Sunday, July 31, 2011

I'll Be There Oct. 3 For The Amer. Dream Conf. - Brave Men Speak Truth: Congress Is Now On A Path To Do Exactly What The American People Don't Want

Breaking News!! Big-Time Scary Politicos “The biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few right-wing nutters in the American Congress.” That may seem harsh, but only to someone that’s not familiar with the specific Tea Party forces that are whipping conservative members into this rebellion. One group in particular, Let Freedom Ring, has mobilized Tea Party groups across the country and enjoys close connections to incredibly powerful Republican lawmakers. . . . Let Freedom Ring was founded in 2004 by Colin Hanna, a former state official in Pennsylvania who now enjoys very powerful political connections. He is a part of Grover Norquist’s weekly strategy meeting, and has served as emcee of the Conservative Political Action Conference, a yearly gathering of far-right wingers who like to joke about nuking Chicago or the foreign-born, communist occupant of the White House.

In recent months, Let Freedom Ring has made an aggressive pitch for the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act—this is the legislation House Republicans are currently holding out for, contra Boehner’s plan (or any other). The act would immediately cut spending to pre-2008 levels, eventually cap spending at 19.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product, and pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution. Such dramatic reductions would savage domestic spending programs; Robert Greenstein at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities said the legislation “stands out as one of the most ideologically extreme pieces of major budget legislation to come before Congress in years, if not decades.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called it “perhaps some of the worst legislation in the history of this country.”

The legislation originated in the Republican Study Committee, a group of 175 ultraconservative House members led by Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio. As soon as the RSC drafted the Cut, Cap, and Balance Act, they turned to outside groups and in particular Let Freedom Ring to help promote it. In a Family Research Council interview with Hanna and FRC president Tony Perkins, Jordan explained that “we just went to members of the RSC and said ‘What makes sense?’ And we came back with this cut spending, cap spending, and get a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. And then you all took off with it,” he said, turning to Hanna. “The outside conservative groups, Americans, have taken off with this.”

Jordan added that if the long-shot legislation doesn’t pass, and the federal government hits the debt ceiling, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. “I’d rather have the crisis now and say ‘let’s deal with it,’ ” Jordan said. “Versus making a few changes, raising the debt ceiling, and having the crisis in two or three years…. virtually every economist—there’s a consensus out there saying we will have a debt crisis in two to three years.”

Soon after the legislation was unveiled, Let Freedom Ring organized a coalition of over 100 conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, Freedom Works, Tea Party Express, and local Tea Party chapters from coast to coast.

Then Let Freedom Ring and its coalition led the charge. They created a website,, which has a pledge asking lawmakers to support the legislation—so far, every major GOP presidential candidate except Jon Huntsman has signed it, along with twelve senators and thirty-nine House members. Over 240,000 people have also pledged to push their elected representatives to support Cut, Cap, and Balance, which already has forty co-sponsors in the Senate and 115 in the House.

The group had a news conference on Capitol Hill in June, featuring Hanna, Jordan, Senators Lindsey Graham, Jim DeMint, Orrin Hatch, Mike Lee and Rand Paul along with Representatives Joe Walsh and Ron Paul, and others. “This is beyond partisanship; this is beyond ideology. This is truly about survival,” Hanna told the assembled reporters.

This week, when Boehner rolled out his latest debt ceiling proposal, the coalition led by Let Freedom Ring struck a major blow against it the same day. In a statement, the group blasted the proposal and said “falls short of meeting (the coalition’s) principles…. we urge those who have signed the Pledge to oppose it and hold out for a better plan.” Soon after, many conservative House members began publically denouncing Boehner’s bill.

This level of influence is impressive for a group that formed only seven years ago. In 2004, Hanna got $1 million from the reclusive conservative financier John Templeton to start Let Freedom Ring. Hanna had gained some national notoriety while commissioner of Chester County, PA, when he refused to remove a Ten Commandments plaque from the county courthouse, and Let Freedom Ring aimed to get evangelical voters to the polls that fall in support of George W. Bush.

At the time, the Wall Street Journal said the group was “attracting wealthy Christians who don’t want to be seen as political.” Hanna said the group would have “a positive political philosophy based upon respect for Constitutional principles, economic freedom and traditional values…. Let Freedom Ring will not engage in negative personal or partisan political attacks.”

That pledge didn’t last long. In 2005, the group aired controversial ads on national television advocating for a border fence with Mexico, where the narrator claims “illegal immigration from Mexico provides easy cover for terrorists” as slow-motion footage of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center plays on screen.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, positivity really went out the window. As the election approached, Hanna sent missives to his large membership base charging that Obama would “appease worldwide Jihadism” and “[transform] America into a country we might not recognize within just 4 to 6 years.”

Let Freedom Ring created smear ads against Obama which channeled virtually every right-wing theory about the Democratic candidate. One ad, “Puzzle,” showed images of Jeremiah Wright (a “radical and [a] racist”), William Ayres, Tony Rezko, Louis Farrakhan, Iran, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and ACORN—all in sixty-one seconds. The ads were praised by Fox News because they “did something that John McCain’s camp has still not done: create a negative ad that challenged Barack Obama’s credibility.”

Hanna was also busted by NBC News conducting a push poll in Pennsylvania only days before the election, in which voters were asked if “knowing that the former head of Fannie Mae made millions of dollars while working there and worked on the Obama campaign" would make them less likely to vote Democratic.

After Obama was elected, Hanna helped push the idea that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. In an MSNBC interview,Hanna said “Obama and those supporters around him have not answered perfectly simple and straightforward questions that would have put this to rest long ago. Where is the proper documentation?”

