Monday, February 28, 2011

Patricia Williams: The Tiger Mama Syndrome

The Tiger Mama Syndrome

Patricia J. Williams
The Nation: in the February 21, 2011 edition

Amy Chua does not hold the patent on prejudice. There are lots of ways to
spin a stereotype, and that she calls herself a "Chinese" mother in her
hotly debated book on parenting, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, plays well
against cultural anxieties about American economic status. But for heaven's
sake-the woman was born in Illinois!

No doubt that Chua and her daughters have put in the requisite 10,000 hours
it takes to be fluent in any subject, but the Ivy League is chock-full of
accomplished people who put in such hours. They come from all over the
United States and all over the world. Some growing percentage of them are
the products of yuppie, buppie, narcissistic helicopter parents-hockey dads,
stage moms, the kind of people who would rather see their child drop dead of
heatstroke while running a race than see that child give up. Like Chua, they
do so in the name of all sorts of higher values-family honor, Catholic
guilt, team spirit, Texan bragging rights, Jamaican superiority, Jewish
destiny, women's equality, Norwegian sang-froid, black pride, Hindu
nationalism, immigrant striving, Protestant ethic, true grit. The world is a
queasy, uncertain place right now, and what it takes to compete in the rat
race exposes our kids to ever-increasing rates of depression, mental illness
and substance abuse.

That said, the Ivy League is also home to a much larger group of people who
work hard, who love their chosen pursuits, who are happily well-adjusted,
yet who did not acquire their highly effective study habits by being turned
out into the snow when they were 2 years old-a form of "discipline" Chua
brags about. Some of them are even Chinese. Likewise, there are many Ivy
Leaguers who do not believe that their accomplishment makes them less
"American" or "Western." They don't spend time worrying, as Chua does, that
if they "feel that they have individual rights guaranteed by the US
Constitution" they will be "much more likely to disobey their parents and
ignore career advice."

So let's not spend too much time wondering why Chua assigns her neurosis to
her Chinese-ness rather than to her aspirational American
upper-middle-class-ness. What I find more intriguing is not so much her
obsession with academic success but her pathological yearning for dominance,
control, standing and respect. Chua does not just want perfect scores; she
is desperately afraid that she and her daughters will be drowned in the cold
goop of what she endlessly refers to as "decline."

Chua's fears are not confined by race, ethnicity or personal effort alone.
After all, in Greece and France students have been rioting because of the
rising costs of a good education and the paucity of jobs. In Akron, Ohio, an
African-American tiger mother named Kelley Williams-Bolar was recently
prosecuted for lying about where she lived so she could get her children
into a decent school district. In California, immigrant kids of Mexican
parents are battling for the right to pay in-state tuition at public
universities. In Memphis there are fights about whether integrating a poor
school district with a wealthier suburban one would constitute a "theft" of
education. In London, a woman named Mrinal Patel was accused of fraud for
misrepresenting her address so as to qualify her child for a better school.
There are few places, in other words, where people are not worried about the
quality of life and distribution of resources on a crowded planet.

At the same time, if Singapore, China and Hong Kong are producing a greater
number of students with musical proficiency and excellent test scores, it's
because they have made huge public investments in education. They make
musical instruments available to students-as the United States once did in
the first part of the twentieth century. They have teachers certified in the
subjects they teach-as was the case in Russian schools during the Sputnik
era. "Westerners" are not nearly as lacking in work ethic as Chua maintains;
but you don't get to Yale if your elementary school has no books. You don't
rank first in the world in science if, as in the United States, 60 percent
of your biology teachers are reluctant to teach evolution-and 13 percent
teach creationism instead.

It would be so deliciously convenient if calling your kids "garbage"-another
parenting trick Chua boasts about-actually turned them into little engines
that could. But our larger educational crisis will involve a public
investment that simply does not correlate with shooting down the self-esteem
of children or disrespecting the "Western-ness" of the parents who struggle
to raise them.

Finally, Amy Chua exhibits an excruciating self-consciousness about how she
is seen in a racialized public imagination. She is riddled with angst about
not betraying her status as a "model minority" who's "supposed" to be smart
in music, math and science. She even "disciplines" one of her daughters by
threatening to adopt a "real" Chinese kid. Even as her narrative is swaddled
in Dragon Lady analogies, every line is inflected by very American
prejudices and divisive ethnic generalizations. Indeed, if you take away the
peculiarly manic quality that is Chua's alone, her anxieties are no
different from a lot of "buffer" groups whose inroads on the edges of
assimilation mark them, and whose successes are watched reproachfully,
jealously by the larger society. The Kennedys walked this walk for the
Irish. Fiorello La Guardia complained of it when he was the "breakthrough"
Italian. Condoleezza Rice's and Michelle Obama's parents toiled and pushed
for them in ways typical of a generation of civil rights babies. In other
words, this tensely, needily overachieving mentality is hardly unique. It is
not necessarily or even probably generated from Chua's romanticized
motherland. Our collective dilemma, and the most poignant challenge
presented by her book, is how to survive in a world where the slightest
nonconformity risks landing you outside-of a home, of a job, of a life-and
left to stand by yourself, alone in the freezing cold.

Patricia J. Williams

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Krugman: Shock Doctrine, U.S.A, Fisk: The Kingdom of Oil

Together at last, two of my favorite analyst/reporters. They share unique
qualities of great insight, honesty and brilliant writing, often against
policies of their governments. Both are skillful and popular enough to
write for important mass journals, also often with contrary views. Their
styles are different; Krugman - well, he's an economist, Fisk from the
land of Shakespeare. Here, both address shock, in ways different and
the same, in humanity's most restive period since WWII. Warm yourself,
this coldest day of the year.

Shock Doctrine, U.S.A.

Paul Krugman
NY Times Op-Ed: February 25, 2011

Here's a thought: maybe Madison, Wis., isn't Cairo after all. Maybe it's
Baghdad - specifically, Baghdad in 2003, when the Bush administration put
Iraq under the rule of officials chosen for loyalty and political
reliability rather than experience and competence.

As many readers may recall, the results were spectacular - in a bad way.
Instead of focusing on the urgent problems of a shattered economy and
society, which would soon descend into a murderous civil war, those Bush
appointees were obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision.
Indeed, with looters still prowling the streets of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer,
the American viceroy, told a Washington Post reporter that one of his top
priorities was to "corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises" - Mr.
Bremer's words, not the reporter's - and to "wean people from the idea the
state supports everything."

The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was
the centerpiece of Naomi Klein's best-selling book "The Shock Doctrine,"
which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s
onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push
through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and
everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less
democratic society.

Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full

In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against
the governor's budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to
public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his
bill to deal with the state's fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has
nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated
their willingness to make substantial financial concessions - an offer the
governor has rejected.

What's happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab - an attempt to
exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the
political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes
beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are
some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.

For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed
by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income
families without having to go through the normal legislative process.

And then there's this: "Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1),
the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or
may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with
or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department
determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss.
196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service
commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for
the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in
the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a
project under s. 196.49 (3) (b)."

What's that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying
heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the
University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect,
let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only
that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And
note that any such sale would, by definition, be "considered to be in the
public interest."

If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering -
remember those missing billions in Iraq? - you're not alone. Indeed, there
are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the
billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker's
anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it's interested in
purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?

The good news from Wisconsin is that the upsurge of public outrage - aided
by the maneuvering of Democrats in the State Senate, who absented themselves
to deny Republicans a quorum - has slowed the bum's rush. If Mr. Walker's
plan was to push his bill through before anyone had a chance to realize his
true goals, that plan has been foiled. And events in Wisconsin may have
given pause to other Republican governors, who seem to be backing off
similar moves.

But don't expect either Mr. Walker or the rest of his party to change those
goals. Union-busting and privatization remain G.O.P. priorities, and the
party will continue its efforts to smuggle those priorities through in the
name of balanced budgets.


The destiny of this pageant lies in the Kingdom of Oil

Robert Fisk:
Independent/UK: Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Middle East earthquake of the past five weeks has been the most
tumultuous, shattering, mind-numbing experience in the history of the region
since the fall of the Ottoman empire. For once, "shock and awe" was the
right description.

The docile, supine, unregenerative, cringing Arabs of Orientalism have
transformed themselves into fighters for the freedom, liberty and dignity
which we Westerners have always assumed it was our unique role to play in
the world. One after another, our satraps are falling, and the people we
paid them to control are making their own history - our right to meddle in
their affairs (which we will, of course, continue to exercise) has been
diminished for ever.

The tectonic plates continue to shift, with tragic, brave - even blackly
humorous - results. Countless are the Arab potentates who always claimed
they wanted democracy in the Middle East. King Bashar of Syria is to improve
public servants' pay. King Bouteflika of Algeria has suddenly abandoned the
country's state of emergency. King Hamad of Bahrain has opened the doors of
his prisons. King Bashir of Sudan will not stand for president again. King
Abdullah of Jordan is studying the idea of a constitutional monarchy. And
al-Qa'ida are, well, rather silent.

