Monday, February 28, 2011

Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for March 3, 5 and 6

The Progressive Radio News Hour Guests for March 3, 5 and 6, 2011

Thursday, March 3 at 10AM US Central time: Ray McGovern

McGovern is a retired CIA officer (1963 - 1990), turned activist and political critic, addressing major world and national issues in lectures and frequent articles.

His latest views on world and national issues will be discussed

Saturday, March 5 at noon US Central time: Jennifer Loewenstein

Loewenstein teaches at the University of Wisconsin and is Associate Director of its Middle East Studies Program. She's also a board member of the Israeli Coalition against House Demolitions-USA branch, founder of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and a freelance journalist.

Middle East, Wisconsin, and other issues will be discussed.

Sunday, March 6 at noon US Central time: Mickey Huff

Huff is Professor of History at Diablo Valley College and new Director of Project Censored (PC) and the Media Freedom Foundation. Both support media democracy, First Amendment freedoms, and investigative research to communicate real news and information to a global audience.

Major world and national issues will be discussed.

Spreading Activism for Change

Spreading Activism for Change - by Stephen Lendman

Egyptians want it. So do Palestinians, Arabs throughout the region, protesting East and West Europeans, others across the world, and growing numbers in America, especially in Wisconsin - ground zero to save organized labor.

At issue is freedom v. tyranny, what Aaron Russo's 2006 film called "Freedom to Fascism," identifying America's money system as inimical to liberty and justice for all. Along with American-style corporatism, it lets banking giants control money, credit and debt for private self-enrichment, colluding with government for laws favoring them, as well as others destroying democratic principles, fast eroding and disappearing throughout the country.

It produces:

-- pervasive public and private corruption;

-- concentrated wealth;

-- government serving America's aristocracy, not popular interests;

-- alliances with global despots, replaced when they forget who's boss;

-- America's war machine and imperial arrogance;

-- subjugation, not freedom;

-- mass impoverishment and human misery;

-- a war on dissent; and

-- another preventing constructive change, forcefully when other ways fail.

It makes America and similar societies unfit to live in, heading them for tyranny and ruin. It also fuels popular anger, bubbling eventually to the surface, growing and now spreading across the Middle East and parts of America.

On Saturday February 26, all 50 states held pro-labor "Save the American Dream" rallies, promoted by MoveOn.org:

"in every major city to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin" and workers in their own states under attack. Wisconsin is ground zero. The cancer is national, pitting an alliance of bought-and-paid-for governments, corporate bosses, and corrupted union heads against organized labor, democratic values, and basic freedoms, including a living wage, essential benefits, decent living standards, and a seat at the table representing themselves.

On February 26, AP writers Patrick Condon and Todd Richmond headlined, "Protesters across US decry Wis. anti-union efforts," saying:

"Rallies were held across the country Saturday to support thousands of protesters holding steady at the Wisconsin Capitol in their fight against Republican-backed legislation aimed at weakening unions."

In fact, Walker's bill wants them and democracy destroyed, so other state governors and Washington can do the same thing. It's been happening incrementally for decades.

"Union supporters organized rallies from New York to Los Angeles....(Thousands) gathered (in) Columbus, Ohio....(Others were held across America, including) "Topeka, Kan; Harrisburg, Pa; and Olympia, Wash. (In) Los Angeles, public sector workers and others held signs (saying) 'We are all Wisconsin.' Some wore foam 'cheeseheads' in support."

In St. Paul, MN, union leader Eliot Seide addressed protesters, saying, "The right to collectively bargain is a American right. You can't have American democracy if you don't have a strong trade union movement."

Others in Madison and across the country expressed anger, saying they won't stand for what Walker wants. Maintaining that spirit is key to stopping him.

On February 26, New York Times writers Richard Oppel and Timothy Williams headlined, "Rallies for Labor, in Wisconsin and Beyond," saying:

In Wisconsin, tens of thousands rallied for worker rights, chanting, "This will not stand!" Over 100,000 turned out in Madison, including celebrities like Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. The Times estimated the crowd at "70,000." It was more than half again that size. Others rallied in support across America, "a call (drawing) thousands of demonstrators to state capitals and other cities from Albany to the West Coast."

Al Alt, a teacher for 40 years, said, "We've had bargaining for 50 years (actually 75), and (Walker) wants to end it in a week." For two weeks, thousands protested peacefully, hundreds camping out every night in hallways, stairwells, and public areas of the Capitol.

Battle lines are now drawn after state officials said they'd be evicted Sunday afternoon at 4PM. Claiming health and safety issues, it's a ruse to weaken resistance and push for passage of Walker's anti-labor bill. Union officials and protesters object, saying conflict may result.

Wisconsin's Professional Police Association (WPPA) head Jim Palmer called on police to join the sleep-in, saying:

"As has been reported in the media, the protesters are cleaning up after themselves and have not caused any problems. The fact of the matter is that Wisconsin's law enforcement community opposes Governor Walker's effort to eliminate most union activity in this state, and we implore him to not do anything to increase the risk to officers and the public....Law enforcement officers know the difference between right and wrong, and (Walker's) attempt to eliminate the collective voice of Wisconsin's devoted public employees is wrong. That is why we have stood with our fellow employees each day and why we will be sleeping among them" overnight.

On February 27, Palmer said authorities were backing away from their eviction plan, saying, "Now it sounds like they are going to let people stay." Protesters will only be asked for "voluntary compliance." Some said if evictions happen, they'll circle the Capitol holding hands.

Prior to Palmer's Sunday announcement, BailOutPeople.org's web site headlined, "The Whole World is Watching! The Capitol Belongs to the People!" They build it. They paid for it. They deserve support from everyone. Maintaining pressure is essential, inside and outside the building, across the state and country. It's not just a Wisconsin issue. It's a national and worldwide one - freedom or fascism, global Walkers v. working people everywhere, struggling for justice against dark forces wanting greater empowerment and enrichment at their expense.

On February 24, the Social Justice & Labor Center headlined, "Why Wisconsin matters in New York, and throughout organized labor," saying:

"Unionists from across the nation have come out in force to support our colleagues in Wisconsin, as well as those in Idaho, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee. Other states are facing unprecedented threats as well. And New York state is not exempt."

"Make no mistake about it," worker rights are on the line everywhere. It's resist or die. "What is happening right now in Wisconsin is historic." Standing firm there is crucial. Workers didn't cause fiscal problems. Bad governance, Wall Street crooks, corporate greed, predatory capitalism, and corrupted union bosses are responsible. They tanked the economy. Make them fix it, not workers, suffering grievously as a result.

Moreover, an Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study showed Wisconsin public workers make on average 4.8% less in total compensation than private sector ones. In addition, teachers are on the front lines educating future generations, and police, firefighters, nurses, sanitation workers, and many others provide essential services without which societies can't function.

They deserve support from everyone for a living wage, essential benefits, a decent standard of living, and right to bargain collectively for self-betterment. It's them against America's Walkers, struggling for rights too important to lose. Everyone's in this fight together against dark forces heading America for a future no one wants, except elitists and their political allies benefitting from other people's pain. Now's the time to stop them. Below are 10 more reasons.

A Final Comment

On February 26, the web site Think Progress.org headlined, "REPORT: Top 10 Disastrous Policies From The Wisconsin GOP You Haven't Heard About." Access it through the following link:

http://thinkprogress.org/2011/02/26/report-top-10-disastrous-policies-from-the-wisconsin-gop-you-havent-heard-about/

In Walker's agenda and bill, much more is at stake than stripping workers of collective bargaining rights and making them pay more for healthcare and pensions. A previous article partly explained, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/02/hidden-provisions-in-wisconsin-bill.html

Included is more, repeating some of what the bottom link covers:

(1) "Eliminating Medicaid:" Healthcare czar Dennis Smith (Wisconsin's Health and Human Services Secretary) may "override state Medicaid laws as (he) sees fit and institute sweeping changes," including big cuts, "limiting eligibility," perhaps ending state responsibility altogether at a future time.

(2) "Power Plant Privatization and Environmental Neglect:" Use the above lower link for full coverage.

(3) "Dangerous Drinking Water:" New bills introduced would end "requiring municipal governments to disinfect their water."

(4) "Destroying Wetlands:" Walker's bill "exempt(s) a parcel of wetland owned by a Republican donor from water quality standards," and affects the entire county where it's located. Perhaps later the entire state.

(5) "Fiscal Irresponsibility:" Another Walker bill requires a two-thirds supermajority to raise taxes. "Republican lawmakers are now reportedly considering a constitutional amendment that would make the rule permanent." At issue, is imposing a "fiscal strait-jacket" on Wisconsin residents.

(6) "Disenfranchising Voters:" Another proposed bill "require(s) voters to present a photo ID from the (Department of Motor Vehicles) at the polls," causing added hardships for elderly, disabled and rural residents as well as students and persons without cars.

(7) "Cutting Jobs, Losing the Future:" Walker killed a fall 2010 "$810 billion federally funded high-speed rail project," preventing potentially 130,000 new jobs.

(8) "Stifling Innovation:" Walker introduced a bill to ban wind-powered energy, making Wisconsin more dependent on coal. A public outcry killed it.

(9) "Naked Power Grab:" Along party lines, Wisconsin's "legislature ceded 'extraordinary control' of the state's rule-making oversight process to the governor," giving him near-dictatorial power.

