"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Oligarchy’

The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2011 at 11:59 pm

President Obama shakes hands with Princeton University professor Cornel West after speaking at the National Urban League’s 100th Anniversary Convention in Washington in July 2010.

Oldspeak: ” “We have got to attempt to tell the truth, and that truth is painful, it is a truth that is against the thick lies of the mainstream. In telling that truth we become so maladjusted to the prevailing injustice that the Democratic Party, more and more, is not just milquetoast and spineless, as it was before, but thoroughly complicitous with some of the worst things in the American empire. I don’t think in good conscience I could tell anybody to vote for Obama. If it turns out in the end that we have a crypto-fascist movement and the only thing standing between us and fascism is Barack Obama, then we have to put our foot on the brake. But we’ve got to think seriously of third-party candidates, third formations, third parties.” – Dr.Cornell West. While many will dismiss Brother West’s words as the bitter baseless griping of a jilted disaffected supporter; one cannot deny the truth in them. People have to start recognizing the reality of political life in America. Democracy is dead. The Democratic and Republican parties have been bought and paid for by oligarchical interests who care nothing for the wants and needs of the people. The 2 party system has grown maddeningly ineffective. Obama and his administration have thus far been more of the same status quo, un-reality and market-based governance. Elected dissenters like Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders are  aside from being few and far between; are ostracized, ignored and derided as cooks and ‘conspiracy theorists’ for daring to articulate reality that contradicts the “official story”. They find it very difficult to voice legitimate grievances of the people. In an America where thousands of dissenters and progressive activists are being aggressively oppressed and arrested, we have to as a people  evaluate the current administration based on what was promised and the far too many completely opposite policies that have been implemented. The rhetoric is brilliant and very convincing at times but the actions in many cases does not match it. Brother West is IMO emblematic of the many progressives, myself included, who feel profoundly disappointed in and betrayed by President Obama.

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

The moral philosopher Cornel West, if Barack Obama’s ascent to power was a morality play, would be the voice of conscience. Rahm Emanuel, a cynical product of the Chicago political machine, would be Satan. Emanuel in the first scene of the play would dangle power, privilege, fame and money before Obama. West would warn Obama that the quality of a life is defined by its moral commitment, that his legacy will be determined by his willingness to defy the cruel assault by the corporate state and the financial elite against the poor and working men and women, and that justice must never be sacrificed on the altar of power.

Perhaps there was never much of a struggle in Obama’s heart. Perhaps West only provided a moral veneer. Perhaps the dark heart of Emanuel was always the dark heart of Obama. Only Obama knows. But we know how the play ends. West is banished like honest Kent in “King Lear.” Emanuel and immoral mediocrities from Lawrence Summers to Timothy Geithner to Robert Gates—think of Goneril and Regan in the Shakespearean tragedy—take power. We lose. And Obama becomes an obedient servant of the corporate elite in exchange for the hollow trappings of authority.

No one grasps this tragic descent better than West, who did 65 campaign events for Obama, believed in the potential for change and was encouraged by the populist rhetoric of the Obama campaign. He now nurses, like many others who placed their faith in Obama, the anguish of the deceived, manipulated and betrayed. He bitterly describes Obama as “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

“When you look at a society you look at it through the lens of the least of these, the weak and the vulnerable; you are committed to loving them first, not exclusively, but first, and therefore giving them priority,” says West, the Class of 1943 University Professor of African American Studies and Religion at Princeton University. “And even at this moment, when the empire is in deep decline, the culture is in deep decay, the political system is broken, where nearly everyone is up for sale, you say all I have is the subversive memory of those who came before, personal integrity, trying to live a decent life, and a willingness to live and die for the love of folk who are catching hell. This means civil disobedience, going to jail, supporting progressive forums of social unrest if they in fact awaken the conscience, whatever conscience is left, of the nation. And that’s where I find myself now.

“I have to take some responsibility,” he admits of his support for Obama as we sit in his book-lined office. “I could have been reading into it more than was there.

“I was thinking maybe he has at least some progressive populist instincts that could become more manifest after the cautious policies of being a senator and working with [Sen. Joe] Lieberman as his mentor,” he says. “But it became very clear when I looked at the neoliberal economic team. The first announcement of Summers and Geithner I went ballistic. I said, ‘Oh, my God, I have really been misled at a very deep level.’ And the same is true for Dennis Rossand the other neo-imperial elites. I said, ‘I have been thoroughly misled, all this populist language is just a facade. I was under the impression that he might bring in the voices of brotherJoseph Stiglitzand brother Paul Krugman. I figured, OK, given the structure of constraints of the capitalist democratic procedure that’s probably the best he could do. But at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong.”

West says the betrayal occurred on two levels.

“There is the personal level,” he says. “I used to call my dear brother [Obama] every two weeks. I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back. And when I ran into him in the state Capitol in South Carolina when I was down there campaigning for him he was very kind. The first thing he told me was, ‘Brother West, I feel so bad. I haven’t called you back. You been calling me so much. You been giving me so much love, so much support and what have you.’ And I said, ‘I know you’re busy.’ But then a month and half later I would run into other people on the campaign and he’s calling them all the time. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. He doesn’t have time, even two seconds, to say thank you or I’m glad you’re pulling for me and praying for me, but he’s calling these other people. I said, this is very interesting. And then as it turns out with the inauguration I couldn’t get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration. My mom says, ‘That’s something that this dear brother can get a ticket and you can’t get one, honey, all the work you did for him from Iowa.’ Beginning in Iowa to Ohio. We had to watch the thing in the hotel.

“What it said to me on a personal level,” he goes on, “was that brother Barack Obama had no sense of gratitude, no sense of loyalty, no sense of even courtesy, [no] sense of decency, just to say thank you. Is this the kind of manipulative, Machiavellian orientation we ought to get used to? That was on a personal level.”

