Monday, February 28, 2011

And now for a good laugh! (watch video)

Need a lift this evening? Watch this baby laugh hysterically at the sound of ripping paper.

World stateswoman Hillary Clinton provides international leadership against Gadhafi

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is providing international leadership in the United States and Europe in opposing the brutal attempts by Moammar Gadhafi to overcome the rising opposition in Libya.

According to the AP:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton implored the world on Monday to hold Moammar Gadhafi's regime to account for gross atrocities that include reports of executing soldiers for refusing to turn their guns on their fellow citizens.

In a breaking news update at the Huffington Post, Bradley Klapper reports:

GENEVA — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the U.S. is sending assistance teams to Libya's borders with Egypt and Tunisia. The teams will help desperate refugees trying to flee a potential civil war.

Clinton says the U.S. has pledged $10 million to help refugees.

Read more:

European Union votes sanctions against Gadhafi

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

The Voice of America reports:

EU officials meeting in Brussels {on Monday, Feb. 28,} say the 27-nation bloc has agreed to a package of sanctions against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, reinforcing measures adopted by the U.N. Security Council last week.

Officials say the EU sanctions include an arms embargo, asset freeze and visa ban on Gadhafi and members of his inner circle - measures already included in a U.N. Security Council resolution approved on Saturday.

{On the same day,} U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a human rights conference in Geneva that Gadhafi must leave immediately. She said the Libyan people should shape their own government.  She urged the international community to work together on Libya's next steps and said Washington is keeping many options open to help stop the government crackdown in Libya.

The state of Minnesota: all people are welcome here!

Minnesota State capitol building in St. Paul, photo by Virginia Bergman

A Minnesotan by choice, I was born and raised in northwestern Ohio, and I’ve lived in several other states, including California. I prefer Minnesota not so much for its climate – it does get really cold here in winter – but for the state’s historical emphasis on humanitarian concerns in its governance and its religious institutions.

The press release I recently received from the Minnesota Council of Churches in support of refugees who have made their homes here is a good example:

Preserving refugee stories as part of Minnesota’s heritage

The forthcoming book featuring refugee stories by the Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services received publication support from a Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant Minneapolis (February 25, 2011) – The stories of Minnesota’s newest refugees will be remembered for generations to come thanks to a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant from the Minnesota Historical Society. The grant award supports editing and publication of the book This Much I Can Tell You: Stories of Courage and Hope from Refugees in Minnesota to be released June 1, 2011.

This book gives a glimpse into the lives of some of Minnesota’s newest refugees. Women and men from Somalia, Bhutan, Iraq, Cameroon, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burma share their individual refugee stories that are as diverse as the storytellers. In their own words, they tell about their lives before conflict, why their lives fell apart, their experience as refugees and their transition to Minnesota. This book documents their trauma and tragedy as well as their hopes and
dreams for the future.

“Before we are the displaced and displaced people have no legal status. So now we are so glad to be living in America and get the legal status. We can legally live the center of our lives here, so we are very glad,” Saw Josiah, a Karen story teller, says in his chapter.

Besides being refugees, each person represented in this book shares another thing in common—they accessed services at Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services. MCC Refugee Services is a local affiliate of Church World Service and Episcopal Migration Ministries, two agencies contracted by the US Department of State to resettle refugees in the United States. MCC Refugee Services welcomes persecuted people from around the world into lives of freedom, hope and opportunity in Minnesota through four lines of service: Case Management, Employment Services, Immigration Services, and

“The refugees we are privileged to work with have journeyed across the globe to find safety in Minnesota. As Minnesotans we know refugees as neighbors, as coworkers, as customers, or as friends. But we don’t know their stories. We don’t know about their life before they became refugees or what they went through to find the safety we enjoy. We hope this book will help bring those stories to light so we can know each other better,” said Rachele King, director of MCC Refugee Services.

The book will be available on June 1, 2011 through Beaver’s Pond Books. To find out more about This Much I Can Tell You visit:

Sunday, February 27, 2011

It’s a great fight song: “On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin…”

Feb. 26, Madison rally of 70-100,000 demonstrators,

I’m not from the Badger State, but when I played the snare drum in my high school band back in Ohio years ago, “On Wisconsin” was one of our favorite marching tunes. I just looked up the lyrics and was reminded that it’s a great fight song.

And those Wisconsin folks are not giving up the fight these days against their over-reaching amateur governor, Scott Walker; just today, they held their biggest rally yet with a turn out of more than 70,000.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank nailed Walker today in his op-ed titled Scott Walker’s Unprincipled Rigidity.

Milbank writes: 

"He's not one of us."

That phrase, uttered in the fourth minute of what Scott Walker believed to be a private phone conversation, tells you everything you need to know about the rookie governor of Wisconsin.
Walker thought he was talking to a patron, conservative billionaire David Koch, but thanks to the amateurish management that seems to be a hallmark of his governorship, he was instead being punked by an impostor from a liberal Web site.

