economic health that were already underfunded, like job training and infrastructure repairs. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Traveling back in time to 2013 -- at the moment the sequester cuts began -- no one knew what their impact would be, although nearly everyone across the political spectrum agreed that it would be bad. As it happened, the first signs of the unraveling which would, a decade later, leave the United States a third-world country, could be detected surprisingly quickly, only three months after the cuts began. In that brief time, a few government agencies, like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), after an uproar over flight delays, requested -- and won -- special relief. Naturally, the Department of Defense, with a mere $568 billion to burn in its 2013 budget, also joined this elite list. On the other hand, critical spending for education, environmental protection, and scientific research was not spared, and in many communities the effect was felt remarkably soon.
Robust public investment had been a key to U.S. prosperity in the previous century. It was then considered a basic part of the social contract as well as of Economics 101. As just about everyone knew in those days, citizens paid taxes to fund worthy initiatives that the private sector wouldn’t adequately or efficiently supply. Roadways and scientific research were examples. In the post-World War II years, the country invested great sums of money in its interstate highways and what were widely considered the best education systems in the world, while research in well-funded government labs led to inventions like the Internet. The resulting world-class infrastructure, educated workforce, and technological revolution fed a robust private sector.
In the early years of the twenty-first century, however, a set of manufactured arguments for “austerity,” which had been gaining traction for decades, captured the national imagination. In 2011-2012, a Congress that seemed capable of doing little else passed trillions of dollars of what was then called “deficit reduction.” Sequestration was a strange and special case of this particular disease. These across-the-board cuts, instituted in August 2011 and set to kick in on January 2, 2013, were meant to be a storm cloud hanging over Congress. Sequestration was never intended to take effect, but only to force lawmakers to listen to reason -- to craft a less terrible plan to reduce deficits by a wholly arbitrary $1.2 trillion over 10 years. As is now common knowledge, they didn’t come to their senses and sequestration did go into effect. Then, although Congress could have cancelled the cuts at any moment, the country never turned back.
It wasn’t that cutting federal spending at those levels would necessarily have been devastating in 2013, though in an already weakened economy any cutbacks would have hurt. Rather, sequestration proved particularly corrosive from the start because all types of public spending -- from grants for renewable energy research and disadvantaged public schools to HIV testing -- were to be gutted equally, as if all of it were just fat to be trimmed. Even monitoring systems for possible natural disasters like river flooding or animminent volcanic eruption began to be shut down. Over time the cuts would be vast: $85 billion in the first year and $110 billion in each year after that, for more than $1 trillion in cuts over a decade on top of other reductions already in place.
Once lawmakers wrote sequestration into law they had more than a year to wise up. Yet they did nothing to draft an alternate plan and didn’t even start pointing out the havoc-to-come until just weeks before the deadline. Then they gave themselves a couple more months -- until March 1, 2013 -- to work out a deal, which they didn’t. All this is, of course, ancient history, but even a decade later, the record of folly is worth reviewing.
If you remember, they tweeted while Rome burned. Speaker of the House John Boehner, for instance, sent out dozens of tweets to say Democrats were responsible: “The president proposed sequester, had 18 mo. to prioritize cuts, and did nothing,” he typically wrote, while he no less typically did nothing. For his part, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tweeted back: “It’s not too late to avert the damaging #sequester cuts, for which an overwhelming majority of Republicans voted.” And that became the pattern for a decade of American political gridlock, still not broken today.
March 1st came and went, so the budgetary axe began to fall.
At first, it didn’t seem so bad. Yes, the cuts weren't quite as across the board as expected. The meat industry, for example, protested because health inspector furloughs would slow its production lines, so Congress patched the problem and spared those inspectors. But meat production aside, there was a sense that the cuts might not be so bad after all.
They were to be doled out based on a formula for meeting the arbitrary target of $85 billion in reductions in 2013, and no one knew precisely what would happen to any given program. In April, more than a month after the cuts had begun, the White House issued the president’s budget proposal for the following year, an annual milestone that typically included detailed information about federal spending in the current year. But across thousands of pages of documents and tables, the new budget ignored sequestration, and so reported meaningless 2013 numbers, because even the White House couldn’t say exactly what impact these cuts would have on programs and public investment across the country.
As it happened, they didn’t have to wait long to find out. The first ripples of impact began to spread quickly indeed. Losing some government funding, cancer clinics in New Mexico and Connecticut turned away patients. In Kentucky, Oregon, and Montana, shelters for victims of domestic violence cut services. In New York, Maryland, and Alabama, public defenders were furloughed, limiting access to justice for low-income people. In Illinois and Minnesota, public school teachers were laid off. In Florida, Michigan, and Mississippi, Head Start shortened the school year, while in Kansas and Indiana, some low-income children simply lost access to the program entirely. In Alaska, a substance abuse clinic shut down. Across the country, Meals on Wheels cut four million meals for seniors in need.
Only when the FAA imposed furloughs on its air traffic controllers did public irritation threaten to boil over. Long lines and airport delays ensued, and people were angry. And not just any people -- people who had access to members of Congress. In a Washington that has gridlocked the most routine business, lawmakers moved at a breakneck pace, taking just five days to pass special legislation to solve the problem. To avoid furloughs and shorten waits for airline passengers, they allowed the FAA to spend funds that had been intended for long-term airport repairs and improvements.
Flights would leave on time -- at least until runways cracked and crumbled. (You undoubtedly remember the scandal of 2019 at Cincinnati International Airport, when a bright young candidate for Senate met her demise in a tragic landing mishap.)
And then, of course, the Pentagon asked for an exemption, too. We’re talking about the military behemoth of planet Earth, which in 2013 accounted for 40% of military spending globally, its outlays exceeding the next 10 largest militaries combined. It, too wanted a special exemption for some of its share of the cutbacks.
Meat inspectors, the FAA, and the Department of Defense enjoyed special treatment, but the rest of the nation was, as the history books recount, not so lucky. Children from middle-class and low-income families saw ever fewer resources at school, closing doors of opportunity. The young, old, and infirm found themselves with dwindling access to basic resources such as health care or even a hot dinner. Federal grants to the states dried up, and there was less money in state budgets for local priorities, from police officers to lowly streetlights.
And remember that, just as the sequestration cuts began, carbon concentration in the atmosphere breached 400 parts per million. (Climate scientists had long been warning that the level should be kept below 350 for human security.) Unfortunately, as with the groundbreaking research that led to the Internet, it takes money to do big things, and the long-term effects of cutting environmental protection, general research, and basic infrastructure meant that the U.S. government would do little to stem the extreme weather that has, in 2023, become such a part of our world and our lives.
Looking back from a country now eternally in crisis, it’s clear that a Rubicon was crossed back in 2013. There was then still a chance to reject across-the-board budget cuts that would undermine a nation built on sound public investment and shared prosperity. At that crossroads, some fought against austerity. Losing that battle, others argued for a smarter approach: close tax loopholes to raise new revenue, or reduce waste in health care, or place a tax on carbon, or cut excessive spending at the Pentagon. But too few Americans -- with too little influence -- spoke up, and Washington didn’t listen. The rest of the story, as you well know, is history.
The First Family's advice to this year's black college graduates included some seriously worn-out stereotypes. Read Aura Bogado's analysis.This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.
Original article on The Nation
Washington is descending into another silly season. Let’s end this diversion of dust and smoke as partisans hype mock “scandals” for political profit.
The real scandals — like that of children in poverty — are simply being ignored. In this rich nation, nearly 8 million children under the age of 18 are being raised in what are called “areas of concentrated poverty.” These are the ghettos, barrios and impoverished rural areas where more than 30 percent of families live below the poverty line (a little over $22,000 for a family of four in 2010, when these figures date from). The number of children living in these communities is rising: It’s up 25 percent since 2000, according to the Data Snapshot of Kids Count, the nonpartisan organization whose report is the source of this data.
Not surprisingly, African-American, Native-American and Latino children are 6 to 9 times more likely than white children to live in these areas. Children whose parents were born outside of the U.S. — the offspring of immigrants — are also more likely to be ghettoized. Two-thirds of these children are in large cities. Surprisingly, the highest rate is in the South and Southwest: Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, Texas and Arizona. With the nation moving toward becoming a majority minority nation, these children are our future. We will rise or fall depending on how successful we are in tapping their potential and in providing them with opportunity.
Right now, we’re failing the test. Our ghettos and barrios — and other communities of concentrated poverty — are dangerous to children. They’re more likely to go to impoverished and underperforming schools, more likely to be unable to find good pre-school and child care, and more likely to lack quality health care. Their housing situation is less stable and their neighborhoods often lack adequate outdoor spaces. They must survive on dangerous streets.
Children growing up in areas of concentrated poverty do worse in school and are more likely to drop out — even if they come from moderate- or high-income families. Those raised in middle- or higher income families are 52 percent more likely to fall down the income ladder if they grow up in these neighborhoods.
The scandal is that our public policy to deal with these children is as impoverished as their neighborhoods. You can’t address their challenges by shutting down a public school and opening up a charter. High-stakes testing can measure how they fall behind, but it provides no remedy.
We need a comprehensive strategy to address concentrated communities of poverty. We need to rebuild these neighborhoods with affordable housing, sensible public transport, clinics and hospitals, groceries with good food while investing in the kids — through infant nutrition, universal pre-K, smaller classes in early grades, good teachers, smart schools, afterschool programs and affordable college.
In an age where globalization has ravaged communities, Kids Count argues that we need to develop “anchor institutions” — local hospitals, universities, government agencies — that hire locally, train locally and buy locally. These neighborhoods have to be figured into citywide and regional plans, not locked out of them.
Our diverse democracy won’t survive if children discover that their success depends more on the luck of what family they are born into rather than the pluck of the work that they do. We can afford to remove the shackles that burden these children.
Original article on Chicago Sun Times
"Ewww. Don't do it, Patrick. Don't do it. Dogs pee here."
A woman was giving my husband a hard time because our 10-month-old son had dropped his banana on the ground. Patrick picked it up, licked it and was about to hand it back to our boy. Seamus grabbed for it eagerly and scarfed it down. A minute or two later, he was grunting for more.
The woman was disgusted. I was too. Not by Patrick, of course, but by a judgmental woman who hadn't shown any interest in our adorable boy until he was in danger of being exposed to whatever lurked in the grass on the Norwich town green.
"If we threw away everything this child dropped," I said with just a hint of heat, "he would be skin and bones. We do this kind of thing all the time. As you can see, he is the picture of health."
Seamus is the picture of health. He is fat and happy, alert and engaged, and he has seven teeth. Going anywhere with this kid requires constant chit chat with admiring strangers.
I don't want my kid to eat dog pee, for sure. But I also don't want him to live in a hermetic bubble of germophobia. I do not wipe down the carts with sanitizer at the supermarket - that stuff smells so chemically. I do not bath him every day - it is a twenty minute wrestling match that I usually lose. So I have been trying to only give him full baths a few times a week. I do not scrub his toys every time they fall on the floor. For the most part, I just brush them off and hand them back to him.
