Monday, February 28, 2011

Pete Seeger Joins BDS

From Haaretz:
American folk music legend Pete Seeger yesterday officially joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign - an international movement to pressure and sanction Israel through economic means.

Seeger, 92, one of the fathers of American folk music, is a veteran political and peace activist. In the 1950s he was interrogated by the McCarthyist House Unamerican Activities Committee and two years ago performed for U.S. President Barack Obama's inauguration concert.

Seeger has been labelled many things over the years, but after doing a google search, it doesn't appear anyone has yet called him an anti-Semite. That will soon change.

Those defending the increasingly racist and eliminationist Israeli government, in the face of a tidal wave of revolutions by young people who are aware that the U.S. and Israel have helped suppress their countries' search for true democracy, as it comes crashing down, will attack Seeger tomorrow. And the next day. But his joining the ranks of people opposed to Israeli apartheid will probably shake the performing arts community more than the defections of such luminaries as his friends Theodore Bikel or Gil Scott-Heron.

Monday, Adam Horowitz covered Seeger's change of opinion on this matter:

During a January meeting at his Beacon, NY home with representatives from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Adalah-NY, Pete Seeger explained, “I appeared on that virtual rally because for many years I’ve felt that people should talk with people they disagree with. But it ended up looking like I supported the Jewish National Fund. I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn't realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava. Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can.”

Jeff Halper, the Coordinator of ICAHD, added, “Pete did extensive research on this. He read historical and current material and spoke to neighbors, friends, and three rabbis before making his decision to support the boycott movement against Israel.” Seeger has for some time given some of the royalties from his famous Bible-based song from the 1960s, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” to ICAHD for their work in rebuilding demolished homes and exposing Israel’s practice of pushing Palestinians in Israel off their land in favor of development of Jewish villages and cities.

The November virtual rally “With Earth and Each Other” was billed as an apolitical effort to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to work for the environment. Dave Lippman from Adalah-NY noted, “Arava’s online event obfuscated basic facts about Israel’s occupation and systematic seizure of land and water from Palestinians. Arava’s partner and funder, the JNF, is notorious for planting forests to hide Palestinian villages demolished by Israel in order to seize their land. Arava was revealed as a sterling practitioner of Israeli government efforts to 'Rebrand Israel' through greenwashing and the arts.”

Regarding Seeger's friend Bikel, Horowitz adds:

Pete Seeger’s long-time colleague Theodore Bikel, an Israeli-American known for his life-long involvement with Israeli culture, recently supported the Israeli artists who have refused to perform in a new concert hall in Ariel, a large illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

The times, they are a-changin'. Solidarity may be growing as more young people hope for the planet to be this land - yours and mine, in peace.

Is that such a strange dream?

Steve Aufrecht's Interviews with Rep. Sharon Cissna

When Alaska State Representative Sharon Cissna arrived in Juneau last Monday aboard the Alaska state ferry MV Matanuska, she was greeted by her close friend, Rep. Beth Kerttula, various well-wishers, and a lot of cameras. Alaska blogger Jeanne Devon from The Mudflats was there, along with Steve Aufrecht from What Do I Know?

Steve had already covered Cissna's real odyssey, as she proceeded from Seattle to Juneau by car, small commuter plane (from Vancouver to Prince Rupert, British Columbia) and by ferry, after refusing an intrusive body search at the hands of the TSA at Sea-Tac Airport. I wrote about Cissna's adventure too, for MyFdl.

Here's Steve's video of Rep. Cissna arriving at the Auke Bay terminal, just north of Juneau:

When she got back to her office, Steve interviewed Rep. Cissna more, and she shared some of the many e-mails she had received from around the country. Quite a few recounted stories by people who had been abused by the TSA. Steve transcribed a large number of them at his post.

Steve asked Rep. Cissna whether or not she thought the TSA realized she was an elected official:

In the interview as Cissna exited the ferry, when asked what we can do about TSA abuses, said this:
Well, first of all, we'll be working - as soon as we finish this week up - I want to work on immediately a resolution that essentially lays out what we need to do. And the people I talked to are waiting to hear what steps they may take to be a part of something that really will change policy that's hurting people.
If you want to help this courageous, stubborn legislator, write, e-mail or call to her office and let her know that you're on board for the ride:

PHONE: 907-465-3875 (800) 922-3875 Toll Free

FAX: 907-465-4588

State Capitol, Room 420
Juneau, AK 99801-1182

Chukchi Sea at Toddler Speed

Erin and Hig have posted a look back on their 2010 treks at the Ground Truth Trekking Blog.

Mad as Hell in Madison

--- by Ralph Nader

The large demonstrations at the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin are driven by a middle class awakening to the spectre of its destruction by the corporate reactionaries and their toady Governor Scott Walker.

For years the middle class has watched the plutocrats stomp on the poor while listening to the two parties regale the great middle class, but never mentioning the tens of millions of poor Americans. And for years, the middle class was shrinking due significantly to corporate globalization shipping good-paying jobs overseas to repressive dictatorships like China. It took Governor Walker's legislative proposal to do away with most collective bargaining rights for most public employee unions to jolt people to hit the streets.

Republicans take rigged elections awash in corporatist campaign cash seriously. When they win, they aggressively move their corporate agenda, unlike the wishy-washy Democrats who flutter weakly after a victory. Republicans mean business. A ram rod wins against a straw all the time.