In the recorded call, Walker praised a centrist state senator, Tim Cullen, as "about the only reasonable one" among the 14 Democratic legislators who fled the state to deny Walker the quorum he needs to destroy Wisconsin's public-sector unions. But when the fake Koch offered to call Cullen, Walker discouraged him: "He's pretty reasonable, but he's not one of us. . . . He's not there for political reasons. He's just trying to get something done. . . . He's not a conservative. He's just a pragmatist."

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Shock Doctrine on full display in Madison

Wisc. Gov. Scott Walker, photo courtesy of World News.Com

In yesterday’s NY Times op-ed, Paul Krugman suggests that Wisc. Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican followers are taking advantage of the state’s budget crisis by using strategies  described by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine.

Krugman writes:

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

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

The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine,” which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.
Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display. 

Read more:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Minnesota’s Keith Ellison: Wisc. Governor Walker acting like a “dictator”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.)  

Politico reports:

Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said Wednesday that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is acting like a “dictator.”

Ellison said that Walker, a Republican, should negotiate with union workers, who have agreed to pay more for health benefits as long as they can keep collective bargaining rights.

Walker is “basically taking on the position of a dictator,” he told reporters. “Because he says he won’t negotiate. That is something that is not in the spirit of a public servant, who just won’t even talk. He is putting himself in a position of being extreme, radical and reckless. And he’s going to fail.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mass union protests spread “like a wind-whipped brush fire”

Protesters gather outside the state capitol in Madison, Wisc.on Sat. Feb. 19, 2011

In Tuesday’s editorial, the NY Times comes down on the side of union protesters across the Midwest fighting to preserve their bargaining power :

Like a wind-whipped brush fire, the mass union protests that began in Madison, Wis., last week have spread to the capitals of Ohio and Indiana where Republican lawmakers also are trying to cripple the bargaining power of unions — and ultimately realize a cherished partisan dream of eradicating them. In each case, Republican talk of balancing budgets is cover for the real purpose of gutting the political force of middle-class state workers, who are steady supporters of Democrats and pose a threat to a growing conservative agenda.

In Ohio, Republican legislators, backed by Gov. John Kasich, have introduced a bill to end collective bargaining for state employees, in addition to imposing budgetary givebacks. Former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who was defeated by Mr. Kasich last year, has called the bill a “coordinated attack on the working middle class.” Thousands of union supporters showed up at the Capitol in Columbus on Tuesday, but the party appears to have the votes to pass the measure.
Across the border, Republicans are pushing a bill that would make Indiana what is misleadingly known as a “right-to-work” state. That means workers cannot be required to join public- or private-sector unions or pay dues, starving unions of the money they need to operate. Democrats in the Indiana House left the state to prevent a vote, tying up all legislation for two days. Thousands of workers have rallied on the Statehouse grounds. Gov. Mitch Daniels (who ended collective-bargaining rights for state workers in 2005) has supported the bill’s concept but on Tuesday urged Republicans to drop it because it could interfere with other items on his agenda.

Read more:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Secretary Clinton: Libyan bloodshed unacceptable

Secretary of State Clinton's statement on Libya posted at the State Department web site:

The world is watching the situation in Libya with alarm. We join the international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya. Our thoughts and prayers are with those whose lives have been lost, and with their loved ones. The government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of the people, including the right to free expression and assembly. Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed. We are working urgently with friends and partners around the world to convey this message to the Libyan government.

Stories of Americans economically going down for the count

Photo courtesy of

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is emerging as the one political leader in Washington who gets it in these harsh economic times. In his recent NY Times op-ed Bob Herbert reports how Sanders has taken the trouble to listen to his demoralized constituents.

Herbert writes:

Buried deep beneath the stories about executive bonuses, the stock market surge and the economy’s agonizingly slow road to recovery is the all-but-silent suffering of the many millions of Americans who, economically, are going down for the count.

A 46-year-old teacher in Charlotte, Vt., who has been unable to find a full-time job and is weighed down with debt, wrote to his U.S. senator, Bernie Sanders:

“I am financially ruined. I find myself depressed and demoralized and my confidence is shattered. Worst of all, as I hear more and more talk about deficit reduction and further layoffs, I have the agonizing feeling that the worst may not be behind us.”

Similar stories of hardship and desolation can be found throughout Vermont and the rest of the nation. The true extent of the economic devastation, and the enormous size of that portion of the population that is being left behind, has not yet been properly acknowledged. What is being allowed to happen to those being pushed out or left out of the American mainstream is the most important and potentially most dangerous issue facing the country.

Hillary Clinton’s interview with Christiane Amanpour of ABC’s This Week

Read the transcript of Secretary Clinton’s interview with Christiane Amanpour of ABC’s This Week here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Profile of Obama speechwriter, “wundkerkind” Jon Favreau, at omits Favreau’s “groping Hillary” photo

Jon Favreau. Photo credit: Lois Raimondo/TWP via

While scanning the Washington Post just now, I stumbled on a link to the Post’s offshoot,, boasting that it “offers the best political profiles on the web.” As luck would have it,  I had unintentionally linked to Jon Favreau’s profile. Favreau as you know has been Obama’s speechwriter since the 08 campaign and the White House speechwriter since January 2009.

