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From TomDispatch tonight: How the mayor of one hard-hit, rust-belt city is confronting the American urban financial squeeze, the lack of funds for social services, and the outsized sums we're spending on our wars; a powerful piece as April 15th, tax day, approaches -- Jo Comerford, "Tax Day and America's Wars" (Timothy MacBain's latest TomCast audio interview in which Comerford discusses military spending and the federal budget can be found here.)
Here's how Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project and TomDispatch regular, begins her remarkable new post on an American mayor who is taking a groundbreaking step that should be in the news: "Matt Ryan, the mayor of Binghamton, New York, is sick and tired of watching people in local communities 'squabble over crumbs,' as he puts it, while so much local money pours into the Pentagon’s coffers and into America’s wars. He’s so sick and tired of it, in fact, that, urged on by local residents, he’s decided to do something about it. He’s planning to be the first mayor in the United States to decorate the façade of City Hall with a large, digital 'cost of war' counter, funded entirely by private contributions."
This will be an American urban first for a mayor facing what he calls our "skewed national priorities." In her piece, Comerford carefully breaks down just what the $138.6 million that Binghamton’s taxpayers are out of pocket since 2001 for the Iraq and Afghan wars would mean to a city with a yearly budget of only $81 million, a city where taxes are going up and jobs are being cut:
"For the same amount of money, Ryan could fund the Binghamton city library for the next 60 years, or pay for a four-year education for 95% of the incoming freshman class at the State University of New York at Binghamton, or offer four years of quality health coverage for everyone in Binghamton 19 or younger, or secure renewable electricity for every home in the city for the next 11 years. If he was feeling really flush, he could fully fund one-third of New York State's Head Start slots for one year. For the same sum, Ryan could also authorize a $2,900 tax refund for every woman, man, and child in Binghamton or pay the salaries of all of Binghamton's hard-hit public school teachers and staff for about two years."
This is a memorable piece as we head toward tax day, April 15th. It concludes: "A construction crew will soon arrive to install Binghamton's 'cost of war' counter which will overlook the city's busiest intersection and spur conversation around tax day. During the three minutes local motorists wait at the nearby traffic light, they can join Mayor Ryan in waving good-bye to $100. And Binghamton as a whole can grapple with spending $49,650 in war costs every day of 2010." Read it now.
CA A.G. Finds "No Violation of Criminal Law" In "Severely Edited" ACORN "Pimp" Videos; Releases Raw Tapes For First Time
CA A.G. FINDS 'NO VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL LAW' IN 'SEVERELY EDITED' ACORN 'PIMP' VIDEOS; RELEASES RAW TAPES FOR FIRST TIME
Unreleased raw footage reviewed by AG Jerry Brown's investigation was obtained from Rightwing activists O'Keefe and Giles in exchange for immunity from prosecution
Contradicting MSM coverage, O'Keefe 'never claimed he was a pimp,' 'did not act as a journalist'...
By Brad Friedman | Brad Blog
Echoing the recent report of the Kings County, NY, District Attorney who completed a five-month probe finding "no criminality" seen in video tapes secretly taken of low-level ACORN and ACORN Housing workers last year in New York, California's Attorney General has now reached a similar conclusion regarding videos recorded in three different cities in the Golden State last Summer, according to a report released today which finds the workers "committed no violation of criminal law."
While describing "highly inappropriate behavior" by some of the workers caught on secret video tapes made by Rightwing activists, CA AG Jerry Brown's report finds that "the evidence does not show that the ACORN employees in California violated state criminal laws in connection with their conversations" with activists posing as a prostitute and her boyfriend.
In a press release announcing his 28-page report [PDF] (and accompanying 55 pages of attachments and exhibits [PDF] with it), the AG's office says the publicly released videos taken in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino were "severely edited." Read more.