I do try to keep him from eating too much sand, dirt, grass and leaves. But he is a curious child and encounters the world with his hands and mouth first. He usually gets some organic matter in his mouth every time I put him down, which I do often because he weighs a solid 25 pounds and when he wants to be put down it is pretty hard not to oblige him.
He likes sitting on our lawn (no dog pee there), which is sweet because he and I are in charge of the mowing (with one of those push power mowers that require constant stick removal). He also likes exploring the ground at the community garden (lots of wood chips and dirt to taste). Through all of this, I watch him carefully, edit his choice of stick, wood chip, leaf or weed and rescue him when/if he runs into trouble.
But I do not freak out every time he puts something "dirty" in his mouth. I have learned from more seasoned parents that this just causes stress and makes moms and kids grumpy. I am also finding out that the more Seamus is exposed to now, the healthier he is likely to be as he gets older.
Dr. Thom McDade, who directs the Laboratory for Human Biology Research at Northwestern University, found that children who were exposed to more animal feces and had more cases of diarrhea before the age of 2 had less incidence of inflammation in the body as they grew into adulthood. These inflammations have been linked to chronic adulthood problems like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's. As Dr. McDade says, "microbial exposures early in life may be important ... to keep inflammation in check in adulthood." It is called the hygiene hypothesis and it is gathering credence amongst health professionals.
In a recent Swedish study, researchers found that early exposure to parents' saliva may help stimulate a baby's immune system, and that could mean a lower risk of developing eczema, asthma and sensitivities to certain allergens. They looked at parents who lick the baby's pacifier to clean it rather than washing it with soap or sanitizing it. The Swedes weren't on the Norwich green when Patrick licked Seamus' banana, but I think they would have approved.
Of course I want to protect Seamus from what is dirty. But I am not all that concerned about the dog pee (or worse) lurking on the ground where bananas and toys fall. I want to protect him from prejudice, from racism, from hatred - the real dirty underside of life.
While I washed the dishes recently, I listened to Snap Judgment on NPR. The host, Glynn Washington, described moving with his family from Detroit to rural Michigan when he was a little boy. On the first day of school, he got on the bus. The kids all went quiet: "See, we were the only black folk for miles around." He tries to sit in the first open seat, but a "tow-headed boy spit on the seat, right where I was going to sit. I kept walking down the aisle and every open seat had spit on it, daring me to sit in it." He finally found a seat at the very back, next to a little girl who silently moved her backpack to the floor to make room for him. They sat together every day after that.
Then the school bus route changed, so that Glenn got on the bus first. He kept sitting in the back with the girl - Mary Jo. One day she got on the bus smelling awful. It was winter and her family's pipes had frozen, so she could not shower after doing her farm chores. She masked her unwashed body smell with perfume and when she got on the bus, the whole bus erupted, screaming about how bad she stank. Washington called it the odor of "rotting flowers pressed on top of barn filth."
At first, he wished that she would sit somewhere else. Then he was ashamed, recalling how she had been the only one who accepted him at all. He moved his backpack to the floor and Mary Jo sat down reeking of perfume and chores. They talked for the first time that day - chatted all the way to school.
I cried into the sink thinking about how mean kids can be. I cried into the sink thinking about how kids can rise above it all and be so kind and generous.
Where would Seamus have fit into this story? Would he be a spitter? Over my dead body, I thought. No way. His father and I would see to that. No question.
But would he do more than not spit? Would he rail against his classmates' prejudice and racism; calling them out, calling them to something better? Or would he be the one to silently move his backpack to the floor? Would he be compassionate and accepting? Would he be brave and principled?
That story happened a while ago - Glynn Washington is probably in his mid-40s (You were hoping he was in his 80s, right? And that this terrible experience could be written off as an early 20th century phenomenon?). Forty years ago. Eight years ago. And right now. Racism, sexism, homophobia, violence and good old fashioned ignorance have not disappeared from the playgrounds and yellow buses of the United States.
Isn't this the real disease? Isn't this the real dirty, ugly germ cluster that we need to inoculate our children against? Isn't protecting our kids from this disease more important than sanitizing their toys?
Original article on RSN
The Pentagon wants Congress to shift $9.6 billion of this year’s Defense Department budget toward expenses for the Afghanistan war, transportation and other items.
Moving $1.3 billion to the Army “to support funding shortfalls” in Afghanistan is the largest request, Bloomberg reports, citing budget documents. The Pentagon also wants to funnel $1 billion into the transportation budget to pay for higher-than-expected fuel costs.
The money would mostly come from smaller research programs and weapons-buying accounts, according to Bloomberg.
The Pentagon sent the request to Congress along with its $79.4 billion war-fighting budget proposal. The House Armed Services Committee will begin consideration of the defense bill next week.
The Defense Department is in the process of scaling back spending, as sequestration will shave $500 billion from its budget over the next 10 years.
The Pentagon said failing to honor its request “runs the risk of an interruption on the flow of supplies, subsistence and mail to deployed warfighters” in Afghanistan.
The Army also needs $770 million to pay for 8,400 more offices, the Pentagon said in its request.Original article on The Hill
What the civil war in Syria has exposed is that the massive political and social transformation, and real regime change under way is led by people themselves. US military involvement serves only to escalate the destruction.
Politically-driven demands for direct US intervention in Syria – more arms to the rebels, establishing a 'no-fly' zone, creating a safe area somewhere – have been flying around for months. So far, President Obama and the Pentagon leadership have resisted the political pressure. But Obama’s resistance has been weak and cautious; we don’t have enough evidence yet, it’s not clear the red line has been crossed. The clear implication is that if there is more evidence, if some claimed red line is crossed, then all bets are off – and in today’s diplo-speak, “all options are on the table.”
Now, allegations of chemical weapons being used in Syria and Israeli airstrikes against Syrian military targets have given rise to a whole escalating campaign for direct US military intervention. And it’s getting very dangerous.Neo-Con redux
Most, though not all, of the calls for intervention come from the same people who led the calls for invading Iraq: neo-cons and other hard-line militarists, pundits and Congressmembers, mainly Republicans but plenty of Democrats too, including the 'humanitarian hawks', those who never saw a human rights crisis that didn’t require US military involvement to solve. It’s not a coincidence that many of the loudest voices – people like Republican Senator and defeated presidential contender John McCain and others – have been calling for direct intervention and regime change for more than two years now, starting way before any allegations of chemical weapons ever surfaced.
Making the rounds of the Sunday talk shows last week in the midst of the 'chemical weapons' hysteria, McCain’s call for escalating US intervention in Syria was that Obama needs to do “what we've been demanding for more than two years.” It was actually a fascinating acknowledgement that McCain's concern isn't with any alleged chemical weapons use – it's the same regime change he's been demanding since Syria's edition of the Arab Spring erupted more than two years ago, when no such chemical weapons allegations were on the table.
But the bi-partisan support for militarism remains. At least as far back as President Johnson in the 1960s, too many liberal Democrats believed they could only advance a domestic social agenda of civil rights, health care, education, etc., if they were prepared to out-macho the Republicans. They reversed the lesson Martin Luther King taught us, of the need to link civil rights to the struggle for peace if either is to have any chance. And what we’ve seen instead is a pattern of Democrats in government who still act on the belief that a hawkish, militarized foreign policy is necessary to advance any social policy that benefits anyone beyond the 1%.The cost
The drumbeat is spreading. Former New York Times editor Bill Keller, reprising his 2003 “reluctant” support for the Iraq war, once again supports US armed intervention in Syria. Why will this time be better? Well this time, unlike Iraq ten years ago, Syria represents a “genuine, imperiled national interest, not just a fabricated one. A failed Syria creates another haven for terrorists, a danger to neighbors who are all American allies, and the threat of metastasizing Sunni-Shiite sectarian war across a volatile and vital region."
Guess he hasn’t looked very carefully at Iraq today. His point about what happens if Syria collapses is true (despite his leaving out the far more dire impact on the Syrian people), but he ignores the crucial point that his description of a future failed Syria if we don’t intervene, matches precisely what exists today in Iraq – as a direct result of US intervention. Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the exploding Sunni-Shi’a violence across Iraq and over the borders into Syria among other places; today’s post-intervention Iraq is precisely what Keller warns of if the US doesn’t join the Syrian civil war. He didn’t look at Lebanon, where the already-shaky confessional system French colonialists imposed in the 1930s is under renewed strain from the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees pouring into the country, as well as the political-military pressure of the Syrian civil war itself. He didn’t look at Jordan, where more than 500,000 Syrian refugees have stretched the country’s social fabric to a near-breaking point.
Oh yeah, as to his abject years-later apology for getting it wrong on Iraq, a mistake he recently called “humbling?" Not to worry – he’s figured it all out. This time will be different, because “getting Syria right starts with getting over Iraq.” For Keller, and for too many like him, it seems that “getting over Iraq” is today’s equivalent of the Iraq-era “getting over Vietnam.”
It is important to recognize one of the key differences between this drumbeat for war and that of the pre-Iraq period in 2002-03: unlike the years of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith, the most important war hawks are not occupying the White House and the top echelons of the Pentagon. While not enough – Obama’s resistance to the calls for war is dangerously weak – the administration’s position is a far cry from echoing those calls for war. The Vice-President, Secretaries of State and Defense, none of them are pushing for war. And in the Pentagon, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described himself as “cautious” regarding greater US military intervention in Syria, because of explicit “doubts that it would halt the violence or achieve political reconciliation.” That’s all important – even though so far the proponents of a new US war in the Middle East have shown far more energy and intensity than its opponents. That’s what has to change.The failure of militarism
What neither side of the Washington debate have considered, however, is that the overall escalating crisis in the Middle East is taking place in the context of the significant decline of US power and influence. With US economic and diplomatic power reduced, military force remains the one arena in which the US is the indisputable champ. The $800 billion annual US military budget has become largely irrelevant in determining history. The US-NATO campaign in Libya was partly, though not entirely, an attempt to remilitarize problem-solving in the region and thus re-legitimize US centrality. But it failed.
What the civil war in Syria and the Arab spring have exposed is that the massive political and social transformation and real regime change underway is led by people themselves – largely without military force and certainly with no role for the US. US military involvement serves only to escalate the destruction, while distracting from other failures. The people on the ground engaged in those political struggles don’t want US military intervention; the only ones who benefit are the arms manufacturers whose CEOs and shareholders continue to reap billions of blood dollars in profit.
War hurts civilians, but US wars hurt and kill civilians far from the US – so consequences remain far from US public consciousness. The problem for US policymakers is that an arms embargo also hurts their key campaign contributors: the arms dealers. The US remains the largest arms exporter in the world; can anyone doubt that sending US arms to one side of Syria’s civil war (even, or especially, if it extends the war) helps justify things like the pending $10 billion arms deal to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE? Or that instability in Syria, whatever its cause, can only help reinforce calls for increasing the existing $30 billion ten-year commitment of US military aid to Israel? No wonder the international Arms Trade Treaty – not to mention any potential for global gun control – remain far from the top of the agenda in Washington.Chemical weapons?
