Progressive Calendar 06.26.09
From: David Shove (
Date: Fri, 26 Jun 2009 02:23:42 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   06.26.09

1. Coldwater/KFAI   6.26 11am
2. Free meals/kids  6.26 12:30pm
3. Palestine vigil  6.26 4:15pm
4. Loft/authors     6.26 7pm
5. Moyers/WS Merwin 6.26 9pm

6. Peace walk       6.27 9am Cambridge MN
7. GLBT Pride       6.27 10am
8. Northtown vigil  6.27 2pm
9. Mel Duncan       6.27 6:30pm
10. Single payer    6.27 9pm

11. Tom Burghardt   - Look! Up in the sky! It's a Raytheon spy blimp!
12. Gibson/McGovern - Torture eats the soul: our collective shame
13. Jeffery StClair - Obama's used green team: meet the retreads
14. Petrino DiLeo   - How the Wall Street bankers bought Congress

--------1 of 14--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: Coldwater/KFAI 6.26 11am

Fri. JUNE 26, 11am, on CATALYST: politics & culture on KFAI Radio:
Lifelong peace/environmental activist-poet, SUSU JEFFREY updates the
struggle to preserve COLDWATER CREEK, the last natural spring in Hennepin
County/Minneapolis, Minnesota.

This struggle has encompassed Indigenous peoples' rights, environmental
racism, development and free speech/dissent. Will Coldwater benefit from
"shovel ready" project money to expand it as a "Green Museum" - or be
further at risk? (More information below).

She will also read her poems, born of this struggle. KFAI 90.3 FM Mpls
106.7 FM St.Paul Live-streaming/archived for 2 weeks after broadcast on
the CATALYST page at:

Funds to return the Coldwater Spring area to "open green space" were
dropped from the federal stimulus package. The National Park Service
budgeted $3.5-million to remove the old Bureau of Mines buildings and to
prepare the 27-acre Mississippi blufftop property for replanting as an oak
savanna urban wilderness.

There is no opposition to this plan. The project was scheduled to begin
next winter, after the ground freezes. The new Coldwater Park was supposed
to open in September 2010.

Two of the 11 abandoned, graffitied buildings have been discovered by
intravenous drug users. Some people argue that erosion is a bigger problem
than the junkies.

The old Bureau of Mines campus at Coldwater has been shovel-ready since
1995. More money has been spent on security than building removal will
cost. Hennepin sheriff's deputies currently patrol Coldwater in trade for
bomb squad and canine training space - activities inconsistent with a
sacred site.

Coldwater is:_
-The last natural spring in Hennepin County, at least 10,000-years-old,
still flowing at about 90-thousand gallons per day.
-A traditional sacred site for Dakota, Anishinabe, Ho Chunk, Iowa, Sauk
and Fox peoples.
-The Birthplace of Minnesota, where the soldiers lived who built Fort
Snelling and a civilian community developed to service the Fort. Dred
Scott was stationed at the Fort between 1836-40 and based his case for
freedom from slavery in part on his residency in the free then-Wisconsin
-A winter jobs program for construction workers.

Please phone* our U.S. Congress members to ask that the $3.5-million
Coldwater project funds be reinstated.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (who is on the Appropriations Committee)
Congressman Keith Ellison 612-522-1212
Senator Amy Klobuchar 612-727-5220

--------2 of 14--------

From: Alison Brady <abrady [at]>
Subject: Free meals/kids 6.26 12:30pm

Did you know that children in St. Paul can receive FREE meals during the
week this summer? In these tough economic times, many Minnesotans are
struggling to feed their children. This program can help!

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), funded by the USDA, provides FREE
meals to low-income kids throughout Minnesota when school is out.

Children in your neighborhood can receive balanced, nutritious meals with
no questions asked and no forms to fill out.  Children participating in
daycare, camps, and youth programs are also eligible to eat for free.

I've listed below site specific information for four free meal sites in
St. Paul.  Find out about more sites in your neighborhood by calling

Make an immediate impact on the health and welfare of children in your
neighborhood by promoting this program:

* Mention this Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) in your announcements,
bulletins, or on your website.
* Tell friends, family, and neighbors about this program.

Location: McDonough Recreation Center
1544 Timberlake Rd., St. Paul
Monday - Friday
June 15 - August 28
Lunch 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Supper 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Who: Children under 18

Location: El Rio Vista/Neighborhood House
179 E. Robie Street, St. Paul
Monday - Friday, June 15 - August 28
Lunch 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (M-Th)
Snack 1:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Supper 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Who:  Children under 18

Location: Dayton's Bluff Recreation Center
800 Conway Street, St. Paul
Monday - Friday, June 15 - August 28
Lunch 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Snack 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Who:  Children under 18

Location: Arlington Recreation Center
665 E. Rose Avenue, St. Paul
Monday - Friday, June 15 - August 28
Snack 2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Supper 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Who: Children under 18

With your help, we can significantly improve the lives of thousands of
local children this summer.  Let's do it! Thank you in advance for helping
to feed Minnesota kids,

Alison Brady Summer Food Service Program Outreach Worker Second Harvest
Heartland 1140 Gervais Avenue St. Paul, MN 55109 Office 651.209.7951 Cell
651.263.6725 abrady [at] <mailto:abrady [at]>

