Subscribe RSS

An Armed Standoff in Nevada Is Only the Beginning for America’s Right-Wing Militias

April 16th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in GOP, rightwing, Tea Party

A standoff between federal agents and right-wing militia members came very close to bloodshed last week. Photo by Shannon Bushman via Facebook

By Grace Wyler

Progressive America Rising via Vice News

For two decades the US government has tried to get Cliven Bundy to remove his cows from federal land, and for two decades the Nevada rancher has steadfastly refused, defying court orders and attempts to negotiate a settlement for the $1.1 million he owes in federal grazing fees. Finally, last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) took matters into its own hands and started seizing cattle that had been illegally grazing on government property. Things went downhill from there.

What began as an arcane land dispute rapidly escalated into an armed standoff in the desert. A ragtag band of anti-government militants, Tea Party politicians, and Old West ranchers descended on the area, responding to a call to arms posted by the Bundy family on their blog and circulated throughout the internet by conservatives and libertarians. Spurred on by YouTube videos of physical altercations between federal agents and the Bundys, the protesters aggressively confronted law enforcement, which in turn escalated things by gathering a huge force of armed BLM rangers and FBI agents. On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration placed a month-long flight restriction over the ranch after the Bundy family posted aerial photos of the assembled authorities.

For right-wing militias and paramilitary groups founded around a collective paranoid belief that the federal government is just looking for an excuse to impose martial law, images of armed federal agents forcibly seizing cows basically means it’s DEFCON 1. By Saturday, as many as 1,000 anti-BLM protestors from as far away as Virginia, New Hampshire, and Georgia had set up camp in Bunkerville, an arid patch of land where the BLM was rounding up the Bundy cattle. Packing handguns and assault rifles, the protesters carried signs featuring slogans like “Tyranny Is Alive,” “Where’s the Justice?” and “Militia Sighn In [sic]," and many said they were prepared for a shoot-out with the federal government. The mood was such that even Glenn Beck was wary of the crowd, announcing on his show that “there’s about 10 or 15 percent of the people who are talking about this online that are truly frightening."

“We were prepared to do whatever it takes to protect their cattle, and their ranch, and their home,” said protester Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who is on the board of Oath Keepers, a militia founded by a former Ron Paul aide and made up mostly of current and former US military personnel and law enforcement. “The government was prepared to do anything, including shooting at unarmed people." (On Monday Mack told Fox News that organizers had been “strategizing to put all the women up front” in a firefight so that the image of the BLM shooting women would be televised.)

The government blinked first, announcing Saturday afternoon that it would stop seizing Bundy’s cattle because of "grave concern about the safety of our employees and members of the public." A few hours later, protesters stormed the BLM’s corrals, demanding that the bureau release the 400 cows it had already captured.

"Everyone was up there trying to get the cattle back and the BLM and all of the agents kept yelling, ‘Step closer and we’ll shoot!’ Everybody had their hands up, and we just kept moving forward," said protester Kevin Gillman, a 24-year-old military veteran who volunteered with the state militia coalition Operation Mutual Aid at Bundy Ranch. "They ended up releasing the cattle, because it was either that or shoot us."

The government described the situation slightly differently. “Due to escalating tensions, the cattle have been released from the enclosures in order to avoid violence and help restore order," BLM Director Neil Kornze said in a statement.

Bundy’s allies have cautiously declared victory, although most of the protesters I spoke to remain predictably suspicious that the stand-down was just another government “ruse” to lure them into complacency. "We don’t want to be taken by surprise by another onslaught, so we’re still being careful," Mack said. He estimated that about a third of the protesters had remained at Bundy Ranch this week to provide "security."

Emboldened by the strong showing in Nevada, right-wing militia organizers are now looking to capitalize on the momentum, hosting marathon conference calls in which hundreds of militia volunteers strategize and coordinate their next big move.

"There have been more organizations putting out the word about what’s going on, how the [federal government] is taking away our freedoms and liberties," said Gillman, who is one of roughly 400 new volunteers to join Operation Mutual Aid in recent days. Gillman added that he hadn’t known much about the militia movement before last week.

