Archive for Down With Tyranny

Take Those Threats Seriously

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Nicole Sandler

Americans have really short memories. It was less than a year ago that the Republicans shut down the US government for 16 very long days. And now Mitch McConnell is threatening to do it again. I suggest we take those threats very seriously.

To refresh our country's collective memory loss:

FirstFederal employees were furloughed for a combined total of 6.6 million days, more than in any previous government shutdown. At its peak, about 850,000 individuals per day were furloughed. That number fell once most Department of Defense civilian employees were able to return to work as the Pentagon implemented the Pay Our Military Act.

Secondthe shutdown cost the Federal government billions of dollars. The payroll cost of furloughed employee salaries alone – that is, the lost productivity of furloughed workers – was $2.0 billion. Beyond this, the Federal government also incurred other direct costs as a result of the shutdown. Fees went uncollected; IRS enforcement and other program integrity measures were halted; and the Federal government had to pay additional interest on payments that were late because of the shutdown.

Thirdthe shutdown had significant negative effects on the economy. The Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that the combination of the shutdown and debt limit brinksmanship resulted in 120,000 fewer private sector jobs created during the first two weeks of October. And multiple surveys have shown that consumer and business confidence was badly damaged.

The report highlights some of the more direct impacts the shutdown had on the economy by shutting down government services.

For example:

  • Federal permitting and environmental and other reviews were halted, delaying job-creating transportation and energy projects.
  • Import and export licenses and applications were put on hold, negatively impacting trade.
  • Federal loans to small businesses, homeowners, and families in rural communities were put on hold.
  • Private-sector lending to individuals and small businesses was disrupted, because banks and lenders couldn’t access government income and Social Security Number verification services.
  • Travel and tourism was disrupted at national parks and monuments across the country, hurting the surrounding local economies.

Fourththe shutdown impacted millions of Americans who rely on critical programs and services halted by the shutdown.

For example:

  • Hundreds of patients were prevented from enrolling in clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health.
  • Almost $4 billion in tax refunds were delayed.
  • Agencies from the Food and Drug Administration to the Environmental Protection Agency had to cancel health and safety inspections, while the National Transportation Safety Board was unable to investigate airplane accidents in a timely fashion.
  • Critical government-sponsored scientific research was put on hold. Notably, four of the five Nobel prize winning scientists who work for the Federal government were furloughed during the shutdown.

Fifththe shutdown could have a long-term impact on our ability to attract and retain the skilled and driven workforce that the Federal government needs. The shutdown followed a three-year pay freeze for Federal employees, cuts in training and support, and, for hundreds of thousands of workers, administrative furloughs earlier this year because of sequestration. These cuts will make it harder for the government to attract and retain the talent it needs to provide top level service to the American people.

To put it much more simply, it was really, truly awful.

And Americans, for a change, laid the blame (mostly) where it belonged: squarely at the feet of the GOP.

But those short memories were what the Rethuglicans were counting on, as Mitch McConnell seemingly has no qualms about threatening similar action again IF REPUBLICANS TAKE CONTROL OF THE SENATE! You'd think that would be impetus enough to keep anyone with even a modicum of sanity from voting for any member of that party.

But sadly, Mr. Predictor of Election Outcomes Better than Anyone Else himself, Nate Silver's latest pronouncement is "Republicans Remain Slightly Favored To Take Control Of The Senate".

I hope everyone will take a few minutes to read Dave Johnson's apocalyptic tome about what they are threatening to do (and will likely follow through on) should that unthinkable outcome become reality on Nov. 4: "GOP Vows to Dismantle  or Shut Down Government if They Win Senate." Dave joined me on the show this morning to explain why you should be afraid, very afraid, of that prospect (unlike the fake fears the GOP is always ginning up.)

In the first hour, Howie Klein was on with me, as he is each Monday morning, for The Steve Israel Hour, sponsored by Little Debbie. We talked about tomorrow's primaries in FloriDUH, Arizona and Oklahoma; about Andrew Cuomo's running mate, Kathy Hochul and how truly conservative she is, the vote coming before the people of Scotland to decide on their independence, and more..

Tomorrow, we'll talk with Tom Risen of US News and World Report about his friend, the late James Foley. And the Gliberal Goddesses (GottaLaff, Amy Simon and myself) are back with more gliberal giddyness.... Radio or Not!

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Lighting the Fuse

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Nicole Sandler

I'd always nod along when Randi Rhodes would say that it's not if it'll happen, but when. And I, like she, always wondered what the catalyst will be that finally lights the fuse.

