GILAD ATZMON: ‘I HAVE A REPUTATION FOR BEING A SUICIDAL ACTIVIST’

December 14, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Tim King Salem-News.com

Gilad Atzmon

Frank Talk About Israel from one who knows… Includes footage from Gilad’s recent talk in Germany.

(SALEM / STUTTGART) – Born in Israel; Gilad Atzmon is the musical note from a song of peace that binds our solidarity and builds strength for the freedom of Palestine. I wish I could say the same for more people born in Israel.

I often tell people that the strongest voices in the struggle to free Palestine come from our Jewish brothers and sisters who remain absolutely steadfast in their belief that at the end of the day, we are all exactly the same as human beings. To be clear, Gilad is no longer Jewish; but the point remains.

Most men would be happy to overflow with musical talent the way Gilad does, but these days music is his tool for world peace; more so than an ultimate goal. His stunning career as a musician, particularly as an alto sax player, spans a list of notoriety. Gilad has worked with Ian Dury, Robbie Williams, Sinead O’Connor, Paul McCartney and many others. Today, along with Eddie Hick on Drums, Yaron Stavi and Frank Harrison, Gilad is a member of the Orient House Ensemble.

That would indeed be a life’s journey for most, but Gilad’s real measurable passion is with the Palestinian people and his goal is their restoration. Like all activists in this regard, Gilad has his critics; though there is not a soul in the ranks of the dedicated who do not admire him.

During a recent talk in Stuttgart, Germany, Gilad made points that perhaps were shocking, but consistent with the reality of the history of Palestine and Israel.

Americans, Canadians and Britons have long had a role in the story that leads to the current quagmire in Palestine. Biblical scripture is the excuse for Israel having taken over the land in the first place. Gilad explains, “It was quite a nice idea, but it comes at the expense of other people you know?”

What began as a realistic idea, the Jewish return to the homeland; has become a nightmare that impacts the Palestinian people, and in effect the whole world.

Those attending the meeting in Stuttgart, heard Gilad’s explanation of how the Israeli people are not necessarily interested in world peace, but a peace that affects the Jewish population. He says, contrary to what I have written in the past, that the word ‘shalom’ does not mean peace. He says its real meaning is “security for the Jewish people”.

“Just because the notion of loving your neighbor is foreign to this culture, this is why Christ is such an interesting revelation. Let’s accept the fact that we are all brothers and sisters.”

This is not a universal thought in Israel, he says.

But some people in Israel are extremely helpful; in fact an Israeli governmental official recently leaked the names of 200 Israeli war criminals to the press; Salem-News.com, along with Gilad, were among the first to publish it. In fact Gilad’s Website was the first. (see: Israeli Military War Crime Suspects Revealed – Salem-News.com)

Gilad explains, “A few days ago a very brave Israeli has managed to leak at least 200 Israeli war criminals. For some reason, I don’t know what reason, in the Israeli press it came out. They blame me for being the person, I would be very proud to, but it wasn’t me, I don’t live in Israel. If there was a question about identity, I would identify myself as an English speaking Palestinian.”

In fact it took no act from any activist, as the list was absolutely sent out by an Israeli. Gilad’s humorous quote, “I have a reputation for being a suicidal activist”- is not literal; it is a reflection of the dangers that follow people who openly speak the truth about, among other things, genuine state sponsored terrorism.

When it comes to the simple measurement of right versus wrong; good versus evil- it is rare that a war criminal would earn the better favor from God or any moral source. For beating the drum of Israeli resistance, and naming those who are suspect of having committed heinous crimes against human beings, people like Gilad, our comrade Ken O’Keefe, and so many others are vilified by the Israeli influenced press.

Here is what the Israeli who submitted the 200 names had to say about it:

“Underlining the following people is an act of retribution and affront. They are the direct perpetrators, agents for the state of Israel that in Dec.- Jan. 2008- 2009 attacked scores of people in the besieged Gaza. The people listed here held positions of command at the time of the attack therefore not only did they perform on behalf of a murderous state mechanism but actively encouraged other people to do the same. They bear a distinctive personal responsibility. They range from low-level field commanders to the highest echelons of the Israeli army. All took an active and direct role in the offensive.

In underlining them we are purposefully directing attention to individuals rather than the static structures through which they operate. We are aligning people with actions. It is to these persons and others, Like them, to which we must object and bring our plaints to bear upon.

This information was pirated. We encourage people to seek out other such similar information, it is readily available in the public sphere and inside public officials’ locked cabinets. This is a form of resistance that can be effectively sustained for a long while.

This project for one, has only just begun, do your bit so that this virtual list may come to bear upon the physical. Disseminate widely.

The upshot to all of this, is Israel’s reaction. For some reason, moral democratic countries in this day and age are just not good with this level of responsibility.