Let Freedom Ring was instrumental in putting together the Tea Party and 9/12 rallies in 2009, and last year the group released a photography book of signs from the protests called Grandma’s Not Shovel-Ready. In the foreword, Hanna wrote that “it is our hope that these signs will give you strength, encouragement and an occasional chuckle in these challenging times. This book proves that in America, the spirit of freedom still lives!”

The book featured signs labeling “Comrade Obama” as “World’s #1 Crypto-Marxist,” and an “undocumented worker.” The book also flirted with revolution and overthrowing the government. “Oust the Marxist Usurper! Honduras did it!” read one sign.

Another man was pictured grimly holding a sign that said “I will give my blood for my children’s freedom.” (“Blood” was dripping with red ink). Another woman was shown holding a sign that said “A revolution is brewing. We will not subsidize tyranny. Violate our liberty at your peril.” A man stood next to her, wearing a T-shirt with crossed AK-47s and holding a sign that said “find out what happens.”

This type of Tea Party vitriol and dirty politics is unfortunately standard fare, accepted long ago by mainstream journalists as part of the political game. But it’s long past time to question how an organization that puts out a book like Grandma’s Not Shovel-Ready can also be a major power player in a debate that has the country five days from financial catastrophe.

I'll Be There October 3 for The American Dream Conference
Robert Reich's picture

By Robert Reich

July 28, 2011

We are being lied to about the economy. That’s why I’ve been speaking out – working with MoveOn on videos like “The Economy Explained In 135 Seconds" and "Invest In America."

And that’s why I’ll be at the Take Back the American Dream conference on October 3 to talk with you about a movement to Rebuild the Dream.

I agree with Van Jones and the Campaign for America’s Future: We need our progressive version of the Tea Party – but focused on a positive agenda for good jobs, growing wages, and a strong middle class.

Conservative forces are making it impossible for Washington to do what is necessary to rebuild our economy after the Great Recession. We can only stop the conservative wrecking crew with powerful ideas backed by a powerful movement.

Supporters of Rebuild the Dream and have already submitted more than 25,000 ideas for rebuilding the American Dream. And recently, at 1,500 house meetings across America, the best of those ideas were honed down to the planks of a Contract for the American Dream, to be released at the Take Back the American Dream conference.

I'll be there to help lead the discussion with my own ideas about how to restore a vibrant American middle class. And I want to hear your ideas as well.

Campaign for America's Future has been hosting the biggest progressive conferences for years, sparking progressive energy, building grassroots movements and already bringing significant change to Washington.

This is the place where change has happened, and will happen again. That's why I'll be at the Take Back the American Dream conference. I hope to see you there too.

Please register and join me, Robert Reich, at the Take Back the American Dream conference, October 3 - 5.

And just in case you didn't know already, yes, Americans are ready to take this government from the hands of the irresponsible greedy lying thugs.
Why Americans Are So Angry Senator Bernie Sanders July 28, 2011 Wall Street Journal

The rich are getting richer. Their effective tax rate, in recent years, has been reduced to the lowest in modern history. Nurses, teachers and firemen actually pay a higher tax rate than some billionaires. It's no wonder the American people are angry.

Many corporations, including General Electric and Exxon-Mobil, have made billions in profits while using loopholes to avoid paying any federal income taxes. We lose $100 billion every year in federal revenue from companies and individuals who stash their wealth in tax havens off-shore like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. The sum of all the revenue collected by the Treasury today totals just 14.8% of our gross domestic product, the lowest in about 50 years.

In the midst of this, Republicans in Congress have been fanatically determined to protect the interests of the wealthy and large multinational corporations so that they do not contribute a single penny toward deficit reduction.

If the Republicans have their way, the entire burden of deficit reduction will be placed on the elderly, the sick, children and working families. In the midst of a horrendous recession that is already causing severe pain for average Americans, this approach is morally grotesque. It's also bad economic policy.

President Obama and the Democrats have been extremely weak in opposing these right-wing extremist proposals. Although the United States now has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major industrialized country, Democrats have not succeeded in getting any new revenue from those at the top of the economic ladder to reduce the deficit.

Why Americans Are so Angry

Instead, they've handed the wealthy even more tax breaks. In December, the House and the Senate extended President George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich and lowered estate tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. In April, to avoid the Republican effort to shut down the government, they allowed $38.5 billion in cuts to vitally important programs for working-class and middle-class Americans.

Now, with the U.S. facing the possibility of the first default in our nation's history, the American people find themselves forced to choose between two congressional deficit-reduction plans. The plan by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which calls for $2.4 trillion in cuts over a 10-year period, includes $900 billion in cuts in areas such as education, health care, nutrition, affordable housing, child care and many other programs desperately needed by working families and the most vulnerable.

The Senate plan appropriately calls for meaningful cuts in military spending and ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But it does not ask the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations to make any sacrifice.

The Reid plan is bad. The constantly shifting plan by House Speaker John Boehner is much worse. His $1.2 trillion plan calls for no cuts in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and it requires a congressional committee to come up with another $1.8 trillion in cuts within six months of passage.

Those cuts would mean drastic reductions in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. What's more, Mr. Boehner's plan would reopen the debate over the debt ceiling, which is now paralyzing Congress, just six months from now.

While all of this is going on in Washington, the American people have consistently stated, in poll after poll, that they want wealthy individuals and large corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. They also want bedrock social programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to be protected. For example, a July 14-17 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 72% of Americans believe that Americans earning more than $250,000 a year should pay more in taxes.

In other words, Congress is now on a path to do exactly what the American people don't want. Americans want shared sacrifice in deficit reduction. Congress is on track to give them the exact opposite: major cuts in the most important programs that the middle class needs and wants, and no sacrifice from the wealthy and the powerful.

Is it any wonder, therefore, that the American people are so angry with what's going on in Washington? I am too.

(Mr. Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, is a member of the Senate Budget Committee.)