Back in 2011, the spark that begat the Arab Spring was one of those proverbial straws breaking the camel's back--  a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire to protest his government's treatment of himself and his fellow citizens along with its brazen corruption.

Before dawn on Friday, Dec. 17, as [Mohammed] Bouazizi pulled his cart along the narrow, rutted stone road toward the market, two police officers blocked his path and tried to take his fruit. Bouazizi’s uncle rushed to help his 26-year-old nephew, persuading the officers to let the rugged-looking young man complete his one-mile trek.

The uncle visited the chief of police and asked him for help. The chief called in a policewoman who had stopped Bouazizi, Fedya Hamdi, and told her to let the boy work.

Hamdi, outraged by the appeal to her boss, returned to the market. She took a basket of Bouazizi’s apples and put it in her car. Then she started loading a second basket. This time, according to Alladin Badri, who worked the next cart over, Bouazizi tried to block the officer.

“She pushed Mohammed and hit him with her baton,” Badri said.

Hamdi reached for Bouazizi’s scale, and again he tried to stop her.

Hamdi and two other officers pushed Bouazizi to the ground and grabbed the scale. Then she slapped Bouazizi in the face in front of about 50 witnesses.

Bouazizi wept with shame.

“Why are you doing this to me?” he cried, according to vendors and customers who were there. “I’m a simple person, and I just want to work.”

... After the slap, Bouazizi went to city hall and demanded to see an official. No, a clerk replied. Go home. Forget about it.

Bouazizi returned to the market and told his fellow vendors he would let the world know how unfairly they were being treated, how corrupt the system was.

He would set himself ablaze.

“We thought he was just talking,” said Hassan Tili, another vendor.

A short while later, the vendors heard shouts from a couple of blocks away. Without another word to anyone, Bouazizi had positioned himself in front of the municipal building, poured paint thinner over his body and lit himself aflame.

He was subjected to continued indignities, as enumerated in the Washington Post article.  For example, as Bouazizi lay dying in the hospital burn unit, Tunisia's dictator,  Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali arrived, camera crew in tow.

The president made a show of handing (his mother) Manoubya a check for 10,000 dinars (about $14,000). But the mother said Ben Ali’s staffers took the check back after the cameramen were escorted from the room. “I never got any of it,” she said.

Three weeks later, Bouazizi died.

In early January, the policewoman was arrested, but it was too late. The story had spread, and three months later, a revolution that sprouted in a small village in Tunisia and flowered in Egypt has morphed into a contagion that threatens regimes in Bahrain and Yemen, has enveloped Libya in civil war, and is unsettling even the region’s more placid monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

And thus, it began. The flame that Bouazizi used to light himself on fire was the spark that lit the fuse of the powder keg that had slowly heating, though decades of injustice, public humiliation and worse. It finally blew.

Revolutions are explosions of frustration and rage that build over time, sometimes over decades. Although their political roots are deep, it is often a single spark that ignites them — an assassination, perhaps, or one selfless act of defiance.

Of course, the word had to spread. Facebook was the conduit and nothing could stop it. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What will be the spark that mobilizes Americans?

Just before airtime this morning I checked the Nicole Sandler Show Message Board to find a new thread titled, "The Fire Has Been Lit! And It Starts In Ferguson, MO."

An 18-year old young man named Michael Brown was walking down the street with his friend Dorin Johnson, headed for Brown's grandmother's house. According to Johnson, a cop pulled up next to them and said, "Get the F--k on the sidewalk." And that's where the details get sketchy.

The police say that Brown jumped into the police car and fought with the officer over her gun. Witnesses say that Brown ran from the car, only to be hit by a bullet, after which he put his hands up in surrender, only to be shot again in the face and the chest before falling to the ground dead.

Anonymous has taken notice, posting this video online today:

This show of police brutality comes only a week after another black man, Eric Garner, was killed by an overly violent show of police force.

The 43-year-old father of six, who was asthmatic, can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” several times in the footage, and the city’s chief medical examiner confirmed that much on August 1, when he ruled Garner’s death a “homicide by chokehold.”

The militarization of the American police was on global display during the Occupy Wall Street protests which began on Sept 17, 2011, when protesters gathered to occupy a park on, as the name implies, Wall Street.