Of course in Cambodia, former members of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime are very leery of foreign western people, who may or may not be related to the war crimes tribunals. Are the Israelis scared? No, they are pissed that the information was leaked.

“I was quite shocked because they were only interested to find the whistleblower, the one who leaked,” Gilad said to the group in Germany.

“And I said, listen, ‘you have 200 war criminals; a party leaked from your ministry of defense or attorney general, and you are concerned with the person… actually the person who did it, did the best thing for Israel. They tried to explain to the next generation of Israeli combatants, that there will be a clear price there will be consequences for non ethical or war crimes.”

And there will no doubt, be a different future for Israel, because people are really sick of the idea of religious extremists having such reign in this modern world.

“But I then realized a very very important concept that we can deliver to the Israelis. It is very simple. We already had a comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany. I really don’t like this comparison because I think Israel is far worse than Nazi Germany. Why? Because Israel is a democracy; Nazi Germany was not a democracy. The Germans had zero responsibility for acts that were committed by Nazi’s. Only people who were directly perpetrating the crimes, or were politically leading it, were responsible. In Israel, it’s a democracy and every citizen is complicit, as much as I am complicit for the tragedies in Iraq, as a British citizen.”

The one human quality Gilad Atzmon clearly possesses, is the ability to see a bigger picture. Perhaps it really is not more complicated than that. There are unacceptable levels of human pain and suffering taking place, and the needs of people according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, are not being met. Until people are allowed to live with at least a degree of humanity, they will resist and revolt and yes, they will kill. Political reconciliation is mandatory from Israel and even then it is going to take a long time. The only people who can forgive Israel for what has happened; a nightmare based on Biblical prophesy, are the Palestinians themselves.

Even if we are all Palestinians in our hearts.

Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com’s Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation’s only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 65 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can send Tim an email at this address: n[email protected]


Intifada Palestine

Incoming Education Chairman On Regulating Higher Education Profiteers: ‘I Don’t Think So’

December 13, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Rep. John Kline (R-MN)

One of the Obama administration’s higher education initiatives has been to take a hard look at for-profit colleges like Strayer University and the University of Phoenix. This scrutiny is well-founded, as for-profit colleges are taking in a growing number of students and an ever increasing amount of federal student aid, while also accounting for a disproportionate amount of student loan defaults.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) — who chairs the Senate Education Committee — has said that he is going to try and implement stricter regulations against these schools. But the incoming GOP chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), told Reuters that “he would oppose such an effort”:

“I would push back really hard against a bill that might come out of Chairman Harkin’s committee.” Asked if such a bill could succeed, Kline said: “I don’t think so.”

For a sense of what kind of an industry Kline is protecting, consider that, currently, “eleven percent of all higher-education students are enrolled in for-profits, but they receive 26 percent of federal student loans and account for 43 percent of defaulters.” The graduation rate for first-time, full-time candidates at for-profit colleges is 22 percent; it’s 55 percent at state colleges and 65 percent at private non-profit universities.

As McClatchy reported, for-profit schools have been accused of “recruiting students with inflated promises, fudging financial-aid applications and leaving graduates with crushing debt and bleak job prospects.” According to the Pew Research Center, “one-quarter (24%) of 2008 bachelor’s degree graduates at for-profit schools borrowed more than $ 40,000, compared with 5% of graduates at public institutions and 14% at not-for-profit schools.”

Not only are some for-profit colleges leaving students crippled with debt and unemployed, but they’re doing it while lining their executives’ pockets with taxpayer dollars. Harkin put together a report finding that for-profit colleges even scammed $ 521 million from the U.S. taxpayer “by recruiting armed-services members and veterans through misleading marketing.”

For the record, before he’s even picked up the Education and Labor Committee gavel, Kline has expressed a desire to deny unemployed workers jobless benefits, punt on new mine safety regulations, and cut student loans. Ignoring abuses in the for-profit college industry would just be icing on the cake.

Wonk Room

Boehner: ‘I Reject The Word’ Compromise

December 13, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

During an interview with incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) last night on 60 Minutes, host Leslie Stahl noted that President Obama has said Boehner will “have a responsibility to govern” as Speaker. “You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower,” Obama said. “We have to govern. That’s what we were elected to do,” Boehner told Stahl, adding that it won’t involve compromising, but instead finding “common ground”:

STAHL: But governing means compromising.

BOEHNER: It means working together.

STAHL: It also means compromising.

BOEHNER: It means finding common ground.

STAHL: Okay, is that compromising?

BOEHNER: I made it clear I am not going to compromise on my principles, nor am I going to compromise the will of the American people.

STAHL: What are you saying? You’re saying, “I want common ground, but I’m not gonna compromise.” I don’t understand that. I really don’t.