Governor Walker won his election, along with other Republicans in Wisconsin, on mass-media driven Tea Party rhetoric. His platform was deceitful enough to get the endorsement of the police, and firefighters unions, which the latter have now indignantly withdrawn.

These unions should have known better. The Walker Republicans were following the Reagan playbook. The air traffic controllers union endorsed Reagan in 1980. The next year he fired 12,000 of them during a labor dispute. (This made flying unnecessarily dangerous.)

Then Reagan pushed for tax cuts—primarily for the wealthy—which led to larger deficits to turn the screws on programs benefitting the people. Reagan, though years earlier opposed to corporate welfare, not only maintained these taxpayer subsidies but created a government deficit, over eight years, that was double that of all the accumulated deficits from George Washington to Jimmy Carter.

Maybe the unions that endorsed Walker will soon realize that not even being a "Reagan Democrat" will save them from being losers under the boot of the corporate supremacists.

The rumble of the people in Madison illustrates the following:

1. There is an ideological plan driving these corporatists. They create "useful crisis" and then hammer the unorganized people to benefit the wealthy classes. Governor Walker last year gave $140 million in tax breaks to corporations. This fiscal year's deficit is $137 million. Note this oft-repeated dynamic. President Obama caved to the Minority party Republicans in Congress last December by going along with the deficit-deepening extension of the huge dollar volume tax cuts for the rich. Now the Republicans want drastic cuts in programs that help the poor.

2. Whatever non-union or private union workers, who are giving ground or losing jobs, think of the sometimes better pay and benefits of unionized public employees, they need to close ranks without giving up their opposition to government waste. For corporate lobbyists and their corporate governments are going after all collective bargaining rights for all workers and they want to further weaken The National Labor Relations Board.

3. Whenever corporations and government want to cut workers' incomes, the corporate tax abatements, bloated contracts, handouts and bailouts should be pulled into the public debate. What should go first?

4. For the public university students in these rallies, they might ponder their own tuition bills and high interest loans, compared to students in Western Europe, and question why they have to bear the burden of massive corporate welfare payouts—foodstamps for the rich. What should go first?

5. The bigger picture should be part of the more localized dispute. Governor Walker also wants weaker safety and environmental regulations, bargain-basement sell-outs of state public power plants and other taxpayer assets.

6. The mega-billionaire Koch brothers are in the news. They are bankrolling politicians and rump advocacy groups and funding media campaigns in Wisconsin and all over the country. Koch Industries designs and builds facilities for the natural gas industry. Neither the company nor the brothers like the publicity they deserve to get every time their role is exposed. Always put the spotlight on the backroom boys.

7. Focusing on the larger struggle between the people and the plutocracy should be part and parcel of every march, demonstration or any other kind of mass mobilization. The signs at the Madison rallies make the point, to wit—"2/3 of Wisconsin Corporations Pay No Taxes," "Why Should Public Workers Pay For Wall Street's Mess?", "Corporate Greed Did the Deed."

8. Look how little energy it took for these tens of thousands of people to sound the national alarm for hard-pressed Americans. Just showing up is democracy's barn raiser. This should persuade people that a big start for a better America can begin with a little effort and a well-attended rally. Imagine what even more civic energy could produce!

Showing up lets people feel their potential power to subordinate corporatism to the sovereignty of the people. After all, the Constitution's preamble begins with "We the People," not "We the Corporations." In fact, the founders never put the word "corporation" or "company" in our constitution which was designed for real people.

As for Governor Walker's projected two-year $3.6 billion deficit, read what Jon Peacock of the respected nonprofit Wisconsin Budget Project writes at:

about how to handle the state budget without adopting the draconian measures now before the legislature.

100,000 Strong - Saturday's Madison WI Rally in the Snow

Sunday, February 27, 2011

If You See This Person Armed - Call 911 Immediately. Then Go to Cover

Her name is Clare Goodchild. She threatened to kill Andree McLeod, whose articles have been carried at Progressive Alaska and elsewhere.

Anchorage Court Master Colleen Gray has issued a restraining order against Goodchild for the latter's email, posted more than one place, that stated:

"I find it very offensive that Andre Mclead (sic) is asking the state for every e-mail written or received in ANY account maintained by Palin and her husband," Goodchild said in the e-mail to the Daily News, signing it only as "Clare."

"Where does this b*tch get off thinking the public should shell out for her revenge for the Palin family. I've heard enough from this, and I would like to use stronger words to express my feeling for Andre (sic). Well... I think Andre (sic) has used up to (sic) much oxygen. So I have my scope cross hair on her head! She better watch out, the request may have been her last!"

Although Goodchild claims to own four firearms, she has been allowed to keep them. The restraining order stipulates:

Ray ordered her to stay more than 500 feet from McLeod's home and directed her to not confront, stalk or contact McLeod.

No request for a psychological evaluation. No orders - apparently - for her to seek any kind of help whatsoever. Although I feel sorry for Goodchild, anyone who takes her in-court apology at face value is risking the life and wellbeing of McLeod, who has performed for the citizens of our state some very important public service.

Firedoglake Covering Wisconsin Capitol Building Confrontation Live

The blog firedoglake, where I sometimes write, is covering the upcoming attempt to remove demonstrators from inside the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison. The police have stated that they will begin their action at 3:00 p.m. Alaska time.

Here's a link
to their coverage.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

21st Century Version of "How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?"

At FOX we know how many pinheads can dance on the tip of a machine dedicated to destroying what truth actually means - As many as they have the capacity to pay to say whatever they are told to say.