"Most of them are just citizens who want to go out and help the cause of other Americans in need who don’t have backup," he said of his right-wing comrades. "I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a militia, but we did bring our guns out there, because the federal agents went out there with their sniper rifles and their guns. We’re just going to be prepared for whatever [the government] wants to do. It’s hard to talk to someone who has a gun unless you have one yourself."

Meanwhile, the tenuous stalemate has basically put the BLM right back where it started. In a statement I was given on Tuesday, the agency insisted that it had not cut a deal with Bundy and that it would still try to force the rancher into compliance through administrative and legal channels. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, also weighed in on the conflict this week, telling Reno’s NBC affiliate KRNV that the conflict isn’t finished.

“We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it,” Reid said. “So it’s not over.”

Legally, Bundy doesn’t have a leg to stand on. His disagreement with the federal government dates back to 1993, when he stopped paying federal grazing fees in response to new regulations aimed at protecting the desert tortoise habitat in Golden Butte, a federally owned 600,000-acre swath of land northeast of Las Vegas where Bundy’s family has been raising cattle since his Mormon ancestors settled there, in the late 1800s. In response, the BLM revoked Bundy’s permit and sued him twice in federal court. Both times, a judge ordered Bundy to get his cows off public land or face fines of $200 per head for each day that he refused to comply. The government now claims that Bundy owes $1.1 million in fines and grazing fees. (The right-wing website Breitbart has compiled all of the court orders—and provided a lengthy analysis—here.)

In response, Bundy has argued that the federal government doesn’t actually own the land in question, and thus doesn’t have the right to tell him what to do with his cows. The land, he says, actually belongs to the state of Nevada—a claim that is very obviously untrue.

“I think this is the sovereign state of Nevada,” Bundy told conservative talk-radio host Dana Loesch Thursday. “I abide by all Nevada state laws. But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”

Bundy’s larger point—that the feds shouldn’t own 80 percent of the land in Nevada, or nearly 50 percent of land in 11 Western states—demonstrates the long-running tension over state’s rights and federal land-use policies that invariably pick winners and losers among environmental and business interests. Even if Bundy wanted to pay the government fines, he would still be forced to remove his cows from Butte Gold thanks to a 1998 conservation deal that eliminated grazing in the area in exchange for allowing the county to destroy desert tortoise habitats for private development. Bundy is now the sole surviving cattle rancher in Clark County.

At the same time, environmentalists have criticized the BLM for not dealing with the Bundys’ trespass cattle sooner, and they were outraged this week when the agency called off the roundup. “The BLM monumentally failed to remove the trespass cattle, collect fees, or protect the land for more than 20 years,” Rob Mrowka, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Now it backed down in the face of threats and posturing of armed so-called ‘sovereignists.’ This is absolutely pathetic and an insult to ranchers and others who hold permits and pay their required fees to use the public lands.”

For most of the Bundys’ far-right allies, though, the showdown in Nevada wasn’t as much about the rancher and his land as it was a flashpoint in their growing beef with the federal government.

"Progressively, the federal government is just getting stronger," Gillman said. "I don’t understand why they need to go out there with 200 federal agents and set up sniper positions. I don’t see the need for the federal government to take up guns against its own people.

"We’re willing to go as far as they are willing to go," he added. "We’re not here for violence… But if they’re coming in, guns blaring, to hurt citizens, then we’re just going to defend ourselves. We’re not going to go out and attack or anything. When someone goes in and takes away your freedoms, the only thing you can do is stand up against them. If you don’t stand up against them, how far will they go?"

Follow Grace Wyler on Twitter.

Adjunct Profs Turn to Citywide Unionizing as Their Best Hope

April 15th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Organizing, trade unions, youth and students

Power in Numbers

By Peter Schmidt

Progressive America Rising via The Chronicle of Higher Ed


It’s the lull between Northeastern University’s afternoon and evening classes, and adjunct instructors drift in and out of a windowless room set aside for them in Ryder Hall. Lacking offices on campus, they come here to log on to shared computers or to grab books from shelved cardboard boxes that serve as their makeshift lockers.