(10) "Politicizing State Agencies:" Walker's budget repair bill "convert(s 37) state employees from civil servants to political appointees," seizing even more power.

Fascism landed in Wisconsin under Walker and his cronies, aiming to turn the whole state into Guatemala in the worst sense of its meaning. More than ever, exposing and stopping him is crucial. It's no exaggeration saying, as Wisconsin goes, perhaps also America, a possibility too grim to allow.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

America's Total Surveillance Society

America's Total Surveillance Society - by Stephen Lendman

In 2003, an ACLU report warned that "Big Brother" no longer is fiction, America having advanced to where total surveillance is now possible. Barry Steinhardt, Director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Program said:

"Given the capabilities of today's technology, the only thing protecting us from a full-fledged surveillance society are the legal and political institutions we have inherited as Americans. Unfortunately, the September 11 attacks have led some to embrace the fallacy that weakening the Constitution will strengthen America."

As a result, civil liberties fast eroded. In 2007, another ACLU report warned about America being six minutes to midnight "as a surveillance society draws near...." Powerful new technologies potentially make total monitoring possible under a president, a compliant Congress and courts that believe national security takes precedence over constitutional freedoms.

As a result, "we confront the possibility of a dark future where our every move," transaction, and communication is "recorded, compiled, and stored away" for ready access for whatever authorities may want.

One of several earlier articles on institutionalized spying can be accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2008/01/institutionalized-spying-on-americans.html

It reviewed undiscussed police state tools used without congressional authorization, oversight, or legal standing - state-of-the-art technology, including satellite imagery, to spy on unsuspecting Americans.

In his article titled, "Creating the Domestic Surveillance State," Alfred McCoy explained that Obama embraced the same executive powers as Bush, including NSA surveillance, CIA renditions, drone assassinations, indefinite military detentions, and more - virtual lawlessness across the board. As a result, constitutional Law Professor Jack Balkin believes bipartisan affirmation of unchecked executive powers could "reverberate for generations," subverting constitutional freedoms.

As concerned, McCoy said Americans are largely unaware of the "war on terror" toll on their rights. "Think of our counterinsurgency wars abroad as so many living laboratories for the undermining of a democratic society at home, a process historians (say) has been going on for a long, long time."

In his book titled, "Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines and the Rise of the Surveillance State," McCoy chronicled over a century of US imperialism from the 1899 - 1902 Philippines conquest to the present.

As a result, America developed a coercive policing, intelligence, and surveillance apparatus to ensure absolute imperial domination, using covert infiltration and violence to curb all remnants of resistance.

Repressive tactics now include a state-of-the-art coercive national security/surveillance/counterintelligence apparatus. Established in the Philippines, it was used:

-- during the 1920s Red Scare;

-- for mass WW II incarceration of Japanese Americans;

-- during post-war McCarthy witch-hunts and secret blacklisting of suspected communists; and

-- for many decades against human rights, labor, anti-war and civil liberties activists.

Other techniques include:

-- psychological warfare;

-- targeted or sweeping assassinations;

-- death squads killing thousands from Korea to Southeast Asia, Central America, Iraq, Afghanistan, and dozens of other countries covertly and overtly on the ground and overhead by drones and attack aircraft;

-- FBI subversion from red-baiting to COINTELPRO to later tactics to disrupt, sabotage and neutralize dissent by surveillance, political repression, infiltration, disinformation, assassinations, and denigration of targeted individuals or groups; and

-- sophisticated forms of intelligence, subversion and violence throughout the Cold War and thereafter, especially post-9/11 in the war on terror.

McCoy's book exposed imperial America's dark side, a shadowy public/private world of repressive policing, sophisticated surveillance, active informers, counterintelligence, secret agents, and state terror, undermining human rights, civil liberties, and democratic freedoms at home and abroad. It proved Mark Twain right saying you can't have an overseas empire and democracy at home.

From 1898, America developed an invasive internal security blueprint, more sophisticated than ever today. Today's global war on terror developed a "technological template, (including) omnipresent cameras, deep data-mining, nono-second biometric identification," global drone patrols, killer drones, satellite surveillance, and other forms of sophisticated lawless spying, intelligence, subversion, disruption, and destruction of constitutional freedoms.

McCoy said America's war on terror involves a "massive expansion of (FBI, NSA, Pentagon, and CIA) data-mining systems, (amassing billions of) private documents (on) US citizens" kept in classified data banks.

"Abroad, after years of failing counterinsurgency efforts in the Middle East, the Pentagon began applying biometrics - the science of identification via facial shape, fingerprints, and retinal or iris patterns - to the pacification of Iraqi cities, as well as....electronic intercepts for instant intelligence and split-second" satellite imagery use to aid drone assassinations from Africa to South Asia to perhaps America after a future homeland attack.

Today, the combination of biometric identification, global surveillance, and digital warfare makes counterinsurgency more sophisticated than ever. With everyone in a database, authorities can get instantaneous feedback from iris, retinal, or other data to identify, target, arrest or kill.

In Iraq under General Stanley McChrystal, "every tool available....from signal intercepts to human intelligence (was employed for) lightening quick strikes." The same technology is used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, dozens of other countries, and perhaps soon, if not already, in communities across America.

McCoy explained:

"While those running US combat operations overseas were experimenting with intercepts, satellites, drones, and biometrics, inside Washington....FBI and NSA (operatives) began expanding domestic surveillance through thoroughly conventional data sweeps, legal and extra-legal, and - with White House help - several abortive attempts to revive a tradition that dates back to World War I of citizens spying on suspected subversives."

In 2002, Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System) was launched to have "millions of American truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees and others" snitch on other Americans.

At the same time, the Pentagon developed a Total Information Awareness program with "detailed electronic dossiers" on millions of unsuspecting Americans. Public outrage got Congress to ban it, but the NSA, CIA and FBI continued it, monitoring Americans electronically, including private email and phone communications as well as access to financial, medical and other personal information.

In 2004, the FBI established an Investigative Data Warehouse "centralized (counterterrorism) repository," and in two years amassed 659 million individual records, now perhaps double that amount. It includes social security data, drivers' licenses, financial records, and virtually any information considered important to monitor - potentially making everyone's private life an open book to know about and abuse, including by warrantless wiretaps and other lawless methods.

Since taking office, Obama advanced the Bush agenda, endangering Americans more than ever under surveillance. For example, the FBI's "Terrorist Watchlist" adds 1,600 names daily to hundreds of thousands already included. A new Lackland Air Base cyber-command is charged with targeting enemy computers and repelling hostile cyber-attacks against US networks. Official denials notwithstanding, no one escapes surveillance.

The combined intelligence/Homeland Security/US Northern Command (NORTHCOM)/local authorities apparatus constitutes a formidable force against civil unrest, mass protests, designated terrorists, dissidents, and other perceived homeland threats - their combined might and sophisticated technology charged with containing them. Already, constitutional freedoms have been seriously compromised on their way toward total abolition.

Moreover, "presidential power has grown relentlessly" after Bush claimed "unitary Executive" authority, what Chalmers Johnson called a "ball-faced assertion of presidential supremacy dressed up in legal mumbo jumbo," but it persists under Obama to rule by Executive Orders and other unilateral directives, unchecked by congressional approval.

McCoy said it "open(ed) the way to unchecked electronic (satellite, drone, biometric, and other type) surveillance, the endless detention of (uncharged) terror suspects (including US citizens), and a variety of inhumane forms of interrogation" after Bush made torture official US policy. It continues seamlessly, though quietly, under Obama more than ever hardening America's police state apparatus.

Big Brother now watches everyone, including with growing numbers of digital cameras monitoring streets, commercial areas, airports, highways, public and private transportation, government and office buildings, and shopping malls - virtually everywhere people congregate, work, reside, recreate, or inhabit for any reason. Anti-terrorist SWAT teams are ready to react against any suspected provocation or threat.

As a result, American democracy fundamentally changed. Always more illusion than reality, total surveillance reveals a harshness too ugly to hide, especially when sophisticated technologies target anyone for any reason, what McCoy calls "the stuff of dystopian science fiction."

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Middle East Protests Continue for Unmet Demands

Middle East Protests Continue for Unmet Demands - by Stephen Lendman

So far, weeks of regional protests achieved nothing. Despite ousting Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Ben Ali, their regimes remain in place, offering nothing but unfulfilled promises.

On February 26, Egyptians again protested in Tahrir Square. This time, however, military forces confronted them, Reuters headlining, "Egypt military angers protesters with show of force," saying:

"Soldiers used force on Saturday to break up a protest demanding more political reform in Egypt, demonstrators said, in the toughest move yet against opposition activists who accused the country's military rulers of 'betraying the people.' "

New York Times writer Liam Stack headlined, "Egyptian Military Forces End to New Protest," saying:

"Tens of thousands of protesters returned Friday to Tahrir Square....to keep up the pressure on Egypt's military-led transitional government."

Violence followed, including beatings, use of tasers, and live firing in the air, threatening perhaps harsher action if protests continue. Al Jazeera said:

"Protesters left the main (square) but many had gathered in surrounding streets....Witnesses said they saw several protesters fall to the ground, but it was not clear if they were wounded or how seriously."

Participant Ashraf Omar said:

"I am one of the thousands of people who stood their ground after the army started dispersing the protesters, shooting live bullets into the air to scare them."