And then there's this kicker:
"Once government was no longer a counterweight and a new political ideology cleared their path, financiers led the way... Debts more than innovation and technological progress became the economy’s driving force. Financial businesses doubled in size compared to the economy and profits grew still faster. Hundreds of billions of precious American savings were wasted." . . . "Fifty of the most prized donors in national politics, including several hedge-fund billionaires who are among the richest people in the world, schlepped to a Manhattan office or hovered around speakerphones Tuesday afternoon as their host, venture capitalist Ken Langone, a co-founder of The Home Depot, implored New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to reconsider and seek the GOP presidential nomination."
Yikes. That prospect alone is enough to make sensible men and women weep. But wait, there’s more. When the Super-Rich Cry "Class Warfare!" Michael Winship
When the super-rich cry

I ran into my friend Jeff Madrick a few weeks ago. Like a rabbit out of a hat, or so it seemed, he whipped from his coat a copy of his new book, "Age of Greed."

He gave the book to me and I’m grateful. It’s a compelling and worthy read. Jeff’s an able journalist; an excellent and cogent storyteller in a field that often defies the straightforward plot or easy explanation -- economics.

The book’s subtitle says it all: "The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present"; an ongoing saga of avarice told through profiles of the men who confidently strode forth and marched us smack into the middle of our current fiscal nightmare.

Milton Friedman, Richard Nixon, Ivan Boesky, Ronald Reagan, Michael Milken, Alan Greenspan, Ken Lay, Walter Wriston of Citicorp and Sandy Weill of Citigroup, Lehman Brothers’ Richard Fuld -- they’re all here and more, presidents and economists, CEOs and masters of the universe, a veritable Murderers' Row of the rich and frequently reckless.

As Jeff writes in the introduction, the first part of "Age of Greed" "is mostly a story of business pioneers who fought government regulation or, through innovation, escaped government oversight," building on fear from punishing inflation in the '70s and a new post-Watergate distrust of government, "all the while diminishing the power of government and reinforcing the changing national attitudes."

In the second part:

"Once government was no longer a counterweight and a new political ideology cleared their path, financiers led the way... Debts more than innovation and technological progress became the economy’s driving force. Financial businesses doubled in size compared to the economy and profits grew still faster. Hundreds of billions of precious American savings were wasted."

I thought of all this last week when I read a report headlined "Fly on the Wall," at Politico:

"Fifty of the most prized donors in national politics, including several hedge-fund billionaires who are among the richest people in the world, schlepped to a Manhattan office or hovered around speakerphones Tuesday afternoon as their host, venture capitalist Ken Langone, a co-founder of The Home Depot, implored New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to reconsider and seek the GOP presidential nomination."

Yikes. That prospect alone is enough to make sensible men and women weep. But wait, there’s more.

Among those in attendance were at least three worthy of inclusion on Forbes’ list of richest Americans -- Paul Tudor Jones (hedge funds; $3.3 billion), Stan Druckenmiller (hedge funds; $2.5 billion) and Bernie Marcus (Home Depot; $1.9 billion). According to Politico:

"Several of them said: I’m Republican but I voted for President Obama, because I couldn’t live with Sarah Palin. Many said they were severely disappointed in the president. The biggest complaint was what several called 'class warfare.' They said they didn’t understand what they had done to deserve that: If you want to have a conversation about taxation, have a conversation. But a president shouldn’t attack his constituents -- he’s not the president of some people, he's president of all the people. Someone mentioned Huey Long populism."

Huey Long populism? Give me a break. Barack Obama’s about as much like Huey Long as I am Huey Newton of the Black Panthers (or Huey Lewis and the News, come to that). And as for class warfare, give me a double break. Who the hell started it? "'There's class warfare, all right," Warren Buffett told the New York Times two years before the 2008 crash, "but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

I’ll say. Which makes the whining of the moneyed -- in addition to the winning -- all the more annoying. Especially after the Obama White House has bent over backward for them -- simply remember the concessions on healthcare and financial reform, for two -- and all too often has vassaled itself to the knights of the Fortune 500, kowtowing all the way to the bank where they keep the big campaign contributions.

But I suppose in comparison to the Republicans’ even lower groveling for the corporate table leavings, it’s conceivable the president and his associates might seem to some of those residing in the economic stratosphere like wild-eyed populists. For one, that National Labor Relations Board of his is being too, too terribly annoying.

The NLRB has gone after Boeing, alleging that the aerospace giant decided to move an aircraft plant to South Carolina in retaliation against strikes by workers at its Puget Sound factory outside Seattle. And now the Teamsters have filed a charge with the labor board that the car company BMW of North America has failed to bargain in good faith, replacing union members by outsourcing a parts distribution center in Ontario, Calif. (The usual full disclosure: I’m president of a union affiliated with the AFL-CIO.)

In 40 years of union representation, there has never been a labor stoppage at the center; in fact, its employers have received gold medals from BMW for efficiency. Average seniority is 20 years; five workers have been there 30 years or more.

As Michael Hiltzik wrote in the July 3 Los Angeles Times,

"These employees exemplified the best qualities of the American worker. They devoted their working lives to BMW, at a time when it was building and solidifying its U.S. beachhead. Their wages, with benefits, paid for a reasonable middle-class lifestyle if they managed it carefully. Throw in the job security they were encouraged to expect, and they had the confidence to make sacrifices and investments that contributed to the economy for the long term, like college education for the kids, an addition on the house, a new baby. Then one day they were handed a mass pink slip, effective in a matter of weeks."

You can argue that BMW, the world’s largest manufacturer of luxury cars, has the legal right to outsource. Yet by the same token, Hiltzik noted:

"American taxpayers had a perfect legal right to tell BMW to drop dead when the firm's credit arm asked the Federal Reserve for a low-interest $3.6-billion loan during the 2008 financial crisis. BMW got the money then because US policymakers saw a larger issue at stake: saving the economy from going over a cliff. Just as there's a larger issue involved at Ontario, which is saving the American middle class from going over the same cliff."