Having to share a small workspace is just one of the many frustrations they share. They commiserate about meager earnings, unpredictable teaching loads, and their belief that a bloated administration gobbles up too much of the tuition revenue they help bring in.

Most of the instructors here decline to talk on the record, citing fears of being denied future contracts or otherwise punished for it. But Deborah O’Toole, a senior lecturer who earns about $2,200 per three-credit course teaching English to international students, is fed up enough to speak out. She argues that part-time faculty members like her are being abused and need to form collective-bargaining units if they want their concerns heard.

David Fionda, an adjunct at Bentley U., says he is satisfied with his working conditions as they are, without unionization. “It is not as if we are making minimum wage,” he says.

"Our hope is in the union," she says.

Such sentiments have put Boston at the center of a nationwide labor-organizing effort bent on changing the lives of all adjunct faculty members, unionized or not. Rather than simply try to establish unions of adjunct faculty at individual colleges, it seeks to unionize them throughout entire metropolitan areas, to drive broader improvements in their pay, benefits, and working conditions.

The approach seeks to shift labor-market dynamics, turning a buyer’s market in which colleges have broad leeway to set employment terms into a seller’s market in which adjuncts can take the highest bid for their services. The strategy assumes that college administrations will be less resistant to the formation of unions, and to union demands, if officials are assured that competing institutions are in the same boat.

The thinking behind the approach holds that sufficient union saturation of a given local labor market will not only produce big gains at unionized colleges, but put nonunionized ones under pressure to treat adjuncts better, too. Those colleges might be prompted to improve pay or working conditions to be able to compete for talent or, in some cases, to discourage potential unionization drives on their own campuses.

Read the rest of this entry »


What’s With South Carolina’s ‘Neo-Confederates’?

April 9th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Civil Rights, GOP, racism, rightwing


McConnell at his memorabilia store in 1999

Glenn McConnell Began Selling Segregationist’s Products in Wake of Boycott

By Josh Glasstetter

Progressive America Rising via Hatewatch

After a segregationist businessman’s products were dropped from major grocery chains over his promotion of slavery, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell – who was recently selected to head the College of Charleston – went out of his way to sell the man’s products.

Maurice Bessinger, an unrepentant segregationist who ran the Piggie Park chain of barbecue restaurants in South Carolina, sparked a controversy in 2000 when he began flying the Confederate flag over his restaurants – a reaction to the state government removing the flag from the capitol dome. Soon it was discovered that Bessinger was selling pro-slavery materials at his restaurants, including a pamphlet entitled “The Biblical Justification for Slavery.”

Bessinger, who wore a white suit and appeared atop a white horse in promotional materials, had made a name for himself during the Civil Rights era for refusing to integrate his restaurants and leading the National Association for the Preservation of White People. He posted signs at his stores telling African Americans they were not welcome. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually forced him to integrate and his restaurants went back to, more or less, business as usual.

By 2000, South Carolina had changed, but Bessinger hadn’t. According to The State, Bessinger was “distributing pro-slavery audiotapes and gave customers a discount if they bought his literature.” He claimed that slavery in South Carolina was “biblical slavery,” which he argued was more ethical than other forms.

Customers began boycotting his restaurants, and the NAACP and other organizations called on major grocery chains to drop his products – one after another, they did. Bessinger wrote in his 2001 memoir, “Defending My Heritage,” that six major grocery chains, including Walmart, had dropped his products by the end of 2000, and wholesale sales were down 98%.

When you read his memoir, it’s not hard to understand why. Here are a few choice quotes:

Read the rest of this entry »

GOP’s Shameful Treatment of the Powerless

April 7th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2014 Election, Budget Debates, Tax Policy, Tea Party

By Jesse Jackson

Progressive America Rising

April 7, 2014 – The Bible’s injunction that we shall be judged by how we have treated the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40) appears in different forms in virtually every religion or faith. And surely the measure of a country is how it treats the most vulnerable of its people — children in the dawn of life, the poor in the valley of life, the ailing in the shadows of life, the elderly in the dusk of life.