He said soldiers wore black masks to avoid being identified. Military buses were used for those arrested. It's "a cat-and-mouse chase.There is no more unity between the people and the army."

In fact, there never was, only the illusion that unsympathetic generals were populists at heart. In fact, they've been regime hard-liners for decades, rewarded handsomely for backing state repression.

"They were using tasers and (batons) to beat us without any control," said Omar. "I thought things would change. I wanted to give the government a chance, but there is no hope with this regime. There is no use. I am back on the street. I either live with dignity or I die here."

Egyptians want the military junta-led government to resign and immediately release all political prisoners. They're outraged by no reforms, and because Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq reshuffled his cabinet, leaving Mubarak cronies in power.

As a result, battle lines are again drawn. "Counterrevolution" comments are heard, protesters chanting:

"We do not want Shafiq any more, even if they shoot us with bullets....Revolution until victory, revolution against Shafiq and the palace....We won't leave! He will go!" This isn't "what hundreds of people died (for). Shafiq is a student of Mubarak. We have demanded a new beginning, and (he's) not part of it. We refuse him."

Reuters also said many thousands demonstrated in Ismailia, Arish, Suez and Port Said. Moreover, strikes continue across the country for better wages, decent living conditions, ending corruption, and workplace democracy. Involved are miners; steel, textile, chemical and pharmaceutical workers; others at an agricultural processing facility; teachers; bus drivers and other transport workers; religious endowment workers; and others long denied rights all workers deserve. They rarely get it anywhere, including in developed countries.

Egypt's junta called the strikes illegal, saying it won't let them continue because they "pose a danger to the nation, and they will confront them." It also said "(t)he current unstable political conditions do not permit a new constitution." Their expertise is repression, not democratic governance. None will be forthcoming.

Protests in Jordan

Barely noticed in the West, especially by America's major media focusing largely on Libya, Haaretz writer Avi Issacharoff headlined on February 25, "Thousands of Jordanians demonstrated in Amman for sixth consecutive Friday," saying:

Over 5,000 "demand(ed) political reforms and the dissolution of the lower house of parliament." A week earlier, plainclothes thugs attacked them. Six or more were injured. Jordan's government denied involvement. Many are skeptical. They demand change, shutting Israel's Amman embassy, and restoring Jordan's 1952 constitution, allowing representative government. In recent decades, democratic rights severely eroded. Protesters want them back. King Abdullah II promised reforms, so far not delivered and won't be without continued pressure.

Mass Iraq Protests

On February 25, tens of thousands rallied throughout the country against occupation, oppression, corruption, unemployment, impoverishment, better services (including clean water, electricity and healthcare), inadequate food and high prices, and overall human misery after eight years under Washington's rule.

Violence resulted, Iraqi security forces using live fire in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Fallujah, Tikrit, and elsewhere. At least 15 were reported killed, dozens wounded. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani spoke on Al Sumaria Television against demonstrations, saying it would benefit "infiltrators." Moktada al-Sadr shamelessly said:

State forces "are attempting to crack down on everything you have achieved, all the democratic gains, the free elections, the peaceful exchanges of power and freedom. So I call on you....to thwart the enemy plans by not" demonstrating.

In fact, occupied Iraqis have no rights, no democracy, no freedom, few jobs, horrid living conditions, and no possibility for change without seizing it. One man spoke for many, denouncing the al-Maliki government, calling him a liar, and saying:

"I'm a laborer. I work one day and stay at home for a month. (Maliki) says (we're better off than) under Saddam Hussein - where is it?" Tens of thousands across the country now demand it. Look for protests to gain momentum.

Tunisia Protests

Days earlier, new protests rocked the country, tens of thousands in Tunis demanding Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi and other Ben Ali holdovers resign. Police fired in the air to disperse them. Helicopters circled overhead. Marchers chanted "Leave!" and "We don't want the friends of Ben Ali!"

The Interior Ministry banned protests, saying participants would be arrested. Washington and other Western countries back Ghannouchi's regime, saying it guarantees stability when, if fact, it leaves old policies in place, largely under the same officials. Visiting Tunisia a week ago, Senator John McCain (one of the Senate's four most reactionary members by his voting record) told Reuters:

"The revolution in Tunisia has been very successful and it has become a model for the region. We stand ready to provide training to help Tunisia's military to provide security."

In fact, nothing in Tunisia changed, nor in Egypt, Jordan or elsewhere in the region. Regime holdovers remain in charge. Moreover, only uprisings occurred, not revolutions. They're far short of violent, convulsive, insurrections, removing old orders for new ones, except perhaps ahead in Libya where opposition forces now control parts of the country. More on that below.

Protests in Yemen

On February 26, Reuters headlined, "Two more die after protests in Yemeni city of Aden," saying:

Security forces killed them and two others, wounding dozens. Weeks of protests have continued, daily since February 17 in cities and provinces throughout the country. "Unrest has been especially intense in the once-independent south, where many people resent rule from the north."

Large demonstrations continued in the capital Sanaa after Friday prayers, protesters shouting, "The people demand the downfall of the regime." Local media said up to 80,000 participated, including women, chanting, "Out, out!"

Large numbers of police and military forces confronted them. After weeks of protests, dozens have been killed. Yemenis, however, remain resolute, one on Friday saying "We are coming to take (Saleh) from the presidential palace." Others said this is "the beginning of the end for the regime."

So far, neither side's yielding, but if demonstrations continue and grow, either Saleh and his cronies will go, or more bloodshed in the streets will follow. Resolution one way or other remains uncertain.

Protests Rage in Libya

On February 26, Al Jazeera said pressure is building for Gaddafi to step down. "Within the country, anti-government protesters said the demonstrations were gaining support," including soldiers reportedly deserting the ranks to join them. So far, Libya's Khamis Brigade, an army special forces unit remains loyal to the regime, fighting opposition forces.

Violence has been extreme. Hundreds are reported dead, many others wounded. Libya's east is largely in opposition hands. "Security forces....fire(d) on anti-government protesters in the capital, Tripoli, after" Friday prayers. "Heavy gunfire was (also) reported (in) Fashloum, Ashour, Jumhouria and Souq Al."

On February 26, Haaretz headlined, "US imposes unilateral sanctions on Libya, freezes Gaddafi's assets," saying, Obama did it by Executive Order against him, his family, top officials, and Libya's government.

On February 26, New York Times writers Helene Cooper and Mark Landler headlined, "Following US Sanctions, UN Security Council to Meet on Libya," saying:

Under consideration is imposing international sanctions, including an arms embargo and travel ban against Gaddafi, his family and all key government officials. "The tougher American response came nine days" after protests erupted. "American officials are also discussing a no-flight zone" to prevent use of military aircraft on threat of NATO intervention, meaning undeclared war if it happens besides others in the region.

At issue, of course, is defending Libya's oil assets and the interests of Western oil giants in the country. As in Egypt, throughout the region, and elsewhere, it has nothing to do with replacing despots with democracy.

A Final Comment

Of special note is how America's media react, especially television where most people get what passes for news and information. For weeks, demonstrations have occurred in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrian, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Iran, and now Libya, as well as labor protests in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Only Egypt and Libya got extensive coverage, against their leaders, not regimes or policies.

Moreover, in recent days, large protests in Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, and Friday's in Egypt were largely ignored, except for occasional print accounts reaching small audiences by comparison.

In addition, except against Mubarak, no major broadsheet ran editorials like The New York Times' February 24 one headlined, "Stopping Qaddafi," saying:

"Unless some way is found to stop him, (he'll) slaughter hundreds or even thousands of his own people in his desperation to hang on to power."

What about stopping other regional despots maintaining close Washington ties. What about denouncing America's imperial madness, responsible for killing millions throughout the region (and elsewhere), directly or indirectly, since the 1980s alone.

What about defending democracy, fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, and Palestinian rights under brutal Israeli occupation, oppressed daily by belligerence, land theft, mass arrests, targeted assassinations, and torture, as well as beleaguered Gazans under siege since mid-2007, suffering severely as a result.

What about supporting right over wrong and denouncing lawless US policies, including at home, instead of:

-- ignoring unmet human needs;

-- record numbers impoverished, homeless and hungry;

-- sham elections;

-- deep corruption at the highest government and corporate levels;

-- colluding with corporate interests, federal, state and local governments are waging war on organized labor;

-- a deepening social decay; and

-- many other symptoms of national decline, recognized more abroad than internally, while, at the same time backing monied interests, imperial wars, and many other unprincipled policies.

Why not editorialize against American policies, calling for "harder (efforts) to stop mass atrocities," and that "(t)he longer the world temporizes, the more people die." Where more than in countries Washington occupies where Times coverage airbrushes out popular suffering, focusing only on regimes Washington opposes, not policies, it wants left unchanged.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hidden Provisions in Wisconsin Bill

Hidden Provisions in Wisconsin Bill - by Stephen Lendman

On February 25, AP said the Wisconsin Assembly, after days of debate, passed Walker's contentious bill, but the standoff is far from over. Senate Democrats remain absent in Illinois, vowing to resist ending collective bargaining rights for public workers. So far, Walker won't compromise, so resolution is on hold.

Much more, however, is at issue. On February 24, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman headlined, "Shock Doctrine, USA," saying:

"What's happening in Wisconsin is....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." It involves much more than union busting, bad as that is.