Andrea March, the ex-fiance of the leader of the Hutaree militia group, spoke with Shepard Smith and said that David Brian Stone was a Ron Paul fanatic who was afraid that Obama would take away his guns. Where have we heard that one before? Oh, it reminds me of the Richard Poplawski saga. (rough transcript)
Marsh: When Obama took the presidency is when he lost it because he was a Ron Paul fanatic.
Smith: Ron Paul fanatic, what does that have to do with ?
Marsh: To tell you the truth I don't know. I never really understood why Ron Paul was so much different, but he thought he could get away with anything and he wanted more freedoms than what he had and he was trying to do it through the violence. Read more.
GUAM TAXPAYERS PAY $1,019/HR FOR PORT NEGOTIATOR!
Since former GM of the Port Authority of Guam, Ken Takagawa, became the Port’s Chief Negotiator, there has been no forward progress with the contract negotiations for our workers.
He refuses to negotiate on items that have been negotiable for Public Employees under the Public Employees Management Relations Act for 40 years. Mr. Takagawa works 6 hrs a week and receives $20,000 per month plus per diem of $215 per day which comes out to $1,019 per hour to basically delay the process of getting our Port workers a contract!
It appears that Mr. Takagawa is deliberately delaying the process to maximize his salary.
In an effort to rectify the situation, President Matt Rector sent a letter to the Office of Attorney General Chief Prosecutor, Diane Corbett, to investigate the situation and ensure protection of the people of Guam from Government corruption, theft and waste of thousands of public dollars to this private contractor. Read Letter.
To see the world through Greg Taylor's eyes, imagine being stuck in a time machine for 16 years and delivered to 2010.
Facebook, flat screens and DVDs are all new to him. Relationships that used to come with natural ease seem awkward.
Since 1993, Taylor, now 47, had been locked away in North Carolina's prison system for the murder of a prostitute. Last month, he was exonerated and freed....
Taylor is the first man to be exonerated by a state innocence commission, which makes his case stand out from those of the more than 500 people across the country who have been exonerated by the work of private attorneys, according to the Life After Exoneration program.
The group that freed Taylor, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, was created in 2006 after a succession of wrongful convictions were revealed. It's a one-of-a-kind program with a state-mandated panel that re-examines questionable cases, including those that don't involve DNA evidence like Taylor's.
Other jurisdictions are following North Carolina's lead, looking at creating government agencies to prevent and reverse wrongful convictions. Read more.
Future U.S wars in the Third World will involve massive use of drones to police the territory, employ local satrap forces (like those of Karzai’s Afghan Army) and once the territory has been pacified sufficiently, the deployment of “Government Ready-to-Rule (GRR)” kits. The drones provide the critical and the weak link: critical insofar as they represent the ultimate American-style war where only the “Others” (opponents and civilians) die but weak insofar as this type of warfare only works against an opponent without any anti-drone/aircraft capability. In other words, this type of technological warfare can only be carried out upon weak opponents lacking independent industrial capacities (not against China, Russia, and India). This approach represents the culmination of disconnecting the delivery of deadly force – the rain of Hellfire missiles - upon the Others and incurring no human (physical or psychological – PTSD) costs. Or put in other terms, it represents the quintessential American way of “solving” problems with technological short-cuts, a military effort begun in 1942 with the Allied fire-bombing of German cities. The current American war in Afghanistan is a harbinger of what is to come, America’s electronic, troop-less war.
Prophetically the first victims in 2010 of Obama in his Afghan war were a teacher in a government school, Sadiq Noor, and his nine-year old son, Wajid as well as three other persons. Both were killed on Sunday night, January 3, 2010 in a U.S. drone strike involving two missiles fired into the home of Sadiq Noor in the village of Musaki, North Waziristan in Pakistan. During January 2010, a record number of twelve deadly missile strikes were carried out on Pakistan’s tribal areas. Three Al-Qaeda leaders were killed and 123 innocent civilians. During 2009, 44 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan killed 708 people but only five Al Qaeda or Taliban; that is for each enemy fighter 140 civilian Pakistanis had to die.
