Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Koch Brothers--the Corporate Welfare Kings

Charles and David Koch appear to be honestly shocked that their activities generate such public hostility. What's so fascinating is the emergence of libertarian opposition to them as "statist interventionists". When you think about it, this makes alot of sense. The Koch Brothers depend on government subsidies for their oil company, special deals for leases, handsome personal tax breaks guaranteed under the Bush and now Obama tax laws,waivers from the new healthcare law, and no bid contracts at a state level and from our own defense department.

In fact, the whole Koch fortune is based on winning favors from the state. Fred's initial fortune was made as a partner with Stalin's regime to build 15 oil refineries and his relationship with Nazi Germany. So much for the free market. Fred's hero "Benito Mussolini" was one of the great theorists that the state should support private corporations. So why did anyone think the sons would be any different? After all, they were at the table at Dick Cheney's secret energy taskforce to map out this country's future energy policy.

Now it seems we are going to have a struggle between the anti-Koch Brother tendencies. Glenn Greenwald and Lee Fang of Thinkprogress are beginning to make documentaries on the various aspects of the Koch Brothers' political activities. Exiledonline is repeating its best hits on the Koch Brothers and are acting a bit miffed that they haven't got the credit for their groundbacking reporting. Some of these guys used to write for Reason magazine. I am sure more Koch critics are going to come out of the woodwork.

It was really the Wisconsin union-busting law by the Koch funded politicians that triggered the intense interest in the Koch Brothers. Their funding of the teaparties and their plans to destroy President Obama seemed more abstract than the tangible, immediate effects of their policies at a state level. And the blowback has been terrific.

ALEC, the Koch-funded think tank that creates model legislation for states, is now busy doing damage control by issuing press releases trying to distance themselves from the disasterous legislation that they sponsor. Previously, ALEC had tweeted about their maazing success until journalists and professors started to zoom in on them.

If you want a sense of the volume of anti-Koch sentiment, just check out the comments at . Greenwald does a short clip of the various Koch "hits" on America and asks you to vote of them. Unfortunately,the list is too narrow so far but awesome enough.

I found one recurring theme of the comments very interesting. There is a recent myth that the Koch Brothers created the CATO Institute, the Washington-based libertarian think tank. This is repeated by Koch-friendly journalists and the brothers themselves. But commenters on Greenwald's website claim that the Koch brothers hijacked the think tank, kicked Murray Rothbard off the board and has tried to silence libertarians Lew Rockwell and Ron Paul. In short, they hijacked libertarianism.

This episode deserves more exploration because it would also provide an insight into their M.O. in seizing control of the teaparty phenomenon. Remember the first teaparty activities were the creation of Ron Paul's Crusade for Liberty. Then these were replaced by the Freedomworks' astroturf events funded by the Koch Brothers. In short, they acted like communists taking over a popular movement. I would say the same for their efforts in the Republican Party. With the Republican Party, their goal is simply to increase their fortune by being given carte blanche over environmental and regulatory policy.

I wish all the investigative journalists good luck and look forward to seeing the Greenwald documentaries. But as he said, he has had a team researching them for months and coming up with such vast amount of material that he doesn't know how much more there is to discover.

I would also suggest another theme that should be explored is the relationship between Glenn Beck and the Kochs. Tea party populists complained about Beck's Washington rally as being more a religious revival than a protest. Observers of Beck's behavior suggested that his general lunacy had taken him into the realm of religious revivalism. Perhaps, there is a more politically practical aspect of this in that the teabaggers had to be brought into control to do the Kochs' bidding.

But the spotlight on them obviously makes them uncomfortable. Everyone remotely linked to them is now noticed. For instance, the man Governor Walker picked as the head of the state utilities commission is a former Koch employee. You would never had known that before they drew all this attention.

I still say--Focus on Charles Koch. He believes he is another Martin Luther--as in the leader of the reformation. Or as in noted German.

Tea Bag Fizzles

The Teabaggers called for a national rally on the Mall today to pressure the GOP House not to cave on budget cuts. Christianists Mark Pence and Michelle Bachmann appeared with a handful of teabag representatives. The high estimate for this mega rally was 200 people, including representatives. That's excessive. The teabaggers "persuaded" Fox News to cover the rally live because it was such a major event. Fox News people tried to explain that the weather was the reason for the poor turnout. As a comparison, we might want to remember that over 100,000 citizens of Wisconsin could come out in a snowstorm. And Fox News had called them a "rent a mob".

It could be that the teabaggers days as a populist movement are nearing an end. The CNN poll showed that teabaggers are getting high negatives from the American public, which seems to be experiencing a serious case of buyers' remorse. But the teabaggers are promising to primary any GOP members who don't toe the budget cutting line. Jon Karl, an executive assistance of mine from the stone age,did a piece on how the teabaggers in the House have reaped millions in government subsidies for agriculture. Karl should do a follow-up on all the tax breaks and subsidies those free market advocates--the Koch Brothers--get. They are the original welfare queens.

The Best sign of the rally was "Save America, Close It Down." While it looks like some sort of budget deal will be made for the rest of the year, we still have to face the vote on raising the debt ceiling. The teabaggers are gearing up to block raising the debt ceiling so that America can officially become a banana republic. Even now the teabaggers' budget illiteracy staggers me. Several teabag representatives actually said that a government shut down would have no effect on anyone. Michelle Bachmann tried to spin it by saying that it was a government "slow-down." No, dear,the government really does shut down and only pays the interest on its debt. As foreign policy analysts have been warning, a government shutdown would have a seriously negative effect on our national security and foreign affairs. But that doesn't seem to matter.

Old Swizzle Stick Boehner has been trying to rally his troops by saying that he has the Democrats where he wants them. The Democrats in the House have proposed that if there is a government shutdown that congress should not get paid. But within the Beltway,Boehner seems to be in a difficult situation. The Republicans on the QT have asked Democrats to get them out of a jam because their teabag caucus is utterly insane and they can not control them. The GOP even gave Harry Reid a secret letter putting this in writing.

Meanwhile, the daggers are out for the Tan Man. Little Ricky Cantor is salivating to do Boehner in and seize control. That's why he's playing games with the teabaggers. Cantor was remarkable this week in his statements on Social Security. He said that there are too many seniors who depend on Social Security now for income so they had to keep it but it's not in the future for the America we intend to create. It would be fascinating to get any of these guys to talk candidly and openly about the America they would create. I am sure it's nothing I would want to see.

Since we are approaching tax day, the day when teabaggers erupted in the past, we should note that the teabag rallies this year are being called off. I guess they all got a nice tax refund courtesy of President Obama.

Mariano Rivera Saves Opener--Yankees beat Tigers 6-3

Quote of the Day--Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)

"When you find out we're being sent to Libya to use our treasure and American lives there,maybe there's intention to so deplete the military that we're going to need that presidential reserve officer commissioned corps and non-commissioned corps that the President can call up on a moment's notice involuntarily,according to the Obamacare bill."

Or maybe not. But we must fight the "terror babies" anyway we can.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quote of the Day--Joe Klein

"This is my 10th Presidential campaign. Lord help me. I have never seen such a bunch of vile, desparate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers coagulated under a single party's banner. They are the most compelling argument I've seen against American exceptionalism."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Quote of the Day--Newt Gingrich

Actually yesterday.

" I have two grandchildren: Maggie is 11, Robert is 9. I am convinced that if we do not struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular, atheist country,potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

It doesn't get clearer than that.

Obama's Speech on Libya

President Obama faced a tough audience last night. A nation tired of wars overseas and skeptical about anything our government would say to rationalize military actions. The damage done by the last Administration to America's own belief in our intelligence services or political officials created the emotional backdrop to last night's speech.

The anti-war Left, which has always been critical of President Obama's acceptance of military force,has galvanized over the alleged constitutional issues involved. The Right abhor multi-lateralism and oppose anything short of "regime change" done unilaterally.

And add to this the endless series of disasters and crises over the last two years that have induced an empathy fatigue--Haiti,Darfur, the BP oil spill, the Japan Tsunami, Japan's nuclear meltdown , the popular revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen,Bahrain,. Jordan and Libya.

Add on top of this that we charged both Afghanistan and Iraq on the national credit card and don't want to face the cost of another protracted war.

So how did he do? President Obama was as clear as anyone could be about the reasons for the intervention, its success to date and why he was handing off responsibility to NATO. He was also clear that he wants Qaddafi to leave and the reasons why the United States should not make that a reality by direct intervention.

President Obama repeated what he said in his Nobel speech about the international community having to act when governments wage war against their own citizens. He also outlined the limits on our capability to do so. He added a personal note," I refused to allow a massacre." He was referring to Qaddafi's offense aimed at Benghazi, a city of 600,000. Our military and intelligence had reported that Qaddafi intended to obliterate the population in both Bengazi and Tobruk.

In what will be studied later, Obama invoked America's exceptionalism with enough rhetoric to send the Right crazy. But I thought he moved this discussion to a territory incognito. Obama said that America had " a unique power, responsibilities and moral obligations." He said that while other countries could let massacres happen the United States could not look away because of our responsibility to our fellow human beings. He then went on a riff about America's historical identity with people struggling for freedom. What made his argument different was the emphasis he placed on humanitarian intervention to prevent the slaughter of citizens. In fact, in a few of the Republican responses,there was mention that our armed forces should not be involved in humanitarian interventions.

We like to delude ourselves that President Obama said nothing that other Presidents haven't said. But recall that pressed on a humanitarian disaster, George W. Bush said that we would not intervene because it is not in our national interest. Earlier the Clinton Administration had begged off another crisis saying that we lacked allies to do anything about it.

American responses to humanitarian disasters, particularly genocide,have been murky at best. FDR did nothing about the Holocaust. In fact, allied bombing raids were directed away from the camps. It was Senator George McGovern who argued we should have returned to Cambodia because of Pol Pot's Year Zero. Bill Clinton failed miserably on Rwanda to the point that he later went there to apologize. When George H.W. Bush encouraged the Shia in Iraq to revolt and then they did, he did nothing and he already had a No-Fly Zone in place.

