INDEX (stories follow)

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Wednesday, Day 158

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”






from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Wednesday, Day 158

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

How Should We Think of the Civil War?

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN
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Via Brad DeLong, Ta-Nehisi Coates argues that the Civil War wasn’t tragic in the way it’s so often portrayed. The human losses were terrible — but the war marked the end of the far greater horror of slavery.

I agree; the Civil War and World War II are the two great moral wars of our history, and they should be remembered with pride.

But while Coates is right, and eloquent, I still think this guy said it better:

The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

There were terrible losses; but justice won.

The Right and Left Claim Success in Canada: The Conservatives Win Majority in Canadian Election as Left-Leaning NDP Makes Historic Gains

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)
CanadaThe Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was elected to a majority in the Canadian parliament, ending five years of minority government. Harper has vowed to continue pro-corporate policies that have led critics to label his government the most right-wing in recent Canadian history. But the election also saw major gains for the left-leaning New Democratic Party, which won enough seats to become the official opposition party for the first time. We speak to Stephen Lewis, former Canadian diplomat and former leader of the NDP, and the Canadian activist and writer Judy Rebick. [includes rush transcript]

Senator Conrad, lead Dem negotiator, offers up most conservative budget imaginable – as a starting point

From HuffPost Hill:

CONRAD BUDGET DEBACLE Mike McCauliff and HuffPost Hill: “Senate Democrats are furious at their lead budget negotiator, Sen. Kent Conrad, for crafting a blueprint that they think moves their party too far to the right, a leadership source said. Conrad (D-N.D.), who has been negotiating for months in secret with Republicans in the so-called Gang of Six — we prefer Slash Mob, but it ain’t catching on — to craft a plan that might win bipartisan acceptance, abruptly dropped the veil and rolled out his own offering Tuesday for his party colleagues — to brutal reviews. “He’s going to be a man without a country,” the leadership source said, describing a contentious luncheon. The problem for Democrats is that Conrad has adopted a plan that resembles the work he’s done with legislators across the aisle — which was meant to be a compromise position. In bringing it forward himself, it sets the starting point for the Democratic position in a more conservative spot than the President’s budget — which itself was already a compromise and includes a spending freeze for federal workers amid its many concessions to the GOP.”

Note how the Republicans’ crazy budget proposal is to the far right, and the Democrats’ crazy budget proposal is to the far right. That’s each party’s version of crazy – trying to out-Republican each other.

AFL-CIO Joins Call for a Fair Budget for Penn. Working Families

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs
Pa. AFL-CIO Joins Thousands of Workers In Calling for a Fair Budget that Protects Pennsylvania’s Middle Class

HARRISBURG, Pa., May 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder joined with thousands of union workers and friends from all across Pennsylvania, who rallied at the State Capitol today, calling for passage of a responsible state budget that protects middle class working families and ensures that corporations pay their fair share of taxes.

“Today, the working people of Pennsylvania once again stood up as they have been standing up in their communities across the State telling their elected leaders not to balance the budget on the backs of working families, but instead, to pass a responsible budget that includes closing the loopholes that corporations use every year to avoid paying their fair share of taxes,” Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale said.

Deep budget cuts proposed by Governor Corbett will result in one of the biggest tax shifts in history to local governments and school districts. If Gov. Corbett’s budget is passed it will force school districts and local governments to increase property taxes, cut jobs, programs, and services in order to balance their budgets.

“The working men and women of Pennsylvania have repeatedly demonstrated their support for a fair and responsible budget that closes the loopholes that allow over 70 percent of Pennsylvania corporations to pay no income taxes and enact a severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas drillers. It’s time for our elected leaders to listen to the voices of the working people not the lobbyists for the oil companies and big box retailers,” Bloomingdale declared.
[ For complete coverage of politics and policy, go to Yahoo! Politics ]

“The solution to our budget crisis is not fewer school teachers; not fewer police and fire fighters; not fewer transportation and highway workers; and not fewer health care workers,” Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder added. “The solution is closing the loopholes that allow Pennsylvania corporations to avoid paying taxes, and enacting a fair severance tax on Marcellus Shale. In reality, Pennsylvanians currently pay severance taxes – to other states, from where we import the majority of the gas we use. It’s hypocrisy to fund other states’ education, transportation, infrastructure, and social programs, while cutting ours here!” said Snyder.