Those who pull the gray trigger to fire are located in Nevada, Kandahar, or Pakistan. As Philip Alston points out, “Young military personnel raised on a diet of video games now kill real people remotely using joysticks. Far removed from the human consequences of their actions, how will this generation of fighters value the right to life?” In early 2010, the U.S. Air Force had more drone operators in training than fighter and bomber pilots. Read more.
Blogging GREAT Chile Earthquake/Tsunamis; Pres. Bachelet A Steady Leader; Japan Prepares For Tsunamis
by Linda Milazzo
UPDATED: Feb, 28, 2010/5:40AM (local Chile time)
CNN International is now reporting 101 aftershocks have been recorded in Chile since yesterday's 8.8 earthquake with 7 at 6.0 or higher. Over 300 fatalities have been reported with 60 reported missing.
Japan is seeing tsunami flooding on its northern island of Hokkaido. The tsunami projection from NOAA reports a wave of 4 feet has just arrived. 320,000 coastal residents have been evacuated. The tsunami warning for Russia has been lifted.
UPDATED: Feb, 28, 2010/3:40AM (local Chile time)
The death toll in Chile is now confirmed at 300. Chile has not yet asked for help from other countries. More than one million buildings have been damaged. More than a half million houses have been completely destroyed and two million people affected. President Bachelet has been coordinating services steadily for nearly 24 hours since 5AM yesterday.
Philly Rampage Shows Social Media's Potential: Youthful Rage, Instead of Ineffectual, Could be Potent
By Dave Lindorff
City leaders and the downtown business community in Philadelphia are wringing their hands and calling for “tough action” against a horde of some 150 high school kids from eight of the city’s decrepit and failing high schools who rampaged late Tuesday afternoon through the Center City district’s shops, from the Gallery mall at 10th Street to Macy’s near City Hall, frightening tourists and suburban shoppers, and knocking over shopping displays.
By evening, police had reportedly locked up 15 kids who were charged with violent offenses, such as beating other kids or bystanders, or destroying property (Macy’s claimed damages to its flagship store totalling $700). Some of these kids were held overnight on lesser charges such as shoplifting or disturbing the peace.
I’m not going to diminish the seriousness of the incident. Nobody should be trashing stores or stealing things, and certainly nobody should be hurting other people.
Nearly a decade ago, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) stood alone as the Senate's constitutional conscience. Casting the only dissenting vote against passage of the PATRIOT Act in 2001, he was powerless to stop an opportunistic power grab by neo-conservatives who had long sought, well before the tragedy of 9-11, to expand our government's reach into the lives of law-abiding Americans.
Today, the draconian authorities foisted on an unsuspecting public by the PATRIOT Act once again place the Constitution in the cross-hairs of a complacent Congress, acquiescing to another administration whose political agenda lies at conspicuous odds with its leader's oath to defend the Constitution.
New Mexico's House of Representatives voted Monday to pass a bill that allows the state to move $2 billion - $5 billion of state funds to credit unions and small banks.
The municipal funds bill was approved 65-0 (roll call - PDF), and is subject to a vote by New Mexico's Senate. Governor Bill Richardson told the bill's sponsor that he supports the legislation.
The altered view of New Mexico lawmakers in favoring local control of state funds, officials said, follows national mention of the New Mexico effort in the "Move Your Money" campaign of New York pundit Arianna Huffington in her online Huffington Post columns. Read more.
Ben & Jerry's has officially signed on to sponsor the Student Peace Alliance National Conference, "Extreme Makeover: Peace in the 21st Century," this Feb 26th - 28th. The company has donated a substantial amount of money towards the conference, specifically to conference scholarships. Their belief in what young people can do to make positive change when given the chance means a lot to us. We are grateful for their continued support! Learn more about the conference, register today!
Gabriola Island peace activist Jean McLaren can't wait to get the party started.