This week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Republican budget proposal put together by Rep. Paul Ryan, chair of the Budget Committee and Mitt Romney’s running mate. The vast majority of Republicans are lined up to vote for it, with possible exceptions for a handful who think it does not cut enough.

It is a breathtakingly mean and callous proposal. The Republican budget would cut taxes on the wealthy, giving millionaires, the Citizen for Tax Justice estimates, a tax break of $200,000 per year. (Ryan tells us only what tax rates he would lower, not the loopholes he would close to make his proposal revenue neutral. But CTJ shows that even if he closed every loophole, it wouldn’t make up for the revenue lost by lowering their top rate). The Ryan plan would also extend tax breaks for multinationals, moving to make the entire world a tax haven. He would raise spending on the military by about $500 billion over the levels now projected over the next decade.

Yet Republicans are pledged to balance the budget in 10 years.
To achieve this, the Republican budget would turn Medicare into a voucher program (but only for those 55 and younger). He would repeal the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). He would gut Medicaid, turning it into a block grant for states and cutting it by more than one-fourth by 2024. The result, as estimated by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, would be to deprive 40 million low and moderate income Americans of health care insurance.

The Republican budget also devastates domestic programs and investments, cutting them by one-third of their inflation adjusted levels over the decade, ending at an inconceivable one-half the levels of the Reagan years as a percentage of the economy. Infant nutrition, food subsidy, Head Start, investment in schools, Pell Grants for college, public housing, Meals on Wheels and home heating assistance for seniors or the confined all would suffer deep cuts. The poorest children will suffer the worst cuts.

The Republican budget also savages investments vital to our future — not just education, but research and development, renewable energy, modern infrastructure.

This budget is scheduled to be voted on by the House of Representatives this week. It is expected to pass with a majority made up entirely of Republican votes. Speaker Boehner has lined up this vote, even as he refuses even to allow a vote on extending unemployment benefits and on raising the minimum wage.

It is hard to see this as anything other than a declaration of class warfare by the few against the many. Republicans declare the country is broke, against all evidence to the contrary. But they still want to cut taxes for the rich and corporations and hike spending on the military. So they lay waste to support for working and poor people.
Ryan argues that cutting programs for the poor will set them free, removing a “hammock” and forcing them to stand on their own feet. That might be worth debating if jobs were plentiful, schools received equal support, housing was affordable and jobs paid a living wage.
But none of this is true.

In today’s conditions, with mass unemployment, savagely unequal schools, homeless families and poverty wage jobs, Ryan’s words simply ring false.

Needless to say, the wealthy and corporations reward Republicans for arguing their case. As the Koch brothers are showing, their campaigns will be lavishly supported; their opponents will face a barrage of attack ads.

But most Americans are better than this. Majorities oppose these cruel priorities. The question is whether those who vote for these harsh priorities are held accountable this fall in the elections. After decades of struggle, we all have the right to vote. The majority can speak if it chooses. It has to sort through annoying ads, poll-tested excuses and glib politicians. But we can decide we aren’t going to support politicians who protect the privileges of the few and vote to make the poor pay the price.

One Party of Finance Capital: The ‘Third Way’ New Democrat Faction

March 27th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Democrats, elections, Wall Street

Bill Clinton and Steny Hoyer:

The ‘Wall Street Democrats’ Fight Back

By Richard Eskow

Progressive America Rising via Campaign for America’s Future

March 27, 2014 – If progressive and populist ideas resonate with most voters, some people have asked, why isn’t the Democratic Party doing better in the polls? Here’s one reason: Some of the party’s most prominent leaders are still pushing Wall Street’s unpopular and discredited economic platform.

Recent speeches by former President Bill Clinton and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer showed that Wall Street continues to hold considerable sway in their party, despite the fact that its austerity agenda has failed. Its “deficits over growth” ideology has wounded both Europe and the United States. To hear Clinton and Hoyer speak, you’d think we’d learned nothing from the economic experience of the last five years.

The Millennial Deficit

What President Clinton says matters. He’s the architect and primary spokesperson for the corporatist and pro-Wall Street wing of his party. He’s also the political and personal partner of the Democratic Party’s presumed 2016 candidate. Enormous sums are being raised for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy even now, which reinforces the Clintons’ enormous influence (and gives them good reason to please the big-money crowd).

