Madison a Foretaste of Things to Come: The Next Big Occupation Could be Boomers Taking Over the Capitol Building

The dramatic and inspiring occupation of the Wisconsin Statehouse in Madison by angry public workers and their supporters over the past few weeks is an exciting preview of what we can expect to see in the halls of Congress before long, as right-wing forces, funded by corporate lobbies and corporate-funded think-tanks push hard for cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare.

The drive to undermine these two critically important social programs is moving into high gear as the 79-million Baby Boomers this year start to reach eligibility, even as their other assets–their homes and their investment portfolios–are still shriveled by the Wall Street heist known as the “fiscal crisis” and Great Recession.

For years, the right has been gravely warning of the supposedly looming “bankruptcy” of Social Security and the even more imminent “bankruptcy” of Medicare, as though these twin disasters for the elderly were an actuarial imperative. In fact, both programs are political creations, whose problems have political causes and political solutions.

Social Security is starting to draw down the huge reserves it had built up, not because of an increase in retirees (the bulge in retirees hasn’t hit yet), but because the share of national income that is subject to the Social Security FICA tax has fallen, from 90% back in the 1980s to just 84% now, as the wealthy have appropriated an increasingly large share of the total national income. If more of the income of the rich were slapped with the FICA tax, to bring the total share of income subject to FICA back to 90%, there would be plenty of money to pay promised benefits into the foreseeable future. The same can be said of Medicare. More taxes on the rich would ensure the funding of that program too.

There is no inherent reason why only the first $106,000 of a person’s income should be subject to the FICA tax. It could be the first $200,000, or the first $500,000, and if it were the latter, we could be talking about improving benefits for retirees, or lowering the retirement age, not just preserving current levels. Benefits could be better still if investment income were no longer exempted from a FICA tax (and the Medicare tax).

But here’s the big point: Corporate America, and its political lackeys in the Republican and Democratic Parties, know that they are about to confront a dramatically more powerful protagonist in their campaign to kill Social Security and Medicare: the Boomer Retirees.
Next time, angry Boomer retirees occupying the Capital Rotunda in DC?Next time, angry Boomer retirees occupying the Capital Rotunda in DC?

Philadelphia: The Next Big Target for the Right-Wing Assault on Public Employees and Unions

Charlene Scott cheered and chanted with the hundreds thronging Philadelphia’s Love Park during Saturday’s protest against conservative Republican onslaughts seeking to slaughter what remains of the living-standard comforts enjoyed by middle and working-class Americans.

But Scott had a different perspective than most attending that demonstration, which had been organized largely to voice solidarity with public workers in Wisconsin now confronting calculated attacks against their collective bargaining rights from that state’s Tea Party-aligned Republican governor.

Scott said she had seen this onslaught coming ten years ago.

“When I saw jobs moving off-shore, banks lowering interest rates on personal accounts and governments passing more charges onto taxpayers I knew this was coming,” Scott said.

That Philadelphia protest was one of hundreds around America that have surged during the past two weeks against the worker bashing/wealth redistribution onslaughts by conservative political leaders in state capitols and on Capitol Hill.

Less than 36 hours after that weekend protest, the Philadelphia Daily News revealed that a union-busting campaign is headed to Pennsylvania, the state with the nation’s fourth largest number of card-carrying union members.
Philly unionists rallied to support Wisconsin workers--and to prepare for attacks in PAPhilly unionists rallied to support Wisconsin workers–and to prepare for attacks in PA

Davis Arrest Throws US Undercover Campaign in Pakistan into Disarray

The ongoing case of Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor facing murder charges in Lahore for the execution-style slaying of two apparent agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, is apparently leading to a roll-back of America’s espionage and Special Operations activities in Pakistan.

A few days ago, Pakistan’s Interior Department, which is reportedly conducting a careful review of the hundreds of private US contractors who flooded into Pakistan over the last two years, many with “diplomatic passports,” and many others, like Davis, linked to shady “security” firms, arrested an American security contractor named Aaron DeHaven, a Virginia native who claims to work for a company called Catalyst Services LLC.

The Catalyst Services LLC website describes the company, with offices in Afghanistan, Dubai, the US and Pakistan, as having experience in “logistics, operations, security and finance,” and as having a staff led by “individuals who have been involved in some of the most significant events of the last 20 years,” including “the break-up of the Soviet Union, the US effort in Somalia, and the Global War on Terror.”

DeHaven is being held on a 14-day remand, charged with overstaying his visa and with living in an unauthorized area.

Meanwhile, the English-language Express Tribune in Pakistan reports that according to ISI sources, 30 “suspected US operatives” in Pakistan have “suspended” their operations in the country, while 12 have fled the country.

The paper quotes the Pakistan Foreign Office as saying that 851 Americans claiming diplomatic immunity are currently in Pakistan, 297 of whom are “not working in any diplomatic capacity.” The paper says that the country’s Interior Department claims that 414 of the total are “non-diplomats.” The majority of these American operatives, the paper says, are located in Islamabad (where the US is building a huge fortress-like embassy reminiscent of the one in Baghdad), with the others in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. Most are suspected of being involved in covert missions that report to the US Joint Special Operations Command, with many suspected of being active-duty Special Forces personnel from the Army’s Delta Force. (The website of the JSOC says its responsibility is “synchronizing Department of Defense plans against global terrorist networks and, as directed, conducting global operations.”)
Aaron DeHaven, a US "security" contractor arrested and held by Pakistani authoritiesAaron DeHaven, a US "security" contractor arrested and held by Pakistani authorities

The Peace Movement and The Roller Coaster Ride of US War Policy

It’s considered unsportsmanlike to say, “We told you so.” But since all’s fair in love and war and we’re definitely at war, it’s fair to say the peace movement has been right about the whole sordid reality of US war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That may sound audacious or ridiculous to some, especially to those knee-jerks who love to ridicule the peace movement while knowing nothing about what it really stands for.

It’s important to note here, that the peace/antiwar movement doesn’t have quite as extensive a public relations and propaganda program as that employed by the military and its supporters in the federal government and the mainstream media.

For instance, the peace movement doesn’t have well-funded, highly-trained Psy-Ops Teams such as Rolling Stone has shown the military has. So no one is able to brainwash US Congress members into cutting the military budget and de-funding the wars.

The peace movement also tends to be concerned about the poor, long-term ecological sustainability issues, improving education, creating jobs and figuring out affordable health care for all Americans, which is why we’re always attacking the Pentagon sacred cow and the runaway wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Finally, the peace movement suffers because we live in a world gone mad and few today seem to have the courage to listen to, and give credence to, a movement without guns and prisons.

Interestingly, current reports surrounding Afghanistan are in synch with what the peace movement has been saying since the beginning about the dismal outlook for the Petraeus counter-insurgency program in that ancient, rugged land.

For instance, one of the fundamental mantras of Veterans For Peace, the antiwar organization I have worked with for 26 years, is: “Wars are easy to start and very difficult to stop. So it’s best not to start them.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the Pentagon and the Pech ValleyDefense Secretary Robert Gates, the Pentagon and the Pech Valley

What Defense Secretary Robert Gates just told cadets at West Point was a distinct echo of this mantra. Here’s what he said:

“(A)ny future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”

Don Imus Slips a Great Anti-War Folk-Rock Song onto Fox-TV: KMAG YOYO!

Hayes Carll and band on Fox-TV's "Imus in the Morning"Hayes Carll and band on Fox-TV's "Imus in the Morning"

From the WTF Department, here’s something from Fox TV’s Don Imus Show last December.

Hayes Carll is a young country singer from Texas with a fantastic surreal song about an 18-year-old soldier in Afghanistan that is up there with the best of Dylan, with elliptical lyrics like Desolation Row you never get tired of reaching for to figure out.

It’s called KMAG YOYO, which in military argot means “Kiss My Ass Guys. You’re On Your Own.” (This version is the one broadcast on Sirius Radio, because the lyrics are easier to hear. If you want the Fox Imus show performance, which has more of a live feel to it, it’s here.)

Pakistani and Indian Newspapers Say US CIA Contractor Raymond Davis is a Terrorist

Pakistani and Indian newspapers are reporting that Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor in jail in Lahore facing murder charges for the execution-slayings of two young men believed to by Pakistani intelligence operatives, was actually involved in organizing terrorist activities in Pakistan.

As the Express Tribune, an English-language daily that is linked to the International Herald Tribune, reported on Feb. 22:

“The Lahore killings were a blessing in disguise for our security agencies who suspected that Davis was masterminding terrorist activities in Lahore and other parts of Punjab,” a senior official in the Punjab Police claimed.

“His close ties with the TTP [the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan] were revealed during the investigations,” he added. “Davis was instrumental in recruiting young people from Punjab for the Taliban to fuel the bloody insurgency.” Call records of the cellphones recovered from Davis have established his links with 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi sectarian outfit, sources said.

The article goes on to explain a motive for why the US, which on the one hand has been openly pressing Pakistan to move militarily against Taliban forces in the border regions abutting Afghanistan, would have a contract agent actively encouraging terrorist acts within Pakistan, saying:

Davis was also said to be working on a plan to give credence to the American notion that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are not safe. For this purpose, he was setting up a group of the Taliban which would do his bidding.

According to a report in the Economic Times of India, a review by police investigators of calls placed by Davis on some of the cell phones found on his person and in his rented Honda Civic after the shooting showed calls to 33 Pakistanis, including 27 militants from the banned Pakistani Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an group identified as terrorist organization by both the US and Pakistan, which has been blamed for the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and for the brutal slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. (You’d think this would be a big story for the Wall Street Journal, especially on the editorial page, but so far, there has been no mention of it in Murdoch’s rag.)
CIA man Raymond Davis keeps some pretty nasty company in Pakistan.CIA man Raymond Davis keeps some pretty nasty company in Pakistan.

Surprisingly, Some Bigots Back (Sort of) Black History Month Observance

Rep. Michele Bachmann and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, two right-wing Republicans eyeing presidential campaigns in 2012, provided a big boost for Black History Month recently with remarks challenging contentions that this recognition of ignored contributions is an irrelevant relic in this post-racial “Age of Obama.”

Although conservative dogma considers this annual observance during the month of February an anathema, neither Bachmann nor Barbour face censure for heresy from their ideological confederates.
Far from being a ringing endorsement, the offensive utterances of Bachmann and Barbour highlight the importance of Black History Month founded in the early 20th Century to counter factual inaccuracies about blacks then rampant across America’s racially segregated society.

Michelle Bachmann, the Minnesota Congresswoman and Tea Party maven, said America’s Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery–a gross distortion of historic fact easily evident in the life of George Washington, America’s first President and Revolutionary War leader, who was born in the month of February.

Washington owned slaves and, as president, signed the federal Fugitive Slave Act mandating return of runaway slaves seeking freedom.

Further, Washington spent the waning years of his life diligently working to recapture two favored slaves who had fled his executive mansion, according to the new book The Black History of the White House by Clarence Lusane.

Bachmann’s failure to check facts is not inadvertent, said Professor Ewuare Osayande during a recent lecture entitled “Why Black History Month Still Matters” offered at the Camden, NJ campus of Rutgers University.

“Why does a national figure not check her claims? She does, and she doesn’t care about the truth,” Osayande charged, saying Bachmann’s Founding Fathers assertion is the type of “willful falsehood that becomes patriotic truth” in America.

Send a Pizza to Protesters Fighting the Republican Assault on Labor Rights in Wisconsin!

Ian’s Pizza in Madison, WI, is accepting orders by credit card from anywhere to deliver their pizzas to the protesters at the state capital who are fighting for the right to have their unions against the Koch Brothers’ financed-attack on organized labor by the state’s new Republican governor and Republican legislature. Just call their downtown State St. store at 608-257-9248— and be prepared for a long wait (a lot of people around the country, and world, are placing orders!).

US Caught in The Big Lie: ThisCantBeHappening! was Correct in Exposing Raymond Davis as a Spy

Talk about getting caught in a Big Lie.

So desperate has been the US effort to get the US government killer Raymond Davis sprung from police custody in Lahore, Pakistan following his execution-style slaughter of two Pakistani intelligence operatives in broad daylight in a crowded commercial area, that the government trotted out President Obama to declare that Pakistan was violating the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by holding “our diplomat,” whom he insisted had only been defending himself, and should in any case be entitled to absolute immunity.

Now both the Guardian newspaper in the UK over the weekend, and the Associated Press today are reporting that sources in both the Pakistani and American governments are confirming that Davis works for the CIA. The AP is even reporting that he is a “CIA security contractor,” which is something less and a little more amorphous than a CIA employee, and that means he has no claim on diplomatic immunity whatever, and that raises the added question of who he actually is and who he actually works for. But more on that later.

The Guardian noted in its article that Davis’s wife had provided phone numbers for information about him to a local TV station and that those numbers turned out to be the CIA. Meanwhile, Agence France Press reported over the weekend that Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), a loose-tongued member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also apparently inadvertently slipped up and disclosed on the Senate floor that Davis is an “agent”, saying, “We can’t throw this agent over.”

America’s and the President’s reputations lie in tatters as a result of the handling of this bloody incident. Not only did the US dispatch to Islamabad members of Congress, including the oleaginous Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), as well as the reprehensible Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to press for Davis’s release, threatening the withholding of aid to Pakistan (our ostensible ally in the Afghanistan War!). It provided a patently false document to the Pakistani Foreign Office claiming Davis to be an employee of the US Embassy in Islamabad (which would have meant he’d have immunity from arrest and detention), when he was actually working out of the Lahore Consulate, where he would not be entitled to any immunity for his actions). It also tried to exchange his regular passport for a diplomatic one a day after his arrest, again retroactively trying to get him immunity from prosecution for his murderous acts.

Furthermore, the US government, according to the Guardian, induced major US news organizations to hide what they knew about Davis’s real role from the American public. The paper reported that several US news organizations had also learned on their own that Davis is a spy, but then voluntarily withhheld the information from the American public “at the request of the Obama administration,” which preferred to stick to the fictional story line that Pakistan is holding an American “diplomat” in “violation of the Vienna Convention” on diplomatic immunity. In fact, on Feb. 15, when the president lectured Pakistan about releasing “our diplomat” Davis, saying “We’ve got a very simple principle here that every country in the world that is party to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations has upheld in the past and should uphold in the future, and that is, if our diplomats are in another country, then they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution,” not only did he know he was lying, but so did some major news organizations which ran his statement but didn’t tell readers the truth: Davis was no diplomat, but was a spook, or a contractor for a spook agency.

Update Even late today, when the NY Times finally says it got “permission” from the government to publish what it knew–that Davis “worked with” the CIA, it still fudged the issue of its allowing President Obama to lie at his press conference. “Without describing Mr. Davis’s mission or intelligence affiliation, President Obama last week made a public plea for his release,” the self-described “paper of record” wrote. But that’s not what Obama did. He simply lied and called Davis a “diplomat” and demanded his release, claiming he had immunity, and the Times knowingly let him get away with that lie.
This Dept. of Defense Contractor ID found on Davis belies his "diplomat" claim, but also raises questions about whether he's really CIA, or something elseThis Dept. of Defense Contractor ID found on Davis belies his "diplomat" claim, but also raises questions about whether he’s really CIA, or something else

Readers of ThisCantBeHappening! will not be surprised about any of this however.