Hidden in the bill's 144 pages are "extraordinary things," including a provision letting Walker appoint a health czar to make draconian healthcare cuts to Wisconsin's poor and low-income households unilaterally.

Another one states:

"16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) 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 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)."

Call it the Koch brothers provision, multi-billionaire owners of Koch Industries, an industrial giant heavily invested in energy and power-related enterprises. According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Koch Industries PAC contributed $43,000 to Walker's gubernatorial campaign, second only to the $43,125 given by state housing and realtor groups.

Moreover, the Koch PAC helped Walker and other Republicans by contributing $1 million to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), that, in turn, spent $65,000 to support Walker and $3.4 million on television attack ads and mailings against his opponent, Milwaukee Democrat Mayor Tom Barrett. It made the difference between victory and defeat. Republican out-spent Democrats, sweeping many of their candidates to victory last November.

Significance of the Contentious Provision

Wisconsin owns dozens of small power plants, mostly for government facilities and University of Wisconsin's infrastructure. The bill lets Walker privatize them under no-bid contracts, claiming it serves the public interest.

Opinions differ on the provision's significance. The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association's David Hoopman sees no private enterprise bonanza. Executive director Charles Higley of the Citizen's Utility Board agrees, saying many state-owned plants are old, cold-fired, and heading toward failing to comply with environmental requirements. Others have already done so.

The Customers First! Coalition, however, wrote Walker, seeking "a more thorough evaluation of the value of the state's power assets and a comparison of whether state or private ownership is in the best interest of the taxpayer" as well as more time for debate.

Whoever's right, letting the governor use no-bid contracts to sell state assets raises serious red flag issues. If the above provision wasn't important, why was it included, and what does Koch expect for contributing, for sure, much more than it gave! Krugman puts it this way:

"Union-busting and privatization remain GOP priorities, and the party will continue its efforts to smuggle (them) through in the name of balanced budgets," other reasons, or none at all, aiming straight at the heart of democratic freedoms, affecting everyone directly or indirectly.

Koch Pretender Entraps Walker

For 20 minutes, blogger Ian Murphy fooled him, recording his provocative comments so we know. They included possible bogus felony charges against absent Democrat senators, as well as consideration given to "planting some troublemakers" among protesters to blame them.

He also praised one of Ronald Reagan's "most defining moments....when he fired the air traffic controllers." Moreover, he told his cabinet that today's confrontation is "our time to change the course of history," implying, of course, his intent to crush unionism in Wisconsin, stripping public workers of all rights, including decent pay and benefits, as well the right to bargain collectively for for better ones.

He also threatened to fire 12,000 state workers without passage of his overhaul bill, saying:

"I'd do almost anything to avoid laying people off. We need to avoid those layoffs for the good of those workers," but he'll do it anyway to show toughness to impress top Republican leaders and funders like the Koch brothers.

In so doing, he's at odds with 200 state mayors, school board presidents, and other officials, opposing eliminating collective bargaining rights. Walker, however, is hardline against any changes to his bill. His comment about Reagan is telling, wanting, in fact, to harm workers the way he did to all organized labor nationally.

When he took office, union membership was around 24%. When he left, it was 16.8%, two-thirds of its former self and headed lower. The latest January 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics, in fact, shows 11.9% of workers organized nationally, only 6.9% of private sector ones, heading for oblivion if what's going on isn't halted.

This is organized labor's last stand. Wisconsin is ground zero. As it goes, so goes America, so it's crucially important to resist, stay resolute, stand fast, and refuse to surrender rights too important to lose. It's their call and our obligation to support them.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Institutionalized Arab Inequality in Israel

Institutionalized Arab Inequality in Israel - by Stephen Lendman

In December 2010, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel published a study titled, "Inequality Report: The Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel," saying:

Affecting Jews as well, it takes many forms, including:

-- privileged v. deprived groups;

-- Western Jews (Ashkenzim) v. Eastern ones (Mizrakhim);

-- men v. women;

-- Israeli-born Jews (Sabar) v. immigrant ones (Olim);

-- Orthodox v. secular Jews;

-- urban v. rural ones;

-- progressive v. hardline extremists;

-- gay v. straight, and so forth.

Mostly, it represents majority Jews against minority (largely Muslim) Israeli Arabs, indigenous people living in their historic homeland, comprising 20% of the population or about 1.2 million people, excluding East Jerusalem and Golan.

Under international law, they're considered a national, ethnic, linguistic and religious minority, but not under Israel's Basic Laws. As a result, they face "compound discrimination" as non-Jews, as well as for belonging to one or more sub-groups. For example, women, Bedouins, the disabled or elderly.

Institutionalized inequality excludes them from state resources, services and positions of power, including:

Legalized Inequality

As citizens, they're denied equality and freedom in a Jewish state. Over 30 laws directly or indirectly discriminate besides new ones at various stages in the legislative process.

Citizenship

It affords no equality, granting it solely to Jews, and under a new law, it may be lost for reasons alleging "disloyalty" or "breach of trust."

Income/Poverty

Affecting over half of Arab families, they're disproportionately poor compared to one-fifth of Jews. Arab towns, villages and Bedouin communities are the poorest.

Redistribution of Resources and Social Welfare

Resources are disproportionately allocated to Jews, a policy institutionalizing inequality.

Employment

Arabs are discriminated against with regard to work opportunities, pay, and conditions, largely because of entrenched structural barriers, especially affecting women, the disabled, and other sub-groups. Failure to perform military service impedes men, even when no connection between it and job qualifications exist.

Arabs are also underrepresented in civil service jobs, Israel's largest employer. They constitute about 6% of public employees, despite affirmative action laws requiring fair representation.

Land

Longstanding and more recent laws deprive them of its access and use. Admissions committees in many agricultural and community towns exclude them based on alleged "social unsuitability," amounting to legalized apartheid.

As a result, Arab towns and villages suffer severe overcrowding, their municipalities having jurisdiction over only 2.5% of total state land. Moreover, since 1948, about 600 Jewish municipalities were established, no Arab ones.

Education

Israel's Ministry of Education has centralized control, excluding Arab educators from decision-making authority. Moreover, State Education Law sets objectives, emphasizing Jewish history and culture. Though Arabs represent 25% of school children, funding for them is far less than for Jews.

Arabic Language

Though an official state language, it holds vastly inferior status to Hebrew, including regarding resources allocated for its use.

Health

On average, Jewish life expectancy exceeds Arabs who face much higher mortality rates, especially past age 60. In addition, Palestinian infant mortality is double that for Jews. Poorer Arab communities are especially impacted, lacking facilities to keep pace with needs.

Political Participation

Arabs have unequal access to all areas of public life and decision-making, including the legislature, judiciary, and civil service. Moreover, Israel's Attorney General and extremist MKs tried to disqualify Arab parties from political participation, and overall limit their political voices.

In addition, legislation targets free movement and speech, including attempts to restrict political travel to Arab nations called "enemy states." Further, police routinely use force to arrest Palestinian demonstrators to silence dissent.

"Years of deliberate discrimination, unequal citizenship and a limited voice in the political system have left Palestinian citizens" feeling vulnerable, marginalized, insecure and distrustful of state authority, exacerbated by being considered a "fifth column."

Framework of Legalized Inequality

Israel's Basic Laws afford rights solely to Jews. Arabs clearly aren't wanted so aren't treated equally under the law. As a result, institutionalized discrimination harms them in all aspects of daily life, including citizenship and family unification rights, forcing them to live apart or insecure under threat of separation.

A Case Study of Discriminatory Resource Allocation

Government provides "budget balancing grants" to municipalities and local councils to fund essential services. Arab communities are systematically cheated despite far greater need.

The current system affords extra grants to towns absorbing new Jewish immigrants, so-called "front line" communities, and others called "socially diverse," excluding Arab ones considered homogeneous. Nearly always, Jewish communities are helped. Adalah's 2001 Supreme Court petition for redress is still pending.

Further, Amendment 146 to the Income Tax Act affords Israeli communities near Gaza and others exemptions for political reasons. All Arab towns and villages were excluded.

A Case Study of Military Service Excluding Arabs from Railway Inspection Work

In 2009, the Israeli Railway Company (IRC) and another firm employing guards concluded an agreement, excluding applicants with no military service from consideration. Over 130 Arab citizens held guard positions. The decision threatened their status or ability to obtain future employment. A temporary September 2009 court injunction prevented those employed from being fired. After a follow-up February 2010 hearing, the Railway Company cancelled the exclusionary provisions.

A Case Study of Arab Family Unsuitability to Live in Rakefet

Fatina and Ahmed Zubeidat hold Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design College of Architecture degrees with distinction. Both are practicing architects. After marrying in 2006, they applied to live in Rakefet, located in Misgav in northern Israel. Its admissions committee requires applicants take an acceptance test. It excluded them on grounds of "social unsuitability." In September 2007, Adalah petitioned Israel's Supreme Court, demanding admissions committees be abolished. In October, the Court ordered Rakeft set aside land for the family, pending a final decision. It's still pending.

A Case Study of Unrecognized Bedouin Al Araqib Village Destruction

On July 27, 2010, al-Araqib residents were awakened at dawn, surrounded by police carrying guns, tear gas, truncheons and other arms. Declaring the village a "closed area," its 250 residents were ordered out in two minutes, warned that resistance would forcibly remove them.