But there was also the betrayal on the political and ideological level.

“It became very clear to me as the announcements were being made,” he says, “that this was going to be a newcomer, in many ways like Bill Clinton, who wanted to reassure the Establishment by bringing in persons they felt comfortable with and that we were really going to get someone who was using intermittent progressive populist language in order to justify a centrist, neoliberalist policy that we see in the opportunism of Bill Clinton. It was very much going to be a kind of black face of the DLC [Democratic Leadership Council].”

Obama and West’s last personal contact took place a year ago at a gathering of the Urban League when, he says, Obama “cussed me out.” Obama, after his address, which promoted his administration’s championing of charter schools, approached West, who was seated in the front row.

“He makes a bee line to me right after the talk, in front of everybody,” West says. “He just lets me have it. He says, ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself, saying I’m not a progressive. Is that the best you can do? Who do you think you are?’ I smiled. I shook his hand. And a sister hollered in the back, ‘You can’t talk to professor West. That’s Dr. Cornel West. Who do you think you are?’ You can go to jail talking to the president like that. You got to watch yourself. I wanted to slap him on the side of his head.

“It was so disrespectful,” he went on, “that’s what I didn’t like. I’d already been called, along with all [other] leftists, a “F’ing retard”by Rahm Emanuel because we had critiques of the president.”

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, has, West said, phoned him to complain about his critiques of Obama. Jarrett was especially perturbed, West says, when he said in an interview last year that he saw a lot of Malcolm X and Ella Bakerin Michelle Obama. Jarrett told him his comments were not complimentary to the first lady.

“I said in the world that I live in, in that which authorizes my reality, Ella Baker is a towering figure,” he says, munching Fritos and sipping apple juice at his desk. “If I say there is a lot of Ella Baker in Michelle Obama, that’s a compliment. She can take it any way she wants. I can tell her I’m sorry it offended you, but I’m going to speak the truth. She is a Harvard Law graduate, a Princeton graduate, and she deals with child obesity and military families. Why doesn’t she visit a prison? Why not spend some time in the hood? That is where she is, but she can’t do it.

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.

“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want,” he says. “He’s got two homes. He has got his family and whatever challenges go on there, and this other home. Larry Summers blows his mind because he’s so smart. He’s got Establishment connections. He’s embracing me. It is this smartness, this truncated brilliance, that titillates and stimulates brother Barack and makes him feel at home. That is very sad for me.

“This was maybe America’s last chance to fight back against the greed of the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats, to generate some serious discussion about public interest and common good that sustains any democratic experiment,” West laments. “We are squeezing out all of the democratic juices we have. The escalation of the class war against the poor and the working class is intense. More and more working people are beaten down. They are world-weary. They are into self-medication. They are turning on each other. They are scapegoating the most vulnerable rather than confronting the most powerful. It is a profoundly human response to panic and catastrophe. I thought Barack Obama could have provided some way out. But he lacks backbone.

“Can you imagine if Barack Obama had taken office and deliberately educated and taught the American people about the nature of the financial catastrophe and what greed was really taking place?” West asks. “If he had told us what kind of mechanisms of accountability needed to be in place, if he had focused on homeowners rather than investment banks for bailouts and engaged in massive job creation he could have nipped in the bud the right-wing populism of the tea party folk. The tea party folk are right when they say the government is corrupt. It is corrupt. Big business and banks have taken over government and corrupted it in deep ways.

“We have got to attempt to tell the truth, and that truth is painful,” he says. “It is a truth that is against the thick lies of the mainstream. In telling that truth we become so maladjusted to the prevailing injustice that the Democratic Party, more and more, is not just milquetoast and spineless, as it was before, but thoroughly complicitous with some of the worst things in the American empire. I don’t think in good conscience I could tell anybody to vote for Obama. If it turns out in the end that we have a crypto-fascist movement and the only thing standing between us and fascism is Barack Obama, then we have to put our foot on the brake. But we’ve got to think seriously of third-party candidates, third formations, third parties.

“Our last hope is to generate a democratic awakening among our fellow citizens. This means raising our voices, very loud and strong, bearing witness, individually and collectively. Tavis [Smiley]and I have talked about ways of civil disobedience, beginning with ways for both of us to get arrested, to galvanize attention to the plight of those in prisons, in the hoods, in poor white communities. We must never give up. We must never allow hope to be eliminated or suffocated.”

Bin Laden Death Now Part Of Obama’s Re-elect Message

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2011 at 11:11 am

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a DNC event at Austin City Limits Moody Theater in Austin, Texas, May 10

Oldspeak: “While targeted assassination translates into campaign contributions to Obama’s billion dollar re-election war chest “We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.” -Noam Chomsky. We have to ask ourselves… was it all worth it? Is normalizing assassination of alleged criminals and flouting the rule of law and due process really the way we wanna go? How does this make us any different from our enemies?

By Peter Nicolas @ The Los Angeles Times:

Osama bin Laden, mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, is now an applause line in a presidential campaign speech.

Bin Laden’s name came up a couple of times in Obama’s address Tuesday evening at a fund-raising event in Austin, Texas.

Early in Obama’s appearance, someone shouted out, “Thank you for getting Bin Laden!’’

Obama said that was a “case in point’’ – a reason for voters to let him “finish what we started.’’

Later, Obama ticked off what he described as his administration’s accomplishments: lifting the ban on gays in the military; bringing troops home from Iraq.

And then: “And because of the extraordinary bravery of the men and women who wear this nation’s uniform and the outstanding work of our intelligence agencies,’’ Obama said, “Osama bin Laden will never again threaten the United States.’’

The crowd roared.

While the president has basked in the success of the operation, Bin Laden’s sons released a statement Tuesday criticizing the administration, saying the U.S. broke international law in killing an unarmed man.

