|Progressive Calendar 06.26.09||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|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] visi.com> 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: http://www.kfai.org COLDWATER ALERT 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 Territory. -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) 651-224-9191 Congressman Keith Ellison 612-522-1212 Senator Amy Klobuchar 612-727-5220 --------2 of 14-------- From: Alison Brady <abrady [at] 2harvest.org> 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 2-1-1. 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. FREE SUMMER MEALS IN YOUR AREA: 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 FREE SUMMER MEALS IN YOUR AREA: 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 FREE SUMMER MEALS IN YOUR AREA: 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 FREE SUMMER MEALS IN YOUR AREA: 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] 2harvest.org <mailto:abrady [at] 2harvest.org> --------3 of 14-------- From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net> 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 available. in solidarity w/people and the planet, eric www.ourworldindepth.org --------4 of 14-------- From: Dara Syrkin <dsyrkin [at] loft.org> 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] truthout.org> Subject: Moyers/WS Merwin 6.26 9pm Bill Moyers Journal | A Conversation With Poet W.S. Merwin http://www.truthout.org/062409V?n 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] umn.edu> 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] mtn.org> Subject: GLBT Pride 6.27 10am -a- Twin Cities GLBT Pride Festival and Peace Booth: "Proud to Shout: U.S. OUT!" 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 www.tcpride.org. Peace Booth Sponsored by: the Anti-War Committee (AWC) and WAMM. FFI: Call WAMM at 612-827-5364. -b- From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at] gmail.com> Subject: 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] antiwarcommittee.org to sign up to volunteer. -c- From: Joel Albers <joel [at] uhcan-mn.org> 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. -d- From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org> 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 West. --------8 of 14-------- From: Vanka485 [at] aol.com Subject: Northtown vigil 6.27 2pm Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday 2-3pm --------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 www.sttimothylutheran.org 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] riseup.net> 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 watch. 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 barbarism. "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 million. "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 people. 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 programs. 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 people". 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 destroyers. 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 By DIANA GIBSON and RAY McGOVERN CounterPunch 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 justified. 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] aol.com They wrote this article for the Mercury News. --------13 of 14-------- Obama's Used Green Team Meet the Retreads By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR CounterPunch 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 administration. 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 changing". 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 Company. 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] comcast.net. --------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 OpenSecrets.org. 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 Republicans. 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 crisis. 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 meltdown. 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. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8
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