Headlines like the AP’s emphasized the “gradual deficit reduction” theme of President Clinton’s talk to the “Clinton Global Initiative University” in Phoenix. The Washington Post reports that President Clinton was given a “glowing introduction” from Michael Peterson. Peterson heads the right-wing, strongly pro-austerity, and staunchly anti-Social Security Peterson Foundation on behalf of his billionaire father Peter G. Peterson. That introduction, we’re told, led to “an extemporaneous riff about deficit issues” (although we wonder how much is truly extemporaneous with this most polished of political performers).

It’s rather stunning: A former president addresses members of a generation that has been saddled with record student debt and which faces the worst job market for graduates in modern history, and he talks, not of jobs or debt or decent wages, but about deficit reduction.

What’s more, this generation’s woes were caused in large part by the Clinton Administration’s eager collaboration with Republicans and Wall Street executives on deregulation. That collaboration also led to the accumulation of enormous wealth by a number of former administration officials. (Mr. Clinton did pretty well himself.)

And people wonder why Gallup reports that millennials are at or near record levels of alienation from both political parties? When leaders of both parties emphasize deficits over jobs, their disaffection becomes easier to understand.

Read the rest of this entry »


A Platform for a Popular Front vs. Finance Capital, War and the Right is Taking Shape

March 24th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2014 Election, Budget Debates, financial crisis, Green Energy, militarism, safety net


12 Steps to Realizing the U.S.’s New Populist Movement

By Roger Hickey
Campaign for America’s Future

March 19, 2014 – A new progressive populist movement is rising up in the United States. Inspired by an expansive vision of greater economic opportunity for all Americans, this new movement is also fueled by anger over politicians’ broken promises. After decades of recurring economic crisis, which now seems systemic and permanent, millions of Americans have come to realize that much of our democratic system is now owned by a moneyed elite that use their power to resist real change and to manipulate the economy for their own financial gain.

Even the mass media know something big is going on. At the end of November, a Washington Post headline announced, "More liberal, populist movement emerging ahead of 2016 elections [3]." And the New York Times, in a September article [4], reporting on the new progressive insurgency, cited the excitement generated by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the new populist mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio. These and other media reports have been based on important new populist victories that represent the visible tip of a very large iceberg:

  • Low-wage workers and their allies have filled the streets of America’s major cities, demanding a living wage and the right to bargain for wages and benefits. Their basic demand, echoed now by political leaders, is that full-time work should pay enough to keep a family out of poverty.The cry of "break up the big banks" is now heard from protests at bank shareholder meetings to the halls of Congress. Many of the groups who worked to pass the Dodd-Frank bill have joined with housing advocates and others to demand Wall Street prosecutions — and real bank reform championed by Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Sen. Warren.
  • Lawrence Summers, President Obama’s top choice for Chair of the Federal Reserve, was stopped from getting that important job by a coalition of civic activists, including women and financial reform groups. Their favorite, Janet Yellen, was appointed instead.
  • The national debate on the future or Social Security has been flipped — from "Stop cutting benefits" to "Expand Social Security." Activists got Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin to introduce a bill with Sen. Sherrod Brown to expand benefits. Sen. Warren helped achieve critical mass. Conservative "Third Way" operatives attacked, but actual Third Way Members of Congress denounced their own group — and several actually embraced Social Security expansion [5]. And after grassroots pressure, President Obama withdrew his plan to cut Social Security benefits

Political reporters have tended to frame the New Populism as either a challenge to President Obama, or as an agenda and constituency for whoever might run against Hillary Clinton. But hard experience has taught us we need to build an independent force that can fight the big corporate interests and shape a positive agenda for all politicians who claim be for progressive change.

To be clear, this new movement is still coming together, most visible politically in the grassroots campaigns to raise the minimum wage and extend unemployment insurance. It is still too early to know whether the New Populist agenda for change will be embraced by Democrats trying to win back the House and keep the Senate in the 2014 elections — especially since far too many Democrats, including the President, have trapped themselves into claiming the economy is on the mend, when most voters think things are still pretty bad. But politicians wondering what works with the voters should go to the new website, [6].

