Friday, February 25, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
You can also catch an interview with BuffaloBeast.com editor and prank-call extraordinaire Ian Murphy on Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC show.
By Ian Murphy
February 23, 2011 | Buffalo Beast
WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO WITNESS IS REAL. NO NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT. THERE ARE NO INNOCENT.
"He's just hard-lined—will not talk, will not communicate, will not return phone calls."
-Wisconsin state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D) on Gov. Walker (source)
Carpenter's quote made me wonder: who could get through to Gov. Walker? Well, what do we know about Walker and his proposed union-busting, no-bid budget? The obvious candidate was David Koch.
I first called at 11:30 am CST, and eventually got through to a young, male receptionist who, upon hearing the magic name Koch, immediately transferred me to Executive Assistant Governor Dorothy Moore.
"We've met before, Dorothy," I nudged. "I really need to talk to Scott—Governor Walker." She said that, yes, she thought she had met Koch, and that the name was "familiar." But she insisted that Walker was detained in a meeting and couldn't get away. She asked about the nature of my call. I balked, "I just needed to speak with the Governor. He knows what this is about," I said.
She told me to call back at noon, and she'd have a better idea of when he would be free.
I called at noon and was quickly transferred to Moore, who then transferred me to Walker's Chief of Staff Keith Gilkes. He was "expecting my call."
"David!" he said with an audible smile.
I politely said hello, not knowing how friendly Gilkes and Koch may be. He was eager to help. "I was really hoping to talk directly to Scott," I said. He said that could be arranged and that I should just leave my number. I explained to Gilkes, "My goddamn maid, Maria, put my phone in the washer. I'd have her deported, but she works for next to nothing." Gilkes found this amusing. "I'm calling from the VOID—with the VOID, or whatever it's called. You know, the Snype!"
"Gotcha," Gilkes said. "Let me check the schedule here…OK, there's an opening at 2 o'clock Central Standard Time. Just call this same number and we'll put you through."
Could it really be that easy? Yes. What follows is a rushed, abridged transcript of my—I mean, David Koch's conversation with Gov. Walker. Listen to the whole call here:
Walker: Hi; this is Scott Walker.
Koch: Scott! David Koch. How are you?
Walker: Hey, David! I'm good. And yourself?
Koch: I'm very well. I'm a little disheartened by the situation there, but, uh, what's the latest?
Walker: Well, we're actually hanging pretty tough. I mean—you know, amazingly there's a much smaller group of protesters—almost all of whom are in from other states today. The State Assembly is taking the bill up—getting it all the way to the last point it can be at where it's unamendable. But they're waiting to pass it until the Senate's—the Senate Democrats, excuse me, the assembly Democrats have about a hundred amendments they're going through. The state Senate still has the 14 members missing but what they're doing today is bringing up all sorts of other non-fiscal items, many of which are things members in the Democratic side care about. And each day we're going to ratchet it up a little bit…. The Senate majority leader had a great plan he told about this morning—he told the Senate Democrats about and he's going to announce it later today, and that is: The Senate organization committee is going to meet and pass a rule that says if you don't show up for two consecutive days on a session day—in the state Senate, the Senate chief clerk—it's a little procedural thing here, but—can actually have your payroll stopped from being automatically deducted—
Walker: —into your checking account and instead—you still get a check, but the check has to be personally picked up and he's instructing them—which we just loved—to lock them in their desk on the floor of the state Senate.
Koch: Now you're not talking to any of these Democrat bastards, are you?
Walker: Ah, I—there's one guy that's actually voted with me on a bunch of things I called on Saturday for about 45 minutes, mainly to tell him that while I appreciate his friendship and he's worked with us on other things, to tell him I wasn't going to budge.
Koch: Goddamn right!
Walker: …his name is Tim Cullen—
Koch: All right, I'll have to give that man a call.
Walker: Well, actually, in his case I wouldn't call him and I'll tell you why: he's pretty reasonable but he's not one of us…
Koch: Now who can we get to budge on this collective bargaining?
Walker: …I think the paycheck will have an impact…secondly, one of the things we're looking at next…we're still waiting on an opinion to see if the unions have been paying to put these guys up out of state. We think there's at minimum an ethics violation if not an outright felony.
Koch: Well, they're probably putting hobos in suits.
Koch: That's what we do. Sometimes.