Almost immediately, 1,300 police officers began demolishing homes while residents tried salvaging belongings. All 45 houses were bulldozed. Villagers were displaced and their belongings confiscated. Police also uprooted 4,500 olive trees. Tax Authority representatives accompanied police, seizing property of indebted residents.

No prior warnings were given. A week later, the village was destroyed a second time, police again using excessive force, including pushing, stomping, dragging, assaulting, and cursing people present at the time. Adalah immediately demanded a criminal investigation. Numerous other villages have also been targeted. None so far have gotten redress.

A Case Study of a Possible First Ever Unrecognized Bedouin Village High School

None exist in any unrecognized Bedouin village. In Abu Tulul region, El-Shihabi is home to about 12,000 Bedouin citizens. About 750 are of high school age. However, only about 170 can attend 12 - 15 km away, requiring public or other transportation to reach.

In 2005, Adalah petitioned Israel's Supreme Court for 35 Bedouin girls and six local NGOs, demanding an accessible high school be built nearby. In January 2007, the Court ruled for one to begin operating on September 1, 2009 to no avail. On September 22, 2009, Adalah again petitioned for enforcement, including that non-implementation be considered in contempt of court.

A Case Study of Mother and Child Clinic Closures

In October 2009, Israel's Ministry of Health (MOH) closed clinics in three unrecognized villages - Qasr el-Ser, Abu Tlul and Wadi el-Niam. They specialize in post-natal care with three others established after Adalah's successful 1997 Supreme Court petition.

MOH's reasons for closure were bogus. As a result, the health and lives of thousands of pregnant Bedouin women, new mothers and their babies are at risk. On December 16, 2009, Adalah petitioned Israel's Supreme Court, demanding clinics remain open. On August 11, 2010, two reopened. The other is still closed.

Case Study about Protesters Killed in October 2000

In October 2000, at the start of the Second Intifada, police killed 13 unarmed Palestinians, protesting occupation brutality. Snipers shot most in the head or chest. Hundreds of others were injured and over 1,000 arrested. Despite Or Commission recommendations, no one was held responsible. Over 10 years later, no commander, soldier, policeman, or political official was charged with cold-blooded murder. Given impunity, they remain safe from prosecution.

Legitimate Political Activity Criminalized

In November 2009, Israel's Attorney General indicted Arab MK Mohammed Barakeh, leader of the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), for participating in four nonviolent protests against Israel's Separation Wall, the 2006 Lebanon war, and its officials remaining unaccountable for the October 2000 killings.

In January 2010, the Knesset House Committee voted to strip Tajammoa/Balad party MK Sa'id Naffaa of his parliamentary immunity. Israel's Attorney General then indicted him for visiting Syria in September 2007 as part of a holy site pilgrimage. Charges included contact with a foreign agent.

Earlier, MK Azmi Bishara, then National Democratic Assembly/Balad head, was indicted for political speech -for "supporting a terrorist organization (Hezbollah)." In fact, he merely analyzed factors leading to Israel's southern Lebanon occupation and right to resist it. Charges followed the Knesset voting to strip him of parliamentary immunity. At the time, it was unprecedented in Israeli politics. In February 2006, Israel's Supreme Court dismissed all charges unanimously.

Nonetheless, on June 7, 2010, the Knesset House Committee revoked Tajammoa/Balad member Haneen Zoabi's parliamentary privileges for participating in the May 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla. As a result, she lost her diplomatic passport, overseas travel privileges, and right to have the Knesset pay her legal expenses in case of criminal prosecution. Overall, she was viciously assailed. Called a "terrorist" and "traitor," extremist ministers and MKs wanted, but failed, to have her Knesset membership and citizenship revoked.

Two recent articles explained Israel's gross mistreatment of Israeli Arab citizens, accessed through the following links:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/10/viciously-attacking-israeli-arabs.html

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/12/social-inequality-in-israel.html

Socially, politically and economically they're denied rights for being Arabs in a Jewish state, affording them solely to Jews. Increasingly less of them, in fact, benefit under predatory neoliberal harshness, rewarding the rich, abandoning the rest.

As a result, Israel is a nation of extreme, growing inequality, mostly affecting Arabs. Studies, in fact, found Israel, America and Britain the most unequal western societies, an indictment of neoliberal betrayal.

Moreover, Muslims face violent and ad hominem attacks, with no protections afforded them. As a result, some call Israel a failed state, more hypocrisy than democracy, resembling how Arundhati Roy once described India, calling it a "limbless, headless, soulless torso left bleeding under the butcher's clever with a flag driven deep into her mutilated heart."

For Israeli Arabs, it's daily reality. For Occupied Palestinians, its worse. For besieged Gazans, it's catastrophic because world leaders abandoned them.

A Final Comment

On February 25, a full Spanish High Court panel (its Audencia Nacional) rejected a Spanish prosecutor's attempt to halt investigation into America's involvement in torture at Guantanamo. In response, the Center for Constitutional Rights said:

"This is a monumental decision that will enable a Spanish judge to continue a case on the 'authorized and systemic plan of torture and ill treatment' by US officials at Guantanamo." Former commanding officer Gen. Geoffrey Miller "has already been implicated, and the case will surely move up the chain of command."

Importantly, "this will be the first real investigation of the US torture program....This is a victory for accountability and a blow against impunity." CCR applauded Spain's High Court decision "for not bowing to political pressure and for undertaking what may be the most important investigation in decades."

If successful, might other unindicted US and Israeli war criminals be far behind? Also, will courageous lawyers like persecuted Paul Bergrin be vindicated? At times, justice moves in slow, incremental steps. Perhaps this is a first major one.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wisconsin's Spirit: Courage for Other States to Emulate

Wisconsin's Spirit: Courage for Other States to Emulate - by Stephen Lendman

The issue is simple and straightforward - organized big money v. organized people essential to beat it. Since February 15, Wisconsin public workers, students, and supporters have sustained heroic resistance against corrupted dark forces determined to crush unionism there and across America. A previous article explained, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/02/union-busting-in-america.html

The scheme is old, dirty and ongoing - a conspiracy involving corporate bosses, federal, state and local Democrat and Republican leaders, and corrupted union heads to bust unions, effectively depriving workers of collective bargaining and other hard-won gains, returning them to 19th century harshness when they had none.

The battle lines are drawn. Across America, public and private worker rights are threatened unless mobilized resistance saves them. Governments at all levels are using dire economic conditions to make ordinary people bear the burden of recovering from the hardest times since the Great Depression. The solution is worse than the problem - the usual IMF diktat, including:

-- wage and benefit cuts;

-- less social spending;

-- eliminating pensions and other entitlements;

-- privatized state resources;

-- mass layoffs;

-- deregulation;

-- debt service superseding public need;

-- lower taxes for corporations and America's super-rich; and

-- eroding hard won worker gains before eliminating them entirely.

In the 1980s, it was Reaganomics, trickle down and Thatcherism. In the 1990s, it was shock therapy. Today, it's austerity to make workers pay for a Wall Street/Washington caused crisis - a Main Street Depression, leaving them struggling on their own to get by. Nonetheless, officials are capitalizing on crisis conditions to inflict more pain on the backs of already victimized people.

Causes of State Budget Shortfalls

Economist Jack Rasmus titled his latest article, "Why Public Employees Aren't the Cause of States' Budget Crises," discussing five reasons behind them:

(1) A "lopsided (pseudo-recovery) from recession without jobs," producing less tax revenues from remaining workers.

(2) Decades of counterproductive state policies to reduce taxes for business and investors, resulting in a revenue-producing "race to the bottom."

(3) "(R)unaway health care costs" because predatory insurers, drug companies and giant hospital chains game the system for maximum profits in collusion with Washington.

(4) "(S)harply rising costs of borrowing by States in the municipal bond market, where (rates) have risen sharply due ultimately to the speculative excesses of the recent financial boom and bust."

(5) Massive unfunded pension liabilities - a multi-trillion dollar future problem because of mismanagement, underfunding, speculation, bad investments, and criminal fraud, not out-of-control pay and benefits.

Republican and Democrat governors across America want workers to bear the burden through wage and benefit cuts as well as loss of collective bargaining rights at a time they're more than ever needed.

Surviving Depends on Organizing, Struggling, and Resisting

Facing a $175 billion shortfall, governors across America are using the same script - help business and super-rich supporters with tax cuts, other benefits, and austerity for state employees when they need help, not cutbacks.

For 10 days, Wisconsin's Republican GovernorScott Walker made headlines, demanding draconian harshness for public workers. Protests continue, including huge crowds expected this weekend, maintaining pressure for social justice against a governor told by Republican leaders, corporate bosses and funders to give none.

Senate Democrats haven't returned. House ones introduced scores of amendments to stall and force debate ending in defeat along party lines. Preserving collective bargaining rights is central. Democrats agree with Republicans and union bosses on wage and benefit cuts up to $400 or more a month, besides furloughs and other concessions.

Ohio's Republican Governor John Kasich proposes tougher measures than Wisconsin, promising to stay the course to enact them. Former Governor Ted Strickland, his predecessor, called his bill a "coordinated attack on the working class."

A February 20 Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial headlined, "Rethink, repair public employee collective bargaining law," saying:

"The state should not be in the business of dictating terms....of what should be collectively bargained (for in) local labor agreements. (It's) unfortunate the GOP approach has been to set a maximalist tone on an issue that should be looked at carefully - before discarding a system" that's stood the test of time for decades and should be preserved.