In Washington, Vice President Biden, coming off another round of deficit talks, was asked by reporters whether Bin Laden’s killing at the hands of the U.S. military was illegal.

“Are you kidding?” Biden replied.

President Obama Heckled At San Francisco Fundraiser By Democratic Activists Wanting Change

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Democratic Hecklers At Obama Fundraiser in San Francisco

Oldspeak: “It’s about GOTDAMN time. President Obama has finally been made aware, to his face, in public, by the people who helped elect him that they are not happy. 4 wars, guantanamo still open, authorizing indefinite detention/assassination of  U.S. citizens, worldwide “black site” torture network still active,  austerity measures, dirty energy policy, weak health care and financial policy, extention and expansion of Bush era policies, etc etc are not the change the people who elected him believe in…. Alas, I fear it’ll barely make a dent in the Presidents Unreality Bubble thanks to the horde of corprocrats he’s “chosen” to surround himself with. But that doesn’t mean the people should stop making our voices heard. It means they have to make our voices heard LOUDER….”
By Rachel Rose Hartman @ Yahoo News:
As President Obama addressed the crowd at a breakfast fundraiser in San Francisco Thursday, he fielded some audience input that he wasn’t bargaining for.

A woman in the crowd suddenly rose from her seat and said: “Mr. President, we wrote you a song,” according to the White House pool report. The president attempted to quiet her, but the woman and her table of donors at the St. Regis Hotel breakfast broke into song and raised signs that read “Free Bradley Manning”–the Army intelligence specialist accused of releasing diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Yesterday, it was reported that Manning had been moved to a less restrictive prison following pressure from human rights groups.

The protesters said they had spent $5,000 donating to Obama. “We’ll vote for you in 2012, yes that’s true. Look at the Republicans–what else can we do?” they reportedly chanted.

“We paid our dues. Where’s our change?” they sang.

You can watch a clip of the protesters below, via the San Francisco Chronicle:

As the protesters sang, the pool report notes that Obama turned to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who represents San Francisco, to ask if she was responsible for the interruption. “Nancy, did you do this?” he reportedly asked. Her look said she did not, according to the report.

The woman who first addressed the president was escorted out of the room and Obama told the crowd “that was a nice song.”

He quickly resumed his speech.

Adam Martin reports for Atlantic Wire that the song lyrics can be found on the website for Fresh Juice, a group that offers money in exchange for video of people singing its songs in public. “Fresh Juice appears to be linked to Courage to Resist, an activist group that supports members of the military who go against U.S. war efforts,” Martin wrote.


Big Brothers: Thought Control at Koch Industries

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2011 at 6:34 pm

David M. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center, New York

Oldspeak:“If work in the U.S. you should know who the Koch Brothers are. Koch Brothers Public Face: Benevolent Billionaires, Patrons of the Arts, Captains Of Industry, Libertarian defenders of “Freedom”. Koch Brothers Private Face: Doing everything in their power to bust unions, intimidate voters, destroy worker rights and protections, enable wanton destruction of the environment, “free market” fundamentalist financiers of over 80 right wing “think tanks” tasked with propagating propaganda for doing away with any government regulation and oversight of anything leaving it the hands of private corporations.  All for the express purpose of  manipulating politicians and the global economic system ‘in such a way as to enrich themselves and their heirs at the expense of most other inhabitants of the planet.’-Adele M. Stan These men are indeed the true face of Vampire. 21st century Oligarchs who care little for anyone not in their tax bracket, seeing them more as revenue streams than human beings.  And they’re pulling many levers of  U.S. Government. The only way to stop them is to organize. ‘”We don’t have any power, except the power of solidarity and the power to strike and organize in unions. Street protests are great, online petitions are great, but only when you can threaten to shut down the factories of the boss, only when you can have that type of leverage are americans ever gonna be able to change the situation. I don’t see the situation changing unless there’s more organizing. I think we’re gonna see more corporate oligarchs taking on workers unless workers organize and take away the power their power to work.” -Mike Elk

By Mark Ames & Mike Elk @ The Nation:

BEHOLD! THE TRUE FACE OF VAMPIRE


On the eve of the November midterm elections, Koch Industries sent an urgent letter to most of its 50,000 employees advising them on whom to vote for and warning them about the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country should they choose to vote otherwise.

The Nation obtained the Koch Industries election packet for Washington State [1]—which included a cover letter from its president and COO, David Robertson; a list of Koch-endorsed state and federal candidates; and an issue of the company newsletter, Discovery, full of alarmist right-wing propaganda.

Legal experts interviewed for this story called the blatant corporate politicking highly unusual, although no longer skirting the edge of legality, thanks to last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which granted free speech rights to corporations.

“Before Citizens United, federal election law allowed a company like Koch Industries to talk to officers and shareholders about whom to vote for, but not to talk with employees about whom to vote for,” explains Paul M. Secunda, associate professor of law at Marquette University. But according to Secunda, who recently wrote in The Yale Law Journal Online about the effects of Citizens United on political coercion in the workplace, the decision knocked down those regulations. “Now, companies like Koch Industries are free to send out newsletters persuading their employees how to vote. They can even intimidate their employees into voting for their candidates.” Secunda adds, “It’s a very troubling situation.”

The Kochs were major supporters of the Citizens United case; they were also chief sponsors of the Tea Party and major backers of the anti-“Obamacare” campaign. Through their network of libertarian think tanks and policy institutes, they have been major drivers of unionbusting campaigns in Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere.

“This sort of election propaganda seems like a new development,” says UCLA law professor Katherine Stone, who specializes in labor law and who reviewed the Koch Industries election packet for The Nation. “Until Citizens United, this sort of political propaganda was probably not permitted. But after the Citizens United decision, I can imagine it’ll be a lot more common, with restrictions on corporations now lifted.”