The flattering profile of Mr. Favreau begins:

Favreau might have one of the most difficult jobs in President Barack Obama’s office. The wunderkind is charged with writing speeches for a politician considered one of the best speakers of his generation.

I was not surprised, but nevertheless disappointed to discover the profile failed to mention one of the more scandalous episodes in Favreau’s brief career in DC that was covered exceptionally well in a post dated Dec. 5, 2008 at Top of the Ticket (LA Times) by Andrew Malcolm titled “Obama Speechwriter Photographed Groping Hillary Clinton Likeness.”

Favreau is on the left.
Malcolm writes:

It might have seemed funny during the party. But a photo has surfaced in recent hours of President-elect Barack Obama's newly-designated chief speechwriter, Jon Favreau, groping a cardboard cutout of the administration's newly-designated secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
That's Favreau on the left in the above photo (the fellow in the Obama staff T-shirt pouring beer in the pretend politician's mouth is unidentified). The photo was first published on the Washington Post's 44 blog.

The shot of the 27-year-old writer with his hand on the 60-year-old cardboard senator's breast reportedly appeared for about two hours on a Facebook page Thursday afternoon before disappearing, along with numerous other Favreau pictures, including one of him dancing with the cardboard female secretary-designate.

An Obama spokesman says Favreau has apologized to the former first lady, who gave Obama a run for his massive piles of money during the Democratic primaries. 

The transition official said Favreau has "reached out to Sen. Clinton to offer an apology," an unfortunate choice of words under the photographic circumstances, as the Swamp's Frank James points out in his item. 

Read more:

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks out on Obama’s budget (see video)

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (photo from his official web site)

In a brief respite from the PBS NewsHour’s tedious hammering of those “entitlements”  - especially Social Security and Medicare - Judy Woodruff was visibly shaken during her interview with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who hit her with the facts about Social Security a week or two ago. 

The NewsHour staff, in its attacks on the self-funded Social Security program apparently fear that if they don’t pull the rug out from under America’s seniors, their government subsidy will be cut, then they’ll have to rely solely on their big corporate underwriters, e.g., oil companies, Toyota, etc. and their generous donors, long deluded into believing the NewsHour provides objective and balanced news coverage.

You can watch Woodruff’s interview with Sen. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats here.

Over-reaching by a novice Republican governor triggers uprising in Wisconsin

Photo courtesy of      

I  called a friend in Madison this evening to get a firsthand report on the uprising by public employees against Republican Gov. Walker’s attempt to deprive them of their bargaining rights. My friend proudly reported that her daughter and her grandson are participating in the protest marches to support Madison’s teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public workers.

In turn I was pleased to tell my friend that along with 75,000 others, I signed a letter of solidarity today with the workers of Wisconsin. We’re trying to reach 125,000 by Monday. You can sign the letter here.

Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of the American Prospect, gets what’s happening in Madison, and he explains how “organized labor is all about protecting the middle class in general.”

In his article titled “Wisconsin’s Tunisia Moment,” Kuttner writes:

As events in Egypt showed, you never know what will set off mass protest.

Here at home, over-reaching by a novice Republican governor of Wisconsin has finally triggered the protest marches that have been eerily missing during the more than three years of an economic crisis that has savaged the middle and bottom and rewarded the top.

It's not as if we lack a politics of class. As mega-investor Warren Buffett famously said, there is plenty of class warfare in America, but the billionaire class is winning.

This economic crisis, after all, was brought on by excesses on Wall Street. Yet with the rest of the economy still mired in high unemployment and fiscal crises of public services, Wall Street was first to be bailed out, the first to return to exorbitant profitability, and the last to be held accountable.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Surprise: American pundits blame Lara Logan for being assaulted in Egypt

What most surprises me about misogynists in America blaming Lara Logan for being brutally assaulted by misogynists in Egypt is that others seem to have been caught off guard to discover there are women haters in this hallowed nation – even among the punditry!

But put aside for the moment the abuse Hillary Clinton and other women in our culture have undergone here at home and check out what Susan Milligan at US has to say about the latest blatant upsurge of misogyny in our own backyard – the misogyny targeting Lara Logan.

Milligan writes:

Tragically, reporter Lara Logan didn’t need to go to a region of political unrest to be the target of vicious personal attacks and misogyny. She got it right here at home.

Logan, an experienced and brave journalist for CBS, was beaten and sexually assaulted while covering the protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo. It was another reminder of the tremendous risks members of media take when covering an important story. But a series of self-styled pundits, driven by a hatred of Muslims or women or both, have taken the “blame the victim” approach to an appalling new level. [See photos of the Egyptian uprising.]

Media Matters for America has done the most comprehensive job of culling the most egregious posts, which can be read here. The rhetoric is truly disgusting: LA Weekly writer Simone Wilson referred to Logan’s “shockingly good looks” and determined that the assaulting mob “apparently consummated their newfound independence by sexually assaulting the blonde reporter.” What was her point--that only attractive and blonde women are sexually attacked? (Read the Washington Post’s excellent, and disturbing, story about a rapist who targets elderly women).