Best AJE Report Anywhere Yet on How the Libya Revolt is Going

Wisconsin Police Refuse to Close Capitol - Join Protesters!

Undoubtedly, Gov. Muammar Scott Walker is unhappy with this turn of events.

Here's Jeff Skiles, co-pilot of the plane that miraculously ditched in the Hudson River two years ago, addressing the other union workers in the snow in Madison:

Huckabee Confuses Himself With Jesus

Obama's War Against Whistleblowers - Catching Up on Glenn Greenwald

I have to admit that sometimes watching the Obama administration so strenuously trying to further the growth of American fascism has its lighter moments. As Steven Colbert sums up one episode:
The Obama administration's Justice Department advised the largest bank in America where to find a corporate hacker to fabricate information that could be used to blackmail American journalists. And they totally blew it.
Glenn Greenwald had several media appearances this past week on matters surrounding wikileaks, the Obama administration's continuing lawbreaking, his relentless pursuit of whistleblowers and growing illegal ties to corporate entities that want to steal you blind and limit your freedom to fight back.

The most hilarious of his appearances was on the Colbert Report.

Part One:

Part Two:

Greenwald was also on Cenk Uygur's Young Turks show:

And he was on Democracy Now, for a long segment:

To those of you who read Progressive Alaska and remain ardent Obama supporters, how can you rationalize this president's war on whistleblowers, especially the aspects like this example, where he enables corporations to break the law to defame honest journalists, merely because those journalists want you, me and other people to know the truth?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Obama Pushing to Ban Skype, GMail, Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry - Unless They Submit to the Borg

Although interest in forcing GMail, Skype, Blackberry, Twitter and Facebook to change their codes and architecture to allow the FBI and any number of the other government and government-contracted intelligence gathering organizations access to just about anyone for just about any concocted reason predates the Obama administration, a new push is underway:

The F.B.I. has been quietly laying the groundwork for years for a push to require Internet-based communications services — like Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerry and Skype — to design their systems with a built-in way to comply with wiretap orders. On Thursday, the bureau made its first full airing of the “going dark” problem.

“Due to the revolutionary expansion of communications technology in recent years, the government finds that it is rapidly losing ground in its ability to execute court orders with respect to Internet-based communications,” said the F.B.I.’s general counsel, Valerie Caproni.

Along with increasing demands for journalists and human rights workers to turn all their electronic devices over to the government for purposes of seizing all information held within the devices, this move is just one step toward dictatorship and government conduct outside the rule of law.

As demandprogress observes at firedoglake:

Companies that want to avoid heavy-handed regulations, and those that actually care about our privacy rights, would have to leave the U.S. That would reduce our prominence as a technology leader, and encourage the government to devise ever more severe ways of blocking Americans from using the offending technologies. Other companies would comply by creating back-doors that could lead to more privacy violations and make the Internet more vulnerable to attack: experts say wiretap-ready technologies would be much easier to hack.
Why does Obama hate our freedoms?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alaska Legislator Who Refused TSA Grope to Arrive in Juneau This Morning - by Ferry Boat

After her mastectomy padding showed up in the invasive full-body X-ray scan at Sea-Tac Airport on Sunday, Alaska Representative Sharon Cissna (D - District K Anchorage) refused to go through a highly invasive pat-down. Unlike some who have refused this insulting procedure, Cissna was allowed to leave the airport. She had been searched before. After telling her husband she would never submit to such indignity again, she kept her word.

Apparently, Cissna went from Sea-Tac to British Columbia, where she caught a plane to Prince Rupert, where the Alaska Ferry MV Matanuska was scheduled to dock early in the week, as it worked its way north from Bellingham, Washington to Juneau, Haines and Skagway.

From Prince Rupert, before boarding the ferry, which doesn't have wifi, and only intermittent cell phone coverage, Cissna wrote a letter to constituents:
The evening of the 20th of February 2011 started with relief, as I was anxious to get back to the important work of the Alaskan Legislature. Heading into security after time with the line of passengers, I felt upbeat. I'd blocked out the horror of three months earlier, but after the pleasant TSA agent checked the ticket and ID, I suddenly found myself directed into scanning by the Seattle Airport's full-body imaging scan. The horror began again. A female agent placed herself blocking my passage. Scan results would again display that my breast cancer and the resulting scars pointed a TSA finger of irregularity at my chest. I would require invasive, probing hands of a stranger over my body.

Memories of violation would consume my thoughts again."

"Being a public servant and elected representative momentarily disappeared.

Facing the agent I began to remember what my husband and I'd decided after the previous intensive physical search. That I never had to submit to that horror again! It would be difficult, we agreed, but I had the choice to say no, this twisted policy did not have to be the price of flying to Juneau!"

"So last night, as more and more TSA, airline, airport and police gathered, I became stronger in remembering to fight the submission to a physical hand exam.

I repeatedly said that I would not allow the feeling-up and I would not use the transportation mode that required it."

"For nearly fifty years I've fought for the rights of assault victims, population in which my wonderful Alaska sadly ranks number one, both for men and women who have been abused. The very last thing an assault victim or molested person can deal with is yet more trauma and the groping of strangers, the hands of government 'safety' policy."

"For these people, as well as myself, I refused to submit."

Wednesday, the Alaska House of Representatives took a "Sense of the House" vote in support of Rep. Cissna in a resolution:
"that efficient travel is a cornerstone of our economy and our quality of life especially here in Alaska, and that no one should have to sacrifice their dignity in order to travel.”