The election packet starts with a letter from Robertson dated October 4, 2010. It read: “As Koch company employees, we have a lot at stake in the upcoming election. Each of us is likely to be affected by the outcome on Nov. 2. That is why, for the first time ever, we are mailing our newest edition of Discovery and several other helpful items to the home address of every U.S. employee” [emphasis added].

For most Koch employees, the “helpful items” included a list of Koch-approved candidates, which was presented on a separate page labeled “Elect to Prosper.” A brief introduction to the list reads: “The following candidates in your state are supported by Koch companies and KOCHPAC, the political action committee for Koch companies. We believe these candidates will best advance policies supporting economic freedom.”

What the Kochs mean by “economic freedom” is explained on the next page. As the mailer makes clear, Koch Industries tailored its election propaganda to the state level, rather than focusing on national elections. Of the nineteen candidates that Koch Industries recommended in its Washington State list, sixteen were Republicans. The three Democratic candidates approved by the Kochs included two members of the “Roadkill Caucus,” Washington’s version of the conservative Blue Dogs.

Only two of the nineteen races on the list were for national office, and in both cases Koch Industries backed Tea Party–friendly Republicans: Dino Rossi, an antilabor candidate, who lost to incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray; and Jaime Herrera-Beutler, who ran in the Republican primary as a moderate, but who came out recently as a Tea Party radical, much to her constituency’s surprise.

After guiding employees on how they should vote, the mailer devoted the rest of the material to the sort of indoctrination one would expect from an old John Birch Society pamphlet (the Koch Brothers’ father, Fred Koch, was a founding member of the JBS). It offers an apocalyptic vision of the company’s free-market struggle for liberty against the totalitarian forces of European Union bureaucrats and deficit-spending statists.

The newsletter begins with an unsigned editorial preaching familiar Tea Party themes, repackaged as Koch Industry corporate philosophy:

For more than 40 years, Koch Industries has openly and consistently supported the principles of economic freedom and market-based policies. Unfortunately, these values and principled point of view are now being strongly opposed by many politicians (and their media allies) who favor ever-increasing government…. Even worse, recent government actions are threatening to bankrupt the country…. And the facts are that the overwhelming majority of the American people will be much worse off if government overspending is allowed to bankrupt the country.

Further into the company newsletter is an article headlined “What’s a Business to Do?” It portrays corporate titans like the Kochs as freedom-fighting underdogs, modern-day Sakharovs and Mandelas targeted for repression by Big Government statists: “Citizens who are openly critical of the European Union bureaucracy in Brussels or the out-of-control government of the United States are being shouted down by politicians, government officials and their media and other allies.”

In this scenario, Big Government wants to muzzle the Kochs before they can spread their message to the people. That message comes down to preaching the benefits of lower wages:

If the government insists that someone should be paid $50 per hour in wages and benefits, but that person only creates $30 worth of value, no one will prosper for long…. Anything that undermines the mobility of labor, such as policies that make it more expensive and difficult to change where people are employed, also increases unemployment…. Similar policies that distort the labor market—such as minimum wage laws and mandated benefits—contribute to unemployment.

Easily the strangest and most disturbing article of all comes from the head of Koch Industries himself, Charles Koch, who offers an election-season history lesson to his employees. Koch’s essay sets out to rank the best and worst US presidents in terms of their economic policies. Charles—who with his brother David is worth $44 billion, putting them fifth on the 2010 Forbes 400 list—warns his readers that his history lesson may surprise them. And to his credit, Koch doesn’t disappoint.

Koch glorifies Warren G. Harding and his successor Calvin Coolidge for producing “one of the most prosperous [eras] in U.S. history.” Koch explains that what made Harding great was his insistence on “cutting taxes, reducing the national debt and cutting the federal budget,” all policies that Congressional Republicans are proposing in today’s budget negotiations. What made Harding so great, in other words, is what made radical Republican candidates so great in November 2010.

Koch’s pick for worst president is Herbert Hoover, whom he accuses of undermining “economic freedom” and thus precipitating the Great Depression. “Under Hoover,” he writes, “federal spending roughly doubled and personal income tax rates jumped from 25 percent to 63 percent. He raised corporate taxes, too, and doubled the estate tax. Hoover also pressured business leaders to keep wages artificially high, contributing to massive unemployment.”

According to most historians, the Harding and Coolidge administrations’ free-market romp was one of the key factors that led to the Great Depression. Their time in office was marked by obscene corruption, racial violence, unionbusting, feudal wealth inequalities and, shortly thereafter, the total collapse of the American economy.

* * *

Legal experts say that this kind of corporate-sponsored propagandizing has been almost unheard-of in America since the passage of New Deal–era laws like the National Labor Relations Act, which codified restrictions on political activism and pressure in the workplace. NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher, director of the Center for Labor and Employment Law, told The Nation in an e-mail interview that such overt politicking to employees is still rare. “I am not aware of it happening with many employers,” he wrote.

According to UCLA’s Stone, although Citizens United frees Koch Industries and other corporations to propagandize their employees with their political preferences, the same doesn’t hold true for unions—at least not in the workplace. “If a union wanted to hand out political materials in the workplace not directly relevant to the workers’ interests—such as providing a list of candidates to support in the elections—the employer has the right to ban that material,” says Stone. “They could even prohibit its distribution on lunch breaks or after shifts, because by law it’s the company’s private property.”

Stone points to a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1915, Coppage v. Kansas, which protected employers’ right to draw up contracts forbidding employees from joining unions. Justice William Day’s dissent in that case pointed out that if the state was ready to enforce the employers’ contractual bans on union activity, then it was opening the way for the state to enforce employers’ legal right to control their employees’ political and ideological activities:

Would it be beyond a legitimate exercise of the police power to provide that an employee should not be required to agree, as a condition of employment, to forgo affiliation with a particular political party, or the support of a particular candidate for office? It seems to me that these questions answer themselves.