Then there’s Nir Rosen, a (now former) fellow at NYU’s Center for Law and Security, who tweeted that “It's always wrong, that's obvious, but I'm rolling my eyes at all the attention she'll get … She's so bad that I ran out of sympathy for her.” Rosen--who, given his apparent stature, should have known better--has resigned. That was tame compared to right wing blogger Debbie Schlossel, who wrote: “No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows.” 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

House targets budget cuts for domestic programs, but supports the Defense Department’s sponsorship of Nascar racers

Photo courtesy of mmo4free

Well, we all knew that PBS was feeling at risk to lose its federal funding; otherwise, why would the NewsHour have suddenly gone into attack mode against those “entitlements,” an insulting euphemism (see today’s Sally Forth comic strip) that gives NewsHour correspondents and a slew of other media reps cover in supporting funding cuts targeting programs for the elderly, veterans, and the poor. You get the picture.

But Gail Collins has a point this morning in her NY Times column on Sacred Cows, Angry Birds. Collins is commenting on the support in the House of Representatives recently for cuts in funding for domestic programs while fighting to preserve the Defense Department’s budget to sponsor Nascar racers.

Collins writes:

The House of Representatives has been cutting like crazy! Down with Planned Parenthood and PBS! We can’t afford to worry about mercury contamination! Safety nets are too expensive!
But keep your hands off the Defense Department’s budget to sponsor Nascar racers.
“It’s a great public/private partnership,” said Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican. 

The Defense Department claims racecar sponsorships are an important recruiting tool for the Army. The House agreed — although this might be news to the Navy and Marines, which decided a while back that a Nascar presence wasn’t worth the money. 

“What makes U.S. Army’s motorsports initiatives successful?” Ryan Newman, driver of No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet asked his Facebook readers as he urged a show of support for the program. “In a 2009 study among fans nationwide, 37% feel more positive about the Army due to its involvement in motorsports.” 

Read more:

Friday, February 18, 2011

PBS will keep its federal subsidy even if benefits for veterans, the poor, and the elderly are cut

Mark Shields
David Brooks
Okay, while watching the PBS NewsHour this evening, including the Analysis of Shields and Brooks, I finally got it. By zealously going after gutting those “entitlements” that refer to benefits received by veterans, the poor, and the elderly, the NewsHour allies itself with conservatives and can therefore better defend itself against long-time charges by the Republican Party that it is has a liberal bias. The NewsHour crew will thereby increase the odds that Federal funding of PBS will not be cut in order to reduce the Federal deficit.

Never mind that Social Security beneficiaries paid into the system throughout their working lives or that Washington has raided the trust fund to pay for its two wars and avoid taxing the rich and closing tax loopholes for large corporations – ever notice how many of those corporations underwrite the NewsHour?

And why should veterans of the US Armed Forces consider themselves more worthy of benefits than the NewsHour crew?

Still, I must say it was especially disheartening that last Friday night, Mark Shields stood up to David Brooks in his attacks on “those entitlements,” but in tonight’s so-called analysis, he had evidently been silenced by his superiors.

Fox News and PBS NewsHour lead in media attacks on benefits for veterans, the poor, the elderly, the jobless, and the uninsured

Photo courtesy of Awarenessmonthsblog.
It takes a Brit to explain precisely what Americans mean by the word “entitlement” these days as Fox News and the PBS NewsHour, representing both the right and the left in the U.S. media join forces in their zeal to cast Social Security and Medicare as the sole villains in Washington’s deficit crisis.

Sadhbh Walshe at the Guardian points out, “Entitlements, to the uninitiated, include such things as unemployment benefits for the jobless, food stamps for the hungry, social security payments for the elderly and basic healthcare for the uninsured.”

Now that we know in general who our media is so eagerly blaming for the nation’s budget problems, here’s a Fox News clip from Sean Hannity’s recent interview of House Speaker John Boehner:

HANNITY: Not yet. Does his budget as I go through it, assumes a growth rate of four to five percent, which a lot of people including myself think it is a little bit unrealistic. And on the issue of the biggest spending items which is entitlements, he didn't touch the entitlement issue. Do you think that was done purposely?

BOEHNER: I don't know why it wasn't addressed. He created a deficit reduction commission a year ago. They've reported in December. But none of the ideas out of his own deficit reduction commission were part of his budget process. And again, I think the president has a responsibility here. He wasn't elected to just sit there in the oval office. He was elected to lead. And if he won't lead, we will. And I expect this spring when we put our budget together, Paul Ryan and the Budget Committee will in fact put everything on the table.

Over at PBS, Judy Woodruff makes sure that the NewsHour is aligned with Fox in bipartisan media efforts to vilify those awful “entitlements,” in contrast to our partisan political leaders. The title of her piece is Risking Common Ground in a Partisan-Dominated Budget Battle.

To start with, Woodruff wants us to know that many of America’s elderly are too ignorant and uninformed to understand their Social Security and Medicare benefits are paid by the government:

Reading public opinion polls that show most Americans who benefit from government programs - like home mortgage deductions, veterans' pensions, Medicare and Social Security -- often don't even realize the government is the source.