The proposed bill "is incontestably radical." Instead, the current "debate should be, 'Mend - don't end," and don't make workers bear the burden for state shortfalls in lieu of more equitable solutions.

In Indiana, Republicans back a "right-to-work" bill, prohibiting union-employer agreements requiring workers join public or private sector unions and pay dues. As in Wisconsin, Democrats left the state to stop it. Thousands of workers rallied on Statehouse grounds. Republican Governor Mitch Daniels supported the bill conceptually, but on February 22 urged Republicans to drop it because it interferes with his agenda.

Michigan Republican Governor Rick Synder wants $180 million in state worker concessions through higher healthcare contributions and other benefit cuts.

Connecticut Democrat Governor Daniel Malloy demands more draconian cuts than Walker's. He wants state workers to bear the brunt of the state's $1 billion shortfall, amounting to an average $20,000 employee haircut annually in 2011 and 2012 through a combination of wage and benefit cuts. By comparison, Walker demands $300 million in savings.

New Hampshire's Democrat Governor John Lynch wants 10% of state workers cut over the next two years, eliminating 1,100 jobs, as well as other proposed savings.

Colorado Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper wants the biggest K-12 education cut in state history. He also proposes hikes in state worker pension contributions, from 2.5 - 4.5%, and a third year with no pay increases.

In January, Democrat Governor Jerry Brown proposed far more draconian cuts than former Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger to resolve the state's $24.5 billion shortfall. Included are large reductions in welfare, child healthcare, Medicaid, higher education, other public services, and state worker pay and benefits, including pensions. In addition, he wants six bargaining units to remain on three day per month furloughs at least through mid-year and likely longer.

Campaigning, Brown promised to "invest in jobs and the working families who make California strong." As governor, he's waging war against them.

So isn't New York Democract Governor Andrew Cuomo, declaring the state "functionally bankrupt....there is no money, (so) painful choices" involve draconian cuts affecting working households most, including state employees bearing the burden like elsewhere.

Facing a $10 billion 2011 shortfall and an estimated $14 billion 2012 one, he wants 10% cuts for state agencies, requiring layoffs as well as comparable pay and benefit cuts. Healthcare and education are also targeted, including Medicaid. According to Daniel Sisto, Healthcare Association of New York State president, he wants "the largest cut to healthcare services in New York State's history" with more planned ahead.

Demanding lower future labor costs, expect more layoffs besides 34,700 lost federal, state and local government jobs in 2010. With over $2 billion less 2011 New York city aid, 6,000 teacher jobs are at risk. Those remaining face draconian cuts on top of previous ones imposed and those from Albany.

At the same time, Cuomo pledged no tax increases on wealthy New Yorkers able to pay more. Moreover, he'll let a so-called "millionaire's tax" surcharge on earnings above $200,000 expire at year end, losing a badly needed $1 billion annually.

Presently, wage freezes are in effect for all state workers, pending contract negotiations expiring on March 31 in which he's seeking $450 million in concessions.

Florida Governor Rick Scott wants state workers to pay 5% of their salaries for pensions and have their healthcare benefits capped, despite annual exponential cost increases workers will have to pay themselves. He also proposes 8,700 job cuts. In addition, legislation was introduced, requiring state workers sign up annually for union membership and prohibiting the current dues check off provision.

The Tennessee Republican-controlled legislature backs a bill to repeal a 1978 law, requiring collective bargaining in local school districts where most teachers support the Tennessee Education Association (TEA).

Idaho's Tom Luna, Superintendent of Public Instruction wants 750 teachers cut and collective bargaining ended for issues like class size, workload and promotions. Legislative measures also propose ending tenure and seniority as factors affecting layoffs. As a result, angry teacher protests rallied in Boise and across the state.

In New Jersey, future presidential aspirant Republican Governor Chris Christie allied with Democrat Senate President Stephen Sweeney to make public workers pay more for healthcare and pension benefits.

They want healthcare contributions raised from 8 to 30% of costs. State payments for employee pensions will also be withheld for the second straight year unless benefits are sharply reduced by increasing the retirement age and ending cost-of-living adjustments.

A previous article addressed hard times in Illinois, facing the nation's largest per capital shortfall. Access it through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/01/hard-times-in-illinois.html

As a result, taxes were raised, benefits cut, and more draconian measures are planned, affecting pay, healthcare, pensions and other ways to make state and private workers bear the burden of years of mismanagement, fraud, and corporate favoritism under Democrat and Republican-led governments.

A Final Comment

Strong unions in America face an existential struggle for survival, pitting worker rights against big money allied with all levels of government and union bosses, harming rank and file interests for their own privilege and self-enrichment.

As a result, workers are largely dependent on their own tenacity, resourcefulness, and courage to struggle for rights too precious to lose. It's not solely a Wisconsin issue. All public and private workers across America are affected, their futures on the line against destructive dark forces essential to recognize, confront and defeat. The moment of truth is now.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Union Busting in America

Union Busting in America - by Stephen Lendman

It dates from America's 19th century industrial expansion when workers moved away from farms to factories, mines, and other urban environments, with harsh working conditions, low pay, and other exploitive abuses. As a result, labor movements emerged, organizing workers to lobby for better rights and safer conditions, pitting them against corporate bosses yielding nothing without a fight.

During unionism's formative years, workers were terrorized for organizing. In company-owned towns, they were thrown out of homes, beaten, shot, and hanged to leave management empowered.

The 1892 Homestead Steel Works strike culminated in a violent battle between Pinkerton agents and workers. As a result, seven were killed, dozens wounded, and, at the behest of Andrew Carnegie, owner of Carnegie Steel, Governor Robert Pattison sent National Guard troops to evict workers from company homes, make arrests, and help CEO Henry Clay Frick's union busting strategy. It worked, preventing organizing of the Works for the next 40 years.

The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions chose May 1, 1886 as the date for an eight-hour work day to become standard. As the date approached, unions across America prepared to strike. On May 1, national rallies were held, involving up to 500,000 workers.

On May 4, the landmark Haymarket Square riot protested police violence against strikers the previous day. Someone threw a bomb. Police opened fire. Deaths resulted. Seven so-called anarchists were convicted of murder. Four were executed.

Radicalized by the incident, Emma Goldman became a powerful social justice voice through writing, lecturing, being imprisoned for her activism, and finally emigrating to Russia after its revolution, then elsewhere in Europe. After her death, she was buried in Chicago near the graves of the Haymarket radicals she supported.

Led by American Railway Union's Eugene Debs, the 1894 Pullman strike was the first national one, involving 250,000 workers in 27 states and territories. America's entire rail labor force struck, paralyzing the nation's railway system. At the time, The New York Times called it "a struggle between the greatest and most important labor organization and the entire railroad capital."

At issue were unfair labor practices, including long hours, low pay, poor working conditions, and little sympathy from owner George Pullman. On his behalf, President Grover Cleveland sent federal troops. Hundreds of others were given police powers. At the time, unionists were seen threatening US prosperity.

The strike was broken, killing 13, wounding dozens and resulting in Debs' arrest, trial, conviction for violating a court injunction, and imprisonment for six months. Radicalized by the experience, he became America's leading socialist figure when released, later running five times for president, in 1920 while again in prison for opposing US involvement in WW I.

Founded in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) had 100,000 members at its peak in the 1920s. Led by Big Bill Haywood, Eugene Debs, and others, it was committed to help workers against abusive management practices. It's motto was "an injury to one is an injury to all." It's goal was revolutionary, saying in its Constitution:

"The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people. (The) struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the (unfair) wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth....It is the mission of the working class to do away with capitalism (for) a new society within the shell of the old."

As a result, corporate bosses and Washington sought to crush it. In 1917, the Wilson administration used the Espionage and Sedition Act to raid and disrupt union meetings across the country, arresting hundreds on the grounds that they hindered the war effort by opposing it. In 1918, they were tried, convicted and given long sentences, except Haywood. Released on bail after conviction, he fled to Russia where he remained.

From 1918 - 21, the infamous Palmer Raids ravaged the union further during the time of the first Red Scare, effectively busting it, though it's still around, a shadow of its former self. Visit its web site at iww.org to follow their latest activities, including comments on class warfare in Wisconsin.

In the early 20th century, Colorado labor wars raged, notably pitting mine bosses, National Guard troops, and strikebreakers against workers. In his People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn wrote poignantly about the 1913-14 Ludlow, CO coal strike and subsequent massacre, killing 75 or more strikers, strikebreakers, and bystanders for defying what he called "fuedal kingdoms run by (coal barons that) made the laws," imposed curfews, and ran their operations more like despots than businessmen.

Other Union Busting Efforts

During the 1902 coal strike, 14 miners were killed and 22 injured in Pana, IL. In 1904, a Dunnville, CO battle between state militia forces and workers left six dead, others injured, 15 arrested, and 79 exiled to Kansas.

During the 1909 New York shirtwaist strike, female garment workers were arrested, a judge telling them, "You are on strike against God." In March 1911, a fire at New York's Triangle Shirtwaist factory killed 46, mostly women and young girls working in sweatshop conditions. They still exist today. Earlier articles discussed them, accessed through the following links:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2009/03/modern-slavery-in-america.html

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/02/global-sweatshop-wage-slavery.html

In 1912, the IWW-led Lawrence, MA Bread and Roses textile strike was largely successful. It was credited with inventing the moving picket line, a tactic to avoid arrest for loitering. Also in 1912, National Guard forces were used against striking West Virginia coal miners. In July that year, striking Brotherhood of Timber Workers were confronted by armed Galloway Lumber Company thugs, resulting in four deaths and dozens wounded, the incident called the Grabow Riot.

