Archive | Politics

JFK’s Rant and Wrath

 

And the Little Guy Caught in the
Crosshairs of Presidential Power

 

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

A silly misunderstanding can have its consequences. 
Especially when you’re the innocent subordinate.

How would you feel if the president of the United States– your Commander-in-Chief– publicly referred to you as a “Silly Bastard” and wanted you shipped to Alaska?

Fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie were expecting a baby.  In Washington, this was no problem as there were plenty of medical facilities to care for them.  In Hyannis, MA, however, the closest medical facility for the President was located at Otis Air Force Base, 17 miles away.

On July 24, 1963, The Washington Post reported that the Air Force spent over $5000 to refurbish a very poshy room especially for Jackie’s maternity suite, just in case.

Their article reported all the furniture was purchased at the upscale store of Jordan Marsh.  As it turned out, the story was greatly exaggerated, but it picked up speed in the nation’s media nonetheless. 

So JFK placed a salty phone call to the Air Force General at the Pentagon, demanding some answers as to how the financial fiasco and public relations disaster happened in the first place.

While looking at a Washington Post photo of Ernest Carlton standing next to a bed at Otis Air Force Base, JFK went into a scathing rant, referring to him as a “Silly Bastard” and saying the whole incident was a “Fuck Up” destined to hurt the Air Force budget negotiations with Congress.  

JFK ended the call saying the “Silly Bastard” should to be transferred to Alaska because he wouldn’t have enough sense “running a cathouse.” 

In the end, it was all much ado about nothing.

The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed is Scott Calonico’s seven-minute documentary short revealing an inside look at JFK’s presidential rant and the executive power and privelage of pulling rank.

And Ernest and Velma’s reaction 50 years later?
Well,  you can read that here.

~Via Scott Calonico, Awesome Stories, Lance Around Orlando, Vimeo

 

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Overturning Citizens United

 

Corporations Aren’t People

–And Elections Shouldn’t be for Sale

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

80% of Americans are fed up.

Polls indicate the majority of Americans believe corporations have too much power, money, and undue influence in America’s democratic process, so a constitutional amendment is afoot to reverse two important Supreme Court rulings:  Citizens United and the McCutcheon ruling.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday advanced legislation to amend the Constitution so Congress can regulate campaign spending, a change many Republicans say would alter the First Amendment right to freedom of speech by limiting the amount of money companies can give for influencing elections.

The committee approved a resolution from Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) that would change the Constitution allowing Congress to pass laws that limit campaign spending by companies and other entities.  Committee passage could mean the Senate considers it on the floor in the coming weeks.

Udall’s proposal is a reaction to two recent Supreme Court decisions that Democrats say allow companies to spend freely on campaigns and drown out the speech of average citizens.

One of these cases is Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, which prohibits limiting how companies and other groups spend money on campaigns.

The other is McCutcheon v. FEC, which ends aggregate limits for what people can contribute overall during a campaign cycle.

The protest is spreading16 states have already petitioned Congress so far to let their citizens vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s edicts.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) said amending the Constitution is needed to fix the Supreme Court’s “flawed” decisions.

“This amendment addresses a series of flawed Supreme Court decisions that have eviscerated our campaign finance laws, allowing the money of wealthy individuals and special interests to drown out the voices of average Americans,” Leahy said.

“The Court has twisted the meaning of the First Amendment to protect money as if it were speech,” he added.  “The Supreme Court has opened the floodgates to billionaires who are now pouring vast amounts of unfettered and undisclosed dollars into political campaigns across the country.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been one of the more vocal opponents of Udall’s resolution.  He has unbelievably argued that the change could allow Congress to regulate books and TV shows if they contain political content.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate corporate personhood rights, calling the idea “absurd.”

Back in May, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) promised that the Senate would vote on Udall’s proposal, and cited the Koch brothers as a reason why Congress needs to limit campaign contributions of the wealthy.

“If this unprecedented spending is free speech, where does that leave our middle class constituents, the poor?  It leaves them out in the cold,” Reid said.  “There should be no million-dollar entry fee to participation in our democracy.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) believes restrictions on political spending would guarantee more women, minorities and young people get elected, and she is willing to amend the Constitution to get those limits.

“We have the legislation to do it that dares to disclose who is this money coming from and amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United,” Pelosi said.  “This special interest money is suffocating the airwaves, causing confusion. All the other things they are doing are horrible; from obstacle to participation and suffocating the airwaves to confuse the issues.”

“In order to take back our politics, we must reduce the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility,” Pelosi said.  “I guarantee you, if we increase the level of civility and reduce the role of money, we will allow more women, more minorities, and more young people to elective office.”

 

Money does not equal  free speech and fair elections.

For more about how you can overturn the disasterous
Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings, we recommend
going to Move To Amend and the Public Citizen.

 

 

 

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Jon Stewart: The Kidsplosion Invasion

 

 

 Politicizing Kids for the Far Right’s Cause

 

**VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Don’t mess with the kids.

Opening The Daily Show yesterday, Jon Stewart tore into the lawmakers and protesters scapegoating the thousands of young immigrants coming to the U.S. and asking why they can’t be deported back to Central America.

“First of all, what the f*ck is wrong with you?” Stewart demanded.

“These are children.  Why would you even ask that?  And second of all, good question.”

“It’s not fair to single President Barack Obama out for blame in the issue, Stewart argued, considering how often Republicans tell anybody who will listen that the U.S. is the greatest country in history.

“Why would you not come to a place that is great,” Stewart asked.

“In fact, it’s why all of our ancestors came to this country, and were themselves originally unwelcome.  Because that’s the story of America:  from Ben Franklin’s worries that the Germans were ruining Pennsylvania, to our 19th Century 60-year ban on the Chinese immigrants who had just finished building our rail system, to our very real and justifiable concerns about the Irish and their insatiable  ’applying for jobs’.  We have always been a nation of immigrants who hate the newer immigrants.”

In the clip above, Stewart explains more of the immigration process, the myriad of bureaucratic forms, and the kids fleeing their countries of origin because of poverty and violence.

Meanwhile, the GOP and right-wing nut groups are simply giddy arming themselves head over heels with signs, flags, and guns, going after what’s being called the ‘Kidsplosion Invasion’ or ‘President Obama’s Hurricane Katrina’.

Via Google, Mediaite, Jon Stewart,
The Daily Show, and YouTube

 

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The Lion of Britain

 

The Challenges of Being Churchill

Award-Winning **VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Born in 1874, Winston Churchill was a legendary orator, a prolific writer, an earnest artist, and a long-term British
statesman.

Yet Churchill, who twice served the as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is best remembered as the tenacious and forthright war leader that led his country against the seemingly unstoppable Nazi machine during World War II.

A sickly child since birth, Churchill was sent off to boarding school at age eight.  Although well liked, he was never an excellent student and became known as a troublemaker.

In his adult years, Churchill decided that he wanted to help make policy and not just follow it.  So when he returned to England as both a famous author and war hero at age 25, he was able to successfully run for election as a member of Parliament (MP).  

This was the start of Churchill’s very long political career.

Churchill soon became known for his outspokenness and energy, giving speeches against tariffs and in support of social changes for the poor.  It soon became clear that he didn’t hold the beliefs of the Conservative Party, so he switched to the Liberal Party in 1904.

Churchill’s dedication and efficiency earned him an excellent reputation and he was quickly promoted to Cabinet positions.  

In October 1911, Churchill was made First Lord of the Admiralty, which meant he was in charge of the British Navy.  Churchill, worried about Germany’s growing military strength, spent the next three years working diligently to strengthen the British Navy.

When the World War began in 1914, Churchill was praised for the work he had done behind the scenes to prepare Britain for war.  However, things soon began to go badly for Churchill.

Always energetic, determined, and confident, Churchill had his hands in all military matters, and not only those dealing with the Navy.  Many felt that he had overstepped his position.

Then came the Dardanelles campaign.  It was meant to be a combined naval and infantry attack on the Dardanelles in Turkey, but when things went poorly for the British, Churchill was blamed for the whole thing.

The official and public mood soon turned against Churchill.  He was swiftly moved out of government.

Churchill was devastated to have been forced out of politics.  Although he was still a member of Parliament, he went into a deep depression and worried that his political life was completely over.

It was during this time that Churchill learned to paint.  It started as a way for him to escape the doldrums, but like everything else he did, Churchill attacked it with zealous passion, working to improve himself. He continued to paint for the rest of his life.

He also continued to write, finishing a number of books including his autobiography, My Early Life.  He continued to give speeches, many of them warning of Germany’s growing power.  Curiously enough, he also learned bricklaying.

By 1938, Churchill was speaking out forcefully against British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s plan of appeasement with Nazi Germany.  Churchill’s message wasn’t well received in the least.

When Nazi Germany attacked Poland, Churchill’s fears had proved correct.  The public soon realized that Churchill had seen this coming.

When Nazi Germany attacked France on May 10, 1940, it was time for Chamberlain to step down as Prime Minister.  Appeasement hadn’t worked and now was time for action.  The same day that Chamberlain resigned, King George VI asked Churchill to become the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

German bombs soon fell from the skies onto London’s streets and homes. 

England’s citizens fled to nearby bomb shelters while the neighborhood sirens continually wailed.  Britain faced an uncertain future and the prospect of war darkened the country’s mood.

Churchill spurred himself and everyone around him to prepare for war.  He rallied Britain’s citizens to stand up to the face of hardship, adversity and uncertainty.  He actively courted Franklin Roosevelt and the United States to join in the hostilities against Nazi Germany.  Despite Churchill’s extreme dislike for Stalin and the communist Soviet Union, his pragmatic side realized he needed their help and cooperation, too.

By joining forces with both the United States and the Soviet Union, Churchill not only saved Britain, but helped save all of Europe from the domination of Nazi Germany.  He became known as the Lion of Britain.

In his final retirement, Churchill continued to write, finishing his four-volume A History of the English Speaking Peoples.  Churchill also continued to give speeches and …paint.

During his later years, Churchill earned three impressive awards.  

In 1953, Churchill was made Knight of the Garter by Queen Elizabeth II, making him Sir Winston Churchill. Later that same year, Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Ten years later in 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy awarded Churchill with honorary U.S. citizenship.

In June 1962, Churchill broke his hip after falling out of his hotel bed.  On January 10, 1965, he suffered a massive stroke.  After falling into a coma, the legendary lion died on January 24, 1965. 

The entire country mourned in his wake.

Facing many challenges, defeats, and failures throughout his life, Churchill courageously persevered throughout. 

He had his flaws: meticulous, meddling, arrogant, and at times, harsh.   Many came to realize those flaws were linked to his greater strengths of character.  A Godfather of sorts, he had led his country through its darkest hour to its finest moment.

Committed to the well being of his country and fellow citizens, he remained a stalwart member of Parliament until a year before his death, at age 90.

 

 

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Welcome to “Post-Racial” America

 

The GOP’s “Southern Strategy”

of Divide and Conquer

 

VIDEO

 

Joseph A Palermo
Huffington Post

 

Commentators and pundits and even the Chief Justice of
the U.S. Supreme Court have assured us that with the passage
of time since the end of Jim Crow segregation, and culminating
in the election of Barack Obama, racism in America has become
a thing of the past.

But with the controversy over the racist remarks of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling, one a rural cattle rancher in Nevada, the other an urbane California billionaire, we might want to reconsider just how “post-racial” America’s race relations have really become.

One striking aspect of the Cliven Bundy/Donald Sterling revelations is that these perverse opinions about black people come from two men who circulate in entirely different universes.

One guy is a parochial bumpkin who rips off the federal government for grazing fees; the other guy is a cosmopolitan Jewish billionaire and NBA team owner who gives away Ferraris to his mistresses.  But when it comes to black people these two disparate souls are of like mind.  The demographic and cultural Grand Canyon that separates these two men illustrates the pervasive nature of racism in “post racial” America.

Cliven Bundy’s brief stint as the number one folk hero in the Republican media bubble was because his story fit perfectly within the narrative of white victimhood.  What better way to rile up the base for the November midterms than fan the flames of a standoff between a “real” American and the jackbooted thugs of the Bureau of Land Management?

It’s also not surprising that this media-fueled glorification of aggrieved white people, which pitted the government (Obama) against hard-working rural folk, would include among its ranks an unreconstructed racist who had become virtually the co-star
of The Sean Hannity Show.

So now that everyone on the Right, with a few exceptions, seems ready to condemn both Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling for their racism, does it now mean we can count on these people to help us have an honest discussion about the less overt racial appeals of codes and dog whistles their ideological soul-mates so often deploy?

Don’t count on it.

Let’s review:  We have Republican governors and legislators across the country passing strict voter ID laws and other measures ostensibly to prevent “voter fraud” that demonstratively will have the effect of suppressing the African-American vote.

We have a Supreme Court that gutted a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 that will make voter suppression efforts against blacks and other minorities even easier.

And we have as a result of aggressive Republican gerrymandering a political party (Obama’s) that won 1.4 million more aggregate votes in House races in 2012 yet for only the second time since World War II ended up the minority party (234-201).

We also have a white working-class population that has been economically pummeled for decades now and searching for scapegoats.  Millions of people in this country are working harder and longer hours but seeing their standard of living stagnate.  Instead of demanding a revived New Deal and social programs that might help make their lives a little better, cunning political strategists have channeled their economic insecurity, fear and anger toward condemning a convenient scapegoat:  the “takers.”

Washington Republicans today sound like a broken record going on and on about how public policy should give “job creators” (the “makers”) tax cuts and deregulation, while punishing the “takers” by slashing food stamps and other social programs.  It’s just a rehash of “trickle down” Reaganomics and the terrible policies that laid the country low in the first place.

Cliven Bundy became a rock star that the Republican base ate up, that is, until he publicly lamented that black people “never learned how to pick cotton.”

Of late it was Bundy; but tomorrow it will be some new poster boy for aggrieved white people exploited for political effect.  What new code or dog whistle will emerge this August, September, and October when the races that could deliver Republican control of the Senate heat up?  Stay tuned.

Despite their “abhorrence” at people like Bundy and Sterling, the spectacle of prominent Republican politicians and their mouthpieces attacking the “takers,” the “entitlement mentality,” “inner city men,” and “illegal aliens” will continue.  It has become a permanent fixture of our politics.

Fox News can exploit the racial fears generated by Jeremiah Wright or the New Black Panthers; Bill O’Reilly can refer to Representative Barbara Lee as a “race hustler”; Ted Nugent can call President Obama a “subhuman mongrel”; Ann Coulter can declare that racism in America is as “rare as cholera”; and Paul Ryan can speak about the lagging work habits of “inner city men.”  Yet when a Cliven Bundy or a Donald Sterling is caught turning up the volume a notch or two suddenly they’re all “shocked” and “deplore” these not-so-different sentiments.

Until the Right in this country agrees to drop its “post-racial” pretensions for a moment and makes a real effort to come to terms with the negative social effects of its divide-and-conquer “Southern Strategy” politics, we’ll continue to limp along from one new dog whistle to the next, all the while enabling the plutocrats to push through their agenda even in a time of robber-baron levels of inequality.

* * * * * * * * *

Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Palermo completed Bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University.

His expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy. Professor Palermo has also written articles for anthologies on the life of Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. in The Human Tradition in America Since 1945 and on the Watergate scandal in Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon.

Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties. He has also written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Ideals.

Of the Iona brotherhood, we thank Dr. Palermo for sharing his work with our readers here.

 

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Wishes of the Rich and Powerful

 

Study:  America is an Oligarchy–
Not a Democracy

VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

We serve the rich and powerful.  So tell us something
we don’t know.

A new study by researchers from Princeton and Northwestern Universities finds that America’s government policies reflect the wishes of the rich and of powerful interest groups, rather than the wishes of the majority of citizens.

The researchers examined close to 1,800 U.S. policy changes in the years between 1981 and 2002.  They compared those policy changes with the expressed preferences of the median American, at the 50th percentile of income; with affluent Americans, at the 90th percentile of income; and with the position of powerful interest and lobbying groups.

What emerges from the research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy.  Meanwhile, mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence. 

The study found that the positions of powerful interest groups are “not substantially correlated with the preferences of average citizens,” meaning that to the extent that special interests groups have political power, they are driving our government’s decision making process away from the interests of the average American.

Our current system of a competing thicket of special interest groups all fighting for influence is not equal to a true representation of the wishes of the citizenry.  Whether or not the majority of Americans will ever tire and protest of being systematically marginalized remains an open question. 

We suspect nothing will ever happen until everyone’s cable TV gets taken away, because we just couldn’t tolerate that type of injustice.  He who has the gold, rules:  perhaps we can help serve them love and lunch, like good natured and inclusively minded Cole Escola does.

An excerpt, the full PDF of the study is here.

* * * * * * * * *

Are we an oligarchy or a democracy?

This is a point the Humboldt Sentinel has been making all along. 

With its listing of polls in which Americans, as opposed to most of their leaders, favor progressive policies that have been consistently ignored, we have to wonder in which direction America is going in.

Here’s our current rundown of examples and it’s the short list:

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Rand Paul Builds Mainstream 50-State Network Coalition

 

Rebranding the GOP’s 2016 Presidential Election: Rebuilding An Empire?

FREEDOM FEST VIDEO

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

From the Washington Post:

Sen. Rand Paul has become the first Republican to assemble a network in all 50 states as a precursor to a 2016 presidential run, the latest sign that he is looking to build a more mainstream coalition than the largely ad hoc one that backed his father’s unsuccessful campaigns.

Paul’s move, which comes nearly two years before the 2016 primaries, also signals an effort to win the confidence of skeptical members of the Republican establishment.

Many of those skeptics doubt that his appeal will translate beyond the libertarian base that was attracted to Ron Paul, the former Texas congressman.

Rand Paul’s nationwide organization, which counts more than 200 people, includes new backers who have previously funded more traditional Republicans, along with longtime libertarian activists.

Paul, of Kentucky, has also been courting Wall Street titans and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who donated to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, attending elite conclaves in Utah and elsewhere along with other GOP hopefuls…

…Cathy Bailey and Nate Morris, two prominent GOP fundraisers from Kentucky, were instrumental in bringing the group together.

Morris, previously a fundraiser for George W. Bush, has served as Paul’s guide as the freshman senator navigated steakhouse dinners and tony receptions
with Wall Street and Silicon Valley leaders.

“The bones for the network are there,” Morris said.  “We’ll take that and bring in new talent, people who could be like Spencer Zwick was for Mitt Romney’s on finance.  Among donors, there’s a fever out there, people are looking to rebrand the party and they haven’t yet been tapped.”

Last year, Rand Paul Victory raised $4.4 million, with nearly half of its fourth-quarter donations coming from high-dollar donors, typically those who give more than $500 and often contribute the legal limit.

Paul’s pitch at these gatherings combined his antagonism toward the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs with a discussion of issues such as drug-sentencing reform and what he calls “crunchy conservatism,” a focus on environment and civil liberties.

Nevertheless, many Republicans question whether Paul can build a campaign that could win a national election.

“I think he’s dangerously irresponsible,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who is mulling his own presidential bid and has been critical of the GOP’s tea party wing, including Cruz.

“I can’t believe responsible Republicans will support this guy, who’s a modern version of Charles Lindbergh,” King said…

…A small excerpt, you can read the full Washington Post article here.

* * * * * * * * *

Gone are the days of the Reagan Republicans and Eisenhower Democrats.  Party coalition has divided into the partisan bickering of big money politics, their backers, and their lobbyists.  Between the divide, nothing gets done for the good of the nation and its people shoved aside.

With polls showing record levels of low approval and appropriate disdain for both the Republican and Democratic parties, the empire is crumbling amidst
the stranglehold and fray of the two.

 

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Humboldt County Residents Challenge Huffman for Representative Seat

 

Deadline for Election Filing Ends

–And an Unrelated Homer Simpson VIDEO–

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Two candidates, both based in Humboldt County, have emerged to challenge Rep. Jared Huffman for his 2nd District
congressional seat in the House of Representatives.

Two Garberville residents, Andy Caffrey, an environmental activist, and Dale Mensing, a supermarket cashier, have both filed to run in the June 3 primary election for the seat held by Huffman.

The filing period for the election ended Friday for most races.  For all races where an incumbent is not running, the filing period will be extended until Wednesday to ensure there are plenty of qualified candidates.  Friday was also the deadline for filing tax measures.

Caffrey, a Democrat, was among the dozen candidates who ran for the 2nd District seat two years ago, when Huffman, D-San Rafael, was first elected to Congress.

This is the first time that Mensing, a Republican, has run for office.

Mensing said he chose to run “because of the widespread attack on the Bill of Rights,” by progressives.

“Especially Obamacare is an attack on the Bill of Rights,” Mensing said.

Mensing said he attended a meeting of Marin County Republicans earlier this month and received a cordial reception.

“I have gotten statements from members of the Republican Party in Marin County that they would back me financially,” Mensing said.

David McCuan, a Sonoma State University associate professor of political science, said barring some unforeseen circumstance it appears
Huffman is a shoo-in for re-election.

McCuan said, “Caffrey becomes the guy on the far left, but he doesn’t have the following of a Norman Solomon.”

As for Mensing, McCuan said the question becomes: “Is he a sacrificial lamb or is he serious about party building?”