BOEHNER: When you say the word “compromise,” a lot of Americans look up and go, “Uh oh, they’re gonna sell me out.” And so finding common ground, I think, makes more sense.

Stahl noted that Boehner compromised his position on the Bush tax cuts to get a deal with Obama last week, noting that he had wanted the all the Bush-era tax cuts extended permanently but only got a two-year extension. Boehner again said it wasn’t a compromise. “Why won’t you say you’re afraid of the word,” Stahl asked. “I reject the word,” Boehner said. Watch it:

On MSNBC this morning, Joe Scarborough explained, “John Boehner right now is running the heard over…80 plus new members. And he can’t run around saying the word ‘compromise’ because they’ll get skittish.”

ThinkProgress

McCain Flashback: ‘I Would Clearly Support Not Extending [Bush] Tax Cuts In Order To Help Address The Deficit’

December 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

This afternoon on Fox News, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Congress should vote to pass the tax cuts deal negotiated between President Obama and congressional Republicans. “We have sent the message that we will not increase people’s taxes,” McCain said.

During the interview, McCain took a moment to mock Obama for backtracking on the Bush tax cuts for the rich:

McCAIN: I guess it was my old beloved friend Morris Udall who said the politician’s prayer is — may the words I utter today be tender and sweet because tomorrow I may have to eat them. We’re seeing clips all over the place — “We can’t extend these tax cuts for the rich,” “it’s the rich people” — you know, all of the clips of the President.

He got a good laugh out of Obama’s predicament of dealing with the GOP “hostage takers.” Watch it:

While it is certainly true that Obama has acquiesced on his principled stand against doling out unnecessary tax cuts to the rich, he’s not the only one. In fact, John McCain was once a crusader against the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

In 2008, of course, McCain ran on an agenda of rewarding the wealthiest Americans with a huge tax cut. But, the “maverick” McCain of early 2000s was an articulate and eloquent messenger against handing out more taxes for the rich:

“There’s one big difference between me and the others – I won’t take every last dime of the surplus and spend it on tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy.” [McCain campaign commercial, January 2000]

“I am disappointed that the Senate Finance Committee preferred instead to cut the top tax rate of 39.6% to 36%, thereby granting generous tax relief to the wealthiest individuals of our country at the expense of lower- and middle-income American taxpayers.” [McCain Senate floor statement, May 21, 01]

“I voted against the tax cuts because of the disproportional amount that went to the wealthiest Americans. I would clearly support not extending those tax cuts in order to help address the deficit.” [Meet the Press, 4/11/04]

ThinkProgress

Kasich: ‘I Don’t Favor The Right To Strike Of Any Public Employee’

December 10, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

After securing electoral victory this November, Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich quickly cast off many campaign-friendly principles to suit his preferred governing style. But his penchant for power consolidation took a remarkable turn yesterday when he unveiled his “personal philosophy” of contempt for worker’s rights at a press conference. Incensed over police and firefighter unions’ ability to call in a neutral arbiter to resolve any labor disputes, Kasich told the Youngstown Vindicator’s Marc Kovak that he’d love to eliminate that policy, known as binding arbitration, and fire any police or firefighter who wants to strike:

KASICH: You think these local governments want to be stuck with binding arbitration? I’m serious…Our local governments don’t want that, it drives up the cost. So we’re looking for ways to mitigate any of the reductions in dollars that people get, you know, how do we make it easier for them to be able to cope with it?

QUESTION: On that last point, wasn’t binding arbitration adopted as a way to eliminate the possibility of public safety forces striking?

KASICH: Right, if they want to strike, they should be fired. You should not allow, look, you should have a change in the law…there are ways to say that you are not going to strike, and we’re going to continue negotiations without a binding arbitrator…Binding arbitration is not acceptable.[…]

QUESTION: Just to make sure I’m clear, you do not think police and fire emergency services should have the right to strike?

KASICH: I don’t favor the right to strike of any public employee, ok? That’s my personal philosophy. How practical that is to implement, uh you know, but my personal philosophy is I don’t like public employees striking. I mean, they’ve got good jobs, high pay, good benefits, a great retirement, what are they striking for?

Watch it:

Kasich’s “personal philosophy” displays a remarkable dismissal of both freedom and fact. Workers strike as a last resort to eliminate inequalities in bargaining power and address problems including unsafe working conditions, unfair wages, and benefits. Ohio safety forces, however, are prohibited from doing so. Because “unstable” labor relations between safety workers and the city spurred “constant strikes,” Ohio passed a collective bargaining law in 1983 that prohibited public safety workers from striking. But, to ensure workers still had an option, Ohio replaced the right to strike with a binding arbitration policy. So, not only would Kasich like to fire any police officer or firefighter for a right they are not given, he wants to eliminate the only remaining tool they have as a viable alternative.

