Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sen. Bernie Sanders Lists 10 Corporate Income Tax Avoiders

In a press release, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called for closing corporate tax loopholes and raising taxes on millionaires in order to bring down the deficit. Sanders cited the imbalance in Republican proposals for "…cuts to Head Start, Pell Grants, the Social Security Administration, nutrition grants for pregnant low-income women and the Environmental Protection Agency while ignoring the reality that some of the most profitable corporations pay nothing or almost nothing in federal income taxes." Sanders listed 10 such corporations:

1) Exxon Mobil made $19 billion in profits in 2009. Exxon not only paid no federal income taxes, it actually received a $156 million rebate from the IRS, according to its SEC filings.

2) Bank of America received a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, although it made $4.4 billion in profits and received a bailout from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department of nearly $1 trillion.

3) Over the past five years, while General Electric made $26 billion in profits in the United States, it received a $4.1 billion refund from the IRS.

4) Chevron received a $19 million refund from the IRS last year after it made $10 billion in profits in 2009.

5) Boeing, which received a $30 billion contract from the Pentagon to build 179 airborne tankers, got a $124 million refund from the IRS last year.

6) Valero Energy, the 25th largest company in America with $68 billion in sales last year received a $157 million tax refund check from the IRS and, over the past three years, it received a $134 million tax break from the oil and gas manufacturing tax deduction.

7) Goldman Sachs in 2008 only paid 1.1 percent of its income in taxes even though it earned a profit of $2.3 billion and received an almost $800 billion from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury Department.

8) Citigroup last year made more than $4 billion in profits but paid no federal income taxes. It received a $2.5 trillion bailout from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

9) ConocoPhillips, the fifth largest oil company in the United States, made $16 billion in profits from 2007 through 2009, but received $451 million in tax breaks through the oil and gas manufacturing deduction.

10) Over the past five years, Carnival Cruise Lines made more than $11 billion in profits, but its federal income tax rate during those years was just 1.1 percent.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

G.E. Made Billions In 2010, Paid No Taxes–And Demands Employee Concessions

As tax time approaches, consider America's largest corporation, General Electric. It had an extremely profitable year–yet owes not a penny in taxes. This is in the midst of national cutbacks in education, health care and social programs–and calls by Republican governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker for "privileged" nurses, teachers and snowplow drivers to sacrifice. Seems there's a certain inequity here:

[General Electric] reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.
Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. ...The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

...critics say the use of so many shelters amounts to corporate welfare, allowing G.E. not just to avoid taxes on profitable overseas lending but also to amass tax credits and write-offs that can be used to reduce taxes on billions of dollars of profit from domestic manufacturing. They say that the assertive tax avoidance of multinationals like G.E. not only shortchanges the Treasury, but also harms the economy by discouraging investment and hiring in the United States.

“In a rational system, a corporation’s tax department would be there to make sure a company complied with the law,” said Len Burman, a former Treasury official who now is a scholar at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. “But in our system, there are corporations that view their tax departments as a profit center, and the effects on public policy can be negative.”

Despite paying no taxes, guess what G.E. is asking its unionized workers to do? Surprise, surprise. Make wage and benefit concessions:

This year, 14 unions representing more than 15,000 workers will negotiate a new master contract with General Electric. Among the major concessions GE has signaled that it will ask of union workers is the elimination of a defined contribution benefit pension for new employees, a move the company has already implemented for its non-union salaried employees. Likewise, GE is signaling to the union that it will ask for the elimination of current health insurance plans in favor of lower quality health saving accounts, a move the company has already implemented for non-union salaried employees as well.

In addition, General Electric may ask some workers for a wage freeze.

GOP Hopeful Herman Cain: “I Would Not” Appoint A Muslim In My Administration

During the Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain demonstrated his principles regarding equal opportunity for all Americans. Prior to the conference, Cain told “Christianity Today” that Muslims want to “convert all infidels or kill them.” Scott Keyes of Think Progress wanted Cain to clarify his comments and asked whether he would appoint a Muslim in his administration. Watch:

KEYES: You came under a bit of controversy this week for some of the comments made about Muslims in general. Would you be comfortable appointing a Muslim, either in your cabinet or as a federal judge?

CAIN: No, I would not. And here’s why. There is this creeping attempt, there is this attempt to gradually ease Sharia law and the Muslim faith into our government. It does not belong in our government. This is what happened in Europe. And little by little, to try and be politically correct, they made this little change, they made this little change. And now they’ve got a social problem that they don’t know what to do with hardly.

Cain's Islamophobia didn't bother event attendees; he won the straw poll, beating Gingrich, Bachmann and Barbour. He also won the straw poll at a Tea Party Summit in February.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gingrich Demands That Obama Bomb Libya, Then Condemns Obama For Bombing Libya

What does Newt Gingrich think should be done about Libya? Simple: the opposite of whatever President Obama is doing. First, Gingrich criticized Obama for his lack of action; then he criticized him for taking part in the bombing campaign. Watch:

GINGRICH, MARCH 8: Exercise a no-fly zone this evening. Communicate to the Libyan military that Qaddafi is gone, and that the sooner they switched sides the more likely they were to survive. Provide help to the rebels to replace him. I mean, the idea that we're confused about a man who has been an anti-American dictator since 1969 just tells you how inept this administration is. They were very quick to jump on Mubarak, who was their ally for 30 years, and they're confused about getting rid of Qaddafi. This is a moment to get rid of him. Do it. Get it over with.

GINGRICH, MARCH 23: The standard [Obama] has fallen back to of humanitarian intervention could apply to Sudan, to North Korea, to Zimbabwe, to Syria this week, to Yemen, to Bahrain. This isn’t a serious standard; this is a public relations conversation. The Arab League wanted us to do something. The minute we did something, the Arab League began criticizing us doing it. I think that two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a lot. I think that the problems we have in Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen — go around the region. We could get engaged by this standard in all sorts of places. …I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region that we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces. (h/t: Crooks and Liars)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bye-Bye American Pie–For 80% Of Us

The chart above is part of an article on the University of California at Santa Cruz's Sociology Department site, in which G. William Domhoff analyzed "Wealth, Income and Power" in the United States. Among the detailed findings about the nation's income inequality: it also results in extreme inequity in influence, a threat to democracy; the gap in the U.S. is quite large in comparison to other major countries; CEOs' income continues to rise as unions weaken and workers lose power:

...if the top 20% have 84% of the wealth (and recall that 10% have 85% to 90% of the stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity), that means that the United States is a power pyramid. It's tough for the bottom 80% -- maybe even the bottom 90% -- to get organized and exercise much power.