Last year, BMW posted profits of $4.7 billion and bumped up shareholder dividends by $950 million. This year, they’re predicting a 10 percent increase in revenues. Will they be sharing with their American workers? Don’t bet on it. Will they come running to the government for help next time they’re in trouble? Count on it.

And as if Congress hasn’t done corporate America enough favors, next week House Republicans will try to pass an anti-NLRB bill that will, in the words of California Democratic Rep. George Miller, "eviscerate the rights of workers, help ship more jobs overseas, undermine job creation in this country and kill opportunity for people who are working hard and playing by the rules."

AFL-CIO Government Affairs director Bill Samuel says HR 2587 takes away the NLRB’s authority

"to restore workers to their jobs when companies simply eliminate work in order to eliminate workers who are pro-union or when companies eliminate work in order to avoid their legal obligation to bargain.

"[The bill] will have dire unintended consequences as well. It will make it easier to ship jobs overseas because it legalizes the most despicable form of outsourcing -- the illegal kind -- by keeping the NLRB from being able to stop it. The bill will remove one of the only tools preventing work from leaving the US."

And still big business will whine and complain, as per Politico, not understanding what they have done to deserve approbation. Yet all the while, as Jeff Madrick writes in "Age of Greed," they take our economy "along an unfortunate, tragic path for their own purposes from which it may not be possible to turn back."

(Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, former senior writer at "Bill Moyers Journal" on PBS and current president of the Writers Guild of America, East. More: Michael Winship)

And speaking of what real Americans want:
Economic Rehab "And in this week's economic news: They tried to make us go to rehab, we said no, no, no ..." Last week the world noted the decline and death of Amy Winehouse with sadness but no surprise. What a tragedy, people said, that she kept following her self-destructive course even though everybody knew how it would end. Many of them said a silent prayer of thanks that they weren't trapped in the self-created hell that's born whenever someone knows they're on a destructive course but just can't stop.. And then some of them went back to pushing austerity economics on the people of the United States. Paul Krugman The Centrist Cop-Out The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats have gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands. As I said, it’s not complicated. Yet news reports portray the parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of “centrist” uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides. Making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse. Congress Should Wake Up. We Have a Jobs Crisis, Not a Debt Crisis. Get out the togas; Congress is fiddling while Rome burns. As the grim economic numbers show, this economy is barely moving, crippled by government cutbacks that once more cost jobs. 25 million people are in need of full time work, a number that is growing as the economy is failing to generate enough jobs even to employ those coming into the labor market for the first time. And while this is happening, conservatives in Washington are intent on exacting even more cruelty on the vulnerable. You have probably been hearing about "the debt crisis." I can't open a newspaper or turn on the radio or TV without hearing about "the debt crisis." Well stop calling it that, because that isn't what is going on. There is no debt crisis; the only crisis going on is the threat of several members of the House to vote against raising the debt ceiling if they don't get what their way, thereby sending our country into default. They are trying to get around the rules of democracy and force deep cuts in the things We, the People do for each other while keeping taxes really low for the wealthy. Polarized Politics: How Extremists Have Taken America Hostage In the most recent polls, an overwhelming 68% of the American public want a compromise on the debt ceiling. Break down those numbers by party, however, and a different picture emerges. 81% of Democrats want a compromise compared to only 53% of Republicans. Even more strikingly, 53% of the Tea Party oppose a settlement compared to 42% who favor it. The Tea Party, in opposition to the majority of the country, the majority of the Republican electorate and the weight of professional opinion, takes the my-way-or-the-high-way approach. What is going on? The short answer is that the Republican leadership, in general, and the Tea Party, in particular, is designed to be a party of extremists. That is, the modern Republican party is built on its appeal to those most likely to see the world in black and white. Giving power to the true believers of any stripe is dangerous, and the debt limit makes visible a decades long process that increases the risk that the country will become ungovernable. How to Rescue the American Dream from the GOP's Nightmare If we are to successfully overcome the Republican demonizing of government and shared responsibility, we must restore faith in the mutual enterprise itself. Rather than simply defend government or government programs, we must positively advance the moral values of American democracy and the Dream, not the Nightmare. That is why we support a renewed focus on public life, a public life that includes all Americans. We should focus on the public nature of our shared responsibilities. Public life means meeting our shared responsibilities, caring for one another, and building the mutual trust upon which democracy depends. The recommendations below are special cases of these moral principles. They also represent a special case of a general strategy – to restore public life to American democracy.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

GDP Flatlined!!! Seems Like I Just Read Somewhere That Some RightWing Thug Bragged About Bringing "Democracy" To Columbia (Coming To Your Town Soon?)

Maybe it was Karl Rove, that old kidder (or a Rover-wannabe) who, by the way, has also distinguished himself by lecturing his enabling audience about Obama's owning the poor economy now, and not fixing it yet (as, of course, he and Dumbya would have) in yesterday's Murdochian Wall Street Journal (which, of course, is type A-1 unbiased journalism at its best).