I agree with President Obama's reasons for intervening in Libya but, frankly, I don't believe Americans really do once they think about it. The most vocal support for the way he is conducting this intervention is coming from certain elements in the human rights community who feel that the United Nations and the United States have finally got it right when it comes to preventing massacres.

President Obama also made it clear that he sides with those agitating for change in the Middle East and Iran. He points out that if Qaddafi had succeeded, then the autocrats in the region would have learned the correct lesson that they could use massive force to repress their own people and avoid the winds of change. I think this was one of his strongest points.

But he didn't leave us with the neat,nice ending that all Americans want. In fact he was very clear about how unclear the future will be. This is a man who can live with alot of ambiguity and unknown unknowns. He pointed out that troubles do not end and neither does American involvement when Qaddafi goes. Rather the United States and its allies would have to assist the Libyans in forging a new government in the wake of decades where the civil society had been destroyed. This was a point of honesty that had been sorely lacking when he invaded Iraq. Instead, we were treated to years of rhetoric about dead-enders. Obama pointed out that the various uprisings in the Middle East will have different outcomes and we do know what they will be.

For all the critics who say Obama doesn't believe the United States is an "exceptional" country, he used more exceptional rhetoric last night than he did in his State of the Union speech. This will not satisfy his critics, but nothing will. He did not use the "e" word itself but almost every trope associated with it.

Personally, I think that the United States is very actively involved covertly in different ways to topple Qaddafi. You didn't have to read between the lines of the speech to catch this. There are Special Forces from the United States and elsewhere on the ground and other so-called "assets" working the terrain. And, no , this does not mean Obama violated his rule to have no troops on the ground. That's a phrase used for direct and overt ground troops being openly sent to a country and used in a war.

Qaddafi for his part has been burning up the phones to the AU governments. His old colleague the President of Chad fed the international media the line that Al Qaeda stole a cache of surface to air missiles. Qaddafi has maintained for the last ten years that his opposition was Al Qaeda. And so this gets circulated through the European papers and is picked up back here.

The Africa Union passed a resolution demanding a ceasefire in Libya and free elections. For the past ten years, the AU has existed on Libya's contributions. It was no surprise that Qaddafi agreed to these terms unconditionally. But I want to remind everyone that Qaddafi said a few weeks ago that he was observing a ceasefire and towns were still attacked by his army.

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Europe to meet with the Libyan opposition and others who are involved in the allied efforts. There is some talk about the allies actually army the opposition. I shudder to think about the blowback possibilities like we saw in Afghanistan.

All in all, President Obama checked off all the things that needed to be said and what needed to be made clear. However, he has opened the door for a larger debate on the use of American military force and the notion that we can and should act multilaterally. I am not so sure anyone will believe the GOP's unilateral mantra in 2012 but people can be convinced of anything.

One last positive note to the speech was President Obama's emphasis on America's power is related to its ability to persuade and influence others to form alliances to address common problems. Throughout his speech, President Obama kept linking "diplomats and soldiers" to convey how American power should be measured in other ways.

This was a welcomed change from the militarism we have heard before. We wait and hope.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Obama's Brackets Ruined

Virginia Commonwealth University defeated number 1 ranked and Obama's pick Kansas today 71-61. VCU based in Richmond is my sentimental favorite. That's because they have the only known Jersey's Mike's in Virginia. We are still waiting for another one to emerge near Tyson's Corner. Go VCU!

The Kochs--21st Century Quakers

(This is a test post to see whether the blog is back on track)(I can tell it failed.) Libertarians rave that David Koch is the greatest anti-war advocate since Gandhi. They point to his opposition to the Iraq War, which he mentions whenever he thinks about how he was booed at the New York ballet. There is a slight problem with this. Mark Ames and Yasha Levine at decided to research this notion. Ames and Levine were the first to document the Koch brothers' hand in creating the tea parties. After a blizzard of criticism, Playboy took down their article. They were finally vindicated with Jane Mayer's piece in the New Yorker last August. It was the Mayer piece that set off the storm of revelations on the web and the use of the Koch's in the attacks of the progressives on the Republican policies in the House and in various state houses. Mark Ames is an old colleague of Rolling Stones' Matt Taibibi. It seems the Koch Brothers may hate war but they love defense contracts. The two authors found out that they don't really like free markets either. The Kochs won 80% of their defense contracts on no-bid contracts. I sense a theme with the no-bid scheme for the power plants in Wisconsin. From 1995 to 1999, the authors found from open sources that the Kochs won $85 million in defense contracts. They would provide fuel and food for the military. From 2000 to 2006,they were earning from $2 to $6 million a year. After their purchase of Georgia-Pacific, their contracts soared to $68 million per year. By the end of 2010,they had secured $84 million in defense contracts. Small potatoes compared to other oil mogul Mr. Sergeant but nice walking around money nonethless. In light of this, why do they think President Obama is anti-business when he pays them so much. A lack of gratitude. Does anyone know what the Cargills are up to? I have no idea and no one else does. The Cargills are the number 1 private company in America. Periodically, people from past administrations go off quietly to work for them. But unlike the Kochs , they have the sense and class to stay quiet.

The Kochs Are Just Kooks.

( Weird post alert--the Koch Google masters have destroyed the original paragraphing) The Koch PR machine is now in full, fighting mode. First,they have been trying to scrub all web references to the Koch families dubious past. Now, they are trotting out Charles and David both to media outlets to help them sanitize their political activities. First we had the New York Times write about David Koch's bequest to MIT to create a Koch Center to study cancer. Now we have conservative websites and magazines challenge Democrats who received Koch funds and projecting that it is the Left which has double-standards. After all, didn't the Koch Brothers donate $60 million to the ACLU to kill the Patriot Act? Didn't David Koch criticize George W as prolifigate and his war in Iraq a policy failure? These are just a couple of eccentric guys with money to burn. The latest salvo in the effort to rehabilitate the Kochs is the piece in the Weekly Standard by Matthew Continetti, the conservative author of a book that says the leftwing media was out to get Sarah Palin. Matthew spent alot of time around Koch followers and the two wayward brothers. From the piece, you don't know who is crazier--Charles or David? Charles is perceived by the Koch groupies as the business theorist, the hard-nosed capitalist, while David is the charitable one. But both reveal the inner venom that Fred, their father, was known for. Before we get to their remarks about President Obama, we should recall that the Koch family has hated every President starting with FDR. We don't have a historical record for previous ones. Fred, the Dad, helped fund the original teaparties against FDR, a ladies' league that protested that FDR was a socialist. Fred's political hero, according to his own words, was Benito Mussolini. When he cofounded the John Birch Society,Dwight David Eisenhower was Ike The Kike for these phony patriots. According to David Koch's own memories, it was Dad that repeatedly warned him against the government--namely ours. Then we had David run as Vice-President on the Libertarian Party against President Ronald Reagan. Now we have both Koch brothers attack retroactively George W. Bush. So why should anyone be surprised that they hate another American President? This family invented the Hate America First movement. It was only last month that Charles Koch wrote glowingly about Canada and its wonderful economic policies. I wonder what he would say after the Harper Government fell. So now we come to President Barack Obama. Just a recap: President Obama has initiated tax cuts for small businesses, bailed out the auto industry, kept tax cuts from the Bush period,kept government at the same size per GDP as Eisenhower,failed to prosecute the major Wall Street fraudsters,bailed out the health insurance industry through healthcare reform,provided loans to clean energy companies, and on and on and on. All this in two years. American corporations are making record profits--historical records. The wealthier are getting even more obscenely wealthy. And read any leftwing blog of other ways Obama has been pro-business. And how accomodating he has been to the Chamber of Commerce, who spent a future on the 2010 midterm elections just to defeat anyone who identified with the President. So what does the Einstein of the Koch Brothers, David, say about President Obama. President Obama is "the most radical President we've ever had as a nation... and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any President we have ever had." Dad Fred is rolling over in his grave--FDR had that title. Charles says that he doesn't believe that Obama is a Marxist but "he's internalized some Marxist models." David explains that President Obama's father "was a hard core economic socialist in Kenya. So he (Obama) had sort of anti-business, anti-free enterprise influences affecting him almost all his life." Just for the record, President Obama's father was a technocrat in the first Kenyan government and probably did indeed believe a type of third world socialism. The government he served confiscated the white farm lands and allowed virtually every business to remain in white hands and conduct business as usual. Hardly, the great socialist experiment. Also, President Obama only saw his father a few times in his life and was not old enough to hear sermons about economics. David is all upset that the prank caller to Governor Scott Walker "stole his identity." He also said that the protestors at the Rancho Mirage confab with Clarence Thomas and Glenn Beck were "very, very extreme" and "very, dangerous". All you have to do is look at the Youtube and find this is truly a menacing crowd of anarchists and bomb-throwers. Sort of like the marching cows in Wisconsin. My advice to the Kochs is to study Marlon Brando in the Formula and John Huston in Chinatown to learn how to be great meglomaniacs. My advice to opponents is to keep up the pressure and flash mob them so Americans will act as the Amish and shun them.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Two Polls That Should Not be Read Together

Thursday's global Gallup poll showed that the age of Obama does bring benefits in terms of world public opinion. In a survey covering 100 countries, Gallup found that the United States continued to climb in public opinion, registering a 47% approval rating. The United States remained the nation most people wanted to migrate to. 24% said they wanted to migrate to the United States with Canada as runner-up at 7 percent.

The United States returned to the most liked major power with the election of Barack Obama. During the Bush Administration, due to the Iraq War and a style of international relations that annoyed people ,the U.S. actually found its standing lower than Germany, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and China. Only Russia during this period had worse ratings.