* * * * * * * * * *

 

Via Marin Journal/Google News
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The California GOP’s Fake Health Care Website

 

Dirty Tricks on the Taxpayer’s Dime

 

Jim Hightower
JimHightower.org

 

In this wicked world of woe, there are hucksters, flimflammers, plain ol’ crooks… and Republican members of the California Assembly.

This last bunch of scoundrels went out of their way to monkeywrench the rollout of President Obama’s new health care law.  Obama’s computer geniuses were making a hash of the initial rollout in October, but the sign-up was finally smoothing out – and with any Obama success, GOP lawmakers automatically start tossing out monkeywrenches.

This time, the tool they tossed is a fake website created by California Republican legislators in August to look like the state’s official health exchange site, where people can sign up to get coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  

When things finally got worked out on the national health care exchange in November, the Repubs mailed a pamphlet to their constituents, directing them to the decoy site, calling it a “resource guide” to “help” them navigate the ACA sign up process.

Far from help, however, the faux site is a trap.  It’s filled with boilerplate Republican propaganda against the law, gimmicks to discourage viewers from even applying for the health care they need, and a rash of distortions and outright lies.  

There’s so much bunkum on the site that its fine print includes a disclaimer saying they don’t vouch for “the quality, content, accuracy, or completeness of the information” it provides.

The silliest thing about the lawmakers’ blatantly political ploy is that even if it convinces some people to forgo the ACA’s benefits, who does that hurt?  Not Obama – but their own constituents!

I know there’s no IQ requirement to be a state legislator, but what were they thinking?

We can laugh at their low comedy and nincompoopery, but if you’re a California taxpayer, congratulations: You paid for the GOP’s bogus website and mailings.  So much for that party’s opposition to wasteful spending!

 

Sources:

“A Bogus Health Care Website, Courtesy of the GOP,” www.msnbc.com, December 4, 2013.

California Republicans Defend Fake Obamacare Site,” www.abcnews.com, December 3, 2013.

“California GOP Creates Fake Health Care Website to Discourage Constituents from Obtaining Insurance,” www.dailykos.com, December 2, 2013.

 

Jim Hightower is a Texan, columnist, and populist who believes that to move America from greed to greatness, we must fuel the power and the passion of our nation’s workaday majority.  You can listen to more of Jim Hightower’s commentaries here.

 

 

* * * * * * * * *

It’s been a long time since the American people have seen such dirty tricks.  The Republican party of today makes the party of Richard Nixon look like a collection of altar boys.

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The Real Tammany Hall Political Machine

 

The Forgotten Virtues of Corruption and Social Service, Intertwined

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Terry Golway
The New York Times

 

Political machines clearly aren’t what they used to be.  

Last fall’s designation of the old Tammany Hall headquarters on Union Square as a city landmark is a reminder of just how powerful the nation’s most famous machine was, and why it remains a presence in political conversations.

Tammany Hall — shorthand for the faction that controlled Manhattan’s Democratic Party for most of a 150-year period — has a well-deserved place in the annals of urban misgovernment in the United States.  It stole elections, it intimidated political antagonists, and it shook down contractors and vendors.

It produced the very face of political corruption, William M. Tweed, known to friend and foe as “Boss.”  And it was, at best, indifferent to the grievances of African-Americans and later, Hispanics, in New York.

But there’s more to the story:  Tammany Hall’s leaders delivered social services at a time when City Hall and Albany did not.  They massaged justice at a time when the poor did not have access to public defenders.  And they found jobs for the unemployed when the alternative was hunger and illness.

Barbara Porges, a Tammany district leader years before women won the right to vote, prided herself on knowing the names and predicaments of peddlers who worked on Orchard Street in the heart of her district.  When one of them, an onion seller, contracted tuberculosis, Ms. Porges raised money to send him to a drier climate.  Nobody saw reason to ask how this was achieved.

For generations of immigrants and their children in Manhattan, the face of government was the face of the local Tammany ward heeler.  And it was a friendly face.  This was something entirely new for Russian Jews, Southern Italians and, to be sure, the Irish who dominated the machine.  Their experience with politics in the old country was not quite so amiable.

For Tammany, power rested on voter turnout.  And turnout was a function of relentless outreach and tireless service.

The legendary Tammany leader George Washington Plunkitt — the man who coined the phrase “honest graft” — met with constituents and lesser Tammany officials in his district several times a week to find out who was happy with Tammany’s services and who required some special attention.

Plunkitt was a leader of Tammany Hall and was, by the standards of our times and his, undeniably corrupt.  As his Boswell, newspaperman William Riordon, noted:

 

“In 1870 through a strange combination of circumstances, he held the places of Assemblyman, Alderman, Police Magistrate and County Supervisor and drew three salaries at once — a record unexampled in New York politics.

Facing three bidders at a city auction of 250,000 paving stones, he offered each 10,000 to 20,000 stones free and having thus dispensed with competition bought the whole lot for $2.50.”

 

Plunkitt was not only corrupt but a hardworking, perceptive and appealing politician who took care of his constituents, qualities one rarely find in any plurality of combinations in politics these days.

Politics, Plunkitt said, “is as much a regular business as the grocery or the dry-goods or the drug business” and it was based on studying human nature.  He claimed to know every person in his district, their likes and their dislikes:

 

I reach them by approachin’ at the right side . . . For instance, here’s how I gather in the young men.  I hear of a young feller that’s proud of his voice, thinks that he can sing fine.  I ask him to come around to Washington Hall and join our Glee Club.  He comes and sings, and he’s a follower of Plunkitt for life.

Another young feller gains a reputation as a baseball player in a vacant lot.  I bring him into our baseball club.  That fixes him.  You’ll find him workin’ for my ticket at the polls next election day. . .

I rope them all in by givin’ them opportunities to show themselves off.  I don’t trouble them with political arguments.  I just study human nature and act accordin’.”

 

Plunkitt also believed in sticking with his friends: “The politicians who make a lastin’ success in politics are the men who are always loyal to their friends, even up to the gate of State prison, if necessary.  Even if it’s only one man. . . you get his cousin, and his cousin and so on, until you have your own organization.”

His prescription for becoming a statesman was to go out and get supporters.  Nothing so dramatically illustrates this than a typical day for Plunkitt, as recorded by newspaperman Riordon:

 

Plunkitt was aroused a two a.m. to bail out a saloonkeeper who had been arrested for tax law violations.  At six he was again awakened, this time by fire engines.  Tammany leaders were expected to show up at fires to give aid and comfort.

“At 8:30 am he was getting six drunk constituents released.  At nine he was in court on another case.  
At eleven, upon returning home, he found four voters seeking assistance.  At three he went to the funeral of an Italian, followed by one for a Jew.

“At seven p.m. he had a district captains’ meeting.  At eight he went to a church fair.  At nine he was back at the party clubhouse listening to the complaints of a dozen pushcart peddlers.  At 10:30 he went to a Jewish wedding, having “previously sent a handsome wedding present to the bride.”

He finally got to bed at midnight.”

 

It was a principle that worked well for Tammany Hall, which at its height early this century had 32,000 committeemen and was forced to use Madison Square Garden for its meetings.

Another notable Tammany district leader who worked his way up from poverty, Jeremiah T. Mahoney, once insisted that he and other Tammany colleagues never forgot the dire circumstances of their impoverished childhoods amid the splendor of late 19th-century Manhattan.

Those memories, he argued, led Tammany to support progressive reforms like workers’ compensation, the beginning of minimum-wage laws, the federal income tax, public pensions for widows and children, greater government regulation of the workplace and private property, and other laws that helped set the stage for the New Deal in the 1930s.  The Tammany machine’s two greatest advocates for social reform were Mahoney’s law partner, Senator Robert F. Wagner, and the four-time governor Alfred E. Smith.

At the same time, Tammany resisted the reform movement’s impulse to impose an evangelical Anglo-Protestant morality on the Catholics and Jews who made up the bulk of New York’s poor.  Many private charities in the early 20th century were obsessed with dividing the poor into those considered worthy of help and those whose personal lives disqualified them for assistance.

Tammany figures, many of them descended from survivors of the potato famine in the mid-19th century, made no attempt to investigate the claims of those who sought their help.  One of the machine’s legendary scoundrels, “Big Tim” Sullivan, explained how he approached those who sought a free meal in his clubhouse: “I never ask a hungry man about his past.  I feed him not because he is good, but because he needs food.”

Yes, many Tammany figures, including Sullivan, were corrupt.  But it’s hard not to detect more than a little bigotry in the rhetoric of the machine’s foes.  

Andrew D. White, president of Cornell University and one of the late 19th century’s most-celebrated reformers, once complained that under Tammany and its imitators, a “crowd of illiterate peasants, freshly raked from Irish bogs, or Bohemian mines, or Italian robber nests,” exercised “virtual control” over New York and other cities packed with immigrants.

Indeed they did, thanks to Tammany’s embrace of an early form of multiculturalism.  Tammany’s Irish leaders were quick to incorporate Jews into their clubhouses (Herbert Lehman, the first Jew elected governor of New York, was vice chairman of Tammany’s finance committee in the mid-1920s), and while it was hardly ahead of its times on race relations, it encouraged black participation at a time when fellow Democrats in the South suppressed voting rights.

Tammany Hall certainly was guilty of many of the offenses arraigned against it.  But those flaws should not overshadow Tammany’s undoubted virtues.  

Tammany Hall was founded in 1854; its golden age lasted until the three-term LaGuardia administration began in 1934.  For only ten intervening years was Tammany out of office.  We got rid of people like Plunkitt and machines like Tammany because we came to believe in something called good government.

But in throwing out the machines we also tossed out a philosophy and an art of politics.

The machine succeeded not simply because it could round up votes.  It succeeded because it was unafraid of the grunt work of retail politics and because it rarely lost touch with its voters.

 

Terry Golway is the author of the forthcoming book “Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics.”

* * * * * * * * *

(Via Undernews)

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Gallup Poll: Democrats and Republicans Are Both Minor Party

 

Record High 42% of Americans Identify as Independents

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has
measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone
25 years ago.

Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest
level over that time span.

At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last
four years, but down from 36% in 2008.

 

From the recently released Gallup Poll survey:

 

PRINCETON, NJ — In each of the last three years, at least 40% of Americans have identified as independents.  These are also the only years in Gallup’s records that the percentage of independents has reached that level.

Americans’ increasing shift to independent status has come more at the expense of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party.

Republican identification peaked at 34% in 2004, the year George W. Bush won a second term in office.  

Since then, it has fallen nine percentage points, with most of that decline coming during Bush’s troubled second term. When he left office, Republican identification was down to 28%.  It has declined or stagnated since then, improving only slightly to 29% in 2010, the year Republicans “shellacked” Democrats in the midterm elections.

Not since 1983, when Gallup was still conducting interviews face to face, has a lower percentage of Americans, 24%, identified as Republicans than is the case now.  That year, President Ronald Reagan remained unpopular as the economy struggled to emerge from recession.  By the following year, amid an improving economy and re-election for the increasingly popular incumbent president, Republican identification jumped to 30%, a level generally maintained until 2007.

Democratic identification has also declined in recent years, falling five points from its recent high of 36% in 2008, the year President Barack Obama was elected.  The current 31% of Americans identifying as Democrats matches the lowest annual average in the last 25 years.

 

Fourth Quarter Surge in Independence

The percentage of Americans identifying as independents grew over the course of 2013, surging to 46% in the fourth quarter.  That coincided with the partial government shutdown in October and the problematic rollout of major provisions of the healthcare law, commonly known as “Obamacare.”

The 46% independent identification in the fourth quarter is a full three percentage points higher than Gallup has measured in any quarter during its telephone polling era.

 

Democrats Maintain Edge in Party Identification

Democrats maintain their six-point edge in party identification when independents’ “partisan leanings” are taken into account.

In addition to the 31% of Americans who identify as Democrats, another 16% initially say they are independents but when probed say they lean to the Democratic Party.  An equivalent percentage, 16%, say they are independent but lean to the Republican Party, on top of the 25% of Americans identifying as Republicans.  

All told, then, 47% of Americans identify as Democrats or lean to the Democratic Party, and 41% identify as Republicans or lean to the Republican Party.

Democrats have held at least a nominal advantage on this measure of party affiliation in all but three years since Gallup began asking the “partisan lean” follow-up in 1991.  During this time, Democrats’ advantage has been as high as 12 points, in 2008.  However, that lead virtually disappeared by 2010, although Democrats have re-established an edge in the last two years.

 

Implications

Americans are increasingly declaring independence from the political parties.

It is not uncommon for the percentage of independents to rise in a non-election year, as 2013 was.  Still, the general trend in recent years, including the 2012 election year, has been toward greater percentages of Americans identifying with neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party, although most still admit to leaning toward one of the parties.

The rise in political independence is likely an outgrowth of Americans’ record or near-record negative views of the two major U.S. parties,
of Congress, and their low level of trust in government more generally.

The increased independence adds a greater level of unpredictability to this year’s congressional midterm elections.

Because U.S. voters are less anchored to the parties than ever before, it’s not clear what kind of appeals may be most effective to winning votes.  

But with Americans increasingly eschewing party labels for themselves, candidates who are less closely aligned to their party or its prevailing doctrine may benefit.

 

(Via Gallup Poll/Gallup Politics by Jeffry M. Jones)

* * * * * * * * *

 

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Today’s Democrats Are Dull, Tired and Defeatist

 

Hand in Hand, Congress and Corporations Aren’t Working for the People

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The Democrats Can’t Defend the Country from the Retrograde GOP

 
By Ralph Nader
Nader.Org
 

The Congress, that polls show the American people would like to replace in its entirety, has “kicked the can down the road” again, putting off the government shutdown until January 15th and another debt ceiling showdown until February 7th.

The polls also show, convincingly, that people blame the stubborn Republicans more than the Democrats for the adverse effects of the impasse on workers, public health, safety, consumer spending, recreational parks and government corporate contracts.

There is another story about how all this gridlock came to be, fronted by the question: “Why didn’t the Democrats landslide the cruelest, most ignorant, big-business-indentured Republican Party in its history during the 2010 and 2012 Congressional elections?”

See The Do Nothing Congress: A Record of Extremism and Partisanship.

 

Show Me the Money

There are a number of answers to this fundamental political question. First and most obvious is that the Democrats are dialing for the same commercial campaign dollars, which beyond the baggage of quid pro quo money, detours the Party away from concentrating on their constituents’ needs, in a contrasting manner with the GOP.

Democrats like Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) tell me that when the House Democrats get together in an election year, they go into the meetings talking about money and walk out talking about money, burdened with the quotas assigned by their so-called leadership.

Last year, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Dem. Calif.) was reported to have attended 400 fundraisers in DC and around the country for her campaigning Democrats.  Helping Democratic candidates with fundraising is a major way she asserts her control over them.

Over ninety percent of the Democrats in the House defer to her and do not press her on such matters as upping the federal minimum wage, controlling corporate crime, reducing corporate welfare giveaways, reasserting full Medicare for all, diminishing a militaristic foreign policy and other policies reputed to be favored by the Party’s Progressive Caucus, numbering 75 Representatives.

Instead, the Progressive Caucus remains moribund, declining to press their policy demands on leader Pelosi as the hardcore Tea Partiers do with their leaders.

So when election time comes around, voters do not know what the Democrats stand for– other than to save Social Security and Medicare from the Republicans.  Former Senator and Presidential candidate Gary Hart, now living in Denver, said last year that the local Democrats in Denver didn’t know what the national Democrats stood for.

The 2010 election was crucial for the winners in state government races who gained the upper hand in redistricting decisions for a decade.  That meant more gerrymandered one-party dominated districts.  The Republicans won a majority of those gubernatorial and state legislative races and took over the U.S. House of Representatives with Speaker John Boehner (R–Ohio) and his curled-lip deputy, Eric Cantor (R– Va.).

 

Even the President Isn’t Immune

And there is also President Obama’s political selfishness.  Obama knew that he couldn’t govern with a knee-jerk blocking Republican House of Representatives.  Yet he did not provide serious campaign support and progressive policy leadership for Democratic candidates.

Consequently President Obama was overcome in 2011 by the Republican demands for sharp cuts in federal budgets serving people, while exempting corporate entitlements from similar cuts, and the spectre of government shutdowns and Republicans in Congress refusing to raise the government’s debt ceiling to pay current debts, during his first term Presidency.

So you’d think that in 2012 President Obama would run arm-in-arm with Congressional Democrats.  No way.

He not only signaled his “going it alone” approach by turning down a Democrat’s request for $30 million from his billion dollar campaign hoard, but he had little interest in campaigning with the local Congressional candidates as he travelled around the country.

The House Democrats were dismayed, but kept quiet.

So he got the Boehner/Cantor duo for another two years after the 2012 election.  That meant another shut-the-government-down don’t-lift-the-debt-ceiling imbroglio – a clash that crowded out all the necessities and the matters of justice that our government is supposed to champion.

 

Moving Forward.  Or Backward.  Or Simply Going Nowhere.

The greed and power of the Walmarts, the Exxons, the Aetnas, the Lockheed Martins and the rest of the global corporate power structure that has turned its back on taxpaying, American workers and their families remains unchecked by our government.

Fast forward to the elections of 2014.  No House Democrat believed, until the recent Congressional impasse, that the Democrats would win back the House in 2014.

Given that many House-passed Republican votes since 2011 sided with big business, on the wrong side of fair
treatment of children, student borrowers, workers, women, consumers, small taxpayers and providing necessary public services, one would think the Democrats should win next year in a slam dunk.  Not likely, unless the Republican echo chamber, with its “mad dog” extremists, hand control of the House to the Democrats.

From the Nineteen Forties to the Nineteen Nineties, the Republican Party did not behave as badly as today’s snarling version of the GOP.  Yet the Democrats beat Republicans in most Congressional races. Imagine what Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson would have done with today’s crop of Republican corporatists and rabid ideologues.

Today’s Democrats with very few exceptions are dull, tired and defeatist.  They regularly judge themselves by how bad the Republican Party is, instead of how affirmatively good they could be for our country and its politically alienated people.

They cannot even muster themselves to battle for a higher minimum wage on behalf of 30 million American workers, just to the level of 1968, inflation adjusted, which is supported by over 70 percent of the people.

Neither Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, nor House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi are really taking this minimum wage fairness issue to the people and directly confronting the Republican Party.  Yet they both profess to believe in “catching up with 1968.”

They just don’t believe in themselves enough to generate the focused energy to make it happen.

(For those readers interested in letting their members of Congress have an earful, the switchboard is 202-224-3121)

Article by Ralph Nader via Nader.org

* * * * * * * * *

“There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.”

~Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is one of America’s most effective social critics.  Named by The Atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history, and by Time and Life magazines as one of the hundred most influential Americans of the twentieth century, his documented criticism of government and industry has had widespread effect on public awareness and bureaucratic power.

His inspiration and example have galvanized a whole population of consumer advocates, citizen activists, and public interest lawyers who in turn have established their own organizations throughout the country.

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It Ain’t Over Until the Fat Lady Sings

 

Republicans Got What They Wanted:
How Failure Can Make You a Winner

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

With no time left on the clock, members of Congress reached a deal that would reopen the federal government
and raise the debt ceiling following the Republican House
shutdown.

As the world watched Congress stumble and tumble toward the brink of default, Senate Democrats and Republicans finally agreed on a deal gaining enough support in the House to bring this episode to a close.

Some Democrats and pundits have concluded that Democrats are walking away the victors.  They correctly argue that the Republican Party has become so damaged in the polls as a result of their hardball tactics that they are extremely vulnerable in the 2014 midterms and could very well suffer in the presidential election of 2016 as a result of these debates.  The latest House GOP shutdown maneuver cost the economy a bundle, shook the confidence of US bond investors, and threw hundreds of thousands out of work.

President Barack Obama also walks away from this deal with the Affordable Care Act generally intact, as conservative proposals to repeal the program recede further and further away from political reality.  In 2011, when threatened with the debt ceiling, Obama conceded to Republican demands by agreeing to the 2011 Budget Control Act.  This time he refused to negotiate.

But can Democrats really claim victory?  Not really.

As the dust settles, Republicans might find themselves pretty content with the outcome of this battle. In terms of public policy, they have kept the President on the defensive and kept their main issue front and center using subterfuge and sabotage as gameplan strategy.

Throughout much of the past month and a half, when the President hoped to return from the congressional recess to push the immigration bill through the House, all attention has centered on sequestration, repealing the Affordable Care Act, cutting spending and avoiding fiscal catastrophe.

All of the other energy has been sucked out of Washington.  Even with the current deal, the sequestration remains in effect, severely harming government agencies that have undergone cuts as well as those in desperate need of funding increases.

Congress and the administration will now embark on more extensive discussions about budget reform that will consume the attention of both parties until the middle of January.  For now, sequestration remains in place, leaving many agencies with insufficient funds.

The battle has also been beneficial to Republicans in that they have continued the process of normalizing the use of radical tactics in pushing for cuts to the federal government.  The tactic recklessly cost the economy $20 billion of lost GDP as they proclaim to be the responsible ‘fiscally conservative’ party of politics.