 Woodruff doesn’t bother to explain that those same ignorant Social Security recipients paid into the system throughout their working lives or that the government has raided the so-called Social Security “lockbox” to bankroll its everyday expenses, including two wars of choice, without taxing the wealthiest Americans or closing the tax loopholes for major corporations.

But speaking of risk, being fair to the nation’s elderly might put at risk the subsidy the NewsHour receives from the U.S. government.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Celebrating Hillary Clinton: the myth and the reality

Bill and Hillary Clinton during the 08 presidential primary

All we can say to Laura Brown at Harpers Bazaar is this: “Thank you. It’s about time a member of the media presented an authentic portrayal of Hillary Clinton.”

Brown writes:

So often vilified during her time as first lady of the United States, Clinton is now often cited as the country's most admired woman. 
This is gratifying to her staff, who collectively feel something like vindication that the American public is finally getting what they knew all along. "The caricature of her was that she was frosty, calculating, unfeeling," says Reines. "But what was so surprising to me was not how wrong it was but how quickly you see that it's wrong." "I could never understand it," says Capricia Penavic Marshall, U.S. chief of protocol. "People had preconceived notions about her. But I think she is now seen for more of the person that she is." Adds Mills, "You are grateful when people you believe in get positive recognition for who they are."

Many of us continue to be outraged by the sexism and misogyny that erupted against Clinton during the 08 presidential primary, but Clinton demonstrates her strength and wisdom in response to the ugly attacks she endured even after Obama won the general election – remember the photo that surfaced on Facebook showing Obama’s head speech writer Jon Favreau and his drunken buddies sexually molesting a cardboard cutout of the newly appointed secretary of state?

Brown reports:

She {Clinton} seems resigned to gender being an issue in politics. "Being a serious candidate for president as a woman brought out all the stuff that still exists about that," she says. "Some of it was personal, some of it was gender based, and you kind of accept it. I think that if you live long enough, you realize that so much of what happens in life is out of your control, but how you respond to it is in your control. That's what I try to remember."

You owe it to yourselves to read the entire article at Harpers Bazaar.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CBS foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan recovering from brutal assault in Egypt

Lara Logan in Iraq. Photo by US Army Lieutenant Colonel Scott Bliechwehl (RELEASED) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A long-time follower of the CBS Evening News, I’ve been a loyal supporter of chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan and news anchor Katie Couric since they first assumed their current responsibilities in 2006.

This evening, I was shocked by Katie Couric’s announcement that Lara Logan had been brutally assaulted in Egypt while attempting to cover the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. Couric went on to say that Logan is back in the states and “recovering well in the hospital.”

Here’s the official CBS statement:

On Friday February 11, the day Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a 60 MINUTES story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.

 In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.

There will be no further comment from CBS News and Correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.

This is indeed a dark chapter in the Egyptian uprising, and we owe a debt of gratitude to that group of women and those Egyptian soldiers for rescuing Lara Logan.

NewsHour regulars protect PBS' taxpayer support by going after 'entitlement' programs

The Public Broadcasting System, funded in part by the nation's taxpayers, has seduced donations from its viewers over the years by boasting about its unbiased news coverage on the NewsHour.  

 Lately, NewsHour regulars have demonstrated their contempt for at least one group of American citizens they apparently deem unworthy of respect – that would be those same seniors whose trust fund has been ransacked since 1983 to bankroll Washington.

On last night’s edition of the NewsHour, Gwen Ifill repeatedly badgered Jacob Lew, director of the United States Office of Management and Budget, in an attempt to provoke him into explaining why the Obama Administration’s budget didn’t address those 'entitlement' programs. Ifill repeated the word 'entitlement,' with its derogatory connotations, at least four consecutive times until Lew finally explained to her the Administration’s rationale for dealing with the issue.

Later on in the program, Judy Woodruff, referring to those “so-called entitlement programs,” pressed Robert Portman, Republican senator from Ohio, on the same issue. Portman, who once held Lew’s position as director of the OMB, at least noted that the government had raided the Social Security trust fund over the years to pay for everyday expenses.

America’s seniors paid into Social Security and Medicare throughout decades of their working lives, believing those high payroll deductions would provide a safety net for their retirement years. Many of them also served in the military in times of peace and war. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed into a law an amendment supposedly protecting the Social Security trust fund in a “lock box.”

Those same seniors were deluded into believing their nation respected them and wished them well. Now they are facing the reality that the government violated the law by using the Social Security trust fund to pay its everyday expenses, including support for PBS and funding for its two costly wars, while avoiding the necessity to tax the wealthy and close the tax loopholes of major corporations.

In the meantime, seniors are being treated with contempt by political leaders from both parties and media reps like David Brooks and Gwen Ifill as they try to pressure the Obama Administration into gutting Social Security and Medicare.

On behalf of PBS, the NewsHour may be more aggressive in its zeal to go after those ‘entitlement’ programs in order to protect its own government funding from cuts.

Our senior citizens could justifiably sue Washington for violating the law in its misuse of their retirement funds, and PBS viewers should have second thoughts when considering whether or not to donate money to support its flagrantly biased coverage of programs serving the elderly and disabled.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Say again - a Democratic Administration’s budget cuts target the working poor, middle class and students?!!