--------3 of 14--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Palestine vigil 6.26 4:15pm

the weekly vigil for the liberation of Palestine continues at the
intersection of Snelling and Summit Aves in St. Paul.  the Friday demo
starts at 4:15 and ends around 5:30.  there are usually extra signs

in solidarity w/people and the planet, eric

--------4 of 14--------

From: Dara Syrkin <dsyrkin [at]>
Subject: Loft/authors 6.26 7pm

Esi Edugyan, Lise Erdrich & Kao Kalia Yang-Artists, Activists and
Academics on the Uses of Diaspora
Friday, June 26, 7 pm, at Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis

Esi Edugyan (award-winning African Canadian novelist, author of The Second
Life of Samuel Tyne), Kao Kalia Yang (Minnesota Book Award winner, The
Latehomecomer, Coffee House Press), and Lise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain
Chippewa poet, children's author, essayist, indigenous communities and
women's activist) will read from and discuss their work in conjunction
with the University of Minnesota's weekend conference titled Diasporic
Hegemonies IV: Artists, Activists and Academics on the Uses of Diaspora
(June 26-28).

--------5 of 14--------

From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at]>
Subject: Moyers/WS Merwin 6.26 9pm

Bill Moyers Journal | A Conversation With Poet W.S. Merwin

Bill Moyers Journal: "On the heels of winning this year's Pulitzer Prize
for poetry, W.S. Merwin joins Bill Moyers for a wide-ranging conversation
about language, his writing process, the natural world, and the insights
gleaned from a much-lauded career that's spanned more than 50 years."

--------6 of 14--------

From: Ken Reine <reine008 [at]>
Subject: Peace walk 6.27 9am Cambridge MN

every Saturday 9AM to 9:35AM
Peace walk in Cambridge - start at Hwy 95 and Fern Street

--------7 of 14--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: GLBT Pride 6.27 10am


Twin Cities GLBT Pride Festival and Peace Booth: "Proud to Shout: U.S.

Saturday, June 27, 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Sunday, June 28, 10:00
a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Loring Park, Lyndale and Hennepin Avenues, Minneapolis.
The Twin Cities GLBT Pride Festival features five stages of live
entertainment, three food courts, fireworks, history pavilion and more.
The Parade will take place on Sunday, June 28 at 11:00 a.m. and will begin
at 3rd Street and Hennepin Avenue and follow Hennepin Avenue to Loring
Park. Come visit the Peace Booth at the Festival and/ or join local peace
organizations, including WAMM, in the Parade (listed under the Anti-War
Committee Education Fund). Festival and Parade Sponsored by: Twin Cities
Pride. FFI: Visit Peace Booth Sponsored by: the Anti-War
Committee (AWC) and WAMM. FFI: Call WAMM at 612-827-5364.


From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at]>

Proud to Shout:  US OUT!  Help the Anti-War Committee table at GLBT Pride
Saturday & Sunday, June 27 & 28th @ Loring Park, Minneapolis* Thousands of
progressive people come to the Pride festival every year.  Come take our
anti-war message to the queer community and their allies.  On Sunday
we'll march in the parade.  You are invited to join our contingent.
Contact us at 612 379 3899 or at info [at] to sign up to


From: Joel Albers <joel [at]>

June 27-28. Pride Festival, we (UHCAN-MN) will be tabling there at Loring
Park, sat and sun June 27th and 28th most of the day (i will get the exact
times later). We will be distributing single-payer lit, and discussing the
crucial legislative debate happening now in U.S. Congress, the top
legislative priority, and how to get involved. We will also be offering
basic low-cost health screenings.

If anybody owns a 10 foot by 10 foot tent commonly used as a booth for
tabling, and would allow us to borrow it, that would be much appreciated.
Let me know. Also let me know if you can do some tabling either or both of
those 2 days, and what times ? Tabling doesnt mean you are stranded at the
table all day. As long as there's someone else there, we can certainly
enjoy walking around the Festival, music, food, art.


From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>

June 27 and 28: OutFront Minnesota Wine Bar Fundraiser. The Woman's Club
of Minneapolis will be serving wine and drinks across from the Twin Cities
Pride Festival in Loring Park and the proceeds will benefit OutFront. The
wine bar will be located just outside the Theater doors on 15th Street

--------8 of 14--------

From: Vanka485 [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 6.27 2pm

Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday

--------9 of 14--------

From: Nonviolent Peaceforce
Subject: Mel Duncan 6.27 6:30pm

Get an update on Nonviolent Peaceforce from Mel Duncan 6:30 PM Saturday,
June 27 St. Timothy Lutheran Church invites you to join them for Chords of
Compassion St. Timothy Lutheran Church 1465 Victoria St. North, St. Paul
in the Como Park area

Chords of Compassion will feature music and Mel Duncan of Nonviolent
Peaceforce All the donations will go to support the Nonviolent Peaceforce
For more information call 651-489-0336 or go to

Come early to enjoy Music on the Blacktop from 4 to 6:30 with live music,
food and kids games on the street in front of the church.

--------10 of 14--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Single payer 6.27 9pm

Marauding Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on MTN Channel 17 on Saturdays at 9pm and
Tuesdays at 8am, after DemocracyNow!  Households with basic cable may

Sat., 6/27, 9pm and Tues, 6/30, 8am
Single Payer: HELL YEAH!

longtime Twin Cities nurse and single-payer health care advocate Faith
Kidder and DFL Progressive Caucus chair Dan Brown share their insights on,
and passion for, single-payer universal health care.  hosted by Eric Angell.