In 1913, New Orleans police shot three maritime workers, striking against the United Fruit Company. One died.

In 1914, Butte, Montana militia crushed striking Western Federation of Miners workers.

On January 19, 1915, famed labor leader Joe Hill was arrested in Salt Lake City, UT on bogus murder charges. Nonetheless, he was executed 21 months later. Before his death, he wrote Bill Haywood saying, "Don't mourn - organize!" The same day, Roosevelt, NJ factory guards shot 20 rioting strikers.

In 1916, Everett (WA) Mills strikebreakers attacked and beat strikers. Police stood back without intervening, claiming the incident took place on federal land. Three days later, 22 unionists were arrested for speaking out. In October that year, IWW members were beaten, whipped, kicked and impaled for their activism. At their subsequent November 5 meeting, seven were shot and killed, 50 others wounded, and unknown numbers were unaccounted for.

Numerous other incidents at that time involved shootings, hangings, beatings, and arrests, unionists viciously attacked to disrupt them.

In 1919, nearly four million workers struck, including against against steel and coal companies. Management retaliated. The year's Great Steel Strike failed. Company owners called workers dangerous radicals threatening America. Federal and National Guard troops again were used, resulting in violence, deaths, injuries and arrests. From 1919 - 23, numerous coal strikes also occurred, government again siding with management.

In 1920, the Battle of Matewan resulted in nine deaths, later sparking an armed rebellion of 10,000 West Virginia coal miners at the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest insurrection since the Civil War against which army troops intervened.

In 1922, the Herrin, IL coal strike massacre left 21 dead. In 1927, picketing coal miners were massacred in the company town of Serene, CO. In 1929, National Guard troops and armed thugs destroyed the National Textile Workers Union (NTWU) office during the Loray Mill Strike.

During the 1937 Little Steel strike, Youngstown Steel and Tube and Republic Steel employed hundreds of armed police who fired on strikers trying to prevent scabs from entering factories. On May 30, things exploded when Chicago police joined them, opening fire on picketing strikers and their families, killing 10 and injuring hundreds.

Earlier in the 1930s, unionists were convicted of criminal syndicalism. Vigilantes beat Harlan County, KY strikers. Police killed striking Ford Dearborn, MI strikers. Four cotton workers were killed on strike. National Guard forces killed two Toledo, OH Electric Auto-Lite strikers, wounding hundreds. Police attacked and fired on striking Minneapolis Teamsters. Other deaths, beatings and arrests occurred throughout the decade, even after passage of the landmark 1935 Wagner Act.

In 1932, the Hoover administration warred on WW I veterans, demanding promised bonuses. General Douglas MacArthur-led government troops burned their camps for marching peacefully for their rights.

In 1962, Jack Kennedy's Executive Order 10988 established limited collective bargaining rights for federal employees. It spawned state and local efforts to expand theirs.

In 1968, National Guard troops were used against Memphis, TN sanitation worker strikers, days before Martin Luther King's assassination, there to support them. Violence followed, including beatings. A young unarmed boy was killed emerging from a housing development.

Union busting post-WW II was mostly nonviolent, but just as determined to deny workers their rights after passage of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. It greatly weakened union clout, allowing stiff penalties for noncompliance.

It enacted "unfair labor practices," prohibiting jurisdictional strikes (relating to worker job assignments), secondary boycotts (against companies doing business with others being struck), wildcat strikes, sit-downs, slow-downs, mass-picketing against scabs, closed shops (in which workers must join unions), union contributions to federal political campaigns (now freely given candidates), and more while legalizing employer interventions to prevent unionizing drives.

Serious erosion of union power to bargain collectively followed. As a result, employers can illegally fire union sympathizers and receive only minor wrist slap fines after years of expensive litigation to prove wrongdoing. Moreover, they can fire workers for any reason like incompetence or none at all. In addition, strikes are further neutralized because companies can hire replacements or threaten to move offshore.

Since the 1980s especially, earlier hard won rights significantly eroded after Reagan busted PATCO strikers, discussed in a previous article, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/02/wisconsin-ground-zero-to-save-public.html

From then to now, it's been all downhill to where private and public workers face losing all rights unless mass activism resists. Despite Wisconsin heroics, national actions are sorely lacking, largely because union bosses collude with management and political leaders against their own rank and file.

"Confessions of a Union Buster"

In his book, Martin Jay Levitt describes from experience what happens, saying:

"Union busting is a field populated by bullies and built on deceit. A campaign against a union is an assault on individuals and a war on the truth. As such, it is war without honor. The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always (one way or another) attack. The law does not (intervene)....rather, it serves to suggest maneuvers and define strategies," pitting media-supported companies, government, and corrupted union bosses against rank and file unionists, on their own, their grit, resourcefulness, and staying power alone for strategy.

Levitt also calls the National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act a "union buster's best friend" because "its complexity....presents endless possibilities for delays, roadblocks, and maneuvers that can undermine a union's efforts and frustrate" members. The union buster's key tactic is delay ahead of elections, buying time to organize "counter organizing drives," targeting members and immediate supervisors to fear, not embrace, unionism as allied with their interests.

Efforts are also made to discredit unionists by "routinely pr(ying) into (their) police records, personnel files, credit histories, medical records, and family lives in search of a weakness" to use against them. When no dirt's found, targeted workers are called gay or accused of cheating on their wives. It works in blue collar towns.

Other techniques involve "sackings," even though illegal under NLRA's Section 8(a)(3), prohibiting firing workers for urging others to join unions. Nonetheless, union busters know that reinstatement procedures take time, often years. The idea is to weaken support prior to elections, focusing heavily on winning over supervisor support, who, in turn, can influence rank and file members.

Learn more on Levitt's web site, accessed through the following link:

http://www.unionbusting101.com/index.html

He also provides "Top Secret" information of what can and can't be said on the issues, accessed through the link below:

http://www.unionbusting101.com/Top_Secret.pdf

He calls his purpose an effort "to inform and educate WORKERS and Union Organizers about what to expect from management in regards to Union Busting Terrorist Tactics used during union campaigns by management and their consultants in their attempt to defeat their employees from forming a union....or destroy (ones) that already exist."

Nonetheless, the Wagner Act, though measurably weakened, lets workers unionize. Specifically, its Section 7 states:

"Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection."

Levitt also provides information on union busting propaganda, tactics used by Walmart and other companies, labor union resources, for-profit union busters, and more.

Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and American Rights at Work Education Fund on Thwarting Union Organizing

On May 20, 2009, they cited a new five-year study, showing employer anti-union behavior intensifying. Cornell University Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner (a noted labor expert) said employers are more than twice as likely to use 10 or more tactics to thwart organizing efforts.

Titled "No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing," it focused on coercive and punitive tactics against organizing efforts, including threats, intimidation, interrogation, harassment, surveillance, retaliation and firings to thwart it. As a result, most workers without unions who want them at best find their wish indefinitely postponed.

Even when workers successfully unionize, 52% have no contract a year later, and for 37% it's two years. Moreover, besides intensive union busting tactics, employers are less likely to offer incentives such as unscheduled raises, positive personnel changes, bribes, special favors, social events, promises of improvement, and employee involvement programs.

In addition, private sector campaigns differ markedly from public sector ones, at least during the 1999 - 2003 period she studied. Recent events in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states show this very much is changing. Though most states let workers freely organize, current tactics show they're subjected to similar private sector tactics to strip away their rights and leave them powerless.

As a result, unionists face increasingly hard times because companies, government, and corrupted union bosses use today's economic environment against them, pleading hard times reasons for cutting back when, if fact, they're exploiting current conditions to reward corporate favorites at their expense.

Joe Hill was right saying "organize" to fight back. So is imprisoned human rights lawyer Lynne Stewart, saying: "Organize - Agitate, Agitate, Agitate, Love Struggle!"

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wisconsin: Ground Zero to Save Public Worker Rights

Wisconsin: Ground Zero to Save Public Worker Rights - by Stephen Lendman

Ronald Reagan was right saying:

"Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem."

His type governance, that is, and from administrations that followed, Democrats as ruthless as Republicans.

For decades, bipartisan consensus governed lawlessly, waging imperial wars, trashing human rights and civil liberty protections, unabashedly backing monied interests, letting them loot the federal treasury, fleecing working Americans, and targeting organized labor for destruction.

Washington is ground zero for government's assault. Outside the beltway, it's Wisconsin, but spreading fast to other states and cities. An unfair fight pits major media-supported federal, state and local governments allied with union bosses against American workers, largely on their own, relying on their grit and resourcefulness to survive in a very hostile environment.

Threatened are hard-won worker rights, including secure jobs, a living wage, essential benefits, and the right to bargain collectively with management to protect them. They're going, going, and soon gone unless mass grassroots activism saves them, what's so far absent. Wisconsin worker heroics are impressive, but not enough.