Let's start with the 'even if' argument. Use of chemical weapons is illegal; there are separate international laws prohibiting such weapons, and any use, by any side, is undoubtedly a war crime. But how would escalating the civil war with more arms to the opposition side, or creation of a Libya-style US or US-NATO no-fly zone, prevent any further use of chemical weapons – inherently something as easily hidden in a civilian garage as in a military storage facility? It would not; it would only insure that more Syrians would die and be forced from their homes.
As it was in Libya, creation of a no-fly zone is widely understood as a step towards regime change. According to Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense during the US intervention in Libya, the first act in imposing a no-fly zone is an extensive bombing campaign – an act of war. This time around, that would mean bombing Syria, to destroy its sophisticated anti-aircraft system. How many civilians would die in that bombardment, given the widespread presence of anti-aircraft facilities across the country, including in populated areas?
We should also note that Israel’s ability to send bombers to attack several discrete sites in Syria, apparently from the skies above Lebanon, has little relation to the consequences of flying the dozens of US sorties flown directly into Syrian airspace that would be needed to neutralize the entire strategic Syrian anti-aircraft system. Drones won't be enough for this one. So when the first US bomber pilot is shot down, and special forces are sent in to rescue him, what happens to the 'no boots on the ground' rule? Ignore it because the special forces guys wear sneakers instead of boots? Do we really want to claim that killing more Syrians with conventional bombs, to prevent the future possible use of alleged chemical weapons, is somehow a legitimate 'humanitarian' effort?
Second, we should note that even the US government officials themselves acknowledge they don't have specific enough evidence chemical weapons were used at all. And even if they were (which is certainly a possibility), they appear to have no evidence of who used them. Reports from UN human rights investigator Carla del Ponte point to use by the rebel forces, not the regime. Footage circulating on the Internet shows several ill people whose symptoms appear to include dilated pupils and a bit of foaming from their mouths, but no evidence of who and where they are, when or where they were injured or got sick. A Syrian doctor who treated them tells al-Jazeera that since they showed no sign of bombing or other trauma, no broken limbs or shrapnel, than it must be chemical weapons – but he provides no evidence of why it could not be one or more of the variety of other diseases and poisons (including several common fertilizers) that a quick Internet search indicates can cause those same symptoms. In a hugely complicated civil war, where the fighters on one side include many defectors and weapons from the other side, that means there's simply no definitive evidence of what side, if any, may have used chemical weapons at all.
That's an awful lot of "no evidence" on which to base a new threat of a massive military escalation. And of course, it sounds way too familiar. Who among us has forgotten the certainty of George Bush's lying claims of WMDs in Iraq – yellowcake uranium from Niger, aluminum tubes from China, and of course the ubiquitous Curveball, the source of all that secret information…?
Third, the chemical weapons issue is being used very much as a partisan issue. For neo-conservatives and Republicans there is little downside to supporting unlimited militarism: if Obama and the Democrats resist using military force, they are deemed weak on national security. If they do use force, Obama and the Democrats will be blamed for the inevitable disasters that follow [see Benghazi…]. Certainly there are Democratic hawks, including supporters of so-called “humanitarian intervention,” who never saw a human rights crisis that didn’t need a military response, crying for greater US military involvement. But it's also being used for Republican attacks on Obama. Republicans remain far more supportive of many of Obama’s war policies – his troop surge in Afghanistan, the Libya attack (despite the claimed outrage over Benghazi), the escalating drone war and more – than most Democrats. So they are all too eager to use the current Syria crisis to portray the president as soft on “terrorism,” unwilling to enforce his own “red lines,” and overall insufficient as commander-in-chief.
Finally, the presence or even use of chemical weapons does nothing to change the fundamental illegality of any US military escalation. The fact that use of those weapons represents a violation of international law does not legitimize any military action by an outside party. The international laws of war have not changed – the only two ways a military attack by one country against another can be legal is in response to a UN Security Council authorization, which does not exist, or in the case of immediate self-defense. And there is no way even the most hawkish warmongers among the pundits or the Congress can claim that an unconfirmed small-scale use of an illegal weapon against a few Syrians somehow represents an immediate national threat to the United States. Any US attack – with or without a Congressional mandate (which unfortunately would be all too likely forthcoming if requested) – would still be a violation of international law.Israel enters the fray
And right now there’s the new question of Israel’s recent attacks on Syria. The rationale for those missile strikes, reported to have killed scores of people including both civilians and high-level Syrian military officers, remains opaque. Ordinarily, the assumption would be that Israel is striking Hezbollah, the key ally of its sworn enemy Iran, in the interest of both weakening Iran and ratcheting up pressure on Washington to escalate military involvement against Syria. The distinction this time is that while Tel Aviv’s focus may well have been on Iran and Hezbollah, the impact of its attack on Syria’s civil war doesn’t serve Israeli interests. Israel has not been leading the charge against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, nor urging the US or others to escalate their involvement in Syria for the simple reason that Assad’s regime, like that of his father from 1970 till 2000, has been very helpful to Israel. Despite all the puffed up rhetoric about Syria as part of a regional 'axis of resistance', the Assad family has largely kept the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights pacified, the border quiet, and the Palestinians in Syria under their control. Instances of cross-border violence were short-lived and rare.
It should not be forgotten that the Assad regimes have also been very useful to the United States. In 1991 Hafez al-Assad sent his air force to join Bush Senior’s Operation Desert Storm attack on Iraq. By 2002 Bashar al-Assad was a partner in Bush Junior’s “extraordinary rendition” program of the global war on terror – accepting prisoners from the US, including Canadian Maher Arar, for interrogation and torture at the hands of Syria’s feared security police.
The great Israeli journalist Gideon Levy described the Israeli attacks on Syria in Ha’aretz:
The truth is, this is just a pilot run. Israel is prodding U.S. President Barack Obama, catching him in his use of the words ‘red line,’ challenging and provoking him to reach the real thing: bombing Iran. Israel wants to reveal the president's nakedness on the Syrian matter in order to present him as naked on the Iranian issue. Perhaps he won't bomb Syria, as Israel requested; the key thing is that he should bomb Iran. This policy of manipulating the American president, at the expense of Syrians' blood, perhaps will pan out in the short run. But it will also make Israel even more loathed in Washington.
The real purpose, as well as the outcome of Israel’s strikes remains uncertain. But whatever the goal, what remains clear is their complete illegality. As is the case with Israel’s nuclear arsenal, unacknowledged by Israel but universally documented outside Washington and Tel Aviv, the Israeli attacks on at least three sites in Syria have neither legitimacy nor legality and must be condemned. No international law allows preventive attacks (these were not even the legally-ambiguous preemptive strikes), not even when they are carried out by Washington’s most-favored ally. Again it’s the 'even if' rule: Even if one of the targets was indeed a shipment of missiles heading for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel still has no legal right to attack Syria.
The silence of not only the US (where it is expected) but in Europe, in capitals in the global South and in the United Nations in response to the Israeli bombing represents the serious problem of double standards in the application of international law. That means global apartheid in foreign policy: not only in the distinction between how poor people’s weapons (suicide attacks, chemical weapons, close-up and personal killing with guns….) and rich countries’ weapons (nuclear arsenals, cruise missiles, drones, B-52 bombing…) are responded to, but in the broader dualism of good/bad violence. It’s the acceptable, perhaps regrettable but necessary violence of the cowboy, the colonizer, the conquistador, the rich, in the form of the US, NATO, Israel, versus the unacceptable, inherently evil violence of the Indians, the colonized, the occupied, the poor.
What if, just for another example, Syria decided it had had enough of Jordan allowing Saudi and Qatari weapons to transit its territory en route to Syrian rebels, and Syria took preventive action by bombing Jordanian military targets near Amman? What if dozens of Jordanian civilians and military officers were killed by Israeli bombs – and what if those killed included some of the 200 or so CIA officers now training Syrian rebels in Jordan? Would the US government simply acknowledge Syria’s right to prevent its enemies from getting arms? Would the United Nations secretary general confine himself to an expression of “concern” and urge “all sides” to be calm?
The Israeli airstrikes ultimately raise the political pressure on President Obama; they don’t change the situation on the ground or change the illegality of any US military attack on Syria.
(And note, this is all besides the hot-button question of just who these armed rebels really are, anyway…)So what should the US do?
The first thing is to de-escalate the fighting – to staunch the horrific bloodletting that Syria’s civil war is creating for the Syrian people. Initially, that means stopping the arms shipments to all sides. That means negotiating directly with Russia, on a quid pro quo agreement to stop US and allied training and arms shipments to the rebels, in return for an end to Russian and allied arms shipments to the Syrian government.
Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent Moscow meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the follow-up diplomacy underway hold out a small bit of optimism. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced a joint commitment to “undertake an obligation to use the possibilities that the US and Russia have to bring both the Syrian government and the opposition to the negotiating table.” The first move was a Russian-US call for an international conference with the Syrian government and the opposition. So far, there is no indication that either the US or Russia are prepared make any concession towards pulling back from military support of their respective Syrian sides – but renewed calls for such a conference could be an important start. We should also push to insure that negotiations look carefully at what the economic incentives and pressures are for each of the players as part of seeking non-military approaches to move forward.
The US should also take more responsibility for funding the huge cost of caring for the millions of Syrian refugees and internally displaced. The UN’s humanitarian funding appeals for Syria remain seriously under-resourced– yet Washington’s “humanitarians” continue to debate only military action. A new US policy would include full funding for all United Nations agencies’ appeals, as well as a campaign of diplomatic pressure on all sides to honor international obligations to protect non-combatants.
And instead of debating between a no-fly zone and bombing Syrian weapons depots, or which factions to arm, why not consider deployment of an international human rights observer force? Even without a peace to keep or enforce, a thoroughly international observer team sent under UN auspices (who would have to volunteer as individuals for an extraordinarily risky assignment) might serve to deter some of the worst attacks on all sides.
The US should also support a broad UN mandate for a truly internationally credible inspection team authorized and empowered to investigate all claims of chemical weapons use, by any side in the conflict. The White House cavalierly dismissed del Ponte’s report that her UN team found potential chemical use by the rebel side, not the Syrian regime. But any serious UN investigation must be based on a mandate to identify all violations by all sides. (Perpetrators of any violations of the chemical weapons convention must be held accountable, but the timing of achieving such justice may have to wait for an end to the fighting.)
With an arms embargo and chemical weapons investigation in place, the parties on the ground and their regional and international backers must begin serious negotiations to end the whole set of wars (national, regional, sectarian, global) now being waged in Syria, and to resolve the conflict on a political basis. Those negotiations will have to include the government of Syria, the armed rebels, and the still-struggling non-violent democratic opposition movement that first launched the Syrian spring more than two years ago. To bring the sides to the table, their strategic backers will have to be involved as well – Iran and Russia, and the US, France and Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, will all have to play a role to push their recalcitrant allies to negotiate. The United Nations will have to take the diplomatic lead. And problematic as it is in so many ways, the Arab League will probably need to be involved as well, though perhaps in the form of individual member states of the Arab League participating separately.