--------11 of 14--------

Look! Up in the Sky! It's a Bird. It's a Plane. It's a Raytheon Spy Blimp!
by Tom Burghardt
June 25th, 2009
Dissident View

As the American republic's long death-spiral continues apace, newer and
ever more insidious technologies usher us towards an age of high-tech

"At first glance" Newsweek reveals, "there was nothing special about the
blimp floating high above the cars and crowd at this year's Indy 500 on
Memorial Day weekend".

"Nothing special" that is, until you took a closer look. What you then
discovered was another quintessentially American innovation, all the more
chilling for its bland ubiquity. A silent, hovering sentinel linking
commerce and repression; a perfect trope for our ersatz democracy. "Like
most airships" Newsweek continued, "it acted as an advertising vehicle".

But the real promo should have been for the blimp's creator, Raytheon, the
security company best known for its weapons systems. Hidden inside the
55-foot-long white balloon was a powerful surveillance camera adapted from
the technology Raytheon provides the U.S. military.

Essentially an unmanned drone, the blimp transmitted detailed images to
the race's security officers and to Indiana police. "The airship is great
because it doesn't have that Big Brother feel, or create feelings of
invasiveness," says Lee Silvestre, vice president of mission innovation in
Raytheon's Integrated Defense division. "But it's still a really powerful
security tool" (Kurt Soller, "Are You Being Watched? The blimp flying
above your head may be watching your every move," Newsweek, June 11, 2009)
"It doesn't have that Big Brother feel" and yet here, as elsewhere, the
"feelings of invasiveness" are implicit, unseen, invisible, the
securitized DNA giving form and structure to the Empires' "new normal".

Imported from America's aggressive wars of conquest in Iraq and
Afghanistan and now deployed in the heimat, sprawling intelligence and
security bureaucracies have teamed-up with corporate scofflaws to fill a
market niche, inflating the bottom-line at the expense of a cherished
freedom: the right to be left alone.

But as Antifascist Calling has noted many times, "what happens in Vegas"
certainly doesn't stay there, a point driven home by Raytheon.

"Anticipating requirements for innovative and affordable ways to provide
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)," according to a
company press release, "Raytheon is using aerostats - modern blimps or
balloons - carrying high-tech sensors to detect threats on the ground and
in the air at distances that enable appropriate countermeasures".

Known as RAID (Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment) the system is kitted-out
with "electro-optic infrared, radar, flash and acoustic detectors".
According to the firm, some 300 have been deployed in Iraq and
Afghanistan. The same military version, as Newsweek reported and Raytheon
confirmed, "demonstrated to officials concerned with security and
spectator safety its value by providing situational awareness in what is
billed as one of the largest sporting events of the year".

Indeed Charles Burns, the director of Corporate Security for the Indy
Racing League said in the company's press release: "Conducting this demo
with Raytheon gives us the opportunity to evaluate new and innovative
technology that keeps our venues safe and optimizes the racing experience
for our fans".

Along with a suite of sensors and high resolution video cameras, RAID's
digitized mapping tools are similar to those developed for the National
Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). In tandem with a preprogrammed
mapping grid of the target location, the system can scan a wide area and
relay video clips to a centralized command center.

Captured data known as GEOINT, or geospatial intelligence, is "tailored
for customer-specific solutions" according to NGA. That agency along with
its "sister" organization, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the
super-secret agency that develops and flies America's fleet of spy
satellites are also among the most heavily-outsourced departments in the
so-called Intelligence Community.

As investigative journalist Tim Shorrock points out in his essential book,
Spies For Hire, giant defense firms such as Raytheon and Northrop Grumman
"with assistance from Republican lawmakers from the House Intelligence
Committee," helped launch a lobby shop for the industry in 2004, the
United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF).

Self-described as a "not-for-profit educational foundation," USGIF "is the
only organization dedicated to promoting the geospatial intelligence
tradecraft and building a stronger community of interest across industry,
academia, government, professional organizations and individual
stakeholders". Since its formation, USGIF has expanded to some 154
companies and state agencies and has an annual budget that exceeds $1

"Strategic partners" include the usual suspects, corporate heavy-hitters
such as Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Science Applications International
Corporation, Boeing, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems,
IBM, Google, AT&T, Microsoft, The MITRE Corporation, and L3
Communications. Additionally, niche companies such as Analytical Graphics,
Inc., DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, Intergraph, PCI Geomatics, TechniGraphics,
Inc., flesh-out USGIF's roster.

In this context, the public roll-out of RAID is all the more pressing for
securocrats and the companies they serve since Homeland Security Secretary
Janet Napolitano "plans to kill a program begun by the Bush administration
that would use U.S. spy satellites for domestic security and law
enforcement," the Associated Press reported June 22.

That program, the National Applications Office (NAO) was first announced
by the Bush regime in 2007 and was mired in controversy from the get-go.
As Antifascist Calling reported last year, NAO would coordinate how
domestic law enforcement and "disaster relief" agencies such as FEMA
utilize GEOINT and imagery intelligence (IMINT) generated by U.S. spy
satellites. But as with other heimat security schemes there was little in
the way of oversight and zero concern for the rights of the American

The intrusiveness of the program was so severe that even Rep. Jane Harman
(D-CA), the author of the despicable "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown
Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" (H.R. 1955) vowed to pull the plug.
Chairwoman of the Homeland Security Committee's Intelligence, Information
Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment subcommittee, Harman introduced
legislation earlier this month that would have shut down NAO immediately
while prohibiting the agency from spending money on NAO or similar

When the bill was introduced, Harman told Federal Computer Week: "Imagine,
for a moment, what it would be like if one of these satellites were
directed on your neighborhood or home, a school or place of worship - and
without an adequate legal framework or operating procedures in place for
regulating their use. I daresay the reaction might be that Big Brother has
finally arrived and the black helicopters can't be far behind. Yet this is
precisely what the Department of Homeland Security has done in standing up
the benign-sounding National Applications Office, or NAO".