With Citizens United, it seems, the country is heading back to the days of court-enforced corporatocracy. Already, workers at a Koch subsidiary in Portland, Oregon, are complaining about being subjected to political and ideological propaganda. Employees at Georgia-Pacific warehouses in Portland say the company encourages them to read Charles Koch’s The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World’s Largest Private Company and to attend ideological seminars in which Koch management preaches their bosses’ “market-based management” philosophy.

Travis McKinney, an employee at a Portland Georgia-Pacific distribution center, says, “They drill into your head things like ‘The 10 Guiding Principles of Koch Industries.’ They even stamp the ten principles on your time card.”

McKinney, a fourth-generation employee of Georgia-Pacific, says relations have sharply deteriorated since Koch Industries bought the company in late 2005. He and fellow employees at three Georgia-Pacific distribution centers are locked in a yearlong contract battle with the new Koch Industries management. Workers there, members of the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific (an affiliate of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union) recently voted unanimously to reject management’s contract and voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if management continues to try to impose cuts in benefits and job security in the new contracts.

Political propagandizing is a heated issue in Oregon, which passed SB-519 in the summer of 2009, a bill placing restrictions on corporations’ ability to coerce employees to attend political meetings and vote the way the corporation tells them to vote. In late December 2009—just before SB-519 was to go into effect—the US Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit with Associated Oregon Industries to block the bill from becoming law. A similar bill in Wisconsin was struck down in November in a federal court. However, the Chamber’s lawsuit in Oregon was thrown out in May 2010 by US District Court Judge Michael Mosman on procedural grounds, leaving open the possibility that it could still be struck down.

In the meantime, workers across the country should start preparing for a future workplace environment in which political proselytizing is the new normal.

You Thought the Koch Brothers Were Bad? Turns Out They’re Even Worse Than You Thought

By Adele M. Stan @ Alter Net:

Charles and David Koch’s reach into virtually every aspect of political, economic and physical life on the planet is probably greater than you thought possible.

You knew they were big. You knew they were evil. From the union-busting actions of their minions in Wisconsin and Ohio to their war on health-care reform, to their assault on the environment and their attacks on the science of climatology, Charles and David Koch have earned their place as the focus of progressives’ scrutiny in the age of the Tea Party — the destructive and regressive movement they bankroll. But a new report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund shows that, as bad as you thought the Kochs were, they’re actually worse. And their reach into virtually every aspect of political, economic and physical life on the planet is probably greater than you thought possible.

In The Koch Brothers: What You Need to Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right, author Tony Carrk, policy director of the CAP Action War Room, lays out a case that is breathtaking in its scope, showing how the Koch brothers are using their billions with the aim of reshaping the global economic system in such a way as to enrich themselves and their heirs at the expense of most other inhabitants of the planet.

While much of the report will have a familiar ring (especially to readers of AlterNet, and CAP Action’s own ThinkProgress), The Koch Brothers also addresses elements of the Koch agenda far beyond the well-trodden turf of Americans for Prosperity’sorganizing against health-care reform or the pollution rap against Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held corporation in the United States, which the billionaire brothers command.

The Kochs and the Global Economy

Consider, for instance, the Kochs’ role in the financial business. You thought Koch Industries was just a high-polluting oil-and-gas-based conglomerate? Add in the part played on Wall Street by Koch Supply & Trading, and the depth of the Koch imprint on the economy is revealed. From Carrk’s report:

First, the Koch brothers fought efforts to give the Commodity Futures Trading Commission more oversight over speculative trading, whereby companies can artificially inflate prices on things such as oil, during the Wall Street reform debate. One of the Koch companies—Koch Supply & Trading—takes part in oil and derivatives trading. We should point out that oil speculation has reached an all-time high at the same time gas prices continue to skyrocket.


Then look at a recent position pushed by Americans for Prosperity, the Tea Party-allied astroturf group founded and funded by David Koch (and whose sibling organization, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, he chairs):

Similarly, Americans for Prosperity supports the House continuing resolution that cuts spending by $61 billion. Those cuts would reduce the budget for the CFTC by one-third. Make no mistake: Gutting the CFTC or limiting its authority would be a boon to Wall Street businesses that use complex financial instruments. But while the result is more profits for oil companies, it means everyone else pays more at the pump.


Okay, now have a look at the Kochs’ recent direct contributions to political candidates:

The Kochs donated directly to 62 of the 87 members of the House GOP freshman class…and to 12 of the new members of the U.S. Senate.


No wonder, then, how that continuing resolution — the means for funding the government when a budget has not been passed into law — managed to get through the House. (It was subsequently rejected by the Senate, setting the stage for a possible shutdown of the government at the end of this week.) Those 62 Koch-backed freshmen are essentially driving the agenda of the House Republicans, because together they form a large enough bloc to prevent House Speaker John Boehner from amassing a majority on any piece of legislation, should they choose to, despite the 2010 Republican victories that handed control of the House to the GOP.

It should be noted that such “complex financial instruments” as those mentioned above had much to do with the 2008 Bush crash of Wall Street. The report reminds us that “from September 2007 to May 2009, American 401(k) and individual retirement accounts lost a total of $2.7 trillion.” But if the Kochs had their way, Social Security would no longer be financed by the federal government, and would instead be invested on Wall Street — a boon for financiers such as they. Too bad if your account takes a hit that lands you on the curb.

And while we think of Wall Street as an American institution, when Wall Street sneezes, the world gets a cold. The Bush crash set in motion a global recession. Less oversight of the financial shenanigans known as derivatives (or “complex financial instruments”) all but guarantees further crashes.