SOURCE Pennsylvania AFL-CIO

“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

50th Anniversary of the First Freedom Ride: New Documentary Recounts Historic 1961 Effort to Challenge Segregated Bus System in the Deep South

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)
1 person liked this
FreedomIt was 50 years ago today, on May 4, 1961, when mixed groups of black and white students took two public buses from Washington, D.C., and intended to arrive in New Orleans two weeks later. They were risking their lives to challenge segregation, and called themselves the “Freedom Riders.” President Obama has issued a proclamation honoring May 2011 as the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, and called on Americans to celebrate their struggle for equal rights during the civil rights movement. At last year’s Sundance Film Festival, we spoke to Stanley Nelson about his new documentary, which tells the story of what happened to these brave students and how they inspired hundreds of others to join the Freedom Rides and eventually succeed in desegregating public transportation. We also speak to two Freedom Riders featured in the film, Bernard Lafayette and Jim Zwerg. Freedom Riders will air on PBS’sAmerican Experience on May 16. [includes rush transcript]

CUNY trustees dishonor academic freedom in Tony Kushner snub

from MuzzleWatch by Jesse Bacon
Fresh off a failed attempt to fire a Brooklyn college professor for not properly toeing the line on Israel, CUNY Board of Trustees member Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld chose a much higher-profile target: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner. Wiesenfeld, who is a repeat abuser of his power as a CUNY Trustee,  succeeded in getting CUNY to table Kushner’s honorary degree for what is believed to be the first time ever. Kushner’s crimes? Criticizing Israel, and serving on the Advisory Board of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Here’s Kushner’s searing rebuke:

Letter to CUNY Trustees 05-04-11

[Ed. note: Jewish Voice for Peace engages in campaigns that promote boycott and divestment from companies that profit from  the Israeli occupation, not Israel as a whole.)

Wiesenfield cited the “disingenuousness and non-intellectual activity” on US campuses as a reason for barring Kushner, though barring a figure of Kushner’s brilliance seems like a funny way to combat that problem. Unless of course your real goal is ideological control.

Here’s a comparison of the views of Tony Kushner with those of former New York City mayor Ed Koch, who unlike Kushner, received unanimous support for getting an honorary degree from CUNY this year :

As for Wiesenfeld, he knows something about shady proceedings, being appointed by then-governor George Pataki in a last minute session after concerns were raised about his calling blacks “savages” and Jews “thieves.”He also led the Stop the Madrassa coalition to block Debbie Almontaser from opening an Arabic language and culture school in  New York City. Kushner and Almontaser, both are winners of the “Risk Taker Awards” from Jews For Racial and Economic Justice. Koch also defended Glenn Beck from charges of anti-semitism..
Who would you rather honor?

-Jesse Bacon

Jonathan Turley: “If bin Laden wanted to change America, he succeeded”

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Legal scholar and lawyer Jonathan Turley, writing in USA Today reflects on “what has been lost, and what has been gained” in the reaction to Osama bin Ladin and the attack on 9/11.

First, a list of what Turley feels has been lost, which includes this (h/t DN via email; my emphasis):

What has been most chilling is that the elimination of Saddam and now bin Laden has little impact on this system, which seems to continue like a perpetual motion machine of surveillance and searches. While President Dwight D. Eisenhower once warned Americans of the power of themilitary-industrial complex, we now have a counterterrorism system that employs tens of thousands, spends tens of billions of dollars each year and is increasingly unchecked[.] … If bin Laden wanted to change America, he succeeded.

And also this:

Police power works like the release of gas in a closed space: expand the space and the gas fills it. It is rare in history to see ground lost in civil liberties be regained through concessions of power by the government.

Whew, that’s a lot to have been lost. Now for what Turley says has been gained:

[He doesn’t say]

Bad trade. I’m with the TeabagsI want my country back too. All of it.

GOP House believes every rich white male deserves a lawyer, but if you’re a poor woman beaten by your husband, sayonara

ThinkProgress notes the hypocrisy of the GOP Congress’ claim that every bigoted piece of legislation deserves a lawyer when they don’t believe that actual human beings, especially poor people and women beaten by their husbands, deserves lawyers.

Sensenbrenner’s argument that “everyone deserves a lawyer” may be noble, but it is also hypocritical. Republicans have recently stripped nearly $16 million from the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which defends tenants against slum lords, helps women obtain court orders against abusive husbands, protects consumers against exploitative lenders, or to otherwise provides legal representation to Americans who can’t afford it. As Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) quipped, “I’m delighted to hear the observation of the gentleman from Wisconsin — that everyone is entitled to a lawyer — and I look forward to his support of greatly increased appropriations for legal services and legal aid so that people who need lawyers in this country can get it.”

More on this from AMERICAblog Gay.

The NRA’s homophobia

For an organization that claims to be single-issue focused (and claims to be a civil rights organization, believe it or not), there’s an awful lot of homophobia coming out of gun-central in the past few weeks.  We detail the bigotry over on AMERICAblog Gay.

Those pathetic professional sock-puppeteers

I guess in eight-plus years of blogging here at JWN, I’ve seen just about all the trends there have been in trolling, sock puppeteering, etc. (Who else here remembers the character who called himself all versions of “LeWi$”, “LEw1s”, “LewiS”, etc and kept trying to come back.)