The House voted 36-2 to adopt that sentiment. Reps. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, and Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, voted “no.” Cissna and Rep. Anna Fairclough, another Eagle River Republican, were absent.

Representatives Lynn and Sadler are the legislature's most ardent supporters of the most intrusive and ridiculous aspects of our mismanaged, stupid "war on terror." Lynn denounced me in a 2004 joint session of the legislature as an enemy of the State.

Anchorage blogger Steve Aufrecht, who is in Juneau for part of the ongoing legislative session, visited Rep. Cissna's Juneau office yesterday, where he photographed a pile of copies of emailed letters of support for the legislator. Steve wrote "Cissna's office has been inundated with supportive emails from around the country."

Alaska U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, the sole member of Alaska's national congressional delegation to vote for the extension of Patriot Act provisions last week (Rep. Don Young (R) and Sen. Mark Begich (D) voted against the extension), is supporting Cissna. She wrote to the TSA yesterday:
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today sent a letter to Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole requesting the TSA immediately clarify it’s screening policy for airline passengers with special medical conditions.

“This kind of invasive probing should not be the price of travel,” Murkowski wrote in the letter. “I appreciate that the TSA has a difficult task in keeping air transportation safe…. However, this incident highlights specific privacy concerns that must be addressed. I am concerned there is an imbalance between safety requirements and overly invasive procedures targeting air travelers who have undergone mastectomy surgeries or use prosthetics.”

“Air travel to Alaska should never require submission to a stranger’s intrusive touching of one’s sensitive body area,” Murkowski wrote.

Hundreds of people are expected to meet the MV Matanuska when it docks at the Auke Bay terminal north of Juneau this morning. Progressives in the state capitol are already mobilized this week, having been demonstrating outside the legislature in solidarity with Wisconsin union workers.

Air travel is more important to Alaskans than to residents of any other state. Most Alaska communities are not accessible by road. For instance, my wife is having to take two 737 flights and four Piper Navajo flights this week, merely to go from one job site (mentoring first-year Alaska bush teachers) to the next.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In Praise of Alyona Minkovski

I. Back in the late summer of 1979, television finally came to Whittier, Alaska. Rural Alaska Television Network (RATNet), to be precise. Like a lot of Alaska communities, as the oil money began to appear on the eastern horizon, we got a huge low-tech analog satellite dish. RATNet contained only one channel - a combination of PBS, a few of the biggest shows, Anchorage 6:00 news, the top late night program (Johnny Carson) and weekend football, basketball or baseball.

I helped put the dish in. Twice. The state contractors took the train into town, with a couple of two-ton trucks loaded with the materials. They created a big H-bar tripod, anchored to three six-ton concrete cubes, with a fixture on the top for the dish. They asked the harbor to move the contraption from where they built it to their site, close to where the phone lines had their incoming terminal building.

While they were finishing it, in my harbor's parking lot, I asked where the satellite was. The mountains to the south of Whittier aren't really high - 3,500 feet or so - but they are very close. The technicians showed me a page that gave the bearings of the satellite's track.

I borrowed a friend's sextant and took some readings from the deck outside the harbor office. I took them again. I then went up to the proposed site and took more readings. At the position the satellite was supposed to be was the very top of a mountain. I went out near the shore in what we called "dry storage area one" and took more readings. The satellite would be slightly over the horizon there.

When I told the technicians this, they didn't bother to check my data. Instead, we moved the dish apparatus over to their site. They spent all that afternoon and evening hooking it up, and putting the dish atop the mount. About 10:00 pm I got a call. Would I be willing to go down and move the dish to the harbor dry storage area? They couldn't get a signal from the satellite onto the dish face. I told them I'd see them in the morning.

II. The following winter, we got to watch our first live Olympic coverage since living in Alaska on RATNet. Judy and I have always loved figure skating, particularly the pairs. We watched this performance:

Irina Rodnina
was the greatest pairs skater of all time. With Alexei Ulyanov and Alexander Zaitsev, she won ten World and European Championships in a row. Her courage through physical adversity was sometimes phenomenal.

After she gave up active skating, she met and married film and music producer Leonid Minkovski. They've since divorced. He's mostly known these days as one of the major figures behind the growing fame of Russian techo
esque singing duo t.A.T.i. Here's their latest video, taken from the film, You and I:

III. Back in 1986,Rodnina and Minkovski had a daughter, Alyona. Alyona now has a three-to-five day-per-week show on RT TV. I'm watching it more often these days, as the quality of American media coverage of all sorts of events degrades. There is much to praise about RT, but Alyona's show deserves far more coverage in media dialog than it has yet been given. I've posted several clips from her show here in the past.

Alyona Minkovski is quite young - the same age as our daughter. Her interviewing technique needs some work before she might be the next Terry Gross, but her introductions to subjects and cross-talk with guests is mature and sometimes multi-leveled in its raunchy humor.