On November 15, almost a year after Mohammed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest police and government actions in Tunisia, police in New York City - decked out in full riot gear regalia - descended on Zuccotti Park, which the occupiers had renamed Freedom Plaza, arresting protesters and journalists alike, injuring many in the process.

Just two days later and thousands of miles to the west, a group of students at the University of California/Davis were exercising their constitutional right to peaceably protest by sitting, silently in a row along a sidewalk when a UC Davis cop walked methodically up and down the row, pepper spraying them.

That incident didn't inspire enough nationwide outrage to get Americans out on the streets, nor did the news that said officer, Lt. John Pike, who was

placed on paid administrative leave after the incident and was firedeight months later in July 2012 – although an internal investigation actually found he had acted appropriately.

Appropriately?!?!?!  How about the fact that he was then awarded $38,059 in a workers compensation claim, because

 Pike, 40, had suffered depression and anxiety brought on by death threats to him and his family. The threats followed the 18 November 2011 protest, the newspaper reported.

Or how about Tony Bologna.. you remember him, right? The Manhattan DA declined to press charges, but the cop was docked 10 vacation days or equivalent pay. Plus,

The NYPD officer caught using pepper-spray on two female Occupy Wall Street protesters in September has been transferred to work in Staten Island.

While that might sound like enough torture for some, Bologna is apparently from Staten Island, so the transfer translates into a shorter commute for the 29-year NYPD veteran.

So, what will it take to light the fuse under Americans, to get us to go to our windows and show "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"?

I don't know, but I guess it hasn't happened yet...

Today on the show

After talking about the shooting by police death of Michael Brown, it was time to talk about our broken political system.

Howie Klein who blogs at Down with Tyranny and, along with Digby and John Amato, runs the Blue America PAC, joins me every Monday morning for The Steve Israel Hour, sponsored by Little Debbie.  

It was an ugly weekend primary in Hawaii, where the "Republican wing of the Democratic party" had a good night. Governor Neil Abercrombie, the progressive sitting governor was defeated decimated by centrist David Ige.

On the good news side, Howie announced that Blue America formally endorsed Zephyr Teachout in her bid to unseat New York's ethically-challenged Andrew Cuomo. They've even set up a special Gubernatorial donation page here. 

And finally, if you're a regular listener of my show, you know that I think many of our problems are caused by the corporate control of our media. That's one of the reasons I'm such a big fan of The Nation magazine. They're truly independent with no corporate overlords or influence.

I was thrilled to welcome Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, to the show this morning to talk about the situation in Ukraine - and the fact that it's nothing like what you're hearing from the TV so-called "news" programs.

Katrina and her husband, Stephen F. Cohen, set the record straight using history and facts about what's really going on over there in, "Why is Washington Risking War with Russia?", a must-read if you want to know the truth. And for some more background, check out Cohen's "The Silence of American Hawks about Kiev's Atrocities."

It was a great discussion that ventured into much more, and fascinating reading from very smart people whose goal is to report the truth. What a concept!

Tomorrow, the return of the Gliberal Goddesses and whatever else the day brings... radio or not!

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Torture & Lies

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NicoleSandlerHeadshotw202h202

President Obama admitted the US tortured "some folks" following the 9-11 attacks.

Obama has used the word "torture" before to describe the harsh interrogation tactics used at CIA-run secret prisons during the Bush administration. But his words at a White House news conference were notably more direct than previous statements.

The comments reflect the line the president is preparing to walk as he gets ready for the release of a Senate committee report on the Bush-era rendition, detention and interrogation program.

According to the president, torture is not OK - but lying about torture is acceptable, as long as you apologize for it. Why do I feel like he learned this strategy by parenting pre-schoolers?

Marcy Wheeler joined in for the last segment of today's show, and she hit the nail on the head with her aptly-titled post, "But Brennan Didn’t Fuck His Biographer!"

Amidst calls for Brennan’s firing, Obama basically responded, “Sure, we tortured some folks, but I still have confidence in the guy who found the waterboard and black sites at which to torture.”

But I’m not sure why folks are so surprised by Obama’s reluctance to criticize Brennan for lying about hacking the SSCI. Aside from the mutual complicity — Brennan was personal witness to each and every drone strike Obama approved that violated international law, after all — CIA Directors don’t get fired for lying.

They get fired for fucking their biographer.

In the first hour of the show, Howie Klein was on for our weekly "Steve Israel Hour." We touched on the torture and lies problem, and both admitted to having the same scary thought: that once a president is sworn in and sits at the Oval Office desk for the first time to read the letter left by his or her predecessor, they find out just how limited their power really is, and that the CIA and NSA are the ones calling the shots.