McLaren and others on the island started a letter-writing campaign to convince U.S. authorities to release army deserter Cliff Cornell from prison last year after the 28-year-old man, a former grocery clerk at the Village Food Market, was jailed in the U.S.
Cornell was released from an American prison Saturday, one month before the end of his year-long jail sentence.
He said that it was the support and letters from the people of Gabriola that helped persuade American officials to release him early. He said that he wants to return to Gabriola Island.
"We all wrote to him and to the American authorities," said Gabriola's Ann Buttrick, who found out Cornell was going to be released when she received a letter from him recently. "I very much want to try to come back to Canada. The support I got has been really overwhelming," Cornell said. McLaren and others on Gabriola plan to welcome him back with open arms. Read more.
Take advantage of this rare moment
As 2010 gets underway, I have just finished my first year as a Board Member of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). So let me start this letter by stating how proud I am that PDA is one of the only active progressive groups that stayed true to its issue positions last year, even when the party leadership gave ground to “ConservaDems” like Joe Lieberman & Ben Nelson & Mary Landrieu.
PDA started 2009 fighting for single-payer healthcare for everyone, and despite all the compromising, all the fudging, all the cave-ins on Capitol Hill, PDA continues to battle to include in whatever health insurance bill is passed, the right of individual states to pass their own single-payer plans.
- If you would like to help pass single-payer healthcare at the state level, you can link up by selecting “Healthcare for all/Single Payer Issue Organizing Team,” here.
- And if you’d like to help sustain PDA’s efforts, join our “Change Makes Change” program, here.
PDA began the year pushing hard, as PDA has always done, for the U.S. to get serious about withdrawal from Iraq. In addition, PDA did not waver on Afghanistan, even when the Obama Administration unfortunately decided to increase the number of occupation troops there. In fact, PDA helped lead the fight to pass a resolution at the California State Democratic Party convention calling for the end of the Iraq War & the Afghanistan occupation--and plans to spend 2010 helping to pass similar resolutions at State Democratic conventions all across the nation.
by Linda Milazzo
Monday night, in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of Israel's Operation Cast Lead that killed 1,400 Gazans, and in solidarity with the 1,400 international peace pilgrims converging in Egypt from 42 countries for the planned Gaza Freedom March, Los Angelenos gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate for a solemn candlelight vigil.
Photo by Mike Chickey
Virginia coalition announces Jan. 9 march on State Capitol to oppose budget cuts & layoffs | Press Release
On Saturday, Jan. 9, the Virginia People's Assembly, a statewide coalition of labor, community and peace organizations, will sponsor a march on the State Capitol to oppose more budget cuts and layoffs of state workers.
The demands of the march include: “Jobs, Peace, Justice! Don't balance the budget on the backs of Virginia's workers! Make the big corporations pay their fair share of Virginia's tax burden!”
The announcement of the march comes just hours after outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine unveiled his proposal for the 2010-2012 state budget, which includes $2.3 billion in new cuts, including the loss of 2,543 state jobs, 664 through direct layoffs, as well as slashing aid to cities and counties. The new cuts would be in addition to the more than $7 billion the Kaine administration has already cut from the present two-year budget in response to declining revenue caused by the ongoing national recession.
By Medea Benjamim
One year ago, the brutal Israeli 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip shocked the world, leaving some 1,400 people dead, thousands more wounded, as well as hospitals, schools, prisons, UN facilities, factories, agricultural processing plants and some 20,000 homes damaged or destroyed.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion, the plight of the people of Gaza continues unabated:
- Despite pledges of money for reconstruction, Israel refuses to allow in the machinery necessary to clear the rubble or the materials needed to rebuild--banning cement, gravel, wood, pipes, glass, steel bars, aluminum and tar. Many who were made homeless during the bombing are still living in tents amidst the onset of another cold winter. Desperate, some are reverting to the ancient techniques of building homes made of mud.
by Jodie Evans
The Egyptian government announced Monday that the border between Gaza and Egypt will be closed, just in time for 1,346 men, women, and children from 42 countries -- the Gaza Freedom March -- to arrive in Cairo. It's too late to turn back now. We will proceed, and are asking Egypt to permit the march to go on.