Just as many Americans seemed to accept sequestration, conservative Republicans have not yet felt any serious political threat as a result of their having forced a government shutdown.

Nor is it clear that there will be any negative consequences to them for having gone to the brink of a federal default in their fight for concessions on the budget deal.  If they are left standing, there is little reason to think that they won’t use these tactics once again.  The last month offers them a template for leveraging further fiscal chaos.

Furthermore, the current deal simply postpones any decision and actually sets up another round of fights when Congress returns from its winter break in December.  The new year will look very much like the one that came before.

Given the pattern we have seen, conservative Republicans will be just as likely, even more likely, to employ the same kind of aggressive tactics and try to force the administration into accepting deep cuts in domestic spending if Obama wants to keep the economy in stable condition.

Conservatives will be even more emboldened as they seek to please their constituents going into the 2014 midterm elections. The deal that emerged from the Senate is simply a continuation of the kind of political chaos that we have witnessed since the 2010 midterms.  Obama will have to start fighting on this issue as
soon as the ink is dry.

Obama has spent much of his second term on defense, responding to pressure from House Republicans to cut spending and trying to combat their use of radical procedural weapons.

This crisis was clearly the most dangerous moment for the country.  And it is true that Obama and congressional Democrats walk away having achieved important objectives.  After all, the government is up and running again, at least for the time being, and Congress has raised the debt ceiling, thereby averting a global meltdown.

But Republicans have defined the national agenda and forced a deal that doesn’t resolve debate.  Just the opposite: It ensures that the fights will continue and the threat of default continues into the foreseeable future.

Until Democrats find a way to reach some kind of long-term budget accord by building sufficient pressure — and electoral support — to push back against the reckless Republican Right, they’ll find themselves on the losing side of this issue over and over again.

 

Via Julian Zelizer/Google News/CNN
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Putting a Leash on Republican Bullies

 

A History of Cuts and Compromise

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Why Giving Republican Bullies a Bloody Nose Isn’t Enough

By Robert B. Reich
RobertReich.Org

 

 Now is the time to lance the boil of Republican extremism once and for all. 

Since Barack Obama became president, the extremists who have taken over the Republican Party have escalated their demands every time he’s caved, using the entire government of the United States as their bargaining chit.  

In 2010 he agreed to extend all of the Bush tax cuts through the end of 2012.  Were they satisfied?  Of course not. 

In the summer of 2011, goaded by an influx of Tea Partiers, they demanded huge spending cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling.  In response, the President offered an overly-generous $4 trillion “Grand Bargain,” including cuts in Social Security and Medicare and whopping cuts in domestic spending (bringing it to its lowest level as a share of gross domestic product in over half a century). 

Were Republicans content?  No.  When they demanded more, Obama agreed to a Super Committee to find bigger cuts, and if the Super Committee failed, a “sequester” that would automatically and indiscriminately slice everything in the federal budget except Social Security and Medicare. 

Not even Obama’s re-election put a damper on their increasing demands.  By the end of 2012, they insisted that the Bush tax cuts be permanently extended or the nation would go over the “fiscal cliff. Once again, Obama caved, agreeing to permanently extend the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000.

Early this year, after the sequester went into effect, Republicans demanded even bigger spending cuts. Obama offered more cuts in Medicare and a “chained CPI” to reduce Social Security payments, in exchange for Republican concessions on taxes.

Refusing the offer, and seemingly delirious with their power to hold the nation hostage, they demanded that the Affordable Care Act be repealed as a condition for funding the government and again raising the debt ceiling. 

This time, though, Obama didn’t cave — at least, not yet. 

The government is shuttered and the nation is on the verge of defaulting on its debts.  But public opinion has turned sharply against the Republican Party.  And the GOP’s corporate and Wall Street backers are threatening to de-fund it. 

Suddenly the Republicans are acting like the school-yard bully who terrorized the playground but finally got punched in the face.  They’re in shock.  They’re humiliated.  They’re trying to come up with ways of saving face.

With bloodied nose, House Republicans are running home.  They’ve abruptly turned negotiations over to their Senate colleagues.  And just as suddenly, their demand to repeal or delay the Affordable Care Act has vanished.  (An email from the group Tea Party Express says: “Are you like us wondering where the fight against Obamacare went?”) 

At a lunch meeting in the Capitol, Senator John McCain asked a roomful of Republican senators if they still believed it was possible to reverse parts of the program.  According to someone briefed on the meeting, no one raised a hand — not even Ted Cruz.

It appears that negotiations over the federal budget deficit are about to begin once again, and presumably Senate Republicans will insist that Obama and the Democrats give way on taxes and spending in exchange for reopening the government and raising the
debt ceiling for at least another year. 

But keeping the government running and paying the nation’s bills should never have been bargaining tokens in the first place, and the President and Democrats shouldn’t begin to negotiate over future budgets until they’re taken off the table.

The question is how thoroughly President Obama has learned that extortionist demands escalate if you give in to them.

 

 

Article by Robert Reich
Images by the Humboldt Sentinel

If you don’t think the current Republican shutdown was costly, you may want
to see the New York Times article, “Gridlock Has Cost US Billions”

* * * * * * * * *

We appreciate Mr. Reich sharing his column with readers.

Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, “Inequality for All” released on September 27.  He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

An economist, professor, author, and political commentator, Reich served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton.

He has been a contributing editor of The New Republic, The American Prospect, Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He is chairman of Common Cause.

He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers Aftershock and The Work of Nations.

His latest e-book, Beyond Outrage is now available in paperback.

 

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GOP Rails Against Obama for GOP Shutdown

 

Extremist Republican Hit Squads

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Angered by the closure of national landmarks due to the
partial Republican shutdown, a crowd of conservatives
removed barricades Sunday at the World War II Memorial
and the Lincoln Memorial as they railed against President
Barack Obama and Democrats for the ongoing stalemate.

High-profile speakers with close ties to the tea party appeared at the event, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

The rally, billed as the Million Vet March on the Memorials,” drew far fewer than a million people and evolved into a protest that resembled familiar Tea Party events from 2009, with yellow “Don’t Tread On Me” flags and Confederate banners waving throughout the crowd and strong anti-Obama language from the podium and the audience.

One speaker went as far as saying the president was a Muslim, and separately urged the crowd of hundreds to initiate a peaceful uprising.

“I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up,” said Tea Party speaker Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a conservative political advocacy group supporting the rally and the Republican cause.

Cruz, the senator who’s become the face of the Republican stance in the GOP House shutdown, attacked the Obama administration for fencing off the memorial and other national monuments, incredulously saying the closures were nothing but a political ploy.

“This is the people’s memorial.  Let me ask a simple question. Why is the federal government spending money to erect barricades to keep veterans out of this memorial?” he asked.  “Our veterans should be above politics.  Enough games.”

Demonstrators removed the barricades Sunday at the rally, tossing them into a pile nearby.  After the speeches, the crowd wandered down to the nearby Lincoln Memorial and removed its barriers as well.  When some officers tried to put them back up, protesters took them from the officers’ hands and carried them away from the memorial.

“You look around though and you see these barricades and you have to ask yourself, is this any way that a commander in chief would show his respect, his gratitude to our military?  This is a matter of shutdown priorities,” Sarah Palin said shamelessly.

Anti-Obama sentiments echoed throughout the crowd Sunday, with one protester yelling out “punk” to describe the president and one speaker saying Obama is not the president of “the” people but “his” people.  Multiple signs read “Impeach Obama.”

Some pushing and shoving took place as police in riot gear began to put up some barricades in front of part of the White House fence.  Others were more vocal and shouted at police on horseback, “You work for us.

Asked last week whether the White House had any say in the closure of the World War II Memorial, spokesman Jay Carney said Republicans were at fault.

“Every House Republican who has decried any impact from this shutdown, as if they were surprised that it would happen, clearly didn’t pay attention when every agency of the federal government posted on their websites what would happen if the government were shut down, including the closing of national memorials and national parks,” he said at a press briefing.

“If any member of Congress who got in front of a television camera to try to get some attention on this issue spent half that time on the floor of the House voting to open the government, we wouldn’t have a problem,” he added smugly.

Meanwhile the U.S. government is creeping closer to potentially defaulting on its debt, something the Treasury Department says will happen Thursday if there’s no pact to hike the nation’s borrowing limit. 

The prolonged legislative process, not to mention the threat of yet more stalemate, could wreak havoc in financial circles.  The prospect of the U.S. government running out of money to pay its bills and, eventually, finding it difficult to make payments on the debt itself, has economists around the world prophesying dire consequences.

To this point, Wall Street bond-ratings firm Fitch has warned of a downgrade of gold-plated U.S. bonds, citing the default risk from “political brinkmanship.”  That could help raise interest rates on U.S. debt, putting the country deeper into the red.  Mutual funds, which are not allowed to hold defaulted securities, may have to dump masses of U.S. treasuries.

The Republican shutdown to force the removal of the Affordable Care Act– also known as Obamacare– has proved costly, leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees either idle at home or not being paid while working in addition to the costs of shuttered aid programs and closed parks.  And it’s not just Americans who could be impacted without action to address the U.S. government’s debt situation.

The Bank of England told British lawmakers over the weekend that banks should begin planning for contingencies.  And US officials warn that tough choices are ahead about which bills to pay and which to let slide, should the shutdown and debt ceiling debate drag on.

The 16-day stalemate has been taking its toll.  Moody’s Analytics said on Tuesday that the standoff has cost the US economy about $20 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) so far.

 

 

Sourced from Yahoo News
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Losing the Blame Game

 

Newest Poll Indicates Public Has Lost Confidence in the GOP

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll not only contains a slew of bad news for the Republican Party but also has
an explanation for why the GOP is losing the blame game
over the government shutdown.

The answer is simple:  The American public views the Republican party’s motives in the shutdown as overwhelmingly political.  And looking political is the absolute worst thing that can happen to a political party.

A single question in the NBC-WSJ poll captures that sentiment.  70 percent agreed with the statement that Republicans are “putting their own political agenda ahead of what is good for the country” while just 27 percent said that the GOP is “demonstrating strong leadership and standing up for what they believe in.”

As we have said before, Republicans have no one but themselves to blame for how the public perceives their actions on the shutdown.  The decision to link keeping the government open with defunding or delaying Obamacare was clearly a strategic misstep that allowed President Obama to paint Republicans as ideologues bent on achieving their political ends no matter the consequences for the country.

And then, once the shutdown hit, an internal debate over strategy and tactics — with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at its center — broke into public view, drawing even more focus to the political sausage-making of the GOP.

All of that focus on the winning and losing of the shutdown led directly to the current dismal state Republicans find themselves in now.

 The extortion from the House Republicans was not only an attempt to nullify the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but also, given that Obama ran on promising health care reform, an attempt to nullify two presidential elections.

As the Huffington Post’s Joseph Palermo points out, if one “side” can gerrymander districts and suppress enough votes to gain an enduring majority in the House of Representatives, and then use that as “leverage”– in cahoots with right-wing billionaires and their front groups to shut down the government and threaten default on the national debt, all in order to extort changes in existing law and public policy from the president and the Senate– then why bother having presidential elections at all?

The House Republicans’ tactics are illegitimate in a democracy:  They’ve lied about their motives and actions, used Orwellian rhetoric blaming others for their own machinations, haven’t accepted responsibility for the crises they’ve created, resorted to echo chamber propaganda bytes working overtime to deceive the American people, and are trying to squeeze partisan advantage out of each 24-hour news cycle for their own political gain.

These are the same kind of tactics that have destroyed parliaments all over the world in the 20th century.  Unlike a parliament, however, the GOP House seats cannot be dissolved for a lack
of confidence.  They’re here to stay.

If the Republicans emerge from this confrontation believing they “won” something, then what’s to stop them from doing it again, and again, and again?  And if President Obama and Harry Reid give concessions to these hostage-takers it would mean that every Democratic president who follows from now into the future in a divided government would be faced with similar tactics.

To be clear:  There are politics– and political calculation– in everything. 

The trick, however, is to make the other side look like they are on a political mission while you are acting out of some combination of principle and pragmatism.

But stupid is as stupid does.  Republicans have lost that fight and, in so doing, are watching their GOP brand take a major and well deserved hit from an unusually informed and aware electorate.

 

Sourced from NBC/Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Huffington Post/Joseph Palermo

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The Daily Show Lobs Every Insult in the Book at the GOP

 

Placing Stupidity Where It Belongs

(Daily Show VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Jon Stewart apologized Wednesday night for calling Republicans “idiots” and “dunderheads” and “morons”
for the current government shutdown fiasco– because, he
said, “I may have been way too easy on them.”

Stewart couldn’t believe how the GOP “had the balls” to create this shutdown– and then deny complicity while complaining about its effects.

He found it somewhat “galling” that “the party that has run on the last 40 years on the idea that government is the enemy is saddened to see it crippled like this.”

He called “bullshit!” on their claims the Democrats are to blame, as well as labeling them “Self-Righteous Orwellian Zebra Queefs.”

John Oliver joined Stewart to explain why no one’s ever going to get in trouble for this:  Congress is wildly unpopular, but the incumbency rate is super-high, and they’re in safe districts so they can even poison a basket of kittens, and as long as Obama didn’t tell him to do it, they’d be fine.

We hope the voters remember the Republicans’ obfuscating obstructions and nattering naybobs of negativism come 2014.

 

 
(Via Mediaite, Jon Stewart and the Daily Show)

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John Boehner’s Shutdown

 

‘Then Shut It Down”

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Who knew the West Wing episode from 2009 would turn out so prophetic four years later?

 

From the New York Times Editorial Board:

By Tuesday morning, the leadership failure of Speaker John Boehner was complete.

In encouraging the impossible quest of House Republicans to dismantle health care reform, he pushed the country into a government shutdown that will now begin to take a grievous economic toll.

At any point, Mr. Boehner could have stopped it.  

Had he put on the floor a simple temporary spending resolution to keep the government open, without the outrageous demands to delay or defund the health reform law, it could easily have passed the House with a strong majority– including sizable support from Republican members, many of whom are aware of how badly this collapse will damage their party.

But Mr. Boehner refused.  He stood in the well of the House and repeated the tired falsehood that the Affordable Care Act was killing jobs.  He came up with a series of increasingly ridiculous demands: defund the health law, delay it for a year, stop its requirement that employers pay for contraception, block the medical device tax, delay the individual mandate for a year, and strip Congressional employees of their health subsidies.

All were instantly rejected by the Senate. “They’ve lost their minds,” Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, said of the House Republicans.  “They keep trying to do the same thing over and over again.”

Finally, at the last minute, when there was still time to end the charade with a straightforward spending bill, Mr. Boehner made the most absurd demand of all:  an immediate conference committee with the Senate.  Suddenly, with less than an hour left, he wanted to set up formal negotiations?

For six months, the Senate has been demanding a conference with the House on the 2014 budget — talks that might have prevented the impasse in the first place.  But the House leadership has adamantly refused, knowing it would not succeed in getting all the cuts to taxes and spending that it demands.

For Mr. Boehner to call for a conference near midnight was the height of hypocrisy.

The consequences of Mr. Boehner’s failure will be immediate:  800,000 government employees thrown out of work, over a million more working without pay, offices that provide important services closed, and programs on which poor people depend– like the Women, Infants and Children nutrition system– cut off.

The longer Republicans refuse to approve a rational spending measure, the more federal agencies will be affected
and the greater the damage done to an economy still in recovery.

Having let down the public, Republicans will now, inevitably,
scramble to save their reputation.

They are desperate to make it appear as if President Obama and the Democrats are the ones being intransigent, hoping voters will think that everyone is at fault and simply blame “Washington.”

Mr. Boehner even mocked the president on Monday for refusing to negotiate over health reform, as if he actually expected Mr. Obama to join in wrecking a law that will provide health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans under threat of blackmail.

On Tuesday, Republicans came up with another self-serving offer, proposing to open a few government departments whose closures are likely to produce negative news coverage, such as Veterans Affairs and the national parks.  Democrats quickly made it clear that only a full reopening of government would suffice, and three of the bills died in the House.  More are expected, however.

Earlier in his presidency, Mr. Obama made the catastrophic mistake — in the face of just this sort of extortion — to believe in Mr. Boehner’s willingness to be reasonable.  This time, however, the cynical games of the Republicans are not going to work.

The Republicans’ reckless obsession with destroying health reform and with wounding the president has been on full display.  And, as the public’s anger grows over this entirely unnecessary crisis, it should be aimed at a party and a speaker that are incapable of governing.

 

(Via the NYT/Google News)

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, the GOP has been irreparably damaged and even national security threatenedNo wonder Jim Moran (D-VA) is exasperated.

Nice going, Republicans.  You couldn’t have done a better job of shooting yourself in the foot even if you had tried.  It’s unfortunate, however, that you chose to shoot everyone else’s foot in the process.

It’s no wonder voters have a higher opinion of root canals, NFL replacement refs, head lice, colonoscopies, carnies, traffic jams, cockroaches, Genghis Khan, used-car salesmen and Brussels sprouts more than they do Congress. 

Seriously, they really do, and that’s the short list.

 

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Out Of Service

 

Fiscalamity:  First Federal Government Shutdown in 17 years

(Daily Show VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The U.S. government has shut down as Democrats and
Republicans refuse to negotiate on Capitol Hill.

GOP leaders remain determined that key aspects of Obamacare must be delayed, while President Obama insists that the demand ‘is the height of irresponsibility.’

The mood was grim at the Capitol Monday as Democrats and Republicans couldn’t get it together for the good of the nation.  Congress, and the government, needed to act because there was no authorization for the government to spend any money as of 12:01 a.m. today, the start of the new budget year.

The first shutdown of the U.S. government in 17 years began early Tuesday as Congress bickered and bungled an effort to fund federal agencies due to a bitter ideological standoff over Obamacare.

The embarrassing disruption that an angry President Obama said was “entirely preventable” and would “throw a wrench into the gears” of the country’s recovering economy was triggered as a midnight deadline passed without agreement between the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-run Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) disclosed at midnight that the White House budget office had directed agencies to start closing up shop.

The shutdown would keep 800,000 federal workers at home on Tuesday and inconvenience millions of people who rely on federal services or are drawn to the nation’s parks and other attractions. 

Critical workers, from the Border Patrol to air-traffic controllers, would remain on the job, unpaid.  Legislation was passed, however, to fund the armed services during the shutdown. 

Despite the drama, members of Congress faced no threat to their own pay, because the 27th Amendment to the Constitution bars their salaries from being subjected to the annual appropriations process.

“Let’s fire ’em all — we need to get rid of them,” Teresa Washington, an Environmental Protection Agency worker, said about the lawmakers whose actions– or inaction– spurred the shutdown.  “It’s not fair.  They still get paychecks, and we don’t.”

As the nearly ridiculous legislative tit-for-tat played out, Obama went to the White House briefing room to insist that Republicans give up their demand to tie new money for the government to scuttling or delaying his health care law.

“One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election,” Obama said.

“You don’t get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you’re supposed to be doing anyway, or just because there’s a law there that you don’t like.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) responded a few hours later on the House floor.  “The American people don’t want a shutdown and neither do I,” he said.  Yet, he added, the new health care law “is having a devastating impact. . . . Something has to be done.”

Even more troubling than the shutdown was that the partisan stalemate that caused it sets the stage for an even more high-stakes clash, as Congress must soon deal with raising the debt limit by Oct. 17.

That would be a matter in which both sides concede failure and it would be perilous for the U.S. economy and economies worldwide.  Republicans also want to attach conditions to that vote.  Democrats said giving ground now would encourage Republicans to take a harder line in that fight.

Republicans on both sides of the Capitol remain deeply divided about the attack on the health-care law.  In the House, a group of more moderate Republicans was seething about the decision to bow to the forces that oppose the Affordable Care Act, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and his allies on the right, including such outside groups as Heritage Action for America.

On Monday, some publicly urged Boehner to drop the issue and seek the help of House Democrats to pass the simple government-funding bill that the Senate approved last week.

“I don’t want to shut down the government,” said Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R- W.Va.), who is trying to become her state’s first GOP senator since the 1950s.

Frustrations also were simmering among Senate Republicans, who complained that House leaders were pressing the attack in direct opposition to public opinion.  Polls show that voters overwhelmingly disapprove of using the threat of a shutdown to defund the health-care law and that blame for a shutdown will fall squarely on Republicans.

Monday’s failure on Capitol Hill caused the stock market to drop on fears that gridlock would continue and Congress would shoot the recovering economy in the foot.  The Dow Jones slipped 128 points, or 0.8%.

The fight also sent Congress’ already abysmal approval plunging to a new low.

A CNN poll released late Monday found that just 10% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while a record 87% disapprove.  And Americans are blaming the Tea Party and its no-holds-barred-against-Obama stance for the crisis — the party had its lowest favorable rating in its five-year history, at 31%.

For the first time since the showdown began, there were fissures in the Republican strategy that has been carried out at the behest of conservatives aligned with the Tea Party. 

Twelve lawmakers sided with Democrats in a late Monday vote on adding an Obamacare delay to a spending bill, a minor revolt by moderate-leaning Republicans.

Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), who organized a push by a few GOP moderates to oppose their party, said it was time for GOP to accept a “clean” funding bill.