...the United States ends up 95th out of the 134 countries that have been studied -- that is, only 39 of the 134 countries have worse income inequality.

...There's a much deeper power story that underlies the self-dealing and mutual back-scratching by CEOs now carried out through interlocking directorates and seemingly independent outside consultants. ...on the workers' side, it reflects their loss of power following the all-out attack on unions in the 1960s and 1970... That decline in union power made possible and was increased by both outsourcing at home and the movement of production to developing countries, which were facilitated by the break-up of the New Deal coalition and the rise of the New Right... It signals the shift of the United States from a high-wage to a low-wage economy, with professionals protected by the fact that foreign-trained doctors and lawyers aren't allowed to compete with their American counterparts in the direct way that low-wage foreign-born workers are.

Remember the last point the next time you hear a Republican governor like Scott Walker of Wisconsin use divide-and-conquer tactics on workers fighting over their shrinking slice of the American pie.

Utah Schoolchildren Can Now Learn All About Their State's Very Own Gun

In February, I wrote about legislation in Utah to make the Browning M1911 the official state gun. The legislation recently passed, and now Utah schoolchildren can learn all about this special new state symbol. Of course, there was some awkwardness in introducing the legislature after the mass shooting in Tucson that killed six and wounded 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). There were also all kinds of verbal contortions to deny the fact that a gun is indeed an "implement of death" or that the focus of the bill was the gun itself:

Until this week, Utah had 24 state symbols, from tree (the blue spruce) to insect (the honeybee) to even cooking pot (the Dutch oven).

Now it's added an official state firearm -- the John M. Browning-designed M1911 pistol, becoming the first state in the nation to have one, according to the state legislator who sponsored the law.

...In a state more known for its strong Mormon traditions and breathtaking national parks, the creation of an official state firearm raised controversy, especially when the measure was pursued even after January's mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six persons and wounded 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The bill was introduced just before the horrific shootings, Wimmer said.

"People say the timing is terrible, and I admit the timing is terrible," Wimmer said. "We have a part-time legislature in Utah, and we are only in session for 45 days. Certainly meaning no disrespect to the tragedy in Arizona, we moved forward in doing this because it's the only opportunity that we had."

Other critics have said the new state symbol implicitly condones gun violence.

"There was more controversy than I anticipated, but it really passed with bipartisan support," Wimmer said. "One of the biggest comments from the critics was that we should not honor an implement of death. And my response to that has always been that this firearm does not represent an implement of death. It represents an implement of freedom -- just the mere fact that our soldiers have used this firearm to defend liberty and freedom around the world for the last 100 years."

The governor's office played down the lethality of the new symbol and focused more on its creator.

"This bill isn't so much about a weapon as it is about honoring John Moses Browning, who was a Utah inventor and entrepreneur, and he repeatedly gave back to the state," said the governor's spokeswoman, Ally Isom.

The governor's office and both chambers of the legislature are controlled by Republicans.

Gov. Barbour Would Restore DADT To Avoid "Amorous Mindset" Under Fire

In a radio interview, Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi (R) told Bryan Fischer, “director of issues analysis” for the conservative American Family Association, that he’d restore “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy that threw out more than 14,000 gay military personnel since 1993 before being repealed last December. According to Barbour, a potential Republican presidential candidate, the repeal means that soldiers under fire might be distracted by an "amorous mindset." Listen:

BARBOUR: When you're under fire, and people are living and dying on split-second decisions, you don't need any kind of amorous mindset that can affect saving people's lives and killing bad guys. You look at the data and it is the foot-soldier, it is the person who is out there, boots on the ground, who is most against this. And it's because they live or die with this. And that's who we ought to be listening to, that's who we ought to be caring about, and that's why I am against it. I think it ought to be rolled back.

According to a Pentagon study issued before repeal, the majority of those in uniform supported ending the ban. Barbour is joined by potential Republican presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty and Mike Huckabee in wanting to restore "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." (h/t TPM)

Allman Brothers Band Continues To Reign At The Beacon Theatre

The Allman Brothers Band performed “Hoochie Coochie Man” last Saturday night during an outstanding concert at New York’s Beacon Theatre, where the band has held two-week runs for over 20 years. Their blend of blues, rock and jazzy improvisation add up to a musical juggernaut, tight and powerful. Especially enjoyable were Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes trading fluid slide guitar riffs, and a long drum solo between the trio of percussionists, Jaimoe, Butch Trucks and and Marc Quinones. Outstanding bassist Oteill Burbridge also showed his drumming chops. Greg Allman, keyboardist, vocalist and band leader, has called the Beacon the band’s “turf” and “haven.” Long may they continue to reign there.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Maine Gov. LePage Orders Removal Of Labor History Mural

Just how much do the Republicans despise the labor union movement? Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin provided more than a clue with his politically motivated bill dedicated to destroying the public workers union. Now Gov. Paul LePage of Maine (left), a Tea Party favorite, has ordered the removal of a 36-foot wide mural depicting the history of the labor movement in his state. The mural is located in Maine's Department of Labor building:

The three-year-old mural has 11 panels showing scenes of Maine workers, including colonial-era shoemaking apprentices, lumberjacks, a “Rosie the Riveter” in a shipyard and a 1986 paper mill strike. Taken together, his administration deems these scenes too one-sided in favor of unions.

...The mural was created by Judy Taylor, who won a 2007 competition overseen by the Maine Arts Commission to commission artwork for the department’s lobby.

“I don’t agree that it’s one-sided,” Ms. Taylor said. “It’s based on historical fact. I’m not sure how you can say history is one-sided.”

Ms. Taylor said she consulted with historians to do the mural, for which she received a $60,000 grant. “It didn’t intend to be pro-business or pro-labor,” she said. “By default, it’s honoring the working man and working woman.”