For the second consecutive year, America's rating has improved. Germany is second with a 40% approval rating.

Now for a Discover Magazine poll on evolution. Discover polled Canadians and Americans on evolution.

Statement: Humans were created by God in the last 10,000 years.
14% of Canadians agreed; 40% of Americans agreed.

Statement: Humans evolved over time with divine providence.
18% of Canadians agree; 38% of Americans agreed.

Statement: Humans evolved through natural selection.
58% of Canadians agreed; only 16% of Americans agreed.

They is not much to say.

Wing-Ding News from the States

To get a handle on the "ignoramitocracy" governing our states, I suggest reading Ross MacDonald's 1947 detective novel Blue City. The novel chronicles corruption in a small Midwest town and highlights the intersection of the business and crime communities. MacDonald writes an imitation of the local Chamber of Commerce's attack on trade unionists as communists, provocateurs and of course, thugs. Meanwhile the reformer Mayor as well as the initially good-intentioned are being blackmailed by the crime bosses.

I gave up waiting for Carl Hiaissen and so recommend Dailykos' poster "perplexed" for regular updates on Rick Scott's Florida. "perplexed" captures the mundane lunacy of the new governor such as deciding the Agriculture Department should take control of school lunches because the prohibition of chocolate milk might hurt Florida's dairy farmers. Or Rick Scott deciding to invest millions in enlarging the port of Miami to capture the traffic coming from the Panama Canal. But others have been capturing the highlights also. Besides gutting the school systems and giving amazing tax benefits to corporations--all in the name of cutting the deficit, Scott also wants to close all public hospitals. He also wants to privatize Medicaid for the poorer citizens. He also has announced random drug tests for public employees and welfare recipients. They don't call him Sick Rott for nothing.

Before we ascribe ideological motives to him, it's best to remember that Rick Scott is a bonafide criminal. His fortune was made by Medicare fraud and he paid the largest fine--$1.5 billion--in United States history for fraud. So it should not surprise us that the company that would conduct the random drug tests would be his wife's ,Solantic. Steve Benen of Washington Monthly caught this and noted that the same "Solantic" company would immediately reap the benefits of any privatization of Medicare. Apparently,this Rick Scott created company took advantage of the 2005 Medicare pilot project on privatization. So now they are all set up to reap the profits.

Rick Scott's Florida will also prohibit public employees from purchasing health insurance that could pay for abortions. Now there is a larger move in all of Florida to prohibit all citizens from buying health insurance to cover abortions. The war against the uteri continues.

Then we travel back to Wisconsin. A Wisconsin court had ordered a stay on the Attorney General from publishing the new union-busting law because of complaints it violated the open meeting law. Not to worry, Senate leader muscles the non-partisan Legislative Bureau to publish it. So Governor Walker proclaims its now officials even though it has not been officially published by the Attorney General as required by law. Forget the issue at stake, the thuggery by the state legislators and Walker during this whole process has been amazing. Now the Legislative Bureau claims the bill isn't official, the Fitzgerald brothers, who control the Senate and the Assembly, proclaim it is. And the Governor says he is going to enforce it immediately. I like the rule of law also.

The Associated Press finally got all the e-mails sent to Walker during this debate. Walker had claimed that the "vast majority" of them supported his position. An AP investigative report found that in fact the majority opposed him. But one of the e-mails was very interesting. A state prosecutor from Indiana urged him to fake an assassination attempt so as to smear the unions. Walker claims he never read this e-mail but the prosecutor was discretely told to resign.

A University of Wisconsin professor named William Cronon wrote a blog critical of Scott Walker's new bill but suggested a "moderate" alternative. The Republicans are demanded all of the professor's e-mails, claiming that he was tantamount to lobbying and that would violate the conditions of his employment since he is a state employee. Prof. Cronon sent a letter about this to Talking Points Memo , which kicked off a firestorm in the state. The Republicans claimed that such actions by the professor--mind you--had a "chilling effect" on legislators trying to get at the truth.

Wisconsin voters have passed the 50% mark for signatures to recall the 8 Republican Senators. Top of the list is our man Randy Hopper, whose mistress now works for the state and he no longer lives in his district. The story of the mistress has legs. Apparently she got a job and recieved a $12,000 increase over the previous person who held this. Not great advertisement for a budget cut debate. It gets worse. She never went through the state procedure to apply for a job. Poor Randy. Now everyone in his district knows all the dirty details.

The race for the Supreme Court position in Wisconsin has really heated up. The winner of the April 5th vote will be the deciding vote on the whole union-busting bill. Scott Walker's candidate is a sitting judge David Presser, who drew attention this week for screaming at the female Chief Justice "you're a bitch" and "I'm going to destroy you." Opponents of Presser unleashed a barrage of attack ads that made note of his failure to investigate the sexual molestation of two children by a Catholic priest. To avoid scandal for the Catholic Church,Presser went to the bishop, who quietly had the priest transferred within Wisconsin. And the priest continued his wanton ways.

Of course, the Senator who spearheaded the bill that killed the ability of children to seek redress from the Catholic Church was none other than our man Randy Hopper. With the Fitzgeralds in charge of the Senate and Assembly and the Fitzgerald brothers drafting their dad to get the top job of the State Police,you get the picture of corruption gone out of control.

Do the Koch Brothers bidding much, Scott? Remember Republicans everywhere are against regulation. But Scott Walker seems very concerned to tighten the regulations against wind energy. In essence, his new regulations--the toughest in America--cancel the wind development turbines planned by one of the largest wind turbine companies in the country--Invenery. Besides refusing the high-speed rail project, Walker's latest move kills another $1.5 billion in the state. Walker also wants to eliminate Wisconsin's state target of having 5% of the state's energy pprovided by alternative sources. But he can still sell off the state's power plants in non-competitive bidding.

New Hampshire is now debating a union-busting law, which exceeds the demonic dimensions of Wisconsin. Reading the law, I had to wonder whether these mental midgets really want a school system and government where employees can be fired at will? Can you imagine having to plan on a year to year basis never knowing who your employees are? Luckily, democratic Governor Lynch promises to veto this nonsense.

Meanwhile in the state of Maine,teabag Governor LePage wants to strip a labor mural from the Department of Labor because the state views business and labor equally. He also wants to rename the conference rooms in the building so they do not reflect a bias to labor. The mural was done by a Maine artist, who won a 2008 competition for the project. Since citizens always liked it,they have raised questions whether it is legal to move it.

There are two states where property taxes have been lingering political issues for years--Maine and New Jersey. With Teabag Le Page and Chris Chrissie promising to address this during their campaigns, we should note that in both states property taxes have increased.

For those of us planning on medical exiles because of the state of our national healthcare system, we welcome the new that Vermont's House passed a single-payer plan. The news that Vermont will adopt a single-payer healthcare system has caused 20,000 doctors to volunteer to move to Vermont to work. Perhaps, there is hope yet.

The hero of our detective novel falls in love with a local woman and must decide whether to move away for a fresh start. He decides to stay in the corrupt city to clean it up. But remember that was written before Ross MacDonald became realistic.

The Race for 2012--Continued

Charlie Cook has come out saying that the Republicans will hold the House in 2012 and take back the Senate. But he said that his discussions with top Republican strategists indicate that President Obama will win re-election. With a wing-nut Congress that would be interesting if not absurd. James Carville's Democracy Corps has polled and found that voters have buyers' remorse and that GOP freshmen in the House are so vulnerable that the Democrats have a chance to win back the House. Others dispute this saying that redistricting totally favors the Republicans and that buyers' remorse may not turn into votes.

A Pew Poll shows that President Obama beats the generic Republican rather handily and that specific Republican names don't help much either. Public Policy Polling of swing states show Obama winning his states but not with some of the large margins he experienced in 2008. That's one of the reasons that Republican strategists believe they will have a lock on Congress because the Presidential coat-tails will not be so long. The actions of the Midwest Republican Governors have swung the region's direction back to the Democrats and may help save a few Senate seats.

One of the fascinating things to observe is that the approval ratings of the most visible Republican potential candidates have seriously dropped since 2009. The suggestion is that the more people know them the less they like them. I'm not one of those who believes this race is totally wide open as some have suggested. Basically, I believe it is a Huckabee versus Romney contest at this point.

For the first time, Gallup has Mike Huckabee taking the lead over Mitt Romney. The results of the full poll are fascinating.

19% Mike Huckabee
15% Mitt Romney
12% Sarah Palin
10% Newt Gingrich
6% Ron Paul
5% Michelle Bachmann
4% Mitch Daniels
2% Haley Barbour
2% Rick Santorum
2% Jon Huntsman
2% Gary Johnson
1% Donald Trump

Notice the absence of Tim Pawlenty, who announced his exploratory committee this week. Evangelical Christian Tim Pawlenty just finished his stint as Governor of Minnesota, creating the largest deficit in their history. Pawlenty is known among hunters for gut-shooting a deer and letting his aide clean up after him because he had to go to a fund-raiser.

People claims that Haley Barbour has a good shot because he is well-known for his fund-raising and his ability to exploit every loophole in campaign finance laws. Barbour has been out in Iowa this week pledging to reinstate DADT to avoid the battlefield dangers of an "amourous mindset." The return of DADT has been pledged by Gingrich,Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty.

Mitt Romney facing criticism for his Romneycare program in Massachusetts is going to stay away from Iowa because his handlers fear he will be ambushed by the social conservatives, who dominate the Caucus. He claims he will be creating a strategy that focuses on New Hampshire, Nevada and Florida. However, he will be risking his front-runner status if he stays away from too many primaries.

If there is an emerging pattern to the Republican race, it is that it will be fought over "values" issues and not the economy. With House Republicans and Governors sabotaging the recovery, they are betting that a sour economy will doom President Obama. However, they risk the voters actually waking up and discovering the implications of their actions by then.