Here is a description of ongoing organizing around 12 big elements of the emerging New Populist agenda. All this activity is not completely coordinated, but it is very real, involving hundreds of thousands of organizers who get up every morning and reach out to their neighbors and networks to fight for this economic change agenda and to challenge the interests that have rigged the economic system. And many millions more share the vision of an economic system that works for the majority of Americans. As you can see, the New Populism is on the move.

1. Revive Sustainable Economic Growth, Creating Jobs for All.

In the turbulent months after the economic collapse the rallying cry was jobs. Grass-roots citizen organizations [7] and think tanks agitated publicly for a big, bold economic recovery program [8] based on investing in getting Americans back to work. This organizing helped build momentum to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in February of 2009. Citizen and labor groups held demonstrations at aging bridges and schools in hundreds of communities, making the point that America has lots of needs for investments that would put people to work immediately, while making our economy more productive for the long term. The Recovery Act succeeded in stopping America’s plunge into a deep recession, but should have been seen as only a first step toward economic revival.

Tragically, President Obama failed to mobilize the people around a demand for the continuing stimulus investment necessary to sustain recovery after such a profound recession. As a result, voters in the 2010 Congressional elections, voters, most of whom were still discouraged about the lack of jobs, blamed Democrats and sent a new Republican majority to the House.

On March 12, the Congressional Progressive Caucus [9] — led by 70 Members of Congress and backed by hundreds of citizen groups — released their new Better Off Budget [10]. For the fourth time in four years, they are demonstrating the level of investment America should be making in order to revive growth. If Congress had passed the CPC’s first budget, the economy would have grown more robustly and consistently, unemployment would have come down dramatically, wages and opportunity would have increased, and the deficit would have even been lower. The Economic Policy Institute finds [11] it would create 9 million jobs by 2017.

Many progressive organizations are joining to promote the Progressive Caucus budget. They will remind voters that radical conservative austerity killed jobs, and conservatives have obstructed every major investment and growth plan. And many groups will also organize to ask candidates for Congress what they would do to create enough jobs for all Americans who want to work.

2. Invest in America’s Infrastructure and in New Jobs for the 21st Century.

Immediate action to stimulate growth and achieve full employment is the number one priority of most Americans. But when we ask the experts and elected officials what will drive long-term job creation, too many turn pessimistic, mumbling warnings about globalization, the rise of technology, and the failure of the U.S. education system. We know from bitter experience that conservative "growth plans" — tax cuts, austerity and deregulation — don’t work. They lead only to speculative booms, growing inequality, and then financial collapse.

America’s future depends on the growing movement demanding productive public investment in the new industries, energy technologies, research, and the education systems America will need to drive a new generation of economic growth and good jobs. The best parts of the Obama stimulus made a start at creating new industries, such as advanced batteries and high-speed rail, and helped existing industries, such as photovoltaics and wind energy. Powerful coalitions, like the Apollo Alliance [12] and the Blue-Green Alliance [13] have united environmentalists, unions, mayors and governors with business leaders to push for a new development strategy for America that retools our infrastructure (including advanced and open Internet) and energy systems in a way that rebuilds our cities and creates the next several generations of jobs, while stimulating new private industries.

Again, it is the ultra-ideological conservatives, whose only tools are cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations, who stand in the way of this new nation-building movement. Polling shows that most Americans remember when public investment in highways and financing for suburban homes drove private sector prosperity — and public investments the space program helped America’s private-sector domination in computers and advanced technology systems. Younger people, who may not know that history, are strongly committed to society-shaping investments in alternative energy and conservation — and they are delighted to find out about America’s long history of federal aid to education, including our creation of land-grant universities, which once made college virtually free.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Budding Cold War That Threatens Democracy

March 19th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in antiwar, latin america, Long War, Ukraine

Tom Hayden on Cuba, Foreign Policy, Latin America, Politics, Social Movements

Tom Hayden (left) interviewing Mikhail Gorbachev in 2002.