Who would have believed that the old man in the cave would suddenly have to
step outside, dazzled, blinded by the sunlight of freedom rather than the
Manichean darkness to which his eyes had become accustomed. Martyrs there
were aplenty across the Muslim world - but not an Islamist banner to be
seen. The young men and women bringing an end to their torment of dictators
were mostly Muslims, but the human spirit was greater than the desire for
death. They are Believers, yes - but they got there first, toppling Mubarak
while Bin Laden's henchmen still called for his overthrow on outdated

But now a warning. It's not over. We are experiencing today that warm,
slightly clammy feeling before the thunder and lightning break out.
Gaddafi's final horror movie has yet to end, albeit with that terrible mix
of farce and blood to which we are accustomed in the Middle East. And his
impending doom is, needless to say, throwing into ever-sharper perspective
the vile fawning of our own potentates. Berlusconi - who in many respects is
already a ghastly mockery of Gaddafi himself - and Sarkozy, and Lord Blair
of Isfahan are turning out to look even shabbier than we believed. Those
faith-based eyes blessed Gaddafi the murderer. I did write at the time that
Blair and Straw had forgotten the "whoops" factor, the reality that this
weird light bulb was absolutely bonkers and would undoubtedly perform some
other terrible act to shame our masters. And sure enough, every journalist
is now going to have to add "Mr Blair's office did not return our call" to
his laptop keyboard.

Everyone is now telling Egypt to follow the "Turkish model" - this seems to
involve a pleasant cocktail of democracy and carefully controlled Islam. But
if this is true, Egypt's army will keep an unwanted, undemocratic eye on its
people for decades to come. As lawyer Ali Ezzatyar has pointed out, "Egypt's
military leaders have spoken of threats to the "Egyptian way of life"... in
a not so subtle reference to threats from the Muslim Brotherhood. This can
be seen as a page taken from the Turkish playbook." The Turkish army turned
up as kingmakers four times in modern Turkish history. And who but the
Egyptian army, makers of Nasser, constructors of Sadat, got rid of the
ex-army general Mubarak when the game was up?

And democracy - the real, unfettered, flawed but brilliant version which we
in the West have so far lovingly (and rightly) cultivated for ourselves - is
not going, in the Arab world, to rest happy with Israel's pernicious
treatment of Palestinians and its land theft in the West Bank. Now no longer
the "only democracy in the Middle East", Israel argued desperately - in
company with Saudi Arabia, for heaven's sake - that it was necessary to
maintain Mubarak's tyranny. It pressed the Muslim Brotherhood button in
Washington and built up the usual Israeli lobby fear quotient to push Obama
and La Clinton off the rails yet again. Faced with pro-democracy protesters
in the lands of oppression, they duly went on backing the oppressors until
it was too late. I love "orderly transition". The "order" bit says it all.
Only Israeli journalist Gideon Levy got it right. "We should be saying
'Mabrouk Misr!'," he said. Congratulations, Egypt!

Yet in Bahrain, I had a depressing experience. King Hamad and Crown Prince
Salman have been bowing to their 70 per cent (80 per cent?) Shia population,
opening prison doors, promising constitutional reforms. So I asked a
government official in Manama if this was really possible. Why not have an
elected prime minister instead of a member of the Khalifa royal family? He
clucked his tongue. "Impossible," he said. "The GCC would never permit
this." For GCC - the Gulf Co-operation Council - read Saudi Arabia. And
here, I am afraid, our tale grows darker.

We pay too little attention to this autocratic band of robber princes; we
think they are archaic, illiterate in modern politics, wealthy (yes, "beyond
the dreams of Croesus", etc), and we laughed when King Abdullah offered to
make up any fall in bailouts from Washington to the Mubarak regime, and we
laugh now when the old king promises $36bn to his citizens to keep their
mouths shut. But this is no laughing matter. The Arab revolt which finally
threw the Ottomans out of the Arab world started in the deserts of Arabia,
its tribesmen trusting Lawrence and McMahon and the rest of our gang. And
from Arabia came Wahabism, the deep and inebriating potion - white foam on
the top of the black stuff - whose ghastly simplicity appealed to every
would-be Islamist and suicide bomber in the Sunni Muslim world. The Saudis
fostered Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida and the Taliban. Let us not even
mention that they provided most of the 9/11 bombers. And the Saudis will now
believe they are the only Muslims still in arms against the brightening
world. I have an unhappy suspicion that the destiny of this pageant of
Middle East history unfolding before us will be decided in the kingdom of
oil, holy places and corruption. Watch out.

But a lighter note. I've been hunting for the most memorable quotations from
the Arab revolution. We've had "Come back, Mr President, we were only
kidding" from an anti-Mubarak demonstrator. And we've had Saif el-Islam
el-Gaddafi's Goebbels-style speech: "Forget oil, forget gas - there will be
civil war." My very own favourite, selfish and personal quotation came when
my old friend Tom Friedman of The New York Times joined me for breakfast in
Cairo with his usual disarming smile. "Fisky," he said, "this Egyptian came
up to me in Tahrir Square yesterday, and asked me if I was Robert Fisk!" Now
that's what I call a revolution.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

*Phil Ochs*: A special screening

Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2011 12:52 PM
Subject: Special Folk Works Screening of Phil Ochs film, Sunday, March 6th

On Sunday morning, March 6 at 11:00 AM FolkWorks will host a screening of the new documentary Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune at the Laemmle Theatre in Santa Monica, 1332 2nd St. Tickets are $10. Then there will be a Q&A with Phil Ochs' brother and co-producer Michael Ochs, the film's director Ken Bowser, Ash Grove founder Ed Pearl, and FolkWorks columnist Ross Altman. (For tickets and lunch opportunity see


    Phil Ochs took his life 35 years ago in 1976, during the Bicentennial, at the age of 35. Composer of the patriotic anthem The Power and the Glory—second only to This Land Is Your Land in its melding of the American landscape with a profound identification with its people—Ochs raised the modern protest song to a high art. With such classics as I Ain't Marching Anymore, Draft Dodger Rag and There But for Fortune he became the voice of the antiwar movement; with such classics as Here's To the State of Mississippi, and The Ballad of Medgar Evers he became a voice of the civil rights movement.


     He began as one of "Woody's Children" at Gerdes Folk City in Greenwich Village, penning songs as fast as Woody Guthrie had a generation before; when Pete Seeger took him and Bob Dylan up to the offices of Broadside Magazine at the beginning of 1963 to hear songs they had written in just the past two weeks—and which Broadside would be the first to publish—Seeger came away astonished at both their creativity and productivity; he concluded that "Here were two of the greatest songwriters in the world, only no one knows it yet." By the end of 1963 everyone did.    


     Two years later, when Dylan went electric, Phil Ochs went classical, surrounding new songs like Pleasures of the Harbor and Small Circle of Friends (on the murder of Kitty Genovese in New York City in broad daylight) with piano accompaniment and orchestral settings. But he also continued his musical and political activism, becoming a founding member of the Yippies (with Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Tom Hayden—who is interviewed in the movie) at the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968, and testifying on their behalf at the Chicago 8 conspiracy trial.  All of the defendants were acquitted.


     But Phil Ochs did not need a conspiracy to organize effective protests against the war in Vietnam; he was a one-man movement who brought together thousands of people in the famed The War is Over demonstration in 1970, inspired by his song of the same title. Unlike his hero James Dean, Phil was a rebel with a cause, and he was not afraid to rebel against even his own fans; at his landmark concert Gunfight at Carnegie Hall, he wore Elvis's gold lame costume and mixed in his favorite Elvis and Buddy Holly songs along with his classic protest material, to the chagrin of his audience, who had come to see a folk singer, not a rock and roll star. So Phil documented the traumatic event in his song Chords of Fame, with the telltale line "God help the troubadour who tries to be a star."


     Shortly thereafter, at the threshold of the depression that would eventually take his life, he wrote No More Songs, a brutally honest look at an artist who was coming to the end of the road, after a decade-defining outpouring of songs that—were all the books and speeches of the time to be burned in a Fahrenheit 451 nightmare—would enable historians to reconstruct both its highs of idealism, hope and quest for social justice and its lows of failed dreams and cynical politicians that led to Watergate and Cambodia.

     Come and celebrate the life of Phil Ochs—an American original—with his music and the personal memories of those—such as Pete Seeger, Joan Baez and Judy Henske—who knew him and remain committed to his ideals.  Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune promises to be a film to remember about an artist impossible to forget.                                         

Friday, February 25, 2011

Fisk: Eyewitness from Tripoli, Ground Zero of the Fight- Back

This morning's NY Times has excellent coverage of the Libyan struggle.
It's different than that in Egypt, plus lots on Benghazi's free zone.

As usual, Democracy Now has exemplary reports on both issues of the
day. "Organizers expect 100,000+ in tomorrow's protest." JOIN THEM.

Robert Fisk with the first dispatch from Tripoli - a city in the shadow of

Gunfire in the suburbs - and hunger and rumour in the capital as thousands
race for last tickets out of a city sinking into anarchy

Independent/uk: Thursday, 24 February 2011

Up to 15,000 men, women and children besieged Tripoli's international
airport last night, shouting and screaming for seats on the few airliners
still prepared to fly to Muammar Gaddafi's rump state, paying Libyan police
bribe after bribe to reach the ticket desks in a rain-soaked mob of hungry,
desperate families. Many were trampled as Libyan security men savagely beat
those who pushed their way to the front.