To have any hope of long-term viability, those negotiations must be grounded in the broader effort towards creation of a WMD-free zone throughout the Middle East. Once and for all the UN goal articulated back in 1991 must finally be implemented. When the Security Council passed resolution 687 that year to end the first Gulf War, Article 14 called for “establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons.” No exceptions. That means Israel's unacknowledged arsenal of 200-400 high-density nuclear bombs in its Dimona plant would have to be brought under international supervision and destroyed. It means neither Iran nor anyone else in the region would ever be able to create a nuclear weapon any time in the future. And it means all the existing chemical and biological stockpiles – the poor countries' WMDs – would be identified and destroyed. The US drafted and supported that resolution 22 years ago. It's time Washington moved to implement it.Conflict oil?
Finally, there should be consideration in the UN – and especially among civil society organizations around the world – of the need to create an international 'conflict oil' regime similar to the work on conflict diamonds, conflict minerals, etc. While continuing to oppose the broad economic and oil sanctions imposed by the US and its allies that have so undermined diplomatic potential and harmed civilian populations in Iran, Iraq, and Syria, international civil society can shape campaigns with Syrian and regional civil society to challenge the use of oil resources as a fuel for conflict and war.
That's the context within which a Syrian arms embargo would really begin to mean something. None of this will be easy. But proposing military escalation as a response to fuzzy, uncertain allegations of chemical weapons, or imposing a no-fly zone because Israel attacked Syria, let alone threatening military force to overthrow a regime, is a far too dangerous road. We've been there before. President Obama needs to get out in front and say “We will not allow ourselves to be bamboozled into war again by unproven claims of WMDs. We will not allow supporters of regime change to hide their intentions in the anodyne language of ‘humanitarianism.’ We have learned the lessons of our dumb war in Iraq. We will not go to war.” But so far, he refuses to say anything so definitive.
That puts the obligation squarely on our shoulders. As we’ve seen with the rising power of global and US civil society movements to use boycotts, divestment and sanctions to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, we must take responsibility as people to raise the political costs of a new war in the Middle East so high, that it stays off the table for good.
Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Her books include Before & After: US Foreign Policy and the War on Terror.
Original article on Open Democracy
Original article on Open Democracy
The Pentagon will ask Congress to approve about $79.5 billion for combat operations, the least since 2005, as U.S. troops withdraw from Afghanistan, according to administration officials.
The proposal for war operations, which aren’t included in the main Pentagon budget, may be submitted as soon as today, said the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the funding request before it’s presented.
War spending soared in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, peaking at $187 billion in fiscal 2008, when the U.S. had 166,300 troops in Iraq during the “surge” under President George W. Bush.
The new request, the smallest since $75.6 billion in fiscal 2005, reflects President Barack Obama’s decision to draw down U.S. forces in Afghanistan, with the goal of removing most of them by the end of next year. The U.S. force in Afghanistan is projected to decline to 34,000 by February from 63,000 currently.
Spending of $79.5 billion for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 would be an 8 percent decrease from the $86.5 billion approved by Congress for the current year. It’s also a decline from the $88.5 billion the administration offered as a “placeholder” estimate last month, when it sent Congress a combined $615 billion budget for war and other Pentagon spending for fiscal 2014.
The new request also would provide money to repair war-damaged equipment such as radios, helicopters and vehicles, a sustained Persian Gulf presence including troops in Kuwait, and a military-equipment sales office in Baghdad to support Iraq’s military.Costs Questioned
Even with those expenditures, the request seems too high based on the average cost per soldier in Afghanistan, according to Todd Harrison, a defense analyst.
The Pentagon “will need to fully explain why war funding is much higher than anticipated, given the pace of the drawdown in Afghanistan,” Harrison, of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, said in an e-mail.
“Costs should be declining much faster than this if troop levels are indeed coming down as the administration has previously indicated,” he said.
The war budget won’t decline dramatically “because there are so many things going on,” Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said at an April 10 news conference. He cited the repair or “reset” of equipment, and said “the costs of getting out of Afghanistan will go up substantially.”Withdrawal’s Costs
Even as the fighting continues in Afghanistan, the U.S. is mounting what may become a $7 billion effort to withdraw most of its forces and equipment, defense officials said in interviews.
The withdrawal will require sending Humvees, helicopters, drones and 12 1/2-ton mine-resistant vehicles home by rail and truck networks stretching from Karachi in Pakistan to ports in the Baltic Sea.
Unlike Iraq, where “the fighting had for a good extent stopped” before the U.S. began to withdraw, in Afghanistan “there’s still certainly an active insurgency and an active fight and essentially we’re in contact with the enemy as we do this,” Alan Estevez, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for logistics, said.
Among the biggest contractors involved in the move are A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, the Copenhagen-based owner of the world’s largest container line, the American President Lines unit of Singapore-based Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) Ltd., and Hamburg, Germany-based Hapag-Lloyd AG, according to Estevez.Current Spending
The Pentagon spent $97.5 billion in fiscal 2012 for Afghanistan operations, including improving Afghan security forces, according to the Defense Department’s latest spending figures through February.
It has spent $29 billion so far this fiscal year, or a monthly average of about $5.9 billion, according to the department’s figures.
Since the October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the Pentagon has spent $468.5 billion on the war, excluding Afghanistan reconstruction, State Department and intelligence activities, according to the department.
So far, the conflict has led to the deaths of 2,212 Americans and injured 18,535. About 16,725 Afghan civilians have been killed.
Original article on Bloomberg
One of California’s great mysteries is the state’s governor, Jerry Brown. In a time when America’s politicians strive to be everywoman and everyman, Brown goes his own way. While a nation frantically chases youth, the 75-year-old governor who glories in his age and experience, is at the top of his game.
In his new and informative biography of Brown, “Trailblazer,” journalist Chuck McFadden offers an explanation. He describes the governor as a “contrasting amalgam of religious questing, down-and-dirty politics, and consistent, fervent ambition.” (Full disclosure: As the book’s acknowledgements indicate, I saw the manuscript before it was published and made suggestions.)
This examination of the qualities behind Brown’s longevity—he was previously governor from 1975 to 1983—is valuable reading for Californians and non-Californians as the nation finds itself a prisoner of conventional politics, stale thinking and tedious political rhetoric.
Before Brown took office in 2011, California had been scorned as a prime example of dysfunction with its huge deficit, deteriorating public facilities and gridlocked government. Brown persuaded the voters to approve a tax increase that began to lift the state out of a perennial budget deficit. He helped end years of right-wing Republican power in the Legislature. And he has begun to dissipate the dark cloud of failure that has been part of the California story for decades.
McFadden, who has reported on California state government for The Associated Press, covers Brown through a political career that includes the governorship and three presidential campaigns, two of them quixotic and one, in 1992, having a certain logic behind it.
That is expected. What intrigued me—and what makes this book especially valuable—is the way the author has zeroed in on Brown’s spiritual and intellectual growth. He says these factors have had more of an impact on the governor than his traditional political experiences, which date back to childhood. His father was Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Sr., California governor from 1959 to 1967.
The younger Brown studied to be a Jesuit priest and then dropped out of the seminary, graduated from UC Berkeley and Yale Law School and practiced law before beginning his successful career in state politics. After his first two terms as governor, notes McFadden, he rejected the usual course—“private sector occupations while plotting a comeback.”
Instead, McFadden writes, “For the next five years, displaying the baked-in, central contradiction that makes his life so fascinating, this politician son of a politician who had never met an elective office he didn’t like, gave rein to his always-present spiritual side.”
He studied Zen in Japan with Zen master Yamada Koun and Father Hugo Lassalle, a Jesuit priest and Zen practitioner who had lived in Japan since 1929 and was severely wounded in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Brown went to Bangladesh as a CARE ambassador during severe flooding and spent a month with Mother Teresa in her Home for the Dying in Calcutta, India. He met and admired Ivan Illich, the brilliant philosopher-priest well known for his critiques of modernity and institutions of the industrial world.
Brown’s was a conventional, stable family upbringing, also an important influence on his personality. I knew Pat Brown, his wife Bernice and their children—Jerry and his three sisters, one of whom, Kathleen, was California state treasurer and a candidate for governor. As far as a political family being normal and mutually supportive—a difficult task—this one was.
The Brown I first met, in the early 1970s, must have been an intellectually challenging kid around the family dinner table. As a young adult, he was a know-it-all, impatient or condescending with those he didn’t respect, a large category. Among this class were reporters. He appeared to believe we would not have gone into journalism if we had been more intelligent, imaginative and talented. I observed him over the next several years, not as much as a reporter assigned to him on a daily basis, but enough to see he was pretty much the same intelligent, difficult person I had always known. Then as I moved on to other assignments, I didn’t see much of him.
In 2001, I encountered a changed Brown. I had retired as city editor of the Los Angeles Times and had a teaching-research fellowship at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley. My students were going to report about Oakland, my hometown. By then, Brown had been elected mayor, tackling the many problems of the troubled city across the bay from San Francisco. I visited City Hall to get some advice from the mayor on my class.
“This is act three,” he said, commenting on my move from the newsroom to the classroom and research library. I liked the image with its idea that more good things awaited me. We talked at length about Oakland and how he was digging into the problems of crime, poorly performing schools and the city’s failure to attract investment. I was impressed by his pragmatic style and insight into the city’s varied neighborhoods. He was grounded in reality and more open to discussion than he had been in his youth.
I invited him to the graduate school to speak to my class and others. Our dean, Orville Schell, a Brown biographer, and I were to ask him questions. But Brown took over, giving a detailed and fascinating description of each of the city’s neighborhoods, starting with Lake Merritt, in the center of the city, working north through working-class areas, east into the affluent hills, then down to the poor and crime ridden flatlands, finally finishing up where he had started, at the lake. It was the most brilliant and practical talk on urban affairs that I have ever heard.
So I was not surprised that he was elected governor and was able to persuade voters to support the tax increase that pulled California out of a fiscal hole.
The Jerry Brown that has emerged from his varied experiences—both spiritual and pragmatic—is a conventional and unconventional political leader, as McFadden shows in “Trailblazer.” As such, he is more in tune with the hopes and fears of a restless electorate than most politicians with their entourages of polling consultants and image makers.
Original article on TruthDig
After years of mismanagement, the Tribune Company newspapers -- including the Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times -- are up for sale. And one of the potential buyers? The Koch brothers. And wow are people outraged!
Yes, it's those Koch brothers:the billionaire businessmen who run Koch Industries, a sprawling multinational corporation involved in everything from oil to fertilizer to paper towels. But you probably know the Koch brothers for how they spend their considerable wealth: bankrolling right-wing political causes like the Tea Party movement, and funneling millions of dollars to front groups and politicians devoted to their anti-regulatory, anti-labor, and pro-corporate ideology. The Kochs have spent millions propping up climate-change deniers, and have been instrumental in funding ALEC, the powerful business lobby that pushes corporate-friendly policies at the state level.