Mr. LePage has repeatedly clashed with labor unions since his inauguration in January. He is pushing for a higher retirement age for public employees and for “right-to-work” legislation that would allow union members to stop paying dues or fees.

...Mr. LePage has also ordered that the Labor Department’s seven conference rooms be renamed. One is named after César Chávez, the farmworkers’ leader; one after Rose Schneiderman, a leader of the New York Women’s Trade Union League a century ago; and one after Frances Perkins, who became the nation’s first female labor secretary and is buried in Maine.

Click here to view the entire mural with historic explanations. Below are panels 4-6, entitled, "The Secret Ballot," "First Labor's Day" and "The Woods Workers." All are moving portraits of working people struggling for their rights, a concept deeply offensive to Gov. LePage:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Remembering Pinetop Perkins, Delta Boogie-Woogie Master

Another Man Done Gone” is a traditional blues standard, and it applies to the passing this week of another blues legend, Pinetop Perkins (1913-2011), following the recent death of Eddie Kirkland. Perkins played the piano in the boogie-woogie style and was one of the last of the first generation of Delta bluesmen. Moving to Chicago, he recorded with Muddy Waters’ band for over 10 years and eventually released more than a dozen of his own albums, the first coming out when he was 75. Perkins won a National Heritage Fellowship and several Grammy Awards. Most impressive of all, watch him doing what he loved and doing it so well two years ago–at age 95:

To listen to a podcast tribute to Pinetop Perkins, go to the site of the St. James Infirmary show, hosted by my good friend Dr. Michael Mand. The Friday, March 24, two-part show that will include the Perkins tribute should be available for listening or downloading this Saturday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bill Maher: Republicans Are Like Meth Addicts, Focused On Imaginary Problems

Bill Maher argues that one major reason the country doesn't solve its real problems is that the Republicans are consumed with imaginary ones. Watch:

MAHER: When you go down the list of useless distractions that make up the Republican party agenda -- public unions, Sharia law, anchor babies, the mosque at Ground Zero, ACORN, National Public Radio, the 'war on Christmas,' the New Black Panthers, Planned Parenthood, Michelle Obama's 'war on dessert' realize that the reason nothing gets done in America is that one of the political parties puts so much more into fantasy problems than real ones. Governing this country with Republicans is like rooming with a meth addict; you want to address real-life problems, like when the rent is due, and they're saying, 'How can you even think of that stuff when there's police scanner voices coming out of the air conditioner unit?' (h/t: Alternet)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rep. Bobby Franklin: Abortion Makes U.S. Comparable To Qaddafi Regime

According to Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-GA), the United States is comparable to the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi because of the availability of abortion. Writing in his Facebook profile, Franklin associated it with U.S. assault on Libyan air defenses:

"This is nothing but pure evil. How would we like it if other countries launched attacks upon these United States because of our regime's war on the unborn? May the Lord have mercy on us!"

Franklin has introduced bills that amount to a declaration of war on women's privacy, civil liberties and reproductive rights. Women who miscarry could potentially be subject to a criminal investigation; victims of rape would no longer be known as "victims":

Legislation introduced to the Georgia legislature by Franklin last month would classify the removal of a fetus from a woman for any reason other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus as "prenatal murder." Physicians indicted for alleged "prenatal murder" would have their license suspended until they were found innocent of the crime.

In addition, law enforcement authorities would be required to investigate the cause of fetal death in cases where a miscarriage occurs without attendance at a medical facility.

State Rep. Franklin also introduced a bill mandating that victims of rape, stalking, harassment, and family violence be re-classified as "accusers."

On other matters, Franklin has introduced a bill to eliminate drivers' licenses, since they infringe on personal freedom, and was opposed to gays in the military since they are comparable to "unrepentant drug dealer[s]."

David Remnick: Time For Obama To Present A Peace Plan In Jerusalem

David Remnick comments in The New Yorker that those who expected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahyu to do a version of Nixon in China and end the occupation of the Palestinian territories were mistaken. Remnick points out another mistake: President Obama’s not following his trip to Cairo in 2009 with a trip to Jerusalem. Obama can rectify this  by going there and presenting a peace plan whose outlines have been established but never implemented. Continued drift, as always in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will lead to another conflagration. From “A Man, A Plan”:

…Smug and lacking in diplomatic creativity, Netanyahu has alienated and undermined the forces of progressivism in the West Bank and is, step by ugly step, deepening Israel’s isolation.

…Inevitably, the parameters of a two-state solution would be like those established at Taba, in 2001, and by Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, in 2008...

…Obama’s views are not mysterious. His political home is Hyde Park, on the South Side of Chicago, where he came to know liberal Zionists and Palestinian academics, and to understand both the necessity of a Jewish state after the Second World War and the tragedy and the depths of Palestinian suffering.

…A visit to Israel, coupled with the presentation of a peace plan, would also help structure international support and clarify American interests. The Palestinian question is not an internal matter for Israel; it is an international matter.

The importance of an Obama plan is not that Netanyahu accept it right away; the Palestinian leadership, which is weak and suffers from its own issues of legitimacy, might not embrace it immediately, either, particularly the limits on refugees. Rather, it is important as a way for the United States to assert that it stands not with the supporters of Greater Israel but with what the writer Bernard Avishai calls “Global Israel,” the constituencies that accept the moral necessity of a Palestinian state and understand the dire cost of Israeli isolation. Even as Obama continues to stress his commitment to Israeli security, he has to emphasize the truth that, without serious progress toward an agreement, matters will likely deteriorate, perhaps to the point, yet again, of violence.

...If America is to be a useful friend, it owes clarity to Israel, no less than Israel and the world owe justice—and a nation—to the Palestinian people.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Florida Republican Senator Resurrects Creationism Bill

Republican Senator Stephen Wise (FL), unfortunately the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, tried to pass a bill mandating the teaching of creationism in Florida public schools in 2009. His bill failed, but once again Wise is attempting to force religious instruction, disguised as an alternative to evolution, into the classroom. He’s more confident of his chances now:

...Science education advocates are alarmed by a bill before the Legislature that they say could force teachers to challenge evolution at the expense of settled science.