. . . latest chapter of Obama-era high drama comes amid high unemployment, anemic growth, exploding deficits and collapsing public confidence. Americans deeply want a change. They've given the President time for his experiment in spending the country's way to prosperity, and they have concluded that his course has failed . . . . But when the restaurant closes Sunday, 14 people will lose their jobs. . . . There are worse hardship cases in America, but this one is bad enough. It is in large part the result of the economy that Mr. Obama owns . . . . in the end, a large part of the contest will be about Mr. Obama's stewardship of the economy.
So there we have it from the horse's mouth. His favorite neighborhood joint closes due to the economy and it's all Obie's fault. And the sad part is he's pretty much right in that Obama has not used the tools of communication he publicized so well during the campaign to actually sell his administrative choices and their outcomes to the American people. If he had governed like he campaigned (and listened to the Wall Street banksters less), he'd have had a much more successful term and would be getting ready to ease into a second one where he perhaps could actually get on with the program of fixing the prior screwups (instead of needing to now fix the results of his prior bad "compromises"). Contra this, we have the master of campaigning on lies and governing by a death march to instruct us about how Obie could have been a success. You can't make this stuff up any better. Fiction writers don't stand a chance. And now, coming from Columbia and other worldly venues, to a town near you soon (and try to keep in mind what the 'thugs stateside are doing right now to unions and public employees' ability to organize):
US Sponsored "Democracy" in Colombia: Political Assassinations, Poverty and Neoliberalism By José David Torrenegra Global Research July 27, 2011 Not a week goes in Colombia without reports of assassinations and persecution of labor and political activists. Ana Fabricia Cordoba, gender activist and leader of displaced peasants, was shot dead on June 7th inside a street bus, after she foretold her own death due to constant threats and abuses against her family.(1) Manuel Antonio Garces, community leader, Afro-descendent activist and candidate for local office in southwestern Colombia received on July 18th a disturbing warning that read “we told you to drop the campaign, next time we’ll blow it in your house” next to an inactive hand grenade.(2) Keyla Berrios, leader of Displaced Women’s League was murdered last July 22nd, after continuous intimidation of her organization and threats on behalf of death squads linked to Colombian authorities (3), a fact so publicly known after hundreds of former congressman, police and military personnel are either jailed or investigated for colluding with Paramilitaries to steal elections, murder and disappear dissidents, forcefully displace peasants and defraud public treasury, in a criminal network that extends all the way up to former president Alvaro Uribe and his closest aides (4).

The official explanation for these crimes is also well known; Bacrim, an acronym which stands for “Criminal Gangs”, a term created from the Colombia establishment including its omnipresent corporate media apparatus to depoliticize the constant violence unleashed against union leaders, peasants and community activists.

Human Rights defenders point to the unequal and unjust structures of power and wealth which rely heavily on repression. However, no matter how much effort is put into misleading public opinion about the nature of this violence, the crimes are so systematic and their effects always turning out for the benefit of the elite that a simple class analysis debunks the façade of these “gangs” supposedly acting on their own, and exposes the insiduous relationship between the armed thugs and seats of political power in Colombia. What we are dealing with is the expression of present-day fascism in Latin America.

In a country overwhelmed with unemployment and poverty - nearly 70% - and 8 million people living on less than U$2 a day who daily look for their subsistence in garbage among stray dogs or selling candies at street lights and city buses, is also shockingly common and surreal to see fancy cars - Hummers, Porsches - million dollar apartments, country clubs and a whole bubble of opulence just in front of over-exploited workers, ordinary people struggling merely to make ends meet, or at worst, children, single mothers, elderly, and people with disabilities, without social security and salaries, much less higher education and decent housing.

For instance, in Cartagena, a Colombian Caribbean colonial city plagued with extreme poverty, beggars, child prostitution and U$400 a night resorts, you can pretend to feel in Miami Beach or a Mediterranean paradise, and in less than five minutes away you can also visit slums which would make devastated Haiti look like suburbia. The same shocking contrast can be experienced in all major cities in Colombia. Thus, in order to keep vast privileges of a few amidst inhuman conditions of the majority, the elite needs to have an iron grip on political power. And once its power is contested or mildly threatened by the collective action of social movements, democratic parties and conscious individuals, a selective burst of state violence is unleashed effectively dismantling any kind of peaceful organizing by fear and demoralization.

The high levels of attrition suffered by activists raising moderate democratic banners such as the right to assembly, collective bargaining, freedom of expression and reparation from political violence, are the result of decentralized state repression carried out by death squads led by high state officers (5) who supply them with intelligence and economic resources extracted from defrauding public treasury and money laundry in the narcotics chain, where social investigators claim that most of the profit accounts for institutional economy, the banks and the state (6). This elaborated repressive strategy differs from the one perpetrated by the military juntas the ruled Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, among others, where public forces exercised directly the political violence against dissidents without pretentious democratic credentials, such as the ones constantly regurgitated by the Colombian establishment, making it more difficult to expose its deep dictatorial mechanisms that have disappeared more than 30000 Colombians (7) in the last years of US backed “counterinsurgency” policies, far surpassing Pinochet’s reign of terror.

In Colombia, where the dominant social elite prevails, thousands of bodies of the "disappeared" have been buried into mass graves, the assassination of trade union leaders is the highest in the world (on a per capita basis rate). Meanwhile, several million peasants have (been) displaced and impoverished. In a context of brutal social repression backed by neoliberal policies, an atmosphere of generalized fear prevails.

This state of affairs raises a basic question, as James Petras puts it: “How does one pursu(e) equitable social policies and the defense of human rights under a terrorist state aligned with death squads and financed and advised by a foreign power, which has a public policy of physically eliminating their adversaries?”(8). Some in Colombia already found and an answer in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that constitutes the basis for all modern states:

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law (9).

In the light of the exposure of the Colombian hybrid state which pits formal democracy and excessive privileges for a few against brutal repression and poverty for the majority, one must comprehend the existence of an armed conflict. This class confrontation has resulted in a “polarization of civil war proportions between the oligarchy and the military, on one side, and the guerrilla and the peasantry, on the other”, (10) and is mostly funded by the US government using taxpayers' money to back a rogue state and a comprador elite that prefers to wage dirty war against its own population rather than yield some political power and moderate social reforms. Modernity hasn’t arrived in Colombia, where few can enjoy excesses and vices of promised ‘civilization’ in fancy restaurants and country clubs, and most still live in 1789.

