Tag Archives: United States

Embattled Dictators: Walker, Gadaffi, Mubarak, Isa Al Khalifa

23 Feb

Earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) “sent shockwaves across the state” when he unveiled a budgetary bill that would strip most of the state’s public workers of collective bargaining rights, essentially devastating state government employees’ ability to negotiate for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions. At the time, many local news observers thought the bill would easily pass. After all, Republicans won commanding majorities in the legislature during the last election and stood united  in support of the bill. Yet on the eve of the bill’s certain passage, all 14 state Senate Democrats  fled the state, denying the Senate the quorum needed to proceed and freezing the anti-labor bill in its tracks. Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites then took to the streets in support of the “Wisconsin 14,” invigorating a nascent progressive movement. And all around the country, Americans inspired by Wisconsin’s example are taking action and battling attempts by conservative-led state governments to attack organized labor, slash education and environmental funding, and to make America a country where only the privileged and well-connected can prosper. While conservatives may believe that the last election gave them a wide mandate to decimate the social safety net and enact policies that will make us an even more unequal country, it appears that Americans disagree. By trying to enact their radical agenda, conservatives have stirred America’s Main Street into action. The progressive protests that are sweeping the country are defending the American Dream itself, the idea that anyone, no matter what their socioeconomic background, can succeed and prosper.

ASSAULT ON THE MIDDLE CLASS: While Walker’s assault on his state’s public employees’ labor rights is the most visible assault on the middle class, conservative governments across the country are waging similar campaigns. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich (R) is backing legislation similar to Wisconsin’s in that would  gut the organizing rights of public employees. Kasich has already killed his state’s federally-funded high-speed rail project, which will cost Ohio  $400 million in infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs. While he justifies these moves by claiming he’s tackling his state’s deficit, he also is championing a slew of tax cuts that could actually  double the state’s deficit. New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie (R), who previously vetoed progressive efforts to raise taxes on his state’s millionaires, is trying to ram through steep cuts to education funding and municipal assistance. In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has unveiled cuts to the state’s treasured subsidized college tuition program, HOPE, which would lead to hundreds of thousands of college students paying thousands of more dollars out-of-pocket in order to be able to get a higher education. Deal is also cutting overall education spending by  seven percent, and he simultaneously plans to dramatically reduce the corporate income tax rate, further reducing the state’s revenue coffers. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) has dismissed tax increases while simultaneously slashing funding for K-12 education, because, he argued, “That’s where the money is.” Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has  unveiled a spending plan that includes “$1.2 billion in cuts to schools, universities, local governments and other areas while asking public employees for $180 million in concessions” while at the same time giving $1.8 billion in tax cuts to businesses.

WORKING AMERICA FIGHTS BACK: To the chagrin of right wingers like Walker, Americans have decided that they don’t want to live in a country where their labor rights are destroyed and their children grow up in the most unequal era since the 1920s. All over the country, ordinary Americans are fighting back, because they understand that if you want a strong middle class you need organized labor and important social services. Yesterday, Indiana House Democrats inspired by Wisconsin’s example fled the state to prevent the passage of a bill that would enact “right-to-work” policies that would cripple the right to organize in the state. After the departure of the House Democrats,  hundreds of unionized workers and students marched into the state capitol and began a sit-in in solidarity with the state’s labor unions. Meanwhile, as many as  10,000 union workers and other Ohioans demonstrated both inside and outside the state house in Columbus, as former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) joined the rally to show their support for the protests. So many people showed up that the Ohio Highway Patrol was ordered to lock the doors of the state capitol to stop more demonstrators from getting into the building. At least   2,000 demonstrators rallied in Olympia, WA, against state budget cuts and in solidarity with the Wisconsin protests. In Montana, hundreds of “conservationists, sportsmen, firefighters, teachers, correctional officers and others” gathered at the state capitol to defend the state’s environmental laws and protest budget cuts. Hundreds of teachers in Idaho marched against legislation that would layoff 700 teachers and leave schools severely understaffed. Emboldened, the South Central Federation of Labor, a Wisconsin union federation consisting of 97 unions and representing 45,000 workers,  voted on Monday to endorse a general strike if the state’s anti-union law is passed by the legislature. Although the strike would be restricted by federal law thanks to the  1947 anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, it represents a courageous act of civil disobedience and solidarity.