...Wise, R-Jacksonville, thinks his evolution bill may have a better chance this year because there are more conservatives in the Legislature and because he chairs a substantive committee.

"Why would you not teach both theories at the same time?" Wise said, referring to evolution and what he called "nonevolution."

..."Why do we still have apes if we came from them?" Wise, a retired educator, said during the interview with the Tampa radio station [WMNF]. "And those are the kind of questions kids need to ask themselves. You know, 'how did we get here?' And, you know, there's more than one theory on this thing. And the theory is evolution, the other one is intelligent design."

One science advocate responded to Haught’s views on scientific theory and our evolutionary relation to apes:

Brandon Haught of Florida Citizens for Science – an organization that promotes science education in the state and opposes the teaching in public schools of Intelligent Design - said evolution detractors fail to understand that when scientists use the term "theory," they mean something different than when the word is used in general conversation.

"A theory in science is one of the strongest things you can possibly have," Haught said. "In science, a theory is not a guess. It's an established explanation for a set of facts."

Haught called Wise's bill "quite literally, an embarrassment for our state."

"Why drag everybody through this yet again?" asked Haught, who is interning to teach biology at Eustis High School. "It's already been hashed out."

"It's quite clear," Haught said, that Wise has "no background in biology." Man did not descend from apes, Haught said, but the species share common ancestry."

Rep. Weiner Rebukes GOP On NPR Defunding Bill

Joe Conason recently wrote about the latest Republican attempt to defund National Public Radio, despite the fact that its federal funding is minuscule and its “liberal bias” is a fraudulent issue. He referred to the recent “sting” video by right-wing provocateur James O’Keefe, who elicited critical comments about the Tea Party by an NPR fundraiser. Conason wonders whether, instead of this stunt, “Wouldn’t the conservatives in Congress be able to prove bias in a day of hearings with tapes from NPR itself? They’ve never even tried—and the reason is they can’t provide any proof, because NPR works so hard to keep its news straight and its ideologues balanced.” (Put another way, "All Things Considered" simply does not have the liberal bias of, say, "The Liberal Curmudgeon.")

With this background, I appreciated Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-NY) rebuke to Republican House members who aim to defund NPR. Weiner mocked the emergency hearing over a matter that saves no jobs and little money (according to a Republican Congressman, defunding saves no taxpayer dollars). Weiner also pointed out that they’re attempting to cut off funds for such shows as “Car Talk,” hosted by “Click and Clack”:

WEINER: What a relief. I'm glad we got the economy back going. I'm so glad we secured our nuclear power plants. So glad Americans are going back to work. We discovered a target we can all agree's Click And Clack.

Sen. Jim DeMint: As Government Gets Bigger, God Gets Smaller

Speaking on a Family Research Council radio show, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) implied that God has serious competition from the U.S. government and is not as all-powerful as previously supposed. According to DeMint, when government gets bigger, God gets smaller. Listen:

DeMINT: Some are trying to separate the social, cultural issues from fiscal issues, but you really can’t do that. America works, freedom works, when people have that internal gyroscope that comes from a belief in God and Biblical faith. Once we push that out, you no longer have the capacity to live as a free person without the external controls of an authoritarian government. I’ve said it often and I believe it – the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets, as people become more dependent on government, less dependent on God.

Note that DeMint is opposed to "big government" health care reform of the kind that could have saved Deamonte Driver, an uninsured 12-year-old who died of a tooth infection due to lack of treatment. Perhaps he now feels that young Deamonte is closer to God. Will DeMint also bring members of Congress closer to God by proposing that they give up their government-run health benefits?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Right-Wing Triumverate On Japan: Limbaugh Mocks, O'Reilly Dismisses, Beck Decodes

What do three prominent media voices on the right have to say about the disasters in Japan? Rush Limbaugh is amused that an earthquake and tsunami hit an environmentally conscious country. Of course, it’s more debatable than ever just how much nuclear power reflects environmental awareness; however, that point is lost in the midst of Limbaugh's mockery. Referring to Gaia, the mythological Earth goddess, he states, “Even now, refugees are still recycling their garbage, and yet Gaia levels them [laughs], just wipes them out":

According to Bill O’Reilly, despite a Japanese death toll approaching 6,000, almost 10,000 missing, nearly half a million in shelters, the destruction of towns and the threat of nuclear meltdown, the media is “hyping the nuke situation in Japan a bit too much”:

Glenn Beck is back at his familiar role of prophet, suggesting that the earthquake might mean a “message [is] being sent by God.” What message is Beck decoding? “Hey, you know that stuff we're doing? Not really working out real well. Maybe we should stop doing some of it. I'm just saying."

Finally, just as every gun massacre leads to calls from conservatives for less gun control, the right-wing blogosphere, the Wall Street Journal and Fox are calling for more nuclear power in the wake of the Japanese nuclear crisis–and attacking renewable energy. Amazing how counterintuitive they are about disasters.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Kim Simmonds Has The Blues Like Midnight

Though his country of origin may not be apparent in his singing voice, Kim Simmonds is among the English musicians who helped revitalize the blues in the 1960s. Simmonds has long been the lead guitarist for Savoy Brown and, as seen in this performance, is also an outstanding interpreter of the acoustic blues. I particularly enjoy the rich sound of his 12-string guitar.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wisconsin Protests Continue, Recall Efforts Underway

It's not at all over in Wisconsin. Since Governor Scott Walker signed his politically motivated union-busting bill, up to 100,000 gathered this past Saturday at the largest protest in Madison's history. That same day, Walker went to Washburn, population 2,271, to an invitation-only event and was met by jeering crowds estimated between 2,000 to 5,000. Protester Dean Debroux said, "We're going to meet him everywhere he goes. We are not going away." Watch the reception committee greet the governor's convoy with calls of "Recall Walker!" and "Shame!":

In addition, protesters demonstrated against a $1,000-a-ticket fundraiser on Wednesday for the Wisconsin Republican Party in Washington, DC. AFL-CIO representative Josslyn Williams thanked Walker for his "outrageous act" that "awakened the mighty middle class." James Ploeser from Madison, son of public employees, was there because of the Republican attack on his parents' rights and the rights of workers in Wisconsin and around the country. Ignore the strange soundtrack at the beginning and watch:

Meanwhile, conservatives are rightly worried about recall campaigns launched against Republican senators from Wisconsin. Former Republican National Committee online communications director Liz Mair said, "“It's clear that Democrats and liberal organizations are engaging in an attempt to make recall more than a mere hypothetical possibility for some Wisconsin Republicans. Even though Governor Walker acted to end the impasse, Republicans and conservatives should not be acting like this is done and dusted.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Class War Chart: Social Safety Net Vs. Tax Breaks For The Wealthy

The Center for American Progress produced the chart below showing the sacrifices that poor families, children, seniors, the unemployed and the homeless will make on behalf of the wealthiest Americans if the Republican House leadership's budget proposals are enacted. Those who may be called upon to sacrifice should be heartened by all the money and jobs that will then trickle down, just as they have been during the entire history of the Bush tax cuts.