In times when President Obama justifies his “humanitarian intervention” and escalation of the Libyan civil war by having public opinion to believe NATO and US bombs are there to protect civilians, and when the International Criminal Court applies selective justice as it rushes to levy charges against Gaddafi for alleged crimes that pale in comparison to the ones daily committed by the Colombian regime, the international community is turning a blind eye to crimes against humanity in the shameful custom of double standards and insulting those truly resisting with their teeth, the savagery and abuse of power.

(Jose David Torrenegra is a lawyer specialized in Public Law and Political Activism in Colombia.)


1. Euclides Montes. “Ana Fabricia Córdoba: A Death Foretold”. The Guardian. June 13, 2011. .

2. Red de Derechos Humanos del Suroccidente Colombiano ‘Francisco Isaias Fuentes’. “Atentado y amenaza en contra del líder comunitario Manuel Antonio Garcés Granja y detención arbitraria de dos testigos del atentado” July 18, 2011.

3. Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia. “Alerta: asesinato de miembro de liga de mujeres desplazadas” Julio 22 de 2011.

4. Simon Romero. “Death-Squad Scandal Circles Closer to Colombia’s President”. New York Times. May 16 2007.

5. Garry Leech. “Exorcising the Ghost of Paramilitary Violence: Reclaiming Liberty in Libertad. .

6. Brittain, James (2010). Revolutionary Social Change in Colombia. New York: Pluto Press. 129.

7. Kelly Nicholls. “Breaking the Silence: In Search of Colombia’s Dissapeared”. The Guardian. December 9, 2010.

8. James Brittain, op cit. Foreword. By James Petras.

9. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United Nations. 1948. /.

10.James Brittain, op cit. 144.

I'm so proud of being an American. Aren't you? USA! USA! USA!!!! John Boehner's hardline debt ceiling plan makes it through. But it has no chance in the Senate. So now what?"

Here's how monumentally screwed up our national priorities are. Just two hours after the government's Bureau of Economic Analysis released disastrous new figures indicating that GDP growth has essentially flat-lined, the president of the United States gave a brief address to the nation calling for both political parties to come to bipartisan compromise on "how to cut spending responsibly."

Obama was responding to Thursday night's monumental failure by House Republicans to pass their own debt ceiling bill, after a revolt by conservatives who deemed the measure unsatisfactory because it doesn't cut spending enough. With the default deadline only four days away, and at the end of a week when stock market indexes have already fallen by about 4 percent, when short-term credit markets are showing signs of stress and investors are pulling billions of dollars out of money market funds, the display of Republican incompetence was the last thing a nervous economy needs. A little reassurance that the White House was on top of the situation would have been sorely appreciated.

Why is a questionable study from a controversial researcher overshadowing actual science? ______________________

Friday, July 29, 2011

People Are Getting Angry and Joe Bageant Knew Why: Raging Inequality May Cause Unrest and Violence In America and the Rest of Western World "Jihad?"

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Chris Matthews sobers up long enough to interview current historian, Bruce Bartlett, who was a former domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan, and who tells Chris (and the awe-struck Matthews audience) that:
it was a myth that tax cuts are the key to prosperity, noting that Reagan raised the capital gains rate. He was also skeptical that Congress would be able to solve the current budget crisis.

“I think at this point, there’s nothing that can pass the House of Representatives,” he said.

“I think a good chunk of the Republican caucus is either stupid, crazy, ignorant or craven cowards, who are desperately afraid of the tea party people, and rightly so.”

And so we continue on our merry path to economic destruction at the hands of maddened kindergarteners brought to us by our system of no-checks-on-political-spending which is now magically deemed free speech sacred to corporations that are human or at least have human attributes politically. I was thinking the other day about a friend and mentor of mine who is being honored now, and what he would think about being held captive by those who most probably would qualify for large-scale mental wards in locked institutions. Joe Bageant is no longer with us physically, but he will never be far away metaphysically as he has predicted throughout his incredibly prescient journalistic career everything that we as a civilization are beset with today. I'm deep in the mysteries of his last published book, Rainbow Pie, and cannot get over how intelligent a take this very lower-class southern man brought to the teaching of all of US that enhances our understanding of our country's political history and ultimately our personal lives (and choices). From one of his fans, the late Bill Hicks:

If there is any book published in the past year that should be read far and wide in Joe's native land it is this one. For the title of subtitle of the book could just as easily be changed from "A Redneck Memoir" to "A Postwar American Memoir," so deep does it drill into the core of why America as a nation has gone so far off the rails. The "rainbow pie" of the title was a term poor working class whites in America, as Bageant was growing up, used to describe finally "making it" and achieving the American Dream. Sadly, for most like him that dream has proven just as elusive as a rainbow. The book is a memoir of Bageant's life, but only partially. He describes his childhood experiences and those of his ancestors before him to illustrate what has happened socially in America during his lifetime. The book tracks the great postwar migration of tens of millions of white subsistence farmers and their families as they were pushed off off their land in a coordinated effort by big business, academic and government elites in order to consolidate agriculture and supply a huge pool of cheap manufacturing and service labor. Bageant dramatically illustrates how people who had been accustomed for generations to providing for themselves with little money were turned into wage and debt slaves by the capitalist classes. He then shows how late in this process the politics of these very same people has come to be exploited by the very people who destroyed their livelihoods in the first place. Bageant's keen observations run the gamut from the corrosive effects of a society, especially in the South, that has effectively not educated tens of millions of citizens for generations; to how poor and working class people are taught to feel shame about their very existence and to know their proper place; to how the media subtly manipulates them into being willing tools of the empire. The book is full of witty and irreverent observations. One of my favorites, concerning affirmative action (which Bageant does NOT oppose) was that Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas are living proof that some people should NOT be educated, no matter what color they are. Grin All in all, an outstanding that I would very much recommend for Bageant fans. For anyone just getting to know Joe, I would recommend they begin with his first book, Deer Hunting With Jesus, so they will have a full understanding of where he is coming from. One word of caution, though. Don't read this book looking for "solutions." In DHWJ, Bageant implored liberals to find common cause with working class whites to try and turn things around. It is pretty clear that with this work he is now acknowledging that that will never happen. As he states towards the very end about the book:

I am quite sure that it is quite illustrative of millions of once-rural Americans and their offspring who pored their sweat onto this country's soil and their blood into its wars. It is the story of the many who know they are screwed but don't know how thoroughly, and for damned sure don't understand why or by whom; the many who, no matter how much blood they gave for their country, never 'made good' in their own country, but will never get their country out of their blood.