The key component of the Republican strategy is the ability to raise astronomical sums of money from people like the Koch Brothers and Rove's billionaire donors to overwhelm the Democrats. The second part is being implemented by the Republican Governors, who are implementing Voter ID laws that will dramatically affect the ability of the young,minorities and the poor to vote. Republicans are hoping they can suppress these key constituencies, who vote overwhelming for Democrats but more importantly for President Obama. A big liability for Republicans is the new census figure showing that Hispanics have grown to 50 million people and are now the largest minority in the country. With the immigration laws proposed by the Republicans in over two dozen states,their one-time dream of capturing the Hispanic vote has faded.

The most interesting new possible candidate is Donald Trump. Trump epitomizes Republican economics at this point in time. Trump inherited a fortune from his father, leveraged enormous debt from it, declared bankruptcy several times but paid 10cents on the dollar, each time increasing his wealth, and actually managed to let a casino go bankrupt. In many ways, he is the most suitable candidate of them all.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Update on Libya

Here in D.C. we have Dennis Kucinich filing suit against President Obama saying he violated the War Power Act. Old Swizzle Stick John Boehner wrote a letter to Obama demanding to know what the purpose of the mission is. Kucinich and other members of the House are proposing bills to cut off funding for the mission, which is being handled for now out of the Pentagon's general funds. The cost of the intervention now far exceeds the GOP's hopes for budget cuts this term. The Obama Administration wants to switch over leadership of the mission in a few days in part to escape the War Powers Act, which then would demand that the Administration asked for approval from Congress.

Newt Gingrich was for the war before he was against it. On Fox, he had called for a No Fly Zone that night,a threat to invade and topple Qaddafi. But yesterday, since President Obama already intervened, he was against it. The clumsy contradiction forced him to try and explain these mutually contradictory positions on Facebook. You are better than I if you can understand what he said.

Nicholas Kristof posted an op-ed in the New York Times saying that as much as he hates war he hates the extermination of civilians. He writes about the Libyans thank-you rallies to the allies for saving their lives, a far cry from the situation of Darfur and Bosnia.

Juan Cole, never the Hawk, writes in Informed Comment that the UN No-Fly Zone has accomplished ten things. His full article is worth reading at his website.

1. The participation of the Muslim world in the United Nations' no-fly zone over Libya can not be underestimated for its political importance. The measure was called for by the Arab League, which has not changed its mind about its desirability. Of course, as Al Jezeera snidely pointed out, all Arab nations would love to get rid of Qaddafi anyway. Qatar will be flying missions this weekend and others will supply logistical support. Read cash. It should be pointed out that over 200 Arab organizations, including NGOs support the UN no-fly zone. That's rather incredible given the last decade of American activity in the region.

2. Turkey, while it is blocking NATO command of the whole operation,has sent frigates to enforce the naval blockade of the country. The kerfuffle over NATO control is interesting in that Sarkozy himself said that NATO did not have the confidence of the Muslim nations. Turkey has also called for Qaddafi to step down.

3. After one clash today between the French and a Libyan fighter, the Libyan air force, which has been terrorizing the population by bombing cities, effectively has ceased to exist.

4. Tobruk, the major petroleum depot on the Mediterranean,is no longer in danger of being attacked and its 120,000 people being massacred.

5. Benghazi, the center of the pro-freedom movement, has been saved from being bombarded and conquered by pro-Qaddafi army and air force. Plans had been drawn up to massacre the citizens of the city. This was one of the key factors in influencing Obama to use force--the plans to massacre the citizens of Benghazi and Tobruk.

6. Misrata, a city of 670,000, was given a brief reprieve yesterday when United Nations allies bombed pro-Qaddafi tank positions. But as of last night the Qaddafi forces crept back annd bombed the center of town, including a hospital with 400 patients in it. This morning however the bombing stopped. The death toll would have been much higher.

7. The no-fly zone allowed an aid ship to land in Misrata with medicines. Humanitarian assistance organizations are now gearing up for a larger role in the whole process.

8. Zintan, the city which had spawned the military revolt of the 1990s, was spared massacre when allied planes struck near the city and forced pro-Qaddafi forces out of the city for a brief time.

9. The oil city of Ajdabiya, once the base for attacks on Tobruk and Benghazi, has been turned into an area being contested by the freedom movement and a rump of the pro-Qaddafi forces. You may have seen footage of this by Richard Engel, who went along with the amateur fighters.

10. Since Benghazi is not being bombed, the freedom movement has been able to meet and form a transitional governing council.

Cole suggests the freedom movement controls over half the population and half the petroleum facilities. Eventually if the momentum holds, Qaddafi could run out of gas for his armored vehicles and cash for his mercenaries.

In other important news, the United States announced that they have found no evidence that Al Qaeda has any prescence in the country whatsoever. While Al Qaeda has piped up with support for the Libyan people and there have been rumors of cells in the country (which I wrote about),the United States was compelled to publicly dispel this notion.

The whole Al Qaeda issue has a fascinating twist. When Qaddafi became an American ally in the war against terror, he provided intelligence on what he claimed were Al Qaeda cells in northern Africa. One of these groups were Toureg nomads, who had not sworn allegiance to him. The Touregs, one of my personal favorite tribes, wander around the Sahel. To see them appearing, riding their camels over the dunes is a real thrill. Qaddafi envisioned a trans-Sahara project and tried to win their allegiance, which would have given him access to all the countries in the region. Some did buy in but many did not. Those who remained independent were the some of those he told the United States were Al Qaeda cells. Over the last few years, our own forces conducted operations throughout the region targeting the Touregs as possible terrorists. The notion is beyond absurd.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, said he was "100 percent" certain that his investigation into attacks on Libyan protesters will lead to crimes against humanity charges against the Qaddafi regime. Moreno-Ocampo is looking into six incidents of "massive shooting of civilians" by security forces in Tripoli, Benghazi and other Libyan cities. A later investigation will examine the regime's actions during the armed conflicts with the freedom movement.

In May, Moreno-Ocampo will present his findings to the United Nations Security Council, which had instructed the court to investigate in a unanimous decision on February 26. The Security Council then would play a role in having the suspects of the crimes arrested. If the Security Council approves his report, then Moreno-Ocampo must present his case to a judge ,who will decide if the case proceeds. This only enlarges the options against Qaddafi if he does stay in power.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton said that Qaddafi's inner circle has been calling around to find out where they can find safe haven. While she didn't want to be definitive about their real purposes in making the calls, it does raise the speculations about how long they will hold out.

A dissenter on the Libyan operation is Frank Gaffney, who worries that Obama will use the same rationale to justify an attack on Israel. Well, someone had to bring it up. I guess.

Overlooked has been the endorsement of the United Nations actions by Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu, who issued a statement that he backed it for humanitarian reasons.

Other Arab commentators have mentioned that if the United States had acted this way when the Iraqi Shia had risen up against Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War or when Saddam slaugheted the Kurds and used chemical weapons against them, we would not have faced such a long and costly war in Iraq and alienated the whole Muslim world.

Since our House of Representatives seems clairvoyant in their idiocy, I bet they repeat the cutting off of Tsunami monitoring funds stunt on the Libyan mission. They'll vote to cut it off and then either disaster strikes or Qaddafi falls.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different-The Presidency Would Be Beneath Sarah Palin

Talking Points Memo surpassed themselves with their reporting today. The always superb website alerted us to the new trend among right-wing pundits who say that the White House would be a step down for Sarah Palin. They do quote spoilsports like David Frum that this type of lunacy ranks with Palin's reason for resigning her post as Governor to have a greater influence on change.

Matt Drudge's old sidekick Andrew Breibart talked to CQ magazine saying that Palin would be unstoppable if she didn't get bogged down by being President. After all, the office has been so tarnished by George W and Barack Obama (my intrusion). Andrew says "I think the presidency is beneath her." "It would be my goal for Palin to become Oprah and be the ultimate kingmaker for twenty-odd years." Personally, I think she should be adopted by the Koch Brothers.

Ann Coulter, who is always good for a laugh, says," I think it would be a step down for her. She's huge. She has enormous power." Coulter claims that Palin has nore influence than a President does. I guess so does Lady Gaga and she's more talented.

Apparently, National Review's Kathryn Lopez agrees with Breibart and declares, "culture is where it's at." Doesn't culture demand an ability to read? Just wondering. I didn't even get to the issue of taste and style.

TPM suggests this talk is more conservative spin to get the Right off the hook in their support for Palin and to frame the issue so that Palin has a high-minded way not to run for President. I don't think so. I honestly believe these people really see the culture wars as being the be all and end all of their once powerful movement. If you don't believe in government, why aspire to lead it?

Legal,Shmegal--It's Not About Us-More Libya

I know people want to strip Barack Obama of the Nobel Prize because they miss the days when they could strip Muhammed Ali of his championship. Our own national problem is how to come to grip with a $1.2 trillion military/intelligence/terrorist complex and why we want to build Indian war style frontier forts throughout the Middle East. But,it should not be whether we assist those under threat of genocide. Even though we are scarred by the cowboy antics of the last administration,we should realize that the Libyan situation like the other Middle Eastern Revolutions are not about us.

A Spaniard chided his countrymen that he expected a lack of solidarity from the conservatives but not from his leftist friends. on the issue of Libya. He mentioned how life would have been different if the great democracies had sided with the Spanish Republic.

Despite my own misgivings about the situation, I am humbled by a piece written by someone who knows about Western responses to genocide--Lt. General Romeo Dallaire,the force commander of the UN Peacekeeping Mission for Rwanda in 1994. Now a Senator in the Canadian Parliament and associated with the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights, he writes in Foreign Policy that when Qaddafi threatened to cleanse Libya "dar,dar" (house by house), "zenga, zenga" (street by street), he forced the international community's hand. General Dallaire wonders whether the intervention is too late.