Among them were Gaddafi's fellow Arabs, thousands of them Egyptians, some of
whom had been living at the airport for two days without food or sanitation.
The place stank of faeces and urine and fear. Yet a 45-minute visit into the
city for a new airline ticket to another destination is the only chance to
see Gaddafi's capital if you are a "dog" of the international press.

There was little sign of opposition to the Great Leader. Squads of young men
with Kalashnikov rifles stood on the side roads next to barricades of
upturned chairs and wooden doors. But these were pro-Gaddafi vigilantes - a
faint echo of the armed Egyptian "neighbourhood guard" I saw in Cairo a
month ago - and had pinned photographs of their leader's infamous Green Book
to their checkpoint signs.

There is little food in Tripoli, and over the city there fell a blanket of
drab, sullen rain. It guttered onto an empty Green Square and down the
Italianate streets of the old capital of Tripolitania. But there were no
tanks, no armoured personnel carriers, no soldiers, not a fighter plane in
the air; just a few police and elderly men and women walking the pavements -
a numbed populace. Sadly for the West and for the people of the free city of
Benghazi, Libya's capital appeared as quiet as any dictator would wish.

But this is an illusion. Petrol and food prices have trebled; entire towns
outside Tripoli have been torn apart by fighting between pro- and
anti-Gaddafi forces. In the suburbs of the city, especially in the Noufreen
district, militias fought for 24 hours on Sunday with machine guns and
pistols, a battle the Gadaffi forces won. In the end, the exodus of
expatriates will do far more than street warfare to bring down the regime.

I was told that at least 30,000 Turks, who make up the bulk of the Libyan
construction and engineering industry, have now fled the capital, along with
tens of thousands of other foreign workers. On my own aircraft out of
Tripoli, an evacuation flight to Europe, there were Polish, German, Japanese
and Italian businessmen, all of whom told me they had closed down major
companies in the past week. Worse still for Gaddafi, the oil, chemical and
uranium fields of Libya lie to the south of "liberated" Benghazi. Gaddafi's
hungry capital controls only water resources, so a temporary division of
Libya, which may have entered Gaddafi's mind, would not be sustainable.
Libyans and expatriates I spoke to yesterday said they thought he was
clinically insane, but they expressed more anger at his son, Saif al-Islam.
"We thought Saif was the new light, the 'liberal'", a Libyan businessman sad
to me. "Now we realise he is crazier and more cruel than his father."

The panic that has now taken hold in what is left of Gaddafi's Libya was all
too evident at the airport. In the crush of people fighting for tickets, one
man, witnessed by an evacuated Tokyo car-dealer, was beaten so viciously on
the head that "his face fell apart".

Talking to Libyans in Tripoli and expatriates at the airport, it is clear
that neither tanks nor armour were used in the streets of Tripoli. Air
attacks targeted Benghazi and other towns, but not the capital. Yet all
spoke of a wave of looting and arson by Libyans who believed that with the
fall of Benghazi, Gaddafi was finished and the country open to anarchy.

The centre of the city was largely closed up. All foreign offices have been
shut including overseas airlines, and every bakery I saw was shuttered.
Rumours abound that members of Gaddafi's family are trying to flee abroad.
Although William Hague's ramblings about Gaddafi's flight to Venezuela have
been disproved, I spoke to a number of Libyans who believed that Burkina
Faso might be his only viable retreat. Two nights ago, a Libyan private jet
approached Beirut airport with a request to land but was refused permission
when the crew declined to identify their eight passengers. And last night, a
Libyan Arab Airlines flight reported by Al Jazeera to be carrying Gaddafi's
daughter, Aisha, was refused permission to land in Malta.

Gaddafi is blamed by Shia Muslims in Lebanon, Iraq and Iran for the murder
of Imam Moussa Sadr, a supposedly charismatic divine who unwisely accepted
an invitation to visit Gaddafi in 1978 and, after an apparent argument about
money, was never seen again. Nor was a Lebanese journalist accompanying him
on the trip.

While dark humour has never been a strong quality in Libyans, there was one
moment at Tripoli airport yesterday which proved it does exist. An incoming
passenger from a Libyan Arab Airlines flight at the front of an immigration
queue bellowed out: "And long life to our great leader Muammar Gaddafi."
Then he burst into laughter - and the immigration officers did the same.


Rally to Save the American Dream

When: Saturday, February 26th, 12:00 PM
Where: Southwest side of LA City Hall, on 1st Street, between
Spring and Main Street, 200 N. Spring Street )
Los Angeles, CA 90012

- - -

Glorious Rallies in Madison, Ground Zero of the Fight Back

by Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive: February 20, 2011

What glory it is to be in Madison, Wisconsin, this week, where the people of
this state have risen up in revolt against the Neanderthal Republicans who
are trying to bust public sector unions and inflict massive harm on their

It's not about balancing a budget. It's about destroying unions as a
political and economic force. That's why the bill says every public sector
union would have to recertify every year, and why it says that no employer
could deduct union dues from paychecks. Neither of those things has anything
to do with saving a dime of Wisconsin taxpayer money.

This is ground zero in the fight back, and Wisconsinites are engaging in the
closest thing to a general strike that I've ever seen in my lifetime.

This is what democracy looks like. One sign said, "This Is Our Tahrir

I interviewed protestors on Wednesday when the crowd swelled to 30,000. One
woman was wearing a "Kick Me, I'm a State Worker" sign. But she declined to
give her name. "I'm afraid I'd get fired," she said.

Another woman named Mary Batt, who works for the Department of Justice,
said, "I'm here for people who can't be for fear they'd be retaliated

I spoke with Allie Riefke, 17, of Mt. Horeb High School, who took off school
to come to the rally. She held a sign that read, "Save Our teachers. And My
Mom." Her mom works as a guidance counselor at another school, and she
couldn't come to the rally "because she'd get into trouble."

Allie said her mom is "going to lose $5,000 if they pass this bill." She
added: "That's braces for my little brother. It's not fair."

She's right. It isn't fair.

And that's why so many Wisconsinites are out in the street nonviolently but
militantly fighting for their rights this week.

Copyright 2010, The Progressive Magazine

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Russ Feingold honored in Wisconsin, Saturday Rally at LA City Hall

Rally to Save the American Dream

When: Saturday, February 26th, 12:00 PM

Where: Southwest side of LA City Hall, on 1st Street, between
Spring and Main Street, 200 N. Spring Street )
Los Angeles, CA 90012

From: Jerry Kay
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 6:21 PM
Subject: Fw: Feingold press release

I sent Josef your Wisconsin news and asked if his college is at all into it. here's what he wrote back. Jerry

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Josef A. Kay <>
To: "" <>
Sent: Wed, February 23, 2011 5:03:16 PM
Subject: FW: Feingold press release

Hey dad,


Yes, the WI news is a big deal on campus. A lot of students have been going to Madison and joining in the protests. My band director gave us a small talk during rehearsal Monday about how important it is to join the ongoing dialogue (a lot of the kids in the band are Music Education majors). I'm wayyy too busy to research the relevant details of the bill, but my cook has been giving me (and everyone else in the house) a good idea of what the counterarguments are!

Here's some news that we just got today from Lawrence...


- Josef

From: Laurie A. Petrick
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 10:21 AM
Subject: Feingold press release

Lawrence University Recognizes Russ Feingold with Honorary Degree at June Commencement

Lawrence University will recognize former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree Sunday, June 5 at the college's 162nd commencement. Feingold also will serve as the principal commencement speaker.

The Doctor of Humane Letters degree is in recognition of Russ Feingold's distinguished service to the state of Wisconsin and to the nation during his 28 years in public service to date. Feingold, 57, established himself as one of the U.S. Senate's most independent voices during his 18-year career there. He was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001, opposed President Obama's decision to expand the war in Afghanistan, was the first senator to propose a timetable to exit Iraq and fought against financial deregulation and trade agreements like NAFTA he considered unfair. He lost his 2010 election bid for a fourth term to Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson.

"Senator Feingold exemplifies the 'responsible and meaningful citizenship' that Lawrence University values, that is central to our mission and that we would like our students to observe in action," said Lawrence President Jill Beck. "As we celebrate the commencement of the Class of 2011, we are honored to be doing so with a thoughtful and humane leader who exemplifies integrity and independent thinking."

Recognized as an effective legislator who worked across party lines on both domestic and foreign policy, Feingold is perhaps best known for his work on campaign finance reform. It resulted in the landmark Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, better known as the McCain-Feingold bill, which he co-authored with Republican John McCain. As a senator, he served on the Senate Budget, Judiciary, Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.

Earlier this year, Feingold accepted a visiting professor appointment at Marquette University Law School to teach the course "Current Legal Issues: The U.S. Senate." In February, Feingold announced the formation of Progressives United, a grassroots political action committee to counter corporate influence in politics. The organization will support candidates while serving as a media and political watchdog.

Feingold graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1975 and attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. He returned to the states and earned a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1979. Before joining the Wisconsin legislature, Feingold practiced law in Madison from 1979-85.

A native of Janesville, Feingold first ran for public office in 1982, winning a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate. He was re-elected in 1986 and 1990 before successfully running for the U.S. Senate in 1992, defeating two-term incumbent Republican Robert Kasten. As a U.S. Senator, Feingold made a point of visiting each of Wisconsin's 72 counties annually to conduct "listening sessions" with voters. This approach was one example of Senator Feingold's honest desire to represent his state with respect for all of its citizens.