CONSERVATIVES BACKING DOWN: There is evidence that the massive groundswell of legislative disobedience and grassroots protests that have erupted all over the country have started to succeed in forcing conservative governments to back down. Despite the passage of Indiana’s right-to-work bill out of a House committee, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) “signaled [yesterday] afternoon that  Republicans should drop the…bill that has brought the Indiana House to a standstill for two days and imperiled other measures.” Conservative Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) refused to endorse Walker’s anti-union bill for his own state, saying, “My belief is as long as people know what they’re doing,  collective bargaining is fine.” Right-wing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) also said he has no plans to enact a Wisconsin-style law. Although in Michigan, Gov. Snyder does plan to take aim at public worker compensation, he so far has said he’s “not interested in making Michigan a right-to-work state, or going wholesale after the bargaining rights of unionized workers.” One reason these conservatives may be backing down is because they realize Main Street America is against their anti-middle class agenda. A USA Today/Gallup poll found that  61 percent of Americans oppose a Wisconsin-style anti-labor law and only 33 percent favor such a law.

DEFENDING THE AMERICAN DREAM: As CAP Senior Fellow Van Jones writes, this new Main Street progressive movement seeks to “renew and redeem the American Dream.” “It’s time to draw a line in the sand — nationally,” he writes. “Someone has to stand up for common sense and fairness.” A coalition of progressive groups and organizations is taking up this call to “Save the American Dream” by announcing rallies at every single statehouse in the country on Saturday at noon. The groups, led by Moveon.org, are calling for Americans to “[d]emand an end to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country. Demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.” It is up to Americans to ensure that states do not balance their budgets by gutting important services and attacking public workers in order to deal with the effects of a recession  caused by Wall Street’s misdeeds —  not those of policemen, firefighters, teachers, students, and other hard-working middle class Americans.

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Republican Thugs – Rand Paul Should Be Ashamed

26 Oct

Is this what we have come to?

An ugly scene took place outside the Kentucky Senatorial debate Monday night as what appeared to be a supporter of Republican candidate Rand Paul was captured by a local news affiliate literally stomping the head of a member of the progressive-activist organization MoveOn.org.

Rand Paul was unapolagetic.

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Boehner’s Tax Bungle

13 Sep

It’s common knowledge that the best the GOP and its de facto leader John Boehner are ideologically bankrupt and bereft of ideas. The best they can do is gainsay anything the President proposes. He naturally vehemently opposed the restructuring of the tax cuts (of course he did – they would have affected his constituents and paymasters – the rich). Now the orange-faced one has buckled.

While much of the weekend was devoted to remembrances–political or not–of the 9/11 attacks, House Minority Leader John Boehner made headlines for a policy statement. Speaking to Bob Schieffer of CBS, he said that while he thought tax cuts instituted by President George W. Bush should be extended for all Americans, he would support a package that extended them only for people earning less than $250,000.

I guess he was against it before he was for it …

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Park 51: America’s History of Fear

5 Sep

Interesting piece in today’s NYT: “America’s History of Fear
“We have a more glorious tradition intertwined in American history, one of tolerance, amity and religious freedom. Each time, this has ultimately prevailed over the Know Nothing impulse. Americans have called on moderates in Muslim countries to speak out against extremists, to stand up for the tolerance they say they believe in. We should all have the guts do the same at home.”