He argues that the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) requires the UN Security Council to take action when a country fails to protect its citizens. This doctrine was unanimously adopted by all countries of the UN general Assembly in 2005. Dallaire asserts that this should have been invoked earlier when Qaddafi threatened the democratic demonstrators with mass atrocities. He notes this would have been appropriate when the UN adopted an arms embrago on Libya and targeted sanctions against Qaddafi and his cornies in late February.

But he says that the referral of Libya to the International Criminal Court and its approval of the No Fly Zone demonstrated the UN Security Council's attention and resolve in a timely manner that was thoroughly absent during Rwanda and Darfur.

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch,adds that the Security Council at last lived up to its duty to prevent mass atrocities. He notes that it accomplished the politically impossible when it referred Libya to the Court and approved force. He did say that the international community finally found the ideal villain, who allowed them to finally act in the proper manner.

And yes, all our international treaties, with the rights and obligations thereto,are the law of our land. I know we all forgot that during the last Administration.

I think we should take General Dallare seriously and reconsider why President Obama insisted that others eventually direct the operations and why it wasn't appropriate for the President of the United States announce the commencement of military operations. It was an international duty, not just a national one.

Whether this will work out practically is another thing but you have to get the over-arching issue correct to begin with. I think President Obama did that. It's a shame that we can't openly invoke international law and obligations for fear of a nativist backlash against all things United Nations.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More Musings on Libya

(Mysteriously my old dashboard for this blog surfaced so hopefully I can make this more readable.)

Rachel Maddow did a good piece last night on how Obama is trying to change the narrative on our interventions. She reminded us that since Reagan every President has addressed the nation from the Oval Office to announce the commencement of military actions. If you like the authoritarian male declaring America is about to save the world again ,then you might not like having the leader of the G-8 and G-20,French President Sarkozy announce when bombing begins.

Ann Applebaum wrote a good column about why President Obama should keep a low profile on the Libyan intervention because frequent and loud denunciations of Mu'ammar Qaddafi would raise expectations which we are unlikely to meet.

The usual suspects on the right are denouncing President Obama's actions. John Bolton says that we should have acted unilaterally. Mitt Romney backs the action but disagrees with President Obama's attitude because we're exceptional or something like that. I can't understand what Mitt says anymore because he seems to be imitating a hologram with programmed answers. Karl Rove topped them all by saying W would have been tougher with Qaddafi and acted quicker. Since W didn't act quickly on anything, that's unlikely. But Karl didn't tell his Fox audience that W granted a presidential amnesty to Qaddafi for his role in the Lockerbie terrorist bombing of an airliner, one of the worst terrorist acts until 9/11. He even sent Condi over to Libya to strike up the new alliance against terrorism. So I wouldn't believe Karl.

Steve Clemons, who is still skeptical, pointed out on Rachel Maddow that this is all President Obama's initiative. He was aided by Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Samantha Powers but he directed the whole process. Obama faced with Qaddafi's refusal to back off turned on a dime and went to a military option. He also pointed out that the diplomatic alliance was put together in a record three days compared to the year or two years to achieve the same results for the humanitarian interventions of the Clinton years.

In fact, the Libyan intervention, even with the military strikes, might be seen as an example more of soft power than military power. The object of diplomacy is to persuade people to your own view as if it is in their best interests also. The shaky support of the Arab League is an example of this. Algeria, Syria and Yemen didn't sign on. Algeria because it is neighbor to Libya and is not sure how this will all come out. Syria because they have their own extensive opposition now. And Yemen because it is close to a civil war or coup itself. The fact that a UN Security Council Resolution of this magnitude got passed so fast is actually good news for America's standing in the world. We probably didn't have to bribe as many people or the bribes weren't that costly.

Richard Engel indirectly raised the some of the problems on the ground. Yes, we saved a massacre from happening in Benghazi. But the rebels on the ground do not comprehend what a No Fly Zone actually means. They tend to think we'll take care of all obstacles to their success. But the rebels are not professional soldiers. They started as a non-violent uprising and only resorted to military actions when Qaddafi unleashed his military. They have no training,they come from a variety of professions, and they lack any military strategic sense. Engel pointed out that the defectors from Qaddafi's army are no help because they are settling into the backlines. Even the defecting officers are going AWOL, even saying they are going on vacation and taking a few days off. Today, there is more news that Qaddafi's forces are gunning anyone that moves in areas they control.

As for all the nonsense that Obama didn't properly notify Congress or have the constitutional right to engage in this action, it's sad to point out that the last time Congress declared war was for WWII. All the talk about impeachment would have to apply retroactively to every President since FDR. The list of American military interventions around the world since then is endless. The noise in Washington about this is humorous since the Senate passed a resolution urging the creation of a No Fly Zone three weeks ago. Now Dennis Kucinich, who believes Obama can be impeached, is working on a law that no funds should be spent on the Libyan intervention. All of this would interesting and call for honest debate. But we have let the President of the United States do this for almost 70 years because Congress and the American People like it that way.

Our problem as a nation is that there are no effective checks on our military power. Neither party wants to make the President or the military accountable. Without a draft, we no longer have the type of stake in our interventions that we used to. And as to costs,neither party wants to restrict our military spending even though it is bankrupting us. When you read the blizzard of comments--wise and foolish--on the Libyan intervention,it is sobering to know that none of them matter. Public opinion doesn't matter. You could be debating Obama's bracket choices and it has the same value. We are the spectators. In the most extreme cases like the Iraq War, millions of Americans demonstrated,numbers that dwarfed the teaparty gatherings, and yet as Dick Cheney said, "So What?" Our military interventions are not influenced by the American citizenry anymore. In the words of W, you might as well go shopping.

So now it comes down to whether President Obama does war right. Bill Kristol wrote the other day that we don't invade Muslim countries, we liberate them. And that may be the difference here. I don't have the inclination to unpack that nonsense. But we should be somewhat assured that President Obama's body language shows he has an inherent reluctance to immediately go to the military option and that in deeds he wants others to share the sacrifice. His critics lament his nuance and the sophistication of his approach to problems. I view these as strengths. That he should deliberate on something is a positive trait, not a negative. We've run off to war many times without asking questions only to find years of nightmares and arguments that we can't stop or it will weaken our position in the world.

A leftwing blogger said that we could blame almost all current problems we have on the past administration but now Obama has created one of his own. Yes, but I have a confidence in him that we will not make a commitment for a decade to pacifying Libya in the name of democracy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Two Cents Today

I'm watching or reading the foodfights in the blogosphere today after President Obama's Libya policy. Actually 75% of Americans support the No Fly Zone and an equal number agree that America should not have troops on the ground. But approval of the Obama policy is lower because Republicans don't like the idea it's Barack Obama doing it with a coalition from "Old Europe" and the Arab League. It was so much better when it was cowboy intervention. You can shout, "USA! USA!" and go back to watching the tube.

Somehow the Left doesn't remember that President Obama has never been a pacifist. Progressives should remember their "conditional" support of him for President. The conditional was all on his vow to fight terrorism and escalate in Afghanistan. Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich think he could be impeached. The Free Republic, who always think he should be impeached, are outraged but when are they not.

Ms. Lindsey Graham was miffed yesterday on Fox News, saying that Obama is reluctant to lead the "Free World" and was to blame for unrest in Bahrain and Yemen. Why not Syria too?

Serious people like Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall and Steve Clemons haven't figured out what they really think. They are tending toward the negative. Michael Lind, writing on Salon,says it's all unconstitutional and with China abstaining, we don't have more than half the world on our side. Unlike say...hmmm...Iraq. The real problem with the serious guys is that they have to write every day and actually have an opinion and you aren't allowed to think too closely about things.

This is really a time for the word--Maybe. Maybe it will work and Maybe it won't. Maybe we like the idea of a broad coalition with a specific goal. Maybe we would like a bloodcurdling yell of regime change. That really worked out well with Venezuela,Zimbabwe and Iran. Maybe we are tired of wars against brown people. Maybe we do have to use force even though the neocons pretty much destroyed that idea. It's not a yes or no time.

It's only been a few days. I know Huffington Post is screaming that it could last indefinitely. I'm confident in Obama that it won't. I'm also confident that the King of Kings will be deposed. I am not confident about what will follow. Or yes, President Obama did say today that American foreign policy was that Qaddafhi must go. But he did say that the United States had other tools on hand to create the conditions for him to leave. Conservatives should remember that Ronald Reagan bombed Libya and the Libyan leader remained and got even with Lockerbie. We never mention blowback.

Listening to President Obama's Persian New Year speech to the Iranian youth,it's clear that emotionally he's committed to the great wave of change in the Middle East. He explicitly told the Iranian youth he was with them on the issue of democratic change.

One hopes this is not triumphalism. Yesterday,millions voted in Egypt to establish the rules for the next election.Today, an elite corps of the Yemeni army defected to the revolutionaries. Thousands have finally started protesting against the Syrian regime. So far none of the forces of change have exhibited menancing attributes.So maybe it will be a turning point for the whole region.

I find it refreshing to hear discussions about Middle Eastern politics without the chronic debate on how this will impact Israel. I think alot of the neocons, who want to get back in the ballgame, are disappointed that the change elements seem quasi-democratic without any tinge of fanaticism or a love of terrorism.

What happens to elements of our own country if Arabs demand freedoms we all recognize? What happens to the narrative being written by Rep. King and others that all Muslims are somehow subversive and constitute a "fifth column" in America? Does that mean that people can not root for them to overthrow autocrats?

Luckily, the time when the United States depends on autocratic regimes in the region is coming to a close. A fond farewell.

Meanwhile I'll keep watching how the blogosphere settles down and watch President Obama in Latin America. I would like to remind everyone that America exports more to Latin America than to China and that Latin America exports more to us than to Europe. While President Obama is in the region,I keep asking myself whether Latin America was better off when we neglect it or better off when we decide to engage it. This seems to take place every ten years.

