Friday, January 30, 2009
Americans Killed: 4236
Americans Wounded: 50,000
Iraqis Killed: 1,000,000+
“…a small price…” Rep. John Boehner
Latest Confirmed Casualties:
*Staff Sgt. Anthony D. Davis, 29, of Daytona Beach, FL died Jan. 6 in Northern Iraq.
*Staff Sgt. Justin L. Bauer, 24, of Loveland, CO died Jan. 10 in Baghdad, Iraq.
*Sgt. Marquis R. Porter, 28, of Brighton, MA died Jan. 11 in Anbar province, Iraq.
*Pvt. Sean P. McCune, 20, of Euless, TX died Jan. 11 in Samarra, Iraq.
*Senior Airman Omar J. McKnight, 22, of Marrero, LA died Jan 17 in Balad, Iraq.
*Pfc. Ricky L. Turner, 20, of Athens, AL died Jan. 16 in Baghdad, Iraq.
*Spc. Matthew M. Pollini, 21, of Rockland MA died Jan. 22 near al-Kut, Iraq.
*Sgt. Kyle J. Harrington, 24, of Swansea, MA died Jan. 24 in Basra, Iraq.
*Pvt. Grant A. Cotting, 19, of Corona, CA died Jan. 24 in Kut, Iraq.
*Chief Warrant Officer Philip E. Windorski, Jr., 35, of Bovey, MN died Jan. 26 in Kirkuk, Iraq.
* Chief Warrant Officer Matthew G. Kelley, 30, of Cameron, MO died Jan. 26 in Kirkuk, Iraq.
*Chief Warrant Officer Joshua M. Tillery, 31, of Beaverton, OR died Jan. 26 in Kirkuk, Iraq.
*Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin H. Todd, 29, of Colville, WA (88th Washingtonian) died Jan. 26 in Kirkuk, Iraq.
Chad (The Left) Shue
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Wealth and Political Power
The coming federal battle over
the right of workers to organize (Employee Free Choice Act)
and the Fair Elections Now Act
Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community's top legislative priority. This story, revealed by the Huffington Post of January 27th reveals a high-powered lobbying campaign by the captains of industry, to scuttle the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) in Congress.
This, at a time when billions in taxpayer dollars have bailed out Wall Street, banks (including Bank of America), hedge funds, and the insurance underwriters (think A.I.G.) who guarantee profits for Wall Street investors regardless of the rise or fall of portfolio holdings.
Take a few moments to listen to short excerpts of the actual conference call (links are embedded within the Huffington Post article). You can hear Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, and Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts, exhort their fellow CEOs and investors to contribute millions to "endangered" federal legislators and to a nationwide lobbying effort to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act. They use tough street language and don't mince words.
It is revealing. And outrageous! And yet, a somewhat rare glimpse into the actual exercise of political muscle that accompanies great wealth in America.
Where's OUR power?
This is the reason why public financing of federal election campaigns - such as the Fair Elections Now Act - must be a top priority for citizen action and lobbying, if ever we are to see progress on the issues and kitchen table concerns that affect ordinary households across the land.
For example, can we expect real progress on affordable, universal health care - when insurance industry moguls and Big Pharma are twisting arms of Congress, pointing out the need for campaign cash and the political damage that might await lawmakers who don't play along? What about food and farm policy? Energy policy? Banking and finance regulation? All will be subject to intensive lobbying pressure - and lobbyists with bags of corporate cash have great influence.
Consider what's really going on. Notice the connection between wealth, income, the economic meltdown, and special-interest political influence.
Immense wealth, and Growing Disparity:
Data about the distribution of wealth in America is not commonly reported. But a 1983 survey sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board, reported by faculty at Fairfield College, suggests that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a small number of families. The wealthiest 1 percent of families owns over 34 percent of the nation's net worth, the top 10% of families owns over 71%. The bottom 40 percent of the population, four out of ten, owns way less than 1 percent!
And as to income? A 2001 study by the Congressional Budget Office, which includes the best data that any agency or institution has compiled on income and tax trends in recent decades, shows that the average after-tax income of the richest one percent of Americans grew by $414,000 between 1979 and 1997, after adjusting for inflation, while average after-tax income fell $100 for the poorest 20 percent of Americans. (Read report by the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities.)