Along with the chart, the Center added commentary and sources, which you can read on your own. I’ll just draw your attention to one point of comparison–one which I’m sure the Republicans will deem inconsequential. One the one hand, “Congress is considering cutting the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the $2 billion federal program that helps poor families pay their winter heating bills.” Yet while the poor are shivering in their modest homes, they have the satisfaction of knowing that the money saved will help those who have a second home: “In 2011 the mortgage interest deduction will help families who purchase a vacation home avoid taxes to the tune of $800 million.”

Now look through the chart and see all the programs we’re giving up for $44 billion in order to extend $42 billion to the wealthiest. Why, we're just about breaking even, aren't we?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bachmann Flunks American History–Again

Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), considering a presidential run, displayed her ignorance of American history again. In January, she said that the founding fathers “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States”–ignoring the fact that such founders as Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. In a speech to conservative activists in New Hampshire on Saturday, Bachmann offered the following mangled history lesson:

Bachmann: What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love for liberty. You're the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord. And you put a marker in the ground and paid with the blood of your ancestors the very first price that had to be paid to make this the most magnificent nation that has ever arisen in the annals of man in 5,000 years of recorded history.

Scott Conroy of Real Clear Politics notes:

In fact, the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord that marked the first military engagements of the American Revolution took place in Massachusetts. But Bachmann did not correct her error when she referenced the battles again later in her speech.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Warning To Men Against Planned Parenthood: "My Vagina Is Off The Table. Period."

Women from Second City Network get right to the point about the Republican amendment to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding–and about men who are indifferent to women's sexual health:

Media Matters: Fox Gave More Airtime To Supporters Than Opponents Of King Hearings

Media Matters examined the coverage Fox gave to supporters and opponents of Rep. Peter King’s controversial hearings on Muslim-American radicalization. The findings:

During that period, Fox gave supporters of King's hearings at least 1 hour and 35 minutes of airtime while giving opponents of the hearings at least 29 minutes and 44 seconds of airtime. Guests expressing no clear position during discussions of the hearings were labeled as "neutral."

Guests expressing support for King's hearings outnumbered those opposing the hearings 28 to eight. Three guests expressed no clear opinion during discussion of the hearings.

Charts show the stark difference in both airtime and number of guests. Cleary Fox, the “fair and balanced” station, was much more generous toward King's supporters:

Salon Tracks Wives Per GOP Presidental Candidate, 1988-2012

Salon tracked the number of wives per Republican presidential candidate from 1988-2012 and found that “the divorce rate is soaring.” For 2012, it counted Republicans who either expressed an interest in running or participated in an overt campaign activity. The party now has four potential candidates–Rudy Giuliani, Buddy Roemer, Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich (the latter's past adultery driven by his passion for America)–who have been married three times. Here's the chart tracking "an unusually high wives-to-candidate ratio" over the past 24 years:

One also recalls the Republican National Committee’s running up a $1,946 tab at a sex club last year. Clearly something strange is happening in the family values and traditional marriage party.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gingrich’s Past Adultery Motivated By His Passion For America

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Newt Gingrich stated that his passion for America drove him to his past adultery: "There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and that things happened in my life that were not appropriate.”

Does the nation appreciate Gingrich’s passion for America, which led to his passion for women outside the bonds of matrimony? Steven Colbert tells us why we should:

Colbert: Newt knows that before he can throw his giant hat in the ring, he has to explain his past positions. Specifically, why those positions were so often on top of women who weren't his wife... With this patriotic defense of his inappropriate behavior, Newt’s just saying that all he ever really wanted to do was screw America. And if we elect him president, he will keep that promise.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Whitney’s “Edward Hopper And His Time”: Less Context And More Hopper, Please

Is it possible for an art exhibition to offer too much context? Yes, judging by “Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time” at New York’s Whitney Museum. The exhibit lives up to its title in presenting Hopper’s times, with commentary on early twentieth century American art movements: the Ashcan School, social realism, precisionism. In particular, it explores how this country’s artists tossed aside the high society themes favored by a conservative art establishment in favor of realistic subject matter from modern urban life. The exhibit shows contemporaries Reginald Marsh, Paul Cadmus, George Bellows and more, to the point that slightly more than half of the works are not by Hopper.

It’s fine to place Hopper in the context of his influences–but fewer paintings by others still could have made these influences clear. Just as we start to immerse ourselves in Hopper’s urban and rural scenes, his remarkable interplay of light and shadow, his focus on the isolated individual in a setting pervaded by silence (as in Gas, 1940, above), we’re interrupted by a row of paintings by Hopper’s peers. The Whitney, which has 2,500 Hoppers in its collection–the most in the world–could have been more generous with his work.

“Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time” runs through April 10 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue, at 75th Street, NYC; (212) 570-3600;

At King Hearings, Rep. Keith Ellison Recalls Muslim 9/11 First Responder

In a Times account of the Muslim-American radicalization hearings led by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), one sentence stood out:

"But at Thursday's hearing, there was no single institution summoned to the hot seat." 

If that is the case, what was the point of this hearing, beyond ethnically based charges and counter-charges? After all, if there is an institution, Islamic or not, that either supports or plots domestic terrorism, that institution should indeed be investigated. Such an investigation, however, should be conducted by the FBI, not by a grandstanding, politically motivated commission like the one we saw this past week.