I am sure when President Obama gets to El Salvador, the Right is going to explode. He is scheduled to pay homage at the tomb of Archbishop Romero,who was assassinated by right-wing death squads. The trip is meant to show that the United States can do business with a leftwing Latin American Government. The government of El Salvador is currently led by veterans of the FMLN, the guerrilla movement which was opposed by the United States in 1980.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

When the Deal Goes Down--War with Libya

For the best coverage of the various policy debates on Libya,go to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, which summarizes the flood of pros and cons about the Obama Administration's decisions about Libya. I share with Sullivan a queasiness about the whole operation because like he,I was a supporter of the war against Iraq, only to be horrified by its results and America's ineptitude at every level.

On Saturday, the New York Times published an excellent investigative report on how the decision to bomb Libya went down. The primary advocates were Hillary Clinton, Samantha Powers and Susan Rice. It was a modification of the Cinton Administration policy of humantarian intervention. (It should be pointed out that Samantha Powers' addition to the Obama Administration was widely criticized by conservatives,because she was supposed to be a leftist.)

President Obama was pummelled for the two weeks leading to the decision by neoconservatives and conservative presidential wannabes. Newt Gingrich had declared he would have implemented a No Fly Zone overnight--which shows you how out of touch with practical reality he is. The whole list of remaining neoconservatives circulated a letter to President Obama calling for an invasion. I'm glad Americans have no sense of shame. Paul Wolfowitz of all people surfaced in the Wall Street Journal to lead the call for an invasion. As if parroting from the same script, Republican Presidential aspirants said that President Obama spent time filling in his brackets for the NCAA basketball championships while President Sarkozy was taking the lead in Libya. Today "Old Walnuts" McCain, extending his Guiness Book of Records' appearances on a Sunday Talk Show, criticized President Obama for the lateness of his decision. This said with military operations underway. A real classy Sarah Palin, who seems to misunderstand the old adage of not criticizing beyond the water's edge, spoke in India about Obama dithering. (She also warned India about China.)

Since the bombing of Libya took place on the anniversary of our invasion of Iraq,it's useful to recall McCain's words then. "We have one commander in chief, and one Secretary of Defense,not 535 of them."

I find the knee-jerk desire to go to war by the Republicans frightening. Nothing has been learned and there is simply no self-reflection. On the other hand,the whole Libyan issue demonstrates that the United States can't break from its imperial patterns so cleanly and we may be stuck in a death spiral.

As for reaction time--Bush wanted to go to war with Iraq prior to 9/11. It took him almost 3 years to get there. And even when it was known to the United States he was going to war. It took him two years--the longest telegraphed punch in military history. Then, as he writes in his memoir, it took him another three years to change the policy after Iraq had become engulfed in a civil war. Three weeks by President Obama and he actually thought about this is faster than the speed of light.

Now let's recall the old "You're with us or agi'n us." policy of the last administration. One of the genuine policy accomplishments of the last administration was to persuade Libya to dismantle its nuclear program. And the Colonel threw in his cooperation on Al Qaeda. Unfortunately on the latter, some of the Al Qaeda bodies he threw to us were just dissidents. Now remember little Billy Kristol and others crowed about Qaddafhi's turning sides. In the run up to this episode, we have none of our warlords lament that we are losing our ally in the war against terror.

Richard Cohen in the Washington Post wrote a few weeks ago about all the horrible regimes in Africa that the Colonel bankrolled such as Liberia's Charles Taylor. All true. But one aspect of the regime, which has been ignored, has been its routine extermination of dissidents. They did this in the 1980s, 1990s and with our help in the 2000s and now they are just being more overt and the world knows. During all these periods,the United States and the entire Western World did absolutely nothing.

And for history buffs, remember a few weeks ago when the Colonel did his speech holding a parasol outside a burned out building. The building in question was a site bombed by Ronald Reagan and kept as a memorial to Qaddafhi daughter who died in the bombing. So here we are again. Yesterday, the regime rounded up human shields to protect the site and the Colonel's home.

Throughout the Middle East uprisings, the Obama Administration was trying to avoid several historical problems at the same time.
1. The Iranian Hostage scenario. Hence the slight delay by Obama on telling Mubarak to go. Americans had to be evacuated from Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya.
2. The fundamentalist revolution scenario.
3. The unilateral American intervention into the Middle East scenario like Bush's Iraq.
4. The Rwanda genocide scenario, which greatly influenced Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and Samantha Powers.

First, let's handle the good news about the Libyan event. The Arab League, the African Union and the European Union urged a no-fly zone before the United States overtly favored it. The resolutions before the United Nations Security Council did not entail all the hassle we saw under the last administration. (P.S. The House wanted to cut the American share of dues to the United Nations.) The military operation really is being carried out with a coalition of forces. Even Norway is contributing fighter planes. The French President was the one to declare the beginning of hostilities. (Republicans have now learned to love the France, not only because of Libya but because of nuclear power. So you can have French fries now, not Freedom fries.) Also the No-Fly Zone is actually more extensive than is traditional with the French bombing Libya's ground forces.

(P.S. Gabriel Al-Islam Qaddafhi, the Colonel's son,blasted Sarkozy. He said,"We paid for his campaign. Now we want our money back."

Second,there are some worrying developments. The five abstentions on the Libyan action were Russia, China, India and Brazil, four of the most powerful countries in the world. If events go south, expect them to pick up the pieces and become vocal critics. In fact, the Arab League has already criticized the killing of civilians by the international force.

What has escaped me from the beginning of this story is the failure of the United States and the Western powers to block the regime's communications networks. This was the single biggest failure of the West during the whole Rwanda genocide. And finally, there is no real end-game, no desired scenario of the West.

Some point to Operation Odyssey Dawn as a smaller version of the Gulf War I, which was a coalition effort that was wildly successful in reversing Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and obliterating the Iraqi Republican Guard. But let's not forget the unwelcome aftermath of the Gulf War. In the United States, we had a significant portion of our foreign policy elites and the neoconservatives claim it was a failure because it did not remove Saddam Hussein. And the sequel cost $1 trillion to date and maybe $3 trillion eventually.

It would be nice if we actually had a plethora of Libyan experts who knew what they were talking about.

The Colonel is reverting to form. He condemned the United Nations' action as colonialism, threatened to kill his enemies as heretics, promised the United States would be sorry and vowed to wage a "long war" against us. All he needs now is Baghdad Bob.

Like Iraq, Libya is an artificial creation. After WWII, the allies created a monarchy except the chosen King only wanted to be the emir of one part of the country because he disliked the tribes of the other part. The division remains to this day and you can see it in the dvision of the country between pro-regime forces and revolutionary forces. This doesn't look like it would be resolved soon.

Unlike Saddam Hussein,Libya doesn't have the same hierarchical structures like a Ba'ath Party or even a traditionally organized military. You simply don't cut off the head and promote non-monsters to run the country. In Iraq,the United States made two absolutely insane moves--dissolved the Ba'ath Party, which included every technocrat in the country (thanks Wolfowitz) and unilaterally dissolved the military (thanks Paul Bremer), thus plunging the country into perpetual civil war.

The Green Revolution is far more decentralized and this provides a real policy dilemma for the future. At the same time, like Iraq, the regime has its favorite tribes, which have been rewarded with the fruits of the economy. And unlike Iraq, where Al Qaeda only showed up after the fact, Al Qaeda is in Libya and the extent of its involvement with the opposition is unknown. The cells there have gained battle experience in Iraq.

President Obama promised that no American troops will be involved on the ground. American military support so far has been naval and missile strikes as well as intelligence. The question facing the international community will be what happens when Qaddafhi holds out. How far does the international community go? For President Obama , he has promised that this operation will last days, not weeks. And frankly, the quickness of the attacks immediately after the UN Declaration 1973 suprised me.

The good news for everyone--snark alert--is that the BP contracts will be honored by both sides. So now, we have our Right, Al Qaeda and BP aligned.

The Libyan operation will raise substantial questions about when and why intervene for humanitarian purposes. We declared we are intervening to prevent the slaughter of civilians, which Qaddafhi was indeed about to embark on. But the international community has done nothing in the Ivory Coast, which has seen over 250,000 refugees created by fighting and thousands of deaths. We are seeing the Yemeni regime kill the protestors there and Bahrain crush their Shi'ite minority with the help of the Saudis. In Bahrain, there is a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two of the most loathsome regimes on the planet. How do we make the distinctions and how do we ensure that it is not a Made in America solution?

A picky last note, Americans still have not resolved how we go to war. President Obama is not about to surrender the President's imperial prerogatives of entering into combat without consulting Congress. Ushering 16 congressional leaders to the White House prior to making his statement to the press really isn't consultation. Since this has been going on since WWII, I don't expect to end any time soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Correction--CDC Not Defunded--Yet

I got ahead of the vote yesterday. The defunding of CDC hasn't been brought to the floor of the House yet. So call your congresscritters and let them know you don't want the plague.

Paul Ryan did respond to Harry Reid's statement of social security and said he was "flabbergasted". Yes, of course, Social Security didn't add to the deficit but a bipartisan reform would "assure the markets." No comment.

Forbes' author Unger posted a nifty piece on their policy blog which outlines when and why corporations and the wealthy adopted a state by state policy like in Michigan and Wisconsin. He said the strategy was adopted shortly after Citizens United. The first prong was to defund unions so that the corporate money would dwarf any ability of unions to counter their political power. This, Rachel Maddow has outlined several times on her show. Unger says that the wealthy and corporations decided that taking care of the unfortunate simply led to an "indulged" country and that the country can not afford it anymore. (Note: the Clinton years left a surplus and projected surpluses for the outyears.)

Unger does write that these people believe that if we are to afford the wars we must fight,we can not coddle the poor and unfortunate. That is why, for instance, if you look at tax proposals in the state of Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin you will see that taxes on the lower classes and seniors are increased but corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy are cut. Unger doesn't support this. He just points out studies that demonstrate the catastrophic effect of these policies on the middle class and the poor. He wonders whether the business climate will really be improved. He ends his blog with a note that societies that opt for such disparities of wealth always fail. This is in Forbes, The Capitalist Tool.