“All we’re doing is leading ourselves into a government shutdown for no reason,” said King.

 

 

 

 

 

(Via The Daily Show, YouTube/Sara Angely,
and Google News)

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Fingerpointing Towards a Government Shutdown

 

Each Side of Congress Blames the Other for Budget Gridlock

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Washington DCThe first government shutdown in 17 years is
looming by midnight.  What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Hundreds of thousands of US government workers came to work Monday without knowing whether they will be needed on Tuesday, as federal agencies faced a devastating shutdown.

Lawmakers in the bitterly divided Congress had only a few hours left to pass a stopgap budget measure and to beat the midnight deadline, but there was little sign of compromise amidst the gridlock.

President Barack Obama has warned that a freeze in non-essential federal spending could have catastrophic effects on the shaky economic recovery, and cost thousands of jobs.  But Congressional leaders have been unable to wrangle a compromise from feuding clans of lawmakers, arguing instead over who takes the blame for the first shutdown in 17 years.

If the deadline expires without a deal the failure will have a global impact.  Oil prices slid and European and Asian shares fell, amid fears for the world’s largest economy.

And, at a more domestic level, as the Washington day began staff at federal agencies were warned that their children would not be able to attend government daycare centers on Tuesday.

Some members of Congress tried to put a brave face on the impasse with 15 hours left to thrash out an improbable compromise between the Republican-led House and Democratic Senate.  But most observers agreed the moves were dead in the water when Republicans linked budget legislation to a bid to thwart Obama’s health care law.

After the Senate passed a straightforward spending bill on Friday, the House countered by attaching amendments seeking a one-year delay to Obamacare and the repeal of a medical device tax which helps fund the law.

As legislators try to stave off a shutdown, a few unlikely options have emerged.  

House Republicans could pass a short-term measure to finance the government that does not include any of their health care delays, in order to buy more time to come up with another plan.  Or House Republicans could force a repeal of the tax on medical devices in exchange for the House’s not sending over a bill that would require members of Congress and their staffs to buy their health insurance on the new exchanges, without any government subsidies.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who refused to call the
chamber into session over the weekend despite the looming deadline, warned that this would not stand. 

“The Senate will do exactly what we said we would do and reject these measures,” Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said.

“At that point, Republicans will be faced with the same choice they have always faced: put the Senate’s clean funding bill on the floor and let it pass with bipartisan votes, or force a Republican government shutdown.”

As lawmakers traded blame, the Democratic leadership sounded resigned about a pending shutdown.  Asked if he believed government would shutter on Tuesday, Reid’s number two man, Senator Dick Durbin, said:  ”I’m afraid I do.”

Republican House Speaker John Boehner has been under intense pressure from a small band of conservative diehards who forced the party to double down on their anti-Obamacare strategy.

With polls showing most voters would blame a shutdown on the Republicans rather than Obama, Reid insisted:  “The American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists.”

But Boehner branded the brinksmanship “an act of breathtaking arrogance by the Senate Democratic leadership.”

Some Asian markets fell sharply, and Europe followed suit, albeit in part because of fears for the political crisis in Italy.  Oil prices were also down, and analysts said traders were following the situation in the United States closely.

“Things are far from the ‘panic stage’, but they don’t have to be for investors to be spooked by the apparent intractability of the US political deadlock,” said Tachibana Securities market analyst Kenichi Hirano.

US and foreign investors fear a shutdown will create a poisonous environment ahead of mid-October talks to increase the amount of money the country is authorized to borrow.

If the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling is not raised, Washington could run out of cash and default on its loan payments.  Republicans have already warned they will make this costly maneuver their next battlefield.

 (Via Yahoo News)

* * * * * * * *

Yeah, we get it

A $16.7 trillion dollar debt ceiling is a lot of money and the Republicans are holding firm.  And let’s face it, they absolutely hate—no, loathe—President Obama and everything he represents, choosing to be obstructionist at every turn.

Let’s face something else:  Republicans were within their rights to oppose the law while Congress was debating it, but fighting it three years after it was enacted, and more than a year after the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional, is extreme and dangerous.  

The end result is this: Republicans are sabotaging and trying to nullify a democratically passed law.

Congress has two jobs to do:  Pay the bills on time, and pass a budget on time.  They should do just that because, unless they’ve forgotten, that’s what they get paid to do.

If we’re really going to shut down the government, let’s shut the whole damned thing down, starting with Congress.

 

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Eureka City Council Special Meeting Banning Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Canceled

 

Putting City Priorities in their Proper Place?

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Tom Sebourn carried the following about the Eureka City
Council’s proposed meeting that was to be held tonight
banning medical marijuana dispensaries in the city limits. 

The meeting has since been canceled, we’re told.  At least for now.

Here’s what Tom said:

The City Council of Eureka will hold a special meeting today, Thursday, September 26, at 5 pm.

What’s on the agenda for the special meeting?  A ban on medical marijuana dispensaries within Eureka.

This is from Eureka Councilwoman Linda Atkins Facebook page:

Please come and let your views be known.

For those of you who don’t get the paper (a few, I think), I wanted to let you know that the Eureka City Council has a Medical Cannabis Dispensary Ban on our agenda for a Special Meeting tomorrow, Thursday, September 26 at 5 pm.

We spent many months drafting and refining an ordinance that would allow people to purchase medical cannabis from legal sources in our town.

Now, even after the California Supreme Court ruled that cities have the right to regulate medical cannabis and the DOJ has specifically mentioned local ordinances regulating medical cannabis as being a step in the right direction in keeping criminals from profiting from the sale of medical cannabis, the City of Eureka has a ban on a Special Meeting Agenda.

How does this happen? We had not one negative testimony from the public during our consideration of the ordinance.

Please come and let your Council know how you feel about this.

* * * * * * *

We wonder who initially called the meeting in the first place with little notice– and who put the item into full rollback reverse before canceling it altogether. 

It represents a large waste of city resources and time.

We hope the City Council will instead attend to the basic priorities that they should be focusing on.

The shuttered and deteriorating downtown business corridor, the crime wave and criminal element currently sacking the City, and the dilapidated and unsafe condition of Eureka’s streets– as well as retaining critical employees such as a City Manager and Chief of Police– are all matters of a more pressing concern.

Eureka is fast becoming an unliveable and incompetent basketcase, an embarrasing laughingstock of municipal ill-mentality running horribly amuck in Northern California.

If you have an opinion on the matter, you can contact the Eureka City Council here:

Council phone: (707) 441-4144
Mayor’s phone no: (707) 441-4200

 Or you can Email the City Council here.  

To the Eureka City Council, we kindly suggest you get back to what you should be doing:  concentrating on the basics of properly running a safe and efficient city rather than gawking as a not-so-innocent bystander at the sight of a runaway train skidding off the rails.

 

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House Republicans Take Budget and Health Care Hostage

 

Democrats Wrestle With Looming October 1st Government Shutdown

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

WASHINGTONIt’s business as usual.

House Republicans muscled through a stopgap bill Friday that would fund the government only if all spending for President Obama’s health care law is eliminated.

Senate Democrats and President Obama quickly made it clear they had no intention of going along, putting the government on a course toward a shutdown unless one side relents.

The 230-to-189 party-line vote in a bitterly divided House set in motion a fiscal confrontation with significant implications — politically and economically — but with an uncertain ending.  Without a resolution, large parts of the government could shut down Oct. 1, and a first-ever default on federal debt could follow weeks later.

Each side predicted that the other would be held responsible, but determined House Republicans knew they were taking a risk even as leaders of the party’s establishment warned about the threat of destructive political consequences.

Mr. Obama called House Speaker John A. Boehner on Friday evening but only to reiterate that he would not negotiate with him on raising the federal debt limit and said it was Congress’s constitutional obligation to pay the nation’s bills.  Both sides described the call as brief
and fruitless.

Senate Democratic leaders prepared to answer the House’s move with a vote in the coming days — possibly on the eve of government funding expiring — to strip the health care provision from the spending bill and send it back to the House with little time for Republicans to change it.  Mr. Boehner would then face a decision on how to respond.

After the House vote, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, called out by name Democratic senators running for re-election in Republican states, daring them to stand by the health care law.   “We’re in this fight and we want the Senate to join us,” Mr. Cantor said at a Republican rally celebrating passage of the spending bill.

Visiting Missouri, Mr. Obama struck back at Republicans a few hours after the vote.  “They’re focused on politics,” Mr. Obama told autoworkers at a Ford plant in Liberty.  “They’re focused on trying to mess with me; they’re not focused on you.”

In a searing criticism of those threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling next month, causing the United States to default on its debts, Mr. Obama called the potential action “profoundly destructive.”  If it happens, he said, “America becomes a deadbeat.”

The events left Washington staring at the first government shut-
down since 1996.  

Lawmakers learned the lessons of those five days of November 1995, when 800,000 federal workers were sent home, and during the 21-day partial shutdown from that December to January, half the government closed.

Officials from both parties involved in past shutdowns have warned that House Republicans stand to come out on the losing end.

(Via Yahoo News)

* * * * * * * * * 

The House GOP sure has been on a tear lately.

 

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Should Congress Debate Syria Before Attacking It?

 

Calling for Congress to Follow the Constitutional War Powers Act

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Rachel Maddow went after the Syrian Electronic Army
for its hacking of the New York Times website yesterday.

The Times became the latest news organization to get hacked by the SEA on Tuesday when the site was down for many hours throughout the afternoon and evening.

The pro-President Bashar Assad group also claimed responsibility for hacking into The Huffington Post’s UK site and changing Twitter’s online information to show that the site was now owned by the SEA.  Maddow called the attack “so sophomoric that it’s an insult to sophomores to call it that.”

Maddow added that the SEA has been very successful at carrying out “these mostly dumb but occasionally crippling attacks on the highest profile websites on the earth.”

The MSNBC host then wondered, “Is this a freelancing effort by Assad’s supporters?  Or is this Syrian policy?  Is this cyber warfare being waged by Syria’s military at the direction of Syria’s president?  Is this one of the things that Syria feels it can do to lash out at the rest of the world as this country gets increasingly isolated and condemned among the nations of the world?”

Rachel Maddow then called for Congress to debate and vote on a potential American attack on Syria under the Constitutional War Powers Act clause before
President Obama takes any action.

It seems all but certain that some form of military action will take place, but Maddow urged caution.

“If you take one click to a wider view, that reveals more of a debate and less of a certainty that this attack is going to happen, or at least that it should happen,” she said.

Indeed, nearly 80% of Americans say President Obama should seek congressional approval before taking any military action in Syria, according to an NBC News poll.

Maddow read from an interview with former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix which appeared on The Huffington Post.  Blix, who oversaw the UN’s aborted inspection of Iraq’s (ultimately non-existent) weapons program in 2003, said he saw echoes of those days now.

She then went through all of the complicated questions surrounding a potential attack, and proposed one solution to the problem: congressional debate.

“Fortunately, there’s an app for that,” she said, referring to the nominal need for Congress to declare war before any shots can be fired.  Legislators, she said, should debate whether or not there should be an attack on Syria, and vote.

(Via YouTube, the Humboldt Sentinel, and the Huffington Post)

* * * * * * * *

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Christian Churches & Schools Attacked by Egyptian Islamists

 

Egypt’s Civil War Worsens

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

CAIROAfter torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like “prisoners of war” before a Muslim woman offered them refuge.  

Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.

In the four days since security forces cleared two sit-in camps by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Islamists have attacked dozens of Coptic churches along with homes and businesses owned by the Christian minority.  The campaign of intimidation appears to be a warning to Christians outside Cairo to stand down from political activism.

Christians have long suffered from discrimination and violence in Muslim majority Egypt, where they make up 10 percent of the population of 90 million.  Attacks increased after the Islamists rose to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that drove Hosni Mubarak from power, emboldening extremists.  But Christians have come further under fire since President Mohammed Morsi was ousted on July 3, sparking a wave of Islamist anger led by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Nearly 40 churches have been looted and torched, while 23 others have been attacked and heavily damaged since Wednesday, when chaos erupted after Egypt’s military-backed interim administration moved in to clear two camps packed with protesters calling for Morsi’s reinstatement, killing scores of protesters and sparking deadly clashes nationwide.

One of the world’s oldest Christian communities has generally kept a low-profile, but has become more politically active since Mubarak was ousted and Christians sought to ensure fair treatment in the aftermath.

Many Morsi supporters say Christians played a disproportionately large role in the days of mass rallies, with millions demanding that he step down ahead of the coup.

Despite the violence, Egypt’s Coptic Christian church renewed its commitment to the new political order Friday, saying in a statement that it stood by the army and the police in their fight against “the armed violent groups and black terrorism.”

While the Christians of Egypt have endured attacks by extremists, they have drawn closer to moderate Muslims
in some places, in a rare show of solidarity.

Hundreds from both communities thronged two monasteries in a province south of Cairo to thwart what they had expected to be imminent attacks on Saturday. 

Activists reported similar examples elsewhere in regions south of Cairo, but not enough to provide effective protection of churches and monasteries.

Activists and victims of the latest wave of attacks blame the police as much as hard-line Islamists for what happened.  The attacks, they said, coincided with assaults on police stations leaving most police pinned down to defend their stations or reinforcing others rather than rushing to the rescue of Christians under attack.

A Christian activist, Ezzat Ibrahim of Minya, a province also south of Cairo where Christians make up around 35 percent of the population, said police have melted away from seven of the region’s nine districts, leaving the extremists to act with near impunity.

Two Christians have been killed since Wednesday, including a taxi driver who strayed into a protest by Morsi supporters in Alexandria and another man who was shot to death by Islamists in the southern province of Sohag, according to security officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information.

The attacks served as a reminder that Islamists, while on the defensive in Cairo, maintain influence and the ability to stage violence in provincial strongholds with a large minority of Christians.

Gamaa Islamiya, the hard-line Islamist group that wields considerable influence in provinces south of Cairo, denied any link to the attacks.  The Muslim Brotherhood, which has led the defiant protest against Morsi’s ouster, has condemned the attacks.

Sister Manal is the principal of the Franciscan school in Bani Suef.  She was having breakfast with two visiting nuns when news broke of the clearance of the two sit-in camps by police, killing hundreds.  In an ordeal that lasted about six hours, she, sisters Abeer and Demiana and a handful of school employees saw a mob break into the school through the wall and windows, loot its contents, knock off the cross on the street gate and replace it with a black banner resembling the flag of al-Qaida.

By the time the Islamists ordered them out, fire was raging at every corner of the 115-year-old main building and two recent additions.  Money saved for a new school was gone, said Manal, and every computer, projector, desk and chair was hauled away. 

Frantic SOS calls to the police, including senior officers with children at the school, produced promises of quick response but no one came.  The Islamists gave her just enough time to grab some clothes.

In an hour-long telephone interview with The Associated Press, Manal, 47, recounted her ordeal while trapped at the school with others as the fire raged in the ground floor and a battle between police and Islamists went on out on the street.  At times she was overwhelmed by the toxic fumes from the fire in the library or the whiffs of tears gas used by the police outside.

Sister Manal recalled being told a week earlier by the policeman father of one pupil that her school was targeted by hard-line Islamists convinced that it was giving an inappropriate education to Muslim children.  She paid no attention, comfortable in the belief that a school that had an equal number of Muslim and Christian pupils could not be targeted by Muslim extremists.  She was wrong.

The school has a high-profile location.  It is across the road from the main railway station and adjacent to a busy bus terminal that in recent weeks attracted a large number of Islamists headed to Cairo to join the larger of two sit-in camps by Morsi’s supporters.

“We are nuns.  We rely on God and the angels to protect us,” she said.  ”At the end, they paraded us like prisoners of war and hurled abuse at us as they led us from one alley to another without telling us where they were taking us,” she said.  A Muslim woman who once taught at the school spotted Manal and the two other nuns as they walked past her home, attracting a crowd of curious onlookers.

“I remembered her, her name is Saadiyah.  She offered to take us in and said she can protect us since her son-in-law was a policeman.  We accepted her offer,” she said.  

Two Christian women employed by the school, siblings Wardah and Bedour, had to fight their way out of the mob, while groped, hit and insulted by the extremists.  ”I looked at that and it was very nasty,” said Manal.

The incident at the Franciscan school was repeated at Minya where a Catholic school was razed to the ground by an arson attack and a Christian orphanage was also torched.

“I am terrified and unable to focus,” said Boulos Fahmy, the pastor of a Catholic church a short distance away from Manal’s school.  ”I am expecting an attack on my church any time now,” he said Saturday.

Bishoy Alfons Naguib, a 33-year-old businessman from Minya, has a similarly harrowing story.

His home supplies store on a main commercial street in the provincial capital, also called Minya, was torched this week and the flames consumed everything inside.

“A neighbor called me and said the store was on fire.  When I arrived, three extremists with knifes approached me menacingly when they realized I was the owner,” recounted Naguib.  His father and brother pleaded with the men to spare him.  Luckily, he said, someone shouted that a Christian boy was filming the proceedings using his cell phone, so the crowd rushed toward the boy shouting “Nusrani, Nusrani,” the Quranic word for Christians which has become a derogatory way of referring
to them in today’s Egypt.

Naguib ran up a nearby building where he has an apartment and locked himself in.  After waiting there for a while, he left the apartment, ran up to the roof and jumped to the next door building, then exited at a safe distance from the crowd.

“On our street, the Islamists had earlier painted a red X on Muslim stores and a black X on Christian stores,” he said.  ”You can be sure that the ones with a red X are intact.”

In Fayoum, Islamists looted and torched five churches, according to Bishop Ibram, the local head of the Coptic Orthodox church, the largest of Egypt’s Christian denominations. He instructed Christians and clerics not to resist the mobs of Islamists, fearing any loss of life.

“The looters were so diligent that they came back to one of the five churches they had ransacked to see if they can get more,” Ibram told the Associated Press.  They were loading our chairs and benches on trucks and when they had no space for more, they destroyed them.”

(Via Lost Coast News)

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A People’s History of the United States

 

Howard Zinn and The Politics of History

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

By Dr. Joseph A Palermo
Joseph A Palermo.com

 

The President of Purdue University and former governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, deservedly became the target for censure recently in academic circles after emails surfaced exposing his ham-handed attempt to purge Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States from the Indiana curriculum.

Shortly after Zinn died on January 27, 2010 at the age of 87, then Governor Daniels wrote to the state’s top education officials that:

“this terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away . . . A People’s History of the United States is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.  Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana?  If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history.”

Mitch Daniels’s attempt to erase Zinn from the Indiana curriculum unveils him as an anti-intellectual who is clueless about the discipline of History as well as the historical profession.

If Daniels finds Zinn’s work “truly execrable” he should at least be required to point out exactly where the objectionable material can be found, enter into a debate, and act like a college president.  Daniels probably never read A People’s History and his dance on Zinn’s grave is a reflection of his own reactionary politics and authoritarian demeanor.

Thankfully, both the American Historical Association (AHA) and the Organization of American Historians (OAH), the two preeminent scholarly associations among historians, condemned Daniels’s proclivity for book burning. 

A group of 90 Purdue faculty members followed with an open letter to President Daniels:  ”Most experts in the field of U.S. history do not take issue with Howard Zinn’s facts, even when they do take issue with his conclusions.”

A People’s History

A People’s History is based on secondary sources and was intended from the outset to be a textbook with the aim of filling a gap in what at the time was the standard narrative of American history.  

Written in the late-1970s, Zinn’s book is a synthesis of the works of other historians at the time.  Sweeping in scope beginning with the first European settlements in the Western Hemisphere, ther narrative sketches out descriptions of the power struggles of American society and politics from the colonial period through the Vietnam War era and beyond.

The majority of the criticism heaped on A People’s History from historians does not take into account Zinn’s explicit goal of writing an alternative narrative, nor do they usually acknowledge that the book is a synthesis of secondary sources that existed up to the late-1970s.

Even so, Zinn’s sources include many of the works from the most important historians and social scientists in America at the time he was writing, in addition to essays from people like Upton Sinclair, Emma Goldman, W. E. B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Studs Terkel, Betty Friedan, and others.

Just a cursory glance today at the field of American women’s history alone that has grown so rich since the time A People’s History was published shows that American history has moved more in Zinn’s direction than toward the typical monumental history narrative that preceded it.

Zinn fired off some of the first shots analyzing the agency of ordinary people and the role that race, class, and gender play in American history.  

He set a template for interpreting the meaning of power relations that American historiography since 1980 has expanded and refined.  African-American history, Latino/Chicano history, Borderlands history, the history of immigration, (with countless monographs on Irish, Jewish, and Chinese immigrants), labor history, Native American history, and LGBT history, and so on, are now considered part of the “mainstream” narrative.

The de-centering of the powerful great white males didn’t happen by accident.  

And it’s precisely this de-centering that got Mitch Daniels’s knickers in a bunch.  Zinn couldn’t help it if he was ahead of his time and pointing the way forward.  ”There are a thousand stories that are part of the larger one and that remain untold,” Zinn writes.

All one needs to do is look at the American history books that have won the highest praise and the most prestigious prizes in the field to see how well A People’s History fits into contemporary historical studies.