What would the Kochs do with a few major newspapers? They would push public opinion and public despair further to the right and further into the depths. This is why taxing billionaires is not a policy driven by greed or jealousy or even the desire to put vast sums of riches to good use. Taxing billionaires is necessary if we are going to have representative government. We talk about "freedom of the press." Never mind government surveillance of reporters' phone records. Never mind the prosecutions of whistleblowers and journalists. If billionaires can dominate our communications system with what to them amounts to pocket change, while we blog dissent to people who believe nothing that doesn't appear on Tee-Vee or in a corporate paper, whose freedom of the press is it?
Some recent reports indicate that many L.A. Times staffers would consider leaving the paper if it were purchased by the Kochs -- which is probably music to their cost-cutting ears. Better than staff promising to quit is subscribers promising to unsubscribe:
"I will cancel my subscription and so will family members. We have no need for propaganda dictated by far right-wing spoiled billionaires with an anti-citizenry, pro 1% agenda. This will be the death of your struggling paper in a town that once had a proud history of journalism. It's a disgrace."
That comment was posted with a signature on this petition. Here are some more:
"If you want to increase the circulation of the New York TIMES in Los Angeles, let the Koch brothers buy the Los Angeles TIMES."
"No Koch news!!!"
"If the Koch brothers get their hands on your paper, it will only be useful as tp."
"Don't give up the integrity of your company for a measley few bucks."
"I refuse to continue my newspaper subscription if the Koch Brothers buy the Tribune. I boycott their other products so I will do the same if they buy the Tribune."
"If you sell to the Koch brothers, you can remove us from your subscription list!!"
"Don't let your long tradition of fair reporting be purchased away."
"Koch purchase is a bad deal for our nation!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"Keep the corporate greed off of our free press!"
"Selling out to the Koch's will pretty much put the kabosh on the 4th Estate's duty to afflict the comfortable."
"If the Koch Brothers take over, you'll lose this loyal reader of the Chicago Tribune forever."
"What an ignoble end to two fine papers known for excellence it would be if the Koch Bros. became the new owner. Forget about fairness and accuracy; the papers would simply become the latest bullhorn from which Charles and David would spew their propaganda. Has it come to this? Please don't sell."
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"This country is going in the wrong direction, don't help it."
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"I have subscribed for 36 years and will cancel."
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Original article on War Is A Crime .org
Pentagon officials today claimed President Obama and future presidents have the power to send troops anywhere in the world to fight groups linked to al-Qaeda, based in part on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed by Congress days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Speaking at the first Senate hearing on rewriting the AUMF, Pentagon officials specifically said troops could be sent to Syria, Yemen and the Congo without new congressional authorization. Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, predicted the war against al-Qaeda would last at least 10 to 20 more years.
Senator Angus King (I-Maine) challenged the Pentagon's interpretation of the Constitution and that the entire world is a battlefield. "This is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing I've been to since I've been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today," King said. "You guys have invented this term 'associated forces' that's nowhere in this document. ... It's the justification for everything, and it renders the war powers of Congress null and void."
This excerpt of the hearing includes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Robert Taylor, acting general counsel, Department of Defense; Michael Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, Department of Defense; and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).
READ FULL TRANSCRIPT
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Do you agree with me, the war against radical Islam, or terror, whatever description you like to provide, will go on after the second term of President Obama?
MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Senator, in my judgment, this is going to go on for quite a while, and, yes, beyond the second term of the president.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: And beyond this term of Congress?
MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Yes, sir. I think it's at least 10 to 20 years.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: So, from your point of view, you have all of the authorization and legal authorities necessary to conduct a drone strike against terrorist organizations in Yemen without changing the AUMF.
MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Yes, sir, I do believe that.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: You agree with that, General?
BRIG. GEN. RICHARD GROSS: I do, sir.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: General, do you agree with that?
GEN. MICHAEL NAGATA: I do, sir.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: OK. Could we send military members into Yemen to strike against one of these organizations? Does the president have that authority to put boots on the ground in Yemen?
ROBERT TAYLOR: As I mentioned before, there's domestic authority and international law authority. At the moment, the basis for putting boots on the ground in Yemen, we respect the sovereignty of Yemen, and it would--
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about: Does he have the legal authority under our law to do that?
ROBERT TAYLOR: Under domestic authority, he would have that authority.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I hope that Congress is OK with that. I'm OK with that. Does he have authority to put boots on the ground in the Congo?
MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Yes, sir, he does.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: OK. Do you agree with me that when it comes to international terrorism, we're talking about a worldwide struggle?
MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Absolutely, sir. [inaudible]
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: Would you agree with me the battlefield is wherever the enemy chooses to make it?
MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Yes, sir, from Boston to the FATA [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan].
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: I couldn't agree with you more. We're in a--do you agree with that, General?
BRIG. GEN. RICHARD GROSS: Yes, sir. I agree that the enemy decides where the battlefield is.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: And it could be anyplace on the planet, and we have to be aware and able to act. And do you have the ability to act, and are you aware of the threats?
MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Yes, sir. We do have the ability to react, and we are tracking threats globally.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: From my point of view, I think your analysis is correct, and I appreciate all of your service to our country.
SEN. CARL LEVIN: Senator King.
SEN. ANGUS KING: Gentlemen, I've only been here five months, but this is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I've been to since I've been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution here today. The Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 11, clearly says that the Congress has the power to declare war. This--this authorization, the AUMF, is very limited. And you keep using the term "associated forces." You use it 13 times in your statement. That is not in the AUMF. And you said at one point, "It suits us very well." I assume it does suit you very well, because you're reading it to cover everything and anything. And then you said, at another point, "So, even if the AUMF doesn't apply, the general law of war applies, and we can take these actions." So, my question is: How do you possibly square this with the requirement of the Constitution that the Congress has the power to declare war?
This is one of the most fundamental divisions in our constitutional scheme, that the Congress has the power to declare war; the president is the commander-in-chief and prosecutes the war. But you're reading this AUMF in such a way as to apply clearly outside of what it says. Senator McCain was absolutely right: It refers to the people who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks on September 11. That's a date. That's a date. It doesn't go into the future. And then it says, "or harbored such organizations"--past tense--"or persons in order to prevent any future acts by such nations, organizations or persons." It established a date.
I don't disagree that we need to fight terrorism. But we need to do it in a constitutionally sound way. Now, I'm just a little, old lawyer from Brunswick, Maine, but I don't see how you can possibly read this to be in comport with the Constitution and authorize any acts by the president. You had testified to Senator Graham that you believe that you could put boots on the ground in Yemen now under this--under this document. That makes the war powers a nullity. I'm sorry to ask such a long question, but my question is: What's your response to this? Anybody?
MICHAEL SHEEHAN: Senator, let me take the first response. I'm not a constitutional lawyer or a lawyer of any kind. But let me talk to you a little--take a brief statement about al-Qaeda and the organization that attacked us on September 11, 2001. In the two years prior to that, Senator King, that organization attacked us in East Africa and killed 17 Americans in our embassy in Nairobi, with loosely affiliated groups of people in East Africa. A year prior to 9/11, that same organization, with its affiliates in Yemen, almost sunk a U.S. ship, the U.S.S. Cole, a billion-dollar warship, killed 17 sailors in the port of Aden. The organization that attacked us on 9/11 already had its tentacles in--around the world with associated groups. That was the nature of the organization then; it is the nature of the organization now. In order to attack that organization, we have to attack it with those affiliates that are its operational arm that have previously attacked and killed Americans, and at high-level interests, and continue to try to do that.
SEN. ANGUS KING: That's fine, but that's not what the AUMF says. You can--you can--what I'm saying is, we may need new authority, but don't--if you expand this to the extent that you have, it's meaningless, and the limitation in the war power is meaningless. I'm not disagreeing that we need to attack terrorism wherever it comes from and whoever is doing it. But what I'm saying is, let's do it in a constitutional way, not by putting a gloss on a document that clearly won't support it. It just--it just doesn't--it just doesn't work. I'm just reading the words. It's all focused on September 11 and who was involved, and you guys have invented this term "associated forces" that's nowhere in this document. As I mentioned, in your written statement, you use that--that's the key term. You use it 13 times. It's the justification for everything. And it renders the war powers of the Congress null and void. I don't understand. I mean, I do understand you're saying we don't need any change, because the way you read it, you can--you could do anything. But why not say--come back to us and say, "Yes, you're correct that this is an overbroad reading that renders the war powers of the Congress a nullity; therefore, we need new authorization to respond to the new situation"? I don't understand why--I mean, I do understand it, because the way you read it, there's no limit. But that's not what the Constitution contemplates.
Click here to see investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill on Democracy Now! discussing his new book and film, "Dirty Wars: The World Is A Battlefield."
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Original article on Huffington Post
They fanned out across the country from Los Angeles to Phoenix, Chicago, south to Atlanta and Miami, to the towns of Western Massachusetts, in New York City and beyond, and they entered offices on Capitol Hill in a national “Educate Congress” letter-drop campaign.
More than 200 members of Congress were delivered this urgent message, a reminder that the country’s deteriorating condition needs to be addressed with meaningful policies that bring prosperity to Main Street. Austerity is not an option.
The message in the letter delivered today read, “We are voters… writing to urge you to oppose cuts to essential programs, as well as support common sense tax policies and job creation, as well as expanded, improved healthcare.”
Workers and students, concerned citizens, all activists against austerity, banded together in this national outreach effort with profound results: reaching nearly half the Congress. They were members of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), joined by National Nurses United, Labor for Single Payer and others, in support of the Robin Hood Tax, now before Congress in the reintroduced Inclusive Prosperity Act, H.R. 1579. Today’s letter-drop campaign and national call-in effort also urged passage of Medicare for All legislation and an end to cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
“We reached more than 200 congressional offices in district offices today, demanding “Prosperity Not Austerity,” said PDA National Director Tim Carpenter. “We also made hundreds of phone calls into district offices, demanding our elected officials join Rep. Grayson, Rep. Takano, and dozens of other House members drawing a line in the sand against any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.”
Carpenter added, “We also turned up the volume on the need to pass H.R. 1579, also known as the Financial Speculation Tax (FST) and Robin Hood Tax, that would generate hundreds of billions of dollars a year to fund job creation and help the economy, as well as protect the social safety net. This measure would save lives and save taxpayers’ money, increase revenues and decrease financial speculation that directly causes highly-destructive fiscal bubbles.”
A follow up national call-in effort is continuing. Next Tuesday, PDA and others meet with Rep. Ellison and Rep. Grayson to talk about next steps to obtain co-sponsors for H.R. 1579 and signatories on a Grayson-Takano letter pledging support for social services.
Original article on Robinhoodtax.org
While few are defending the Internal Revenue Service for targeting some 300 conservative groups, there are two critical pieces of context missing from the conventional wisdom on the “scandal.” First, at least from what we know so far, the groups were not targeted in a political vendetta — but rather were executing a makeshift enforcement test (an ugly one, mind you) for IRS employees tasked with separating political groups not allowed to claim tax-exempt status, from bona fide social welfare organizations. Employees are given almost zero official guidance on how to do that, so they went after Tea Party groups because those seemed like they might be political. Keep in mind, the commissioner of the IRS at the time was a Bush appointee.