Walker: I mean paying for the senators to be put up. I know they're paying for these guy—I mean, people can pay for protesters to come in and that's not an ethics code, but, I mean, literally if the unions are paying the 14 senators—their food, their lodging, anything like that…[*** Important regarding his later acceptance of a Koch offer to "show him a good time." ***]
[I was stunned. I am stunned. In the interest of expediting the release of this story, here are the juiciest bits:]
Walker: …I've got layoff notices ready…
Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. Gotta crush that union.
Walker: [bragging about how he doesn't budge]…I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders—talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn—but I'll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly…legally, we believe, once they've gone into session, they don't physically have to be there. If they're actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they'd have quorum…so we're double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that's the only reason why. We'd only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of them…
Koch: Bring a baseball bat. That's what I'd do.
Walker: I have one in my office; you'd be happy with that. I have a slugger with my name on it.
Walker: So this is ground zero, there's no doubt about it. [Talks about a "great" NYT piece of "objective journalism." Talks about how most private blue-collar workers have turned against public, unionized workers.]…So I went through and called a handful, a dozen or so lawmakers I worry about each day and said, "Everyone, we should get that story printed out and send it to anyone giving you grief."
Koch: Goddamn right! We, uh, we sent, uh, Andrew Breitbart down there.
Walker: Good stuff.
Koch: He's our man, you know.
Walker: [blah about his press conferences, attacking Obama, and all the great press he's getting.] Brian [Sadoval], the new Governor of Nevada, called me the last night he said—he was out in the Lincoln Day Circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me, he said, "Scott, don't come to Nevada because I'd be afraid you beat me running for governor." That's all they want to talk about is what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin. I talk to Kasich every day—John's gotta stand firm in Ohio. I think we could do the same thing with Vic Scott in Florida. I think, uh, Snyder—if he got a little more support—probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list there's a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.
Koch: You're the first domino.
Walker: Yep. This is our moment.
Koch: Now what else could we do for you down there?
Walker: Well the biggest thing would be—and your guy on the ground [Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips] is probably seeing this [stuff about all the people protesting, and some of them flip him off].
[Abrupt end of first recording, and start of second.]
Walker: [Bullshit about doing the right thing and getting flipped off by "union bulls," and the decreasing number of protesters. Or some such.]
Koch: We'll back you any way we can. What we were thinking about the crowd was, uh, was planting some troublemakers.
Walker: You know, well, the only problem with that —because we thought about that. The problem—the, my only gut reaction to that is right now the lawmakers I've talked to have just completely had it with them, the public is not really fond of this…[explains that planting troublemakers may not work.] My only fear would be if there's a ruckus caused is that maybe the governor has to settle to solve all these problems…[something about '60s liberals.]…Let 'em protest all they want…Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.
Koch: Well, not the liberal bastards on MSNBC.
Walker: Oh yeah, but who watches that? I went on "Morning Joe" this morning. I like it because I just like being combative with those guys, but, uh. You know they're off the deep end.
Koch: Joe—Joe's a good guy. He's one of us.
Walker: Yeah, he's all right. He was fair to me…[bashes NY Senator Chuck Schumer, who was also on the program.]
Koch: Beautiful; beautiful. You gotta love that Mika Brzezinski; she's a real piece of ass.
Walker: Oh yeah. [story about when he hung out with human pig Jim Sensenbrenner at some D.C. function and he was sitting next to Brzezinski and her father, and their guest was David Axelrod. He introduced himself.]
Koch: That son of a bitch!
Walker: Yeah no kidding huh?…
Koch: Well, good; good. Good catching up with ya'.
Walker: This is an exciting time [blah, blah, blah, Super Bowl reference followed by an odd story of pulling out a picture of Ronald Reagan and explaining to his staff the plan to crush the union the same way Reagan fired the air traffic controllers]…that was the first crack in the Berlin Wall because the Communists then knew Reagan wasn't a pushover. [Blah, blah, blah. He's exactly like Reagan. Won't shut up about how awesome he is.]
Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I'll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.
Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. [*** Ethical violation much? ***] Thanks for all the support…it's all about getting our freedoms back…
Koch: Absolutely. And, you know, we have a little bit of a vested interest as well. [Laughs]
Walker: [Blah] Thanks a million!