The banner headline at today’s Huffington Post is startling, especially when you consider that Arianna and her team served as Barack Obama’s high-powered Left wing mouthpiece in the 08 presidential primaries and in the general election: Obama Budget Proposal: Cuts To Target Working Poor, Middle Class and Students. Here’s the scoop:

WASHINGTON -- Less than two months after signing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans into law, President Barack Obama proposed a spending plan to Congress that cuts funding to programs that assist the working poor, help the needy heat their homes, and expand access to graduate-level education, undermining the kind of community-based organizations that helped Obama launch his political career in Chicago.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Uninformed politicians and media reps waging war on the safety net for America’s seniors

Senior citizens mall walking, courtesy of
In her article on Obama’s proposed budget for 2011, Jackie Calmes at the NY Times falls in line with a majority of her ignorant colleagues who repeatedly use the derogatory term “entitlement” to describe programs that benefit America’s seniors and the disabled.  

So too, Calmes appears to be oblivious to the fact that Social Security is not a part of the federal budget; it is a self-sustaining program funded by high payroll taxes on Americans throughout their working years. Furthermore, hefty Medicare premiums are deducted from the monthly Social Security checks of even low income retirees.

In addition to the above, Calmes also seems unaware that the government has raided the Social Security trust fund, supposedly in a "lock box," to support its two costly wars and avoid taxing the wealthy and closing the loopholes for large corporations.

Here’s a sample of Calmes’ uninformed article:

Typically, such spending has grown faster than inflation, but not nearly as fast as that for much bigger items whose costs are driving projections of a dangerously mounting debt — the military, the entitlement programs Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and interest on that debt.

Again, I urge seniors to mobilize and sue the United States government for violating the law and robbing the Social Security trust fund of its revenue drawn from the paychecks of American workers.

Doonesbury’s startling take on who Americans are as a people

Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury
Doonesbury character Mark Slackmeyer at his mike offers a summary in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip this morning of who Americans are as a people by looking at two sets of facts:

Fact #1:           Nine years ago we were attacked. 3000 people died.

In response we started two long, bloody wars and built a vast homeland security apparatus – all at a cost of trillions!

Fact #2:           Now consider this. During those same nine years, 270,000 Americans were killed by gunfire at home.

                        Our response: We weakened our gun laws.

Thoughtful Americans would add a couple more facts:

Fact #3:           In order to pay for our costly wars and homeland security apparatus, we chose not to raise taxes or cut back on the millions we gave to support dictatorships around the world.

                        Instead of raising taxes on the wealthy or closing tax loopholes to force corporations to pay their fair share in paying for our wars, etc., the government borrowed billions and raided the Social Security trust fund.

Fact #4:           Today, America’s political leaders from both major parties are concerned about the huge deficit they’ve created by the above practices.

                        In response, 2011 budget proposals submitted by Obama feature deep cuts in the federal energy assistance program for poor people, and both Republicans and Democrats are hinting at gutting Social Security and Medicare in attempts to offset the scary deficit.

In the last panel of Gary Trudeau’s comic strip this morning, Slackmeyer’s guest on his radio show, an illegal alien, apparently from outer space, responds: “Fail. Cannot comprehend.”

Here in St. Paul, Minn. this Sunday morning, I’m with the little green creature  - I also find incomprehensible who Americans are in terms of our government’s actions since 9/11.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Which do you prefer: the Minn. legislature’s budget proposal or Gov. Mark Dayton’s?

Minn. State Capitol Building, St. Paul, Minn.

By Susan Brown and Brian Rusche

Susan Brown is the public policy director of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and Brian Rusche is the executive director of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition. Invest in Minnesota unites over 200 faith, labor and nonprofit organizations from around the state in a call for revenues raised fairly to address budget shortfalls.

Minnesota families, just like our Minnesota state government, have been hit hard by the recession and its aftermath. In times like these we do what it takes to persevere—provide for our loved ones, look out for our neighbors, and make wise decisions to pave the way for a better tomorrow.

Thousands of us have not yet felt the benefits of a fledgling recovery. Having lost a job or housing, nearly half a million Minnesotans are still face-to-face with hunger or homelessness, and turn to both nonprofits and public services to provide a temporary helping hand.

Unfortunately, just when neighbors still need a hand, state resources for providing this help are down. Like in most other states, the recent recession has caused Minnesota state revenues to fall far and fast. And so this is the challenge facing our elected officials: Do we rely solely on expenditure cuts inflicting real pain on nearly everyone, including those least able to shoulder new burdens, or do we favor a balanced approach that includes revenues, preserves some semblance of a safety net, and allows for strategic investments to accelerate economic recovery?

So far this legislative session, we’ve seen Minnesota’s legislature embrace a cuts-only philosophy that would inflict real pain, reduce public services, reduce money in the economy, and cost many people their jobs. This approach would create a downward spiral, making the economy worse. If government reduces spending too much while families and businesses are also cutting back, it only makes times tougher and delays the much-needed recovery.