Howie wrote "If You Let Criminals Off Lightly, You Guarantee One Thing: More Crime" about the problem with Obama's thinking in excusing Brennan's role in all of this.

We also talked about some important Senate races (Tom Udall who was the first to call for Brennan's ouster after his "apology" and is facing a very tough re-election. Plus Shenna Bellows, Jeff Merkely, Brian Schatz and a few others.) Blue America has a Senate page for donations here.

We also talked about some gubernatorial races up for grabs, including a tough re-election campaign for Illinois' Pat Quinn and his "sleazy billionaire sociopath" challenger. They also have a gubernatorial page here... 

And we called out another World's Biggest Asshole today, Iowa Congressman Steve King who we remember as the one who claimed that for every valedictorian among the Dreamers, there are 100 who have calves the size of cantaloupes from smuggling marijuana across the border. Yeah, that guy. He's back...

During a conference call last month with the National Emergency Coalition, Rep. Steve King said that the U.S. needs to crack down on immigration because our nation’s borders were established by God. Disrespecting the borders, the congressman suggested, is disrespecting God’s will.

He also blamed the child migrant crisis not on drug-war-related violence in Central America but on President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, or as he calls it, “deferred action for criminal aliens.”

- via

As if that wasn't enough, he went of Fox "news" Sunday to threaten impeachment if President Obama dares to issue another Executive Order dealing with the issue of immigration:

How we've managed to survive this long is beyond me!

A big show is on tap for tomorrow, with Congressman Alan Grayson joining in at the beginning of the show (so get here at 10ET sharp!), and @GottaLaff in hour two.. Radio or Not!

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Why aren't we talking about a Wall St. transaction tax and much, much more? Hmm?

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Down With Tyranny made some excellent points in a post titled Beyond The Phony Battle Over The Bush Tax Cuts. I wish more people would push these points. Please read the entire post (bolding is mine), and then share it with everyone you can:

[I]t occurred to me that "our" side was fighting on a battlefield chosen precisely by our mortal enemies. Republicans should be begging Obama to not raise the margin tax rates to Eisenhower era rates-- when top earners paid 91% on the millions they made and the whole concept of sociopathic-criminal plutocracy was a structural impossibility in America. Instead, we're being prepared for Democrats bartering away pieces of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in return for... for what? The temporary Bush tax cuts that are due to expire on December 31 anyway?

Why isn't the national discussion about hiking the estate tax? Why isn't it about ending the cap on the Social Security tax and on really growth-positive moves like lowering the age of retirement and expanding Medicare so that everyone is in the pool? Why isn't the discussion about taxing all income equally, both what people make from working and what they get from clipping coupons? How about that Wall Street transaction tax and a tax to make hedge fund predators pay their fair share like everyone else? 

Why indeed. Where exactly is that discussion? Because it's more important than most of the Very Important jargony, babbly, redundant debate we see from the same old Very Important jargony, babbly, redundant political commentators. Why are we not regularly engaging and exploring proposals like these, instead of hearing the usual tax cuts/Medicare eligibility talking points repeated ad nauseam?

And for more on the Fiscal BS Pile, here's Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin:

The Republicans are stuck proposing unpopular cuts to achieve their made-for-the-rich austerity.

Hypothetically, once all the tax cuts expire and the Democratic Senate were to vote out a bill restoring the savings to the middle class but not the wealthy, Boehner and his Barbary Pirates are going to have to suck lemons and vote for it [...]

As for the so-called "deficit reduction," let it be the burden of those who ran up the deficit under Bush after Clinton left the Republicans a balanced budget in 2001; let it be their proposals as to what would be cut.  Because the truth is it would finally provide the lie to their claims of an indulgent government budget; they'd have to cut the earned benefits of seniors, veterans, the disabled, education, health and other programs that are vital to most Americans. They'd clip the US government down to the size of a Bonzai Tree, except for the military-industrial complex and subsidies for corporations and research that gives free technological and biomedical patents to businesses developed at taxpayer expense. [...]

And there's one final fact to remember: US voters elected a Democratic president,  a Democratic Senate, and by more than a half a million votes preferred a Democratic House.

The only reason that the House is still Republican is due to gerrymandering after the 2010 election.  It's perfectly legal, but the 2012 vote count showed that the majority of Americans preferred a Democratic House and the policies articulated by President Obama.

More at the link.

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