About Lawrence University
Charting an uncommon course in higher education for more than 160 years, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It ranks among the nation's best small, private colleges, and was selected for inclusion in the book "Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College." The development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience, where classes or creative and research projects tailored to students' educational interests and life objectives are prevalent. Lawrence draws its 1,520 students from 44 states and 51 countries. Its picturesque, residential campus is nestled on the banks of the Fox River in Appleton, Wisconsin. For more information about Lawrence University visit


Amy G: From the Middle East to the Midwest, Koch Group Fronts Union Busting

Uprisings: From the Middle East to the Midwest

by Amy Goodman February 23, 2011

As many as 80,000 people marched to the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison
on Saturday as part of an ongoing protest against newly elected Republican
Gov. Scott Walker's attempt to not just badger the state's public employee
unions, but to break them. The Madison uprising follows on the heels of
those in the Middle East. A sign held by one university student, an Iraq War
vet, read, "I went to Iraq and came home to Egypt?" Another read, "Walker:
Mubarak of the Midwest." Likewise, a photo has circulated in Madison of a
young man at a rally in Cairo, with a sign reading, "Egypt supports
Wisconsin workers: One world, one pain." Meanwhile, Libyans continue to defy
a violent government crackdown against masses seeking to oust longtime
dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and more than 10,000 marched Tuesday in Ohio to
oppose Republican Gov. John Kasich's attempted anti-union legislative

Just a few weeks ago, solidarity between Egyptian youth and Wisconsin police
officers, or between Libyan workers and Ohio public employees, might have
elicited a raised eyebrow.

The uprising in Tunisia was sparked by the suicide of a young man named
Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old university graduate who could not find
professional work. Selling fruits and vegetables in the market, he was
repeatedly harassed by Tunisian authorities who eventually confiscated his
scale. Unbearably frustrated, he set himself on fire, a spark that ignited
the protests that became the wave of revolution in the Middle East and North
Africa. For decades in the region, people have lived under
dictatorships-many that receive U.S. military aid-suffering human-rights
abuses along with low income, high unemployment and almost no freedom of
speech. All this, while the elites amassed fortunes.

Similar grievances underlie the conflicts in Wisconsin and Ohio. The "Great
Recession" of 2008, according to economist Dean Baker, is now in its 37th
month, with no sign of relenting. In a recent paper, Baker says that, due to
the financial crisis, "many political figures have argued the need to
drastically reduce the generosity of public sector pensions, and possibly to
default on pension obligations already incurred. Most of the pension
shortfall ... is attributable to the plunge in the stock market in the years

In other words, Wall Street hucksters, selling the complex mortgage-backed
securities that provoked the collapse, are the ones who caused any pension
shortfall. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston said
recently: "The average Wisconsin state employee gets $24,500 a year. That's
not a very big pension ... 15 percent of the money going into it each year
is being paid out to Wall Street to manage the money. That's a really huge
high percentage to pay out to Wall Street to manage the money."

So, while investment bankers skim a huge percentage off pension funds, it's
the workers who are being demonized and asked to make the sacrifices. Those
who caused the problem, who then got lavish bailouts and now are treated to
huge salaries and bonuses, are not being held accountable. Following the
money, it turns out Walker's campaign was funded by the notorious Koch
brothers, major backers of the tea party organizations. They also gave $1
million to the Republican Governors Association, which gave substantial
support to Walker's campaign. Is it surprising that Walker supports
corporations with tax breaks, and has launched a massive attack on
unionized, public-sector employees?

One of the unions being targeted by Walker, and by Kasich in Ohio, is
AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The union was founded in 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression, in
Madison. Its 1.6 million members are nurses, corrections officers,
child-care providers, EMTs and sanitation workers. It is instructive to
remember, in this Black History Month, that it was the struggle of the
sanitation workers of AFSCME local No. 1733 that brought Dr. Martin Luther
King Jr. to Memphis, Tenn., back in April 1968. As Jesse Jackson Jr. told me
as he marched with students and their unionized teachers in Madison on
Tuesday: "Dr. King's last act on earth, marching in Memphis, Tenn., was
about workers' rights to collective bargaining and rights to dues checkoff.
You cannot remove the roof for the wealthy and remove the floor for the

The workers of Egypt were instrumental in bringing down the regime there, in
a remarkable coalition with Egypt's youth. In the streets of Madison, under
the Capitol dome, another demonstration of solidarity is taking place.
Wisconsin's workers have agreed to pay and pension concessions, but will not
give up their right to collective bargaining. At this point, Walker would be
wise to negotiate. It is not a good season to be a tyrant.

© 2011 Amy Goodman
Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio
news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008
Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the "Alternative Nobel" prize, and received
the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.


Koch Industries Front Group Americans for Prosperity Launches Ad to Support
Walker's Union Busting

by: Lee Fang
ThinkProgress: 22 February 2011

As ThinkProgress has reported, the global conglomerate Koch Industries not
only helped elect Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), but is the leading force
orchestrating his union-busting campaign. Koch gave Walker over $43,000 in
direct donations and its allies aired millions of dollars worth of attack
ads against his Democratic opponent. Then, Koch political operatives
pressured Walker to crush labor unions as one of his first priorities. Tim
Phillips, a former lobbying partner to Jack Abramoff and current president
of Americans for Prosperity, a front financed by David Koch, told the New
York Times that Koch operatives "had worked behind the scenes to try to
encourage a union showdown." A Koch-financed front group, the American
Legislative Exchange Council, has prepped Wisconsin GOP lawmakers with
anti-labor legislative ideas.

Today, the Koch group Americans for Prosperity announced that it will air an
ad smearing the protesters in Madison and calling on the state to support
Walker's power grab. As we noted on Friday, Koch has demanded that
collective bargaining rights be curtailed for both private and public sector
unions, a step beyond Walker's already extreme move. The ad disparages the
pro-labor protesters for allegedly bringing in "out of state political
protesters." In fact, the small pro-Walker demonstration orchestrated by
Koch operatives last Saturday included a number of out of state conservative
activists, including Herman Cain (from Georgia), Jim Hoft (from Missouri),
and Phillips (from Virginia).

AFP NARRATOR: Democratic legislators don't even have the guts to show up
for their jobs, hiding out in other states. President Obama backs the union
bosses and floods the state with out of state political protesters. Governor
Walker has the courage to do what's right for Wisconsin. Stand with Walker.

Last year, at a Koch-organized fundraising meeting in Colorado attended by
fellow right-wing billionaires like Steve Schwarzman and Phil Anschutz,
attendees discussed strategies for taking down the labor movement. As
Rachel Maddow has explained, the right's national anti-union campaign has
little to do with budget deficits. Instead, it is about defunding the
progressive movement and weakening Democrats in the longterm.

Join the movement for truth - support brave, independent reporting today by
making a contribution to Truthout.

Moreover, Koch's political activism on behalf of Walker is also a strategy
for increasing its profit margin. Koch Industries has a large set of
businesses within Wisconsin, including a network of oil pipelines, paper
plants, and coal companies. The Walker administration is signaling a very
Koch-friendly approach in targeting environmental regulations and going on
record with fierce opposition to clean energy policies.

To take full advantage of such a friendly local government, Koch Industries
quietly expanded its lobbying operation in the state. Koch has a new
government affairs office in Madison, and according to reporter Judith
Davidoff, recently registered seven full time lobbyists to work with the
Republican-led government in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rafah crossing reopens, Huge Ticket Fines in CA, Packers Captain with Unions

Rafah crossing reopens
United Press International Published: Feb. 20, 2011

GAZA, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- The international Rafah border crossing between Egypt
and the Gaza Strip will reopen Tuesday, a Palestinian official said.

Dr. Ghazi Hamad, director general of crossings and borders in the
Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, said in a telephone interview with the Kuwaiti
news agency KUNA Saturday Egypt agreed to reopen the crossing both ways to
allow stranded Palestinians to travel.
Photos: Clashes at Gaza Border Crossing

Beginning Tuesday, 300 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip will be allowed to
cross into Egypt daily, Ma'an News Agency reported Sunday.

On Friday, Egypt opened the crossing to permit Palestinians stranded in
Egypt to return to Gaza, the agency said.

Wafa, the official Palestinian Authority Web site, said 250 Palestinians
returned to Gaza within a few hours after Rafah was opened Friday.

Egyptian authorities shut down the border crossing Jan. 28, days after the
outbreak of anti-government protests in Egypt that led to the ouster of
President Hosni Mubarak.


Packers Captain Charles Woodson Stands with Wisconsin's Workers

By Dave Zirin
Edge of Sports: February 20, 2011

Already multiple members of the Super Bowl winning Green Bay Packers have
taken public stands against the frightening, dictatorial, anti-union rampage
of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. These pro athletes have chosen to link
arms with the tens of thousands of nurses, teachers, and firefighters
standing as one against Governor Walker's efforts to destroy their unions
and drive them into poverty. It's been remarkable to see a steady stream of
players from the only non-profit, fan owned team in American sports, lend
their voice to this fight.