In the years since A People’s History was published the Bancroft Prizes and Frederick Jackson Turner Prizes have gone to books by American historians that are not monumental in orientation, but focus mostly on ordinary working people, women, or ethnic and racial minorities and their associations that were originally excluded, subordinated, overlooked, or ignored. 

The historiography since 1980 vindicates Zinn’s work:

“The real heroes are not on national television or in the headlines.  They are the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the social workers, the community organizers, the hospital orderlies, the construction workers, the people who keep the society going, who help people in need.  

They are the advocates for the homeless, the students asking a living wage for campus janitors, the environmental activists trying to protect the trees, the air, the water.

And they are the protesters against war, the apostles of peace in a world going mad with violence.” (Zinn, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress)

Mitch Daniels et al.

Many of Zinn’s detractors condemn him for missing the “nuance” of viewpoints at odds with each other.  

Would one try to seek to reconcile slaves and slave masters?  Or urge indigenous peoples to grumble unobtrusively about those who are engineering their extermination?  Or find a shining path of “moderation” between the Ku Klux Klan and a terrorized Southern black population? Why should the “middle” for eternity be the most sensible place to stand?

Unlike many of his critics, (with or without “impeccable leftist credentials”), Zinn never accepted the pretense of the “liberal” state being a perfect manifestation of the public will nor as a “neutral” arbiter between capitalism and its critics.

For the sake of legitimacy, the “democratic” state always tries to appear benign and representative.  That is, until the critics look like they’re winning.  Then you can count on water cannon, tear gas, rubber bullets, and an occasional tank to come out.

Zinn simply made it a point to remind us that most of the reforms we now regard as cherished characteristics of liberal society – suffrage for all women and men over 18 years of age, public education, the right of workers to organize labor unions, freedom of the press, etc. – were won by popular struggle in the teeth of often merciless ruling-class opposition.

You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train

Zinn’s working-class roots were always not far from the surface.  Unlike most academics he knew firsthand the hardships that working people faced.  

In World War Two he served his country as a bombardier, and like the authors Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, and Douglas F. Dowd, his wartime experiences dramatically influenced his views of war and peace.  

His focus on the disconnects between American leaders’ stated goals abroad and the realities he encountered throughout his life from the Vietnam War era to his opposition to George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, gave him insights as a scholar that are often lacking among the armchair intellectual types who comprise the bulk of his critics.

Zinn marched in civil rights demonstrations and was arrested multiple times in the late-1950s and early-1960s.  He wrote about the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at a time when no other professional historian recognized the significance of this new black student organization.

He protested against the Vietnam War and repeatedly faced arrest.  His FBI file is gigantic.  He wrote Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal in 1967, and traveled to Hanoi the following year with the peace activist, Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. to secure the release of American prisoners of war.  He helped Daniel Ellsberg distribute the Pentagon Papers.

Throughout the course of his 87 years Howard was a living example of the unity of thought and action.  He was a life-long activist and commentator on the injustices he saw all around him.  He didn’t stay in the Ivory Tower, but tirelessly demonstrated against misplaced power and remained an activist his entire life.  Most importantly, he was an inspiration to young people.

The GI Bill, as it did for so many other veterans, enabled Zinn to become a historian in the first place and more than almost any other phenomenon in early post-war America, it was the GI Bill that changed the interpretation of American history.  

So many ethnically diverse veterans from working-class backgrounds now had the opportunity to get a college education that their perspectives altered American consciousness.

Zinn was also a gifted writer.  

He had the capacity to describe the plight of ordinary people in a compassionate and empathetic manner with clarity and emotion.  He could convey irony in American history better than most writers and was also very funny.  These qualities contributed to the popularity of A People’s History since people always respond positively to well-crafted writing.  

And young people in particular are tired of hearing that the “truth” always can be found in some mushy middle somewhere.

I think there’s a lot of sour grapes aimed at Howard not only for his politics but also because critics are simply jealous that there are 2 million copies of A People’s History in circulation.  

A People’s History made Zinn a rock star of sorts, one of the most well known American historians in the world.

People Versus “Patriots?”

At a time when Representatives in Congress, such as Steve King (R-Iowa) openly engage in racism of Mexican immigrants he sees as nothing more than drug mules; or Representative Don Young (R-Alaska) calling Mexican migrant laborers “wetbacks”; or Rush Limbaugh relishing in using the term “nigga”; or the murders of Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant, Zinn’s uncompromising stand on the history of American racism and immigrant bashing is as relevant today as it ever was.

With right-wing state governments, aided by the U.S. Supreme Court, doing everything in their power to suppress the voting rights of African Americans, Latinos, and young people, Zinn’s analysis of past efforts to strip minorities of political rights is pertinent.

When we see Republicans (and like-minded Democrats) in Texas, Ohio, Kansas, and other states aggressively rolling back women’s reproductive rights and trying to reduce women to second-class citizens, the history of American women’s struggles to win basic rights that Zinn wrote about remains vital.

When the President of the United States seizes the power to assassinate anyone in the world deemed an “enemy” of the United States whether they be U.S. citizens or not without charges or trial; locks up and throws away the key on whistleblowers like Bradley Manning– and would like to do to Edward Snowden– or engages in endless warfare around the globe in the name of combating “terrorism,” Zinn’s thoughts on war and peace and the struggles of peace activists, including himself, are as important as ever.

These actions of the imperial presidency, along with the Guantanamo prison (which Amnesty International compared to a “gulag” in 2005), and the level of incarceration generally in America, the power of the government to do ill to its citizens that Zinn described is still very much alive.

In an economy that is still reeling from the robbery of the “To-Big-To-Fail” banks, and a society with Gilded Age levels of income and wealth inequality, high unemployment, austerity, the organizing efforts of the lowest paid workers in the fast-food industry in large cities across America, we see a perfect example of the unsung “heroes” Zinn wrote about fighting the powerful forces to build a more decent society.

Their efforts mirror the ways workers of previous generations fought for the 8-hour day, the minimum wage, and Social Security.  The powerful corporate Right in America that Zinn singled out for ridicule, as it has done in the past, is spending lavishly to keep workers down and stop other vital reforms that would allow working people to get a better deal.  

And with all of the ecological threats looming, young people in particular should be exposed to the past activism that established environmentalism as a social movement in the first place.

Surely, with all of the problems American society confronts today relating to racism, sexism, militarism, immigrant bashing, and the assault on working people by corporate power and its influence over our courts and governing institutions — acquainting students and the public at large with the past struggles against those elements in American society that fuel and benefit from a divided and misguided citizenry remains a worthy cause.

Howard Zinn’s work remains not only “relevant” but essential to pointing the way forward for the next generation.

 

* * * * * *

An abridged excerpt, you can read Dr. Palermo’s full article here.

The Humboldt Sentinel appreciates Dr. Palermo sharing his article with our readers.

Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Palermo completed Bachelor degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz and his Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University.

eighties-150x150An Associate Professor of History at California State University–Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties.

He’s written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy; and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Idealism.

rfkAppearing on radio, television, and panel forums, he was given an oddly prominent jab by none other than conservative commentator Glenn Beck. Mr. Beck lost his show, Dr. Palermo came out remarkably unscathed, and the rest is history.
 
He currently writes for the Huffington Post, LA Progressive, his website, and other publications.
 

Posted in History, Politics1 Comment

Obama: Income Gains Continue to Flow to Top 1%

 

 

Budget Debate a Battle for Middle Class Future, President Says

 

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

GALESBURG, ILLINOIS (Bloomberg/Yahoo News) –President Barack Obama is shifting his attention to the budget battles looming later this year by casting his differences with congressional Republicans as a struggle over the future of middle-income Americans.

“Our focus has to be on the basic economic issues that matter most to you, the people we represent,” Obama said at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, the first of two addresses he delivered yesterday.  

“And as Washington prepares to enter another budget debate, the stakes for our middle class and everybody who is fighting to get into the middle class could not be higher.”

When members of Congress return from their August recess, they and the president will confront a host of decisions affecting the economy, including determining federal spending levels and raising the government’s $16.7 trillion debt limit.

Republican lawmakers are demanding spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit while Obama argues for spending increases for infrastructure improvements, expanded educational opportunities and more support for research — a recurring drama in fiscal negotiations since 2011.

Obama will follow up his renewed effort with a speech today at a port facility in Jacksonville, Florida, making the case for improving the nation’s roads, bridges, airports and harbors.  In the coming weeks he will break out other pieces of his economic agenda, such as policies to improve education and make college more affordable. 

Washington’s Focus

Following months when the focus of Washington has been on the president’s second-term job appointees, his push for a new immigration law, attempts to block his signature health-care law and Republican-led investigations into his administration, Obama is seeking to use the power of his office to return attention to the economy.

“With an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball,” Obama said in Galesburg. “I am here to say this needs to stop.”

Even as the economy continues to expand and add jobs four years into the nation’s recovery from its worst recession since the Great Depression, Americans at the middle of economic ladder haven’t regained lost prosperity.

The economy grew at a 1.8 percent rate during the first three months of the year, more slowly than its 2.5 percent average pace during the last two decades. The unemployment rate, at 7.6 percent in June, remains above its 6 percent average over the past 20 years.

 

Household Income

While the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index is up more than 18 percent this year and has nearly doubled since Obama took office in 2009, the median household income of $51,500 in May remains 5 percent lower than in June 2009, the official end of the recession, according to estimates by Sentier Research.

“Unfortunately, there is little real progress that has been made for the middle class,” Lance Roberts, chief strategist, said. 

Obama may be setting an argument that blame for inaction “can be laid squarely at the feet of the Republicans.”

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has signaled he’s ready for a confrontation with the White House and the Democratic-led Senate over the debt ceiling.

“We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending,” Boehner told reporters July 23 in Washington.

Obama has said he will refuse to accept anything short of a clean debt-limit increase.

 

Government Spending

In Galesburg and a later address in Warrensburg, Missouri, the president accused his critics of being short-sighted. He said the U.S. must maintain funding for education, training, infrastructure and research to maintain a competitive edge in the global economy.

“If we don’t make investments in education and manufacturing and science and research and transportation and information networks, we will be waving the white flag while other countries forge ahead,” he said at the University of Central Missouri.

Obama spent a portion of his Galesburg speech on the brewing — and past — debt ceiling debate.

“We’ve seen a sizable group of Republican lawmakers suggest they wouldn’t vote to pay the very bills that Congress rang up, a fiasco that harmed a fragile recovery in 2011, and one we can’t afford to repeat,” he said.

 

Debt Debate

In the debt ceiling debate two years ago, lawmakers and the White House battled for months before Obama signed an increase into law on Aug. 2, 2011, the day the Treasury Department warned that U.S. borrowing authority would expire.

While Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. of its AAA top credit rating as a result, investors indicated they weren’t concerned about the government’s debt or ability to pay bills.  The yield on 10-year Treasury notes in Aug, 2011, when S&P announced the downgrade, was 2.56 percent. The yield fell as low as 1.39 percent in July, 2012.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told a congressional panel last week that another prolonged debate over the debt ceiling could hamper the recovery. He also said continued tight fiscal policy threatens to restrain growth. 

 

Republican Reaction

Republicans yesterday said Obama is offering more of the same prescriptions he has offered since he was first elected.  Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, released a statement before Obama arrived in Illinois saying the president got most of his economic package passed in his first term.

“We now know what the results have been,” Cornyn said. “Add it all up, and we’ve been experiencing the weakest economic recovery in the longest period of high unemployment since the Great Depression in the 1930’s.”

Boehner, in a House speech, said Obama’s address would accomplish nothing. “It’s a hollow shell,” he said. “It’s an Easter egg with no candy in it.”

He called on Obama to speed approval of TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL pipeline, delay implementation of the health-care law that Congress passed in 2010 and “stop threatening to shut down the government unless we raise taxes.”

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Posted in National, Politics1 Comment

Food Stamp Surgery

 

Stephen Colbert:  ‘Want Food Stamps?  Become a Massive Corporation’

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 Stephen Colbert has come up with a novel idea.

The Colbert Report host has figured out a solution as to how poor Americans needing food stamps can get them back after the program was removed from the GOP-controlled House’s recently passed farm bill.

His answer is really simple:  Poor people just need to become massive corporations– then Republicans will give them all the welfare they want!

Colbert based his solution on how the Republicans were able to get the most recent version of the farm bill through the House.

He explains that the legislation, which generally provides subsidies for farmers while giving nutritional aid to those in need, had not passed in two years.  Among the reasons a previous version didn’t pass earlier this year is because dozens of Republicans wanted deeper cuts to food stamps.  So in order to get this one approved, the GOP “reached an historic compromise on food stamps by eliminating the food stamps.”

In Colbert’s clip, CBS’ Bob Schieffer layed it on the table.  He called out Republicans for heartlessly removing food stamps from the legislation.

“You pass a farm bill in the House that gives billions of dollars, much of it to large corporations that own farms,” Schieffer told GOP Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania.  “It’s almost like welfare for the wealthy.  But you don’t include a dollar for hungry people for food stamps.   What kind of message is that?”

Colbert suggested one answer:  food stamp surgery.

“Republicans showed that they can compromise by removing the part of the bill they refused to compromise on,” Colbert said.  “It’s like a cardiologist who’s having trouble treating a patient’s heart.”

“Rather than getting bogged down with complicated procedures, he simply removes the heart.  Problem solved!”

* * * * * * * * *

Posted in Media, National, Politics2 Comments

The Culture Wars are Alive and Kickin’

 

(A Disaster for Women and the Environment)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

By Dr. Joseph A Palermo
Professor, Historian, Author

JosephAPalermo.com

 

In Texas, Governor Rick Perry, the Religious Right, and their Republican allies, following Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis’s courageous filibuster last week, are literally working overtime to criminalize women’s reproductive rights.  

The state that purports to be so “pro-life” it must kneecap women also happens to be the repository of the most efficient and voluminous state-sanctioned killing machine.  There have been 500 executions (and counting) in the Lone Star State since 1982.

Like Texas, Republican-controlled states simply cannot contain their misogyny and have launched crusades to curtail women’s reproductive rights.  In the so-called red states, the GOP, responding to the clout of the Religious Right, is hell bent on rolling back rights that a generation of women struggled for decades to win.

There’s plenty of blatant hypocrisy to point out with these moves — the most glaring, of course, being the political party that claims to be against “big government” wants the government to control as many uteruses as possible — but what is often most irksome about these right-wingers is the patina of religiosity they ascribe to their assaults on both women and LGBT people.

 

A Brief History Lesson

Ronald Reagan did the nation a lasting disservice by bringing into our politics the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of this world.

The GOP of the Reagan era looked to the Religious Right as a counterweight to the role labor unions played in the Democratic Party.  Someone had to lick all those envelopes and knock on all those doors. It didn’t take long to understand that along with a veiled “Southern strategy” of racial politics, being anti-abortion and anti-gay reaped political dividends.

Thirty years later this Reagan coalition is still going strong. You can see it in the House of Representatives, the states, and elsewhere, hammering away at the same misogynistic and gay-bashing agenda.  

That was pretty much Reagan’s strategy in 1980 and 1984– and it worked like a charm in 2004, giving the nation four more glorious years of the worst president in American history.

 

The Flat-Earth Society

There are other areas where the rise of the Religious Right and the Republican politicians it elects means pending disaster.

They never seem to tire of lecturing us about how abortion and gay marriage are against the laws of nature and God.  Yet I never hear them utter a word about Monsanto and other poison/food corporations routinely ripping apart the DNA of plants and animals to create life forms that never could emerge in the known Universe.

If there exists an issue that deserves the wrath of those believers, I would think that corporations contaminating the DNA of the world’s food supply without giving a shit about the potential long-term consequences should raise a little alarm normally aimed at women and gays.

Isn’t screwing around with combining the genes of a flounder with a tomato, or a bacterium with corn, an “abomination?”  The world’s wheat supply might be succumbing to irreversible genetic pollution as Monsanto’s executives boost their bottom line through increasingly reckless actions.

Like it our not, we’re about to have the long-term “study” about whether these new Franken-crops are “safe” for the environment and for people — studies the corporate food sector has avoided or quashed.  The only problem is that by the time we understand the long-term effects of this genetic contamination it will be too late to do anything about it.

Super weeds, super insects, super bacteria and other “super” organisms which have adapted to genetically modified plants will grow stronger than ever and are starting to crop up.  The nice folks at Monsanto are absolutely giddy about the prospect of selling more herbicides and insecticides to deal with the resilient critters they’ve unleashed.

Like the fossil fuel industry and global warming, or Wall Street and the “real” economy, it’s a perfect example of corporate power and the maniacal drive for profits destroying the society they tell us they care so much about.

And the Religious Right apparently believes all of this unnatural destruction of God’s good earth is fine– so long as the women folk know their place and them gays can’t get hitched.

The Republican majority of the Supreme Court, seeing that demography is working against its ideological brethren, legitimized voter suppression laws that everyone knows will adversely affect Latinos, African Americans, young people, and the working class.

When coupled with the January 2010 Citizens United ruling, which opened up the floodgates to campaign slush funds and unlimited corporate money to flow into our already money-drenched politics, the Shelby County decision fits Citizens United like a tight bookend.  Both these egregious decisions will make it more difficult to dislodge the Bible thumpers from wielding political power.

 

The Road Forward

Whenever the Roberts Court presides over a case that pits corporations against consumers, workers, or environmentalists, you can bet that most of the time the corporations will come out on top.

In working to stop Monsanto, or the fossil fuel corporations, or Wall Street from pursuing short-term profits against the long-term interests of planet Earth and its inhabitants, the courts in the United States, at this juncture, seem to be rendered useless.

With giant, immortal corporations capturing regulatory agencies, our politics, and the judicial system, the only alternative is vigorous and prolonged citizen action against them.

People who care about the planet are going to have to redouble their efforts, organize and demand that people and institutions divest their holdings from Monsanto, ExxonMobil, and other death-defying monsters.

It will be a long and tough fight but there really is no alternative.  The mobilization of people against the new attacks on women’s rights, like we have seen in Texas recently, points the way forward.

 

…This article has been abridged with pithy pics added.  You can read Dr. Palermo’s full piece here.

 

The Humboldt Sentinel appreciates Dr. Palermo sharing his article with our readers.

Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Palermo completed Bachelor degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz and his Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University.

 

eighties-150x150An Associate Professor of History at California State University–Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties.

He’s written two other books: In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy; and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Idealism.

rfkAppearing on radio, television, and panel forums, he was given an oddly prominent jab by none other than conservative commentator Glenn Beck.  Mr. Beck lost his show, Dr. Palermo came out remarkably unscathed, and the rest is history.
 
He currently writes for the Huffington Post, LA Progressive, his website, and other publications.
 
* * * * * * * * *
 

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Posted in National, Opinion, Politics2 Comments

GOP’s Hot Plan: Cut Food for Poor People

 

Cruel Party Insists on Massive SNAP Cuts in New War on the Poor

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

By Alex Pareene
Salon.com

 

The White House, bless them, has threatened to veto the Farm Bill if Congress passes the House version of the legislation, which cuts $2 billion a year from the food stamp program (SNAP), instead of the Senate version, which contains a mere $400 million in annual cuts.

The White House would prefer, if we are in a cutting mood, to cut direct subsidies to farmers and crop insurance, two longtime mainstays of the Farm Bill that have basically totally fucked up our entire food system for decades but that also have made a few giant food companies quite rich…

Good one, guys.  Good policy, good attempt at deficit reduction, good governing.

Food stamp enrollment has increased dramatically since the 1990s.  To conservatives, the increase is evidence of fraud and excessive generosity.  Fraud, abuse, and accidental overpayments, though, are at historic lows.

There are a lot of people on food stamps because there are a lot of poor people.  A minuscule percentage of SNAP recipients live on incomes above the poverty line.  I also don’t think most members of Congress in either party are aware that “the poverty line” is $23,550 for a household of four.

The federal government spent $81 billion on SNAP in fiscal year 2012, with 92 percent of that going directly to beneficiaries.  The Defense Department spent $67.3 billion on 188 F-22s that asphyxiate their pilots.  The F-35 comes in at an affordable $391.2 billion.

Comparing totally unrelated government expenditures can be a facile exercise, but those b-numbers often need some context.  We’ll spend almost any amount on an unnecessary war plane designed to maintain our air superiority over an assortment of potential enemies whose most likely weapons will be capitalism or improvised explosives.

Helping poor people buy food?  That’s where we draw the line.

money fallingWhy obsess over cutting SNAP?

Because Republicans are simply convinced, all evidence aside, that the American welfare system is too generous, and that a little government cruelty is just the kick in the pants impoverished people need to get up and get jobs as computer programmers or something.

Intentional cruelty is basically a Republican policy goal…

 

…Read the rest of Alex Pareene’s article at Salon.com here.

* * * * * * * *

We might propose a different sort of plan for Republicans and Democrats alike in Congress.  It’s pretty simple, really.  Stop sending jobs and profits overseas, end corporate welfare, lobbyists, and offshore tax shelters, pursue a path towards peaceful prosperity and bring American manufacturing back.   

Posted in National, Politics0 Comments

Rand Paul Explains Obamacare and Macaw Injuries

 

Beware of Turtles and Birds

(A Good Humor Video)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

In a little-noticed speech on May 10 to the Iowa Republican Party in Cedar Rapids, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul humorously chided President Obama’s signature health care overhaul, noting the 140,000 medical diagnostic codes doctors will have to use in order to inform the government about injuries sustained by Americans.