Here's Tuesday's entire program, covering Libya, the ongoing Arab revolts, the Wisconsin protests, and the unauthorized release of Frank Bailey's manuscript. She takes some digs at both Joe McGinniss and Bailey's book's quality:

Saradise Lost - Book 5 - Chapter 39: Tobruk Falls - Mooselini Addresses the Crowds on Facebook

I. Tobruk Libya fell this morning to the anti-Gaddafi insurgency:
Tobruk is about an hour and a half by car from Libya's border with Egypt, a drive through flat, sparsely populated scrubland along the Mediterranean coast. The communities along the route are scattered in low, rectangular block buildings, many painted a decaying, sand-battered white with green doors and shutters. As nightfall came to Libya on Tuesday, the towns almost disappeared into the darkness, with their electricity limited, despite many power lines. Sporadic lakes of sewage broke up fields of garbage. "You see how Libyans are living here," said my guide, Emat al-Maijri, an activist, pointing to the buildings. "And with all this oil!"

The men of Tobruk are proud to have been among the first to push Muammar Gaddafi's regime out of their city. There were only three or four fatalities here, with about 50 injured, residents say. That's because Tobruk, in Libya's far east, fell fast. It was part of the domino collapse of Libya's eastern towns — the first in the country to fall to the antigovernment protesters. "All of Libya is against Gaddafi," says Gamal Shallouf, a marine biologist turned activist in Tobruk. He says the east was the first to fall because it long felt neglected by a ruler who focused development projects on the capital and his hometown of Sert.

Since the time of classical Greek antiquity, when Grecian settlers founded the colony of Antipyrgos next to the excellent harbor there, Tobruk has been a strategic location. The Romans turned the site into a fortress. The most famous episodes in its history as a strategic point were during World War II. Italy was the modern colonial master of Tubruk from 1911 to 1951. In the course of those 40 years, the Italians managed to kill off about half the Libyan population, who withstood colonization until the occupiers became far too brutal to defeat.

In 1940, excited about the German defeat of France, Italy declared war on the UK, which occupied adjacent Egypt. An Italian attack on western Egypt was quickly thwarted by the British, who then rapidly occupied eastern Libya, including Tobruk, which fell to the British on January 22, 1941. Later that year, British Commonwealth and Empire troops, most notably the Australian 9th Division, withstood a German siege of the city, but were later overwhelmed quickly in a fresh attack upon it on June 21, 1942. After the British and allied forces defeated the Germans and Italians at El Alamein in October-November, 1941, Tobruk fell to the UK on November 11, 1942.

II. After the military coup that brought Col. Gaddafi to power in 1969, he once again turned Tobruk into an important military base. Housed there are important anti-aircraft units, which - presumably - have gone over to the insurgency, or have fled to the west or to sea.

Tobruk's fall, perhaps more than that of Benghazi marks the turning point in Gaddafi's desperate venture to hold onto power. If the insurgency can spread out to the south and southwest of the Tobruk-Benghazi axis, they will control about half of the Libyan oilfields and transportation-refining infrastructure. Only two of the main Libyan pipelines go into the area Gaddafi seems to be still strongly holding. All of Libya's offshore oil and gas developments lie just to the north and northwest of Tripoli.

If European and American naval assets are being deployed right now, it would be to the waters directly north of Azzawia, possibly to the port itself. If Gaddafi loses Azzawia, it will be game over. (Misurata just fell to the insurgents)

FOX News, quoting their in-house Libya expert Sarah "I Hate This Job!" Mooselini Palin, this morning, whined about Obama's inaction regarding Libya:

Here are screenshots of her facebook statement, as carried by FOX:

WTF, Palin? As the published excerpts from Frank Bailey's and others' books clearly show, you're one of the most pathetically challenged people regarding foreign affairs in the history of American politics. Every day Palin, there is more evidence of this. Watching Palin being worshipped by these FOX "pundits" and talking heads gets even more astounding every week.

Aren't you glad we don't have a President Palin handling this cascade of events?

Shortly after Palin's facebook whine went up:

We Can’t Break AIG Bonus Contracts But Worker Pensions? No Problem!

--- by Jane Hamsher

It seemed like only yesterday that a contract was sacrosanct. Remember 2009, and those AIG bonuses, paid for with taxpayer dollars?

The administration official said the Treasury Department did its own legal analysis and concluded that those contracts could not be broken.

Larry Summers:

We are a country of law. There are contracts. The government cannot just abrogate contracts.

But now that we’re talking about breaking contract to pay back pensions that middle class workers have paid into over the course of their professional careers, well — that’s another story.

Chris Christie:

The promises of the past are too expensive.

Let’s compare. Per the latest Pew study in 2008 (PDF):

According to Dave Stella of the Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Fund, the system’s assets were worth $79.8 billion at the end of last month, and the last solvency test at the end of December determined a funding ratio of 99.8%.

Then there are the bonuses paid by top 10 TARP beneficiaries in 2008, per the New York Attorney General’s report (PDF):

AIG also received $170 billion in bailout funds from the Treasury and the Federal Reserve. But they apparently could not break their contracts to pay $1.2 billion in bonuses in 2009.

Suddenly “fiscal hawks” like Chris Christie think it’s fine to break the contracts of public workers because $252,600,000 that isn’t even due now means the “promises of the past” are too expensive.

You don’t hear too much about Orin Kramer’s decision to sink $115 million of New Jersey pension fund money into Lehmans right before the collapse. Or the fact that both Chris Christie and Christie Todd Whitman have diverted billions from the New Jersey pension fund into the state budget. That’s evidently just “reform.”

So, where was all this “fiscally responsible” fighting spirit when it came to paying out $32.6 billion in taxpayer funded banker bonuses?