An analysis by two economists, Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, reported by the New York Times reveals that the top 1 percent of earners in the United States took in 19 percent of all income in 2005, up from 8 percent in 1975.
Author and political economist Kevin Phillips writes, "between 1979 and 1989 the portion of the nation's wealth held by the top 1 percent nearly doubled from 22 percent to 39 percent." (Wealth and Democracy, pg xiii, Kevin Phillips, 2002).
He further writes, "In 1999 the New York Times reported that within the most prosperous fifth of U.S. households, national income growth was shared so unevenly that some 90 percent of that fifth's gain went to the top 1 percent! No one, then, should regard the $90,000-a-year accountant or $125,000-a-year lawyer - members of the top 5 or 10 percent - as fellow riders on the same glittering escalator as the investment banker making $1.5 million or the corporate CEO collecting $40 million in annual compensation." (Ibid.)
The Wall Street Journal reports, "The really rich keep getting richer."
Writer David Walsh says, "The richest four hundred American taxpayers have amassed immense wealth, and that amount is steadily increasing, according to figures reported by the Wall Street Journal, Wednesday (March 5, 2008).
"The data published in the Wall Street Journal article come from an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) study of wealthy US taxpayers in 2005, an update of a report conducted five years earlier. The study reveals that the 400 super-rich—who represent approximately .0003 percent of the nation’s 134 million taxpayers—reported total income of $85.6 billion in 2005, an average of $213.9 million each.
Where's the Money? Where's my retirement?
As the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme scandal on Wall Street came to light, with media reports that $50 billion disappeared, many asked: Where did the money go?
Paul Krugman suggests one answer in his December, 2008, column, "The Madoff Economy". We can paraphrase his point: It went into the millions of dollars in commissions and fees, for trades on investments (shuffling paper and electrons on banking computers) that turned out to be worthless - yet the commissions were paid anyway, before the meltdown was revealed, and these fortunes were spent on yachts, lavish vacations and other luxury items commonly enjoyed by the ultra-rich.
In other words, a massive shift of wealth from the ordinary 401(k)'s and retirement funds of millions of hardworking Americans, into the bank accounts and lavish lifestyles of the already-wealthy.
New York Times columnist Maureen Down also comments, in a recent column, "Wall Street's Socialist Jet-Setters".
This casino-like atmosphere of Wall Street - quite legal, if also immoral - and the growing wealth disparity between the super-rich and ordinary Americans, is not the end of the story. Indeed, we need to recognize how it's killing the American Dream - opportunity for all.
What needs to be more widely reported and recognized for the true scandal that it is, is the story of democracy corrupted, skewing government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" and killing the promise of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for the many.
It's the story of how the corporate CEO's and owners will exercise economic and political power to maintain their riches in the face of a growing economic meltdown for so many that is causing loss of jobs, loss of homes, loss of health care, loss of educational opportunity for the nation's youth - and growing poverty across this land of great plenty.
That is the real significance of the Huffington Post revelation - and the attempts by Bank of America and conservative business "leaders" to purchase laws and public policy in their own greedy interest, in the Congress.
It reveals an economic and political bullying of Main Street by captains of great wealth - using their power over lawmakers through the influence of lavish campaign and lobbying contributions.
It reveals precisely why the Employee Free Choice Act needs to become the law of the land - to preserve the democratic right of workers to get a leg up - to decide whether they want to create and join a union that can fight for living wages and worker safety - without job site influence by employers who tilt the scale by threatening workers with plant closures, layoffs, immigration raids, or even firings.
Perhaps importantly, this story reveals why we need a conversation about economic class and political power in America - and about what's really needed to restore and preserve our democracy - in the face of poverty in the land of plenty, and alarming and growing disparity between rich and poor.
The Fair Elections Now Act:
It reveals why we must enact public financing of federal election campaigns - for the U.S. Senate and Congress, as well as repair of the broken presidential public financing system. To be candid, the Fair Elections Now Act will not by itself create morality in elected lawmakers. It will not stop lobbying by special interests. It will not end arm-twisting and the use of pressure-tactics, seeking to influence public policy and legislation.