This has happened with each delegation we have taken but with the right pressure we have succeeded in crossing the border each time. Our first attempt was made possible thanks to First Lady Suzanne Mubarak. For International Women's Day we were taking in thousands of pink baskets of aid for the women in Gaza. As we made our way to the border we passed truck after truck brimming with rotting material aid that the Egyptians had not allowed into Gaza. But our outreach to Madame Mubarak proved fruitful: we were met by the Egyptian Red Crescent (which she chairs) and we proceeded into Gaza with no problems.
Protest on the ice at the mansion of United Health Group's CEO, Stepthen Hemsley
On Saturday morning, 12/19/09, eight of us met at the intersection of Shoreline Drive and Ferndale Road West, about ¾ mile from the 7.8 million dollar Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota mansion of United Health Group CEO Stephen Hemsley. We had to spend some time at this location waiting for everyone to find their way to this meeting place. So we put up some of our banners and talked to passers by.
Not shown in these photos was a banner that really upset some of the locals that said, “HOME OF INS. BANDIT S. HEMSLEY”. Some of the people in the neighborhood supported us, but this guy was pretty upset!
Dear Mr. Obama,
I hear that you were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize recently in Oslo, Norway and that, in addition to that spiffy medal, it comes with 1.4 million tax-free dollars that you are going to "donate to charity."
I just want to let you know that there are still some of us in the US who oppose the wars, even though you are president, and its nothing personal, but I vehemently oppose your wars and especially oppose the escalation of troops to Afghanistan and the fact that there has been no de-escalation from Iraq.
It has been super-tough being a peace activist since you took office, because a lot of my colleagues supported your candidacy and gave you a "wait and see"and "give him a chance," while I have been working against these policies since Bush was president and have never stopped.
Well, I don´t know if you have heard, but I am planning on setting up a Camp right across the street from you house on the lawn of the Washington Monument called--Camp OUT NOW--and, not only will it be an anti-war Camp, but it will also be a community for people who have lost their jobs and homes during the past years of the Goldman Sachs depression. Also, while the need is rising, the city of Washington, DC is cutting back on services for the poor.
By Linda Milazzo
Los Angeles gets a bad rap. It's assailed for being shallow and rarely acknowledged for its good heart. But Los Angeles has a huge heart - at the center of which is pulsating non-stop activism dedicated to ensuring all people are granted human rights. Just name any of the 30 human rights designated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and I guarantee you there are groups and individuals in Los Angeles who are working to enforce them - locally, nationally and globally.
Think it's a coincidence that the Obama administration's Afghan escalation is coming as cold winter weather approaches? Well, maybe not. Kevin Gosztola raises that question and more in his article A Grim Review of Current Action Against the Afghan War Escalation.
During the Senate Armed Services hearing today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was pressed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. on whether the July 2011 date for beginning to withdrawal troops is "locked in."
Gates seemed to suggest there was some flexibility, that "it was a clear statement of his strong intent" and that "the president always has the freedom to re-evaluate his decisions." After the hearing Graham said he took that to mean the date is "not locked in" and will depend on conditions on the ground.
It was a point of contention at the White House briefing today – I asked White House spokesman Robert Gibbs if senators were incorrect calling the date a "target."
After the briefing, Gibbs went to the president for clarification. Gibbs then called me to his office to relate what the president said. The president told him it IS locked in – there is no flexibility. Troops WILL start coming home in July 2011. Period. It's etched in stone. Gibbs said he even had the chisel. Read more.