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via TomHayden,com

March 17, 2914 – While the first Cold War was fought against communism, a successor Cold War is steadily unfolding against democratic electoral outcomes unfavorable to America’s perceived interests. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s illegal occupation of Crimea has for now revived raging Western memories of Joseph Stalin’s top-down incorporation of the former Eastern Europe. Lost in the new anti-Russian narrative, however, is the growing US pattern of ignoring democratic electoral outcomes where they are inconvenient, in the name of “promoting democracy.” Ultimately this process of “democracy through intervention” reinforces bureaucratic authoritarian trends in both East and West. The thrust of this US foreign policy mirrors conservatives’ efforts at home to limit and divide the ascending multicultural American political majority.

It should be remembered that Al Gore’s election by a half-million vote majority in 2000, and his apparent win in Florida that year, did not prevent Republican mobs, Republican apparatchiks and Republican judges from forcing the Bush Era upon America. Many of those same forces are willing to do whatever is necessary abroad to thwart democratic electoral outcomes not to their liking.

Provoking the Russian Bear

The first casualty of the Ukraine crisis is the amputated memory that Viktor Yanukovych was the recognized, democratically elected president of the Ukraine before he was ousted by a mass movement, including pro-fascist militias, based in the western Ukraine who demanded an alliance with their friends in Europe and NATO. The accusation that Yanukovych was corrupt and unpredictable was not a constitutional reason for his ouster or for American intervention in a potential civil war. The released tapes of phone calls between the US ambassador in Kiev and the State Department’s Victoria Nuland proved America’s direct involvement.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Untaxed Americans: The Speculators, Hustlers, and Freeloaders of Wall Street

March 18th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Banks, Budget Debates, Tax Policy

There are at least 5 good reasons why our country is ready for a financial transaction tax (FTT)

Photo Credit: aastock /

By Paul Buchheit

Progressive America Rising via Alternet

March 16, 2014 – Purchases of American products generally come with a sales tax, and often an excise tax, and possibly state and local add-on taxes. A consumer can avoid all this by limiting purchases to food and prescription drugs, or by shopping online. There’s one more way — by visiting a nearby financial exchange and buying a million dollars worth of derivatives.

There is currently no U.S. tax on the purchase of stocks, derivatives, and other financial instruments. The rest of us pay up to a 10 percent sales tax on the necessities of daily life. A tiny financial transaction tax of perhaps a tenth of a percent on the trading of financial securities would begin to correct this inequity, while generating billions of dollars of revenue.
There are at least five good reasons why our country is ready for such a financial transaction tax (FTT).

1. The Top Four “Freest Economies” All Have FTTs

As of March 2014, Hong Kong and Singapore and Australia and Switzerland were the top four countries on the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, and they ALL have FTTs (Table 2-9). Critics might argue that other non-FTT taxes are lower in Singapore and Hong Kong. But theWorld Bank dataset shows the U.S. with lower tax revenues as a percentage of GDP, and the CIA World Factbook shows little difference in the same measure. Economic freedom is not restricted by reasonable taxes on financial transactions. Economies may, in fact, be made freer by encouraging small-business investment over high-frequency trading.

2. The Top “Sin Tax” Candidate is Not Taxed At All

Cigarettes and beer are understandably taxed a lot, and then taxed some more. But the most dangerous product out there — derivatives — has a ZERO sales tax on it. The trading of high-frequency securities and derivatives and commodities is a quadrillion dollar industry without a sales tax. A quadrillion dollars. That’s a billion times a million. It represents the notional value of trading, which is like a trip to Strawberry Fields, where nothing is real. With regard to derivatives it’s the sum total of the transitory high-frequency trading that gets so convoluted that no one knows who owns anything anymore. It’s the high-risk type of financial chicanery that nearly brought down the entire economy. But purchases are not taxed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Food Pantries On The Rise At College Campuses As Tuitions Increase

March 17th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in poverty, youth and students

Main Entry Image

By Frank Eltman

Progressive America Rising via Huffington Post

March 15, 2014 – STONY BROOK, N.Y. (AP) — Days after biology major Gillian Carll arrived at Stony Brook University last fall, she encountered a young woman on a bench outside her dormitory who said she had nothing to eat.