Gee whiz. If you thought Murdoch's rape and pillage of the media world wasn't enough, guess who's organizing the jihads?

My guess is it's not many folk in the Middle East.

From our ever-vigilant source, the 13th Monkey, we learn:

Open Source "Jihad"? When you first look at this picture and article you think, well this must be a joke . . . . When you read the text of the article you affirm yes, it's certainly some kind of juvenille prank..the "ad agency graphic design is certainly a template"..and looks like a design, not to attract potential jihadists, but as a promotional picture of the opera a power point presentation . . . BUT NO!! It's supposedly a "real" webzine called INSPIRE!! aimed at "jihadists" who just happen to have a great grasp of English and marketing . . . reading the article FROM HERE in it's entirety is amusing . . . HOW do they expect us to take this seriously? is more the point. Are we supposed to be fearful at this? Or is it a sublime warning from the same "open sources" that brought us 911, 7-7 and numerous other atrocities blamed on a handy DIY scapegoat? But even more interesting is the fact that the WEBZINE is published by a US CITIZEN. "Inspire is published by US citizen Samir Khan. Ms Farrall said it was still unclear what role, if any, Mr Khan had in the operational side of AQAP. ''That's the million-dollar question . . . how much [of Inspire] is being approved, and I suspect not much.'' Mr Khan and his associates behind Inspire, which first appeared in May last year, are advocates of do-it-yourself jihad, and radicalising young Muslims in the Anglophone world."
And then there's always that final solution that all possessors of authoritarian forces look forward to to clean house.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 Raging Inequality May Cause Unrest and Violence In America and the Rest of Western World Preface: While conservatives are against redistribution of wealth and liberals want to tax the affluent, conservatives and liberals, the affluent and the less well-heeled should all agree that we have to stop the surge in inequality from rising further:
  • As Robert Shiller said in 2009:
    And it's not like we want to level income. I'm not saying spread the wealth around, which got Obama in trouble. But I think, I would hope that this would be a time for a national consideration about policies that would focus on restraining any possible further increases in inequality.
  • The father of modern economics - Adam Smith - didn't believe that inequality should be a taboo subject
  • Warren Buffet, one of America's most successful capitalists and defenders of capitalism, points out, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war ...."
  • Conservatives - as well as liberals - are against rampant inequality. But all Americans underestimate the amount of inequality in our country

And while I am not calling for violence, I wonder if this is like South Africa at the end of the Apartheid era, where those in power had to hand over the reins to the majority to prevent violence.

Raging inequality was largely responsible for the Great Depression and for the current financial crisis.

I noted in January:

Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni protesters all say that inequality is one of the main reasons they're protesting.

However, the U.S. actually has much greater inequality than in any of those countries.

Is there any way that the growing inequality could cause unrest in America or the rest of the Western world?

Initially, the Greek and Spanish riots have grown out of bailouts and other windfalls for the big banks and hedge funds (see this, this and this), and austerity for the working stiff. So in a sense, they are about inequality.

Moreover, I pointed out in February:

Agence France-Press reports today:
The International Monetary Fund stands ready to help riot-torn Egypt rebuild its economy, the IMF chief said Tuesday as he warned governments to tackle unemployment and income inequality or risk war.

Forbes reported in February:

Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff, co-author of a best-selling book on financial crises, This Time It’s Different, told Forbes today in an exclusive interview, that the high unemployment rate and high levels of debt in the U.S. will sooner or later trigger serious “social unrest from the income disparities in the U.S.”

The Obama administration has “no clue,” he told me what do about this terrible disparity in the economy that is bound to erupt sooner or later, he feels.

“I don’t understand why people don’t wake up to the crisis they are creating,” he said to me just minutes after appearing at a Council on Foreign Relations round-table on “Currency Wars.”

And I wrote in June:

CNN's Jack Cafferty notes that a number of voices are saying that - if our economy continues to deteriorate (which it very well might) - we are likely headed for violence, and civil unrest is a growing certainty.

Watch the must-see CNN viewer comments on this issue: (click here for video)

Newsweek wrote two weeks ago:

Reality is beginning to break through. Gas and grocery prices are on the rise, home values are down, and vast majorities think the country is on the wrong track. The result is sadness and frustration, but also an inchoate rage more profound than the sign-waving political fury documented during the elections last fall.


In search of the earthly toll of this outrage, NEWSWEEK conducted a poll of 600 people, finding vastly more unquiet minds than not. Three out of four people believe the economy is stagnant or getting worse. One in three is uneasy about getting married, starting a family, or being able to buy a home. Most say their relationships have been damaged by economic woes or, perhaps more accurately, the dread and nervousness that accompany them.

Could these emotions escalate into revolt?

Why Are People So Angry?