The second is that while this is the first time this kind of thing has become a national scandal, it’s not the first time such activity has occurred.
“I wish there was more GOP interest when I raised the same issue during the Bush administration, where they audited a progressive church in my district in what look liked a very selective way,” California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on MSNBC Monday. “I found only one Republican, [North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones], that would join me in calling for an investigation during the Bush administration. I’m glad now that the GOP has found interest in this issue and it ought to be a bipartisan concern.”
The well-known church, All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, became a bit of a cause célèbre on the left after the IRS threatened to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status over an anti-Iraq War sermon the Sunday before the 2004 election. “Jesus [would say], ‘Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine,’” rector George Regas said from the dais.
The church, which said progressive activism was in its “DNA,” hired a powerful Washington lawyer and enlisted the help of Schiff, who met with the commissioner of the IRS twice and called for a Government Accountability Office investigation, saying the IRS audit violated the First Amendment and was unduly targeting a political opponent of the Bush administration. “My client is very concerned that the close coordination undertaken by the IRS allowed partisan political concerns to direct the course of the All Saints examination,” church attorney Marcus Owens, who is widely considered one of the country’s leading experts on this area of the law, said at the time. In 2007, the IRS closed the case, decreeing that the church violated rules preventing political intervention, but it did not revoke its nonprofit status.
And while All Saints came under the gun, conservative churches across the country were helping to mobilize voters for Bush with little oversight. In 2006, citing the precedent of All Saints, “a group of religious leaders accused the Internal Revenue Service yesterday of playing politics by ignoring its complaint that two large churches in Ohio are engaging in what it says are political activities, in violation of the tax code,” the New York Times reported at the time. The churches essentially campaigned for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, they alleged, and even flew him on one of their planes.
Meanwhile, Citizens for Ethics in Washington filed two ethics complaints against a church in Minnesota. “You know we can’t publicly endorse as a church and would not for any candidate, but I can tell you personally that I’m going to vote for Michele Bachmann,” pastor Mac Hammond of the Living Word Christian Center in Minnesota said in 2006 before welcoming her to the church. The IRS opened an audit into the church, but it went nowhere after the church appealed the audit on a technicality.
And it wasn’t just churches. In 2004, the IRS went after the NAACP, auditing the nation’s oldest civil rights group after its chairman criticized President Bush for being the first sitting president since Herbert Hoover not to address the organization. “They are saying if you criticize the president we are going to take your tax exemption away from you,” then-chairman Julian Bond said. “It’s pretty obvious that the complainant was someone who doesn’t believe George Bush should be criticized, and it’s obvious of their response that the IRS believes this, too.”
In a letter to the IRS, Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel, Pete Stark and John Conyers wrote: “It is obvious that the timing of this IRS examination is nothing more than an effort to intimidate the members of the NAACP, and the communities the organization represents, in their get-out-the-vote effort nationwide.”
Then, in 2006, the Wall Street Journal broke the story of a how a little-known pressure group called Public Interest Watch — which received 97 percent of its funds from Exxon Mobile one year — managed to get the IRS to open an investigation into Greenpeace. Greenpeace had labeled Exxon Mobil the “No. 1 climate criminal.” The IRS acknowledged its audit was initiated by Public Interest Watch and threatened to revoke Greenpeace’s tax-exempt status, but closed the investigation three months later.
As the Journal reporter, Steve Stecklow, later said in an interview, “This comes against a backdrop where a number of conservative groups have been attacking nonprofits and NGOs over their tax-exempt status. There have been hearings on Capitol Hill. There have been a number of conservative groups in Washington who have been quite critical.”
Indeed, the year before that, the Senate held a hearing on nonprofits’ political activity. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, the then-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the IRS needed better enforcement, but also “legislative changes” to better define the lines between politics and social welfare, since they had not been updated in “a generation.” Unfortunately, neither Congress nor the IRS has defined 501(c)4′s sufficiently to this day, leaving the door open for IRS auditors to make up their own, discriminatory rules.
Those cases mostly involved 501(c)3 organizations, which live in a different section of the tax code for real charities like hospitals and schools. The rules are much stronger and better developed for (c)3′s, in part because they’ve been around longer. But with “social welfare” (c)4 groups, the kind of political activity we saw in 2010 and 2012 is so unprecedented that you get cases like Emerge America, a progressive nonprofit that trains Democratic female candidates for public office. The group has chapters across the country, but in 2011, chapters in Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada were denied 501(c)4 tax-exempt status. Leaders called the situation “bizarre” because in the five years Nevada had waited for approval, the Kentucky chapter was approved, only for the other three to be denied.
A former IRS official told the New York Times that probably meant the applications were sent to different offices, which use slightly different standards. Different offices within the same organization that are supposed to impose the exact same rules in a consistent manner have such uneven conceptions of where to draw the line at a political group, that they can approve one organization and then deny its twin in a different state.
All of these stories suggest that while concern with the IRS posture toward conservative groups now may be merited, to fully understand the situation requires a bit of context and history.
Original article on Salon
The spark that ignited tea party wrath in 2008 was not such right-wing bugaboos as "Obamacare," the federal deficit, or states' rights, which were added on later by Koch-created front groups.
Rather, the uprising sprang directly from the public's raw outrage over Washington's flagrant coddling of Wall Street banksters.
People were affronted by the most naked example in recent times of the power of corporate campaign cash to buy an obscene injustice. Here were America's most privileged elites in plain view, jetting into the capitol city to call in all of the favors they were owed for the political "donations" they had previously made. That binding, ongoing dependence of lawmakers on Big Money is what allowed the Wall Street titans to (1) escape jail for their reckless selfishness, which crashed our entire economy and destroyed millions of our jobs; (2) keep their top-executive jobs, their grossly inflated paychecks, and their even-more-inflated sense of self-worth; and (3) be handed trillions of dollars from us taxpayers and Federal Reserve "regulators" to bail them out while workaday people were left to sink.
Brandishing the tea party banner in 2010, a bevy of new candidates parlayed the public's fury into a Republican takeover of the US House. However, having gained the power to push for a little less corruption, one of the very first actions these fire-breathing "reformers" took after being sworn in was to make special-interest political money more influential than ever by voting to kill the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF), the sole financing mechanism for clean elections in national law. It disburses no-strings-attached public funds to presidential candidates so they don't have to debase themselves by dragging a sack down K-Street, through Wall Street suites, and into the penthouses of the super-rich--literally selling themselves to private interests, one check at a time.It's the most god-awful human activity that doesn't involve physical pain. ---- FORMER REP. BARNEY FRANK, remarking on constantly having to solicit campaign donations from wealthy interests, which he candidly calls "begging" and "debasing yourself."
Admittedly, the presidential fund has been greatly weakened since it was enacted in 1974. But, in the wake of the Wall Street bailout scandal, the logical step to take would've been to strengthen and extend that public financing alternative as a way to limit the spoilage that inevitably flows from special-interest political spending.
But no. Such pinheaded potentates of the House as Majority Leader Eric Cantor strutted out to declare that killing public financing was "a no-brainer" (a phrase that, ironically, admitted the mindlessness of his move).
The supremacy of private-interest funding has turned our elections into a crass auction of government power to the wealthiest of moneyed elites.
Who are these masked men? We the People have a right to follow the money, right down to the brand names that take our consumer dollars and convert them into political donations that produce anti-consumer, anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-democracy public policies. This month and next, the Lowdown will name as many of these heavy hitters as we can unmask, including some of the severely shy ones trying to hide their self-serving corporate donations by funneling them through secretive "dark money" front groups.
In this issue, we chart the flow of publicly reported contributions that corporations make through their executives, PACs, and "soft money" channels. The numbers here are drawn from the comprehensive compilations of our country's two preeminent trackers of political money: OpenSecrets and the Sunlight Foundation. We break the brand name donors into industry groups, listing major corporations that gave $100,000 or more to the GOP's presidential and congressional campaigns, with at least two-thirds of their money going to Republican presidential and congressional candidates, party groups, or outside electioneering fronts.
We also list the top-20 brand name backers of 2012's Democratic candidates for the White House and Congress. In the May issue, the Lowdown will focus on the self-serving corporate donations funneled in by secretive SuperPACs and dark-money front groups run by the likes of Karl Rove and the US Chamber of Commerce.