In objecting to the depiction of Muslim Americans, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-NY), one of two Muslims in Congress, powerfully spoke about Mohammed Salman Hamdani, a volunteer paramedic who died at ground zero during rescue operations. Hamdani was subject to ugly rumors of participating in the terrorist plot until his body was discovered. Ellison himself was later mocked by conservatives; watch his powerful testimony for yourself:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Remembering Eddie Kirkland, "Gypsy Of The Blues"

“Sometime in your life you’re gonna need the blues. You been left by a girl? You had bad luck? Listening to the blues’ll help you overcome your troubles. As long as people got trouble, I’ll still be playing the blues.” – Eddie Kirkland, 1999

Eddie Kirkland, blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player, died at 87 in an auto accident in Florida on February 27. Known as the Gypsy of the Blues, Kirkland played with John Lee Hooker, Otis Redding and many others. Though he never was accorded great renown, his 2009 performance of “Honey Bee” above in Germany made his dynamism clear. Demonstrating the universality of the blues, Kirkland was backed up by the Wentus Blues Band from Finland.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brave New Films Introduces "Koch Brothers Exposed"

Jane Mayer’s outstanding August 2010 article in the New Yorker on Charles and David Koch, "Covert Operations" (which I've linked repeatedly; please don’t tell me you haven’t read it yet), brought out the brothers' right-wing activism. The two oil magnates,  inheritors of their wealth, spend part of their billions on union busting, climate change denial, environmental deregulation, minimizing social services for the poor, tax cuts for the wealthy and other conservative goals. Brave New Films has announced a new eight-part series, "Koch Brothers Exposed"; here’s the introduction:

Gov. Quinn Of Illinois Signs Death Penalty Ban

Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois (D) signed a bill passed by the Illinois legislature to abolish the death penalty. Illinois became part of a positive trend as the 16th state to outlaw capital punishment. While there are many valid arguments against the death penalty, Quinn focused on the most compelling: the impossibility of guaranteeing that it will not be applied to the wrongfully convicted. In such a case, there is no reversal, one reason why DNA evidence has become so important. Since 1977, Illinois wrongfully condemned 20 people to death (all exonerated); the governor and the legislature made a just decision in ensuring that such convictions do not occur again:

“Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it,” Mr. Quinn said in a statement.

At a news conference at the Capitol in Springfield, Mr. Quinn said that signing the bill was the most difficult decision he had made as governor. “I have concluded, after looking at all the information that I have received, that it is impossible to create a perfect system — one that is free of all mistakes,” he said.

Mr. Quinn, a Democrat who became governor in 2009 and was elected to a full term in November, said during the 2010 campaign that he supported the death penalty when applied “carefully and fairly,” but added, “I am deeply concerned by the possibility of an innocent person being executed.” He had kept the question of whether he would sign the bill unanswered since it passed on Jan. 11.

Those on death row will have their sentences commuted to life without the possibility of parole. The law also dedicates funds to law enforcement and services for victims’ families.

The heated debate over the bill had focused on more than a dozen death row prisoners who were found to have been wrongfully convicted — including one man who came within 50 hours of execution. Lawmakers also debated the costs of imposing the death penalty.

...Dozens of family members of victims had signed a letter to the legislature supporting the bill, arguing that capital trials and appeals “drag victims’ loved ones through an agonizing and lengthy process, which often does not result in the intended punishment.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wisconsin GOP Strips Union Rights, Republican Senator Admits It Was All Political

Republican senators in Wisconsin managed to strip almost all collective bargaining rights from public employees, despite the absence of 14 Democratic senators. A quorum is required for bills that spend money, so Gov. Walker and his party separated the budget bill from their cherished union-busting one. Gallery spectators yelled, "You are cowards." Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller got right to the point:

“In thirty minutes, 18 State Senators undid fifty years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.”

Meanwhile, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald made a remarkable admission–one many of us knew all along: the Republican effort was ultimately political. By destroying unions, the Republicans weaken the only remaining major entity contributing to Democratic campaigns. Watch as Fitzgerald discusses the consequences for the Obama re-election campaign with Fox's Megyn Kelly:

Sen. Fitzgerald: If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.

Rep. King, Investigator Of American Muslims, Supported The IRA

Is there an irony here? Tomorrow, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) will commence hearings singling out the Muslim American community for its supposed radicalism. In the past, King (shown left with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in 1995) was a loyal backer of the I.R.A., one who justified their terrorism:

For Representative Peter T. King, as he seizes the national spotlight this week with a hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, it is the most awkward of résumé entries. Long before he became an outspoken voice in Congress about the threat from terrorism, he was a fervent supporter of a terrorist group, the Irish Republican Army.

“We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry,” Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, “If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it.”

As Mr. King, a Republican, rose as a Long Island politician in the 1980s, benefiting from strong Irish-American support, the I.R.A. was carrying out a bloody campaign of bombing and sniping, targeting the British Army, Protestant paramilitaries and sometimes pubs and other civilian gathering spots. His statements, along with his close ties to key figures in the military and political wings of the I.R.A., drew the attention of British and American authorities.

A judge in Belfast threw him out of an I.R.A. murder trial, calling him an “obvious collaborator,” said Ed Moloney, an Irish journalist and author of “A Secret History of the I.R.A.” In 1984, Mr. King complained that the Secret Service had investigated him as a “security risk,” Mr. Moloney said. 

...Niall O’Dowd, an Irish-born New York publisher and writer who worked with him on the peace process in the 1990s, broke publicly with him Monday on his Web site,, describing Mr. King’s “strange journey from Irish radical to Muslim inquisitor.”

In Northern Ireland, Mr. O’Dowd said, they saw a Catholic community “demonized” by its Protestant and British critics and worked to bring it to the peace table. Seeing his old friend similarly “demonize” Muslims has shocked him, he said.