More recently, over the past couple of months, we’ve had had an infestation of “commenters” coming here announcing not only an alleged name but also an alleged hometown. What was going on, I wondered?

Then I read this recent article in the Guardian, about a project the U.S. military has to try to “sway the discourse” in various online venues by flooding them with an army of sock puppeteers, each of whom would be ‘controlling’ numerous sock puppets.”

Under a project called “Operation Earnest Voice”, Centcom signed a contract with a California-based company called Ntrepid to provide software that would allow each of up to 50 operators to control ten fake online personas, each apparently based in a different place around the world… so it would seem that the Centcom-favored point of view has 500 supporters located all over the world! Wow!

Now, the Centcom contract was specifically only for commenters working in languages other than English. But if Ntrepid can provide that service for Centcom, why should it (or a similar company) not provide a similar English-language service for another client– say, some part of the IDF?Israeli government worldwide hasbara machine?

Why do I suspect this is what is happening with all these extremely goofy (one might even say “earnest”) commenters here at JWN who announce their names and hometowns? Because, according to the Guardian report,

      The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details…

And then, if you are sitting there at your desk, posting comments through your multiple sock puppets under some kind of Ntrepid-related contract– hey, maybe one operator on these other, non-Centcom contracts, could be controlling more than ten sock puppets!– then the challenge is, as the puppeteer, how on earth you keep track of each one (and his or her, “convincing background, history and supporting details… “)? Welcome to the strange and wonderful world of “Roy Frank Tremont. Pine Bluff, AR”, “Winston Overbrook, Seattle”, “Bernard Weintraub, Taos, NM”, etc.

These guys are all so clunky, you have to laugh. I suppose they are successful up to a point, in that they render the comments boards a bit more muddled, hostile, and bothersome than they would otherwise be. But really, their comedic value counters that effect significantly.

A word to all those sock puppeteers out there, however. Your activities may well constitute criminal impersonation, so you might want to check your liability to prosecution under U.S. law.

Conservative blog with ties to Comcast exec claims throng at White House, celebrating Osama’s death, was fake

Right.  Obama told a couple thousands college students that Osama was killed before he told the nation.  Uh huh.  And a Comcast exec is a funder of the blog.


New Issue; Bill Black on Le Show

from Dollars & Sense Blog by Chris Sturr
May/June 2011 coverMay/June 2011 cover

(1) May/June issue in the mail: E-subscribers have received their May/June issue, and print subscribers should be receiving it shortly.  I posted John Miller’s column, No Fooling–Corporations Evade Taxes, last week. Today I posted Randy Albelda’s comment, Teachers, Secretaries, and Social Workers: the New Welfare Moms?, and also Barry Deutsch’s latest ‘toon. Many thanks to Rock Netroots, a blog from Rock County, Wisconsin, for the beautiful solidarity cover image.

Please please subscribe if you don’t already (e-subscriptions available!) or donate.

(2) Bill Black on Harry Shearer’s Le Show: The thankfully omnipresent Bill Black was on Harry Shearer’s radio program, Le Show, which originates at KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif.  Harry Shearer starred in This is Spinal Tap, and is the voice actor behind many of the characters on the Simpsons, including Mr. Burns, Smithers, and Ned Flanders.  He turns out to be a great interviewer, too.  And Bill is, of course, a great interviewee.  Some of what he says in the interview repeats material from the feature article we ran in our Jan/Feb issue, Still Banking on Fraud, but he also gives a lot of detail about his role as a regulator during the S&L crisis, and the contrast between the prosecutions of fraudsters in that era and the utter failure to prosecute anyone today.  At one point Shearer is impersonating a young mortgage broker and you can almost hear one of the Simpsons voices (I think it’s about half-way through–he’s saying “It’s a no-brainer!”).  Anyhow, here’s the interview:

400 individuals earn 10% of all capital gains in the U.S.

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Wow. Paul Krugman (my emphasis):

One of the more interesting documents published by the IRS — I know, I know, not the hardest criterion in the world — is its report on the income and taxes of the top 400 taxpayers (pdf). A lot of attention gets focused, rightly, on the remarkably low average tax rate these people pay — less than 17 percent in 2007, the lowest on record.

But I was struck by something else: in several years during the last decade the top 400 accounted for more than 10 percent of all capital gains income in America. Just 400 people!

You don’t have to posit a Bilderberg Club, or whatever, to realize that these guys all know each other and hang out together. It’s a whole lot easier for a couple dozen billionaires to get coordinated than millions of Democrats. The billionaires can do it after golf.

By the way, I’m willing to bet the guys at the IRS who released that report will be getting a little phone call. Any takers?