Much more is needed - there and across America, because workers in all states and communities are threatened, their rights being trashed and have been for decades, especially since the Carter administration drafted plans Reagan implemented:

Firing over 11,000 PATCO workers, jailing its leaders, fining the union millions of dollars, and effectively busting it for monied interests. It was a shot across organized labor's bow, a clear message to Wall Street and other corporate favorites - supported by then AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland, one of many labor bosses who betrayed rank and file trust. They still do for their own self-interest. No wonder organized labor is a shadow of its former self, headed for extinction unless stopped.

Reagan's administration set the pattern. Union bosses conspired with management against their own membership. During bitter coal miner, steel worker, bus driver, airline worker, copper miner, auto worker, and meatpacking worker strikes, they denied rank and file support, assuring them defeat. At decade's end, trade unionism in America was decimated and kept declining since, heading for oblivion with little pressure to stop it.

Obama's war on labor shows he matches Republican harshness. He abandoned US auto workers for management forcing:

-- plant closures;

-- jobs shipped abroad;

-- permanent ones lost;

-- lower wages;

-- gutted work rules, including on-the-job health and safety protections; and

-- forfeited security through lost benefits and pensions, including for retirees, besides everything lost in 2007 under Bush.

Obama also abandoned the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) after promising support. If enacted, it would have been labor's most impressive triumph since passage of the landmark 1935 Wagner Act, letting labor bargain collectively for the first time with management on even terms.

It would have mandated good faith bargaining as a fundamental right, protected from management or government interference.

It also would have strengthened Wagner Act provisions to unionize, bargain collectively through chosen representatives, and provide other worker protections. It would have leveled the playing field to empower them more than since Taft-Hartley weakened them significantly.

It would have affirmed the 1937 Supreme Court Virginia Railway Co. v. Railway Employees decision that "employees (have) the right to organize and bargain collectively through a representative of their own selection, doing away with company interference and 'company union.' "

Also, the Courts 1937 National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation ruling that J & L engaged in unfair labor practices by "discriminating against members of the union with regard to hire and tenure of employment, and was coercing and intimidating its employees in order to interfere with their self-organization." It said union representation "was essential (to) give laborers opportunity to deal (equally) with their employer," public workers afforded the same rights as private ones.

No longer. We've come a long way from New Deal policies and fair Justices. Today's Democrats, Republicans, and courts are supremely pro-business, especially the Roberts Court, selected to be anti-labor, in the tank for monied interests, and it shows.

Big Media Bashes Labor

On February 17, Media Matters headlined, "Right-Wing Media Freak Out Over Union Protests," quoting Fox News hosts and guests saying:

-- Glenn Beck calls union protests "riots" and "uprisings," adding that "Evil (is) spreading around the globe;"

-- Hard-right commentator Michelle Malkin said protesters "stormed" the Capitol, using students as "kiddie human shields....sacrificial lambs," also calling demonstrators "union thugs;"

-- Republican strategist Kate Obenshain told Sean Hannity: "We see something that's going on, say, in Wisconsin, where they have the rallies for the teachers, where teachers are yanking kids out of the classrooms and calling in sick - totally lying...;" and

-- Fox's Tracy Byrnes called Wisconsin protests "actually, borderline gonna get violent, it sounds like" when, in fact, they've been remarkably peaceful unlike how extremist right-wingers agitate.

CNN is just as bad, competing with Fox for bottom-of-the-barrel honors, but nothing on corporate TV or radio has merit. Nor in print; to wit, Time magazine's Joe Klein in his February 18 article headlined, "Wisconsin: The Hemlock Revolution," saying:

In the Middle East, "protesters are marching for democracy; in the middle west, they're protesting against it....trying to prevent a vote....(trying) to stymie majority rule...."

Republicans won, said Klein. "In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees union, are exempt from that." Even labor contacts aren't sacrosanct he believes. "We hold elections to decide" those things. "And it seems to me that Governor Scott Walker's basic requests are modest ones...."

If Time prints this anti-labor screed and similar op-eds, why should Fox surprise? America's entire corporate establishment, including big media, is united against labor rights, targeting them for destruction.

Even the New York Times opposes closed schools and public services blocked for any reason, no matter how important doing it is to force change, what's never possible without it and much more. Timidity yields nothing but tears.

Like other Wall Street Journal writers and its editorial staff, Steven Malanga is no friend of labor, his February 22 WSJ article headlined, "The Showdown Over Public Union Power," saying:

"Public unions (are) among the biggest players in national politics," contributing millions compared to billions from corporate donors way out-muscling them. "If Gov. Walker succeeds....other reformers will follow (to) restrict public-sector" union power. It "would give opponents around the country a new playbook to follow in countering the rich resources and deep influence of public unions over taxes and spending."

No wonder observers call WJS opinion writers the print version of Fox News, both Murdoch owned, his editorial policy rigorously enforced.

In spring 2009, the corporate media enthusiastically embraced Obama's assault on auto worker rights for decent jobs, a living wage and essential benefits, including pensions. The New York Times took the lead, supporting General Motors' "government-backed bankruptcy process," saying it would let GM "discard (its) liabilities and unwanted assets and produce a profitable, albeit smaller, car company," with thousands fewer employees.

The Financial Times agreed, listing preferred "liabilities" to be shed, including "legacy" ones, meaning pensions and healthcare benefits. The Washington Post said it's "important that the president did not flinch in demanding even deeper concessions from workers." The Wall Street Journal said it was "glad the Administration is at least talking a tougher line on bankruptcy than Mr. Bush (to) force the companies and their unions to make the hard decisions that politics may still let them avoid."

The unanimity of corporate managed news offered support then and now against worker rights they disdain, and why not. They're giants with large workforces they want without rights, beyond minimal ones too little to matter.

On August 20, 1999, New York Times writer Tom Friedman headlined, "Foreign Affairs; An American in Paris," saying:

"The most important thing (Ronald) Reagan did was break the 1981 air traffic controllers' strike, which helped break the hold of organized labor over the US economy." Crushing workers gave US corporations greater flexibility to invest in new labor-saving equipment, technology and methods to cut staff, pay less, and achieve great cost savings, said Friedman. He practically gloated about the collapse of labor rights, weaker now after a decade under Bush and Obama.

More recently on May 8, 2010, Friedman headlined, "Root Canal Politics," denouncing workers for believing in the "tooth fairy," expecting government services without paying for them. Baby boomers, he said, had "eaten through all that abundance like hungry locusts." After getting their way for decades, "it's now going to be, mostly, about taking things away. Goodbye Tooth Fairy politics, hello Root Canal politics." He barely concealed joy, crowing over worker pain like all pro-business columnists, even ones claiming progressive credentials.

On February 21, The Times featured commentaries from anti-union advocates like Professor Daniel DiSalvo headlining, "Hitting the Unions Where It Hurts," saying:

Walker wants "to dismantle (the) dysfunctional, circular relationship between unionized government employees, the politicians they help elect, and the rising wages and benefits to which they commit government." In fact, wages have stagnated for over three decades, and essential benefits have eroded.

Nonetheless, DiSalvo took sides, saying, "If successful, Walker's plan may (make) Wisconsin (more) like Texas or Virginia (where) most collective bargaining in the public sector is illegal and the percentage of unionized public employees is paltry." He hopes Wisconsin "will have as bright a fiscal outlook" as those states, affording workers there few or no rights.

Christian Schneider also got space headlining, "Fiscally Modest, Politically Bold," saying:

Walker only asks workers to "accept modest changes to their benefits, or face losing their jobs." False, layoffs are coming and without collective bargaining power no job or essential benefit is safe. "Public employee unions will continue to protest," said Schneider, "even though (Walker) is the first politician who has told them the truth in ages." In fact, Obama backs the same policies, enforcing them since taking office.

Even the hard-right Heritage Foundation got space, James Sherk headlining "FDR Warned Us," saying:

"Government workers....don't generate profits. They merely negotiate for more tax money." In fact, like private sector ones, they deserve similar rights. Moreover, unlike corporate predators, they earn, not steal what they get, what Sherk noticeably side-stepped. Instead, he hailed Walker's plan, saying it "reasserts voter control over government policy," perhaps forgetting public workers also vote and deserve officials treating them equitably.

A Final Comment

Mass protests in Wisconsin continue. Tuesday was day eight. Involved are over 200,000 state workers and supporters, including students and teachers. Key is preserving collective bargaining rights without which no others are safe. Neither side so far is budging, Walker ordered by Republican leaders to hold fast. Other states are watching, governors there to grab all Walker gets, or more like in Ohio where Governor Kasich's bill is even more draconian.

Though major demonstrations continue, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), representing 98,000 teachers, told its members to return to work. Other unions also expect the bill's passage, perhaps before week's end. So far, absent Democrat senators remain secluded in neighboring Illinois, denying Republicans a quorum. They continue being hardline. Sooner or later expect Democrats to concede. When they return, Walker can declare victory.

Nonetheless, rank and file opposition remains strong, including among teachers, students and supporters traveling long distances to march and protest in Madison. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) called for a "teach-out," replacing a walkout saying, "We are calling for instructors to use their discretion to cancel classes, reschedule them or hold them off campus."

Demonstrations around the country support them from Maryland and New Hampshire to Nevada and Olympia, Washington, knowing workers there can expect their own moment of truth. It's spreading everywhere, pitting bought-and-paid-for-pols allied with union bosses against working Americans. They're fighting for hard-won rights fast eroding toward elimination unless mass activism draws the line and holds it, no matter what. Their choice now is fight or lose. There's no middle ground against forces unwilling to yield.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.