But public financing of campaigns will allow good public servants - people who enjoy community support and believe in the promise of America - to have the funds to run for office, and win. It will allow them to do the people's business without fear of being "taken out" at the next election by greed and extraordinary spending by the corporate money men of Wall Street.
Let's not be silent! As Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has said: The arc of history may be long, but it bends toward justice.
Perhaps the arc will bend sooner toward justice as people of good faith speak up and organize for the world we wish to see!
Craig Salins is Executive Director of Washington Public Campaigns, working for public financing of campaigns at every level. www.washclean.org
Chad (The Left) Shue
Friday, January 16, 2009
"… yet another detainee ordered released after the real judicial system, rather than Bush's kangaroo courts, examines the evidence against him.
It is the second time that U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon has ordered the release of a detainee after examining government evidence, most of it classified. Leon said that the Justice Department failed to prove that Mohammed El Gharani, 21, is an enemy combatant because it relied heavily on statements made by two other detainees whose credibility is questionable.
"A mosaic of tiles this murky reveals nothing about this petitioner with sufficient clarity" to justify his detention, Leon ruled.
Gharani, a citizen of Chad, was picked up in Pakistan and turned over to the United States in 2002. Since then, he has been held at Guantanamo Bay.
Among the ridiculous claims made was that Gharani had been a member of a London al Qaida cell. At the time, he was aged 11 and living in Saudi Arabia - an accusation based entirely upon statements made by other camp detainees which were not proven true by US investigators, just believed.
He was illegally seized in Pakistan aged 14 and is now 21."
Maybe we can simply start with the folks who have spent most if not all of their teen aged years in American captivity WITHOUT CHARGES. Then after we let the children go, perhaps… (since the Obama Administration continues to send out mixed signals about whether they will prosecute Bush and Cheney for torture)…just perhaps we can charge them with child abuse.
Chad (The Left) Shue
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
Americans Killed: 4222
Americans Wounded: 50,000
Iraqis Killed: 1,000,000+
“…a small price…” Rep. John Boehner
Latest Confirmed Casualties:
*Staff Sgt. Christopher G. Smith, 28, of Grand Rapids, MI died Dec. 24 in Baghdad, Iraq.
*Spc. Stephen M. Okray, 21, of St. Clair Shores, MI died Dec. 24 in Baghdad, Iraq.
*Spc. Stephen G. Zapasnik, 19, of Broken Arrow, OK died Dec. 24 in Baghdad, Iraq.
*Maj. John P. Pryor, 42, of Moorestown, NJ died Dec. 25 in Mosul, Iraq.
*Master-at-Arms Seaman Apprentice Joshua D. Seitz, 19, of Pensacola, FL died Dec. 25 in Manama, Bahrain.
*Spc. Tony J. Gonzales, 20, of Newman, CA died Dec. 28 in Sadr City, Iraq.
*Lance Cpl. Robert L. Johnson, 21, of Central Point, OR died Dec. 20 in Anbar province, Iraq.
*Pvt. Benjamin B. Tollefson, 22, of Concord, CA died Dec. 31 in Balad, Iraq.
*Pfc. Christopher W. Lotter, 20, of Chester Heights, PA died Dec. 31, 2008, in Balad, Iraq.
*Lance Cpl. Chadwick A. Gilliam, 29, of Mayking, KY died Jan. 3 at a U.S. military base in Kuwait.
Chad (The Left) Shue
Monday, January 05, 2009
Joe and Hillary
Look. I may not be the brightest bulb in the pack but I do know that the nature of politics is basic reward and punishment. Do not try to tell me that asking Harry Reid to “allow” Joe LIEberman to keep his position in the senate was simply an “act of civility.” Joe not only does NOT contribute to a filibuster proof Democratic majority but has proven time and again that he will be a major obstacle to the prospects of peace; yet he is rewarded with a senate Chairmanship. And then there is a cabinet that begins with Hillary Clinton and fills itself out with a virtual who’s who of Clintonian centrists. In my wildest imagination I could never find a place in my cabinet for someone who not only challenged my credentials for the top job but provided my most conservative critics with the very ammunition for attacking me. I might have been able to accept a Clinton department of Health and Human Resources but putting Hillary at ‘State’ just screams, “Train wreck ahead!”