According to the Los Angeles Times, Napolitano reached a decision to cut
NAO off at the knees "after consulting with state and local law
enforcement officials and learning that they had far more pressing
priorities than using satellites to collect information and eavesdrop on

Perhaps those "pressing priorities" could be better served by a low-key
approach, say the deployment of a system such as RAID? After all, what's
so threatening about a blimp?

It comes as no surprise then, that the next target for Raytheon marketeers
are precisely local police departments and sports facilities "that want to
keep an eye on crowds that might easily morph into an unruly mob," as
Newsweek delicately put it.

Nathan Kennedy, Raytheon's project manager for the spy blimp told the
publication, "large municipalities could find many uses for this
[technology] once we figure out how to get it in their hands".

While the company refuses to divulge what this intrusive system might
actually cost cash-strapped localities drastically cutting social services
for their citizens as America morphs into a failed state, municipalities
"without a Pentagon-size police budget" could look at the airship's
"potential to display ads [that] may assist with financing".

Raytheon claims that local authorities fearful of succumbing to what I'd
call a dreaded "surveillance airship gap," could install "a built-in LED
screen to attract sponsors, generate revenue and defer operating costs".

How convenient!

However, Raytheon's slimmed-down surveillance airship is a spin-off from a
larger Pentagon project.

Among other high-tech, privacy-killing tools currently under development
is the Defense Advanced Research Project Agencys (DARPA) Integrated
Sensor Is Structure (ISIS) program. As conceived by the agency, ISIS will
be a high-altitude autonomous airship built for the U.S. Air Force that
can operate at 70,000 feet and stay aloft for a decade.

Washington Technology reported April 29, that Lockheed Martin won a $400
million deal to design the system. "Under the contract" the publication
revealed, "Lockheed Martin will provide systems integration services, and
Raytheon Co. will furnish a high-energy, low-power density radar, Lockheed
Martin officials said".

Operating six miles above the earth's surface, well out of range of
surface-to-air missiles, the airship will be some 450 feet long, powered
by hydrogen fuel cells and packed with electronic surveillance gear and
radar currently being field-tested by Raytheon.

Projects such as ISIS reflect a shift in Pentagon planning and spending
priorities. Under Bush regime holdover, Defense Secretary Robert Gates,
the military plans to leverage America's technological advantage to
improve intelligence and surveillance capabilities at the expense of
over-inflated big ticket items such as the F-22 Raptor or new Navy

Gates and others in the Pentagon believe a shift towards "robust ISR
platforms" will better facilitate the Pentagon's new paradigm: waging
multiple, counterinsurgency wars of conquest to secure natural resources
and strategic advantage vis-a-vis imperialism's geopolitical rivals.

But military might and technological preeminence, however formidable,
represented by the Pentagon's quixotic quest for total "situational
awareness" promised by platforms such as ISIS and RAID, will no more
ameliorate the Empire's extreme political weakness than putting a band-aid
over a gangrenous lesion changes the outcome for a dying patient.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay
Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global
Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars,
journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read on
Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily and Pacific Free Press. He is the
editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance"
Planning, distributed by AK Press.

[The spy blimps should only be above country clubs - that's where the
REAL terrorists hang out and conspire! -ed]

--------12 of 14--------

Our Collective Shame
Torture Eats the Soul
June 24, 2009

Anniversaries can be important. This Friday marks the 22nd anniversary of
the U.N. Convention against Torture, ratified and signed under President
Reagan. Last Friday marked the 150th day of the presidency of Barack
Obama, who is trying to put a definitive end to the torture approved by
the Bush-Cheney administration.

That Obama has not been able to do so is our collective shame. Worse
still, the president has apparently concluded that he lacks the support to
deter future abominations of this sort by launching a proper investigation
and holding to account those responsible.

Something evil has seeped into the soul of our nation. Those many years
when we looked the other way, choosing to ignore the abuse of detainees in
U.S. custody, eroded our morality.

Americans who claim to believe in human dignity and the law do not seem
scandalized by this inhumane and illegal activity. Many people of faith
appear willing to tolerate unspeakable cruelty. Christians who follow one
who himself was tortured by the powers of his time evidently are now ready
to justify our own government's use of torture.

It is reminiscent of Germany in the 1930s, when - with very few exceptions
- neither Catholic nor Lutheran pastors found their voice. A more recent
example: in April 2008 when the pope visited the U.S., the involvement of
our most senior government leaders in approving torture dominated the
headlines. He ignored the issue entirely.

Surely the deafening silence of the institutional church -  again, with a
few exceptions - accounts in part for the recent Pew survey showing that a
majority of Americans who go to church regularly believe torture can be

As faith leaders, we find this shocking and shameful. There is no
counterweight to the demagoguery and politics of fear that hold sway, none
to speak to the morality of the issue. None but us.

If you think the torture has stopped, you are wrong. Because of the sad
state of our corporate media, it takes extra effort to find out what's
actually going on.