- Retail sales and services
- Corporate farms and suppliers
- Food and beverage processors
- Restaurant chains
- Oil & gas
- Forestry & paper
- Trains & ships
- Equipment & materials
- Insurance corporations
- Airlines/Air freight
- Investment houses
- Capital management
- Commercial and mortgage banks
- Loan companies
- Pro sports
- Health care corporations
Houchens Markets, IGA, Save-A-Lot, Mad Butcher, Piggly Wiggly, Tobacco Shoppe. $116,800 100% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Home Depot $2,151,998 76% Amway/Alticor $761,200 87% Best Buy $254,235 65% Lowe’s $339,862 75% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans John Deere
Tractors, mowers, tools, bbq grills, chemicals, wagons and toys for children, etc. $874,605 88% Monsanto
Pesticides (especially its “Roundup” brand) and seeds (top maker/marketer of corn, soybean, cotton, and others seeds that have had their DNA altered with genetically modified organisms). These seeds, branded as “Roundup Ready,” are bio-engineered to make the plants they produce able to absorb heavier doses of “Roundup” pesticides. $536,604 66% Cargill
Global grain trader. Also markets animal and food processing ingredients. Brands include Purina, Nutrena, LNB, Provimi, Cargill. $412,941 80% Sanderson Farms
Chicken products. $213,700 77% Agri Beef
Packaged beef products include Snake River Farms, Double R Ranch, St. Helens, Rancho El Oro. $181,950 97% PictSweet
Brand of frozen vegetables. $171,038 96% Peace River Citrus
Fresh citrus and frozen juice products. $159,250 92% J.R. Simplot
Major supplier of potatoes to McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s. $153,150 88% Case New Holland
Tractors, other agricultural equipment, and construction equipment. $149,988 95% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Altria Group
Tobacco giant (Philip Morris), but also owns such wineries as Chateau Ste. Michelle, 14 Hands, Antica Napa Valley, Antinori, Col de’Salici, Columbia Crest, Conn Creek, Distant Bay, and Erath. $1,721,888 81% Dean Foods
Owns dozens of milk brands including Borden, Oak Farms, Meadow Gold, TruMoo, Swiss Premium, Dean’s, Garelick Farms, Lehigh Valley, Shenandoah’s, Morning Glory, Alta Dena, PET, Purity, and Hygeia. Also owns Horizon, the largest seller of organic milk products, and Silk, which makes soymilk, almondmilk, and coconutmilk. $331,967 74% Tyson Foods
America’s biggest factory farm operator and meat processor. Brands of poultry, pork, and beef include Tyson, Bonici, Mexican Original, Wright, IBP (formerly Iowa Beef Processors), and Lady Aster. $294,261 65% SABMiller
Miller beers, Blue Moon, Coors Light, Hamm’s, Henry Weinhard’s, Icehouse, Leinenkugel’s, MGD 64, Mickey’s Malt Liquor, Milwaukee’s Best, Old English 800 Malt Liquor. $278,736 76% Bacardi
Bacardi, Bombay Sapphire, Oxley, Eristoff, Grey Goose, 42Below, Martini, Noilly Prat, Martini sparkling wines, Dewar’s, Cazadores, Corzo, B&B, Benedictine, Drambuie, Disaronno, and Hatuey beer. $264,295 96% ConAgra Foods
Reddi-wip, Hunt’s, Ro*Tel, Healthy Choice, Swiss Miss, Marie Callender’s frozen foods, PAM, Chef Boyardee, Orville Redenbacher’s, Egg Beaters, Fiddle Faddle, Fleischman’s, Gulden’s, Hebrew National, P.F. Chang’s, Parkay, Penrose, Peter Pan, Poppycock, Ranch Style beans, Rosarita, ACT II popcorn, Alexia, Andy Capp’s, Banquet, Bertolli, Blue Bonnet, Crunch ’n Munch, Jiffy Pop, Kid Cuisine, Libby, Manwich, SlimJim, Snack pack, UltraGrain, VanCamp’s, Wesson, and Wolf Brand Chili, etc. $213,697 80% Trident Seafoods
Biggest US seafood processor. Brands of frozen, canned, and prepared products include Louis Kemp, Red King, Alaska, Salmon Burger, and PubHouse. $211,370 98% Johnsonville Sausages $206,750 100% H.J. Heinz
Heinz, Bagel Bites, Classico, Jack Daniel’s Sauces, Lea & Perrins, Nancy’s, Ore-Ida, Poppers, Smart Ones, T.G.I. Friday’s frozen foods, and Wyler’s bouillon and soup/dip mixes. $200,790 71% Flowers Foods
Nature’s Own, Whitewheat, Cobblestone Mill, Sunbeam, Bunny Bread, ButterKrust Bakery, European Bakers, Tastykake, Mrs. Freshley’s, Blue Bird, Mi Casa. $195,500 100% Russell Stover Candies
Russell Stover’s, Whitman’s, Pangburn’s. $190,302 100% Silverado Vineyards $184,750 73% Patrón Spirits
Patrón, Ultimat Vodka, and Pyrat Rum $182,650 73% J.M. Smucker
Adams peanut butter, Café Bustelo, Crisco, Crosse & Blackwell, Dunkin’ Donuts (in stores), Dutch Girl, Eagle Brand, Folgers, Hungry Jack, Jif, Kava, Knott’s Berry Farm, Laura Scudder’s, Magnolia, Martha White, Mary Ellen, Pillsbury, R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic,
and Smucker’s. $161,410 93% JBS
Swift meats, Gold Kist Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride (Pilgrim’s Co.), 1855, Aspen Ridge Natural Beef, 5 Star Beef, Miller’s Blue Ribbon Beef, Liberty Bell, Moyer, Packerland. $126,000 84% McKee Foods
Little Debbie snacks, Sunbelt, Heartland, Fieldstone Bakery. $119,815 98% Jel Sert
Freezer Bars (Fla-Vor-Ice, Pop-Ice, Otter Pops, Bolis,
Mr. Freeze, Frootee Ice, Slush Puppie, Wyler’s, Kool Pops, Soda Pop Freezer Bars , Arnold Palmer, Sunkist Freezer Bars, Snapple Sorbet Bars). Beverages (Flavor Aid, Hawaiian Punch, Warheads, Airheads). Dessert Mixes (Royal, My-T-Fine). $108,800 100% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans McDonald’s $1,334,547 69% OSI Restaurant Partners
Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Flemings, Roy’s. $805,670 97% Wendy’s $447,907 84% TACO PAC
Taco Bell Franchisees. $443,250 98% Buffalo Wild Wings $226,615 92% Yum! Brands
KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell. $211,564 85% Pizza Hut Franchisees $197,500 98% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans ExxonMobil $2,769,917 88% Koch Industries
Millions more donated to GOP campaigns by Koch brothers. Their front groups (such as Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks) and various right-wing SuperPAC’s and dark-money groups. $2,391,048 98% Chesapeake Energy $1,759,933 76% Occidental Petroleum $1,550,976 66% Valero Energy $828,919 91% ConocoPhillips $638,902 88% Marathon Petroleum $616,698 93% Hess Oil & Gas $583,175 76% Williams Companies $452,750 82% Spectra Energy $344,586 67% El Paso Corp. $302,744 73% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Cen Tra $449,450 95% Knight Transportation $247,200 100% Oshkosh Corp. $245,131 68% Allen Trucking $245,100 100% Prime $232,300 99% Werner Enterprises $202,850 100% Ryder Systems $192,853 88% Old Dominion Freight $178,910 97% AAA Cooper Transportation $169,500 100% Penske Truck Rental $155,807 96% Navistar International $155,726 79% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans International Paper
Hammermill, Springhill, Williamsburg, etc. $943,584 66% Koch Industries
Its Georgia-Pacific division owns such paper-product brands as Brawny, Dixie, Angel Soft, Quilted Northern, Soft ’n Gentle, Sparkle, Mardi Gras ,Vanity Fair napkins, Zee, Advantage, and Spectrum. Also owns Stainmaster carpets and the Lycra line of clothing. $336,113 93% Sierra Pacific Industries
Lumber, millwork, building materials. $336,113 93% Stimson Lumber $111,200 98% Sun Mountain Lumber $100,500 100% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Cen Tra $449,450 95% Knight Transportation $247,200 100% Oshkosh Corp. $245,131 68% Allen Trucking $245,100 100% Prime $232,300 99% Werner Enterprises $202,850 100% Ryder Systems $192,853 88% Old Dominion Freight $178,910 97% AAA Cooper Transportation $169,500 100% Penske Truck Rental $155,807 96% Navistar International $155,726 79% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Burlington Northern
(owned by Berkshire Hathaway) $1,935,309 66% Union Pacific $1,564,499 67% Norfolk Southern $1,296,290 65% Kirby $465,998 95% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Caterpillar $671,592 84% CEMEX
Cement products including Brisket, Dixie, Richmortar, Richcolor, Victor, Broco, Citadel, Kosmortar. $238,152 91% 84 Lumber stores $152,240 91% Owens Corning $143,192 85% Kohler
Bath & kitchen fixtures. $122,250 91% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans USAA $1,545,191 78% Massachusetts Mutual Life $1,413,624 68% Northwestern Mutual $1,142,686 67% Zurich Financial Services $751,029 71% Travelers $743,705 68% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans M.D.C. Holdings
Richmond American Homes. $348,150 67% NVR
Ryan Homes, NVHomes, Fox Ridge Homes, Heartland Homes. $240,984 98% Granville Homes $235,400 90% Robson Communities $144,050 94% William Lyon Homes $143,100 90% Clayton Homes $141,775 85% George Lewis Homes $114,650 100% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Murray Energy $1,407,352 93% Alpha Natural Resources $816,092 72% Arch Coal $712,703 82% Peabody Energy $559,475 92% Drummond Co. $395,600 89% Patriot Coal $333,300 89% Pine Branch Coal $292,600 79% Boich Companies $267,600 83% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans United Parcel Service (UPS) $2,331,7452 65% FedEx $1,841,226 70% AMR American Airlines $810,947 69% Textron
Bell Helicopter, Cessna, E-Z-GO golf carts and utility vehicles, Greenlee, Jacobsen. $495,451 73% Southwest Airlines $287,143 74% Azul Airlines $151,600 100% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Goldman Sachs $7,887,924 65% Morgan Stanley $3,729,163 69% Bank of America $4,624,122 70% Wells Fargo $3,579,349 70% Credit Suisse Group $2,359,598 71% Deutsche Bank $408,612 66% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Elliott Associates and Elliott Management $5,223,996 100% KKR $2,309,466 75% H.I.G. $1,369,294 75% Carlyle Group $1,083,228 67% Madison Dearborn Partners $836,950 83% Cerberus Capital Mgmt. $801,588 74% Arclight Capital Partners $763,950 99% Summit Partners $695,095 69% AQR Capital Management $673,349 84% SAC Capital Advisors $499,550 72% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans PNC Financial $637,589 72% Quicken Loans $611,524 92% SunTrust Banks $424,645 81% Huntington Bancshares $405,628 77% BB&T Corp. $399,706 88% IBC Bank. $165,256 96% Mortgage Investors Corp. $350,400 71% Academy Mortgage $155,450 100% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Capital One Finance $979,050 69% SLM $511,762 81% General Electric $311,595 72% Jones Mgmt. Services $295,772 88% CIT Group $241,852 82% QC Holdings $216,205 77% First Data $204,743 89% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation
Sycuan Casino $431,614 68% Wynn Resorts $406,926 98% Blackstone Group
SeaWorld, Busch Gardens; investments include LegoLand, Madame Tussauds, La Quinta, Luxury Resorts, Hilton Hotels, The Weather Channel. $422,346 65% Station Casinos
Red Rock Casino, Green Valley Ranch, Palace Station, Sunset Station, Boulder Station, Santa Fe Station, Texas Station, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, Wild Wild West Gambling Hall. $365,600 72% Bandon Dunes Golf Resort $189,900 68% Herschend Family Entertainment
Stone Mountain Amusement Parks, Silver Dollar City, Dollywood, Dixie Stampede, Elitch Gardens, Newport Aquarium. $182,997 100% Woodside Hotels & Resorts $131,100 81% Abercrombie & Kent $112,050 77% Treasure Island Hotel $110,800 100% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans NASCAR $458,926 96% Ultimate Fighting Championship $451,362 68% Arizona Cardinals $304,470 98% Washington Redskins $221,905 100% Atlanta Hawks $215,790 75% International Speedway $196,650 77% Jacksonville Jaguars $169,900 90% Arizona Diamondbacks $169,250 99% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans CC Media Holdings
Clear Channel (radio stations, billboards, etc.). $862,637 71% Cablevision $806,336 68% Salem Communications
Dozens of right-wing and Christian radio stations, websites, magazines, etc. $162,500 100% Curb Records $137,500 94% Weather Channel $103,200 75% Liberty Global
Brands include UPC, Unitymedia, Kabel BW, Telenet, VTR. $100,005 91% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Hallmark Cards $259,051 69% Ingram Industries
Distributor of books, Christian books, eBooks; also largest US inland barge operator/shipper. $227,000 97% Christian Book Distributors $224,299 100% Paisano Publications
Magazines include Easyriders, Road Iron, V-Twin, Wrench, Tattoo, In The Wind, Savage, Flash, Rebel Rodz, and Ink Fashion. $193,200 94% Newsmax $123,800 100% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Rothman Institute $259,051 69% Ingram Industries
Distributor of books, Christian books, eBooks; also largest US inland barge operator/shipper. $887,700 100% Humana $734,881 69% Cancer Treatment Centers of America $586,435 100% Hercules Holding $439,415 70% HCR ManorCare $421,773 72% Bayer
Bayer Aspirin, Flintstones Vitamins, Alka-Seltzer, One A Day, Citracal, Midol; Prescription: Yaz, Mirena, Adalat, etc. $420,177 69% 21st Century Oncology $326,990 67% Invacare $293,750 80% American Kidney Stone Management $279,000 98% Starkey Laboratories
Hearing aids. $213,051 100% Electrostim Medical Services $168,580 100% AdvoCare $156,750 100% Shaklee $99,250 72% permalink to this section Corporation & products Total contribution % to Republicans Altria Group
Marlboro, Basic, Benson & Hedges, Cambridge, Chesterfield, Commander, Dave’s, English Ovals, L&M, Lark, Merit, Parliament, Players, Saratoga, Virginia Slims, Copenhagen, Cope (smokeless), Skoal, Red Seal, Husky, John Middleton cigars, Prince Albert’s pipe tobacco, Nu Mark tobacco mints, etc. $1,721,888 81% Dow Chemical $843,307 77% Timken car parts $527,420 100% Reynolds American
Camel, Pall Mall, Winston, Salem, Doral, Kool, Misty, Capri, Grizzly, Kodiak, Cougar, American Spirit. $465,975 94% Lorillard Tobacco
Newport, Kent, True, Maverick, Old Gold. $354,3300 74% Swisher International
Swisher, Santa Fe, King Edward, Goodies, Blackstone, Keep Moving Goodies, Kayak, Silver Creek, Casino Gold, Clasico, La Intimidad, Macbeth, Miramar, Vieja Tradicion, Swisher Sweets. $326,000 98% US Steel $273,496 85% Goodyear Tire & Rubber
Camel, Pall Mall, Winston, Salem, Doral, Kool, Misty, Capri, Grizzly, Kodiak, Cougar, American Spirit. $225,132 74% AutoNation $197,777 93% 3M $333,000 72%
Original article on Hightower Lowdown .org
The money swamp created by Citizens United: Dark Money, corporate shell games, and SuperPAC plutocrats
Some of you might remember "CREEP" from 1972's Nixon-McGovern matchup. It could've been an apt code name for Tricky Dick himself, but instead it referred to the "Committee to RE-Elect the President."