The Anti-Gay Inauguration
One area where I really have been torn is over the whole issue of Pastor Rick Warren and the Inaugural Invocation. I find it personally repulsive that someone as openly homophobic as Warren is being rewarded with this position of acceptance by Obama. I have tried to accept the notion that it is “only a two minute prayer totally unrelated to the 4 to 8 years of policy to follow.” (Now while you think about those years of Obama policy, bear in mind that both Obama and Biden are repeatedly on record as opposed to gay marriage.) However, as others before me have said, if this were someone who was notably anti-feminist or anti-Semitic, would they be allowed the two minutes of recognition? I think not. So what brings me to finally mention this controversial invocation issue?
Obama raises Kaine with Progressives
The Washington Post is reporting that Barack Obama is advancing Virginia governor Tim Kaine to replace Gov. Howard Dean as Chair of the DNC. I have recently written about Dean’s departure from the helm of the DNC and his accomplishment in implementing his “50 state strategy.” Here is what Chris Cillizza at “The Fix” has to say about this selection”
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine's installation at the head of the Democratic National Committee sends a strong signal that President-elect Barack Obama will seek to keep the massive grassroots organization built during his national campaign almost entirely under his control as he moves into the White House…
… Kaine's appointment -- coupled with the installation of Jen O'Malley Dillon, who ran the battleground states for Obama in the general election, as executive director of the DNC -- is cast by Obama insiders as a clear sign that the massive email list and grassroots capacity (three million donors, 10 million supporters) built under the Obama for America umbrella will stay under the control of those who built it…
… What does Obama's decision to empower the DNC mean for the myriad outside groups vying to become the main advocates for the new president's agenda?
It's clearly not good news but those closest to Obama caution that much remains to be worked out…
What does this have to do with the GLBT Community and other Progressive groups? Well there is this from Nicole Bell over at Crooks and Liars dot com:
Ugh. After Howard Dean, could we pick a more disappointing choice for DNC head? After all, what the spinally deficient Dems need is a more milquetoasty, against stem cell research, pro-life, anti-gay chairman whose actions speak directly to his callousness towards those less fortunate directing the candidates and elections to help retain the Democratic majority, doncha know?
Yes, you read that right: “against stem cell research, pro-life, anti-gay…” If you recall, Kaine was spoken of often as being on the Obama VP “shortlist” mainly because of his “red state”
Then there is the whole issue of “Bush accountability and reversals.” While there has been little hope over the past two years that we would see the impeachment of Bush and Cheney (thanks Nancy) we have been promised at least a significant level of “accountability.” Read that to mean hearings and evidence and investigations. However, another thing that the Obama transition team keeps telling us is “we are looking to the future and do not wish to dwell on the past.” When pressed on the possibility of asking a new Obama Justice Department to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Dick Cheney’s recent admission that he authorized the use of torture, Joe Biden repeated the mantra of “looking forward not back.” And just yesterday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, when asked on Meet the Press if he and Obama would be seeking repeal of the “Bush tax cuts for the rich” said, “No one is talking about that.” Very strange words when you consider the repeal of the Bush tax cuts have been the centerpiece of the Democrats’ campaigns since 2004.
A Progressive Bone?
Finally there is the issue of the Obama “Infrastructure Rebuilding Stimulus Plan.” Many are touting this as the new “New Deal.” But is it? According to sources with both the Obama and Reid/Pelosi camps, the $675 to $775 Billion plan that is being talked about will lead to the creation of some two million jobs and put the economy back on stable footing within six to eight months. However, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman has said that anything less than three million jobs would simply be treading water and; in introducing their proposed 1 trillion dollar stimulus plan, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), (Co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus) said of Obama’s plan,
"...anything much less than $1 trillion would be like trying to put out a forest fire with a squirt gun."
I guess the test will come after January 20th when we see if President Obama will make any effort to reach out to Rep. Woolsey and the Progressives on Capitol Hill.
So there it is; all off my chest. Again, I am certain that we are much better off without John McSame and Sarah Palin calling the shots but, as a Progressive, I have to say that I am not even close to satisfied with what I have seen from the “change candidate” thus far. One thing is certain, unlike with Bill Clinton, I have no intention of simply sitting on the sidelines and giving another “go along to get along” Democrat a free pass.
Chad (The Left) Shue