Well, as the Newsweek article points out:
Corporate earnings have soared to an all-time high. Wall Street is gaudy and confident again. But the heyday hasn’t come for millions of Americans. Unemployment hovers near 9 percent, and the only jobs that truly abound, according to Labor Department data, come with name tags, hairnets, and funny hats (rather than high wages, great benefits, and long-term security). The American Dream is about having the means to build a better life for the next generation. But as President Obama acknowledged at a town-hall meeting in May, “a lot of folks aren’t feeling that [possibility] anymore.”
By way of background, America - like most nations around the world - decided to bail out their big banks instead of taking the necessary steps to stabilize their economies (see this, this and this). As such, they all transferred massive debts (from fraudulent and stupid gambling activities) from the balance sheets of the banks to the balance sheets of the country. The nations have then run their printing presses nonstop in an effort to inflate their way out of their debt crises, even though that effort is doomed to failure from the get-go. Quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve is obviously causing food prices to skyrocket worldwide (and see this, this and this). But the fact is that every country in the world that can print money - i.e. which is not locked into a multi-country currency agreement like the Euro - has been printing massive quantities of money. See these charts. Moreover, the austerity measures which governments worldwide are imposing to try to plug their gaping deficits (created by throwing trillions at their banks) are causing people world-wide to push back. As I warned in February 2009 and again in December of that year:

Numerous high-level officials and experts warn that the economic crisis could lead to unrest world-wide - even in developed countries:

  • Today, Moody's warned that future tax rises and spending cuts could trigger social unrest in a range of countries from the developing to the developed world, that in the coming years, evidence of social unrest and public tension may become just as important signs of whether a country will be able to adapt as traditional economic metrics, that a fiscal crisis remains a possibility for a leading economy, and that 2010 would be a “tumultuous year for sovereign debt issuers”.
  • The U.S. Army War College warned in 2008 November warned in a monograph [click on Policypointers’ pdf link to see the report] titled “Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development” of crash-induced unrest:
    The military must be prepared, the document warned, for a “violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States,” which could be provoked by “unforeseen economic collapse,” “purposeful domestic resistance,” “pervasive public health emergencies” or “loss of functioning political and legal order.” The “widespread civil violence,” the document said, “would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security.” “An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home,” it went on. “Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD [the Department of Defense] would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance,” the document read.
  • Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair said:
  • "The global economic crisis ... already looms as the most serious one in decades, if not in centuries ... Economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they are prolonged for a one- or two-year period," said Blair. "And instability can loosen the fragile hold that many developing countries have on law and order, which can spill out in dangerous ways into the international community."
  • "Statistical modeling shows that economic crises increase the risk of regime-threatening instability if they persist over a one-to-two-year period."
  • “The crisis has been ongoing for over a year, and economists are divided over whether and when we could hit bottom. Some even fear that the recession could further deepen and reach the level of the Great Depression. Of course, all of us recall the dramatic political consequences wrought by the economic turmoil of the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, the instability, and high levels of violent extremism.” Blair made it clear that - while unrest was currently only happening in Europe - he was worried this could happen within the United States. [See also this].
  • Former national security director Zbigniew Brzezinski warned "there’s going to be growing conflict between the classes and if people are unemployed and really hurting, hell, there could be even riots."
  • The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned the the financial crisis is the highest national security concern for the U.S., and warned that the fallout from the crisis could lead to of "greater instability".
Others warning of crash-induced unrest include:
Unemployment is soaring globally - especially among youth. And the sense of outrage at the injustice of the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer is also a growing global trend. Countries worldwide told their people that bail(ing) out the giant banks was necessary to save the economy. But they haven't delivered, and the "Main Streets" of the world have suffered. As former American senator (and consummate insider) Chris Dodd said in 2008:
If it turns out that [the banks] are hoarding, you’ll have a revolution on your hands. People will be so livid and furious that their tax money is going to line their pockets instead of doing the right thing. There will be hell to pay.
Of course, the big banks are hoarding, and refusing to lend to Main Street. In fact, they admitted back in 2008 that they would. And the same is playing out globally. As I noted in February: No wonder former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski ... warned the Council on Foreign Relations that:

For the first time in human history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. There are only a few pockets of humanity left in the remotest corners of the world that are not politically alert and engaged with the political turmoil and stirrings that are so widespread today around the world.


America needs to face squarely a centrally important new global reality: that the world's population is experiencing a political awakening unprecedented in scope and intensity, with the result that the politics of populism are transforming the politics of power. The need to respond to that massive phenomenon poses to the uniquely sovereign America an historic dilemma: What should be the central definition of America's global role?

[T]he central challenge of our time is posed not by global terrorism, but rather by the intensifying turbulence caused by the phenomenon of global political awakening. That awakening is socially massive and politically radicalizing.
It is no overstatement to assert that now in the 21st century the population of much of the developing world is politically stirring and in many places seething with unrest. It is a population acutely conscious of social injustice to an unprecedented degree, and often resentful of its perceived lack of political dignity. The nearly universal access to radio, television and increasingly the Internet is creating a community of shared perceptions and envy that can be galvanized and channeled by demagogic political or religious passions. These energies transcend sovereign borders and pose a challenge both to existing states as well as to the existing global hierarchy, on top of which America still perches. *** That turmoil is the product of the political awakening, the fact that today vast masses of the world are not politically neutered, as they have been throughout history. They have political consciousness. *** Politically awakened mankind craves political dignity, which democracy can enhance, but political dignity also encompasses ethnic or national self-determination, religious self-definition, and human and social rights, all in a world now acutely aware of economic, racial and ethnic inequities. The quest for political dignity, especially through national self-determination and social transformation, is part of the pulse of self-assertion by the world's underprivileged *** We live in an age in which mankind writ large is becoming politically conscious and politically activated to an unprecedented degree, and it is this condition which is producing a great deal of international turmoil. Watch an excerpt:
And in other current news we learn:
Biographer predicts News Corp. will oust Murdochs within 60 days

Global markets sinking in response to failure of GOP debt vote

Bill would force ISPs to track all Internet activity

Amid debt crisis, Senate looks to extend telco spying immunity