The Brothers Koch and the Body Politic

If you read the whole of the CAP Action report, you’ll see how the Koch influence on the nation’s politics is compounded and leveraged through a combination of the brothers’ direct contributions to candidates, their investment in astroturf groups such asAmericans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks (which do political organizing), and their funding of right-wing think tanks, which send policy position papers daily to the in-boxes of senators, representatives and their aides. Carrk identified some 85 right-leaning think tanks that received a collective $85 million from the Kochs over the course of the last 15 years. These include the Cato Institute, of which David Koch was a founder, and other well-known outfits, such as the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.

But that’s not all:

Charles and David Koch and their company, Koch Industries, do not limit their political donations to right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups. They also donate millions directly to candidates. Since 1990, the Koch network has donated $11 million to federal candidates, $9.8 million, or 89 percent, of which went to Republicans.


In Congress, the donations are well-targeted. Take, for example, the House Commerce and Energy Committee, whose imprint on legislation has a direct effect on Koch Industries’ core businesses. (Koch’s Flint Hill Resources, LLC, according to the report, “has a combined crude oil processing capacity of more than 800,000 barrels of oil per day.”) From the report:

The Kochs have contributed significantly to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. In fact, they are the single-largest oil and gas donor to members of the committee, contributing $279,500 to 22 of the committee’s 31 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats. Tim Phillips, the head of Americans for Prosperity, even co-authored an op-ed with chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), detailing how Congress could stop the EPA from ensuring a cleaner environment.


At the state level, the Koch influence is every bit as corrosive as it is at the national level, Carrk tells us.

The Koch network donated $1.2 million to help elect conservative Republican governors last year, including Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich, both of whom are trying to take away collective bargaining rights. During the fight in Wisconsin, Americans for Prosperity ran an ad and orchestrated protests to support Gov. Walker’s union busting and orchestrated pro-Walker demonstrations. Americans for Prosperity also started a Web site urging people to “Stand with Governor Kasich.”


And that’s not even counting the money the brothers donate to candidates for state legislatures, or to support ballot measures designed to enrich them and their heirs. Carrk reports:

Data from the National Institute for Money in State Politics show that from 2003 to 2010, the Koch brothers, as well as their companies, employees, and affiliates, have donated $5.2 million to state candidates and ballot measures in 34 states. $3.4 million of those donations, or 65 percent, went to Republican candidates. Another $1 million, or 20 percent, went to one ballot initiative: the effort to overturn California’s clean energy law, AB 32.


Heck, as AlterNet reported, Americans for Prosperity was celebrating Scott Walker, the union-busting governor of Wisconsin, back when he was a mere county commissioner. In 2008, Walker served as the emcee for a ceremony by the Wisconsin chapter of the AFP Foundation — at which the organization’s “Defender of the American Dream” award was conferred upon Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who now chairs the House Budget Committee. Ryan this week proposed a budget plan for 2012 that would privatize Medicare and slash Medicaid.

Much, Much More

In addition to a narrative on the duo’s activities in the political sphere, The Koch Brothers: What You Need to Know About the Financiers of the Radical Right serves up a bevy of lists and graphics that offer a range of facts and figures in an easy-to-grok form. There’s a list of all the freshman congressional representatives who have received Koch campaign dollars, and the dollar amounts they received. Those 85 Koch-funded think tanks are listed, with total-donations-per-tank noted next to their names. A map of the U.S. shows the states in which Koch Industries has facilities (nearly all 50). Another highlights the 32 states in which Americans for Prosperity has a state chapter.

There’s also a comprehensive listing of all the Koch Industries subsidiaries and what they make or sell, as well as a detailed section on the pollution and environmental infractions for which the conglomerate is responsible.

If you’re one of those people who like to be scared out of your wits, you’ll find the CAP Action report better than Wes Craven’s latest offering. Just consider this:

The significant victories the billionaire Koch brothers chalked up for their ideological and business interests in the 2010 elections is only a precursor of what is to come. The Koch brothers have already pledged to raise $88 million through their considerable network for policy and political projects for the 2012 election cycle.


The report can be downloaded here (PDF), for free.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s Washington bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter: © 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.



Nowhere Man 2012: Because Everyone Else Is Worse

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Oldspeak: “The feeble fiction of the Democrats vs. Republicans paradigm has been falling to dust for a long time now, inexorably being replaced by a simple truth. There is but one paradigm in this reality, one core fact to be reckoned with: the struggle in America is between the Have’s and the Have Not’s, between towering wealth , towering greed and everyone else. It is about a class struggle that has been three centuries in the making, and even those who are today moderately comfortable will not be able to escape calamity. When it comes down, it will come down on all of us…all, of course, except the fortunate few who caused it all in the first place.” – William Rivers Pitt

By William Rivers Pitt @ Truthout:

So, yeah, Obama is in. The President of the United States officially threw his hat into the 2012 election ring on Monday morning, and the nation reacted with a resounding, “Oh.”

What a mess.

It wasn’t even two and a half years ago. Can you believe it? Two and a half years ago, there was a detonation of optimism that echoed across the country once the returns were in on that November night. People took to the streets here in Boston, literally banging pots and pans together as they danced and shouted in celebration. The scene was repeated in city after city and town after town, and even the “mainstream” media gushed from election night to Inauguration Day about the spectacular moment in American history we were all witnessing together.

Hindsight, however, tells us today that much of that optimism was wildly misplaced. The long shadow of George W. Bush still hung low and dark over the land, as it does even now. That was part of it, of course, part of the sense of expiation and purgation so many felt once the deal went down; on that November night, the national nightmare of Mr. Bush’s presidency was writing its final pages, and then came January, and he was gone. Despite all the failures and disappointments that have since come, those were two very good days.