So there you have it, kids. Government isn't for the people. It's for the people with money. You want to be heard? Too fucking bad. You want to collectively bargain? You can't afford a seat at the table. You may have built that table. But it's not yours. It belongs to the Kochs and the oligarch class. It's guarded by Republicans like Walker, and his Democratic counterparts across that ever-narrowing aisle that is corporate rule, so that the ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots can swallow all the power in the world. These are known knowns, and now we just know them a little more.
But money isn't always power. The protesters in Cairo and Madison have taught us this—reminded us of this. They can't buy a muzzle big enough to silence us all. Share the news. Do not retreat; ReTweet.
The revolution keeps spinning. Try not to get too dizzy.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
February 22, 2011 | Huffington Post
By Nick Wing
February 21, 2011 | Huffington Post
As the Anchorage Daily News points out, the California-based production company Jean Worldwide Inc., had filed for the tax credit, and will now be allowed to sell it back to companies who have larger liabilities in the state of Alaska.
"Palin, clearly thinking of her future strategic use of the generous subsidy in advance of her planned 2012 presidential run, created the law as one that would be good until 2013. It is funded with $100 million, though state legislators in Alaska are mulling over expanding the program an additional 10 years and $200 million if the program is successful. It is unclear how they plan to measure the program's success, other than by how much Palin takes advantage of it." [Ha! - J]
While many supporters of the measure have claimed that it produces tangible economic benefits, the Daily News-Miner reports that the actual analysis of its impacts has been minimal and inconclusive, even as Alaska considers legislation that would "allow the state to maintain secrecy on production information."
February 15, 2011 | International Business Times
February 22, 2011 | Townhall.com
Saturday, February 19, 2011
Evil Koch brothers fund Wis. GOP as well as Tea Parties, CATO, Americans for Prosperity, Heritage... the list goes on and on
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
February 15, 2011 | NPR
February 15, 2011 | Huffington Post
February 16, 2011 | NPR
February 16, 2011 | NPR
Monday, February 14, 2011
February 11, 2011 | New York Times
Indeed, an irrefutable study on Ohio's labor force by Rutgers University professor Jeffrey H. Keefe shows that public-service workers are actually underpaid 3.3 percent compared to private-sector workers of similar education and hours worked.
Moreover, according to the 35,000-member Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, state workers have taken five pay cuts in the last nine years and saved Ohio $250 million in its current contract alone.
On February 9 at the first reading of SB5, more than 1,000 firefighters, police, corrections officers and other public workers stormed Ohio's Statehouse in opposition. Why so upset? Because the bill, proposed by GOP State Senator Shannon Jones – which Gov. Kasich said "of course" he supports – would eliminate: (1) collective bargaining for all state workers, including those at universities; (2) binding arbitration for local police officers and firefighters, who also could not strike; (3) health insurance as part of labor negotiations, and require government workers to pay at least 20 percent of the cost; and (4) automatic pay increases and mandatory sick days for teachers from state law.
The Ohio Tea Parties and the rest of the GOP state apparatus naturally support the bill, as they believe that all union members, especially public union members, are lazy and overpaid compared to lean, mean private-sector, non-union workers. And of course state employees and union members tend to vote Democrat precisely because they know Republicans have it in for them -- which makes the GOP hate them even more. Ohio's Tea Partiers are counter-mobilizing as this goes to post.
Yes, state workers' compensation makes up about 1/3 of most states' operating budgets, but in fact recent state budget shortfalls are due to the Great Recession with resulting lower tax receipts and higher demand for state services like Medicaid and unemployment benefits -- not any sudden increas in spending on state salaries. And the more ominous problem of unfunded state retirement benefits -- which Newt Gingrich and other Republicans lately argue calls for national legislation to allow states to declare bankruptcy and erase their liabilities to state workers, bond markets be damned -- has been building up for years. The Wall Street crash just made it worse. State workers are not actuaries, accountants, or elected legislators charged with a fiduciary duty to prudently set aside and invest these funds. Therefore, it is completely unfair to attribute the states' fiscal irresponsibility to everyday state workers. (Source: http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-states-in-crisis)
Republicans will cut public-sector jobs and wages and cripple public unions in the bad times in the name of balanced budgets -- but does anybody seriously think they're going to undo all that when the economy recovers? No, these "emergency" measures will be permanent. Conservative idealogues smell blood and they're going in for the kill. They are patient but ruthless hunters; now is their time to pounce.
This death struggle is being waged in other budget-strapped states, which show a similar picture as described above.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Concluded the War Nerd: "I'm telling you: once you see how guerrilla warfare works, you have two reactions: you're downright awed by how simple and brilliant it is…and it makes you sick."