Soon we’ll learn the details of Governor Dayton’s budget. He is likely to present a better alternative to address the revenue shortfall — a balanced approach that includes revenues. That way we can keep investing in our people, communities and future prosperity. We can keep Minnesota competitive by producing a well-educated workforce, building an infrastructure that meets our growing demands and preserving a clean environment for future generations. This ought to also involve common sense improvements to our tax system — a system where today the wealthiest pay a smaller share of their income in state and local taxes than other Minnesotans.

During this time, the worst national economic crisis since the Great Depression, most states have recognized the logic of a balanced approach that includes revenues to address the growing gap between needs and resources. Yes, they all cut spending but they didn’t only cut spending. To remain competitive, Minnesota must do the same. We have already endured a decade of deep cuts, and we have watched our quality of life suffer as a result. It’s time to lay the foundation for Minnesota to thrive when the economy rebounds.

If we continue to borrow from our schools and make higher education unaffordable, we deprive tomorrow’s workforce of the next generation of Minnesota leaders. If we take our police officers and firefighters off the job and close our parks and libraries, we will no longer have safe, attractive communities for people who want to start careers, raise families, and begin new businesses. If we stop caring for our neighbors with affordable health services, decent housing and adequate food, we will hold people back as they work to recover from the recession and reach their full potential. All of these items are so much more than lines in a budget; they are essential elements to our quality of life today and far into the future.

As our elected officials continue to grapple with a serious decline in revenues — caused not by overspending but by the national recession —   we must not lose sight of the fact that this is much more than a math problem. We are talking about preserving the things that make Minnesota a great place to live. As leaders of the Invest in Minnesota coalition, we urge lawmakers to keep all of our options on the table and use a balanced approach that includes revenues. Let’s pull together and reclaim our reputation as a high quality-of-life state.

Call to action: America’s seniors should sue the federal government for raiding the Social Security trust fund

President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, 1935
(Source:Wikimedia Commons--public domain)

Given the increasing frequency of bipartisan attacks on Social Security and Medicare and threats to gut these programs to balance the federal budget, it’s time for seniors to get organized and fight back. The fact of the matter is that today’s seniors have ample grounds to sue the federal government for violating the law by raiding the Social Security trust fund created in 1983.

Social Security’s critics seldom mention that the program is self-funded through mandatory payroll taxes and that President Reagan, under the recommendation of Alan Greenspan, signed into law amendments authorizing the creation of a Social Security trust fund to be kept separate from the federal budget and protected in a “lockbox.”

As the NewsHour’s Paul Solman pointed out last November, “the lockbox has indeed been raided, in the sense that the money in the trust fund was never really set aside or meaningfully protected.”

Last Friday night on the NewsHour, Mark Shields finally responded to yet another slur against America’s seniors by David Brooks by saying, “Social Security is self-funding, it’s solvent, and in fact, it’s been bankrolling the rest of the government.”

In addition to suing the government for violating the law and raiding Social Security funds, it’s high time our seniors demanded from politicians and media reps like Brooks the respect they deserve by protesting the use of the derogatory expression “entitlement programs,” to describe Social Security and Medicare.


Could Gabby Giffords take AZ Senator Jon Kyl’s seat?

 According to Politico, Dems are looking to Gabby Giffords as a potential candidate to replace Jon Kyl; now this is true optimism and maybe even faith, and we can only cheer Gabby Giffords and her supporters on.

Politico’s Alexander Burns writes:

The race for Arizona’s open Senate seat has quickly focused in on one question: What will Gabrielle Giffords do?

The Democratic congresswoman, who survived an assassination attempt in Tucson last month, is still undergoing rehabilitation in Houston for a gunshot wound to the head. Physicians have warned that her recovery will proceed at its own pace.

But even though questions about her health remain, Giffords’s astonishingly rapid recovery has left Democrats in Arizona and Washington looking to her as a potential candidate to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jon Kyl.

Giffords was mentioned as one possible contender for the 2012 race during a closed-door meeting of Senate Democrats on Thursday, two sources with knowledge of the meeting said.

Read more:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Obama’s budget for 2011: expect cuts to Medicare beyond curtailing waste, fraud and abuse

The other day I wrote to PBS ombudsman Mike Getler about use of the term “entitlement programs” to describe Social Security and Medicare in the rants of NewsHour regulars, David Brooks, et al, insisting that the Federal deficit could only be resolved by gutting programs that serve the elderly and those suffering from disabilities.

I noticed that in his most recent column, Brooks used the term “entitlement programs” repeatedly as if to get even with anyone who dared challenge him. As I’ve said before, the usage of “entitlement” is derogatory and implies that Social Security and Medicare recipients are receiving handouts without ever having paid into the system.

This evening during the NewsHour’s weekly analysis of Shields and Brooks, Brooks delivered his usual rant and again with obvious contempt mentioned the necessity for cutting those “entitlement” programs.

However, this time Mark Shields called him on it. Shields noted that “Social Security is self-funding, it’s solvent, and in fact, it’s been bankrolling the rest of the government.”

