Texas Lawyer Exposes Religious Hiring Test For Peace Officers: County Only Wanted Baptist Constables

By David Edwards

Raw Story (9/7/15)

A Texas judge ruled last week that a case against Williamson County could go forward after a job applicant claimed that commissioners had a religious test for constable jobs.

Robert Lloyd explained at a press conference that Williamson County asked about his views on marriage, abortion and religion during a 2013 interview for a job at the Williamson County Precinct 3 Constable’s Office.

“I was shocked,” Lloyd said, according to KVUE. “I was sick to my stomach when I left because I had never believed that things like this in government would go on.” \

Video depositions obtained by KVUE show Williamson County Commissioner Lisa Birkman and other commissioners admitting that applicants were asked about abortion and marriage.

“I asked a question on their view on gay marriage to all the applicants for Precinct 3 Constable and their view on abortion,” Birkman says in her deposition.

Lloyd’s lawyer, Wayne Krause Yang, asserted at the press conference that the commissioners refused to hire applicants who were not Baptists.

“If you don’t go to the church that they go to, you can’t have a job as a public employee in Williamson County,” Yang noted.

At least two other applicants have come forward to say that they were also asked religious questions by the commissioners.

“You can see that they actually took notes about gay marriage and abortion responses and noted that in their political, religious opinion, that his response was not definitive,” Yang remarked. “So you can see that this actually affected his ability to be a constable.”

The county has reportedly spent $200,000 in defense of their hiring practices. Watch the video below from KVUE.

Link to Story

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Podcast: Behind The Hijinks, With Andy Bichlbaum Of The Yes Men


By Brian Farrell

We Are Many (6/4/15)

The Yes Men have been shaming corporate wrongdoers with elaborate hoaxes for over 15 years and making movies about it. Their latest film, “The Yes Men Are Revolting,” takes a turn toward the personal side, focusing more on the two men — Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonano — behind the hijinks. In this episode of We Are Many, Bichlbaum discusses the new film and how his mischievous youth — from a high school prank gone awry to getting fired from a computer programming job — led to a career of hilarious, but highly effective, activism.

We Are Many is available on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn andSoundcloud. There’s also a podcast RSS feed if you want to subscribe to the show in other apps and never miss an episode!

(Bryan Farrell a Waging Nonviolence co-founder and editor. He also hosts and produces WNV‘s podcast, We Are Many. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Nation, Mother Jones, Slate, Gristand Earth Island Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bryanwith2eyes.)

Link to Story and 47-Minute Audio

  • Watch the Yes Men Impersonate Shell, Make ‘Last Iceberg’ Snow Cones — “It’s the final frontier and it tastes so sweet!” Rolling Stone had exclusive access to the Yes Men as they planned and executed their latest prank, targeting Shell’s Arctic drilling plan. 5-Minute Video

  • The Yes Men Fix the World — “Business as usual is unacceptable!” Two guys in cheap suits and fake web sites take on the corporatocracy and puncture the mad house illusion of the free market death cult. 1-Hour, 25-Minute Video

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The Paradox Of Success: Organic Valley At The Crossroads



Organics is big business now.

By Marc Eisen

The Progressive (July 2015)

In early 1988, American farming was reaching a turning point. A small group of southwestern Wisconsin farmers—an improbable mix of back-to-the-land homesteaders (hippies!) and salt-of-the-earth family farmers—banded together to form a co-op to sell organic vegetables. Desperation does that.

The 1980s were hellaciously bad times for farmers. It was the old sad story of American agriculture. Commodity prices had crashed due to oversupply and the pricing stranglehold of processors. These insurgents, whose dreams of earth-friendly farming were tempered by barnyard pragmatism, asked: What if farmers could set their own prices? What if they could sell organic farm products at a premium? What if they could step away from the chemical herbicides and fertilizers—the “inputs,” in ag business lingo—that drove up their costs, perversely depleted soil quality, and just maybe killed them with cancer?

Last year, organic food sales in the U.S. totaled nearly $36 billion. More than half of American households are customers. That western Wisconsin co-op, which markets under the name Organic Valley, is the largest organic farmer cooperative in North America.

Organic Valley was born in the state’s “Driftless Area,” an unglaciated terrain of hills and valleys where generations of families raised dairy cattle and sowed vegetables. Overlooked and far from any big city, these little farms—many milking fewer than 50 cows—seemed as outdated as a farmer’s outhouse. Back then, the idea of organic farming was radical.

This was a time, remember, when “farming” was speedily giving way to “agribusiness.” Farmers were being exhorted to plant corn and soybeans from “fence row to fence row.” The economic imperative, sounded by all the experts, was seemingly incontrovertible: “Get big or get out!”

These farm rebels didn’t want to get big. They wanted to change the game. They did, beginning with a group of fifty-seven farmers. Now, twenty-seven years later, their co-op—CROPP, for the “Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools”—has approximately 1,800 farmers, including members in Canada and even one in Australia. In April, co-op members met in La Crosse, Wisconsin, to celebrate a prosperous 2014. “Organic Valley Grapples With Positive Problem of Too Much Success,” the local paper declared in a headline.

Sales last year hit $972 million, a nearly 5 percent increase from a financially rocky 2013. Net profits were up too, and the co-op’s dairy farmers, who account for 80 percent of the revenue, got the highest pay hike in the co-op’s history. “Our biggest problem is our success,” CEO George Siemon told reporters.

Existential threat

Surging consumer demand for organics has created supply shortages for dairy products, and immense opportunities for profit. That has attracted some of the nation’s largest American food corporations to step up an already sizable investment in organics. These aren’t people motivated by protecting the environment, says David Kaseno of the National Farmers Organization. They are “people who think: ‘Hey we can make a lot of money in organic milk.’”

The $46 billion merger of Kraft Foods Group and the H.J. Heinz Co. in March will prompt its rivals to bulk up by buying fast-growing organic food labels, both The New York Times and Bloomberg News predicted. The food giants already produce a stunning 70 percent of the items stocked in a typical co-op grocery, says Philip Howard,a Michigan State University professor who tracks corporate consolidation in the organic world.

For organic industry observers, this poses stark questions for Organic Valley: Is it smart enough and big enough to compete with the corporate giants? Will it yield to the temptation to compromise organic standards to maintain market share? More to the point, will it hold on to its all-important dairy members, who have been abandoning the co-op for the significantly better pay offered by some Organic Valley competitors?

This is the paradox of Organic Valley: At a moment of great success, it faces something of an existential threat.


In April, Michael Linsmeier, a plainly dressed dairy farmer from Reedsville, Wisconsin, is standing alone drinking a beer at the pre-dinner reception of Organic Valley’s annual dinner at the decidedly unglamorous La Crosse, Wisconsin, convention center. I walk up, and he starts telling me about milking 150 cows on a family farm south of Green Bay that dates to his grandfather in the 1920s. The transition to organic farming a decade earlier proved to be a lifesaver. The price of conventional milk had crashed in 2004, prompting one of those periodic spasms of despair and forced sales in farm country.

“We weren’t going to let our kids farm at that point,” says his wife Linda, who joined us. “We were going to sell out so they couldn’t farm. Now they’re probably going to take the farm over.”

Michael praises the co-op’s performance, though he says profits still aren’t great. But the stable price the farm receives each month affords it security against the gyrating price of conventional milk.

“I see a promising future,” says Michael.

This is a typical story in the organic farming world. And so are Mike and Linda’s unnerving words on how their fear of cancer, more than anything else, prompted their shift to organic. Mike’s dad, brother and sister had all died of it, his siblings by age 40. Had the routine spraying of herbicides and pesticides in conventional farming contributed to their death? He wonders about that and whether the hours he spent as a young man digging rocks out by hand in spray-ridden cornfields exposed him to cancer-causing chemicals.

Later, during the dinner, I sit next to George Teague, a soft-spoken dairy farmer from North Carolina’s Piedmont region. Same story. He hated spraying when he farmed conventionally, but no one else would do it. “When you wake up coughing at night, you know your body is trying to tell you something,” he says.

His Reedy Fork Farm—500 acres, 80 cows—went organic in 2007, and that changed everything. The old regimen served to max out production. Cows were only milked four or five years before they were worn out and slaughtered. Now Teague has cows 12- and 13-years old still being milked.

“A lot of that comes from grazing and being out on grass,” he explains. “We’re not pushing them as hard. Now it’s more about the health of the animal and of the farm in general.”

Amish & Mennonite farms

The promise of a traditional farm life sustained by organic’s premium revenue stream has proved especially attractive to religiously minded Amish and Mennonite family farms. These farmers now make up 44 percent of Organic Valley’s membership and have proven crucial in offsetting the loss of dairy members fed up with the pricing system.

“Dairy farming is the traditional way that Amish are involved in agriculture,” says Amish-life chronicler Erik Wesner. “It’s not just a way of making a living, it’s a vocation.”

Ernest Martin, a Mennonite who farms 150 acres with his nine children near Shiloh, Ohio, says organic farming is a good fit for his brethren. “Those of us who embraced organic farming were already involved in rotational grazing. Going organic was just the next step.”

Mennonites, he explains, own their own farms, but frequently make decisions as a group based on community needs. “That parallels Organic Valley really well,” he says. “Decisions aren’t made just around one farm but around what is best for the whole organic community.”

Long ago, the late John Kinsman, founder of Family Farm Defenders, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit that advocates for a “farmer-controlled and consumer-oriented food and fiber system,” identified the power of the organic movement. Ordinary people were putting their dollars where their beliefs were, creating a market for packaged foods not dosed with additives, milk not produced by cows shot up with growth stimulants, cereals not made from genetically modified grains. And they could support family farmers like Kinsman.

Citizen pressure led Congress to pass the Organic Foods Production Act in 1990, which set the framework for national standards for “organic” farmland, food, and permissible ingredients. A 12-year struggle ensued over the particulars, including the timetable for transitioning land (three years) and livestock (one year) from conventional to organic status. Organic stalwarts like Family Farm Defenders and the Cornucopia Institute have long complained that the standards have been watered down—particularly grazing requirements—to allow vast factory farms to gain the valuable organic imprimatur.

Still, Organic Valley was able to capitalize on a market it helped create. …

Read the Rest


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Fracking Boom Responsible For 175 Million Gallons Of Toxic Wastewater Spilled Since 2009

A pipe pours fracking waste into an unlined holding pond in Kern County, California. (photo: Faces of Fracking/Flickr)

A pipe pours fracking waste into an unlined holding pond in Kern County, California. (photo: Faces of Fracking/Flickr)

By Lauren McCauley

Common Dreams (9/9/15)

Among the litany of risks posed by the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels, an Associated Pressanalysis published Tuesday exposes yet another harmful side effect of the oil and gas drilling boom: an uptick in toxic wastewater spills.

According to data obtained from leading oil- and gas-producing states, “more than 175 million gallons of wastewater spilled from 2009 to 2014 in incidents involving ruptured pipes, overflowing storage tanks and other mishaps or even deliberate dumping,” Associated Press reports, tainting agricultural land, poisoning drinking water and sparking the mass die-off of plant and animal life.

Most of the incidents involved the spill of fracking wastewater, which is a combination of underground brine mixed with a slurry of undisclosed chemicals. As the story notes, “A big reason why there are so many spills is the sheer volume of wastewater” produced, which according an organization of state groundwater agencies, amounts to roughly 10 barrels for every barrel of oil or more than 840 billion gallons a year.

The report details a sampling of incidents, which help illustrate the scope of the problem. In one instance, a roughly 1 million gallon spill in North Dakota in 2006 caused a “massive die-off of fish, turtles and plants in the Yellowstone River and a tributary.” In another case, a decades-long seepage of toxic brine onto Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation polluted a river, private wells and the municipal water system, making the water “undrinkable.”

What’s more, the amount of toxic byproduct spilled along ranch land, streams and forests has grown each year since the so-called fracking boom began.

“In 2009, there were 2,470 reported spills in the 11 states; by 2014, the total was 4,643. The amount of wastewater spilled doubled from 21.1 million gallons in 2009 to 43 million in 2013 before dipping to 33.5 million last year,” Associated Press reports.

The analysis found a total of 21,651 individual spills reported in Texas, North Dakota, California, Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Kansas, Utah and Montana during that period. However, Associated Press notes that this figure is incomplete because “ninth-ranking oil producer Louisiana and second-ranking gas producer Pennsylvania” failed to provide spill data and other such incidents often go undocumented.

Link to Story

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California Police Killings Database Reveals ‘Clear Racial Disparities’

By Ciara McCarthy & Nadja Popovich

Guardian UK (9/7/15)

Black men have been killed by police in California at eight times the rate of other residents over the past decade, according to records released under the first in a series of new state initiatives to disclose data on the use of deadly force by law enforcement.

Statistics published by California attorney general Kamala Harris stated that about 19% of almost 1,000 homicides by law enforcement recorded between 2005 and 2014 were against African American men, who made up only about 3% of the state’s population.

Harris said last week that “clear racial disparities” had emerged from the figures, which also showed African Americans were arrested and died in custody at disproportionately high rates.

“I’m deeply concerned with what the numbers show,” congresswoman Karen Bass said at a press conference, alongside Harris. “The disproportionality that the [attorney general] referred to is frightening.”

On Wednesday, Harris unveiled a new website containing what she called a “treasure trove of data” on interactions between police and the public. The Open Justice portal includes figures regarding arrest rates, deaths in custody and officers killed or assaulted. This year, several other states have taken action to release more information.

“Instead of designing systems based on some blind adherence to tradition, let’s apply metrics, let’s count what is happening,” Harris said. She later added: “The bottom line is, the people have a right to know what’s going on.”

Gathering the data

Since 2005, police and law enforcement agencies in California have been required to submit to state authorities detailed reports about deaths in custody. But the information was made accessible and searchable for the first time last week.

“This is the first initiative of its kind across the US, to our knowledge,” said Kristin Ford, Harris’s press secretary.

California released its data as Texas also began to mandate the reporting of both fatal and non-fatal shootings by its own law enforcement agencies. A new state law went into effect on Tuesday, requiring local police departments to notify the Texas attorney general every time a law enforcement official injures or kills a civilian in a shooting.

State representative Eric Johnson collaborated with local law enforcement to create legislation focused on aggregating data, said Ana Rodriguez, Johnson’s deputy chief of staff.

“We really thought that if we wanted something to happen right now, states have to really take action to fill that data gap,” Rodriguez said.

The initiatives by America’s two most populous states represent the most significant moves by authorities to address the absence of a full national accounting of the use of deadly force by law enforcement.

At present the federal government does not publish a comprehensive record of people killed by police forces throughout the US. Instead, the FBI runs a voluntary program whereby law enforcement can choose to submit their count of “justifiable homicides” each year.

The lack of data has been sharply criticised by activist groups. President Barack Obama’s White House policing taskforce recommended that it be addressed.

The Guardian is publishing a project, The Counted, to document every person killed by law enforcement in 2015 and the details of how they died. The interactive database is collecting data such as the race and age of those killed, in addition to whether they were armed with a weapon.

In June, US senators Barbara Boxer and Cory Booker introduced legislation that would require states to report to the Justice Department every instance in which police use of force resulted in serious injury or death. The bill is currently in the committee stage.

Maryland and Colorado have passed laws this year requiring local departments to report police use of force. Maryland’s law tracks all fatalities at the hands of police, while Colorado’s monitors every time an officer shoots at a civilian.

These states join Maine, North Carolina and Oregon, which record every police killing. Minnesota police departments must report every time an officer shoots a gun, although the data is not available to the public.

Minorities targeted disproportionately 

According to California’s data, 984 homicides by law enforcement officers in the state were recorded between 2005 and 2014. A homicide by law enforcement staff was defined as “a death at the hands of a law enforcement officer”, including pre- and post-arrest killings.

Within this total, 196 or 19.9% of the people killed were black. According to the state, 5.8% of the population between 2005 and 2013 was black, giving African Americans a death rate – the percentage of homicides per percentage of population – of 3.4.

About 43.8% of people killed in police custody were Hispanic, a group that made up 37.1% of the state’s population during the last nine years, giving a death rate of 1.2.

White people were 30.2% of those killed by police and constituted 41.1% of California’s population, meaning a death rate of 0.7.

The figures mean black people were killed by law enforcement at almost five times the rate of white people and almost three times that of Hispanic people.

All but six of those black people killed were males, who made up 2.9% of the population between 2005 and 2013. The death rate for black males was 6.7 – eight times higher than the 0.8 rate recorded for homicides among everyone else.

Among men only, African Americans were killed at roughly twice the rate of Hispanics and more than four times the rate of white males.

Since 2005, the number of homicides by law enforcement officers has fluctuated. The deadliest years were 2012 and 2013, which recorded 136 and 132 deaths, respectively, according to the data.

Harris said the data also showed African Americans accounted for 17% of total arrests and 25% of all deaths in custody. She also said black boys were arrested at far higher rates than white boys.

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The Washington Post And The Federal Reserve Cult


Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago (www.flickr.com)

“The very hallmark of central-bank independence, without which there is no point in having a central bank, is the occasional willingness to resist popular pressure, even to tell the majority of Americans ‘no.’” —Washington Post editorial board (8/31/15)

By Dean Baker

Fairness & Accuracy In Media (9/2/15)

It’s always dangerous when followers of an insular cult gain positions of power. Unfortunately, that appears to be the case with the Washington Post editorial board and the Federal Reserve Board cultists.

The Federal Reserve Board cultists adhere to a bizarre belief that the 19 members (12 voting) of the Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee (FOMC) live in a rarified space where the narrow economic concerns of specific interest groups don’t impinge on their thinking. According to the cultists, when the Fed sits down to decide on its interest rate policy, they are acting solely for the good of the country.

Those of us who live in the reality-based community know that the Fed is hugely responsive to the interests of the financial sector. There are many reasons for this. First, the 12 Fed district banks are largely controlled by the banks within the district, which directly appoint one-third of the bank’s directors. The presidents of these banks occupy 12 of the 19 seats (five of the voting seats) on the FOMC.

The seven governors of the Fed are appointed by the president and approved by Congress, but even this group often has extensive ties to the financial industry. For example, Stanley Fischer, the current vice chair, was formerly a vice chair of Citigroup.

The third main reason why the Fed tends to be overly concerned with the interests of the financial sector is that its professional staffers are often looking to get jobs in the sector. While jobs at the Fed are well-paying, staffers can often earn salaries that are two or three times higher if they take their expertise to a bank or other financial firm. As economic theory predicts, this incentive structure pushes them toward viewpoints that often coincide with those of the industry.

The net effect of these biases is that the Fed tends to be far more concerned about the inflation part of its mandate rather than the high employment part, even though under the law the two goals are symmetric. If the Fed tightens too much and prevents hundreds of thousands or even millions of workers from getting jobs, most of the top staff would not be terribly troubled and it is unlikely anyone would suffer in their careers. On the other hand, if they allowed the inflation rate to rise to 3.0 percent, it is likely that many top officials at the Fed would be very troubled.

There is very little basis in economic research for maintaining that a stable 3.0 inflation rate is more costly to the country that having 1 million people being needlessly unemployed, but the view coming from the Fed is that the former is much worse than the latter. The Fed cultists at the Washington Post and elsewhere want us to just accept that this is the way the world works. It’s not surprising that some folks don’t quite see it that way.


Economist Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. A version of this post originally appeared on CEPR’s blog Beat the Press (9/1/15).

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Dept. Of Much Needed Humor — Refugees Grateful For Chance To See Europe While Being Bounced From Country To Country By Indifferent Western Govts.

The Onion (9/8/15)

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY—Saying they never dreamed they’d have the opportunity to do so much traveling and sightseeing, tens of thousands of refugees across Europe confirmed Tuesday that they were grateful for the chance to take in so many of the continent’s natural and historical treasures while being bounced from country to country.

“I thought the Serbian countryside was so beautiful when we were marching through it, but, wow, Budapest is truly breathtaking—it’s a real architectural gem—and hopefully once our papers expire in 48 hours we’ll be off to somewhere new!” said Syrian refugee Majd Ahsan, who added that his European trip got off to a great start on the island of Lesbos in Greece, where he said he was really able to soak in the Mediterranean landscape by spending his every waking and sleeping moment outdoors. “We actually got to spend a couple extra days in Athens while the Macedonian borders were closed, which was a real treat—there’s just so much rich history right there! At this point, who knows which country we’ll see tomorrow or the next day. Germany? France? Ooh, maybe we’ll go to Prague, get turned away at a processing center, and be sent to Poland! I hear it’s really lovely.”

Ahsan added that he was just sad that two of his four children and both of his brothers were no longer around to enjoy the tour of Europe with him.

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Thursday / September 10, 2015

“[Y]ou possess all the attributes of a demagogue; a screeching, horrible voice, a perverse, crossgrained nature and the language of the market-place. In you all is united which is needful for governing.”

— Aristophanes, The Knights.

(See “No Radical Outlier”, below.)


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Wednesday / September 9, 2015

“Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from men who are aggressive for what is wrong.”

—Robert M. LaFollette, Sr.

(See “Trump Takes Us Back To The Future”, below.)

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Scott Walker’s Campaign Gets $6,850 From HyPro— HyPro Gets $262K WEDC Loan and 62 Workers Lose Their Jobs

Walker tax credits going to companies that layoff more workers than they hire is equally troubling.

By Greg Neumann
WKOW (9/8/15)

62 people in Walworth County will lose their jobs by the end of the year despite the fact that their company has received [hundreds of] thousands of dollars in tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

27 News first reported on the layoffs last Thursday, which will be complete when HyPro Inc. shuts down its Whitewater manufacturing plant in November.

WEDC has awarded $262,589 in job creation and retention tax credits to HyPro since since 2013. But based on WEDC records, the company has seen a net job loss since then.

A notice sent from HyPro to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development stated the closing of the Whitewater plant is due to consolidation within the company. HyPro is based in Waterford but also has factories in Berlin, Platteville and Rhinelander that make parts for assembly lines.

According to WEDC’s own database, HyPro has retained over 200 jobs since 2013 but has created only two new positions.

Neither WEDC nor HyPro officials have responded to questions from 27 News about whether or not any of the tax credits handed out went to job retention or creation efforts at the Whitewater plant

In an email statement, WEDC spokesman Steven Michels wrote, “WEDC tax credits are earned for the creation and retention of HyPro employees throughout Wisconsin.  We will closely evaluate their employment levels and upon receipt of their annual performance report determine if they have met their contractual obligations.”
Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) recently introduced legislation that would require companies who receive money from WEDC - and then outsource Wisconsin jobs - to be prohibited from receiving future funds.

While there is no indication HyPro is outsourcing any Wisconsin jobs, Sen. Hansen said tax credits going to companies that layoff more workers than they hire is equally troubling.

“If it’s not Eaton for the third time taking jobs out of the country on our dime or other companies taking $260,000 as this one did - and then laying off a bunch of people - it’s just been one downward spiral totally with WEDC and it’s been a failure,” said Sen. Hansen.

Thousands in donations to Walker

Before HyPro ever received any money from WEDC, campaign finance records show company officials were consistent donors to Scott Walker, who stepped down as Chairman of the WEDC Board in May.  From 2005 to 2014, HyPro executives donated $6,850 to Walker’s campaigns for Milwaukee County Executive and then Governor.

The WEDC database shows the company plans to add 80 jobs in Wisconsin in 2016, but does not provide details on where those jobs will be located.

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee will meet to review WEDC’s policies and performance at a meeting at the State Capitol at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday.

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Trump Takes Us Back To The Future: Billionaire Embodies The Same Big Lie That Led To Progressive Era Reforms

Cartoon by progressive reformer cartoonist Thomas Nast. (www.superteachertools.us)

(Editor’s Note: Know thy history. There is hope. — Mark L. Taylor)

By Heather Cox Richardson

Salon (9/8/15)

Why is Donald Trump so popular? He has captured the moment when voters recognize that Republican political rhetoric has nothing in common with reality. Trump brings rhetoric and reality together in a cartoon caricature of a Republican politician that anyone can understand. That gives him a vital role in history. He is the perfect exorcist to drive a stake through the heart of the modern Republican Party. But he is not the first in history to perform this operation. The same crisis hit the party in the 1890s.

When it was over, the nation had a reformed Republican Party, and a new historical era.

Today’s Republican Party is enslaved to Movement Conservatism, and Trump trumpets the rhetoric of that movement in crude sound bites. Since the 1950s, Movement Conservatives have been determined to roll back the business regulations of the New Deal. But those protections are popular. So to undermine them, Movement Conservatives hammer home the idea that legislation protecting workers, people of color, or women is socialism, a con that sucks money out of the pockets of hard-working whites and siphons it into the pockets of grasping workers, shiftless blacks, or slutty women.

Movement Conservatism was a fringe force from the 1950s until the 1980s, when voters elected Movement Conservative Ronald Reagan to the White House. But even then, their control of the Republican Party was not a given. In 1982, Movement Conservatives’ slashing of $35 billion from the budget in the midst of a cash crisis crashed the economy and drove unemployment to its highest rate since the Depression; a 40% increase in defense spending revived the economy but created a skyrocketing national debt. Republican support wavered, and movement leaders clung to power by bringing in new voters. In 1986, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, a former economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, created an army of evangelical voters to boost the numbers behind Movement Conservatism. He promised born-again voters pro-life and pro-Christian activism so long as they lined up behind big business economic policies.

Trump presents a crude version of these Movement Conservative themes. His vile language about minorities and women is simply a different octane of the Movement Conservative gasoline, an emotional explosive used by every one of the other sixteen candidates for the Republican nomination. It is a simple idea: that “takers” want a handout. Similarly, while observers have expressed surprised that the thrice-married, non-churchgoing Trump attracts more support from evangelical voters than, say, the aggressively religious Mike Huckabee, that support reflects a Movement Conservative pattern established a generation ago.

But Trump’s danger to the Republican Party is not simply that he rips the veneer off the racism, sexism, and religious hypocrisy of Movement Conservatism, exposing its rhetoric about taxes and lazy takers for the elitism it is. Trump also articulates the anger of a generation of voters who see that they have been taken for a ride. Movement Conservatives promised voters who were falling behind in the modern world that if they voted Republican, tax cuts and a smaller government would create a roaring economy and they would prosper.

In fact, the opposite was true. Since 1980, tax cuts have not actually lowered taxes; they have moved them from the wealthy onto poorer Americans. The deregulation of the economy has indeed redistributed wealth—upward. Today the top 1 percent of families takes home more than 20% of income and own as much wealth as the families in the bottom 90%. Fracking and drilling have polluted drinking water and oceans. Cuts to education and student loan rates have threatened poor Americans’ ability to rise. When the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens’ United ruling, it seemed to codify the principle that the rich should own the country. Donald Trump doesn’t simply echo the racism and sexism of the last several decades, he calls—in his loose, vague way—for a fairer tax code and for tariffs to protect American workers. Even more important to his supporters, he is outside politics as usual. He is outside a system that has been bought and paid for by businessmen.

Trump is a populist in the same mold as the nineteenth-century Populists who gave their name to American grassroots political movements. Historians and pundits argued themselves blue in the face over whether Populists were reactionary or progressive, but they were both. Then, as now, the Populists embodied a moment when reactionary rhetoric finally tore open to reveal a brutal truth: that the rhetoric did not reflect reality. When that moment happened, people who still believed in the bugbears they had been taught to hate also demanded that government policy actually engage the real world.


During the Civil War, the fledgling Republican Party constructed the nation’s first activist government, using taxes to fund social welfare legislation for the first time in American history. Their policies were enormously popular, but in the wake of the Civil War, businessmen joined with white racist Democrats to argue against government activism. Laws protecting the ability of workers and black men to rise were, they argued, a redistribution of wealth. Business regulation and federal protection of black rights required a bureaucracy paid for with white tax dollars. Schools, hospitals, roads, and public buildings also meant tax levies to pay for infrastructure, an infrastructure used primarily by Americans who could not afford to pay for those luxuries themselves. By the 1870s, big-business Republicans leveraged white fears of immigrants and hatred for black Americans to retain control of the government. Democrats who advocated laws that would regulate business were socialists, Republicans insisted. They were intent on redistributing wealth from hardworking white men to lazy immigrants and African Americans. On the Republicans’ watch, the late nineteenth century became the era of the “robber barons,” when monopolies and trusts ran the government with the sole intent of protecting big business. Under Republican policies, wealth moved upward, creating an era historians later dubbed the Gilded Age.

But the Republicans’ image of a prosperous world endangered only by the Democrats and the people the Democrats represented—workers and minorities desperate for a handout—started to splinter as Republicans’ own voters began to suffer. Wages stagnated while monopolies colluded to raise prices; cities were polluted by businesses that dumped poisons into neighborhoods; men died in workplace accidents for which employers paid no indemnity, leaving families destitute; middle-class children died from contaminated food; impoverished farmers forced to pay exorbitant railroad rates were told they were lazy and should work harder. Democrats began to win national elections; Republicans howled that the Democrats were triumphing only by fraud and corruption.

But the public did not buy this claim. By 1890, the protests against Republican government had spread beyond the Democrats and into an upstart movement of farmers’ “Alliances.” Its leaders warned that “Wall Street owns the country…. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street.” In that year, as Republicans passed even stronger pro-business legislation with the promise that it would, this time, bring back prosperity, voters gave the Democrats a two-to-one majority in the House. Republicans held the Senate only because they had jiggered the Electoral System by adding six new Republican states to the Union in the year before the election.

The Populists organized the following year. They embraced the reactionary anti-immigrant and often racist sentiments of the Republicans, the arguments Republican leaders had used to rail against wealth redistribution. But Populists turned upside down the idea that Americans must guard against government policies that redistributed wealth. Rather than apply accusations of redistribution only to the poor, Populists turned it against the rich. Wealthy men, they warned, had brought the nation to “the verge of moral, political, and material ruin.” Because they believed that government was hopelessly corrupt and that newspapers were either shills or muzzled, some of the Populists parroted strange conspiracy theories: one clownish leader advanced the ideas that Atlantis was a lost civilization and that Francis Bacon was the real author of Shakespeare’s works. But the Populists’ distrust of authority came from their recognition that they had been sold a bill of goods. The capital generated by the vast majority of Americans, their platform noted, was stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few rich men who despised the republic and endangered liberty. “From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires,” their platform read. Crucially, the Populists were not Democrats: They condemned both parties. Party leaders on both sides, their platform announced, were willing “to destroy the multitude in order to secure corruption funds from the millionaires.”

The realization that the rhetoric of the past could no longer overwrite the reality of the present fed a period of political chaos. Democrats swept into control of the government in 1892 for the first time since the Civil War, but Republicans retook control of the House in 1894 in the largest midterm landslide in American history. Republicans won the White House in 1896 in a vicious and corrupt campaign that revived old accusations that Democrats were anarchists and socialists who would destroy the country. The political see-sawing showed that a new era was at hand. Younger Republicans recognized that their party could no longer embrace an ideology that served the wealthy alone. Moreover, they recognized that catering to the super rich was changing the nature of the nation, threatening to turn it from a democracy to an oligarchy. The leader of this Republican reformation was a young upstart named Theodore Roosevelt, and he, and his Progressive Republicans, ushered in the Progressive Era.

The present era is so similar to the late nineteenth century that it has been dubbed the second Gilded Age. In the 1890s, the Populists pointed out that the Republican emperors of their time, the first Gilded Age, had no clothes. Today the unsavory Donald Trump and his supporters are doing the same thing.

(Heather Cox Richardson is the author of “To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party,” amongst several other books, and a professor of history at Boston College.)

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Go Figger’ — There’s A Reason Why Some Liberals Have Started To Love Donald Trump



By David Weigel
Washington Post (9/8/15)

As the Donald Trump jamboree has played on — and blown out amps — some progressive thinkers have started to see its upside.

Sure, the tycoon-candidate might have forced the Republican Party’s immigration discussion to the right; that was July’s outrage. But his staying power, and the enemies he’s accrued, have gotten campaign reformers and supporters of Great Society liberalism to see the upside in Trump. Here was a Republican candidate telling voters he would not cut Social Security — that fast economic growth would remove the need to even talk about it — and that “hedge-fund guys” needed to pay higher taxes. And he was winning.

“Donald Trump is the first candidate since [John] McCain to essentially break the Republican candidate monopoly on taxes,” wrote New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait last week. “Trump’s defense of federal retirement programs aligns him with his voters and against the fervent desires of Republican insiders, whose preferences are reflected in the non-Trump field. … Trump has revealed, again, the brittleness of the grip of anti-tax zealots upon the Republican Party.”

Trump can say what many rank and file Republicans think

Yesterday, Chait’s wisdom was embraced and elevated by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in a column that called Trump simply “right” about taxes.

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“All indications are that Mr. [Jeb] Bush’s attacks on Mr. Trump are falling flat, because the Republican base doesn’t actually share the Republican establishment’s economic delusions,” Krugman wrote. “The thing is, we didn’t really know that until Mr. Trump came along. The influence of big-money donors meant that nobody could make a serious play for the G.O.P. nomination without pledging allegiance to supply-side doctrine, and this allowed the establishment to imagine that ordinary voters shared its antipopulist creed.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) even praised Trump’s tax position on ABC’s “The View” on Tuesday. Like Chait and Krugman, she suggested Trump is actually very much in-tune with the GOP base: “Don’t call us liberal. It is a pretty right position.”

Some cheekiness is at work here, but it’s in the service of something sincere. Progressives have argued for ages — especially since the 2004 publication of Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” — that progressive economics only lose when cultural issues reign and convince (mostly white male) voters to vote against their economic interests.

Republicans, in liberals’ view, have validated this view by the way they campaign. The wealthy donors who fund Republican and third-party ad campaigns do not promise voters that the GOP will means-test Social Security. Quite the contrary; since 2009, hours and hours of TV spots have attacked Democrats for “cutting Medicare” by passing the Affordable Care Act. From Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on down, reforms to entitlements have been packaged not as libertarian cost-cutting, but as “saving” the programs for future generations.

The Republican reality outside DC and NYC

“I’ve been arguing for years that conservatism is a way of expressing class anger that always winds up delivering nothing that improves the class situation,” Frank explained in an e-mail. “I never had any doubt that many rank-and-file Republican voters weren’t fans of Wall Street. This is obvious to anyone outside of Washington and New York. The culture wars were one way of expressing class anger, especially during relatively good times.”

To the delight of Krugman, et al., conservatives are not sure what to do about this. Bush, who has taken it upon himself to wield the sword of the “establishment” against Trump, has attacked Trump’s (abandoned) 1999 idea of a surtax on the rich as “the biggest tax increase in American history.” As is the custom, Bush does not say who would have been subjected to the tax — i.e. very wealthy people like Trump, but not his base.

Corporate owned GOP candidates stalling out

And as The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan and Matea Gold reported last week, the Club for Growth is looking for donors to fund an anti-Trump campaign. The evidence so far is that it can’t attack his populism. The Club said that Trump’s idea of a special tax on outsourcers would “hurt the American economy and cost more American jobs.” His poll numbers crept up anyway — and more tellingly, the candidates in favor of Club-style economics went nowhere. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who has been barnstorming New Hampshire with talk about means-testing Social Security, has remained flat in polling, with very high negatives. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), first out of the gate with the “fake conservative” attack on Trump, has fallen towards low-single digits.

Yet both of those candidates, unlike Bush, have tried to package their ideas as “fair” reforms in a rigged system. “Most of the loopholes in the tax code were designed by the rich and politically connected,” Paul explained when he unveiled his tax plan. In New Hampshire town hall meetings last week, I saw Christie repeatedly tee up his ideas by acknowledging that “loopholes” were inserted in the code by people who benefited from them.

“I think people quite understandably hear about all the tax breaks people get and get angry,” said Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, in a phone interview from the Burning Man festival earlier this year. “They know their taxes are too high. They hear someone else’s taxes are too low. They hear about tax credits for wind and solar, and special breaks.

“But I think there is always a danger when people talk about tax reform and focus on the people who pay too little, when the largest problem is people who pay too much. What we should be for is bringing everybody’s tax rate down to what the hedge-fund guys are paying.”

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Bringing Reform: Citizen Groups Form Alliance To Fight Corruption & Rescue Democracy

“Strategic alliances are key to this effort. We must stand united in our resolve to change our society’s course, community by community”

— Nate Timm of the Wisconsin Grassroots Network

Blue Jean Nation (9/8/15)

Three Wisconsin-based democracy reform groups – the Wisconsin Grassroots Network, Wisconsin United to Amend and Blue Jean Nation – announced the establishment of a partnership to maximize their collective impact.

“Separately, each of our groups possesses valuable assets and makes a difference,” said Mike McCabe, founder and president of Blue Jean Nation. “Together, our strength can be greater than the sum of its parts.”

All three groups share a mission of enabling Wisconsin citizens to work together to advance their ability to exercise the right to self-government against the corrupting influence of money in politics.

“There are many critical issues we face at this time in history,” said Jim Crist, from Wisconsin United To Amend, “but little can be done until we eliminate the institutionalized government corruption which is in our electoral process today. We look forward to working with Blue Jean Nation and Wisconsin Grassroots Network in this joint effort to build a stronger state network of community activists.”

McCabe, former director of the nonpartisan government watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, organized Blue Jean Nation last April to “house the politically homeless and transform parties that are failing America.” The group pursues its aims through community outreach, civic education and engagement, grassroots organizing, and public policy advocacy and social action.

Wisconsin United to Amend, formerly known as Wisconsin Move to Amend, is a nonpartisan state network working for a constitutional amendment that will overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions relating to corporations’ rights and money in politics, including Citizens United vs. FEC. The group has organized citizens’ groups in more than 60 communities throughout the state in support of referenda and resolutions that money is not speech, and that constitutional rights are reserved for natural persons, not corporations.

“United to Amend has done amazing work organizing communities, cultivating broad bipartisan support, and winning votes to rein in big money in politics by near-unanimous margins in community after community. We want to help find ways to keep those neighborhood activists engaged after their local vote is won. We want to knit them together with the activists in the other communities that have done the same thing,” McCabe said.

“Wisconsin Grassroots Network is ideally suited to help us make this happen,” he added, “since it has been acting as the connective tissue for a wide range of different organizations and causes, and specializes in pulling together diverse interests into multifaceted local grassroots groups.”

Wisconsin Grassroots Network facilitates and sustains the development and growth of community-based grassroots groups that are devoted to enhancing democracy, justice and equity for all. WGN provides communication platforms, training, issue education, resources, organizing examples and networking opportunities for urban and rural grassroots organizations, their leadership and members.

“Strategic alliances are key to this effort. We must stand united in our resolve to change our society’s course, community by community,” said Nate Timm of the Wisconsin Grassroots Network. “We are inspired to be working with United to Amend as they mobilize communities to say unequivocally that corporations are not people and money is not free speech and Blue Jean Nation as they educate communities on the divisive tactics of the two political parties when the real issue is the undemocratic concentration of wealth in a few people. We look forward to playing our role in our partnership as a resource for developing community centered grassroots groups.”

Through the new alliance, the three groups intend to provide mutual support, avoid duplication of effort, and accentuate the respective strengths of each group.

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French Agent Apologizes For Blowing Up Greenpeace Ship And Killing One In 1985

The Rainbow Warrior after the bombing by French intelligence agents. (Greenpeace photo.)

“We had to obey orders. We were soldiers.”

(Editor’s Note: Confession and apology by an agent for state sponsored murder is better late than never but what all government agents, investigators, law enforcement agents, soldiers, bureaucrats and spies need to get is that their stupidly blind loyalty is the logic of Nazi war criminals. If one signs on to serve the state they need to understand that their ultimate loyalty has to be to fellow citizens. Crimes in the name of the state are nothing more than crimes and those who are just “following orders” are nothing more than criminals. Actions have moral and legal consequences, even when obeying corrupt state orders. — Mark L. Taylor)

By Scott Neuman

National Public Radio (9/6/15)

The French secret service frogman responsible for sinking the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior in a New Zealand harbor three decades ago has broken his long silence and apologized for the attack that killed a Portuguese photographer working for the environmental activist group.

Jean-Luc Kister, who was working for the French spy agency Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) and acting on orders from Paris to blow up the ship, said he thought the time was right to speak up.

“Thirty years after the event, now that emotions have subsided and also with the distance I now have from my professional life, I thought it was the right time for me to express both my deepest regret and my apologies,” Kister said in an interview on the investigative website Mediapart. The interview also appeared on TVNZ.

France24 reports that Kister attached two large limpet mines to the hull of the converted trawler as it was docked in Auckland harbor in July 1985, ahead of plans to protest of French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll, 750 miles southeast of Tahiti.

“First of all to [photographer] Fernando Pereira’s family, in particular his daughter Marelle, for what I call an accidental death and what they consider to be an assassination,” Kister said.

“I also wanted to apologize to the members of Greenpeace who were aboard the Rainbow Warrior that night. And then to the people of New Zealand which, it must not be forgotten, is a friendly and ally nation in which we conducted an inappropriate clandestine operation.”

“I have the blood of an innocent man on my conscience, and that weighs on me,” he said. “We are not cold-blooded killers. My conscience led me to [apologize] and explain myself.”

“We had to obey orders. We were soldiers,” he added.

In a statement in French, Greenpeace responded: “Nothing will bring back Fernando Pereira, but to honor him is a duty. An apology from Col. Jean-Luc Kister will not return Fernando but they prove once again that our comrade is an innocent man.”

Agence France-Presse reports:

“Kister’s name was leaked to the media soon after the bombing, albeit with a spelling mistake as Kyster. He said he considered his unmasking to be an act of ‘high treason.’

“‘I’m not angry at the journalists, it’s the political powers I blame. If it had been in the United States, other heads would have rolled.’

“Two days after the bombing, two of the agents who took part — Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur, who had posed as a couple of Swiss tourists — were arrested by New Zealand police and their identities revealed.”i

Mafart and female agent Prieur — who had posed as Mafart’s wife — were charged with murder in New Zealand but later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 10-year terms. They were handed back to the France within months, however, in a deal struck between Wellington and Paris.

Both Mafart and Prieur subsequently wrote books that detailed their role in the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.

The French government later issued an official apology for the incident and paid reparations to Greenpeace.


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Newest Remote Car Hacking Raises More Questions About Reporter’s Death

Deceased investigative reporter Michael Hastings.  (Photo credit: Facebook)

By Russ Baker

Who.What.Where. (7/23/15)

As readers of WhoWhatWhy know, our site has been one of the very few continuing to explore the fiery death two years ago of investigative journalist Michael Hastings, whose car left a straight segment of a Los Angeles street at a high speed, jumped the median, hit a tree, and blew up.

Our original report described anomalies of the crash and surrounding events that suggest cutting-edge foul play—that an external hacker could have taken control of Hastings’s car in order to kill him. If this sounds too futuristic, a series of recent technical revelations has proven that “car hacking” is entirely possible. The latest just appeared this week.

Hackers, seeking to demonstrate the vulnerability of automobiles to remote attacks, were able to largely take over the Jeep Cherokee driven by a writer for the tech magazine Wired:

Their code is an automaker’s nightmare: software that lets hackers send commands through the Jeep’s entertainment system to its dashboard functions, steering, brakes, and transmission, all from a laptop that may be across the country.

They were able to make his car decelerate suddenly, causing the writer to “narrowly avert death” at the hands of a semi-trailer coming up behind him.

In an earlier demonstration, they had been able to do similar things with other vehicles:

In the summer of 2013, I drove a Ford Escape and a Toyota Prius around a South Bend, Indiana, parking lot while they sat in the backseat with their laptops, cackling as they disabled my brakes, honked the horn, jerked the seat belt, and commandeered the steering wheel.

All of this is increasingly drawing the attention—and action— of the authorities. U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday seeking to establish federal standards for security and privacy of drivers in today’s computer-laden cars.

What we do not hear is any discussion about whether the risk has gone beyond the realm of possibility…to a reality.

Michael Hastert’s vehicle. (www.infowars.com)

What About Hastings?

Back when Michael Hastings died, former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke—by all accounts a sober, no-nonsense man—said that the Hastings’s crash was “consistent with a car cyber attack” and that it was likely that intelligence agencies knew “how to remotely seize control of a car.”

It is worth noting, too, that the day before his death, Hastings had “urgently” requested to borrow his neighbor’s car—he wanted to get out of town, but he feared his own car was being tampered with.

How is it then that “mainstream” publications, including even Wired, do not talk about the very odd circumstances surrounding the death of a journalist who had made powerful enemies? Did the fact that he had caused a famed general to be fired, that he was investigating the CIA chief, that he told colleagues he himself was being investigated by the FBI—did none of this at least raise the slightest suspicion on the part of our journalistic community? How about the fiery explosion when his car hit a palm tree—which automotive experts say should not normally take place; what about the fact that the engine flew out of the vehicle and landed a considerable distance away–which, again, we are told, is highly unusual?

As with so many of these things, the authorities raced to conclude that it was all an unfortunate accident and that there was no more to the story. And virtually the entirety of journalism—Left, Right and Center, Mainstream and “Alternative”—accepted this conclusion without so much as a hint of skepticism.

So, now that it has been dramatically demonstrated that accidents can be caused remotely by those targeting a driver, will we see other media stepping up to take a good hard look at the key question: What really happened to Michael Hastings? We hope so, but we aren’t taking any bets.

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Posted in 2015-09-09, Newsletter | Comments Off on Newest Remote Car Hacking Raises More Questions About Reporter’s Death