Well, as Larry Summers said, “we are a country of law.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Breaks the Law for Billionaire - or So He Thought - Updated

Wisconsin's GOP Teabagger Governor Scott Walker got a call he believed to be from billionaire tea party puppeteer David Koch. In reality, the call was from radio prankster Ian Murphy, who recorded the call. Mother Jones investigator Andy Kroll has written that to some, it appears by colluding with a person Walker believes to be Koch - a major donor to Walker and the major outside player in last November's Wisconsin election - the governor has broken Wisconsin law:

Did Wisconsin Scott Walker break the law during his phone conversation with a prank caller posing as right-wing billionaire David Koch? At least one campaign finance watchdog, the Public Campaign Action Fund, is exploring whether Walker violated a ban against political coordination in Wisconsin.

Walker believed he was speaking to Koch who—along with his brother, Charles Koch—is among the richest men in the US and major funders of dozens of right-wing groups. The political action committee of Koch Industries, the brothers' business empire, was a top donor to Walker's 2010 gubernatorial campaign. In reality, though, Walker was actually speaking with Ian Murphy, a self-described gonzo journalist and editor of the Buffalo Beast. The prank has stirred up a major national controversy, with critics crying foul over Walker's comments to the faux "David Koch."

In his conversation, Walker says that GOP lawmakers in "swing areas" will need support for their decision to back Walker's controversial budget repair bill, which would cut collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions, among other changes. Walker appears to hint that the fake David Koch could be the one to provide that outside support to those swing-district Republicans. Here's the full exchange:

Gov. Walker: "After this in some of the coming days and weeks ahead, particularly in some of these more swing areas, a lot of these guys are going to need, they don’t need initially ads for them, but they’re going to need a message out. Reinforcing why this was a good thing to do for the economy, a good thing to do for the state. So to the extent that message is out over and over again is certainly a good thing."

Ian Murphy (pretending to be David Koch): "Right, right. We’ll back you any way we can."

"If Wisconsin law forbids coordination with political donors similar to federal law, Gov. Scott Walker is not just in political trouble, but in legal hot water," said David Donnelly, national campaigns director for the Public Campaign Action Fund.

There are several looming questions here. First, can what Walker said actually be considered collaboration? And does the law even apply if the caller is a prankster? Adam Smith, spokesman for the Public Campaign Action Fund, says the group is looking closely at Wisconsin law to answer these questions and take appropriate action, if any at all.

Whether or not Walker has broken the law is one thing, but listening to him in his almost obsequious dialogue with a person he assumes to be perhaps the major recent player in shady campaign financing, not just in Wisconsin, but here in Alaska, should be alarming.

Here's the phone call:

I've witnessed political candidates in their phone or live discussions with major donors. I've performed political functions for one major donor, Bill Weimar, and watched him collude with Alaska politicians. A lot of sleaze comes down.

The harsh reality in this case, is that Walker was so ready to do anything - even break the law - for his corporate master, who is manipulating Tea Party activists and stirring up the anti-union pot all across the nation.

I hope the people of Wisconsin are beginning to put their new governor into perspective.

Update - 3:15 p.m:

The top six items from the prank call:
1. Walker and the Senate Republicans are conspiring to withhold Democratic lawmakers' paychecks.

2. Walker sees billionaire David Koch as "one of us."

3. Walker is planning to threaten state workers with layoffs.

4. Walker has a plan to lie to Senate Democrats and pass the bill while they are not aware of the vote.

5. Walker considered planting fake protesters to cause trouble among the real protesters.

6. Walker is corrupt.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Time to Tackle Corporate Dictators

--- by Ralph Nader

The 18 day non-violent Egyptian protests for freedom raise the question: is America next? Were Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine around, they would likely say "what are we waiting for?" They would be appalled by the concentration of economic and political power in such a few hands. Remember how often these two men warned about concentrated power.

Our Declaration of Independence (1776) listed grievances against King George III. A good number of them could have been made against "King" George W. Bush who not only brushed aside Congressional War-making authority under the Constitution but plunged the nation through lies into extended illegal wars which he conducted in violation of international law. Even conservative legal scholars such as Republicans Bruce Fein and former Judge Andrew Napolitano believe he and Dick Cheney still should be prosecuted for war and other related crimes. The conservative American Bar Association sent George W. Bush three "white papers" in 2005-2006 that documented his distinct violations of the Constitution he had sworn to uphold.

Here at home, the political system is a two-party dictatorship whose gerrymandering results in most electoral districts being one-party fiefdoms. The two Parties block the freedom of third parties and independent candidates to have equal access to the ballots and to the debates. Another barrier to competitive democratic elections is big money, largely commercial in source, which marinates most politicians in cowardliness and sinecurism.

Our legislative and executive branches, at the federal and state levels, can fairly be called corporate regimes. This is corporatism where government is controlled by private economic power. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called this grip "fascism" in a formal message to Congress in 1938.

Corporatism shuts out the people and opens governmental largesse paid for by taxpayers to insatiable corporations.

Notice how each decade the bailouts, subsidies, hand-outs, giveaways, and tax escapes for big business grow larger. The word "trillions" is increasingly used, as in the magnitude of the rescue by Washington of the Wall Street crooks and speculators who looted the peoples' pensions and savings.

It is not as if these giant companies demonstrate any gratitude to the people who save them again and again. Instead, U.S. companies are fast quitting the country in which they were chartered and prospered. These corporations, which were built on the backs of American workers, are shipping millions of jobs and whole industries to repressive foreign regimes abroad, such as China.

Over 70 percent of Americans in a September 2000 Business Week poll said corporations had "too much control over their lives." It's gotten worse with the last decade's corporate corruption and crime wave.