For further reading, you might pick up a copy of Thomas Hartmann's "Unequal Protection--How people Became People--and How you Can Fight Back." He has revised the book to include an analysis of the Citizens United case.

If you want an overview of the war against America, Senator Bernie Sanders' speech is now out in paperback--"The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of our Middle Class". (Nation Books)

Toto, we are not exceptional anymore. Amnesty International has issued statements on various American issues before--the death penalty, Bush's Torture policy, the treatment of Bradley Manning. But I've not seen a systemic blast at the United States as was issued yesterday. Amnesty urged several US States to abandon planned legislation that would drastically restrict workers' rights. "States including Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee have proposed bills severely limiting collective bargaining of trade union members. A similar bill was passed in Wisconsin on Friday."

Amnesty continues," State governors must withdraw support for these measures which, if adopted,would violate international law. The US has an obligation to uphold the rights of American workers--including the specific right to organize and bargain collectively."

The sad thing is that the United States was instrumental in drafting the ILO Conventions and other international standards for labor relations.
Also conventions on basic human rights. Ah, forget it.

A Kaiser poll is out that shows 51% of Americans either want to keep the healthcare bill or expand it.

An AP/ Washington Post poll is out that shows 53% of Americans approve of same sex marriage , while 44% of them are against. This is a dramatic increase from 2004 when only 32% approves.

Henry Waxman went snopping around and found that the Pentagon overpaid Howard Sargeant , a billionaire oilman and Republican donor, $200 million for oil supplies during the Iraq War. And you wonder why we keep going to war. It's a money making machine.

Maybe, this is why NPR was defunded. NPR investigative reporters did a detailed piece on how major corporations, particularly Google, used offshore tax havens to escape American taxes. The reporters estimate that America loses about $60 billion a year. It's an excellent story with nice elements of color.

But if the IRS can not collect corporate taxes,they can audit you if you or your partner had an abortion. Mother Jones did an excellent piece on the recent House bill prohibiting government funds for abortions. The IRS would be required to pursue taxpayers on how they paid for their abortions and answer a whole questionnaire. The article documents this accurately. Remember the adage that government is overhead. Well,I guess the GOP wants to create more of it. Is there not a privacy issue here? Forget it.

President Glenn Beck addressed the nation yesterday about the re-alignment of the world and the crisis in Japan. I worry about him doing this more frequently because his audience--what remains of it--will actually believe he is President. If he does it more frequently, that means Roger Ailes is conditioning his audienece to accept a Mormon for President. One sympathetic to corporate interests. I wonder whether he has anyone in mind.

Charles Koch is the one to watch, not David. David is the doofus brother, I'm convinced. The family are isolationists but Dad founded the John Birch Society to go after domestic enemies. And it seems Charles is still at it. Does anyone remember the DVD "Obsession: Radical islam's War Against the West". This truly horrible DVD was slipped into Sunday papers here in Virginia just prior to the 2008 campaign. It was meant to send a message not to vote for you know who. Funded by Charles. Why I mention it is that there is another little Koch campaign that the Obama Administration is funding the creation of mosques abroad. Totally untrue but go for it. This is another project of the teaparty crowd.

And people criticize President Obama for going to Rio? A trip that has been planned for over a year and had been recommended to anyone interested in American relations with Latin America.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Man of the Day

In this poisoned political environment,I welcome any politician that can tell the truth simply. In April, the House Republicans promise to deliver their own versions of cuts to entitlement programs. For them,the drivers of the national debt are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. So far only libertarians like Ron Paul have raised the gorilla in the room--national security spending.

People like Bernie Sanders have been out front in warning of the attacks on these programs. But one issue doesn't deserve to be in this mix--Social Security. For the past two days,Harry Reid has made it explicit that with all the problems in this country right now social security is not one of them.

Our person of the day is Harry Reid.

Harry Reid basically told reporters that he would be glad to talk about changes in Social Security in twenty years. He pointed out that Social Security unchanged will be paying out 100% of benefits for the next 37 years and then would be down to 80%. In other words,my budget will be tighter when I'm 98. That's if we do nothing.

Reid emphatically said repeatedly that Social Security does not contribute a dime to the national debt.

Lawrence O'Donnell had the longest interview with Reid and was like a dog on a bone trying to get Reid to say what changes he would support. Reid refused to take the bait. Asked whether he supported raising the age of retirement, he said the system should stay the way it was. Asked whether he agreed with the President on changing the way the cost-of-living adjustments are made, he said that he disagreed with President Obama on this because it was unnecessary. Asked whether Social Security should remain self-financing or some other configuration, he didn't budge--it should stay the way it was.

Harry Reid said if it ain't broke, don't fix it. He asserted that Social Security was one of the most successful programs in the history of the world. He's right.

Harry Reid said that with time we will know what should be done to change it. But right now we don't because of the current situation and we haven't seen events unfold which will give us a clue. I humbly interpret his remarks on the current situation to mean the presence of an opposition party that has lost its mind.

Soft-spoken to the point of irritation, Harry Reid just would not budge. And the most important thing is that what he said was true. Any talk about Social Security is a red herring. It has nothing to do with anything but the ideological dreams of the extreme right.

I'm several years away from Social Security but recent talk causes real anxiety because of all the other radical changes people are suggesting. If this chatter makes me nervous, can you imagine how it affects seniors who already receive social security?

I agree with Harry Reid that we do not know what the demographics of the country will look like, the economy, the life-span and other key factors to make a serious decision about a program some 40 years out.

I will bet you the House will debate privatizing Social Security,an initiative advanced by George W and which cost the Republicans control of Congress. But the New Republicans are more radical and foolhardy--scary,heh?

Remember the House Republicans have already cut personnel for the Social Security Administration. They are committed to demonstrate that it is failing to provide services. But the alliances built to fight for social security are formidable. The irony is that the Republicans might lose the last demographic they now control--the seniors.

In Emergency Vote,GOP KILLS ELMO and Supports the Plague

You really can't make up what the House is doing even if you ingested massive amounts of drugs. Prompted by the James O'Keefe video punking of NPR fund-raisers,the House called an emergency vote and suspended the rules to vote to eliminate funding for NPR and PBS.

Anthony Weiner from New York claimed on the House floor that Republicans really knew what disturbed Americans--Click and Clack. He went on to say that these two characters, when talking about fixing cars, were actually sending messages to the enemy. Weiner didn't have the decency to mourn the death of Elmo.

Democrats tried their own feeble attempt to submit a law that would prohibit any government funds from being used to advertise on Fox News. They, of course, failed. Instead,Elmo and the Cookie Monster got the ax.

But why do you need Sesame Street if all American children are going to die of disease? Just to make sure they were not sending a mixed message, the House also decided to eliminate funding for the Center for Disease Control. Read that over again--really, eliminate the Center for Disease Control, a government agency designed to alert Americans of health threats and the outbreak of deadly diseases. But maybe Jesus will heal us all.

In light of the Japanese nuclear crisis, the House should also vote to eliminate funding for the Nuclear Regulatory Agency because it "regulates" and that kills jobs.

Christianist Steve King of Iowa said about the previous vote to defund tsunami monitoring that the vote was water under the bridge and they shouldn't reconsider it. The timing of the Japanese tragedy was just coincidence and the media is paying too much attention to the House vote.

Maybe the GOP really does have a secret jobs agenda. If you exterminate enough Americans,the unemployment rate might go down.

Is the slogan,"Ignorance in making laws is no excuse"? Something like that.

There seems to be an unbroken continuity between the teabaggers and the Republican state governments.

Government Scott Walker's "budget repair" bill cut $500 million from health programs that benefit over 1.2 million people. But the generous thing is that Walker increased the funds for funeral and cemetary costs.

Our man Randy Hopper is now running ads attacking the Wisconsin demonstrators and defending himself. Well, the Randy Man seems to have opened up another can of worms. Remember his mistress' bio and photo were scrubbed from the lobby group she worked for. The local press wondered where the lucky woman is. She got a job with the state government. Coincidence? We report, you decide.

The Randy Man seems a bit alarmed about being recalled. A state senator in a Midwestern state. Who do you call? He hires a big-shot in Chris Chrissie's New Jersey campaign to assist him. Business must be good,heh?

The Wisconsin Republican Senators flew in last night for a thank-you fund-raiser at Haley Barbour's Lobby Shop, now run by his son. In olden days before the internet, you could do such a thing. But the Senators were greeted by a demonstration that reached 1,000. It got so crowded, the D.C. police closed off the street. With the crowd increasing, the group just formed a parade and marched down the street to the Chamber of Commerce to protest. A fun time was had by all.

The Mayor of Lansing, Michigan has joined the demonstrators in that state. The demonstrators have found out that they can recall Rick Snyder and his behavior modfication team in July.

Meanwhile in Ohio, John Kasich is touring the state trumpeting his plans to eliminate state pensions. His 800-page budget is getting less than rave reviews from the Republicans who see their electoral fortunes going down the drain.

Oberlin College students cut a video saying they have sex and that's why they need Planned Parenthood. Nice idea but the plague is coming.

Sarah Palin is going to visit Israel because that's where Jesus lives. That really is connected to all of the above. In more ways then you can know.

PPP found out that Charlie Sheen would defeat Sarah Palin for President. Now that's a group that is smoking too much ganja or has too much time on their hands.

My favorite Jack Nicklaus golf course bill was defeated. Jack won't be building the golf courses in the Everglades. And I'm not so sure many people would like to play on them anyway.

I've wanted to do a Florida post since the insanity began building there in earnest but I've been waiting for Carl Hiassen to comment on this with his unique genius and language in capturing the gonzo aspects of the state. Where are you, Carl, Jesus Loves You More Than You Will Know.

Happy Birthday Bayard Rustin!

Today is the birthday of one of our greatest unsung heros in political rights and civil liberties. This weekend in going through old papers, I found the invitation to the memorial service in New York for Bayard when he died in 1987. Bayard's photograph hangs behind my desk as it has since he died.

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of Bayard's birth. Brother Outsider, Bayard was black, gay and a pacifist in a country which despised all three. I have never met a person who could come close to the organizational genius of that man. He could take groups with such desparate agendas and wield them together to form a common purpose.

A master collector, he had unerring taste. Every time I ever tried to find a painting in Haiti that would top his judgement I always failed. He said that as I got older my eye for art would get better as good as his. It never has and never will.

Once when we were in Grenada after the American invasion, I discovered a gallery with the paintings of Geoffrey Holder's brother, a superb artist from Trinidad. Every day while I was there I would walk over to the gallery. For the years of the revolution, tourists never visited the island so these paintings were kept at incredibly low prices for their worth, except I didn't have the money. Finally, Bayard got annoyed and finally said,"You should always go into debt for art,you'll never regret it. Buy the damn things." I didn't and have always regretted it--they represented some of the best Caribbean painting to this day.

I only became the executive director of Freedom House because Bayard supported me and urged me to do it. And frankly after he died,I felt the spirit of the place never recovered, despite the best efforts of a talented staff. Bayard was always good for dropping in unexpectedly to give good advice. Exasperated by someone I wanted to fire, Bayard reminded me,"There is a use for everyone. Remember that."

His death was totally unexpected and shocking. His partner Walter Nagel and I accompanied Bayard to Haiti on a fact-finding mission. He was supposed to return to New York and then fly on to Detroit for a speech. Bayard was in fine form and good health during the whole trip. We returned to New York and Walter and Bayard took a cab back to their apartment and we all felt that the mission was accomplished. A day or so later I received a call from Walter that "We've lost Bayard." He had a ruptured appendix I recall and died at the hospital. It was as if the world opened up and swallowed us.

Many people and organizations have claimed Bayard as their own and they have every right to. He was an extraordinary man. And there are few just causes he didn't actively support. He still visits in my dreams.

There is a photo of a natty Bayard in a yellow sports car. Whenever I am making a major decision, there comes a time when I dream of Bayard, who pulls up in the sportcar, turns to me and says "Move On." and drives down the road out of view.

In the last few months, I have had the "pleasure" of watching (via Youtube) Bayard get arrested in various civil rights marches. Near the end of his life,he appeared on a local New York Talk Show where he talked about the police dogs, the fire hoses and the beatings. Then he said, "But it was fun." "Fun?" the moderator asked. "Yes, the cause was just and we knew we were going to win. That's what I consider fun."

Thanks to Bayard I know what to do when police release teargas and where to position myself if police charge a demonstration.

Today, he would be busy juggling trips to Wisconsin, Michigan and Egypt. He was a loyal trade unionist and used his position at the A. Philip Randolph Institute to organize voter drives for African-Americans. One of the ironies was that while Bayard and Norman Hill did this, Jesse Jackson got all the credit.

His life was an incredible journey and I will always treasure being along on part of it. One of Bayard's great legacies is that he cultivated a host of young talented people who would go on and play constructive roles in many organizations. He found something in everyone of them and maybe he was right,"Everyone has a use." or better purpose.

Happy Birthday, Bayardo

Oh , Puh-lease

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Common Good and the General Welfare

A conservative e-mailed me an article by Tom Coburn that said that the United States was broke but Democrats are still spending. My response was that the United States is by no means broke but that we need more revenue enhancers such as taxes on the wealthy, who have benefited enormously even in the Great Recession. His response was that government was overhead for a functioning society and that you have to cut overhead to make the economy more efficient. We agreed that we are on two separate planets. He has a nice government pension plus his own defense business and is on the military healthplan and I am not. So he must understand the realities of America better than me.

But I'm struck by the fact that in conservative speak there is absolutely no consideration or debate about the common good or general welfare. This remains me of Toni Morrison speaking about the linguistic changes in our identity over the years. Even in the days of segregation,people were referred to as "citizens". Now she says we are all "consumers". Government services form a type of niche market and we should lobby, according to class and profession, for whatever little crumb we can get. And to benefit the "consumer",corporations must be allowed to be efficient to produce lower cost products.

Yesterday National Geographic scientists announced that they had found Atlantis near Cadiz, Spain. The article will be available in this month's National Geographic. But the whole quest was pepppered in how they used multiple disciplines to track down Plato's account of Atlantis. A great story and one of the discoveries that excites everybody. But my question while reading this is where will tomorrow's scientists and geographers learn the skills for tomorrow's quest. On the fringes of our brains we are all aware of extraordinary discoveries, which will radically affect our lives and maybe will entertain our imagination like another discovery of Atlantis. But will our society actually allow for this education to occur, the investment in scientific research that will lead to these discoveries?

I've spent the day reviewing other states' new budget proposals and found them oddly and disturbingly alike. Iowa, South Carolina,Michigan and Ohio all call for massive corporate tax breaks and breaks for commercial property and all call for draconian cuts to public education as well as state universities. In Wisconsin,Governor Walker spoke today of his $900 million cut to education, the biggest in that state's history. Recall he didn't even have a budget crisis. Rural schools will be closed and class size in many districts will rise to 45 students. Well-to-do citizens can use vouchers to pay for exclusive private schools. Charter Schools will be created that will not be subject to school boards. In Michigan, which does have a budget crisis,the Attorney-general started raids on underperforming schools, which will lead to the first cases of the economic manager.

These states are privatizing public education, creating an apartheid system based on class, not race. The public education system in our country is both a laboratory of democracy, a place where students know and understand there are people in other circumstances than their own and also a place where we make real the American Dream that your ability should take you as far as you can go. Minorities know that education was the only vehicle or weapon they had to overcome the institutionalized racism that existed in this country and continues to exist to this day. It is sometimes the only place where you can 'better yourself." While President Obama has focused on education as a key part of his program, including the welcomed strengthening of our community college system, which is one of our great hidden resources,Speaker of the House Boehner wants to test this with an expansion of the voucher system on a national level.

It's too long a subject to get into education reform. I remember Al Shanker sitting at the table in our conference room at Freedom House with the dropout numbers from the decades and the various reforms that had been implemented to determine whether anything had successfully worked. I'm not certain how he would feel about the Billionaire's Boys Club of reformers and Madam Rhee campaigning across the country arguing against teachers' unions and the tenure system.

But the key question we have to ask about these radical new political agendas is whose America is theirs. Early reports from Wisconsin see an almost instant rise in homelessness because of programs like Medicaid being defunded and the safety net eliminated. The parts of healthcare, which the states were supposed to support, are now being eliminated. The parts of our society, which were rungs on the ladder to the Middle Class, are being stripped away--public service and union membership.

Jeffrey Sachs, whom I normally dislike, today said it best," It's coming to a point where the American people will not take it anymore."

My conservative colleague does not believe that government can play any productive role in economic development. He reflects the current belief of the right-wing that you do not need to invest in children and the development of secure families. You do not need to invest in infrastructure--which we haven't done in a generation. We have to cut so-called "entitlement" programs,even though huge sectors of our society are dependent on them. They have to learn how to exist without them. Government should not invest in scientific research because corporations can do it better.

Is there waste and fraud that can be cleaned up? Sure. Can government programs be made efficient? Of course. Does Medicare need serious reflection to prevent escalating costs in the future? Of course. But it seems to me that these are issues that need open and thorough and candid discussion, not the passage of laws in the middle of the night that eliminate them overnight. The political tactics used recently in the various states are repugnant and should offend any fair-minded American.

But we have gone far away from any sense that we are a community or even a nation. To say government is overhead is to studiously ignore the essence of our country. You could talk about the old Soviet Union in this manner. Does the private sector work more efficiently than the pubic sector? I'm not so sure. Social Security can not be run more efficiently than it has. It is the most successful social welfare program in the world, one of the few we ever devised. Is the public interest really served by privatizing prisons and schools? I don't think so.

And this doesn't even get to the idea of America itself. If you want to believe we are a great and free country, which sometimes I believe, but not always, you have to pay for it. And we have to relearn the lesson that wealth concentrated in the hands of 1% of the country is dangerous and destablizing. Today, the disparity of wealth between the top 1% and the rest of America is worse than in the 1920s before the Great Depression and as bad as some of the worse Third World countries I work in.

If there is not a new discussion about the common good and the general welfare,we will experience more of today's events where foreign educators announced their findings about our own school system. We have to make an effort to recruit more qualified teachers and pay them alot more if we are going to be equal to the rest of the developed world. Ouch. But we are beginning to hear more from the international community as we make these fateful budgetary decisions. We are foreclosing our own future and some of us know this.

The nature of our society has dramatically changed since I was young. The nature of our families have changed. The ethnic diversity of our country has changed. We must assimilate that into a new reality that fosters a new appreciation of a common good.

But what I find most disturbing is the studied ignorance of how the private sector can abuse individual rights and liberties and how corporations can distort both the common good and our national interest. The heavy power of the 21st century corporation is felt everyday in Washington through an army of lobbyists, who direct discussion away from things that matter to the average American.

I feel we are drifting closer to becoming the Third World countries I am used to. In a day of economic anxiety and uncertainty, there has to be shared sacrifice. We had one President tell the people "go shopping" when he should have passed taxes to pay for his imperial ventures. So far the only sacrifice has been from the middle class and the poor. For the wealthy and corporations, it has been a free ride. That has to change but I am afraid, waiting two years these days, may be too late. If we do not change our ways soon, we will lose at least another decade before we see any positive change in this country.

I am afraid that the actions of these new governors will stop any recovery and plunge us back into the economic deprivation that was so dramatic in 2008.