"I was just like, ‘Oh, my gosh!’ I didn’t know kids could afford to go here but couldn’t have mac and cheese or something like that," said the Livonia, N.Y., freshman. "It was kind of unbelievable."

Carll got the student some food from her dorm room and later volunteered at Stony Brook’s new food pantry — one of dozens cropping up at colleges across the country in recent years as educators acknowledge the struggles many students face as the cost of getting a higher education continues to soar.

"The perception is of college students that if you are able to go to college and you have an opportunity to go to college, you’re part of the haves of this country, not part of the have-nots," said Beth McGuire-Fredericks, assistant director for college housing at the Stony Brook campus on eastern Long Island and a co-founder of the pantry.

"How can someone who’s in college be someone who has a need like food?"

Tuition alone has become a growing burden, rising 27 percent at public colleges and 14 percent at private schools in the past five years, according to the College Board. Add in expenses for books, housing and other necessities of college life and some are left to choose between eating and learning. Also, most students enrolled in college at least half time are not eligible for food stamps.

Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding the Propaganda Campaign Against Public Education

March 15th, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Budget Debates, Obama, poverty, Public schools

by Diane Ravitch

Progressive America Rising via Huffington Post

Marcj 12, 2014 – A few years ago, when I was blogging at Education Week with Deborah Meier, a reader introduced the term FUD. I had never heard of it. It is a marketing technique used in business and politics to harm your competition. The term and its history can be found on Wikipedia. FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The reader said that those who were trying to create a market-based system to replace public education were using FUD to undermine public confidence in public education. They were selling the false narrative that our public schools are obsolete and failing.

This insight inspired me to write Reign of Error to show that the "reform" narrative is a fraud. Test scores on NAEP are at their highest point in history for white students, black students, Hispanic students, and Asian students. Graduation rates are the highest in history for these groups. The dropout rate is at an historic low point.

Why the FUD campaign against one of our nation’s most treasured democratic institutions? It helps the competition. It makes people so desperate that they will seek out unproven alternatives. It makes the public gullible when they hear phony claims about miracle schools, where everyone graduates and everyone gets high test scores, and everyone goes to a four-year college. No such school exists. The "miracle school" usually has a high suspension rate, a high expulsion rate, a high attrition rate, and such schools usually do not replace the kids they somehow got rid of. Some "miracle schools" have never graduated anyone because they have only elementary schools, but that doesn’t stop the claims and boasting.

It turns out that there is actually a scholar studying the phenomenon of the "the cultural production of ignorance."

He hasn’t looked at the attack on public schools, but his work shows how propaganda may be skillfully deployed to confuse and mislead the public. Michael Hiltzik of theLos Angeles Times writes about the work of Robert Proctor of Stanford University:

Robert Proctor doesn’t think ignorance is bliss. He thinks that what you don’t know can hurt you. And that there’s more ignorance around than there used to be, and that its purveyors have gotten much better at filling our heads with nonsense.

Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford, is one of the world’s leading experts in agnotology, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance. It’s a rich field, especially today when whole industries devote themselves to sowing public misinformation and doubt about their products and activities.

The tobacco industry was a pioneer at this. Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson’s files, "Doubt is our product." Big Tobacco’s method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo’s author wrote, but to establish a "controversy."

When this sort of manipulation of information is done for profit, or to confound the development of beneficial public policy, it becomes a threat to health and to democratic society. Big Tobacco’s program has been carefully studied by the sugar industry, which has become a major target of public health advocates.

FUD was pioneered decades ago. Now public education is the target, and privatizing it is the goal. I hope Professor Proctor turns his attention to this issue, where a well-funded propaganda campaign seeks to spread enough doubt to destroy an essential Democratic institution.

There is no evidence from any other nation that replacing a public system with a privatized choice system produces anything but social, economic, and racial segregation.

© 2014 Huffington Post

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. Her most recent book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools.  Her previous books and articles about American education include: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform, (Simon & Schuster, 2000); The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knopf, 2003); The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.