Wal-Mart imports over $20 billion a year in products from sweatshops in China. About a million Wal-Mart workers make under $10.50 per hour before deductions—many in the $8 an hour range. While Wal-Mart's CEO makes about $11,000 a hour plus benefits and perks.

This scenario has metastasized through the economy. One in three workers in the U.S. makes Wal-Mart level wages. Fifty million people have no health insurance and every year about 45,000 die because they cannot afford diagnosis or treatment. Child poverty is climbing as household income falls. Unemployment and underemployment are near 20% levels. The federal minimum wage, adjusted for inflation since 1968, would be $10.00 per hour now. Instead, it is $7.25.

Yet one percent of the richest Americans have financial wealth equivalent to the bottom ninety-five percent of the people. Corporate profits and compensation of corporate bosses are at record levels. While companies, excluding financial firms, are sitting on two trillion dollars in cash.

On February 7, President Obama showed us where the power is by walking across LaFayette Park from the White House to the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Before a large audience of CEOs, he pleaded for them to invest more in jobs in America. Imagine, CEOs of pampered, privileged mega-companies often on welfare and in trouble with the law sitting there while the President curtsied.

With Bill Clinton in the Nineties, corporate lobbies tightened their grip on our country by greasing through Congress both NAFTA and the World Trade Organization agreements that subordinated our sovereignty and workers to the global government of corporations.

All this adds to the growing sense of powerlessness by the citizenry. They experience hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths and many more injuries every year in the workplace, the environment, and the marketplace. Massive budgets and technologies do not go to reduce these costly casualties, instead they go to the big business of exaggerated security threats.

While the ObamaBush deficit-financed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been destroying those nations, our public works here, such as mass transit, schools and clincs crumble for lack of repairs. Foreclosures keep rising.

The debt servitude of consumers is stripping them of control of their own money as fine print contracts, credit ratings and credit scores tighten the noose on family budgets.

Half of democracy is showing up. Too many Americans, despairingly, are not "showing up" at the polls, at rallies, marches, courtrooms or city council meetings. If "we the people" want to reassert our proper constitutional sovereignty over our country—we can start by amassing ourselves in public squares and around the giant buildings of our rulers.

In a country that has so many problems it doesn't deserve and so many solutions that it doesn't apply; all things are possible when people begin looking at themselves for the necessary power to produce a just society.

Gaddafi Wants You to Pay $4.00 per Gallon; Does Lieberman Wants You to Pay $7.00?

Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi wants to stay in power, and is apparently in it for the long haul:

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is threatening Iran over the Iranian Navy's intention to pass two corvette vessels through the Suez Canal, so that they might train this year with the Syrian Navy:

The Israeli Navy frequently uses the canal for its own naval vessels. So do we. Iran, Israel and the USA all have the right to transit their vessels through Suez. Last year, the Israelis sent a submarine, armed with nuclear warhead cruise missiles through the canal, enroute to the Straits of Hormuz area, off the Iranian coast.

There is some concern in the international community that the Israelis may take military action against the Iranian vessels.

Gaddafi's country, Libya, is an important fuel producing area. The disruptions there will have an impact on American and world oil prices. We will see $4.00 per gallon at the pump again, probably within weeks.

Should the Israelis attack the Iranian vessels, we will se $7.00 per gallon fuel prices.

Or higher.

Cease and Desist

The Beverly Hills law firm, Bonfante Steinbeck, has issued a cease and desist order to author Joe McGinniss. McGinniss has been identified by numerous sources as the originator of copies of the manuscript to an unpublished draft of a book on Sarah Palin by her former confidante and state official, Frank Bailey. Bailey was Palin's Director of Boards and Commissions, an office more powerful than that of the Lieutenant Governor.

Representing Bailey and his collaborators on the book, Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon, Bonfante Steinbeck attorney Dean M. Steinbeck writes:
February 20, 2011
Ken Morris, Frank Bailey and Jeanne Devon

Joe McGinniss


Dear Sir:

I write on behalf of Ken Morris, Frank Bailey and Jeanne Devon (collectively, the “Copyright Owners”). The Copyright Owners are co-owners of the copyright in the unpublished manuscript entitled “Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of our Tumultuous Years” (the “Work”).

Between February 16, 2011 and February 18, 2011 you were the recipient of an unlawfully distributed version of the Work. Although you knew that the Work was (i) distributed to you in strict confidence, and (ii) an unpublished manuscript, you choose to unlawfully distribute the Work to multiple news outlets, bloggers, political activists, and any one else you felt might be interested.

As a result of your actions, hundreds of articles and blogs have been published detailing the Work. Some of the publications have summarized the Work in great detail, and others have reproduced the Work’s content verbatim. As an author, you are well aware that your actions have significantly impaired the Copyright Owners ability to market the book.

The Copyright Owners believe your actions were done with the single intent of destroying the marketability of the Work. It is no secret that you are writing your own “tell-all” book about Sarah Palin. By releasing the Work prior to publication, you have limited the actual interest in the Work and thereby salvaged the marketability of your own book. This matter appears to be no more than that of a jealous author sabotaging a competitor via unlawful and unscrupulous means.

The Copyright Owners are currently reviewing their legal options and I can assure this is not the last time you will hear from them. Besides showing an utter lack of professionalism, you have, at a minimum, willfully caused significant damages by engaging in unfair competition and violations of copyright law. In order to minimize the damages caused by your actions, the Copyright Owners hereby demand that you cease and desist from distributing any portion of the Work. Additionally, the Copyright Owners demand that you provide a full list of the parties to whom you distributed the Work.