John Ashcroft is Blackwater’s new ethics chief

Seriously.  From WIRED:

The consortium in charge of restructuring the world’s most infamous private security firm just added a new chief in charge of keeping the company on the straight and narrow. Yes, John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, is now an “independent director” of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater.

First order of business? Cover up all those nude statues


5 Myths About Environmental Regulation

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs
Conservatives and some pro-business groups (usually major multinationals who also happen to be big polluters) argue that some of the following things will happen if the government steps up its legally-mandated role to regulate environmental pollution, for instance carbon emissions that cause global warming. So here are some of those myths debunked:

Myth 1. Regulation will cause job losses and plant closings.

The historical record proves the opposite. In the decade that followed passage of the Clean Air Act, a tiny fraction of one percent of all jobs lost could be attributed to action taken under the law. In that same period an additional 10 million lay-offs took place in the U.S. – none of which resulted from environmental regulation. (Corruption, poor business decisions, and job-killing profit maximization decisions led to more job losses. For example in the 2007-2009 recession, the rise in unemployment has been correctly attributed to corrupt practices in the financial services sector that led to its collapse.)

Myth 2. Regulation will cost too much and will cause immense harm in the economy.

Truth be told, several studies from MIT, Harvard, DOE, and other private and public institutions predict low costs and ongoing economic growth. The sky will not fall. The record is clear: The Clean Air Act and actions regulating the emission of “acid rain”-causing pollutants in the 1990s did not bring about the end of the world, and the economic growth or recession in the past 20 years occurred unrelated to the existence of those laws and the actions taken under them to control pollution.

Myth 3. There are no economic benefits in government spending on environmental protection and clean-up.

The fact is that job creation as a result of spending in environmental clean-up has outpaced some basic industries such as construction and manufacturing.

Myth 4. Companies will leave the U.S. to find “pollution havens.”

Companies do move their operations out of the country, harming local communities that depend on the jobs. But the overwhelming majority of those companies do so not because of environmental regulations. They do so seeking lower labor costs. Again, they are making profit maximizing decisions that cost workers jobs in the U.S. It is really about environmental regulation. No evidence has been found to prove that the biggest polluters are anxious to leave the U.S because of environmental regulation.

Myth 5. Further pollution regulation will devastate communities in Appalachia that rely on coal mining.

Economists are predicting that employment in coal mining will fall significantly due to mechanization over the next decade or so with or without added regulation. More importantly, coal operators have blocked economic diversification in that region for decades in order to keep control over a low-wage labor surplus. Other than this, there is no legal or moral obstacle to economic diversity in that region that will create new job growth.

The above information comes from a report authored by a group of economists at the Economics for Equity and the Environment Network titled “Climate Policy and Jobs: An Update on What Economists Know” (June 2010).

Arctic ice melting at faster rate than projected

Now that Washington is full of climate change deniers, problems like this will go nowhere. If it was January, they’d be making jokes about the weather again in their home town. Classy people, those new Republicans. Clever too.Al Jazeera:

The study released on Tuesday by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) said there is a “need for greater urgency” in fighting global warming as record temperatures have led to the increased rate of melting.

The AMAP report said the correspondending rise in water levels will directly threaten low-lying coastal areas such as Florida and Bangladesh, but would also affect islands and cities from London to Shanghai. The report says it will also increase the cost of rebuilding tsunami barriers in Japan.

“The past six years (until 2010) have been the warmest period ever recorded in the Arctic,” said the report.

“In the future, global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9 metres to 1.6 metres by 2100 and the loss of ice from Arctic glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland ice sheet will make a substantial contribution,” it added.


Angry Japanese parents deliver Fukushima dirt to education officials

The risk for children sounds much higher than should be tolerated, so it’s easy to see why the parents in Japan are upset. It takes a lot to anger the Japanese, but education officials who are easing regulations somehow managed.The Guardian:

Ministers have defended the increase in the acceptable safety level from 1 to 20 millisieverts per year as a necessary measure to guarantee the education of hundreds of thousands of children in Fukushima prefecture, location of the nuclear plant that suffered a partial meltdown and several explosions after the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March.

It is estimated that 75% of Fukushima’s schools may have radiation levels above the old safety level of 1 millisievert. The local authorities in Koriyama have tried to ease the problem by digging up the top layer of soil in school and day centre playgrounds, but residents near the proposed dump site have objected.

The new standard of 20 millisieverts a year – equivalent to the annual maximum dose for German nuclear workers – will mean those schools remain open, but parents and nuclear opponents are angry that safety concerns are being ignored.

This entry was posted in Background & Analysis, Canada, Corporations, Corruption, Environement, Events, Human Rights, Japan, Military, Nuclear Power, Obama, US Electoral Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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