'Bama, get 'em the hell outta there!
The War Nerd On Af-Pak: Losing the Long War, One Man at A Time
By Gary Brecher
February 10, 2011 The Exiled
I'll give you a hint: it starts with an 'Al-' and ends with a '-zeera.'
Al Jazeera Becomes Chief Media Target Of Egyptian Government
By Ryan Lucas
February 10, 2011 Huffington Post
Al Jazeera English Blacked Out Across Most Of U.S. [UPDATED]
By Ryan Grim
February 4, 2011 Huffington Post
Thursday, February 10, 2011
By mybudget360 February 10, 2011The American banking system has transformed the economy into one enormous speculative casino with bells and whistles and free cocktails for those that participate. The problem of course is that most don't have excess income to drop into the financial slot machines. Now banking in better times should be seen as the lubricant of the economy. It allocates capital to areas in the economy where actual real growth was occurring. Today the financial sector operates as an incestuous industry funding growth in its own industry. A snake swallowing its own tail but when the inevitable end comes, it is society that is forced to pick up the tab. Ultimately profits have to come from something real and not just skimming imaginary profits from interest. This banking welfare is largely a reason why our economy is faltering on the vine and Wall Street banking profits are soaring. It is no coincidence that as debt pilfered the economy that financial profits soared. We are living in era that can be dubbed the financialization of the American economy.
Debt leverage and banking profits go hand in hand
Source: Peak Watch
The above chart really highlights the destruction of our economy in a rising debt era. In a low debt era financial profits were held in check from the 1950s to the early 1980s. Financial profits as a share of GDP hovered around one percent. That all changed in the 1980s and finally reached an apex in our Great Recession. The financial sector grew its profit margins at a time where more Americans were borrowing and going into debt to finance a lifestyle that was setup for a solid middle class. Yet the middle class was not there and many used debt to play a game of pretend for a few decades. All this was playing out during a time when the top 1 percent that were heavily vested in the banking sector were usurping wealth from the real economy.
It is no coincidence that during this time our workforce has shifted from manufacturing to finance:
We have done a complete 180 turn here. In 1947 the manufacturing sector contributed 25.6 percent to our entire GDP base while the FIRE sector made up 10.5 percent. In 2009 FIRE makes up 21.5 percent while manufacturing is down to 11.2 percent. Given the massive fraud, corruption, scandalous rent seeking behavior, and graft why should we be happy with all the bailouts given to this sector? The financial industry has largely become one giant casino and the stock market no longer reflects the health of the US economy. Most banking profits are now being made overseas as this nation's bailouts are going to global banks that are now fueling the growth and speculation abroad. This is what Americans get in exchange for trillions of dollars of bailouts to what are largely legalized loan sharks.
To further highlight how the financialization of America has harmed the economy we need only look at the stagnant wages of American families. 2000 to 2010 was the first decade where the median household income fell since the Great Depression era of the 1930s. This all happened during a time of unrestrained financial speculation and growth. What happened in the 1920s? Rampant financial fraud by banks so it is no surprise that we ended up in the same place. The only difference today is that after the crash nothing has changed. We still have the same financial sector in full operation. Half of American workers make $25,000 a year or less. This is such an important point because it demonstrates how the quality of life for many has gone negative in the last ten years. On this path the financialization of the country will continue to throw more off the middle class pedestal (or at least what remains of it).
To further demonstrate the casino like nature of our stock markets just look at the actual trading volume for various markets over the last 60 years:
Source: BIS, Wikipedia
This is a fascinating look at how much stock markets have become like casinos.
"In 1956 for example total dollar volume traded on various markets amounted to $534 billion. At the same time US GDP was $425 billion. Most of the trading occurred in boring and safe government securities. Fast forward to 2000. $508 trillion is traded and US GDP is only $9.8 trillion!"
What is even more insane is the amount being traded on the foreign exchange markets. $343 trillion was traded when global GDP is roughly $54 trillion. How can this be? The global stock markets are largely vacuums sucking the life and productivity from working class people all over the place. Investment banks make their profits as rent seekers and leech onto productive sectors of the economy that actually make things.