Yet none of the Packers who've spoken out, have had the profile, respect, or
cultural currency of the latest member of the team to stand strong with
Wisconsin's working families: Charles Woodson. Woodson is the team's
defensive icon. A former Heisman trophy winner at the University of
Michigan, NFL defensive player of the year, and perennial pro-bowler, his
voice will evoke cheers at the capital and shockwaves in the Governor's
office. The team's defensive captain is also the acknowledged emotion leader
of the team, charged with pumping them up at halftime and making speeches
after the game. He was the person who said during the playoffs, "The
President [a Chicago Bears fan] doesn't want to watch us in the Super Bowl?
We'll go see him! Say White House on three!" This much watched youtube
moment, certainly takes on a different meaning right now.

By the way, Charles Woodson is also one of the team's union reps. Without
further preamble, here is his statement announcing his stand with
Wisconsin's working families. (Aaron Rodgers? You're on deck.)


Last week I was proud when many of my current and former teammates announced
their support for the working families fighting for their rights in
Wisconsin. Today I am honored to join with them. Thousands of dedicated
Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens. They
are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our
families. These hard working people are under an unprecedented attack to
take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at

It is an honor for me to play for the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers
and be a part of the Green Bay and Wisconsin communities. I am also honored
as a member of the NFL Players Association to stand together with working
families of Wisconsin and organized labor in their fight against this
attempt to hurt them by targeting unions. I hope those leading the attack
will sit down with Wisconsin's public workers and discuss the problems
Wisconsin faces, so that together they can truly move Wisconsin forward.

Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packer cornerback and one of the team's elected
representatives to the players union.


From: Anthony Saidy

Eyad Aboabdo | Executive Vice President
Anaba Group Inc | 14514 Garfield Avenue | Paramount | California | 90723 |
USA | T (562) 633-3400 | F (562) 633-5400 | C (562) 212-3223 | S

Sent: Monday, February 21, 2011 4:20 PM
Subject: HUGE California Traffic Tickets Fines Effective 01/06/2011
Read carefully...especially fine for cell phone use without hands-free.

HUGE California Traffic Tickets Fines Effective 01/06/2011

Please be extremely careful in your driving and car registration & insurance
matters. State of California is broke and they are trying hard to squeeze
all of us hard to collect money.

Effective immediately, if you do not stop at the red light, be ready to pay
$436 in fines or if you pass a school bus with flashing red signals, you
will be charged $616. The state of California is going for blood, so be
extra careful in driving, You cannot afford messing with them. I have been
hearing that Highway Patrols are under pressure to issue a lot more tickets
than last year with at least 30% increase in fines over 2009, so beware of
radar guns, highway and traffic cameras installed everywhere and the tougher
enforcement of parking rules.

Just for your info, the next time you park in the handicapped zone, even for
a minute, you will be looking at almost $ 1000 in parking tickets , so it'd
better be worth it.

California needs money, so pay close attention to the rules of the road!

Traffic Ticket Fines (Effective 01/06/2011)

VC 12814.6 $214 Failure to obey license provisions.

VC 14600(A) $214 Failure to notify DMV of address change within
10 days

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 16028(A) $796 Failure to provide evidence of financial
responsibility (insurance)

Note: This fine may be reduced with proof of insurance on or after the
violation date.

VC 21453(A) $436 Failure to stop at a red signal.

VC 22349 $214 Unsafe speed, 1 to 15 miles over the limit.

VC 22350 $328 Unsafe speed, 16 to 25 miles over the limit.

VC 22450 $214 Failure to stop at a stop sign.

VC 22454(A) $616 Passing a school bus with flashing red signals.

VC 23123(A) $148 Driving while using a wireless phone not hands
free, first offense .

VC 23123(B) $256 Driving while using a wireless phone not hands
free, each subsequent offense.

VC 23123.5 $148 Driving while using a wireless device to send,
read or write text.

VC 23124 $148 Minor driving while using a wireless phone.

VC 22500 $976 Parking in a bus loading area.

VC 22507(A) $976 Violation of disabled parking provisions, first

VC 22507(B) $1876 Violation of disabled parking provisions, second

VC 26708 $178 Unlawful material on vehicle windows.

VC 27150 $178 Adequate muffler required.

VC 27315 $148 Mandatory use of seat belts.

VC 27360 $436 Mandatory use of passenger child restraints.

Note: This fine may be reduced by completing a court authorized child seat
diversion program .

VC 27400 $178 Headsets or Earplugs covering both ears.

VC 27803 $178 Violation of motorcycle safety helmet

VC 34506 $616 Commercial Driver - Log book violation.

VC 4000 $256 No evidence of current registration.

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 4159 $178 Notify DMV of change of address within 10

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 5200 $178 Proper display of license plates.

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction.

VC 9400 $178 Commercial weight fees due.

Note: The fine may be reduced with valid proof of correction Look out for
the money grabbers in Sacramento but don't blame the cops. They don't set
the fines or collect them!

Van Jones: The 'American Dream' Movement, General Strike in Madison

At last..., halleluiah. And thnks to those who sent old/new subscribers.
Keep 'em coming.

From: Cort Greene


By Mike Elk February 22, 2011

*This evening in a press release from IBEW Local 2304 President Dave
Pokilinski*, I received word that the 45,000 member Southern Central
Federation of Labor, the local chapter of the AFL-CIO for the
Madisonand Southern Central Wisconsin area, has voted to make
preparations for a general strike.

*The press release reads as follows:

Around 10:50PM Wisconsin Time on February 21st the South Central
Federation of Labor endorsed the following motions:

Motion 1: The SCFL endorses a general strike, possibly for the day
Walker signs his .budget repair bill,. and requests the Education
Committee immediately begin educating affiliates and members on the
organization and function of a general strike.

Motion 2: The SCFL goes on record as opposing all provisions
contained in Walker.s .budget repair bill,. including but not limited
to, curtailed bargaining rights and reduced wages, benefits, pensions,
funding for public education, changes to medical assistance programs,
and politicization of state government agencies.

It.s important to note that this is just a threat and not actually
going out on a general strike. Under the Taft-Hartley Act a general
strike in support of other workers is illegal; therefore the key word
is the phrase .begin educating affiliates and members on the
organization and function of a general strike.. In addition, only
individual unions, not the central labor federation has the ability to
call a strike.

Many private sector unions would not go out on a general strike out of
fear of being of sued by their employers. However, local labor
observers say many public sector unions and some of the construction
unions would go out on a strike. Threatening a general strike creates
even more pressure for Scott Walker in the business community. The
business community in Wisconsin already appears to bucking under the
intense pressure of the mass labor mobilization as I noted here last

Mike Elk is a third-generation union organizer and labor journalist
based in Washington, D.C.


Introducing The 'American Dream' Movement

"This Is Our 'Tea Party' Moment -- In a Positive Sense"

by Van Jones
Huffington Post : February 22, 2011

In the past 24 months, those of us who longed for positive change have gone
from hope to heartbreak. But hope is returning to America -- at last --
thanks largely to the courageous stand of the heroes and heroines of

Reinvigorated by the idealism and fighting spirit on display right now in
America's heartland, the movement for "hope and change" has a rare, second
chance. It can renew itself and become again a national force with which to
be reckoned.

Over the next hours and days, all who love this country need to do
everything possible to spread the "spirit of Madison" to all 50 states. This
does not mean we need to occupy 50 state capitol buildings; things elsewhere
are not yet that dire. But this weekend, the best of America should rally on
the steps of every statehouse in the union. and others have issued just this kind of call to action; everyone
should prioritize responding and turning out in large numbers.

On Saturday, the powers-that-be (in both parties) should see a rainbow force
coming together: organized workers, business leaders, veterans, students and
youth, faith leaders, civil rights fighters, women's rights champions,
immigrant rights defenders, LGBTQ stalwarts, environmentalists, academics,
artists, celebrities, community activists, elected officials and more -- all
standing up for what's right.

Take Movement to a Higher Plane: Defending the American Dream

And we should announce that our renewed movement is more than just a
mobilization to back unions or oppose illegitimate power grabs (as important
as those agenda items are). Something more vital is at stake: our country
needs a national movement to defend the American Dream itself. And the fight
in Wisconsin creates the opportunity to build one.

After all, it is the American Dream that the GOP's "slash and burn" agenda
is killing off. We need a movement dedicated to renewing the idea that hard
work pays in our country; that you can make it if you try; that America
remains a land committed to dignity, justice and opportunity for all. Right
now, this very idea is on the GOP chopping block. And we must rescue it
now -- or risk losing it forever.

America will not make it through this crisis healthy and whole if -- at the
first sign of trouble -- we are willing to
throw away millions of our everyday heroes. Our teachers, police officers,
firefighters, nurses and others make our communities and country strong.
Their daily work is essential to the smooth functioning and long-term
success of our nation. An attack on them is an attack on the backbone of
Nobody objects to politicians cutting budgetary fat. But the GOP program
everywhere is so reckless that it would actually cut muscle, bone and
marrow, too. This approach is both shortsighted and immoral. We should rise
up against it -- in our millions.

GOP Cuts Muscle, Fat and Bone -- Republicans Attack American Way

Both parties should be taking steps to solve the country's problems in a
balanced, fair and rational way. If deficits are truly the issue, then
raising taxes and cutting spending both should be on the table, as tools.
But Wisconsin's governor recently handed out massive corporate tax breaks,
reducing the state's revenues. That move greatly added to the problem he now
wants to fix by attacking essential services with a meat axe. A slew of GOP
governors in places like Ohio are gearing up to take similar approaches.
If a foreign power conspired to inflict this much damage on America's first
responders and essential infrastructure, we would see it as an act of war.