Several bloggers and news sources received the manuscript from McGinniss very early Friday morning last week. Many of us have written to McGinniss, asking him why he sent the manuscript out. To my knowledge, he hasn't yet answered anyone. Some articles have been pulled or heavily modified since Bonfante Steinbeck issued a general cease and desist letter late last weekend to media outlets that were carrying extracts from what the authors claim to be a rough draft. Within the past few hours, Craig Medred's article at the Alaska Dispatch, Why did Palin name a pro-choice judge to the Alaska Supreme Court, has been pulled from the Alaska Dispatch Blog. Medred's article's subject was the same issue I tackled in my only post before this one on the manuscript's unauthorized release:
The item that caught my eye most, though, is this one, posted at Jesse Griffin's Immoral Minority:
"In BLIND ALLEGIANCE TO SARAH PALIN: A Memoir of our Tumultuous Years, Bailey explores such key events as Palin’s gubernatorial victory, Troopergate, illegal coordination with the Republican Governor’s Association, never-before-revealed scandals such as a judicial appointment as payoff for a favorable child custody ruling for Palin’s sister."
That, I believe, is a serious felony in the State of Alaska. Could it be that the State, by holding onto Palin's emails for so long - they say the emails will be released in May - is covering up this crime and others by the Palin family until the statute of limitations makes prosecution improbable or impossible? If that is the case, then we need to see the emails the state has on why they're holding onto her emails.
McGinniss' release of the manuscript has been vexing to the Alaska bloggers who supported him while he stayed in Alaska last year. I'm not one of them, though. After setting up his security perimeter at the house he rented next to the Palin cult compound on Lake Lucille last May, he and I had a disagreement, resulting in no further contact. Jeanne Devon, one of the parties to the book, helped McGinniss extensively throughout his stay here, though, and is deeply hurt by the author's action.

McGinniss, it has been reported to me, has all but finished his book on Palin, as has author Geoffrey Dunn. Unlike Bailey et al, McGinniss and Dunn have publishers lined up. Supposedly the manuscript found its way to McGinniss, after it had been sent out to a number of publishers by the author, hoping to find a buyer.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What Bill Maher Is: A Muslim-Hating Bigot - Updated: Reel Bad Arabs

- UpdatedOne of the leading experts on culture, politics and religion in the Muslim world is University of Michigan Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, Juan Cole. Prof. Cole led off an article Sunday at his blog, Informed Comment, with a scathing takedown of late night entertainer Bill Maher's latest anti-Muslim tirade. Although Maher directly attacked Muslim men (for being bad dating material), his lies about the status of women in most Muslim countries was this slimeball's real message.

Here's Ryan Witt's description of Maher's tirade:

Maher brought up the issue of women's rights in the Muslim world while discussing the Egyptian Revolution. Maher argued that democracy cannot work in the Middle East until a "sexual revolution" accompanies the current political revolutions. Maher received some pushback from one of his panel members, who argued that women are also not always treated fairly in America. Maher argued that this was a "false equivalency" as Muslim women are often not even allowed to vote or drive in many countries in the Middle East. In addition, many women face a huge legal burden if they want to divorce their husband, whereas men have the option of divorcing their wives simply by saying literally saying they want a divorce.

Maher went even further in describing the treatment of Arab women by saying,

“Talk to women who’ve ever dated an Arab man. The results are not good.”

At certain points in the discussion Maher actually sounded like he could fit in quite well in a Fox News panel discussing the same issue. He argued against the cultural relativist argument to defend the practices of Arab men. Maher went on to describe a gruesome beheading of one Muslim woman by her husband.

Prof. Cole's take on Maher's lies is this:

Dear right wing blogosphere and also Bill Maher: You can’t generalize about women’s position in Muslim countries based on a reprehensible mob attack on CBS reporter Lara Logan. Generalizing about a whole group of people based on a single incident is called “bigotry.” It is also a logical fallacy (for wingnuts challenged by six syllables in a row, that means, ‘when your brain doesn’t work right’) known as the ‘Hasty Generalization.’ Nobody seems to note that allegedly helpless Egyptian women were the ones who saved Logan, or that Anderson Cooper was also attacked.

Some other examples of reporters or celebrities being assaulted by crowds are here and here. Wingnuts, and also Bill Maher, who do not immediately make generalizations on these bases about large groups of Westerners are wusses.

Note to Muslim-hater Bill Maher, who should know better: It is not true that women cannot vote in 20 Muslim countries, and please stop generalizing about 1.5 billion Muslims based on the 22 million people in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, the only place where women cannot drive and where men can vote (in municipal elections) but women cannot. It would be like generalizing from the Amish in Pennsylvania to all people of Christian heritage and wondering what is with Christianity and its fascination with horses and buggies.

Here's the Youtube clip of the entire episode of lies on Maher's entertainment program:

And here's an episode of his entertainment program from last June 10th. It was Maher's response to public reaction to the cold-blooded murder of eight Turks and an American on the high seas by uniformed Israeli thugs. Note how Rachel Maddow blandly and uncomfortably sits through the entire routine:

"Let's not shit a shitter," eh, Bill? Lets see if you have the balls to invite Prof. Cole onto your entertainment program.

Update: Time to re-post Reel Bad Arabs:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five: