Friday, October 28, 2011

The Trumpometer is Broken

Donald Trump appeared on CNN Thursday night, and said he represents "millions of people" in this country.

What irony that the CEO of The Trump Organization, a man who Forbes now estimates to have a net worth of $2.9 billion, should make that pronouncement from the building he owns overlooking the Occupy Wall Street protestors.

Who are the millions he represents? The millions who, like him, graduated from the prestigious Wharton School of Business? The millions of Americans who, like Mr. Trump, were sons of New York City real-estate developers? Donald Trump had the privilege of cutting his teeth at his dad's, Fred Trump's, firm, and in the late 1960's, right after graduating college, he was officially hired by Elizabeth Trump and Son.

How many millions can claim to have their fate signed, sealed, and delivered at birth. We didn't need to see Mr. Trump's birth certificate to know he was born to privilege.

And, shortly after earning his degree in Business from the University of Pennsylvania, in 1971, the Trumpster was given control of the company now bearing only his name.

What's more, of the "millions" of Americans Mr. Trump claims to represent, how many can afford to live in Trump Towers?

So, who are these millions of people Mr. Trump claims he represents? As he acknowledged when interviewed by Piers Morgan on CNN, some of them are heads of banks, and some heads of Wall Street firms.

Given what is widely known about his background, then, how can this born again billionaire have any credibility when he says that the Occupy Movement is ultimately more dangerous for Obama. Is it logical that a group of protestors, of all ages, waving signs that show they're members of the 99% would vote for anyone endorsed by the new godfather of the right?

Just who does Trump think will be politically injured by his assertion that he would "vote for anyone over Obama?"

Why would anyone who is part of the 99%, and yes that includes 99% of the tea party, give any credence to a man who is actively trying to protect his riches from those who, like President Obama and most Americans, would like to see the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy go away?

And, in a nutshell,all puns intended, Donald Trump has aligned himself with the far right of the Republican Party pandering to them by saying he is anti-choice, pro-gun, against same-sex marriage, but one can only deduce that he must have grown up in a zip lock bag because his views are from a planet other than the one the majority of those who lived in Forest Hills in the 1960's, and 1970's. I know, I grew up there.

What it all comes down to then is that the thermometer Mr. Trump has been using to take the temperature of the voting public in preparation for the general election is broken. But then, it's not the voting public he's really concerned about, but his own turn up at bat.

Donald Trump must have told CNN host Piers Morgan that he's "very smart" close to a dozen times, but how smart is it to say that some of the people under his nose at Occupying Wall Street are "serious people," and "some of them are only there to find a date?"

How smart is it to argue that the biggest problem the banks now face are the regulators: "The regulators are literally ruining the banks," and that the "entire world is ripping off the U.S?"

And, how clever is it for the landlord of a Chinese bank to blast the Chinese as ripping us off and suggest a 25% tax on Chinese products? It's not just the Chinese Trump has it in for: "Japan for years has been ripping us like crazy."

What about the statement that "some very smart people" agree that Obama's birth certificate was forged? Who are these very smart people, and can we expect them to crawl out of the same cave to vote in 2012?

On second thought, Donald Trump is right. He is smart. He was smart enough to be born right.

Trump says, "The main thing you've got to do is to get Obama out of office?" Where have you heard this before? He took the words right out of Mitch McConnell's mouth. Moreover, he calls the president "a very negative force."
What do you call a force that condemns the Environmental Protection Agency, and says "We've got to get rid of these regulators. These regulators are killing us?" How about a very dangerous force?

While he insists he was no fan of George W. Bush either, Trump says Obama came in and made things worse. With that in mind, here's a twist on an old maxim: "If it ain't fixed, don't break it more." Mr. Obama is only beginning to clean up the mess that deregulators like Reagan, Bush, Trump and friends have made on Wall Street.

Putting two and two together, it's clear now that Donald Trump is little more than a parrot who repeats the frozen, frayed syllables of a desperate, and rapidly diminishing force in the Republican Party, one that has been trying to gain dominion, pun intended, since the mid-1990's, but a force that has proven itself completely incompetent at doing so. And why? Because the tea party, the group to whom both Cain and Trump are pandering, reflects the interests of 1% of the population at the expense of the other 99%.

Many in his party have gifted Donald Trump, the self-proclaimed entrepreneur-in-chief, with the task of endorsing the next Republican presidential candidate. He vacillates between Romney and Cain, and appears to think highly of Perry, but one thing is clear. Trump is keeping his dance card open.

Any candidate who gets a hearty thumbs-up from The Donald should run for cover and not office because, in the end, an endorsement from one who is irrevocably embedded in the financial sector, thus in the interests of the upper 1%, will be the kiss of death to anyone who wants to win in 2012.

The best thing Mr. Obama has done was to alienate Donald Trump and his Wall Street friends. If nothing else, that's what the Occupy Movement has shown us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Michael Winship on Rush Limbaugh

Motormouth Meets the Machine Gun Preacher

By Michael Winship

If you blinked, you might have missed a recent movie called "Machine Gun Preacher." The film hasn’t burned up the box office and the title may have kept you away from your local picture palace in the mistaken belief that it was some kind of exploitation flick or the latest Quentin Tarantino exercise in post-modernism and ironic bloodbaths. In which case, who could blame you?

In fact, "Machine Gun Preacher" is the improbable but true story of Sam Childers (played by the improbable but true Gerard Butler, the shiny, muscle-bound Spartan king of 300 fame). After a misbegotten life as a violent biker/drug dealer/ex-con, Childers had a come-to-Jesus epiphany and became a born-again Christian with his own congregation in rural Pennsylvania. But it was when he heard a missionary speak about church work in East Africa that he found his true calling, building an orphanage in the Sudan and protecting the kids there by becoming a vigilante fighting alongside the ill-equipped and undermanned local militia. That’s where the machine gun part comes in.

Apparently, Rush Limbaugh didn’t see "Machine Gun Preacher" either. If he had, he might have known a thing or two about the enemy Sam Childers was battling against: the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rabid rebel group that for some 25 years has made simple, day-to-day existence a living hell for civilians -- especially children -- in Uganda, Southern Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Instead, as is his usual way -- in other words, not having any idea what he’s talking about -- Old Motormouth Limbaugh recently defended the Lord’s Resistance Army on his radio program because they "are Christians. They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan."

His defense came solely because anything or anyone Barack Obama is against must ipso facto be okay. President Obama has sent 100 military advisers to Africa to try to help end the LRA’s atrocities once and for all. But in the Gospel According to Rush, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, even if said friend engages in murder and mutilation.

"That’s a new war," Limbaugh declared, "a hundred troops to wipe out Christians in Sudan, Uganda." Yet just last Thursday the Lord’s Resistance Army was described by the evangelical Christian Post as "East Africa’s greatest evil... the region’s most malicious militia group." The paper quoted Jedidiah Jenkins of the non-profit group Invisible Children: "The LRA is an abuse of the Christian religion… a small, vicious cult."

The New York Times has called the LRA "a notorious renegade group that has terrorized villagers in at least four countries with marauding bands that kill, rape, maim and kidnap with impunity," and Reuters reports, "Over the years the LRA became known for chilling violence including what human rights groups say were the abductions of thousands for use as child soldiers or sex slaves, [and] brutal club and machete attacks on victims."

Just ask former Bush White House chief speechwriter Michael Gerson. "The LRA is a brutal rebel group headed by a messianic madman," he wrote in The Washington Post. "Its victims... have been the focus of activism by Christian organizations and human rights groups for decades."

Presented with the inconvenient facts, Rush harrumphed, "Well, we just found out about this today. We’re gonna do, of course, our due diligence research on it." A couple of days later Limbaugh admitted that he had been "misinformed," then proceeded to laugh the whole thing off.

This lethal combination of ignorance and abject dismissal typifies the Republican right’s current approach to foreign policy, as evidenced by everything from Michele Bachmann’s suggestion that the Iraqi people reimburse the United States for the privilege of having had their country invaded to Herman Cain’s declaration that, "When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I’m going to say, 'You know, I don’t know. Do you know?' ... Knowing who is the head of some of these small insignificant states around the world I don’t think that is something that is critical to focusing on national security and getting this economy going."

That jobs and the economy should be our first priority is a no-brainer, but in its zeal to simplistically reject all things governmental, the GOP is turning its back on decades of the experience, craft and skill essential to an effective, bipartisan foreign policy. Nowhere is that more evident than the dilemma currently confronted by five-term Republican Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana, a venerated and respected, conservative expert on global affairs now facing a serious primary challenge from Tea Party candidate Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer. Mourdock’s making political hay over Lugar’s mentoring of Barack Obama in the world of international relations when Obama was a freshman senator, a partnership brayingly portrayed in a Mourdock campaign video titled, "Dick and Barry: The Unforgettable Bromance."

Jacob Heilbrunn, senior fellow at the public policy Center for the National Interest (formerly The Nixon Center) wrote on the website of Foreign Policy magazine, "It isn’t just the career of the Senate’s senior-most Republican that is at stake here; it is an entire tradition of Republican foreign policy that is being repudiated by the party faithful."
This, he continues, "should evoke apprehension in anyone who thinks that America's leading role in the world has, by and large, been a force for good."

Whether you agree with the decision or not, it is that perception of the American role as a force for good that partially informs Obama’s dispatch of military advisors to East Africa, a move that not only is consonant -- so far -- with Congress’ 2010 passage of the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, but also the Bush administration’s Operation Lightning Thunder in December 2008, when American military intelligence assisted African troops in an unsuccessful attempt to corner LRA leader Joseph Kony in eastern Congo. (According to Human Rights Watch, in retaliation after that failure, "the LRA attacked villages and towns in northern Congo and southern Sudan, killing more than 865 civilians during the Christmas 2008 holiday season and in the weeks thereafter.")

President Obama’s new move in Africa jibes with the National Security Strategy he presented last year: "The burdens of a young century cannot fall on American shoulders alone,” he wrote, but “democracy does not merely represent our better angels, it stands in opposition to aggression and injustice, and our support for human rights is both fundamental to American leadership and a source of our strength in the world."

Yet as Adam Serwer of Mother Jones points out, “The atrocities committed by the LRA aside, nations don't use military force out of altruism. Uganda provides a substantial number of troops for the African Union Force in Somalia, where the al-Qaeda linked group al-Shabaab has control over a significant part of that country. I have no doubt that Barack Obama believes that the world would be better off without Kony and the LRA. But although it hasn't been explicitly said, it's a good bet the Obama administration feels obligated to assist Uganda because Uganda is helping the US fight a proxy war against an al-Qaeda affiliate, a mission that hasn't been without cost for Uganda."

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh and his right wing cohort emptily natter on, chattering, as my old man used to say, just to hear their heads rattle.


Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America, East, is senior writer of the new public television series Moyers & Company, premiering in January 2012.

What are the odds?

What are the odds of running into the same squirrel on the same street three days later? Nominal, I'd think, but that's what happened.

I could have sworn he gave me a wink today as I passed him on the street, then he climbed up a tree in search of the perfect nut. That squirrel ought to
run for president,I thought. He's sharper than any of the Republicans running.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Requiem for a Squirrel

Taking my afternoon walk today when, out of the blue, a squirrel charges out of a tree, and heads for the road.

A large sports utility vehicle comes racing by. It must have been going 40 mph on a side street. I've never seen a squirrel fly back on the curb like that in my life. He was holding onto his nuts as if for dear life.

Yes, it's difficult to imagine, but all living things know when their survival is at risk. That was evident from the squirrel's instant reaction to the oncoming vehicle. The driver sped on ahead, turned the corner with uncanny arrogance, and never appeared to notice a thing. So, this is what Charles Darwin had in mind by evolution. Maybe the Creationists are right. Maybe we need a God to start from scratch all over again.

Thankfully, the little guy made it back onto the street, and up the tree as though nothing had happened, but that isn't true of his brethren who routinely get run down, and left for dead in the road.

How silly I must look to those folks like the driver of that behemoth SUV that I worry for the life of a little squirrel, and sillier still that I idenify more with that squirrel who ran for his life than with the burly brute who nearly ran him down.

History has shown that those who make the small run for cover will, sooner or later, be made to run for cover themselves.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rick Perry and his "aviation assets"

Rick Perry has already shown that he bends whichever way the wind is blowing, and nowhere is that clearer than when he starts talking about illegal immigration.

As governor of the state that has the most liberal immigration policies of any state with the exception of California, as well as a law that allows some children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition in Texas college, Mr. Perry now says he wants "boots on the ground" to secure federal borders.

But, in the Republican presidential debate in Vegas a week ago, Perry stood in his boots like a Pay Per View prize fighter and spoke of using predator drones on anyone who sneaks across the border. Not only did the Texas governor endorse the use of drones on federal borders, he referred to them as "aviation assets." Herman Cain agreed, and agreed. Herman Cain blindly echoed the phrase "boots on the ground."

Though you may expect that, in future debates, candidates will try to walk about Perry's "aviation assets" phrase, and Cain's remarks about an electrified fence, this stance on immigration will be the template for the Republican nominee, and for any future Republican president, esp. one who seeks more than one term.

Too much emphasis has been placed on Cain's "joke" about turning the border into a third rail, and there's been precious little focus on the long term domestic policy implications of turning predator drones on people who try to cross our borders and, ultimately, the possibility of turning drones against U.S. citizens who disobey the law.

That any contender for president of this country could devise a euphemism like "aviation asset" for a remote-controlled killing machine, and go so far as to suggest drones be used domestically as a way to deal with lawbreaking is downright terrifying.

So, the candidate whose state has had the greatest percentage of illegal immigration of any in recent years and, simultaneously, the one who boasts of being a job creator, is now the one who has introduced the notion of using drones domestically. After all, is the border not a part of the country?

And, Ron Paul who has long been touted as the anti-war, pro-Constitution Republican candidate went so far as to say, during the Vegas debate, that he would pull all the troops out of Afghanistan and deploy them to the borders to keep the "illegals" out.

Mitt Romney was characteristically dignified when he said how much he respects immigrants, and that we are a nation founded by immigrants. That sure sounds good until you get to the part of his speech when he says, "I don't like illegal immigrants." Quite right. Mr. Romney didn't say that at the Republican face-off in Las Vegas, but in his September 2nd speech to the Republican National Hispanic Assembly in Tampa, Florida.

Romney has also said that "Illegal immigration has got to end and any form of citizenship amnesty is especially troubling."

Notably, not one Republican candidate mentioned the fact that the recession has proven to be remarkably effective in curtailing the flow of immigrants, legal or otherwise, into this country. Instead, they've virtually made immigration the bogey man of the debate, and it now occupies the same position as the "war on terror" did in the 2008 debate. It's as if national security is all about the economy.

Importantly, too, the Pew Hispanic Center shows what a straw man the immigration debate in that the number of undocumented immigrants from Mexico in the U.S., who account for 60% of those who have no citizenship papers, has declined, and that fewer than 100,000 "illegals" who come from Mexico were caught in 2010 compared to an estimated 525,000 annually from 2000 to 2004. That degree of shrinkage in and of itself show demonstrate that undocumented immigrants pose about as much of a clear and present danger as the Taliban, and still we engage in an undeclared war against them.

As other empires have found in the past, cultural agoraphobia can be a costly enterprise. Perry took cultural agoraphobia one step further when he called for cutting off funding to the United Nations.

While another Texan, Ron Paul, insists that detainees at Guantanamo Bay are suspects and not terrorists until so proven in a court of law, one wonders if Mr. Paul would stand up for the rights of those who are currently being fingerprinted, pulled over in states like Alabama, Georgia, and Arizona, and who have to produce voter I.D. cards, simply because of the color of their skin?

Perry continues to contradict himself by pandering to the far right of a party to which he only recently joined which has he coming in second only to Mitt Romney, the Texas governor seems to have missed one simple fact, and one that wasn't lost on President Obama any more than it was on George W. Bush. Both Bush and Obama recognized that the prevailing crackdown on undocumented workers is, at its core, anti-Hispanic, and both acknowledged the growing importance of the Latino vote.

And, one of the things Mr. Obama addressed shortly after his inauguration was to push for a policy that would allow those who work in this country without the proper documents to get what they need in order to work here legally, thereby also ending the exploitation of undocumented workers who are paid far less than the minimum wage.

Regrettably, serious efforts at immigration reform have been thwarted by the same group that claims to be pro-life, but who have aborted any legislation that seeks to improve the living standards of working people, and the poor in this country. Since they won the midterm election of 2010, one thing is becoming clearer every day. To the born-again neo-Con, life doesn't begin at conception; it ends there.

Not one of the Republican candidates running for president this year has accepted the need for a rational approach to immigration reform, leaving all things reasonable to their Democratic nemesis, President Barack Obama. Doubtless, Mr. Romney will capitulate, too, to the wing nuts of his party who call for airstrikes, and electrified fences.

If nothing else, the debate in Las Vegas has shown that the border that needs protecting most is the one between sanity and insanity, reason and the irrational, a border that has been largely blurred, and defaced by the obstructionists.

By inveighing against "illegals," Rick Perry has now spent what little political capital he had in the first place, and by not distancing himself from Perry on the matter of immigration as vigorously as he did when it comes to Social Security, Romney will capsize along with him. They, along with Cain, Bachmann, and Gingrich will take what is left of the Republican Party along, too. And, wherever they are now, the founding fathers must be wearing an immense grin.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Supermarket in Hell

Had a strange dream last night that I went to the supermarket, and when I got my cart, I saw that I had to pass through a turnstile.

In my dream, the supermarket was charging for admission. The price was $20, and there was a machine that would take bills and convert them into tokens.

Luckily, I happened to have a twenty dollar bill on hand, so I put the money in the machine, and voila! there I was inside this mega-store with every conceivable product one could want.

The only problem was that the aisles were small, and appeared the more shopping I did. Every item was much more expensive even than in Manhattan or San Francisco.

And, though there was several cashiers on duty, the lines at the cash registers seemed to go on and on forever. I overheard a fellow on the line next to me complain that he couldn't get a signal.

Thinking I was going to be in line for awhile, I wanted to know what others shoppers thought, so I asked an older woman in line in front of me, and she lamented the days when milk was affordable. "It's not now," she said, "a quart of milk is $10."

As I was preoccupied conversing, a young woman who was standing behind me in line cut right in front of me and, sensing my confusion, adamantly remained there.

"Where am I?" I plaintively asked the fellow on the line next to me who was busy toying with his cell phone to get a signal. A supermarket in hell, he said. Oh my God, I thought, hell is even closer than we think!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cain and Abel? Why not Cain and Koch?

If you're like me, the first thing you thought of when you heard the name of one of the Republican contenders, Herman Cain, those fabulous Old Testament fellas, Cain and Abel, came to mind.

This is not to suggest that Cain, the older brother of two sons born to Adam, one who is portrayed as not only sinful but a murderer of his younger brother is anything like the pizza magnate, or that Mr. Cain bears any resemblance to his biblical counterpart. After all, what's in a name? What, indeed!

As the Associated Press now reports, several members of Cain's staff and even his campaign manager have also been employed by Americans for Prosperity, a Washington, D.C. group that advocates for less regulation, and in favor of business, and one that was founded with backing from the Koch brothers.'s%20Rise-Koch%20Brothers/id-4c33736825114294b92238e95c99ef7d

But, there can be no accusations of fratricide with Charles and David Koch who are alive and well, and reportedly helping ghostwrite Herman Kain's 9-9-9 plan. As the AP also suggests, the Koch brothers's advocacy group, AFP, handpicked Mr. Cain to travel the country several years ago delivering what is now standard tea party pablum, and Cain's former spokeswoman, was an AFP coordinator.

While Cain doesn't publicize his affiliation with Americans for Prosperity, according to the AP, he's still a proverbial card-carrying member of the group.

Whatever momentary movement there has been for Mitt Romney in the polls is mainly attributable to the stand-up job the press has been doing in getting the word out about who most benefits, and who's most hurt, by candidate Cain's 9-9-9 plan. One can only hope that the latest ludicrous, and allegedly humorous attempts by Cain to show he's tough on immigration will backfire as effectively as his economic jests, (read "plan.")

After his brief tour of the Sunday morning talk show circuit, the current leading Republican candidate, Herman Cain, conceded that "some people" will pay more under his tax plan, but while he doesn't say it, there is no way he can camouflage his intention. That he chooses to hide under Ronald Reagan's proverbial skirt while he does it is quite another matter. Reagan would have balked at taxing corporations, and millionaires at a rate of 9%.

What Cain also doesn't say, of course, is that big business which is a core interest of Americans for Prosperity, will actually be the greatest beneficiary of his plan. His plan would lower corporate tax to 9% and, at the same time, create a new federal sales tax of 9% which will hurt working, middle class, and poor families.

Even Ronald Reagan would abjure Cain's tax plan. What no Republican running for president will tell you is that Ronald Reagan actually raised taxes on corporations, and insisted that they pay what he called "their fair share."

And, those other brothers, Charles and David Koch, may think they've done a magnificent job of attempting political fratricide by setting up Herman Cain to run against Barack Obama when all they've essentially exposed is how incompetent they really are.

Despite their best efforts, this is one nomination even Koch money can't buy. Notice that I didn't say "one election." The Koch brothers' relationship to the Republican Party may someday be seen in much the same way we view organized crime's relationship to Vegas.

One can only hope that Herman Cain prevails in his bid for the Republican Party presidential nomination which he's rendered all but impossible now that he's effectively alienated one-third of the U.S. population with his so-called immigration joke. If by some miracle he should prevail, the president will quickly show him who that able fellow is.


"I think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his
ability," Oscar Wilde

Happy Birthday, Oscar Wilde
(b) Oct. 16, 1854

There was no overestimating when it came to creating you.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

From Michael Winship

Occupy Wall Street Wins Labor’s Love

By Michael Winship

Early last Friday morning, as the Occupy Wall Street protesters were just uncurling from their sleeping bags, I went downtown for a walkthrough of their campsite at Zuccotti Park, now also known as Liberty Plaza. I met up there with AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka and New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez. (I’m president of an AFL-CIO affiliated union.)

There were just a few of us in our group, and as the sun burned through the dawn’s chill not much attention was paid as we took the tour. We kept our voices low and walked carefully, doing our best to keep from tripping over and waking those who were still asleep

One or two reporters hooked up with us, not including the kid you may have seen with the fake cardboard Fox News camera and microphone, who tossed out questions as he walked along behind us. That was the extent of the media coverage.

Every once in a while someone would ask who Trumka was and he would stop and chat. At the end of our visit, he sat with a group at the west end of the park, across from Ground Zero, and quietly offered encouragement, discussing strategy, goals and on a practical level, the essentials needed to keep the protest going.

As many have noted, this so-called ragtag army of students and activists has ably taken democracy at its rawest and organized it well: the whiteboards filled with information, the computers mobilizing social media, the makeshift library of plastic bins filled with books and magazines, the committees that handle everything from "direct action" and training to hygiene and childcare. As for their general assemblies, at which speeches and group decisions are made, many have made fun of the call-and-response "people’s mike" that sometimes makes them sound a bit like the chanting members of a cult.

But ask yourself if it’s no more peculiar than many of the words and deeds of those who currently constitute the United States Congress. Unlike the Bible’s lilies of the field, those honorable gentlemen and women toil not but spin like hell. Consider the difference between an earnest and sincere gathering of committed men and women who for the most part only want to see our country pulled back from the abyss, and a Capitol Hill where legislators view the needs of a despairing nation as little more than moves in a punch drunk game of fantasy league football.

Oh, and I didn’t think the park "smelled like an open sewer," as Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post reported this week (the city reports that not a single complaint has been made to its 311 helpline). In fact, while I was there, the predominant aroma was that of hunger-inducing spices floating from the trucks of food vendors parked at the curbside. Neither was there any evidence of the blatant sex, drugs and public defecation the paper reported, but admittedly it was early and in any case I tend to usually miss out on that kind of thing.

In fact, there’s a lot of creativity and intelligence at work down there. Just read the movement’s snappily edited and written newspaper -- The Occupied Wall Street Journal, of course – and take a look at some of their placards: "If only the war on poverty was a real war. Then we would actually be putting money into it" (Cornel West was holding that one), "The police are one layoff away from joining us," "You know things are messed up when librarians start marching."

Are there miscreants among the crowd, hangers-on and even provocateurs? Sure. Speaking as an experienced veteran of demonstrations and picket lines, that’s been true since humankind first gathered together to express dissent. Lowlifes always try to latch on. Just the other day right wing darling James O’Keefe, the puny scourge of ACORN and public radio, showed up in a business suit, tie and glasses, apparently hoping to provoke a protester into mistaking him for someone important and pummeling him with an empty pizza box. Most hands extend in solidarity but there are always some who will close theirs to make a fist or an obscene gesture.

At the end of our visit, as Rich Trumka was leaving, a group of men from the United Steelworkers arrived from Jersey to take a look for themselves and offer support for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some wore hardhats and I remembered how, on May 8, 1970, after Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and the killing of four students by the National Guard at Kent State University, members of the building and trade unions, not very far from where we stood, beat up protesters much like the ones now camped out at Zuccotti Park.

As The New York Times legendary Homer Bigart reported back then, "Helmeted construction workers broke up a student anti-war demonstration in Wall Street yesterday, chasing youths through the canyons of the financial district in a wild noontime melee that left about 70 persons injured." Kids were savagely kicked and pounded with tools, crowbars and yes, hardhats.

More than four decades later, all that has changed. The fate of our economy and our collective futures are so dire, unions have joined with the Occupy Wall Street activists. They have energized organized labor and the entire progressive movement, because these groups know that only with the strength of a unified voice putting truth to power can the plutocracy of government, industry and financial institutions be forced to budge even an inch from the avarice that values profit above people and domination over freedom.

I remembered, too, something I wrote a year and a half ago, recalling how much of the momentum of those 1970 antiwar protests and a national student strike vanished with the pleasures of summertime and dwindled -- for a while at least -- into something an editor friend dubbed "the Frisbee revolution."

I wrote, "Despite all the anger and worry today -- an economy in shambles, the loss of jobs and security, wars continuing in Afghanistan and Iraq, a dysfunctional government hobbled by the stranglehold of campaign cash and political hackery -- there's a similar lack of interest afflicting many of those who rallied to the cause of Barack Obama in 2008, knocking on doors, contributing money – voting."

Occupy Wall Street – prove me wrong. Please.


Good news!! In January, 2012, Michael Winship and Bill Moyers will team up once again for Bill Moyers' new TV show, "Moyers and Company."

Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, president of the Writers Guild of America, East, and senior writer of the new series, Moyers & Company, premiering on public television in January 2012.

Photo: Pat Ivers

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Forget Wall Street, Let's Occupy the World

It sure looks like Joe Biden finally got his mojo back. Whatever mojo he had in the first place, that is. Don't get me wrong. I like Joe Biden, and always have. He's a straight shooter which is why he's totally miscast in his current role of Defense Department surrogate.

In an appearance on CBS News earlier today, the vice president emphasized how crucial he thinks it is to "unite the world" against Iran.

After allegations surfaced Tuesday of a foiled terrorist plot by Iranian government officials that aimed to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., the Department of Justice and now the executive branch of the Obama administration have gone to great lengths to show that there will be hell to pay for an plan to take the life of a Saudi diplomat on American soil.

Mr. Biden was even asked if it were not "an act of war" to stage an assassination on U.S. soil.

Indeed, one can't help but be reminded of the Navy Seals' covert operation that led to the taking down of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil, an act that Pakistani officials widely regarded as violation of their autonomy. But, when asked whether he thought the actions of the killing bin Laden on Pakistani was an act of war, Pakistani president Al Zardari stopped short of saying that it was.

How ironic is Biden's statement on "The Early Show" that Iranians "have not only decided to assassinate someone, they have taken on the basis in which ... nations deal with one another" in light of U.S. special forces actions in Pakistan and, most recently, in what many consider the extrajudicial execution of al-Awlaki in Yemen. That the Muslim cleric is a U.S. citizen counts, of course, but the bypassing of trials, and due process are what is in question here, not merely the matter of citizenship.

Moreover, what, specifically, does Secretary of State Clinton mean when she tells the Associated Press that "this really, in the minds of many diplomats and government officials, crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for?" What kind of example does our government set when we "plot" for two years to take out al-Awlaki, an American citizen, in Yemen who has been proven to have done nothing more than allegedly conspire with others to attack the United States? And, what line have we crossed?

Is it not considered an act of war when a citizen of a country is killed on foreign soil? If so, then by killing al-Awlaki, we have declared war on ourselves.

Sunday, October 09, 2011


On the boulevard
broken glass
screams your
it is a
dream that
keeps you here.
tell me why
we are only
invisible in
the night
tell me why,
like urgent
children, we thirst for
On the boulevard
I want to die
next to
you with my
feet on
a cloud.

by jayne lyn stahl
all rights reserved

(en francais)

Pour toujours

Sur le boulevard desert,
des vitres brisees me rappellent , sous mes pieds ,
le son de votre nom.
comme un reve nocturne qui me tient eveillee
Dites-moi pourquoi
sommes nous
seulement invisibles
dans la nuit ?
Dites moi pourquoi
comme des enfants impatients,
avons nous seulement soif de
l’eau de ces fontaines ?
Sur ce boulevard desert,
, ce soir, a cote de vous,
je veux mourir
mes pieds dans les nuages
traduire en francais par Jean-Luc Lasseur


It is
so cathartic
to rip
the heart
out of
a head of
and tell myself
that it is

by jayne lyn stahl

all rights reserved


Happy Birthday, John Lennon!
Born Oct. 9, 1940

Rock on!

Thursday, October 06, 2011


There is
stranger than
you and I
except boarding
a train
that has
no end and
no beginning.

jayne lyn stahl
all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Stanford, 2005

This is an excerpt from Steve Jobs' amazing commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005:

"No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary," Steve Jobs

RIP Steve Jobs whose vision remains his greatest legacy

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Deja Yoo

Noam Chomsky, and others on the left, have inveighed against the recent targeted killing of al-Awlaki claiming that the U.S. no longer bothers to detain, and interrogate alleged terrorists, but simply kills them.

To give credit where credit is due, the mastermind behind covert kill squad perations targeting terror suspects was not President Barack Obama, but former vice president Dick Cheney. And, as the New York Times has reported, this practice dates back over over a period of years, and long before the al-Awlaki execution.

Back in 2009, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh spoke of a secret assassination squad that answered directly to Dick Cheney. In the Bush years, this taking down of alleged enemy combatant was a function of the CIA. And, as Hersh reports, under Obama there is what's called a Joint Special Operations Command of which "Congress has no oversight... It's an executive assassination ring essentially, and it's been going on and on and on."

On George W. Bush's watch, too, according to Hersh, special operation forces have been "going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That's been going on, in the name of all of us."

Over the past decade, there has been a rapid, and remarkable deterioration of the constitutional separation of powers such that the CIA is now essentially in a parasitic relationship with the Department of Defense as is the State Department.

The boundaries between the different branches have been carefully deconstructed, brick by brick, and there are no longer independent branches of government. Some might argue this has been done in the name of national security, but one would be hard-pressed to convince Thomas Jefferson of that.

What may one day be seen as a signature misstep of the Obama administration was to leave Robert Gates at the wheel of Defense as long as it did. While he looks liberal compared to Rumsfeld, Gates ensured that the global war on terror would not only be kept in place, but accelerated, without contest, for as long as possible.

The press, which was virtually shackled and silenced during the Bush years, last week selectively leaked another "secret U.S. memo," only unlike the Bybee Memos of August, 2002 that justified the use of interrogation methods that have always been considered torture under the rubric of presidential authority in wartime, the secret memo of the Obama administration now justifies the targeting, and extrajudicial murder of "high level leaders," whether they are U.S. citizens or not, who are "plotting to kill the armed conflict with al Qaeda, and the Taliban."

The Obama administration memo contends international law approves of extrajudicial killing of alleged high value leaders of al Qaeda and Taliban as "self-defense," but is the "driving force" behind "Inspire," an al Qaeda Internet magazine considered a leader, high value or not?

What about those civilians who were collateral damage, so to speak, when drones wiped out dozens in Pakistan and elsewhere? The legal, and moral, implications are far-reaching.

Is there a difference between "plotting" and planning? Is ideation considered plotting, or planning?

From another perspective, the efforts made by the Bush administration to fly under the radar in terms of Geneva and the Constitution may also be seen as plotting and planning a subversive act, an act that subverts both due process and human rights.

Remember that it was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, John Yoo, who drafted which has since come to be known as the "torture memo" of 2002. This was the memo that sanctioned interrogation techniques like sleep deprivation, and waterboarding, and that said essentially that anything that falls short of loss of limb, or life is acceptable. The memo was later approved, and signed by Bush's legal counsel, Jay Bybee. It was this memo that got the proverbial ball rolling, and that took us down the road we're on now.

But, in stark contrast with the Bush administration, there are no John Yoo's stepping forward now to take responsibility for personally drafting a memo defending the death by drone of U.S. citizen, Muslim cleric, and alleged al Qaeda kingpin, al-Awlaki from those who are outraged by this affront to due process. The Obama administration memo says simply that "what constitutes due process in this case is due process in war."

Even the phrase "due process in war" is not only an oxymoron, it stings. The only thing that stings more is a White House that, when taking office, denounced the "torture memos," proclaiming then like it's predecessor before it that the U.S. This White House has now acquiesced, "in broad terms," as the Washington Post suggests, to the use of deadly force not solely in the battlefield, but anywhere, and on anyone it deems to be not merely a member of al Qaeda or the Taliban, but so-called "associated forces."

While the focus of the White House, Congress, and the American people has squarely, and almost exclusively been on fixing the economy, Mr. Obama must distance himself not just from the failed economic policies of his predecessor, but from its failed military, and moral practices, too.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

From Michael Winship

Why Are the Governors of America Saying Such Dumb Things

An epidemic of foot-in-mouth disease strikes state leaders -- but deep within, some hope for reform

By Michael Winship

Miriam "Ma" Ferguson was the first woman governor of Texas. Like my own dear ma, she both hailed from Bell County, deep in the heart of the state, and graduated from Mary Hardin-Baylor College (now the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in the fine town of Belton, Texas, long may they wave.

"Ma" Ferguson first was elected in 1924, just a few years after the impeachment and conviction of her husband, Governor James Edward "Pa" Ferguson, who was charged with the "misapplication" of public funds and banned from holding further office. During her campaign, "Ma" promised, "You’ll have two governors for the price of one," a pledge that may have seemed more like a threat to those Texans inclined toward a greater civic-mindedness.

Contrary to current Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, who relishes his role as capital punishment’s Lord High Executioner, "Ma" was famous for passing out pardons. In her administration they were as common as cow chips, with some 4000 issued during her two non-consecutive terms. "Ma" claimed they were to relieve overcrowding in the prisons; others believed that many of those in custody were freed only after making pay-offs to "Pa." Those allegations helped lead to the creation of the independent Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

But I digress. Another reason that "Ma" Ferguson will go down in the history books -- the funnier ones, at least -- is the apocryphal tale that when an early attempt was made to legislate the teaching of Spanish in Texas public schools, "Ma" refused, saying that if English was good enough for the Sweet Baby Jesus, it was good enough for the schoolchildren of Texas.

Obviously, this was neither the first or last ludicrous thing that ever has been said by a state governor: a mere glance at the foolishness uttered by the several seeking – or contemplating seeking -- the GOP presidential nod reveal a race as much to the bottom of the rhetorical barrel as it is to the White House. But this week, several governors not seeking the Oval Office also revealed an uncanny gift for the goofy.

According to the Associated Press, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley announced at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that forthwith, state employees are to answer official phones with a cheery, "It’s a great day in South Carolina!"

Gee whiz, that should solve everything! As AP noted,"“Never mind the state’s 11.1 percent jobless rate and the fact that one in five residents are on Medicaid." Great day indeed. Presumably, Governor Sunshine plans to accompany the next set of her state’s unemployment figures with a chorus of "We’re in the Money."

Then there’s Maine Governor Paul LePage. You may remember that in March, just a couple of months after this Tea Party favorite took office, he ordered an 11-panel mural depicting the history of unions in the state removed from the walls of Maine’s Department of Labor, claiming that it was "not in keeping with the state’s pro-business goals." While Maine’s arts community – a lively, activist group if ever there was – and others rose in protest, the governor’s story kept changing.

As described by Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the Maine AFL-CIO, "At first it was an anonymous letter citing a business person's concerns about feeling like they're in a North Korean dictatorship; then it was too anti-business, too one-sided; and now seven months later the governor has a new explanation for this. And he just keeps embarrassing us and himself in the process."

That new explanation popped up this week when NBC News’ Brian Williams asked LePage, "What do you have against organized labor?" The governor replied, "I have absolutely nothing against organized labor... My objection to the mural is simply where the money came from. The money was taken out of the unemployment insurance fund, which is dedicated to provide benefits to unemployed workers. They robbed that account to build a mural. And until they pay for it, it stays hidden."

Funny how this has never come up before now. And according to the Portland Press Herald and Alan Pyke of the progressive website Media Matters, "LePage's new line accusing the department of 'robbing' the jobless to pay for a painting is smarter politically than his clearly stated original reasoning, but state officials say that 'nobody lost any benefits to which they were entitled' according to the Press Herald. Furthermore, the federal Department of Labor actually demanded that Maine return the money used to buy the mural if it is not going to be displayed any longer...

"The Press Herald also points out that LePage's new rationale doesn't square with the case his attorneys are making in fighting lawsuits over the mural. Those attorneys 'have said the governor's actions are protected because they represented his political views.'"

As Maine goes, so goes North Carolina. On Tuesday, that state’s governor, Bev Perdue, suggested -- "My point was one of sarcasm," she now says -- that next year’s congressional elections be put on hold so that members of the House of Representatives can stay focused on economic recovery rather than reelection.

"I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years," she told a Rotary Club meeting in Cary, NC, "and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help the country recover." This set off a firestorm of criticism, and not only from state Republicans, the Drudge Report and Rush Limbaugh.

As the Raleigh News & Observer reported, "When Perdue is off script, it is often an adventure;" in this case an adventure stunning in its unconstitutionality. And yet, in the manner of the proverbial stopped clock that’s right twice a day, there’s the kernel of an idea embedded in her unfortunate, off-the-cuff comments.

Perdue herself said at the beginning of her remarks, "You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on things." One way to do so, dimly related to her line of reasoning, indeed would require amending the Constitution.

Harold Meyerson writes in the current issue of The American Prospect magazine (published by Demos, where I’m a writing fellow), that a reform "that would create a more representative government would be to change the timing of elections and the terms of congressional office... If House members were given four-year terms coterminous with the president’s, they would be answerable to the same larger electorate. This, of course, would also be true of senators. These wouldn’t be parliamentary elections -- the candidates for president, senator, and representative would still be elected separately -- but at least our elected officials would all derive their power from the identical and most broadly representative electorate."

The same day as Governor Perdue’s oratory malfunction, USA Today had some other suggestions for reform: "Perhaps the most significant would change the way congressional lines are drawn, making more districts competitive and increasing the odds that centrist candidates could prevail. Revising the rules for Senate filibusters could prevent a few senators from routinely blocking action supported by a majority.

"And changing the congressional calendar could encourage legislators to build personal relationships with colleagues from the other party." Matt Bennett, of the centrist think tank Third Way, told the paper, "Much of the blame for the disconnect between the parties goes to the congressional calendar, where you have members scurrying home (to districts) on Wednesday nights or certainly by Thursday nights. They're not around on the weekends, and the demands of fundraising means they are separated from each other the minute the votes are over. They don't interact at all."

Luckily, no amount of reform will ever rid us of governors who, like kids, say the darndest things. And even if they miraculously did become error-free Solons of the republic, we’ll always have members of the House of Representatives to fill the gap. Why, just the other day, the website Talking Point Memo reported, "Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) told an audience in Illinois that he was ashamed of his state for not allowing concealed handguns, warning that they were the 'last line of defense' if Americans need to revolt against their government.

Never mind the statehouse. There’s gold up there on Capitol Hill. Comedy gold.


Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America, East, is the former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.