That’s 122,000 new codes, up from the previous 18,000.  Those codes, said Sen. Paul, a medical doctor himself, include line-items for ‘injuries sustained from a turtle,’ and ’walking into a lamppost.’

macawPaul has attracted attention in recent weeks for spending time in the Hawkeye State because it’s among the first states to weigh in during the 2016 Republican presidential primary season.

As a video of Paul’s remarks surfaced Monday on YouTube, news emerged that a CNN/Opinion Research poll showed 54 percent of Americans don’t support Obamacare.

You can catch the full 43-minute speech here.  Senator Paul begins at the 2:30 mark.

Doctors, medical billers, turtles and macaws are groaning everywhere.

Posted in National, Politics6 Comments

Study: Media Fact-Checker Says Republicans Lie More

 

 Believe It or Not

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

The Center for Public and Media Affairs at George Mason University is a nonpartisan research and educational organization which conducts scientific
studies of the news and entertainment media.

This is their piece released yesterday, May 28, 2013:

 

pants on fire truth meterA leading media fact-checking organization rates Republicans as less trustworthy than Democrats, according to a new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University.

The study finds that PolitiFact.com has rated Republican claims as false three times as often as Democratic claims during President Obama’s second term.  Republicans continue to get worse marks in recent weeks, despite controversies over Obama administration statements on Benghazi, the IRS and the AP.

According to CMPA President Dr Robert Lichter, “While Republicans see a credibility gap in the Obama administration, PolitiFact rates Republicans as the less credible party.”

The study examined 100 statements involving factual claims by Democrats (46 claims) and Republicans (54 claims), which were fact-checked by PolitiFact.com during the four month period from the start of President Obama’s second term on January 20 through May 22, 2013.

Major Findings:

pants on fire truthPolitiFact rated 32% of Republican claims as ‘false’ or ‘pants on fire,’ compared to 11% of Democratic claims, a 3 to 1 margin.  Conversely, Politifact rated 22% of Democratic claims as ‘entirely true’ compared to 11% of Republican claims, a 2 to 1 margin.

A majority of Democratic statements (54%) were rated as mostly or entirely true, compared to only 18% of Republican statements.  Conversely, a majority of Republican statements (52%) were rated as mostly or entirely false, compared to only 24% of Democratic statements.

Despite controversies over Obama administration statements regarding Benghazi, the IRS and the Associated Press, Republicans have continued to fare worse than Democrats, with 60% of their claims rated as false so far this month (May 1 –May 22), compared to 29% of Democratic statements by a 2 to 1 margin.

This study’s findings are similar to those of a previous CMPA study, which found that PolitiFact gave more negative ratings to the Romney campaign than the Obama campaign during the 2012 presidential election campaign.

Examples of PolitiFact Ratings:

Pants on Fire:  Michele Bachmann decries ‘huge national database’ run by IRS with “personal, intimate” details (May 15, 2013).

True:  Obama says bipartisan background check plan ‘outlawed any (gun) registry’ (April 17, 2013).

* * * * * * * *

Be this as it may, the Democrats aren’t exactly up there with 22% of their claims registering as ‘entirely true’ according to this CMPA/Politifact study.  With one of the lowest approval ratings in history, both aisles of Congress– Democrat and Republican alike– haven’t fared so well in the public’s view.

We wonder how this study might have turned out if it had weighed in with the Independents, Greens, and Libertarians for overall truthiness.

pants on fire fearThe Center for Media and Public Affairs is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization which is affiliated with George Mason University.  It has monitored news coverage of every presidential election and every new administration since 1988.

For CMPA findings on the Obama administration see: cmpa.com

To note, Politifact.com is an adjunct of the Tampa Bay Times and recipent of the Pulitzer Prize in reporting.

(Hat tip to Mitch)

Posted in Media, National, Politics2 Comments

Ten Years Since ‘Mission Accomplished’

 

Let’s Review the Imagery
(VIDEO)

 

Dr. Joseph A. Palermo
Joseph A. Palermo.com

 

Above:  Bush’s “Mission Accomplished’ speech on May 1, 2003, when US casualties stood at a few hundred.  The
list would grow to nearly 5,000 dead and 30,000 wounded. 

The results: the break-up of Iraq and permanent US bases near major oil fields.
The cost: $3-5 trillion to American taxpayers.

(Clip from “Fahrenheit 9/11″ by Michael Moore)

 

Saircraft suit mission accomplishedO WE’VE REACHED  the 10th anniversary of President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” spectacle, the nadir of any US presidency since the time Richard Nixon made his getaway in a helicopter from the White House lawn.

The aircraft carrier stunt was a Karl Rove PR production designed to provide images for Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.  Back in 1984, Ronald Reagan’s media Svengali, Michael Deaver, patched together– to great effect– campaign footage of a flak-jacketed Reagan gazing into binoculars at the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

As with everything else, Rove sought to turn Bush into a cowhide version of the Great Communicator.

On May 1st, 2003, Rove apparently believed that a victory lap with Bush donning a “Top Gun” costume and prancing around the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln would be political gold for 2004.  Bush could burnish his “wartime president” bona fides and thwart any Democratic attempts to talk about anything other than the “War on Terror.”

When the U.S. occupation of Iraq soon degenerated into the totally predictable ethnic and sectarian bloodbath it became, Rove dropped the idea of running the images and even used surrogates to blame the sailors for erecting the “Mission Accomplished” banner.

mission accomplished coffinsIn US-occupied Iraq, every car bomb, every IED, every suicide bomber, and every sectarian killing that followed that sunny day in May off the San Diego coast made a mockery of Bush’s premature spiking of the proverbial football and brought deserved derision from the rest of the world.

“Major combat operations in Iraq have ended,” Bush proclaimed.  “In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.”

This news might come as a surprise to the families of the 3,424 Americans who died in combat in Iraq over the course of the next eight years.

With all the warmongering we’ve heard lately regarding Syria from the usual suspects and the anti-Muslim bigotry following the Boston Marathon bombings, I wonder if we’ve learned anything over the past ten years…

 …You can continue reading the rest of Dr. Palermo’s article here.

* * * * * * * * *

The Humboldt Sentinel appreciates Dr. Palermo sharing his article with our readers. 

Before earning a Master’s degree and Doctorate in History from Cornell University, Professor Palermo completed Bachelor degrees in Sociology and Anthropology from UC Santa Cruz and his Master’s degree in History from San Jose State University. 

eighties-150x150An Associate Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, Professor Palermo’s most recent book is The Eighties.  He’s written two other books:  In His Own Right: The Political Odyssey of Senator Robert F. Kennedy; and Robert F. Kennedy and the Death of American Idealism.

 Dr. Palermo’s expertise includes the 1980s; political history; presidential politics and war powers; social movements of the 20th century; the 1960s; and the history of American foreign policy.
 
rfkHe currently writes for the Huffington Post, LA Progressive, his website, and other publications.
 
 
Images and video by the Humboldt Sentinel.
Posted by Skippy Massey

Posted in Politics3 Comments

Arrest Bush, Impeach Obama

The high crime of torture must be prosecuted

 

By Rob Urie
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Confirmation by the Constitution Project nearly a decade late that the George W. Bush administration and the U.S. military and ‘intelligence’ services committed acts of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere appears a Rorschach test for the ‘sentiments’ of the American people. However, sentiments aside, formal indictments of culpable officials on war crimes charges and the start of impeachment proceedings against current President Barack Obama are the only relevant responses to the report. Torture is a crime under laws to which the U.S. is signatory. And with his war on Iraq George W. Bush and his administration murdered, or caused the premature deaths of, more than a million people and substantially destroyed a modern nation state.

By 2004, when pictures of Iraqi civilians being tortured and humiliated at A

NDAA

bu Ghraib prison were leaked, it was widely evident the Bush administration had established a global system of kidnapping, torture, rape and murder. The grotesque euphemisms ‘take the gloves off’ and ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ provided cover for criminal behavior only to the extent Americans were willing to suspend judgment of what was before their eyes. The ‘fog of war’ was the fog of contrived fear and the malicious acts of America’s idiot prince and his bosses and acolytes were fueled by ignorance and fed on arrogance and stupidity. The language of nationalist psychosis was revived to insist the saving of ‘American’ lives was worth any price and as the Constitution Project report demonstrates, America’s victims paid that price in real time. And today under the new boss, Barack Obama, they are still paying.

What at first glance seems surprising in the development of the report is Republican Asa Hutchison, former Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Mr. Bush, and as such a legally culpable party to the crimes exposed in it, co-led the Constitution Project effort. The decade-long use of euphemisms for what was clearly torture served both as legal cover and the public relations interests of the Bush administration. By explicitly calling acts ‘torture’ in the report a boundary of legal culpability was breached. An earlier report conducted by the U.S. Senate reportedly contains similar findings but remains classified. Together these indicate ‘official’ evidence of culpability that could be used as the basis for criminal prosecutions if the will and means to prosecute are found. As such, Mr. Hutchison’s role appears to be as leader of an informal ‘truth and reconciliation’ committee. However, the magnitude of the crimes of aggressive war and torture warrant criminal prosecution, not reconciliation.

In his statement accompanying the release of the Project report Mr. Hutchison proposed that ignorance of legitimate interrogation methods, and possibly naiveté, were behind the Bush administration’s torture policies. The proposition itself is naïve, and in legal terms irrelevant, in that the Bush administration contemporaneously sought legal cover for its actions behind bogus legal theories, engaged in efforts to cover up illegal behavior and carried out phony ‘investigations’ of torture that limited culpability to low-level operatives. In addition to providing clear and detailed statements that Bush administration actions were torture, Mr. Hutchison restated facts of broader culpability: former President Bill Clinton started the ‘extraordinary rendition’ program used by the Bush and Obama administrations and current President Barack Obama continues torture practices and is hiding other current U.S. practices of dubious legality behind the illegitimate veil of ‘state secrets.’

To address the most prominent rationale for recent American defenders of torture: as copious evidence suggests, the George W. Bush administration had been warned of the attacks of September 11, 2001 by internal intelligence services, by overseas intelligence services and through a number of personal calls made directly to Mr. Bush from prominent world leaders prior to their occurrence. The ‘failure’ of 9/11 was the failure to respond to copious and overwhelming evidence an attack was imminent, not from an absence of information. Administration reaction to its failure to prevent the attacks was to fraudulently infer blame onto Iraq to justify launching a war of aggression against it. And illegal torture has been a standard tactic of the U.S. military and intelligence services overseas for decades with no relation to an imminent attack on the U.S. either claimed or inferred. In other words, even if torture had revealed the plot it would have made no difference– it was the failure to act on the available information that facilitated the attacks.

Part of the value of the Constitution Project report is it broadens the realm of ‘officially’ known U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan to include systematic torture by the U.S. military and intelligence services. That is, far from the administration’s contention the use of torture was limited to specific ‘targets’ and designed to yield specific and urgent information needed to prevent another attack on the U.S., torture was widespread, often used where no information relevant to activities against the U.S. was suspected, and was carried out for purposes unrelated to direct ‘U.S. interests.’ When put together with a separate BBC report claiming forces led by American James Steele were sent to Iraq to lead ‘counter-insurgency’ efforts that included the systematic torture and murder of Iraqi ‘insurgents,’ historical continuity is added to America’s torture program.

According to the BBC report, in the 1980s Mr. Steele led counter-insurgency forces in Central America on behalf of American business and imperial interests. That effort also included the systematic murder and torture of accused ‘insurgents,’ often innocents caught in the way of right-wing ‘death-squads’ supported by the U.S.  The cluttered, confused, and ultimately irrelevant legal ‘justifications’ for torture provided by the Bush administration were transformed from theory to fact when Mr. Steele was sent to Iraq. This isn’t to suggest that U.S.-led torture and murder in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t precede Mr. Steele’s arrival, but it ties systematic torture and murder past to present. It cannot credibly be argued systematic torture and murder are a response to specific events when they precede those events by decades.

When Barack Obama entered office in 2009 he claimed the right to ‘look forward, not back’ that wasn’t his to claim. The law requires war crimes be investigated and prosecuted if evidence of guilt is found. Behind a veil of political pragmatism, not wanting to be caught up in ‘partisan’ politics, Mr. Obama moved America’s programs of political torture and murder into the 21st century. Had he enthusiastically prosecuted Bush administration crimes Mr. Obama could have revived international sanction against aggressive war and torture and ended, even if only temporarily, the of use of ancient imperial techniques in a world with the technological capacity to murder, maim and torture beyond the ancient imagination.

Instead of doing this Mr. Obama claimed the illegitimate and illegal rights of aggressive war, permanent incarceration of known innocents, torture and technocratic slaughter, all under the cover of opaque public relations techniques, quasi-sophisticated language and his casual demeanor. By choosing continuity and enhancement over clear, straightforward and unambiguous break with Mr. Bush’s catastrophic policies, Mr. Obama codified them into the set of ‘acceptable’ practices of American empire. But much as the context of fear and ignorance temporarily protected Mr. Bush and his administration from the clear language of their acts that will sooner or later condemn them to their ever so deserved fates, Mr. Obama chose the wrong side of history. The claims of real politic, that some innocents must die no matter who leads or follows, occasionally joins the ruin corrupt and criminal leaders meet when their crimes pass the historical context that facilitated and incubated them.

Unstated in the continuity of imperial torture and murder is that they never serve their claimed purposes. It was well understood by the standing bureaucracy in Washington during the ‘Bush years’ that torture doesn’t produce ‘useful’ information and that political murder eliminates the unlucky and the unfortunate, not the purported ‘targets.’ When the Bush administration offered nearly unfathomable wealth to poor Afghanis to turn their neighbors in for ‘crimes’ against America, even they weren’t so stupid as to believe those turned over were guilty of anything but misfortune. The unstated purpose of imperial torture and murder is to provide evidence of imperial power—to produce subservience and acquiescence through random terror. Why else does Mr. Obama randomly murder with drones, did Mr. Bush establish his torture regime and concentration prisons, and did Mr. Clinton create his program of kidnapping and torture?

The practical problem with using imperial / state terror as a strategy of political repression is that random torture and murder don’t force compliance with imperial and / or state interests—their random nature precludes association between their infliction and specific acts. This general principle was understood by the time of the Nuremberg trials—Nazi law couldn’t be followed because it was incoherent. But the point of Nazi law was to force the will of the Nazi leadership onto the German citizenry, not to maintain civil order. What change in behavior can be obtained through Mr. Obama’s drone murders other than to prevent people from being males between the ages of 16 and 50 or from sitting down with their families to share a meal? What interest is served other than to terrorize people? The Bush administration had little interest in determining the guilt or innocence of those imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay because the point of their incarceration wasn’t (isn’t) to punish guilt; it is to demonstrate imperial power.

Americans who see themselves on the ‘lucky’ side of torture and murder are either members of the tiny ruling class at present outside the realm of possible torture and / or murder or aren’t looking at present and recent past circumstance very hard. The purpose of the surveillance state isn’t to solve some ‘crime’ wave because there is none. Persons of the ‘wrong’ skin color and / or economic class aren’t harassed, beaten, fraudulently incarcerated or murdered to reduce ‘crime’ because an entire ruling class of economic and war criminals is hiding in plain sight and available for arrest were it in ‘the state’s’ interest to reduce crime. The rise of solitary confinement (torture) and the revival of debtor’s and for-profit prisons in the U.S. illuminate the political economic interests behind the incarceration state. And as New York City’s police Commissioner Ray Kelly recently articulated, the purpose of harassment of, violence against and incarceration of black and brown youth is to create a level of state terror that precludes ‘crime.’ In other words, terror is the state tactic of repression, not the crime.

Finally, this piece is written in the context of events surrounding the recent bombings in Boston. I lived in Cambridge, a few miles from the bombings, for five years and only recently moved back to New York. I have for decades had family and friends who have run the Boston Marathon, have been an avid runner myself for some twenty-five years, and have been a spectator at the Marathon on several occasions. There is no argument that could be made that any of the victims of the bombings were legitimate political targets. Where I now grieve for those maimed and murdered in Boston, so have I grieved for the innocents, now numbering over one million in Iraq and Afghanistan, who died in illegal wars of aggression, and the many who were also illegally tortured. If what happened in Boston was a crime, and it was, so too is illegitimate war and torture. Mr. Bush and his administration, and now with Mr. Obama joining him, deserve fair trials for their crimes and fitting punishment if found guilty, just as the murderers in Boston do.

Posted in Opinion, Politics0 Comments

Before the Collapse, A Call to Action

The numbers are cooked, and there is no recovery

 

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

 

The economic news in the last two weeks points to bad news for the economy and a reason for people to mobilize and demand change. We want to emphasize that as bad as the situation looks, there are solutions and ways to protect ourselves. The time to act is now.

Before we get to the impact of the Obama budget, let’s explode a critical myth: there is no recovery (at least for the 99%). Last month’s unemployment numbers revealed the fraud of the unemployment rate. Even though the country produced less than 90,000 new jobs, when over 120,000 are needed to keep up with growth, the unemployment rate declined. Why? Because hundreds of thousands are giving up on work each month and they don’t get counted.

At present, over 100 million working age Americans do not have a job that is 41.5%. And, for some groups, African Americans and youth in particular, this is a persistent jobs crisis that ensures low incomes and little wealth for the future. And, workers who do have jobs are paid way too little, about half of the value of what they actually produce. There will be no recovery until these fundamentals change.

The combination of poor federal economic policy – which is getting more off-track – and a corrupt economy is bringing on the next crash. In an article in Truthout last week, we point out the deep corruption of the finance system, which dominates the economy. Security fraud expert Bill Black told us that the evidence shows that fraud is “pervasive” among the “most elite financial institutions,” yet the Obama government policy was no prosecution. The Economic Collapse Blog points out there are 11 crashes going on right now: gold, silver, bitcoins, consumer confidence, 401(k) retirement accounts, casino gambling, Greek employment, European financial stocks, Spanish bankruptcies and energy demand; and predicts the bloated US stock market is next.

As we approach the next crash, the government’s across the board sequester is beginning to have big impacts on people’s lives and will lead to further shrinking of the economy. Here are 100 cutbacks that are affecting people as of early April and the pace is picking up. These impacts are very real, thousands of Medicare patients with cancer are being turned away at health clinics because of sequester cut-backs. And, at a time of increasing poverty, Greg Kaufman writes the sequester means: “up to 140,000 fewer low-income families receiving housing vouchers, more children exposed to lead paint, higher rent for people who can’t afford it and a rise in homelessness.”

If either President Obama’s or Paul Ryan’s budget, or some of each, is enacted, and they will since these are what DC is considering, the economy will get even worse. The bipartisans have fully embraced austerity and are being cheered on by the corporate media and wealth-funded think tanks, as Margaret Flowers found when she debated two on the Marc Steiner Show, one from a “liberal” Democrat think tank, the other a conservative Republican – they agreed while Margaret had to correct their false statements.

The president has shown his embrace of austerity by proposing unilateral budget cuts to Social Security and Medicare that will shrink benefits and increase the cost of health care. After four years of seeking to cut these programs, the “Grand Obama Betrayal” has arrived. Economist Jack Rasmus describes this as a “grand collusion” between the bipartisan corporatists and big business interests. The president did not put forward any plans to solve the jobs crisis, shrink the wealth divide, build a new economy – instead he embraced a mistaken mission of austerity.

The embrace of austerity does not apply to the military, whose sequester cuts were restored with the administration even funding a missile defense program that Congress de-funded as the military continues to be well-funded. When it comes to people’s needs, Obama put forward an approach that intentionally ignores the real living costs of the elderly and instead relied on a fake inflation rate that economist Michael Hudson calls “catfood reform.” Obama and the bipartisans want Americans to think these cuts are necessary, but in fact, they aren’t.

Obama is not only hurting the middle class, poor, elderly and veterans with these cuts, but his budget continues to give gifts to big business. Obama’s budget is proposing to sell the Tennessee Valley Authority to big energy interests. This will ensure consumers pay the highest rates possible. As food safety gets worse, Obama’s budget will cut chicken inspectors and let the industry inspect itself. And, Obama, who has always been well-funded by the nuclear industry, revised rules to dramatically raise permissible radioactive levels in drinking water and soil following “radiological incidents,” such as nuclear power-plant accidents and dirty bombs.

These wins for industry are losses to the health and welfare of Americans. Congress does its job for big business well; research shows big payoffs for members who vote to deregulate the deeply corrupt finance industry. And, agribusiness food giant Monsanto was able to get the Monsanto Protection Act passed, which prevents regulation of GMO’s and even prevents courts from intervening.

The corruption of Congress and the president were on display this week when they repealed the STOCK Act, designed to prevent insider trading by high government officials by requiring them to disclose their financial investments in a searchable format. The Senate passed the repeal in 10 seconds, the House in 14, both by unanimous consent – not one member spoke up to oppose the repeal. President Obama quickly and quietly signed the law. His repeal was accomplished more quietly than when Obama signed the STOCK Act a year ago, saying how important it was for elected officials to live within transparent rule of law. Speaking of corrupt secrecy, the Federal Reserve argues that the widespread corrupt mortgage practices are trade secrets and should not be disclosed. Is this mafia capitalism at work?