And if a foreign dictator unilaterally announced that his nation's workers
no longer had a seat at the bargaining table in their own country, the U.S.
establishment would rightfully go bananas.

If Republicans would oppose that kind of thuggery abroad, how can they
champion it here at home? How can they accept for the American people what
they would denounce for the people of any other nation on Earth?
GOP governors in multiple states are advancing schemes to erase the
long-standing rights of American employees to choose a union and bargain
collectively. We need to call these outrageous plots what they are:
un-American and unacceptable. They are not just assaults on workers; they
are assaults on the American Way itself.

This Is Our 'Tea Party' Moment -- In a Positive Sense

It is time to draw a line in the sand -- nationally. Someone has to stand up
for common sense and fairness. It is time to use all nonviolent means to
defend the American people and our American principles from these abuses.

If we take a bold and courageous stand, over time, we can win. Make no
mistake about it: this is our "Tea Party" moment -- in a positive sense.

In fact, we can learn many important lessons from the recent achievements of
the libertarian, populist right. Don't forget: even after the Republican's
epic electoral defeat in 2008, a right-wing uprising was still able to smash
public support for "new New Deal" economics. Along the way, it revived the
political fortunes of the GOP.

A popular outcry from the left could just as easily shatter the prevailing
bipartisan consensus that America is suddenly a poor country that cannot
possibly help its people meet our basic needs.

America Is Not a Poor Country -- We Suffer From Poor Leadership

The truth is that we don't live Bangladesh or Malawi. America is not a poor
country. The public has just been hypnotized into believing that the richest
and most creative nation on Earth has only two choices in this crisis:
massive austerity (as championed by the Tea Party/Republicans) or
SEMI-massive austerity (as meekly offered by too many DC Democrats). It is

Fortunately, the people in Wisconsin know that. So they are fighting
courageously. Their efforts could blossom into a compelling, national force
for the good -- offering a powerful alternative to those false choices.
And while our re-born movement needs to be as clear and bold as the Tea
Parties, we must base our efforts on a deeper set of American values.

The Tea Party attached itself to only a single American principle. And it
identifies itself with only one moment in our distant past: the Boston Tea
Party, symbolizing "no taxation without representation."

'American Dream' Movement Rooted in a Deeper Patriotism

That is an important moment and concept. But the notion of "negative
liberty" ("don't tread on me!") is only one principle among many that make
our country great. Other equally vital American values and ideals (like
justice, opportunity, fairness and democracy) have gone largely undefended
and unheralded, in this recent crisis. That ends -- now. Our rising movement
should stand for the full suite of American values and principles.

And the American ideal most in need of defense is our most essential one:
the American Dream.
The steps needed to renew and redeem the American Dream are straightforward
and simple:
Increase revenue for America's government sensibly by making Wall Street and
the super-rich pay their fair share.

Reduce spending responsibly by cutting the real fat - like corporate welfare
for military contractors, big agriculture and big oil.

Simultaneously protect the heart and soul of America - our teachers, nurses
and first responders.
Guarantee the health, safety and success of our children and communities by
leaving the muscle and bone of America's communities intact.

Maintain the American Way by treating employees with dignity and respecting
their right to a seat at the bargaining table.

Rebuild the middle class - and pathways into it - by fighting for a "made in
America" innovation and manufacturing agenda, including trade and currency
policies that honor American workers and entrepreneurs.
Stand for the idea that, in a crisis, Americans turn TO each other - and not
ON each other.

A Return to the Moral Center

These are not radical notions. They are the common sense ideas that form the
core of who we are as a nation. We can rally Americans, once again, to stand
up for these values. We can make America, once again, a land where it is
safe for everyday people to dream.

We will prevail because -- in truth -- we are not in a right-wing period of
American history, nor are we in a left-wing period. We are simply in a
volatile period.

And during times like these, we can take comfort in knowing that a great
nation will ultimately pull its answers -- not from its ideological
extremes -- but from its deep, moral center.

By standing up for dignity, equal opportunity and fair play, the Wisconsin
workers have found their way to America's great moral center. They have
shown us all, at last, the way back home. By standing with them, we reclaim
what is best in our country.

April 15, 2009, marked the beginning of the national movement to remember
the Tea Party and pull America to the ideological right.

Let Saturday, February 26, 2011, mark the beginning of the national movement
to renew the American Dream and return us to the moral center -- where
everybody counts, and everybody matters.

© 2011 Huffington Post

Van Jones is the founder and former president of Green for All and author of
The Green Collar Economy. In 2009, he served as the green jobs advisor in
the Obama White House. Van is currently a senior fellow at the Center For
American Progress, and also holds a joint appointment at Princeton
University, as a distinguished visiting fellow in both the Center for
African American Studies and in the Program in Science, Technology and
Environmental Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and
International Affairs.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jackie Goldberg: Unsolicited ballot recommendations for March 8, 2011

Hi. If you get this from a list-serve which doesn't carry attachments,
write me and I'll send you text.

I'd like to request something from you. Ten days ago, replacing my
old computer with a new Dell, inexplicably, my up to date address book
simply vanished. Not the list of names, but where the info is stored.
I'm now using one from 2005, with all those who changed their email
addresses or signed up in the past 5 years are now without conection.
I'm slowly retreiving addresses going thru my 'sent' email envelope,
backwards, but have lost near 500 addresses, a third of my total list.
Almost all signups come from someone else on the list mentioning
it to a friend, etc. If that's you or if you thought about doing so, could
you recommend it to friends or send me addresses to which I'd send
3 or 4 articles or essays, as a trial. I'd make that clear.

From: jackie goldberg
Sent: Monday, February 21, 2011 8:44 AM
Subject: Unsolicited ballot recommendations for March 8, 2011

Hi there, Some of you may NOT be Southern Californians, and to those of you
in that group, my apologies for sending you this information.

For everyone else, here they are. I want to remind everyone to vote in this
smaller election. Less than 15% of the voters will cast a ballot and so

As always, if you do NOT want to receive these recommendations, simply send
a reply email, and you will be removed from the list.

Hope all are well. With warmest regards, Jackie

Robert Fisk: These are secular popular revolts - yet everyone is blaming religion

Hi. Here's another gem from the west's senior and best columnist.
This afternoon I'll send you Jackie Goldberg's ballot rec's. As usual,
many have requested them. Marty Hittleman, president of the California
Federation of Teachers and an Echo Park native has just sent his own
recommendations. They are almost identical to Jackies, but will send
them in the near future. If you want them now, please write me.

Robert Fisk: These are secular popular revolts - yet everyone is blaming

Our writer, who was in Cairo as the revolution took hold in Egypt, reports
from Bahrain on why Islam has little to do with what is going on

Independent Sunday, 20 February 2011

Mubarak claimed that Islamists were behind the Egyptian revolution. Ben Ali
said the same in Tunisia. King Abdullah of Jordan sees a dark and sinister
hand - al-Qa'ida's hand, the Muslim Brotherhood's hand, an Islamist hand -
behind the civil insurrection across the Arab world. Yesterday the Bahraini
authorities discovered Hizbollah's bloody hand behind the Shia uprising
there. For Hizbollah, read Iran. How on earth do well-educated if singularly
undemocratic men get this thing so wrong? Confronted by a series of secular
explosions - Bahrain does not quite fit into this bracket - they blame
radical Islam. The Shah made an identical mistake in reverse. Confronted by
an obviously Islamic uprising, he blamed it on Communists.

Bobbysocks Obama and Clinton have managed an even weirder somersault. Having
originally supported the "stable" dictatorships of the Middle East - when
they should have stood by the forces of democracy - they decided to support
civilian calls for democracy in the Arab world at a time when the Arabs were
so utterly disenchanted with the West's hypocrisy that they didn't want
America on their side. "The Americans interfered in our country for 30 years
under Mubarak, supporting his regime, arming his soldiers," an Egyptian
student told me in Tahrir Square last week. "Now we would be grateful if
they stopped interfering on our side." At the end of the week, I heard
identical voices in Bahrain. "We are getting shot by American weapons fired
by American-trained Bahraini soldiers with American-made tanks," a medical
orderly told me on Friday. "And now Obama wants to be on our side?"

The events of the past two months and the spirit of anti-regime Arab
insurrection - for dignity and justice, rather than any Islamic emirate -
will remain in our history books for hundreds of years. And the failure of
Islam's strictest adherents will be discussed for decades. There was a
special piquancy to the latest footage from al-Qa'ida yesterday, recorded
before the overthrow of Mubarak, that emphasised the need for Islam to
triumph in Egypt; yet a week earlier the forces of secular, nationalist,
honourable Egypt, Muslim and Christian men and women, had got rid of the old
man without any help from Bin Laden Inc. Even weirder was the reaction from
Iran, whose supreme leader convinced himself that the Egyptian people's
success was a victory for Islam. It's a sobering thought that only al-Qa'ida
and Iran and their most loathed enemies, the anti-Islamist Arab dictators,
believed that religion lay behind the mass rebellion of pro-democracy

The bloodiest irony of all - which dawned rather slowly on Obama - was that
the Islamic Republic of Iran was praising the democrats of Egypt while
threatening to execute its own democratic opposition leaders.