Op-Ed Columnist: America’s History of Fear (nytimes.com)
Is Islamophobia the New Hysteria? (kristof.blogs.nytimes.com)
David Bromwich: Cordoba House and Religious Freedom (huffingtonpost.com)
Timothy A. Ridout: Anti-Muslim Agitators Are Today’s Know Nothings (huffingtonpost.com)
Prejudice against Muslims reaching fever pitch (ctv.ca)

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Park 51: The Hate Turns Violent

31 Aug

For months, the right wing has been leading a hateful campaign against the proposed Park 51 Islamic community center that will be built two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. Many prominent conservatives like disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have even gone as far as to claim that Park 51 will act as a launching pad for the introduction of “Sharia law” to America. These top conservatives have claimed that they aren’t opposed to all mosques, but rather just one near Ground Zero. Gingrich, for example, said he would not be offended by a mosque near Central Park or Columbia University. However, the culture of hate these right wingers are fomenting against Muslims is spreading all over the country. Mosques in locations as far apart as Madera, CA, and Murfreesboro, TN have faced hateful protests and angry threats. And unfortunately, in recent weeks, the hate has turned violent. Between a violent attack on a Muslim cab driver in New York City and an arson attempt against a mosque in the heart of the American South, the far right’s toxic rhetoric is starting to have very real, very dangerous consequences.

Fig (1): Anti-Islam

HATE-INSPIRING RHETORIC: In campaigning against Park 51 and other mosques across the country, conservatives have escalated their rhetoric to hateful levels. Gingrich compared building Park 51 to the Nazis putting a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. Former Bush adviser Karl Rove compared the organizers of Park 51 to “skinheads” showing “up at a Black sorority convention” and screaming bigoted remarks and to “Neo-Nazis” showing up “at the B’na B’rith hotel and” having “their meeting in the next meeting room.” Hate radio host Neal Boortz earlier this month called Islam a “gutter religion” and a “cult.” Boortz may be picking up his smear against Islam from Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R), who openly wondered aloud about whether Islam is “actually a religion or is it a nationality, way or life, or cult, whatever you want to call it.” The American Family Association’s Director of Issues Analysis Bryan Fischer even went as far as to say that the United States should have “no more mosques, period” because each “mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government.” The rhetoric of these major conservative figures stands in stark contrast to President Bush’s rhetoric following the 9/11 attacks. The former president said just “days after the Twin Towers were destroyed in 2001” that “the face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. … Islam is peace. These terrorists don’t represent peace.”

Fig (2): Anti-Semitic

HATE TURNED VIOLENT: When a minority group like Muslim Americans are demonized in this fashion, it is only a matter of time before paranoid individuals turn to violence. This past May, a pipe bomb was set off at the site of a protested Jacksonville, FL mosque. Early this month, a playground at an Arlington, TX mosque was torched. Last week, Bangladeshi-American New York City cab driver Ahmed Sharif picked up an intoxicated 21-year-old man. The man, Michael Enright, began to ask Sharif questions about his personal life. At one point, Enright asked Sharif, “Are you Muslim?” When Sharif replied that he was, Enright replied with the Muslim greeting, “Assalamu alaikum,” then yelled, “Consider this a checkpoint!” and stabbed and slashed Sharif with his knife, leading to his hospitalization. Reports later revealed that Enright had served in Afghanistan with an NGO and kept a diary filled with anti-Muslim rhetoric. Sharif, who had been in the U.S. for more than 25 years, suggested to the press that the toxic debate surrounding Park 51 was endangering Muslims in the city. The week before the attack in New York, a brick was thrown at a window of a mosque in Madera, CA. Outside the premises, vandals put up a pair of signs: “Wake up America, the enemy is here” and “No temple for the god of terrorism.” And this past Friday, a suspected arsonist set fire to part of the construction site at a Murfreesboro, TN mosque. Since then, “Muslim leaders in central Tennessee say that frightened worshipers are observing Ramadan in private and that some Muslim parents are wary of sending their children to school.”