My satisfaction was short-lived, however. Minutes ago, I read Politico’s item headlined, Medicare cuts likely in W.H. budget:

As President Barack Obama unveils his budget Monday, multiple sources say to expect cuts to Medicare beyond just curtailing waste, fraud and abuse.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. has for years served its clients without asking whether or not they carried insurance. A close friend, whose late husband was a leading Mayo physician, told me recently that Mayo had always lost money on their Medicare patients.

If Obama’s 2011 budget is passed as is, our seniors may have difficulty finding a doctor who will even see them and if David Brooks get his way, they’ll lose their meager Social Security income as well – never mind that they paid into it with high payroll taxes throughout their working lives.

Mubarak’s fall signals a new era in Arab politics

Now that Hosni Mubarak has finally stepped down, the CNN wire staff has put together a concise summary of his 30 years as “Egypt’s last pharaoh” and speculates about his legacy with hints of what the future of the largest Arab nation might hold:

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- For nearly 30 years, one man dominated Egypt.

Hosni Mubarak, 82, survived would-be assassins and ill health, crushed a rising Islamist radical movement, and maintained the peace with neighboring Israel that got his predecessor killed. His government's continued observance of the Camp David accords was the cornerstone of what peace has been achieved in the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict.

But following the revolt that toppled Tunisia's longtime strongman, demonstrators in the streets of Cairo stood up to riot police, chanting, "Mubarak, Saudi Arabia is waiting for you."
Ultimately, the demonstrations helped bring down the man critics called Egypt's last pharaoh.

Read more:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Obama Administration proposes cutting off the heat for the poor and Paul Solman’s take on the raiding of the Social Security trust fund

It's seven degrees below zero in St. Paul, Minn. this morning. Photo by VB

The temperature in St. Paul, Minn. this morning is seven degrees below zero, so it was startling to read the following taken from a NY Times article on the turmoil in Republican ranks concerning proposed budget cuts:

But Republicans have succeeded in shifting the focus to budget cutting so sufficiently that the White House will propose an array of cuts in the budget for next year that Mr. Obama sends to Capitol Hill on Monday.

Administration officials confirmed on Wednesday that the budget would propose to cut in half, to nearly $2.6 billion in fiscal year 2012, a federal program that subsidizes energy costs for low-income households.

The big reduction for the popular Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program immediately drew protests from lawmakers and antipoverty groups, as have several other cuts the administration has previewed for community service and environmental programs.

So it goes: Washington deems it acceptable to continue to fund war-making in Iraq (we’re still an occupying presence there) and Afghanistan and prop up dictators around the world, especially those from oil-producing nations, while cutting off heat for the poor and gutting community service and environmental programs.

In the meantime repeated threats to cut Social Security and Medicare are coming from both sides of the aisle these days. It’s very hard to dig up the facts regarding what has happened to the trust fund supposedly set up for the Social Security program in response to the recommendation of the Greenspan Commission in 1983.

In reply to listener Phyllis Koch’s question in Nov. 2010, the PBS NewsHour’s Paul Solman had this to say:

It is true, of course, that the Greenspan Commission concept has been violated from the very outset. When the amendments authorizing the trust fund were signed into law by President Reagan in 1983, they included a provision to be accounted for "off-budget." So the reported budget balance does not include the social security account -- the billions supposedly being socked away or, in the term of a few years ago, protected in a "lockbox."

This is of course your point, Ms. Koch, when you write about "borrowing from social security": the lockbox has indeed been raided, in the sense that the money in the trust fund was never really set aside or meaningfully protected.

Got that? “the lockbox has indeed been raided.”

The way things are going the nation's poor and low-income seniors will soon be abandoned in favor of other priorities like wars, dictators, oil, and such - all coming to you from a Democratic administration.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Secretary Clinton warns against hasty exit for Mubarak

In its frenzied paternalistic attempts to influence events unfolding in the uprising in Egypt, the media is finally stepping back and allowing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other world leaders the opportunity to assess the situation and offer meaningful support to the Egyptian people in seeking a peaceful transition to a more democratic form of government.

In his almost professional report of Secretary Clinton's remarks today, Mark Landler at the NY Times can't refrain from injecting his personal biases occasionally; nevertheless you can get the gist of what Clinton had to say:

MUNICH — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned on Sunday that removing President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt too hastily could threaten the country’s transition to democracy. 

Her remarks were the Obama administration’s most explicit sign yet of its growing emphasis on averting instability in Egypt, even at the expense of the key demand from the Egyptian protest movement: Mr. Mubarak’s immediate removal.
Citing the Egyptian Constitution, Mrs. Clinton said that if Mr. Mubarak stepped down now, Egypt would have to hold elections for a new president in 60 days — too little time for the government or the opposition to organize a credible vote.

Her comments, made to reporters on the way home from a conference in Munich, echo what administration officials have said privately and some of what the White House’s temporary diplomatic emissary to Cairo, Frank G. Wisner, said publicly on Sunday: Mr. Mubarak is likely to remain in the picture, at least a while longer.

Mrs. Clinton reiterated that Mr. Mubarak’s future was up to the Egyptian people and declined to discuss what role he should play between now and September, when Egypt is scheduled to hold an election in which he has said neither he nor his son Gamal will compete.