Not, then, a great week for "Islamicism". There's a catch, of course. Almost
all the millions of Arab demonstrators who wish to shrug off the cloak of
autocracy which - with our Western help - has smothered their lives in
humiliation and fear are indeed Muslims. And Muslims - unlike the
"Christian" West - have not lost their faith. Under the stones and coshes of
Mubarak's police killers, they counter-attacked, shouting "Allah akbar" for
this was indeed for them a "jihad" - not a religious war but a struggle for
justice. "God is Great" and a demand for justice are entirely consistent.
For the struggle against injustice is the very spirit of the Koran.

In Bahrain we have a special case. Here a Shia majority is ruled by a
minority of pro-monarchy Sunni Muslims. Syria, by the way, may suffer from
"Bahrainitis" for the same reason: a Sunni majority ruled by an Alawite
(Shia) minority. Well, at least the West - in its sagging support for King
Hamad of Bahrain - can point to the fact that Bahrain, like Kuwait, has a
parliament. It's a sad old beast, existing from 1973 to 1975 when it was
dissolved unconstitutionally, and then reinvented in 2001 as part of a
package of "reforms". But the new parliament turned out to be even more
unrepresentative than the first. Opposition politicians were harassed by
state security, and parliamentary boundaries were gerrymandered,
Ulster-style, to make sure that the minority Sunnis controlled it. In 2006
and 2010, for example, the main Shia party in Bahrain gained only 18 out of
40 seats. Indeed, there is a distinctly Northern Ireland feel to Sunni
perspectives in Bahrain. Many have told me that they fear for their lives,
that Shia mobs will burn their homes and kill them.

All this is set to change. Control of state power has to be legitimised to
be effective, and the use of live fire to overwhelm peaceful protest was
bound to end in Bahrain in a series of little Bloody Sundays. Once Arabs
learnt to lose their fear, they could claim the civil rights that Catholics
in Northern Ireland once demanded in the face of RUC brutality. In the end,
the British had to destroy Unionist rule and bring the IRA into joint power
with Protestants. The parallels are not exact and the Shias do not (yet)
have a militia, although the Bahraini government has produced photographs of
pistols and swords - hardly a major weapon of the IRA - to support their
contention that its opponents include "terrorists".

In Bahrain there is, needless to say, a sectarian as much as a secular
battle, something that the Crown Prince unwittingly acknowledged when he
originally said that the security forces had to suppress protests to prevent
sectarian violence. It's a view held all too savagely by Saudi Arabia, which
has a strong interest in the suppression of dissent in Bahrain. The Shias of
Saudi Arabia might get uppity if their co-religionists in Bahrain overwhelm
the state. Then we'll really hear the leaders of the Shia Islamic Republic
of Iran crowing.

But these interconnected insurrections should not be seen in a simple
ferment-in-the-Middle-East framework. The Yemeni uprising against President
Saleh (32 years in power) is democratic but also tribal, and it won't be
long before the opposition uses guns. Yemen is a heavily armed society,
tribes with flags, nationalist-rampant. And then there is Libya.

Gaddafi is so odd, his Green Book theories - dispatched by Benghazi
demonstrators last week when they pulled down a concrete version of this
particular volume - so preposterous, his rule so cruel (and he's been
running the place for 42 years) that he is an Ozymandias waiting to fall.
His flirtation with Berlusconi - worse still, his cloying love affair with
Tony Blair whose foreign secretary, Jack Straw, praised the Libyan lunatic's
"statesmanship" - was never going to save him. Bedecked with more medals
than General Eisenhower, desperate for a doctor to face-lift his sagging
jowls, this wretched man is threatening "terrible" punishment against his
own people for challenging his rule. Two things to remember about Libya:
like Yemen, it's a tribal land; and when it turned against its Italian
fascist overlords, it began a savage war of liberation whose brave leaders
faced the hangman's noose with unbelievable courage. Just because Gaddafi is
a nutter does not mean his people are fools.

So it's a sea-change in the Middle East's political, social, cultural world.
It will create many tragedies, raise many hopes and shed far too much blood.
Better perhaps to ignore all the analysts and the "think tanks" whose silly
"experts" dominate the satellite channels. If Czechs could have their
freedom, why not the Egyptians? If dictators can be overthrown in Europe -
first the fascists, then the Communists - why not in the great Arab Muslim
world? And - just for a moment - keep religion out of this.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Baroud: The Middle East is Changing

From the Gulf to the Ocean

The Middle East is Changing

Counterpunch: Weekend Edition, February 18 - 20, 2011

Low that the Egyptian people have finally wrestled their freedom from the
hands of a very stubborn regime, accolades to the revolution are pouring in
from all directions. Even those who initially sided with Hosni Mubarak's
regime, or favored a neutral position, have now changed their tune.

"Arabs celebrate from the Gulf to the Ocean," proclaimed a headline on Al
Jazeera TV. The phrase "from the Gulf to the Ocean" is not a haphazard
geographical reference, but very much a geopolitical one. Ever since former
Egyptian president Anwar Sadat defied the will of the Arab collective and
chose a self-serving (and according to popular Arab opinion, disgraceful)
exit for his country from what was until then the 'Arab-Israeli conflict',
the above phrase functioned only as an empty slogan. Saddat's signing of the
Camp David treaty in 1979 had effectively marginalized the most committed
Arab country from a conflict that was previously defined by Egypt's
involvement. It thus left Israel's weaker Arab foes as easy targets for
uneven wars, and in a perpetual state of defeat and humiliation.

Mubarak's importance to Israel and the US stemmed from the fact that he
guarded Israeli gains for the pitiful price of $1.8 billion a year. Most of
this went to fulfill military contracts, upgrade military hardware and
subsidize US military expertise aimed at 'modernizing' the Egyptian army.
Israel, of course, was given almost double that amount and was promised,
through a separate agreement with the US, a military edge against its foes,
Egypt included.

But Mubarak gained much more than hard cash. His greatest gains were related
to US foreign policy in the region. While the US violated the sovereignty of
various Arab countries, Mubarak's regime was left largely unscathed. Free
from any effective resistance at home, and any serious criticism from
abroad, members of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party used the lack of
accountability to accumulate unprecedented wealth, at the expense of 40
percent of Egypt's 84 million people who lived below the poverty line. The
ruling party had indeed become a club for millionaires. The barely existing
middle class shrunk even further, the working class lived with the dream of
finding employment elsewhere, and the underclass - millions of whom lived in
'random' neighborhoods, and often large graveyards - subsisted in a most
humiliating existence.

All this mattered little to Washington, whose policies have only verified
Lord Palmerston's assertion that "there are no permanent allies.only
permanent interests". Henry Kissinger eventually took Egypt out of the whole
Middle East equation, and others followed in his lead, ensuring that Egypt
could never act in a way that disturbed Israeli interests. Ironically, it
was also Washington that jumped on the opportunity to chase Mubarak - but
not his regime - out of power. Soon after Mubarak's newly appointed vice
president read the short statement of Mubarak's departure, Obama elatedly
read his own statement. When he announced that the Egyptian people would
settle for nothing less than 'genuine democracy', he sounded like one of the
guys in the Tahrir square in Cairo, not the leader of the very country that
had defended Mubarak's reign and defined the former president as a
'moderate' and a good friend. "No permanent allies," indeed.

It was also this very Obama - now using poetic language to describe Egypt's
popular revolution - who chose Egypt in June 2009 to deliver his
reconciliatory speech to Arabs and Muslims everywhere. Cairo was chosen
because Mubarak had been a most faithful friend to the US and Israel. He had
rallied the Arabs against Iraq in 1990. He had taken a stance against the
Lebanese resistance in 2006. And he had championed Israel's 'security' by
sealing off the Gaza border, resulting in the loss of thousands of
Palestinian lives. To justify keeping the border shut, Mubarak had cited the
Rafah Agreement of 2005, claiming that opening the border could harm
Palestinian sovereignty somehow. As it turned out, Egypt under Mubarak was
fully involved in suffocating Palestinian democracy, destroying any
resistance to Israel and ensuring the success of the Israeli siege.

According to Wikileaks, Omar Suleiman, until recently Egypt's Intelligence
Chief, had, in 2005, made a promise to Amos Gilad, head of the Israeli
Defense Ministry's Diplomatic Security Bureau: "There will be no elections
(in Palestine) in January. We will take care of it." When this promise could
not be kept, and Hamas was elected to power, Suleiman invited the Israeli
army to enter into Egyptian territories to secure the siege on Gaza. The CIA
was also allowed to torture 'terrorists-suspects' under the supervision of
Mubarak's goons, Suleiman in particular. A US official praised Suleiman's
cooperation and the fact that he was not 'squeamish' about torture. It is
important here to note that during nearly three weeks of Egyptian protests,
the US pushed for a smooth and peaceful transition of power - from Mubarak
to Suleiman.

The determination of the Egyptian people, however, forced all such plans to
be aborted. The schemers will continue to scheme, of course, but their
options are quickly declining. When Egyptians said they wanted to change the
'regime', they really meant it.

Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of the Egyptian revolution is that
it was indeed exclusively Egyptian. No American branding companies were
hired to manage the moment, no former Bill Clinton advisors were needed to
provide consultations to some self-serving opposition. Noone from Cairo
called on Washington, London, or even Tehran to come to their rescue. If any
such calls were made, they were made to the 'Arab people' and to the 'free
world' to stand in solidarity with ordinary Egyptians as they orchestrated
their return as the rightful owners of their own country and shapers of
their own destiny.

The Egyptian revolution has shown the world that democracy and freedom in
the Arab world needs no military funding, no political doctrines, no Great
Middle East Democracy Projects, and no foreign invasions or foreign-backed
military coups. It only needs ordinary people to unearth their own, innate
and extraordinary strength. The Egyptian revolution has finally restored the
power back to the people, a collective experience that many of us will
always remember, with pride, and some will always fear, for good reason.

Ramzy Baroud is editor of His work has been
published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The
Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto
Press, London). His newbook is, "My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's
Untold Story" (Pluto Press, London)

Reich: The Republican Strategy, 80,000 in Wisconsin Rally

'This Is What Democracy Looks Like' in Wisconsin, as Largest Crowd Yet --
80,000 -- Opposes Union Busting

by John Nichols
The Nation: February 20, 2010

MADISON -- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker finished a bad week with a
misstep that emphasized his inability to generate support for his attempt to
strip the state's public employees of collective bargaining rights.

First, the governor's radical proposal went to such extremes in its
anti-labor bias that it sparked a protest movement so large, so steady and
so determined in its demands that it is now commonly compared with the
protests that have rocked Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries.

Then, the man that badges worn by marchers describe as "The Mubarak of the
Middle West" really blew it. Saturday was supposed to be the day when the
governor pushed back against the movement that has challenged his radical
power grab. The governor's Tea Party allies attempted to grab the spotlight
with a rally at the state Capital. Unfortunately, the much-hyped event,
which national Tea Party groups had poured money and organizing energy into
generating, drew an anemic crowd of several thousand. Even by the optimistic
estimates of the Tea Partisans themselves, the pro-Walker turnout was
one-tenth the size of the crowd that came to oppose the governor's so-called
"budget repair bill."

The governor made things worse for himself by going on CNN and announcing
that he had received 19,000 emails from the "quiet majority" of
Wisconsinites since he made his proposal and claimed that most of them were

Dumb move. Really dumb move.

Within hours of making his claim, the streets of Madison were filled by what
veteran political organizers described as the largest demonstration ever
seen in the city. Former Mayor Paul Soglin, a key organizer of anti-Vietnam
War protests, said, "We had some big demonstrations in the sixties, but this
is bigger."

Organizers of a 2004 rally featuring Democratic presidential candidate John
Kerry and rocker Bruce Springsteen, where the crowd was estimated at 80,000,
pointed out that Saturday's protest against Walker's budget filled a
significantly larger space. And, they noted, thousands of addition opponents
of the governor's proposal packed the Capitol.

Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters
Association, which has been a high-profile participant in the
demonstrations, surveyed the crowd while recounting Walker's boast about the
19,000 emails.

"I think I have 19,000 people behind me," said Mitchell.

Pointing to one edge of the massive audience arrayed before him, he said:
"And 20,000 there."

He pointed to the other edge of the crowd: "And 20,000 there."

Finally, he pointed down State Street, the thoroughfare that stretches from
the Capitol to the University of Wisconsin campus, which was packed with
students who have backed the unions: "And 20,000 there."

Rallying with Mitchell was Wisconsin Education Association Council president
Mary Bell, who picked up on the "this-is-what-democracy-looks-like" theme
that has become so central to the marches, rallies and pickets that have
swept not just Madison but a state where even small towns have seen protests
against Walker's bill.

"The power of government in this state does not come from this Capitol," she
said of the building that was surrounded by teachers, educational
assistants, nurses, snow-plow drivers and state engineers, as well as their
tens of thousands of backers. "The power comes from the people."

And while Scott Walker may claim a "quiet majority" of 19,000 emails
received by his office, a noisy majority of more than 80,000 Wisconsinites
braved a winter day to tell the governor that the people have spoken:
with the unions.

© 2011 The Nation


The Republican Strategy

By Robert Reich,
Robert Reich's Blog: 19 February 11

The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class -
pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers
against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social
Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be
there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.

By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans
to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a
nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total
income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of
everyone else languish.

Republicans would rather no one notice their campaign to shrink the pie even
further with additional tax cuts for the rich - making the Bush tax cuts
permanent, further reducing the estate tax, and allowing the wealthy to
shift ever more of their income into capital gains taxed at 15 percent.

The strategy has three parts.

The Battle Over the Federal Budget

The first is being played out in the budget battle in Washington. As they
raise the alarm over deficit spending and simultaneously squeeze popular
middle-class programs, Republicans want the majority of the American public
to view it all as a giant zero-sum game among average Americans that some
will have to lose.

The President has already fallen into the trap by calling for budget cuts in
programs the poor and working class depend on - assistance with home
heating, community services, college loans, and the like.

In the coming showdown over Medicare and Social Security, House budget chair
Paul Ryan will push a voucher system for Medicare and a partly-privatized
plan for Social Security - both designed to attract younger middle-class

The Assault on Public Employees

The second part of the Republican strategy is being played out on the state
level where public employees are being blamed for state budget crises.
Unions didn't cause these budget crises - state revenues dropped because of
the Great Recession - but Republicans view them as opportunities to gut
public employee unions, starting with teachers.

Wisconsin's Republican governor Scott Walker and his GOP legislature are
seeking to end almost all union rights for teachers. Ohio's Republican
governor John Kasich is pushing a similar plan in Ohio through a
Republican-dominated legislature. New Jersey's Republican governor Chris
Christie is attempting the same, telling a conservative conference
Wednesday, "I'm attacking the leadership of the union because they're
greedy, and they're selfish and they're self-interested."

The demonizing of public employees is not only based on the lie that they've
caused these budget crises, but it's also premised on a second lie: that
public employees earn more than private-sector workers. They don't, when you
take account of their education. In fact over the last fifteen years the pay
of public-sector workers, including teachers, has dropped relative to
private-sector employees with the same level of education - even including
health and retirement benefits. Moreover, most public employees don't have
generous pensions. After a career with annual pay averaging less than
$45,000, the typical newly-retired public employee receives a pension of
$19,000 a year.

Bargaining rights for public employees haven't caused state deficits to
explode. Some states that deny their employees bargaining rights, such as
Nevada, North Carolina, and Arizona, are running big deficits of over 30
percent of spending. Many states that give employees bargaining rights -
Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Montana - have small deficits of less than 10

Republicans would rather go after teachers and other public employees than
have us look at the pay of Wall Street traders, private-equity managers, and
heads of hedge funds - many of whom wouldn't have their jobs today were it
not for the giant taxpayer-supported bailout, and most of whose lending and
investing practices were the proximate cause of the Great Depression to
begin with.

Last year, America's top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of
$1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is
taxed as capital gains - at 15 percent - due to a tax loophole that
Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.

If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary
income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of
300,000 teachers. Who is more valuable to our society - thirteen hedge-fund
managers or 300,000 teachers? Let's make the question even simpler. Who is
more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?

The Distortion of the Constitution

The third part of the Republican strategy is being played out in the Supreme
Court. It has politicized the Court more than at any time in recent memory.

Last year a majority of the justices determined that corporations have a
right under the First Amendment to provide unlimited amounts of money to
political candidates. Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission is
among the most patently political and legally grotesque decisions of our
highest court - ranking right up there with Bush vs. Gore and Dred Scott.

Among those who voted in the affirmative were Clarence Thomas and Antonin
Scalia. Both have become active strategists in the Republican party.

A month ago, for example, Antonin Scalia met in a closed-door session with
Michele Bachman's Tea Party caucus - something no justice concerned about
maintaining the appearance of impartiality would ever have done.

Both Thomas and Scalia have participated in political retreats organized and
hosted by multi-billionaire financier Charles Koch, a major contributor to
the Tea Party and other conservative organizations, and a crusader for
ending all limits on money in politics. (Not incidentally, Thomas's wife is
the founder of Liberty Central, a Tea Party organization that has been
receiving unlimited corporate contributions due to the Citizens United
decision. On his obligatory financial disclosure filings, Thomas has
repeatedly failed to list her sources of income over the last twenty years,
nor even to include his own four-day retreats courtesy of Charles Koch.)

Some time this year or next, the Supreme Court will be asked to consider
whether the nation's new healthcare law is constitutional. Watch your

The Strategy as a Whole

These three aspects of the Republican strategy - a federal budget battle to
shrink government, focused on programs the vast middle class depends on;
state efforts to undermine public employees, whom the middle class depends
on; and a Supreme Court dedicated to bending the Constitution to enlarge and
entrench the political power of the wealthy - fit perfectly together.

They pit average working Americans against one another, distract attention
from the almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the top,
and conceal Republican plans to further enlarge and entrench that wealth and

What is the Democratic strategy to counter this and reclaim America for the
rest of us?


Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California
at Berkeley. He has served in three national administrations, most recently
as secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton. He has written twelve
books, including "The Work of Nations," "Locked in the Cabinet,"
"Supercapitalism" and his latest book, "AFTERSHOCK: The Next Economy and
America's Future." His 'Marketplace' commentaries can be found on and iTunes.