Workers at SK Hand Tools were far from lonely in facing the loss of health benefits in the sour economy. According to the Center for American Progress, 2.4 million workers have lost coverage during the recession. Cuts have been most stark in manufacturing, with 733,600 workers losing employer-based coverage between December 2007 and May, when SK Hand Tools quietly stopped paying the bills....Berg says that the national health care debate hit home for Local 743 members. "The workers would look on TV or in the newspaper and only see insurance executives and business people," he said. "Nobody was speaking for working people. When we struck, workers at SK Hand Tools felt that they had become a voice for working people."
While Congress and health care executives played political volleyball with health care reform, workers at SK Hand Tools in Chicago took matters into their own hands.
When their employer unilaterally dropped health insurance and tried to strip pensions and cut pay, 70 members of Teamsters Local 743 struck on August 25.
Now they’re returning to their production lines, where they make wrenches and other tools for Sears, having saved their health care and pensions. They took big pay cuts, but not as deep as what management had demanded: dropping pay from an average $14 to just above Illinois’s minimum wage, $8 an hour.
Although management dumped health care in early May, workers weren’t told. Many had to find out by word of mouth from other workers, or were clued in when hit with surprising medical bills. Workers said managers later told them they’d been too busy to inform employees. Since May, many workers have had to forgo needed medical care or are now amassing debt. Read more.
Virginians For Alternatives to Death Penalty Rally to Prevent Elliott Execution Scheduled for Tuesday, 9 PM
Larry “Bill” Elliott is scheduled to be killed by the Commonwealth of Virginia at 9 p.m. on November 17th. He was convicted of the 2001 murders of Robert A. Finch and Dana Thrall.
Mr. Elliott has a strong claim of innocence. There is no evidence that he was ever inside the house where the murders occurred and there is DNA evidence that someone else was inside the crime scene. The jury was never told that an eyewitness saw a man of a different race running from the crime scene and the prosecution’s star witness failed a polygraph test regarding her involvement in the murders. She only came up with the story implicating Mr. Elliott when police told her that she was going to be charged with the murders. Additionally, Mr. Elliott’s trial attorneys failed to locate an alibi witness who would have testified that he saw Mr. Elliott at his workplace at a time that made it impossible for him to commit the murders.
Please take a few minutes to say "Enough!" and that Virginia should not execute a man where so many questions remain about his guilt remain. Help us stop the cycle of violence that state sanctioned killing perpetuates.
Please take one or more of the following actions - Details below:
The Georgia Supreme Court, in their recent ruling against VoterGA upholding electronic voting in the State of Georgia, implicitly acknowledged that E-voting results cannot be independently audited. At the same time, they emphasized that it's the voter's choice to vote electronically, when paper ballots are available through the absentee process.
"In deciding to forego the privilege of voting early on a paper ballot, voters assume the risk of necessarily different procedures if a recount is required," Judge George Carley ruled, with all justices on the panel concurring, on September 28, 2009.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, VoterGA has sued the State of Georgia regarding E-voting, arguing that it is unconstitutional under state and federal law because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Constitution of the US.
As for equal protection, VoterGA has argued that Georgia has created two separate classes of voters: one who has the right to a meaningful recount of their vote if they use a paper ballot to vote absentee, and another who does not have the right to a meaningful recount if they vote electronically on Election Day. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
As the strike by transit workers in Philadelphia enters its fifth day, it is clear why unions have such a tough time in the United States, where fewer than one in eight workers is covered by a union contract.
Although the average pay of transit workers is just $50,000 a year (that represents take-home pay of less than $35000 take-home after taxes or about $3000 a month to live on for a typical family of four), the suburbanites who feel put out because they have to brave huge traffic jams to get to and from work in the city are grousing that the transit workers are greedy for holding out for a slightly-less-than 4% per year pay increase over the three years of their contract.
I just got into a debate at the local YMCA gym with an older guy who probably makes over $100,000 a year and whose children are already grown, who was incensed that the "greedy bus and subway drivers" were asking for a raise at this time "with the economy in such a mess."