It is now clear that Americans who deposited money in big banks could suffer the same result as the people of Cyprus, remember the lessons of the Depression, and have their deposits seized and turned into bank stock. Ellen Brown reports this is part of the “too big to fail” banks plan to withstand the next collapse. In fact, massive and risky derivatives investments, almost as large as the US economy, would receive more protection than depositors. It could happen here in a collapse, and it would be fast and furious, with the banks or the FDIC writing down deposits to save the banks at the expense of consumers. And, if you can’t pay your bills, be wary of debtor’s prison.

Every tax year, we are reminded how unfair the tax system is and how the big banks and wealthy avoid taxes by hiding money off-shore, claiming loses in the US and profits abroad. One report indicates that these off-shore havens cost the average taxpayer $1,000 annually. This year, a cache of 2.5 million files containing the secrets of more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts that were analyzed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists exposed hidden dealings of politicians, criminals, business people and the mega-rich the world over totaling up to $32 trillion hidden off-shore.

As we get closer to the full implementation of ObamaCare the legislation is looking more expensive and less beneficial to consumer. Obama met with the insurance industry at the White House to discuss their partnership in implementing the law. The law is getting more costly to implement so Obama is pulling back on its promises. Already rising health care costs are resulting in people cutting back on their prescription drugs to save money – this will not be good for health or for the cost of healthcare. And, Obama is moving to quietly ruin Medicare with cuts while at the same time increasing funding for the more expensive and less efficient private insurance for seniors, Medicare Advantage. This is part of the privatization of the most successful part of US healthcare, Medicare, made worse by the nomination of a former executive for Hospital Corporation of America to run Medicare. Marilyn Tavenner promises to run Medicare as a business, just the opposite of what it should be, a necessary public service.

The political and economic mess of Washington and Wall Street, the foundering economy and threat of another collapse, are leading more and more people to question the viability of big finance capitalism; with criticism ranging beyond its traditional critics. More and more call for breaking up the big banks and tougher enforcement against banksters. But, others are calling for more structural changes. In an article that will be published in Truthout tomorrow, we discuss how to transform the Federal Reserve to make it transparent, democratic and responsive to the economy; the creation of public banks in every state and major cities as well ways to opt-out of the Wall Street economy.

The crisis of the US economy and government are upon us. The only way we will stop the cuts to necessary social services, the continued privatization of public services and government gifts to big business is to mobilize to stop business as usual in Washington, DC. Beyond that, it is important for all of us to envision and begin to create the new economy as the old one collapses. There is more information about the new economy and links to resources at ItsOurEconomy.us.

The future is ours to define. Now is the time to for action!

Posted in National, Opinion, Politics0 Comments

Eyewitness: Police Warned Boston Marathon Bombing “Just a Drill”

 

Three dead, 130 injured in blast earlier today at finish line

 

By Aaron Dykes and Melissa Melton

TruthStream Media

 

(Editor’s note: According to Common Dreams, a pair of explosions rocked an area near the finish line of the Boston
Marathon on Monday, leaving at least three people, including
one child, dead and more than 130 injured, many critically. 
Six of the seven Humboldt County residents attending the Boston
Marathon are confirmed safe as of press time.)

Just hours after two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston marathon earlier today, telltale signs are already emerging that this incident, like so many others, fits a pattern we’ve seen many times before in suspected terrorist plots in America’s history.

At the time of writing this, reports vary on the number dead and injured, but one thing is certain — two explosions went off near the 26.2-mile marathon finish line, putting the nation under yet another post-9/11 security lockdown. Cellphone service was shutdown in Boston, and SB Nation cited AP that law enforcement shutdown cell service to Boston to “prevent any possible remote detonations in the future”:

AP reports circulated Boston cellphone service was shutdown by law enforcement to prevent "remote detonations".

AP reports circulated that Boston cellphone service was shutdown by law enforcement to prevent “remote detonations”.

The FAA quickly ordered a no-fly zone over the city and, the 1,000 members of New York City Police Department’s counter-terrorism unit were being mobilized to step up security there, including deployment of “critical response vehicles.” Los Angeles reportedly increased checkpoints and released bomb-sniffing dogs in public transportation centers.

As details trickle in and others get changed completely, the facts are still largely being sorted out.

Here’s what do we know.

“It was just a drill.”

University of Mobile coach Ali Stevenson told local NBC affiliate WPMI-TV 15 that not only did he feel something was ‘odd’ about the bomb-sniffing dogs posted at both the marathon’s start and finish, but just after he crossed the finish line, police were announcing a drill:

“They kept making announcements on the loud speaker that it was just a drill and there was nothing to worry about,” Coach Ali Stevenson told Local 15. “It seemed like there was some sort of threat, but they kept telling us it was just a drill.”

In a related report from the same affiliate, Stevenson told the station he also noticed law enforcement spotters on the rooftops at the start of the race.

Adding to this compelling report is the fact that Boston police admittedly detonated a “controlled explosion” at the 600 block of Boylston Street near Copley Square near the location of the first two explosions, as confirmed by police scanner transmissions, raising questions about the origins of the other explosions. The Boston Globe tweeted, “Officials: There will be a controlled explosion opposite the library within one minute as part of bomb squad activities.”

globe

Flash reports now say the White House is officially calling the Boston bombing today “an act of terror”.

The 26th mile of the marathon was dedicated to Newtown victims, and their families were VIP seated near the finish line.

MSNBC's original headline

MSNBC’s original headline shown in purple.

MSNBC first reported, “26th mile of Marathon was dedicated to Newtown victims,” but just 13 minutes ago at the time of writing, the establishment-friendly outlet has changed the page’s headline to, “‘You can’t go anywhere’: Newtown runner’s wife speaks“.

MSNBC's newer headline, updated for maximum trauma impact.

MSNBC’s newer headline, updated for maximum trauma impact.

The New York Post reports that Newtown victim families were stationed right near the blast zone:

Relatives of the victims of December’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn. were among those attending the race finish at a VIP area. It was not known of any of the relatives were among the casualties.

Since the mass shooting tragedy at Sandy Hook, our President, politicians and their puppet media have exploited the Newtown tragedy for every last ounce of momentum they could, pushing a greater nationwide gun control and disarmament agenda. At 6:10 EST tonight, President Obama addressed the nation, affirming the perpetrators would “feel the full weight of justice” and that the FBI would be leading the investigation into the Boston bombing.

It’s only time before the Newtown shooting is made synonymous with this bombing tragedy to further condition the public that A) we must give up our weapons because not only are they dangerous, but B) only the government can truly keep us safe.

Authorities are reporting a “Saudi Arabian National” is the leading suspect.

Multiple media outlets including the New York Post are reporting that a 20-year old Saudi man with shrapnel wounds is being detained as the lead suspect in the marathon bombing at a Boston-area hospital.

The idea that drills are used to cover for involvement by the intelligence community is not just speculation, it is admitted fact in countless cases where FBI informants set-up and controlled al Qaeda suspects or other would be terrorists. In 2011, RT profiled an FBI report admitting that nearly every attempted terrorist attack since 9/11 was actually goaded on by uncover informant who had infiltrated suspect groups, typically encouraging individuals to take action on concocted plots.

“The report reveals that the Washington DC Metro bombing plot, the New York City subway plot, the attempt to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower and dozens more were all orchestrated by FBI agents. In fact, reads the report, only three of the more well-known terror plots of the last decade weren’t orchestrated by FBI-involved agents.”

In most of these high profile cases, the FBI “foils” the plot that they helped create, or the attacker is given a ‘dud’ explosive device. Then the media plays up the event as another near miss in the critical war on terror, while quietly admitting that no one was ever in any real danger, essentially acknowledging that the plot was theater for public consumption.

However, such an FBI-led plot admittedly went live and killed several people, while causing extensive damage during the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The FBI’s Egyptian informant Emad Salem became suspicious of the FBI’s intentions and recorded conversations exposing their involvement in ring-leading the deadly attack. While a harmless powder was supposed to be given to the suspects, real explosives were instead issued just days before the attack took place.

While the threat of terrorism is constantly emphasized, the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies have enabled and encouraged such plots is rarely mentioned on air and almost never focused on in media coverage.

In the case of the Boston Marathon bombing, CNN was already propagating within hours the idea that ‘right-wing extremists‘ were behind the bombing.

Like so many historical examples, the establishment is patently using the tragedy to further their own ends, and the creepy tie in to victims’ families of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting only further likens the chances that Americans rights will be curtailed by the national security response to disaster after disaster.

 

Posted in Crime, National, Politics0 Comments

Supreme Court Concludes Marriage Law Arguments

 

High Court Justices Skeptical of DOMA

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Concluding arguments on marriage law, several Supreme Court justices indicated an interest in striking down a law that denies federal benefits to legally married
same-sex couples today, presenting the possibility of a
major change in gay marriage law in the next few months.

supreme courtThe law is the focus of a second day of oral arguments before the high court as it tackles the gay marriage issue.  Five votes on the court would be needed to invalidate the law.

The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) law passed by the House with a vote of 342 to 67 and signed by President Clinton denies married same-sex couples access to federal benefits by defining marriage solely as being between a man and a woman.  A section of the law, in effect, bars federal agencies from recognizing same-sex marriages, even in the states where they are legal.

protest miserableThe oral argument came a day after the court previously signaled that it is unlikely to issue a sweeping ruling declaring that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The issue today was the application of the federal estate tax to a lesbian couple who had been married in Canada and lived in New York.  As executor of Thea Spyer’s estate, Edie Windsor paid more than $360,000 in federal estate taxes.  Windsor is seeking a refund on the ground that she is Spyer’s surviving spouse and under federal law, property that passes to a surviving spouse is generally free from estate taxes.

There are more than 1,000 federal laws and programs also having rules that depend in part on a person’s marital status.

protestJustice Anthony Kennedy, a potential swing vote, warned of the “risks” that infringes upon the traditional role of the states in defining marriage.

Kennedy referred to DOMA as “inconsistent” because it purports to give authority to the states to define marriage while limiting recognition of those determinations.  He indicated that he had problems with law:  whether Congress and the President had the right to say what marriage is, instead of leaving it to each state to make the legal definition.

Kennedy also seemed troubled by what he saw as the lack of narrow focus of the law.  He said DOMA applies in the nine states that have decided to permit same-sex marriages as well as in the states that do not permit it.

On the liberal side of the bench, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan echoed some of Kennedy’s concerns about the states’ rights issue.

protest1“What gives the federal government the right to be concerned at all about the definition of marriage?” Sotomayor said.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also raised concerns about the law, stressing how important federal recognition is to any person who is legally married.  Justice Ruth Ginsburg said that because the federal rules which apply to married couples are so pervasive in the states that permit same-sex marriages, married same-sex couples could not get the federal benefits couples that heterosexual couples
get.  They would, therefore, end up with “a skim milk marriage.”

“It affects every area of life,” Ginsburg said.

protest2It is possible the court would not reach the wider issue of same-sex marriages in the case because of preliminary legal matters relating to whether the court can hear it or not.

On that issue, conservative justices criticized the decision by President Barack Obama to abandon the legal defense of DOMA, and called into question his willingness to defend other laws passed by Congress and challenged in court.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Antonin Scalia were the most critical of the approach the Obama administration has taken about the law.  “That’s very troubling,” Justice Kennedy said.

While the criticisms may not affect how the justices eventually rule, it clearly showed their frustration with how Obama has walked a thin and difficult political line concerning gay marriage.

protest4Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, said in February of 2011 that they would cease defending the DOMA law because they believed it is invalid under the Constitution.  Don’t expect Republicans to embrace same-sex laws or marriage anytime soon, either.  In the place of the Justice Department’s buckling, Republican lawmakers have stepped in to argue for the law and against same-sex marriage.

The court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June.

More about the court’s hearing can be found at The Wasington Post.

* * * * * * * * *

racial and gay marriage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in National, Politics0 Comments

Twelve Bucks Must Wait Twenty Months

 

Council punts on Eureka Fair Wage Act; voters to decide on November 4, 2014

 

By Charles Douglas
Humboldt Sentinel 

 

Not worth passing, and not worth studying.

The value of a $12-per-hour minimum wage in the City of Eureka was lost on the Council’s conservative majority, which rejected the citizen petition to immediately adopt the increase, and also rejected the option of ordering a 30-day study period to allow City Hall to research the matter.

“I’m not convinced at all we need a 30 day report,” Councilmember Melinda Ciarabellini said. “I’m also not convinced that the City of Eureka should take responsibility for a full and complete report assessment.”

Aside from the cost of a report — Ciarabellini cited a San Jose study, brought up by initiative proponents, as a $50,000 expenditure — the elected reps seemed predisposed in their decision. There was no amount of inquiry which appeared to interest them in creating the first municipal minimum wage in Humboldt County was advisable.

“We don’t have an option to alter the ordinance, so basically the interim study-type thing wouldn’t be complete, it wouldn’t change the outcome,” Councilmember Marian Brady said. “People will hopefully get educated on what the unintended consequences are.”

The 4-1 vote sends the Eureka Fair Wage Act to the next regularly scheduled municipal election, to be held on November 4, 2014. Proponents had hoped to gather the signatures of 15% of Eureka’s registered voters, which would have forced a special election this summer. About a fifth of the submitted signatures, however, were determined to be invalid, leaving them with 1,635 which counted; this still meant they were well ahead the 10% mark needed to qualify for a spot in the next general election. This will put the $12 wage question on the same ballot where the Mayor and three out of five members of the City Council will appear.

As ever, Councilmember Linda Atkins dissented from her colleagues, arguing strongly that the city need not wait nearly two years to alleviate the suffering of poverty-wage workers.

“I hope we can discuss this in kind of an unbiased way because I think in the last 30 years we’ve been inundated with a mindset that hasn’t worked…starting somewhere in the 80s, there’s been a concentrated effort to think of working people as the enemy,” she said. “We’ve been told that to raise people’s wages, we’re going to hurt businesses, when the San Jose study has showed that putting money in working people’s pockets helps the economy.”

Atkins pointed to figures provided by the California Budget Project, which show that it would cost a single adult $13.32-per-hour to skip any assistance from the government and pay for their own food, health care, transportation and housing — assuming a remarkably low rate of $569-per-month for an apartment.

“We’re not even talking about raising this wage to the point that people could actually live on,” she said. “I think we should just vote to pass this, and tell the people of Eureka we support you…our poverty level is hideous and I think this could help.”

A majority of public comments at tonight’s meeting made the same case on poverty, as Humboldt continues to rank as the third-poorest county in California.

“Many of Eureka’s problems are inseparable from our income being half the state average,” retired restauranteur George Clark said. “Sub-poverty wages require enormous public subsidies…a cycle that turns the poor into the destitute.”

Clark also called out the Councilmembers — namely Brady, Ciarabellini and Atkins — who form a majority of registered Democrats on the Council. He said they should honor their party’s platform to legislate on behalf of the working majority, a point also made by initiative proponent James Decker, who cited President Barack Obama’s call for a smaller federal minimum wage increase in this year’s State of the Union address.

“The critical variable in all the statistics is poverty,” Eureka retiree Lorraine Dunaway said. “Poverty is the number one risk factor for kids, for families, for females who make up far too much of the minimum wage work force. We would have a whole lot less dependence on social services if people could make a decent living.”

Neither party loyalty nor poverty appeared to motivate Brady and Ciarabellini; more apparent is the lasting impact of their cross-endorsement in their respective political campaigns with each other and with Mayor Frank Jager, a leading local Republican figure who served as County Coroner, and Councilmember Mike Newman, the former Chair of the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber has come out swinging against the $12 wage proposal, even though it wouldn’t directly affect a majority of its members, as the act excludes businesses with 24 or fewer employees.

Heavy hitters like Liana Simpson, owner of Sequoia Personnel Services, one of the largest temp agencies in the region, suggested people would drive from Eureka to Trinidad for the same meal if higher wages led to a four dollar increase in price.

“Employers of 25 or more who have minimum wage [workers] are less than 5% of the population,” she said. “These are the same employers who provide retirement benefits, education benefits and other incentives to our community.”

The “San Jose study” cited by both sides of the debate was produced by The Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics, part of The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. The author, economics professor Michael Reich, concluded that San Jose’s Measure D, which raises that city’s minimum wage to $10 (without any exemption for small businesses), would pump $190 million into the regional economy without hurting employment levels.

“Measure D will increase operating costs of the average business by less than 0.25 percent,” Reich states. “These costs will be partly offset by cost savings to employers, such as more workers applying for jobs, lower employee turnover costs and higher worker productivity.”

“Prices in low-wage industries such as restaurants will increase by less than 0.71 percent, which translates into less than twenty-five cents on a $30 meal. Price increases of this magnitude do not measurably hurt sales.”

Although he doesn’t vote on such matters except to break a tie, the Mayor did attempt to strike one conciliatory note with the initiative’s backers, many of whom were involved in the Occupy Eureka activist group. The local version of the ‘Occupy Movement’ had encamped on the Courthouse lawn in late 2011 in a weeks-long protest before being raided and forcibly removed by the Eureka Police Department (the results of which are still being played out in court).

“I appreciate you going through this process than the process we just went through in the courthouse,” Jager said. “So thank you for this.”

He had previously accused Occupy Eureka of trashing the courthouse and wasting public resources, and advised them to “go home and use a different tactic.”

Apparently they have, and this time the voters, not the police, shall decide the outcome.

Posted in Eureka, Features, Politics0 Comments

Congress: End Endless War

 

Stop Becoming the “Evil That We Deplore”

 

By Norman Solomon
Humboldt Sentinel Guest Post

 

Congress waited six years to repeal the Tonkin Gulf Resolution after it opened the bloody floodgates for the Vietnam War in August 1964.

If that seems slow, consider the continuing failure of Congress to repeal the “war on terror” resolution — the Authorization for Use of Military Force — that sailed through, with just one dissenting vote, three days after 9/11.

barbara leePrior to casting the only “no” vote, Congresswoman Barbara Lee spoke on the House floor.  “As we act,” she said, “let us not become the evil that we deplore.”

We have.  That’s why, more than 11 years later, Lee’s prophetic one-minute speech is so painful to watch.  The “war on terror” has inflicted carnage in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere as a matter of routine.  Targets change, but the assumed prerogative to kill with impunity remains.

Now, Rep. Lee has introduced H.R. 198, a measure to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military Force.  (This week, several thousand people have already used a RootsAction.org special webpage to email their Senators and House members about repealing that “authorization” for endless war.)

end war1Opposed to repeal, the Obama administration is pleased to keep claiming that the 137-month-old resolution justifies everything from on-the-ground troops in combat to drone strikes and kill lists to flagrant abrogation of civil liberties.

A steep uphill incline faces efforts to repeal the resolution that issued a blank political check for war in the early fall of 2001.  Struggling to revoke it is a valuable undertaking.  Yet even repeal would be unlikely to end the “war on terror.”

At the start of 1971, President Nixon felt compelled to sign a bill that included repeal of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution.  By then, he had shifted his ostensible authority for continuing the war on Vietnam — asserting his prerogative as commander in chief.  Leaders of the warfare state never lack for rationales when they want to keep making war.

shootersIn retrospect, the U.S. “war on terror” has turned out to be even more tenacious than the U.S. war that took several million lives in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during the 1960s and early 1970s.

Some key similarities resonate with current circumstances.  Year after year, in Congress, support for the Vietnam War was bipartisan.  Presidents Johnson and Nixon preached against unauthorized violence in America’s cities while inflicting massive violence in Southeast Asia.  Both presidents were fond
of proclaiming fervent wishes for peace.

end warBut unlike the horrific war in Southeast Asia, the ongoing and open-ended “war on terror” is not confined by geography or, apparently, by calendar.  The search for enemies to smite (and create) is availing itself of a bottomless pit, while bottom-feeding military contractors keep making a killing.

Beyond the worthy goal of repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force is a need for Congress to cut off appropriations for the “war on terror.”  A prerequisite: repudiating the lethal mythology of righteous war unbounded by national borders or conceivable duration.

What may be even more difficult to rescind is the chronic
disconnect between lofty oratory and policies digging the
country deeper into endless war.

end war3“We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war,” President Obama said in his 2013 inaugural address, after four years of doing more than any other president in U.S. history to normalize perpetual war as a bipartisan enterprise.

Repealing the Authorization for Use of Military Force will be very hard.  Revoking the power to combine lovely rhetoric with pernicious militarism will be even more difficult.

______________________________

end war cartoonNorman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.  His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”  He writes the Political Culture 2013 column.

This article originally appeared in Humboldt Organized for Peace and Environment (HOPE).

 

(Images by the Humboldt Sentinel.  Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in National, Opinion, Politics1 Comment

Five Hundred and Forty-Five Politicians

 

–Or, How Can a Barrel of Washington Monkeys Throw a Shoe in the Works–

(VIDEO)

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Corporate welfare– the enormous and myriad subsidies, bailouts, giveaways, tax loopholes, debt
revocations, loan guarantees, discounted insurance and
other benefits conferred by government on business– is
a function of political corruption.