HATE’S LASTING EFFECTS: This combination of hateful rhetoric from the right’s leaders and the rise in hate crimes against Muslims unfortunately serves to undermine both Muslim Americans’ image at home and America’s image abroad. A Time Magazine poll released earlier this month found 61 percent of Americans oppose the construction of Park 51. Even more disturbingly, only 44 percent of Americans held a favorable view of Muslim Americans. Only 55 percent of respondents “said they would favor the construction of an Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from their home.” Almost one-third of respondents thought Muslims should be barred from running for president, and 24 percent of them mistakenly believed that President Obama is a Muslim. There is also evidence that the rise in hatred against Muslims here in the United States is serving to alienate and radicalize Muslims abroad. A Taliban operative going by the name Zabihullah told Newsweek that, by “preventing [Park 51] from being built, America is doing us a big favor.” He explained that the anti-mosque campaign is providing the Taliban with “more recruits, donations, and popular support.” Another Taliban official who “remains active in the insurgency” in Afghanistan told the magazine that he expects the anti-mosque campaigns to provoke a “new wave of terrorist trainees from the West,” similar to suspected Times Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad. Zabihullah concludes, the “more mosques you stop, the more jihadis we will get.” The irony behind the far right’s campaign against peaceful Muslims is that Muslim Americans have actually been acting as a bulwark against extremism. Researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill concluded in a study earlier this year that contemporary mosques in the United States serve as a deterrent to Islamic radicalism. A handful of conservatives have pushed back against the far right’s rhetoric, however. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) said that the anti-Park 51 campaign is “all about hate and Islamophobia.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said he’d be “the first to stand up for [Muslims’] rights” to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Yet, as the American Prospect’s Adam Serwer writes, “Park 51 opponents have been remarkably quiet about [anti-Muslim] incidents. … Either Park 51 opponents don’t care about the larger anti-Muslim backlash, or they don’t want to be seen defending American Muslims in any context.”

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Glenn Beck: American Idiot

29 Aug

Glenn Beck in Washington
Op-Ed Columnist – Bob Herbert: “America is better than Glenn Beck. For all of his celebrity, Mr. Beck is an ignorant, divisive, pathetic figure. On the anniversary of the great 1963 March on Washington he will stand in the shadows of giants — Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Who do you think is more representative of this nation?”

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Cordoba Center: Polarizing

25 Aug
“In a tweet last month, Ms Palin called on “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the “ground-zero mosque” because it would “stab” American hearts. But why should it? Cordoba House is not being built by al-Qaeda. To the contrary, it is the brainchild of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a well-meaning American cleric who has spent years trying to promote interfaith understanding, not an apostle of religious war like Osama bin Laden. He is modelling his project on New York’s 92nd Street Y, a Jewish community centre that reaches out to other religions. The site was selected in part precisely so that it might heal some of the wounds opened by the felling of the twin towers and all that followed. True, some relatives of 9/11 victims are hurt by the idea of a mosque going up near the site. But that feeling only makes sense if they too buy the false idea that Muslims in general were perpetrators of the crime. Besides, what about the rights, of America’s Muslims—some of whom also perished in the atrocity?”

Ground Zero mosque has new opponent: Anti-Defamation League
A Jewish group famous for fighting for religious freedom came out Friday against the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. The Anti-Defamation League said it has no use for the bigots who have used anti-Islamic rhetoric to try and block the project. “However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site,” the organization said in a statement. “We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there.” This is not, the ADL said, “a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.” Amazing. They are set up for the express purpose of fighting Anti-Semitism, yet seemingly being anti-Islam is OK.

Joseph Ward III: Anti-Defamation League Declares Opposition to ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ (huffingtonpost.com)
Bloomberg Defends Mosque (online.wsj.com)
Bryan Gobin: Republicans Abandon Freedom Over Mosque (huffingtonpost.com)
Mayor Bloomberg Uncompromising on ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ [Park 51] (gawker.com)
“AJC, JCRC, Rabbis, Jewish groups support Cordoba project” and related posts (rupeenews.com)
ADL’s Ground Zero Mosque Opposition Prompts Pushback (huffingtonpost.com)

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