The financialization of our country has led us to a situation where bailouts are handed out to investment banks without any oversight because so much wealth is aggregated in these few hands. These industries have bought out our government and have laws and regulations that are stripped down to the point where all the above is allowed. Maximum leverage and if things go bust the taxpayer will be forced by their bought out politicians to bailout these sectors. Since the debt needs to be repaid, many in their local communities are witnessing rising taxes and cuts to local services. This happens under the guise that people need to tighten up their belt. Of course this happens at a time when global trading markets are leveraging their volume tenfold the amount of global GDP. Don't be fooled, the real culprits here are the banks and the financial sector. There is graft in many areas of the economy but this is the nucleus of the mess. If things keep going forward in this financialization phase there will be no middle class in the US in 10 to 20 years.
"Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo, said hundreds, and possibly thousands, of ordinary people had 'disappeared' into military custody across the country. Many were still missing.
"'Their range is very wide, from people who were at the protests or detained for breaking curfew to those who talked back at an army officer or were handed over to the army for looking suspicious or for looking like foreigners even if they were not.'"
But oh no, the last thing we want to do is offend the precious feelings the oppressor, autocrat, and torturer Mubarak. Gimme a break.
Report: Saudis Warned Obama Not to 'Humiliate' Mubarak
February 10, 2011 FOXNews
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
"...the Iranian regime led by Khomeini murderously repressed and sold down the river many in the opposition who supported the uprising in the 1970s. 'The specter of that is very frightening to many Egyptians. Egyptians are very nervous about repeating what happened in Iran.'"
"'No representative system can take root in Egypt without the Brotherhood's participation. But, after spending the last half century battling Islamist political forces, the military leadership will have trouble overcoming its deep disdain for the Brotherhood.'"
"Iran has a lot of oil, and it can afford to be 'more reactionary and revolutionary.' Egypt is dependent on tourism, shipping through the Suez Canal and trade with neighboring countries. 'These types of things bind it to more moderate policies.'"
Could unrest in Egypt produce an Iranian-style regime?
By Joe Sterling
February 4, 2011 CNN
"The older generations have eaten the future of the younger ones," former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato said.
You Boomers who are in good health and making good money want to keep working until you're 80, and then collect every dime you're entitled to under Social Security.
Whereas we in Gens X and Y will have to work till we're 80 (or dead) just to survive.
But here's a solution, which I have long advocated, as opposed to the false solutions of more same-old technical schools or even more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates in the U.S.: apprenticeships, which by definition match skills training to the needs of markets:
"These days there's a newfound appreciation for an ancient work arrangement, the apprenticeship, because it greases the transition from learning to doing. Germany and Austria experienced milder youth unemployment in the global downturn partly because of blue-collar apprenticeship programs."
If you Boomers would teach some youngins what you know, you could do the country some good, instead of hoarding all the jobs while demanding Social Security and Medicare payouts!
The Youth Unemployment Bomb
From Cairo to London to Brooklyn, too many young people are jobless and disaffected. Inside the global effort to put the next generation to work
By Peter Coy
February 2, 2011 Bloomberg Businessweek
Obama should take note. These people will always hate, fear, and distrust him. He can never win them over. He should veer hard Left to re-energize his base, and enough of the independents will follow along.
Fox News focus group in Iowa: President Obama is Muslim
By Tyler Kingkade
February 8, 2011 | Washington Independent
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
"If the advancement of our democratic ideals imperils what the U.S. government says are our vital interests, is there not something fundamentally wrong with our Middle East policy?"
To which I answer: Yes, there is something fundamentally wrong, because we've never tried advancing democratic ideals in the Mideast, except at the point of a gun in Iraq, and the worst place in the world to start a democracy from scratch, Afghanistan.
It's quite self-serving to defend the brutal status quo in the Mideast, which we have vigorously supported at the expense of would-be free peoples there, by using the potential results of our discontinued support of oppression as a bogeyman. If 9/11 taught us anything, it's that angry people -- not angry governments -- pose the most immediate threat to our security. We've fooled ourselves into accepting the illusion of safety and stability provided by smiling "pro-American" autocrats. Meanwhile, underneath, those autocrats' seething populations see exactly what is going on and are boiling over in anger.
It's time to choose sides -- the people's, not the autocrats'. Dubya's desired wave of democratization across the Mideast may be happening right now, in spite of, not because of, our overseas adventures. Will we ride that wave, or be crushed by it? The status quo may soon be washed away, no matter what we do.
Ideology vs. the National Interest
By Patrick J. Buchanan
February 8, 2011 Human Events