Check out, for example, international human rights attorney Scott Horton's
June 15 piece in Harpers. Horton describes as "residue of the Bush-era
torture system" a "force-feeding" program of the kind formally banned by
the World Medical Association in 1991. Guantnamo prisoner Abdullah Saleh
al-Hanashi, one of the "force-fed" inmates, was pronounced dead June 1; an
"apparent suicide," according to the camp commander.

It will be interesting to see whether Obama administration officials will
react in the callous way their predecessors did to the June 10, 2006,
suicides of three Guantnamo prisoners. Then-prison commander Rear Adm.
Harry Harris described the suicides as "an act of asymmetric warfare
committed against us." Colleen Graffy, a deputy assistant secretary of
state, called the suicides "a good PR move."

President Obama has apparently decided he has stuck his political neck out
as far as he can. Against very strong opposition, he did release the
"torture memos" - the most shameful prose ever printed under Department of
Justice letterhead - but has been reluctant to move beyond that.

Perhaps he hoped that we would read those memos, be appropriately outraged
and create countervailing pressure to help him face down the torture
aficionados still in his entourage.

DIANA GIBSON is a Presbyterian minister, co-executive director of the
Council of Churches of Santa Clara County and coordinator for Multifaith
Voices for Peace and Justice.

Ray McGovern was an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 year. He
now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for
Sanity. He is a contributor to Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and
Yugoslavia, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (Verso). He
can be reached at: rrmcgovern [at]

They wrote this article for the Mercury News.

--------13 of 14--------

Obama's Used Green Team
Meet the Retreads
June 26-28, 2009

Of all of Barack Obama's airy platitudes about change none were more
vaporous than his platitudes about the environment and within that
category Obama has had little at all to say about matters concerning
public lands and endangered species. He is, it seems, letting his
bureaucratic appointments do his talking for him.  So now, five months
into his administration, Obama's policy on natural resources is beginning
to take shape. It is a disturbingly familiar shape, almost sinister.

It all started with the man in the hat, Ken Salazar, Obama's odd pick to
head the Department of Interior. Odd because Salazar was largely detested
in his own state, Colorado, by environmentalists for his repellent
coziness with oil barons, the big ranchers and the water hogs. Odd because
Salazar was close friends with the disgraced Alberto Gonzalez, the
torturer's consigliere. Odd because Salazar backed many of the Bush
administration's most rapacious assaults on the environment and
environmental laws. Odder still because Salazar, in his new position as
guardian of endangered species, had as a senator repeatedly advocated the
weakening of the Endangered Species Act.

Salazar never hid his noxious positions behind a green mantle. Obama
certainly knew what he was buying. And the president could have made a
much different and refreshing choice by picking Rep. Raul Grijalva, the
Arizona Democrat, a Hispanic, a westerner and a true environmentalist who
had helped to expose the cauldron of corruption inside the Bush Interior
Department. Yes, Obama could have picked a western environmentalist;
instead he tapped a prototypical western politician with deep ties to the
water, oil, timber, ranching and mining industries. So the choice was
deliberate and it presaged the deflating policies that are now beginning
to stream out of his office, from siding with Sarah Palin against the
polar bear to greenlighting dozens of Bush-era mountaintop removal mining
operations across Appalachia. (As CounterPunch pointed out last fall,
Obama and Palin have long since established symbiotic harmony on God's
Pipeline, the proposed $30 billion natural gas pipeline that, if
constructed, will slice across the tundra and boreal forests from Prudhoe
Bay through Canada to Chicago.)

Salazar wasted no time in turning the Interior Department office into a
hive of his homeboys. This group of lawyers and former colleagues have
already earned the nickname the Colorado Mafia, Version Three. It's
Version Three because Colorado Mafia Version One belonged to James Watt
and his Loot-the-West zealots from the Mountain States Legal Fund. The
Version Two update came in the form of Gale Norton and her own band of
fanatics, some of whom remain embedded in the Department's HQ, just down
the hall from Salazar's office.

Beyond a perverse obsession with Stetson hats, Salazar and Watt share some
eerie resemblances. For starters, they look alike. There's a certain
fleshy smugness to their facial features. Who knows if Salazar shares
Watt's apocalyptic eschatology (Why save nature, Watt once quipped, when
the end of the world is nigh.), but both men are arrogant,
my-way-or-the-highway types. Watt's insolent demeanor put him to the right
even of his patron Ronald Reagan and ultimately proved his downfall.
Salazar may well meet the same fate - if Obama, knock-on-wood, doesn't
nominate him for the next Supreme Court vacancy first. Most troubling,
however, is the fact that both Watt and Salazar hold similar views on the
purpose of the public estate, treating the national forests and Bureau of
Land Management lands not as ecosystems but as living warehouses for the
manufacture of stuff: lumber, paper, wedding rings, meat, energy.

With this stark profile in mind, it probably comes as no big shock that
the man Salazar nominated to head the Fish and Wildlife Service, the
agency charged with protecting native wildlife and enforcing the
Endangered Species Act, has viewed those responsibilities with
indifference if not hostility. For the past twelve years, Sam Hamilton,
whose nomination to head the agency is now pending before congress, has
run the Southeast Region of the Fish and Wildlife Service, a swath of the
country that has the dubious distinction of driving more species of
wildlife to the brink of extinction than any other.

>From Florida to Louisiana, the encroaching threats on native wildlife are
manifest and relentless: chemical pollution, oil drilling, coastal
development, clearcutting, wetland destruction and a political animus
toward environmental laws (and environmentalists). And Sam Hamilton was
not one to stand up against this grim state of affairs.

A detailed examination of Hamilton's tenure by Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility reveals his bleak record. During the period
from 2004 through 2006, Hamilton's office performed 5,974 consultations on
development projects (clearcuts, oil wells, golf courses, roads, housing
developments and the like) in endangered species habitat. But Hamilton
gave the green light to all of these projects, except one. By contrast,
during the same period the Rocky Mountain Office of the Fish and Wildlife
Service officially consulted on 586 planned projects and issued 100
objections or so-called jeopardy opinions. Hamilton has by far the weakest
record of any of his colleagues on endangered species protection.

There's plenty of evidence to show that Hamilton routinely placed
political considerations ahead of enforcing the wildlife protection laws.
For example, in the agency's Vero Beach, Florida office Fish and Wildlife
Service biologists wrote a joint letter in 2005 complaining that their
supervisors had ordered them not to object to any project in endangered
species habitat - no matter how ruinous.

Take the case of the highly endangered Florida panther. One of Hamilton's
top lieutenants in Florida has been quoted as telling his subordinates
that the big cat was a "zoo species" doomed to extinction and that to halt
any developments projects in the panther's habitat would be a waste of
time and political capital.

"Under Sam Hamilton, the Endangered Species Act has become a dead letter,"
says PEER's Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the White House
announcement on Hamilton touted his "innovative conservation" work.
"Apparently, the word 'no' is not part of 'innovative' in Mr. Hamilton's
lexicon. To end the cycle of Endangered Species Act lawsuits, the Fish and
Wildlife Service needs a director who is willing to follow the law and
actually implement the Act. Hamilton's record suggests that he will extend
the policies of Bush era rather than bring needed change".

Now this man has the fate of the jaguar, grizzly and northern spotted owl
in his compromised hands. Feel the chill?

Over at the Agriculture Department Obama made a similarly cynical pick
when he chose former Iowa governor Tom Vilsak to head the agency that
oversees the national forests. Vilsak resides to the right of Salazar and
not just in the sitting arrangement at Cabinet meetings. He is a
post-Harken Iowa Democrat, which means he's essentially a Republican who
believes in evolution six days a week. (He leaves such Midwestern heresies
at the door on Sundays.) Think Earl Butz - minus the racist sense of humor
(as far as we know).

Vilsak is a creature of industrial agriculture, a brusque advocate for the
corporate titans that have laid waste the farmbelt: Monsanto, Archer
Daniels Midland and Cargill. As administrations come and go, these
companies only tighten their stranglehold, poisoning the prairies,
spreading their clones and frankencrops, sucking up the Oglalla aquifer,
scalping topsoil and driving the small farmers under. It could have been
different. Obama might have opted for change by selecting Wes Jackson of
the Land Institute, food historian Michael Pollan or Roger Johnson,
president of the National Farmers Union. Instead he opted for the old
guard, a man with a test tube in one hand and Stihl chainsaw in the other.

Through a quirk of bureaucratic categorization, the Department of
Agriculture is also in charge of the national forests. At 190 million
acres, the national forests constitute the largest block of public lands
and serve as the principal reservoir of biotic diversity and wilderness on
the continent. They have also been under a near constant state of siege
since the Reagan era: from clearcuts, mining operations, ORV morons, ski
resorts and cattle and sheep grazing.

Since 1910, when public outrage erupted after President William Taft fired
Gifford Pinchot for speaking out against the corrupt policies of Interior
Secretary Richard Ballinger, the chief of the Forest Service had been
treated as a civil service employee and, much like the director of the FBI
and CIA, was considered immune from changes in presidential
administrations.  This all changed when Bill Clinton imperiously dismissed
Dale Robertson as chief in 1994 and replaced him with Jack Ward Thomas,
the former wildlife biologist who drafted Clinton's plan to resume logging
in the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest. Thomas' tenure at the
agency proved disastrous for the environment. In eight years of Clinton
time, the Forest Service cut six times as much timber as the agency did
under the Reagan and Bush I administrations combined. The pace of logging
set by Thomas continued unabated during the Bush the Younger's

So now Vilsak has given the boot to Gail Kimbell, Bush's compliant chief,
and replaced her with a 32-year veteran of the agency named Tom Tidwell.
You will search Google in vain for any evidence that during the
forest-banging years of the Bush administration, when Tidwell served as
Regional Forester for the Northern Rockies, this man ever once stood up to
Kimbell or her controller Mark Rey, who went from being the timber
industry's top lobbyist to Bush's Undersecretary of Agriculture in charge
of the national forests. (Point of interest: Rey, once known as the
Skeletor of the Timber Industry for the hundreds of thousands of acres of
clearcuts on his rapsheet, has now been retained as a fixer by WildLaw, an
environmental law firm in Alabama - retained without ever having issued a
single mea culpa for his career as a top rank ecocider. You just can't
make this stuff up, anymore.) No, Tidwell was no whistleblower. He was, in
fact, a facilitator of forest destruction, eagerly implementing the
Kimbell-Rey agenda to push clearcuts, mines, oil wells and roads into the
heart of the big wild of Montana and Idaho.

Despite this dismal resume, Tidwell's appointment received near unanimous
plaudits, from timber companies, ORV user groups, mining firms and, yes,
the Wilderness Society. Here's the assessment of Cliff Roady director the
Montana Forest Products Association, a timber industry lobby outfit: "His
appointment keeps things on a fairly steady course. He reported to Gail
Kimbell, and they worked together really well. He's somebody we'd look
forward to working with".

And here, singing harmony, are the tweets of Bob Eckey, a spokesman for
the Wilderness Society, which some seasoned observers of environmental
politics consider to be yet another timber industry lobby group: "Tidwell
understands the American public's vision for a national forest has been

During his tenure in Montana, Tidwell specialized in the art of coercive
collaboration, a social manipulation technique that involves getting
environmental groups to endorse destructive projects they would normally
litigate to stop. Yet, when copiously lubricated with the magic words
"collaboration" or "climate change" most environmentalists can be enticed
to swallow even the most ghastly of clearcuts in the most ecologically
sensitive sites, such as in grizzly habitat on the Middle Fork of the
Flathead River near Glacier Park or in the fast-dwindling ponderosa pine
forests of eastern Oregon.

One of Tidwell's highest priorities will, it seems, be turn the national
forests into industrial biomass farms, all in the name of green energy.
Under this destructive scheme, forests, young and old alike, will be
clearcut, not for lumber, but as fuel to be burned in biomass power
generators. Already officials in the big timber states of Oregon and
Washington are crowing that they will soon be able to become the "Saudi
Arabia" of biomass production. Did they run this past Smokey the Bear?

Of course, Smokey, that global icon of wildfire suppression, and Tidwell
will, no doubt, find common ground on another ecological dubious project:
thinning and post-fire salvage logging. We've reached the point where
old-fashioned timber sales are a thing of the past. Now every logging
operation will an ecological justification - specious though they all
certainly turn out to be.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, one of the few green outfits to
consistently stand up against Democratic Party-sponsored depredations on
the environment, sued Tidwell at least 20 times during his time as
regional forester in Missoula. There's no record of Tidwell being sued
even once by Boise-Cascade, Plum Creek Timber or the Noranda Gold Mining

Yet by and large, the mainstream environmental movement has muzzled itself
while the Obama administration stocks the Interior Department with
corporate lawyers, extraction-minded bureaucrats and Clinton-era retreads.
This strategy of a self-imposed gag order will only serve to enable
Salazar and Vilsak to pursue even more rapacious schemes without any fear
of accountability.

The pattern of political conditioning has been honed to perfection. Every
few weeks the Obama administration will drop a few meaningless crumbs -
such as the reinstitution of the Clinton Roadless Area rule - toward the
enviro establishment, which will greedily gobble them up one after the
other until, like Hansel and Gretel with groupthink, they find themselves
hopelessly lost in a vast maze of Obama-sanctioned clearcuts. After that,
they won't even get a crumb.

On the environment, the transition between Bush and Obama has been
disturbingly smooth when it should have been decisively abrupt.

Where will the administration meet its first roadblock? Who will erect it?

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green
to Me: the Politics of Nature and Grand Theft Pentagon. His newest book,
Born Under a Bad Sky, is just out from AK Press / CounterPunch books. He
can be reached at: sitka [at]

--------14 of 14--------

How the Wall Street Bankers Bought Congress
by Petrino DiLeo
June 22nd, 2009
Dissident Voice

You would think that causing the worst financial crisis since the Great
Depression might have repercussions. You would think being a major factor
in the destruction of around 40 percent of the world's wealth might get
you in trouble. You would think being the cause of the worst housing
crisis in history - with millions of people losing their homes because of
you - might force a restructuring of how Wall Street does things.

You would think that. But you'd be wrong.

For Wall Street's lobbyists in Washington, it's business as usual. Since
Barack Obama took office, the bankers have succeeded in pushing through
bogus "stress tests" of financial institutions' solvency, escaping tougher
government oversight, and steamrolling attempts to give working-class
borrowers a break.

Even the much-hyped limits on CEO pay are being rolled back. In mid-June,
Barack Obama lifted a five-month-old limit on executive compensation at
financial firms that took federal bailout money. Apparently, only $500,000
a year in salaries and other perks was just too much of a sacrifice for
the financial system to bear. Instead, Obama has established a "special
master of compensation," who will decide on pay to top executives at banks
still reliant on government money.

While having a "special master" oversee pay might sound like a big deal,
the banks aren't sweating it. "Our people kind of thought it was a
non-event," one unnamed executive of a large bank told the Washington
Post. "I don't think there are worries about it on Wall Street". And, the
executive added, "It's not like the horrible and unethical action from
Congress, where they were putting artificial caps on pay or trying to
steal back bonuses".

The sense of entitlement on display in comments like these is staggering -
as if the "wizards" of Wall Street deserve the billions in compensation
showered upon them in the past decade for producing what has proved to be
fictitious wealth, while destabilizing the economy and destroying the
lives of people across the U.S.

As for legislation aimed at stemming the kinds of predatory lending
practices that helped exacerbate the housing bubble and ultimately
triggered the financial crisis, Senate Banking Committee Chair Christopher
Dodd recently said, "We've got a lot on our plate. We've got other things
to do".

Apparently, however, one of those "other things to do" was not passing
"cramdown" legislation - a measure that would have enabled bankruptcy
court judges to lower the principal on existing mortgages for homeowners
facing foreclosure, thereby helping people to keep their homes. In that
bill, defeated in early May, the Senate sided with banks over homeowners
by a 51-45 margin.

Housing rights activists estimate the legislation could have staved off
1.7 million foreclosures and preserved $300 billion in home equity.
Nevertheless, a dozen Democrats in Senate voted against it.