Wisconsin Republicans Reap Karma At Angry Town Hall Meeting

Remember the raucous town hall meetings with Democratic lawmakers during the 2009-2010 health care debates? Perhaps a bit of karma is taking place. Sen. Leah Vukmir and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (shown), both Wisconsin Republicans, tried to defend Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to do away with the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. Things became heated after Vukmir stated, “Collective bargaining is not being taken away; it will continue for wages”–ignoring the fact that collective bargaining also applies to benefits and working conditions. After 27 minutes, Sensenbrenner shut down the meeting, prompting calls of "Shame!" Watch:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rep. Peter King To Conduct Show Trial Against American Muslims

What is the best way to alienate Muslim Americans and spread bigotry throughout the nation? Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, is working on it. His grandstanding "investigation" of American Muslim radicalism will not protect anyone. What it will do is promote fear and perhaps stoke the very radicalism King is supposedly fighting. A New York Times editorial cited the flawed premises of King's show trial:

Not much spreads fear and bigotry faster than a public official intent on playing the politics of division. On Thursday, Representative Peter scheduled to open a series of hearings that seem designed to stoke fear against American Muslims. His refusal to tone down the provocation despite widespread opposition suggests that he is far more interested in exploiting ethnic misunderstanding than in trying to heal it.

Mr. King...says the hearings will examine the supposed radicalization of American Muslims. Al Qaeda is aggressively recruiting Muslims in this country, he says. He wants to investigate the terror group’s methods and what he claims is the eagerness of many young American Muslims to embrace it.

...he is focusing on one group that appears to have obsessed him since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, resulting in slanders and misstatements that might have earned him a rebuke from his colleagues had they been about any other group. More than 80 percent of the mosques in America are run by extremists, he has said, never citing real evidence. Too many American Muslims are sympathetic to radical Islam, he said.

Most pernicious, he has claimed that American Muslims have generally refused to cooperate with law enforcement agencies on terrorism cases. He has cited no evidence for this, either, but a study issued last month by Duke University and the University of North Carolina found just the opposite. The American Muslim community has been the single largest source of tips that have brought terror suspects to the attention of authorities, the study found. (It also found that the number of American Muslims found or suspected to be part of terror operations dropped substantially in 2010.)

...Democrats on the committee plan to call Leroy Baca, the sheriff of Los Angeles County, who has often said that American Muslims have been crucial in helping terrorism investigations. But that involves empirical facts and expert observation. Nothing could be further from the real purpose of Mr. King’s show trial.

"Lipstick Traces": Were The Sex Pistols As Important As The Beatles?

Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century by Greil Marcus. 497 pp. Harvard University Press. $24.95 (paperback)

Were the Sex Pistols, the English punk band that sang that the Queen “ain’t no human being” and there’s “no future” in England, as important as the Beatles or Elvis? According to Greil Marcus (whose “Like a Rolling Stone” was reviewed here) they were. He views them in "Lipstick Traces" as among those “appealing and disturbing” performers “who “raise the possibility of living in a new way.”

While ranking the Sex Pistols among two major rock icons is a dubious notion, Marcus goes beyond music in making a case for the band’s importance. He views them as inheritors of rebellious 20th century cultural and political movements, specifically the Dadaists and the French Lettrists and Situationists (the former gave rise to the latter). It’s not that the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten or Sid Vicious were well versed in these movements; Marcus contends that the two punk rockers absorbed their influence as part of the century’s cultural climate, its “secret history.”

What the Sex Pistols shared, in this view, was a sense of negation toward Western civilization, a nihilistic rebellion: “[Johnny Rotten’s] aim was to make the world doubt its most cherished and unexamined beliefs; to make the world pay for its crimes in the coin of nightmare, and then to end the world…” Marcus finds the same impulse in the Dadaists, for whom traditional forms of art made no sense following World War I: “art had to be destroyed…because it was a ‘moral safety valve,’ a mechanism for the unlimited ability of the human mind to turn its worst fantasies into real-life atrocities, then to turn its worst atrocities into pretty pictures.” The Lettrists and the Situationists, movements that influenced the French student rebellion of May 1968, are defined as “a revolt against society’s idea of happiness, against the ideology of survival, a revolt against a world where every rise in the standard of living meant a rise in the ‘standard of boredom.' ”

Marcus presents an original and challenging exploration of the social conditions that gave birth to punk rock and the Dadaists, and the connections between them. The last third of the book, which he devotes to the Lettrists and Situationists, is less successful. Here his digressive, metaphorical style bogs down, and the movements' aims and connections to the book’s theme are not always clear. Still, there’s no one like Marcus for taking a seemingly obscure influence or an iconoclastic notion and making it intellectually exciting (his “Mystery Train” remains one of the greatest books on rock). In the majority of “Lipstick Traces,” Marcus reveals the “secretive” influence behind 20th century movements in a way that makes them more monumental than previously imagined.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Michael Moore: "America Is Not Broke"

Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore spoke at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday, hailing the state's 14 Democratic senators for “refusing to participate in the scam of the century” and urging the protesters to stay strong. Moore stated that America is not broke; the wealth is concentrated in "the banks and the portfolios of the uber rich," including 400 Americans who have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. These forces do not want to pay their fair share of taxes, crashed the economy, were bailed out by the billions and control the message through media ownership. Wisconsin, Moore stated, is the beginning of “a massive, nonviolent revolt across the country.” Moore’s half-hour message (transcript here) is worth listening to in its entirety:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Billionaire Oil Magnate David Koch Supports Cancer Research–And The Use Of A Carcinogen

Billionaire oil magnates Charles and David Koch are known for their support of conservative causes, including climate change denial, opposition to health care reform and union busting. A New York Times article focused on one other cause to which David Koch is dedicated, cancer research. Koch, who learned that he had prostate cancer in 1992, donated $100 million to support a new cancer research center located at MIT. The article notes, however, that even Koch's philanthropic activity is contradicted by his zeal for profits:

...while he has become a major financier of cancer research around the country, one of his companies, Georgia-Pacific, which produces formaldehyde, has been trying to convince the government not to list formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. Koch Industries said it would respect and comply with any new governmental regulation. 

A New Yorker article–must reading in my view–written by Jane Mayer (8/30/10) on the Koch Brothers' support of right-wing causes elaborates on this contradiction: the same time that David Koch has been casting himself as a champion in the fight against cancer, Koch Industries has been lobbying to prevent the E.P.A. from classifying formaldehyde, which the company produces in great quantities, as a “known carcinogen” in humans.