Corporate welfare programs siphon funds from appropriate public investments, subsidize companies ripping minerals from federal lands, enable pharmaceutical companies to gouge consumers, perpetuate anti-competitive oligopolistic markets, injure our national security, and weaken our democracy.”

~Ralph Nader

 

So what has happened to our great nation?

stars and stripesPoliticians.  545 of them, to be exact.

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems– and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, why do we have deficits?  If all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, why do we have inflation and high taxes?  The more you observe politics, the more you’ve got to admit that each party is worse than the other.

Let’s put it all into some perspective unless we’ve forgotten or
resigned ourselves as to how things got this way.

bush babyYou and I don’t propose a federal budget.  The President does.  You and I don’t have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations.  The House of Representatives does.  You and I don’t write the tax code, Congress does.  You and I don’t set fiscal policy, Congress does.  You and I don’t control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one President, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human beings out of the 300 million who are directly, legally, morally, and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

Excluded are the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress.  In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.  The value of the dollar has lost ground ever since.

Excluded are all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason.  They have no legal authority.  They should have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a President to do one cotton-picking thing.  Even if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash, that politician has the power to accept or reject it.  No matter what the lobbyist promises, it’s the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.

politicoThose 545 monkeys spend much of their monkeyshine energy convincing you that what they did isn’t their fault.  They cooperate in this common flimflam con game regardless of their party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall.  No normal human being would have the gall of the Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits.  The President can only propose a budget; he can’t force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes.  Who is the speaker of the House?  John Boehner; he’s the leader of the majority party.  He and fellow House members, not the President, can approve any budget they want.  If the President vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.  The House has passed a budget, but the Senate hasn’t approved a budget in over three years.  The President’s proposed budgets have gotten almost unanimous rejections in the Senate during that time.

It seems inconceivable that a nation of 300 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted — by present facts — of incompetence and irresponsibility.  I can’t think of a single domestic problem that’s not traceable directly to those 545 people.

When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is because they want to exist.

democracyIf the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair.  If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red.  If an unregulated Wall Street caused the greatest recession in our collective memory, it’s because they want it unregulated.  If companies send jobs, earnings, and tax-sheltered profits overseas, it’s because they want them sheltered.  If the five largest banks that gambled and lost can’t be allowed to fail while millions lose their jobs, farms, and homes, it’s because they want the gambling.  If the Army & Marines are in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s because they want them in Iraq and Afghanistan.  If Congress does not receive Social Security but are on an elite retirement plan
not available to the people, it’s because they want it that way.

Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate.  What’s going to happen to us with both a House and a Senate?  There should be no insoluble government problems.

Don’t let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; or to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power.

Above all, do not let them hustle you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like “the economy,” “inflation,” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.  They, and they alone, have the power.  They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people– We the People– who are their bosses.

We might note the man with the best job in the country is the Vice-President.  All he has to do is get up every morning and say, “How is the President?”

diapersProvided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees, perhaps it’s time we vote all of the monkeys out of office– and begin cleaning up their mess.

So, what happened to our great nation?  You can spell ‘politicians.’  But can you spell “545 bought and paid for, monkey business-as-usual, beastly-political professional fat cat bureaucrats?”

Not one of the taxes below existed 100 years ago and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.  We had no national debt, we had the largest middle class in the world, and we had Mom who
stayed at home to raise the kids so they’d grow up properly.

The only difference between death and debt is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Excise Taxes
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax
Inventory Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Personal Property Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge Tax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Sales Tax
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Nonrecurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax 

“Just be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”

~Will Rogers

* * * * * * * * * *

monkeysOur appreciation goes out to Arlo Guthrie (Woody’s son), Ralph Nader, Charlie Reese of the Orlando Sentinel, Will Rogers, and to Sue O. of Medford, Oregon, for their contributions to this article.

Feel free to share this with others– or your local monkeyshine reps in Washington.

Send it around 545 times.  We would be honored.  Thank you.

Posted in Opinion, Politics1 Comment

GOP Rape Bill Sparks Outrage

 

Proposed New Mexico Law Would Now Prosecute Abortion Providers Instead of Rape Victims

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Santa Fe, New MexicoA Republican state lawmaker in
New Mexico proposed a law last week that would send a
woman to prison for three years on a felony if she had an
abortion after being raped– for “tampering with evidence.”

State Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, introduced H.B. 206. It states:

Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.”

The physician and health care professionals who perform the abortion could be charged criminally as well with a felony.

Cathrynn BrownBrown says it’s all a misunderstanding.  She said her intent was not to go after rape and incest victims, but to prosecute rapists and incest perpetrators who coerce women into having abortions.  She said the mistake occurred during the drafting of the bill, and she’s working on a substitute to make it clear the proposal wouldn’t apply to the victims.

Brown is a Carlsbad lawyer serving her second term in the New Mexico House since 2010.  She’s a past GOP chairwoman and has been on the board of Right to Life of Carlsbad, an outspoken
anti-abortion group.

 

Controversy and Outcry

Nine New Mexico House Republicans, all women, signed on as co-sponsors.  The bill quickly caught the eye of ABC News, The Huffington Post, Slate, Courthouse News, and Salon.com.

too farNew Mexico’s state Democratic Party, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and House Democrats all blasted the bill.

The first to publicize Brown’s bill was the liberal PAC Progress Now New Mexico.  “In addition to being blatantly unconstitutional, the bill turns victims of rape and incest into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state,” said Pat Davis, the group’s executive director.

Democratic Party Chairman Javier Gonzales called the legislation “atrocious” and demanded, “The war on women in America has to stop. No woman should ever be forced to carry a child for evidence, plain and simple.”

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, moved to distance herself from HB 206.  Responding to a request for a comment, her spokesperson said Martinez, as a career prosecutor, “would never support a bill that re-victimized rape survivors.”

On the national level, Democrats have decried a GOP “war on women” and cited outlandish statements about rape by Republican candidates to bolster that claim.  Some Republicans have said that such missteps by Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin and Indiana Senate contender Richard Mourdock cost the party U.S. Senate seats in those states.

 

Revising a Poorly Written Bill

new mexicoIn an interview last Thursday, Brown explained her intention, saying, “I’ve been talking to my constituents in Carlsbad and with law enforcement people, and they say we’re not doing enough to protect women and children.”

Her intent, she said, is to “go after perpetrators of incest and criminal sexual penetration who cover up their crime by forcing girls and women to get abortions.”  Prosecuting rape or incest victims was never the goal of the bill, Brown stressed, adding, “It’s the guy who does the sex crime.”

Brown revised her original bill Friday to specify that victims can’t be charged.

Brown posted the new version of the bill on her personal website.  In the new version of her bill, she added a sentence saying “In no circumstance shall the mother of the fetus be charged under this subsection.”  The original version of the bill, however, is still posted on the Legislature’s website.

The executive director of the state Democratic Party said Friday that the ‘new’ Brown bill still has problems.

“The bill still makes it a crime to ‘facilitate’ an abortion for a woman who wants one …,” said Scott Forrester in a news release.  “That means doctors, nurses, or anyone else who works at a health care clinic where this is one of the services provided would still be guilty of a felony.”

In another twist, Brown on Friday explained to a news reporter how the poorly written bill came about.  She had asked a bill drafter with the Legislative Council Service whether she should include a sentence about not charging the mother.  But, she said, the drafter told her that it wouldn’t be necessary– and prosecutors would understand that.

Brown has said part of the problem was that the original drafter quit his job before finishing the bill, so it went to another drafter.

peppersAsked about what had happened with drafting Brown’s bill and for permission to look at the file, John Yaeger of the Legislative Council Service said, “… we’re prohibited by law from disclosing the nature or contents of any request from a legislator, which includes any conversations, communications and the file.”

Critics of the proposed bill are questioning whether Cathrynn Brown and the New Mexico Legislature are going too far, overreaching for evidence from rape victims that would normally be obtained in other ways while
criminalizing
abortion health care providers.

* * * * * * * *

Posted in National, Politics4 Comments

Bill Maher: Shrivel Liberties

 

 

–And Cafeteria Constitutionalists

(VIDEO)–

 

By Bill Maher
HBO Real Time

 

The key to the new conservative “Constitutionalism” is
that they love, love, love every single word of the Constitution…
except for the parts that they hate.  And those parts therefore
don’t count and have to be changed.

The truth is that “Constitutionalist” has become code for “far-right Teabagger” just like “southern preacher” has become code for “closeted homosexual.”

As much as these people say they adore the Constitution, they’re a little choosey about what they do and don’t like about it:

Second Amendment?  Love it.  Tenth Amendment, which gives un-delegated power to the states?  Gotta have it.  But the “no establishment of religion” part of the First Amendment?  A little wobbly on that one.

The 17th Amendment, which allowed for direct election of senators (by the people; as opposed to legislative appointment), is on their chopping block.  In fact, John Yoo wrote about it a few years ago in the National Review Online, saying that the 17th “undermined federalism.”  John Yoo, of course, earned his Constitutional stripes by shitting all over the 8th Amendment while making room for torture.

The “no unreasonable searches and seizures” in the Fourth Amendment?  They kind of like it, but only for white people.

The 16th Amendment, which allows income tax, well, obviously that’s gotta go as well.  What were we thinking?  The Founding Fathers obviously wanted us to fund our modern military with rainbows and candy.

The 14th Amendment is right there in the Constitution too, but it allows the evil spawn of Mexicans to be citizens, so it clearly needs some tweaking.

And of course there’s all the stuff that’s not in the Constitution that needs to be.

If only our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to foresee the
miss meinvention of fire and cloth, we wouldn’t need a flag-burning amendment.  But we do.  And somehow James Madison must have left the “no gay marriage” amendment in his other pants the day he introduced the Bill of Rights, so we’ll have to fix that, too.

If they really loved the Constitution so much, wouldn’t they have more respect for it than that?

The reality is that Conservatives love their Constitution the exact same way they love their Bible — as something to thump, not something to read.

* * * * * * *

This article by Bill Maher, “Cafeteria Constitutionalists,” and others, can be found here

More HBO Real Time with Bill Maher can be found here.

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in National, Opinion, Politics1 Comment

The Surprising Sums of Eureka City Hall

 

Crushed Under Salary and Pensions, Eureka is Broke

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

Where did the money go?

Only nine months ago, Eureka Finance Director Paul
Rodrigues painted a rosy picture.  Eureka was doing
fine, fiscally speaking, he said.

Hank Sims of the Lost Coast Outpost gave us surprisingly different news on Wednesday.  Eureka is broke.

Not only that, we’re in debt.  The City is $7.8 million behind in its pension debt for employees.  The City– and specifically City Manager David Tyson and Finance Director Paul Rodrigues– want to adopt a bond issue covering the multi-million amount.

Even more surprising is that they want to make an end run around the normally required 2/3 ballot vote by having the bond issue remain off the ballot by seeking court approval instead of having taxpaying voters decide upon the measure.  The bond issue looks to have a whole cabal of
embedded toxic and arcane financing instruments worthy of the winged
monkeys in the Wizard of Oz.

This news comes on the heels of recent revelations that the McKinleyville School District and its trustees bought a high interest loan package of CABS– Capital Appreciation Bonds– and spent $72 million dollars to borrow $7-14 million and heaping the monstrous burden of debt onto unsuspecting McKinleyville property owners.

 

City Hall:  Who’s Minding the Store?

Long before these events occurred we had an inkling of the City’s runaway debt expenses.  Things just didn’t add up.

We were wondering, for example, why the five Eureka Ford police vehicles newly purchased by the City of Eureka at a cost of over $100,000 two years ago were still sitting unused and mothballed at the Eureka Corporation yard, exposed to the elements and seemingly rotting away without being put into service.  One has since been sold for a loss at auction.

The Eureka Police Department decided put the Fords aside in favor of purchasing some newer sexier Dodge Chargers to use instead.  We were given several explanations:  The Ford cruisers were awaiting light bars; they would be rotated into service soon; they were awaiting the start of next fiscal year’s budget.  None have happened.  The Fords are still sitting there, untouched, unmoved, and seemingly resting in a state of arrested decomposition like empty caskets awaiting cadavers.

Councilmember Marian Brady did bring the subject up, popping the question to our City Finance Man in a Eureka City Hall meeting nine months back.  Eureka’s Finance Director—a dapper panjandrum– gingerly skirted the issue.  He didn’t even attempt to give a cogent or congruent response.  Surprisingly, none of Eureka’s Councilmembers followed up on his blatantly non sequitur explanation that was dished out to them. 

They sat in dumbfounded silence, waiting for a few pregnant moments as the pea was adeptly shuffled under a different shell, and, resuscitated from their paused hesitation and obvious discomfort, moved onto the next item appearing on the agenda.  After all, they knew it was a waste of money– and they wouldn’t have to pay for it.  The taxpayers would.  Shuffle the pea, move on, and hope no one notices the difference.

We also took notice that City Manager David Tyson will be retiring with a percentage of his yearly retirement pay of $157,000.  Eureka’s incoming City Manager, William Panos, will be receiving a bit more, at $158,000.  Someone has to pay and pad those salaries.  That someone is you.

So we wondered: how much do these these municipal folks typically get paid per year?  Here’s a few numbers we came up with, taken from the California State Controller 2010 figures:

  • City Manager David Tyson:  $150,339 (His Assistant City Manager rakes in another $111,000)
  • City Attorney:  $135,960
  • City Engineer:  $121,739
  • Redevelopment and Housing Director:  $101,166
  • Public Works Director:  $98,495
  • Personnel Director:  $93,464
  • Finance Director:  $89,640

That’s just for starters.  There’s a lot more.  And remember, they all have additional staff and assistants on the payroll, too.

The City has 491 employees for an area of 9.4 square miles and 26,066 residents.  That’s one City employee for every 53 citizens.  The total City wage payroll comes to a whopping $16 million per year, or about $614 for every man, woman, and child in the city limits.  The average per capita household income in Eureka is $29,000.

 

The Police Department

Then we heard word that the Eureka Chief of Police, before Measure O was passed bolstering safety needs in our fair City, was paid roughly $133,000 in 2010– but his total wage compensation package bumped up to nearly $156,000, according to the California State Controller.

But there’s more.  The EPD Chief’s wages were followed by:

His Captain annually topping out at $112,500;

Two Lieutenants making approximately $107,000 each;

Nine sergeants pulling in $71,831 to $103,462 each;

And 89 other employees– ranging from 37 police officers to dispatchers to records specialists to an animal control technician, at different salary levels.  In all, there are nearly 100 EPD personnel fighting crime in various capacities in Eureka.

Perhaps we need it and this isn’t unusual given the complexity of police work nowadays.  Eureka, indeed, does have a fairly significant crime problem.  EPD deals with the unseemly ne’er-do-wells, scoundrels, rogues, vagabonds, and bugaboos infesting the City with skullduggeries that more genteel folks would prefer not to embrace.

So it shouldn’t surprise you that EPD officers can enjoy early retirement at age 50 with 90% of their salary for life.  A 3% @ 50 CalPers safety compensation package is standard issue for peace officers along with their weapons.  It’s a costly proposition.  Every officer may very well be worth his/her shiny badge of value as are those Ford patrol cruisers the City wastefully
put on ice.

 

The Fire Department:  Gold Plated Brass

So it didn’t surprise us, either, looking at some of the more shocking figures for
the Eureka Fire Department (since reorganized as Humboldt Bay Fire).

According to the State Controller’s Office 2010 figures, the Fire Chief took home a tidy sum of $166,666.  Nice.

His two Assistant Chiefs hauled in nearly $108,723 and $119,643, respectively.  Very nice!

More surprising was the addition of even more shiny brass.  The above administrative positions were followed by– get this– a gaggle of 18 Fire Captains I/II– at salaries ranging from $56,088 to $104,195 each.   Those were followed by 11 Fire Engineers with salary levels of between $48,456 to $70,359.

Of course, every fire department needs basic firefighters towing the line and putting out fires.  We only have six of those, ranging in price from $43,932 to $61,951.  A bargain!

Altogether, the Eureka Fire Department had 40 employees in 2010– with nearly all having the same 3% @50 retirement package as police officers.

There aren’t so many fires these days as there were back in the days of yore.  Buildings just don’t burn down like they used to, given the current building codes, safety standards, and new materials for construction.  Nowadays, our fire department performs first responder/ambulance calls, conducts fire inspections, and instructs first aid classes when they’re not going to schools teaching kids about fire safety.  Like EPD, the EFD/Humboldt Bay Fire also has a dangerous job to do; perhaps they, too, deserve safety pensions and retirement at the highest salary levels by age 50– even those hapless
bureaucratic souls who push paper at a desk.  After all, they may trip
over a chair getting up.

One can argue there are far too many chiefs and fat-cat administrators than there are troops in the trenches.  By retiring early, they’re set fairly well for life while the next round of recruits are to be similarly compensated. 

Because California has had a spiralling upward trend of government salaries– while it, too, goes broke– one can argue salary levels in Eureka are merely commensurate with the rest of the State.  And so the problem continues unabated.

 

Public Works and Recreation

But, surprisingly enough, it wasn’t EPD or EFD’s figures that
gave us cause for pause.  Here’s the sum that truly amazed us:
the number of allocated positions in one area of the City’s
enchanted 9.4 mile realm:  Public Works.

Public Works has a staggering 162 positions dedicated to…  recreation workers!  Seven pages worth in 2010, the State Controller reports, with salaries ranging between mostly paltry levels on the low end to a maximum $60,636 Recreation and Facilities Manager on the other.  The latter position carries a retirement package at age 57.  Another position we saw was entitled Men’s Basketball Official, paying $46,101.   Now that’s what we call a good gig.  Looking up the position again for this column several months later, it appears to have been since removed.

But due to the whopping number of recreation workers—162—we feel there must be some mistake.  Perhaps the majority of these positions are temporary, part time, vacant, frozen, or simply redundant in some way–a Twilight Zone of anomalies.  The City spent $512,847 per year on these wages in 2010 but the total budgetary allotment of the recreation positions comes in at a staggering $3 million.  Heavens to Betsy.  That can’t possibly be true, can it?  Read the figures and weep, folks.

Of course, Eureka does have its share of crumbling, decaying, and downright miserable roads that the City Council members discussed recently, mutually wringing their hands and nodding their heads in unison and dismay over the given plight of our potholed thoroughfares.

Fortunately we’re pleased to report, and you’ll be overjoyed to know, Eureka has been working on that.  They have nine positions—9!– set aside for maintaining our streets.  True, it’s not as many as our safety officers– or our recreation workers– but it
works.  And few of those roadworkers make as much as
our noted basketball official.

But don’t take our word on this fiasco.  See the figures from the State Controller’s Office for yourself, and tell us what you think and come up with.

 

Feeding the Beast, Gouging theTaxpayer

However, you may want to know who are the lowest paid employees.  Surprisingly enough, the City Council.  They receive roughly $6,000 per year, plus health benefits, for their civic servitude.  And the Mayor?  He pulls in $7,500 and doesn’t have to vote unless it’s a tie.  He does have to remember to raise or lower the podium and turn on the microphone.

We won’t even venture to guess how those City pensions will be paid off in the future.  Measure O helped fill part of the fiscal gap, at least temporarily.

That is, until City Manager David Tyson, who doesn’t reside in the City limits, told us they now need more money, and before his own hefty retirement comes due.  How much more? $7.8 million in arrears, apparently, to cover employees pension costs, we were told.  We ask:  why weren’t the pension obligations budgeted, tracked, and paid for in the first place?

Where did the money go?  We would venture to guess that,
like the rest of California,  Eureka has become a runaway
fiscal train, a lucrative Ponzi scheme for its own employees,
waste of moneyenriching its base at the expense of taxpayers.

Then, of course, there have been the many costly lawsuits the City either settled or lost over the past several years.  But that’s another story altogether.

Maybe it’s time to draw in the reigns and finally say enough is
enough– to debt, bonds, runaway pensions, and government
servants gouging its citizens unmercifully.

 * * * * * * * * *

When we first looked into the salary levels for Eureka we were astounded.  The Humboldt Sentinel has been the only media outlet initially reporting on these surprising sums from the State Controller’s Office.

stoogesOn April 1, 2013, Grant Scott-Goforth’s Time-Standard article, “State Website Shows Local Government Wages“  later confirmed our suspicions.  It reportedEureka paid $16 million in wages — the 10th highest total out of more than 100 cities with populations between 10,000 and 30,000.

The Eureka City Council will approve the pension bond issue– and thereby sideswiping voters from a ballot vote– at their
next meeting Tuesday, December 18 at 6 p.m.
at the Eureka City Hall.

Concerned residents should call or contact their Eureka Councilmembers.  At the very least, request the item be pulled from the agenda/consent calendar for public discussion.  Otherwise, it receives immediate blanket consent.  Send or share with them this article.

You can reach Councilmembers by phone, e-mail, or fax using the links below:

Mayor Frank Jager, #441-4200

Marian Brady, Ward 1, #441-4169

Linda Atkins, Ward 2, #441-4168

Mike Newman, Ward 3, #441-4170

Melida Ciarabellini, Ward 4, #441-4167

Lance Madsen, Ward 5, #441-4171

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Posted in Eureka, Local, Politics22 Comments

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