And creepy it was. That spring, Nixon and team orchestrated a secret, two-month-long fundraising push that brought in $20 million from corporate executives and other wealthy favor-seekers. "Anybody who wants to be an ambassador must at least give $250,000," Nixon instructed his chief of staff, Bob Haldeman.
The money had to be delivered to CREEP by midnight of April 7, because a new law would then take effect requiring presidential campaigns to disclose their donors. Money poured in--just hours before the deadline, for example, Pennzoil Corporation hand-delivered $700,000 in a suitcase to CREEP headquarters. This included a $100,000 bundle of checks and cash from another oil company president who laundered it through a Mexico City bank, had it carried back across the border by a Mexican colleague, who drove it to Houston and literally dumped the money on the desk of Pennzoil's president--who stuffed it in the suitcase with the other money and rushed it to a waiting corporate jet for just-in-time delivery to DC.
All of CREEP's corrupt haul would likely still be secret--except that a chunk of it went into a bank account that was used to finance the bumbling Watergate burglars. As Nixon's sleazy money network was subsequently exposed, public outrage compelled Congress to enact reforms to halt this backdoor sale of government to undisclosed corporate interests."If money corrupts, dark money corrupts absolutely." ----Ellen Miller, of the Sunlight Foundation, which exposes corporate funders of the secretive political groups unleashed by the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United edict.
Forty years later, however, CREEP is back. Thanks to 2010's disastrous Citizens United ruling by a handful of raging corporatists on the Supreme Court, the moneyed elite can again buy as much political power as they want, without disclosing who's doing the buying. In last year's presidential race alone, total spending soared to $2.6 billion, double what it was just four years ago--and more than a billion dollars of that $1.3 billion-jump came from the secretive groups brought forth by the five Supreme Corporatists."The outsiders"
The Court decreed that "outsider" forces (in particular, corporations) are now free to finance their own independent campaigns to influence elections, separate from the campaigns of candidates and parties. As a result, three new money channels have been opened for these "outsiders":
1. SuperPACs. Unlike regular political action committees, these supersized creatures can take unrestricted sums of money drawn right out of the bottomless wells of corporate treasuries to run their own, independent electioneering efforts. In the real world, however, candidates have simply set up their own SuperPACs and installed trusted cronies to run them, making "independence" a joke.
2. Social welfare charities. This is so cynical that it's sick. Citizens United allows nonprofit social welfare charities, which do not have to name their donors, to spend money in elections--as long as the primary purpose of their charity is not political. Ha! Blatantly political outfits (including those run by Karl Rove and the Koch brothers) rushed to create their own social welfare masks. Last year, they funneled more than a quarter billion dollars in secret donations into their social welfare political campaigns through this gaping "Dark Money" loophole.
3. Trade associations. Multi-corporate organizations, such as the US Chamber of Commerce, have not been allowed to spend their membership funds directly on electing or defeating candidates--until Citizens United. Last year, the CofC alone poured $36 million into its newly sanctioned electioneering campaigns, nearly all of it trying to defeat Democrats. Since trade associations are not required to disclose the sources of their funding, the Court's decision allows such giants as ExxonMobil to use the Chamber channel for running vicious attack ads--without infuriating customers by having to put their own brand names on the nastiness.
We'll be posting each of these images individually over on our Facebook page, to make it easier for Lowdowners to share them with their networks. For those of you who are on Pinterest (you know who you are!), there's a board of images to share there, too!
Candidates like to claim that they are supported by "the common people" (with the glaring exception of Romney, of course, whose patrician bearing and occasional moments of candor revealed a deep disdain for commoners). Most cam- paigns even spin their financial reports to make it appear that their funding is derived from that beloved group known as: "small donors." The new Citizens United reality, however, is that very big money from a few very fat cats now dominates election finance. Consider this startling contrast from last year's presidential contest:
Original article on Hightowerlowdown.org
Since 2000 more than 50,000 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. have closed and roughly 50,000 industrial jobs have been lost each month. Now service sector jobs, where the remaining two-thirds of all workers are currently employed, are disappearing.
Because of, but not limited to technology advances, these middle-income jobs are not likely to come back, effectively hollowing out the America’s middle class and leaving millions of unemployed and underemployed workers with limited future prospects. The effect of these trends on American jobs were significantly aggravated by the “Great Recession.”
Meanwhile, in spite of the Great Recession, the wealthiest 1% of Americans has become even richer. The share of income taken by the top 1% has more than doubled by 2007, U.S. corporations became flush with record profits, and the stock market has rebounded to all-time highs. All while stagnate wages for the working poor and middle-class remained and, in some cases declined, over the same time period.
During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt’s New Deal put millions of Americans back to work building roads, dams, bridges, parks and electrification systems.
There is no reason why America cannot have a 21st century “New Deal,” where unemployed Americans can be gainfully employed rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and strengthening our communities.
It is my hope that with the reintroduction of my bill, the “Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment and Training Act,” Congress will begin to seriously examine the idea that the federal government can, and must, play a major role in putting Americans back to work. H.R. 1000 is deficit neutral, because it is paid for by a modest tax on stock and bond transactions by Wall Street trading firms. Having already received a significant bailout by American taxpayers, it is only fair that Wall Street pay Main Street back by helping put America back to work.
Original press release on John Conyers .com
The Associated Press says the U.S. Department of Justice has secretly obtained a trove of journalists' phone records in what its chief executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion"It seems to be terrible intrusion on the freedom of the press," says Ramsey Clark, the U.S. attorney general from 1967 to 1969, on Democracy Now! today. "I don't see how the press can operate effectively if the public and the people who talk to the press have to assume that big brother is listening in and sees the conversations they engage in."
The Obama administration seized records for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Hartford, Connecticut, and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. More than 100 reporters work in the offices. The records were from April and May of 2012. Among those whose records were obtained were Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, three other reporters and an editor, all of whom worked on a May 7, 2012, story that revealed details about a CIA operation in Yemen which stopped an alleged terror plot. AP had delayed publication of the story at the government's request.
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Original article on Huffington Post
More Than 175 Members of Congress to be urged to Support Legislation to Tax Wall Street, Raise Revenue for Main Street Recovery and Bring a Halt to Austerity
On Wednesday, May 15, at Congressional offices in home districts across the country and on Capitol Hill, more than 175 House and Senate members will be visited and delivered letters urging support for the Inclusive Prosperity Act, H.R. 1579, inspired by the Robin Hood Tax and reintroduced in Congress last month by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), and other legislation to bring a real and enduring recovery to the entire nation..
Wednesday’s action comes on the heels of more than 100 letters delivered to district offices and 50 Capitol Hill offices in March and April, in a concerted effort to take America off its austerity path, turn back sequestration and bring long-delayed support to Main Street.
“We will call for a fair, effective tax on financial speculation—the Inclusive Prosperity Act—as well as Medicare for All. These measures would save lives and save taxpayers’ money, increase revenues and decrease speculation that directly caused highly destructive fiscal bubbles,” said Tim Carpenter, National Director of Progressive Democrats of America, the organization spearheading Wednesday’s action. “We are also demanding our elected officials join Rep. Grayson, Rep. Takano, and dozens of other House members in drawing a line in the sand against any cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.”
This week’s call to Congress comes at a critical juncture. Unemployment is now termed “an ongoing disaster” by the Economic Policy Institute, with nearly 9 million jobs still gone since the start of the Great Recession. Sequestration cuts of $85 billion that began March 1 will reduce subsidies for up to 600,000 pregnant women, newborns and infants this year and public housing budgets are to be slashed by nearly $2 billion. Today, 1.4 million homes are in foreclosure and many Americans are expected to join the ranks of the homeless in coming months, in a broad and enduring demise not seen since the Depression.
Who: Americans led by Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), the U.S. Robin Hood Tax Campaign, Democrats.com, and others.
What: “Educate Congress” visits to legislators to urge action on progressive legislation.
Where: Capitol Hill and District offices of Senators and Representatives across the USA.
When: Noon-time May 15, 2013.
Ellison’s bill, H.R. 1579, is legislation key to America’s recovery. It would levy a small tax on Wall Street trading, raising up to $350 billion a year with a goal to bring a real recovery to communities for whom the harm of the financial collapse of 2008 remains. With a commitment to rebuilding infrastructure, a clean environment, quality education and healthcare, and more, good jobs would be created and expanded. H.R. 1579 also seeks to step up U.S. support for international efforts in research and treatment of HIV/AIDS and to address climate change.
Progressive Democrats of America and partners, including the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, will continue the “Educate Congress” campaign letter drops at Congressional Offices on Capitol Hill and across the USA. This broad and growing national campaign will continue to visit and deliver letters at Congressional and Senate offices. See: http://www.pdamerica.org/
Original article on RobinHoodTax.org