"Instead of defending ordinary Americans, the majority of the senators
went with the banks," said the Center for Responsible Lending in a
statement. "Yes, the same banks who have benefited so richly in the [$700
billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP] bailout".

Meanwhile, the Treasury Department was celebrating the fact that 10 banks
would be paying back TARP funds - insinuating that the financial system is
on stable enough ground that the government could begin backing off.

But the same day that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner talked up the TARP
repayments, TARP Oversight Panel Chair Elizabeth Warren said the so-called
stress tests, conducted to determine whether the big banks were on safe
financial footing, should be redone.

"The employment numbers for 2009 have already exceeded the harshest
scenario considered so far, suggesting that the stress tests should be
repeated," Warren's report stated.

There was just one piece of legislation that didn't go entirely the banks'
way: a bill, signed into law by Obama in May, that put some restraints on
the out-of-control credit card industry,

The new law bans increases in annual percentage rate interest charges
during the first 12 months after opening up an account. Consumers must get
45 days' notice of changes in rates or contracts, and 30 days' notice for
account closures. The law also eliminates the notorious practice of
"double billing," in which credit card issuers impose finance charges
based on balances already paid.

Yet even here, industry lobbyists were able to block changes sought by
industry critics. Crucially, there's still no cap on the interest rates
that credit card companies can charge.

That's why John Taylor, chief executive of the National Community
Reinvestment Coalition, said in a recent interview: "It's the bottom of
the ninth, and it's bankers 10, consumers zero. It's like being in a
street fight, and you and a few friends just went up against 100 other
people, and you're just picking yourself up off the ground. And you're
just bloodied".

One reason bank lobbyists have been so successful is that they have
convinced Congress to take on financial issues piecemeal, rather than in a
single piece of legislation. That way, the lobbyists could focus on one
battle at a time.

And on each bill, they made the case that new rules would restrict credit
and jack up interest rates, thereby hurting consumers. Overall, the
financial industry spent $42 million in lobbying efforts in the first
quarter of 2009 - even as many banks were still being bailed out with
taxpayer money.

By and large, this tactic has been successful. Scott Talbott, a lobbyist
at the Financial Services Roundtable, admitted, "We knew we were going to
be up against it. Yeah, we know it was going to be a tough year. And so
far, it has not been a tough as expected".

So despite Wall Street's greatest crisis since the 1930s, the banking
system is still calling the shots in Washington. Indeed, in a rare moment
of candor, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said: "And the banks - hard to
believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the
banks createdare - still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they
frankly own the place".

What's more, the same people move seamlessly back and forth between the
corridors of power in finance and politics. Consider the case of Michael
Paese, an ex-JP Morgan employee who became the top staffer to Rep. Barney
Frank, chair of the House Financial Services Committee - which oversees
Wall Street. Last September, Paese bolted to become Goldman Sachs' top
lobbyist. There he replaced Mark Patterson, who, in turn, left Goldman
Sachs to become chief of staff at the Treasury Department.

Goldman Sachs, remember, is the firm that was run by former Treasury
Secretary Henry Paulson before he went to Washington to work in the Bush
administration. And don't forget that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner
himself is a disciple of Ronald Rubin, another former Goldman Sachs
executive turned treasury secretary during the Clinton administration.

Given this Wall Street-Washington circuit, it's little surprise that
Barney Frank has written a piece of legislation on lending "reform" that
seems tailored to Wall Street.

His proposed measure has nine consumer, housing and civil rights groups up
in arms. The National Consumer Law Center, for example, says the proposed
legislation would "do more harm than good," and added in a statement, "The
bill is complex, convoluted and simply will not accomplish its main goal -
to fundamentally change the way mortgages are made in this country".

Just in case the Wall Street/Washington revolving door isn't sufficient to
get their way, the finance capitalists spread enormous amounts of money
around Congress.

In the 2008 election cycle, securities and investment firms donated a
whopping $154.9 million to political campaigns - $57 million more than the
2004 elections, according to Of that, 57 percent went to
Democrats and 43 percent to Republicans. Real estate, which became deeply
enmeshed with Wall Street during the housing bubble, donated another
$136.7 million. The split was 49 percent Democrats and 51 percent

Commercial banks, meanwhile, contributed $37.1 million to politicians -
the most ever from that sectorwith - 48 percent going to Democrats and 52
percent to Republicans. Lastly, hedge funds tossed in another $16.7
million - four times as much as the sector had donated in any other
election cycle. Hedge funds favored Democrats by a 65-35 percent margin.
Altogether, that comes to $345.4 million.

While the numbers may have been larger than ever, Wall Street has long
bought members of Congress in both parties to advance its legislative
agenda. And it was a Democrat, President Bill Clinton, who signed into law
two key pieces of legislation that set the stage for the current financial

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, passed by a Republican Congress in 1999,
repealed the Depression-era Glass-Steagall laws, which had separated risky
investment banking from traditional, deposit-taking commercial banks. A
year later, Congress passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which
kept large parts of commodities trading beyond the reach of regulators -
including complex financial instruments that triggered the financial

Today, Democrats have total control of the legislative process. But Wall
Street is still getting its way, despite the bankers' shattered
credibility for their role in crashing the economy. Real financial reform
that provides relief to working people will come only when social
movements can put enough pressure on politicians to force them act.

Petrino DiLeo writes for Socialist Worker, where this article first
appeared. Thanks to Alan Maass.


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