Scientists have long known that formaldehyde causes cancer in rats, and several major scientific studies have concluded that formaldehyde causes cancer in human beings—including one published last year by the National Cancer Institute, on whose advisory board Koch sits. ...Koch Industries has been a large funder of members of Congress who have stymied the E.P.A., requiring it to defer new regulations until more studies are completed.

Koch Industries became a major producer of the chemical in 2005, after it bought Georgia-Pacific, the paper and wood-products company, for twenty-one billion dollars. Georgia-Pacific manufactures formaldehyde in its chemical division, and uses it to produce various wood products, such as plywood and laminates. ...David Koch did not recuse himself from the National Cancer Advisory Board, or divest himself of company stock, while his company was directly lobbying the government to keep formaldehyde on the market...

James Huff, an associate director at the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the N.I.H., told me that it was “disgusting” for Koch to be serving on the National Cancer Advisory Board: “It’s just not good for public health. Vested interests should not be on the board.”...

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Natalie Merchant Performs A Union Classic

At the 85th birthday celebration of priest and peace activist Daniel Berrigan, held in June 2006 in New York City, Natalie Merchant sang the classic union song "Which Side Are You On?" Florence Reese, wife of a union leader, wrote the lyrics based on the violent 1931 coal miners' strike in Harlan County, Kentucky. In the song, Reese refers to Sheriff J. H. Blair, who ransacked her house with his thugs and watched for her husband's return with the intention to shoot him. Though such tactics are not currently being employed, those who stand against workers' rights still use methods of intimidation, making the need for labor solidarity as strong as ever.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Robert Reich On "The Republican Shakedown"

Robert Reich urges Democrats to tell the truth about the shakedown conducted by the Republicans. On the state level, Gov. Scott Walker handed out tax breaks–without offsets–to his corporate sponsors, turned a Wisconsin surplus into a deficit and is now trying to bust unions based on that very deficit. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, recently extended, will add $700 billion to the national debt if continued over 10 years–yet Republican lawmakers stoke resentment against "greedy" teachers. Billionaire oil magnates Charles and David Koch, allies of Governor Walker, fund causes that attempt to shift the blame for our economic problems to public service workers and the unions that represent them:

The truth is if the super-rich paid their fair share of taxes, government wouldn’t be broke. If Governor Scott Walker hadn’t handed out tax breaks to corporations and the well-off, Wisconsin wouldn’t be in a budget crisis. If Washington hadn’t extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich, eviscerated the estate tax, and created loopholes for private-equity and hedge-fund managers, the federal budget wouldn’t look nearly as bad.

And if America had higher marginal tax rates and more tax brackets at the top – for those raking in $1 million, $5 million, $15 million a year – the budget would look even better. We wouldn’t be firing teachers or slashing Medicaid or hurting the most vulnerable members of our society. We wouldn’t be in a tizzy over Social Security. We’d slow the rise in healthcare costs but we wouldn’t cut Medicare. We’d cut defense spending and lop off subsidies to giant agribusinesses but we wouldn’t view the government as our national nemesis.

The final truth is as income and wealth have risen to the top, so has political power. The reason all of this is proving so difficult to get across is the super-rich, such as the Koch brothers, have been using their billions to corrupt politics, hoodwink the public, and enlarge and entrench their outsized fortunes. They’re bankrolling Republicans who are mounting showdowns and threatening shutdowns, and who want the public to believe government spending is the problem.

They are behind the Republican shakedown.

These are the truths that Democrats must start telling, and soon. Otherwise the Republican shakedown may well succeed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Palm Trees In Wisconsin?

Bill O’Reilly and Fox correspondent Mike Tobin spoke about demonstrators who are allegedly bussed in by unions from surrounding states to protest against Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting bill. O’Reilly then showed a video of unruly protesters supposedly in Madison. Since when are there palm trees in Wisconsin? The video wasn't even taken in a surrounding state; it's from Sacramento, California.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Remembering Suze Rotolo (1943-2011), Dylan’s Early Muse

Suze Rotolo, who passed away on Friday, had three-year relationship with Bob Dylan that started in 1961, when she was 17 and he 20. Dylan fans owe Rotolo a tremendous debt of gratitude for her decisive role in the development of his music; the daughter of left-wing Italian immigrant parents, Rotolo introduced Dylan to the political causes of the time. Her influence was evident in such songs as "The Death of Emmett Till,” “Masters of War” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” When she went to Italy for several months in 1962, she inspired the love songs “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “One Too May Mornings” and “Tomorrow Is a Long Time.” The most famous photo of the young couple is on the cover (above) of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album (1963), which showed them walking on a wintry day on Jones Street in Greenwich Village. They lived together in the Village, where Dylan took part in the folk music revival, yet his growing fame eventually drove them apart. Rotolo became an artist, wife and mother, remained politically active and wrote “A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties.”

Dylan’s “Ballad In Plain D” looks back with regret at his breakup with Rotolo, including a bitter fight he had with her and her sister Carla:

The following video tribute contains portraits of Rotolo and Dylan set to a performance of “Tomorrow Is a Long Time”:

For further accounts of the life of Suze Rotolo, see the obituaries in The New York Times and Rolling Stone, as well as the beautiful tribute written by Rotolo's friend J. Hoberman in The Village Voice.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Polls Show Support For Unions, Buyer's Remorse Over Gov. Walker

According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, a majority of Americans oppose weakening collective bargaining rights and cutting the pay and benefits of public workers:

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Meanwhile, another poll finds that Wisconsinites have buyer's remorse over Gov. Scott Walker:

A new Public Policy Polling survey finds that if Wisconsin voters could do it over today they'd support Tom Barrett (D) over Gov. Scott Walker (R) by a seven point margin, 52% to 45%.

Key finding: "The difference between how folks would vote now and how they voted in November can almost all be attributed to shifts within union households. Voters who are not part of union households have barely shifted at all- they report having voted for Walker by 7 points last fall and they still say they would vote for Walker by a 4 point margin. But in households where there is a union member voters now say they'd go for Barrett by a 31 point margin, up quite a bit from the 14 point advantage they report having given him in November."