And there have been disappointments. A great, great many of them. The words we heard were beautiful back then, soaring and sure, and many believed. How could they not? Here was this new president who could sing the birds down from the trees, who was introduced to the country in 2004 by way of a convention keynote address [4] that blew the roof off the joint. Some years later, along the jagged, wending path of a brutal primary campaign, candidate Obama was carried to the nomination by the power of his words, and yes, many believed, even in spite of themselves.

But then he won it all, and two and a half years later, many of his most ardent supporters now hear his words and taste ashes in their mouths. You campaign in poetry, someone once said, but you govern in prose.  The poetry was magnificent. The prose, in far too many ways, has been dreck, and those who believed now find themselves more demoralized than they can easily describe.

He and his fellow Democrats all but folded on health care, leaving us with less than half a loaf. He backtracked [5] on Guantanamo, and doubled down on Afghanistan. He promised to erase Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, and broke his oath shamelessly, to his party’s great lament in 2010. Wall Street stands unmolested at the center of his counsel, while Main Street withers on the vine. He is flipping missiles into Libya while flipping off the American people by racing to “compromise” with brigands and thieves on the matter of how many billions to cut. He has, to be sure, had his share of victories [6], but in so many critical ways, he has been the Nowhere Man, the absence of what was so seemingly present when he was elevated to his current station.

What galls the most, what infuriates and confounds, is the brazen clarity of the situation at hand. Mr. Obama has not been losing policy arguments to reasonable people. He has been losing policy arguments to people who are, in many instances, absolutely and unabashedly barking mad. He is losing policy arguments to people who sought elected office in government in order to denude and destroy that very government. Listen to them talk and the matter is plain: they got the job to destroy the job, and are so blinded by the fervor of their political catechism that they cannot be reasoned with under any circumstances. They are destroyers and usurpers, but Mr. Obama has time and again bared his neck to them, and we have all suffered with their sundry victories, and his sundry defeats.

They cannot be reasoned with, but can only be defeated, and after two and a half years, it is the President of the United States alone who appears to have not received the memo. Now he’s running for re-election – not that anyone suspected he would do otherwise – and the machinery of campaign war is grinding to life in Chicago and Washington DC. Last time around, Mr. Obama’s vast campaign war chest was filled with donations from millions of regular folks all across the country. The Obama campaign took money from the big boys, too; lots and lots of money. But what ultimately brought him to victory came from average Americans who could not afford to give but did. That, as much as anything else, was part of that sense of optimism felt by so many at the beginning.

Now?

Well, now is a different story. A great many of those who gave willingly the last time are two and a half years older today, two and a half years poorer, and two and a half years wiser. They will not be as quick to reach for their wallets and checkbooks when the piper calls them to campaign charity with his well-worn cadence. The Obama 2012 brain trust seems to know this, and are preparing a financial strategy far more dependent on big money [7] than last time. They aim to raise a billion dollars this time. Thus, the political DNA of campaigner Obama and President Obama will even more closely resemble the CEOs and bankers that tore this nation to shreds and tatters.

The feeble fiction of the Democrats vs. Republicans paradigm has been falling to dust for a long time now, inexorably being replaced by a simple truth. There is but one paradigm in this reality, one core fact to be reckoned with: the struggle in America is between the Have’s and the Have Not’s, between towering wealth , towering greed and everyone else. It is about a class struggle that has been three centuries in the making, and even those who are today moderately comfortable will not be able to escape calamity. When it comes down, it will come down on all of us…all, of course, except the fortunate few who caused it all in the first place.

But who knows? Mr. Obama could choose to steer back into the wind, challenge his demented opposition with a will, and prevail in a way that inspires those who have waited all this time for the man they gave to and voted for to show up. The odds of re-election favor him in any case; it is hard to defeat an incumbent, and when considering the ludicrous carnival of nonsense that is the presumed Republican field, Mr. Obama’s chances only improve. In many battlefield states, demographics favor the president in ways the GOP is not prepared to deal with. The 2012 election campaign promises, above all else and with absolute certainty, to be one of the most deranged political affairs to be seen since time out of mind.

It is tempting to comfort oneself with the notion that there are worse things in the world than a second Obama term, and there is a fat, cynical dollop of truth in that. After all, given the array of challenges this administration has faced since taking office, it is daunting to imagine the sorry condition we would be in under a President McCain. Now imagine watching Vice President Michele Bachmann, tapped by the Republican nominee in two years to shore up the Tea Party vote, taking the oath a heartbeat shy of the biggest chair in the country. Think it can’t happen that way? Want to bet on it?

I don’t.

Two and a half years ago, it was all about hope and change. Remember that? I am, personally, waiting with bated breath for the next battery of slogans to be deployed by the Obama campaign. No, seriously, I am. Nowhere Man 2012: Because Everyone Else Is Worse. That’ll send them racing to the polls.

Yup. Here we go.

Again.


The Martin Luther King Legacy And The Global Economic Crisis: Can One Influence The Other?

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Oldspeak: “Martin Luther King was a Champion of poor, disenfranchised, marginalized people. He was anti-militaristic, anti-capitalist, anti-corporatist, anti-poverty, pro-life, pro-love, pro-union, for inclusion, freedom and equality. Today In Obama’s america, young people, poor people, people of color, and the unemployed are being ignored. The U.S. is waging 4 wars. Income inequality is at depression era levels. Workers rights are being usurped. Access to education is being eroded. The food supply is facing existential threats from GMOs and rampant financial speculation. Public spending and services are being cut. More and more public entities and institutions are being commodified and privatized. Meanwhile Obama’s benefactors in Banking, and other sectors of the Oligarchy are doing better than ever. Brother Martin has to be rolling in his grave at seeing his legacy forsaken and trampled upon by one of his own…”

By Danny Schecter @ Truthout:

Before he went over that mountain top in that week in April like this one back in l968, Martin Luther King Jr. said he had already seen the other side as he spent his last days on earth fighting for the garbage men of Memphis, while speaking out about the twin evils of war and poverty.

A few days earlier, a great, black American essayist and historian, Manning Marable, died suddenly just before his new and definitive book on Malcolm X came out showing how America’s best-known Muslim martyr had moved from a focus on the domestic politics of racial confrontation to the international politics of global revolution.

(Among his findings: The US government spied on Malcolm as he globe-trotted, linking up with like-minded activists. This was offered up as a new revelation. I had to smile since I did an investigative report for Ramparts Magazine in 1967 on how the CIA was trying to discredit him in Africa.)

We live in a world of constantly redrawn battle lines where new generations displace the old ones and some of yesterday’s leaders move to higher levels of consciousness, while many others, like Libya’s human rights abusing leader Qaddafi along with some civil rights leaders, years ago, secretly joined Washington’s crusade against Malcolm.

Washington is now crusading against Libya. The war there was first declared a humanitarian intervention before it turned into a military intervention in a civil war, and is on its way to becoming a stalemate. Already NATO has bombed the rebels in one of those mistakes all too common in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US has apparently decided it no longer wants to throw good money after bad – perhaps because it has finally dawned on the White House that we are running out of money. So, we are declaring victory and moving on.

Even imperial projects have to be tempered as our wars abroad turn into follies and our economic turnaround at home is also not what it has been advertised to be.

As the AFL CIO noted while the administration was celebrating a downtick in unemployment:

“While the official unemployment rate is 8.8 percent, it’s 15.7 percent if unemployed, underemployed and those who have given up looking for work are included – more than 24 million people …

“Young people and people of color continue to experience the worst jobless rates which have remained high, with 24.5 percent of teenagers out of work and 15.5 percent of black workers and 11.3 percent of Hispanics jobless. Some 7.9 percent of white workers are jobless, as are 7.1 percent of Asian workers.”

At the same time, better-paid government jobs are being chopped, leaving workers in lower wage, private sector jobs that pay less money for more work. Many of those workers say their salaries don’t cover their expenses. Foreclosures are up even as bank profits (and CEO salaries) soar.

We are just learning the full extent of the Federal Reserve Banks loans to banks the world over, while a promised crackdown on fraud has yet to come. A bailout costing trillions was kept secret until a reporter’s lawsuit just forced a disclosure.

Still hidden is the role government plays in manipulating markets or pumping them up through the Plunge Protection Team, a shadowy agency I discuss in more detail in my book, “The Crime of Our Time” (Disinfo Books).

Wall Street’s “swinging dicks,” as they are called, are back in the saddle. They have neutered financial reform and seem to have silenced the president, who seems to want o cheer up the people rather than inform them about what’s really going on as food and gas prices rise while inflation begins to rear its ugly head.

Veteran investor Jim Rogers told the Daily Bell: “It’s already happening; prices are going higher. Now the blame game starts and the government will blame it on draught or crop failure or whatever. Politicians will do and say anything to avoid explaining that inflation is a monetary problem. Their reactions are always the same and it’s always astonishing to me. As President Ford said, “there is no problem” – and even if there is, it’s not his problem. Well, there are always people who are in denial; then, the problem gets worse not better.

Wall Street’s hedge funds are having a field day. The New York Times reports that wealth among executives in that part of the financial labyrinth is so concentrated that 25 hedge fund managers “pocketed a total of $22.07 billion … At $50,000 a year, it would take the salaries of 441,000 Americans to match the sum.”

Who is speaking out against this? Not the Republicans, for sure. Not many Democrats either. Not even the president or his “more wealth for the wealthy” booster Treasury chief Tim Geithner.

Wall Street is stronger than ever. Its “reforms” are proving to be a joke. No big executives who profited from pervasive mortgage fraud have gone to jail as prosecutions dwindle.

There has been a respite in Wisconsin as a state judge shoots down the GOP’s attempt to outlaw collective bargaining, but similar laws have passed in Ohio and New Hampshire.

In a globalized world, we are all interdependent. What happens to one part of this web affects us all. That’s why we have to pay attention to the falling economic dominoes in Europe, where Portugal may be next to go with Spain and Ireland not far behind. So far, protests by hundreds of thousands in Britain have not dented, much less changed, the government’s cutbacks in the name of austerity.

Serious critics may have the facts on their side, but are still being marginalized. They are considered ranters, not reasonable. Journalist Chris Hedges was honored when he wrote for the New York Times. When he left, and was finally able to speak his own mind, he began challenging the false promises of globalization

He writes, “The refusal by all of our liberal institutions, including the press, universities, labor and the Democratic Party, to challenge the utopian assumptions that the marketplace should determine human behavior permits corporations and investment firms to continue their assault, including speculating on commodities to drive up food prices. It permits coal, oil and natural gas corporations to stymie alternative energy and emit deadly levels of greenhouse gases. It permits agribusinesses to divert corn and soybeans to ethanol production and crush systems of local, sustainable agriculture.

“It permits the war industry to drain half of all state expenditures, generate trillions in deficits and profit from conflicts in the Middle East we have no chance of winning. It permits corporations to evade the most basic controls and regulations to cement into place a global neo-feudalism. The last people who should be in charge of our food supply or our social and political life, not to mention the welfare of sick children, are corporate capitalists and Wall Street speculators.”

So, once again, a gauntlet has been thrown down, but so far activists, advocates, unions and even progressive journalists stay submerged in fighting partisan wars and are not taking on the deeper fight for economic justice.

If we want to walk in the footsteps of Dr. King, we need to broaden our understanding of the scale of what needs changing and target the banksters on Wall Street as well as Republican politicians that do their biding.



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