In defending his dictatorial philosophy, Kasich flags the “cost” such contractually-obligated rights level on local governments. A peculiar defense given that Kasich is hell-bent on dismantling Ohio’s economy before he even takes office. In pledging to kill Ohio’s high-speed rail project, he single-handedly drove away $ 400 million in federal funds from the state. His plan to scrap an education funding formula for Ohio’s school may also very well cost Ohio another narrowly-won $ 400 million in “Race to the Top” federal funds. If that’s not enough, Kasich’s plan to eliminate both Ohio’s income tax — nearly half the state’s revenue — would cost about $ 8.3 billion next year alone. Add another $ 288.5 million for his apparent plans to eliminate Ohio’s estate tax and Kasich is looking to more than double Ohio’s $ 8 billion deficit.

But still, according to Kasich’s personal philosophy, it’s the unions that are the problem. (HT: Plunderbund)

ThinkProgress

Pryor Announces Support For Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: ‘I Accept The Pentagon’s Recommendations’

December 8, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

This morning, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) — who told a local newspaper last month that he considered homosexuality a “sin”released a statement saying that he accepted the military’s recommendations on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and would move to vote to the measure in the lame duck session of the Senate. From his statement:

On many previous occasions, I have said that I would oppose repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell until I had heard from our servicemen and women regarding this policy. I have now carefully reviewed all of the findings, reports, and testimony from our armed forces on this matter and I accept the Pentagon’s recommendations to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I also accept the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ commitment that this policy can be implemented in a manner that does not harm our military’s readiness, recruitment, or retention. We have the strongest military in the world and we will continue to do so by ensuring our troops have the resources necessary to carry out their missions. Therefore, I support the 2011 Defense Authorization Act that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee and will support procedural measures to bring it to a vote this year.

With Pryor’s commitment, the only Democratic vote that’s still in contention is that of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who has expressed concern about overturning the policy during a time of war and, as of this writing, remains “undecided” on how to vote. If he is ultimately willing to vote on cloture, Democrats would need just two Republicans to proceed to the measure. With Sens. Brown’s, Collins’ and possibly Lugar’s support, it’s very likely that they will have more than 60 votes for the NDAA.

But it remains to be seen if Democrats will have enough time to debate the measure and if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is willing to keep the Senate in session past Christmas to ensure a “fair” process that will bring more Republicans on board. Earlier this morning, Reid took to the floor to announce that he’s “likely” to bring up the NDAA “this evening”:

REID: And I’m likely going to move to my motion to reconsider on the defense authorization act this evening. Allowing, as I will indicate at that time, time for amendments to that piece of legislation.

Watch it:

Wonk Room

Lieberman: ‘I Don’t Understand’ Why The Department Of Justice Hasn’t Charged Australian Assange With Treason

December 7, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

This past weekend, the whistleblower website WikiLeaks began leaking hundreds of diplomatic cables sent by U.S. embassies and diplomatic staff across the world. The cables contain all sorts of information, from gossip from embassy staff poking fun at world leaders to details of high-level meetings between world leaders to revelations of sensitive national security sites.

Since the release of the cables, numerous pundits and politicians have called for the prosecution of WikiLeaks and related media outlets for publishing the leaked cables. Conservative commentator Bill Kristol even called for assassinating WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

This afternoon, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) appeared on Fox News to discuss WikiLeaks and other political topics of the day. At one point, the Fox News anchor asked Lieberman what he thinks “of the Justice Department’s actions so far not to charge Julian Assange with treason.” Lieberman responded by saying he doesn’t “understand why that hasn’t happened yet”:

ANCHOR: What do you think of the Justice Department’s actions so far to not charge Julian Assange with treason?

LIEBERMAN: I don’t understand why that hasn’t happened yet. We can go back to the earlier dump of classified documents mostly related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that occured in July, and to me that was a violation of espionage as well.

Watch it:

While the Justice Department and other government agencies are apparently searching for ways to bring criminal charges against WikiLeaks and those who leaked information to them, it is easy to understand why they have not brought charges of treason against Assange. For one, he isn’t American. The doctrine of treason within U.S. law applies to people who have allegiance to the U.S. government, meaning U.S. citizens — they can be charged with treason for betraying their country. Julian Assange currently holds citizenship with the government of Australia and has never even been a U.S. resident, meaning that he cannot be charged with treason against the U.S. government.

Although there have been numerous calls from public officials for prosecuting WikiLeaks, it has also earned praise from a handful of policymakers. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) said that the leaks help us “draw some important conclusions” about U.S. foreign policy, earning him the label “Al Qaeda’s Favorite Member of Congress” from a Redstate blogger. And Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) said that it “doesn’t make sense” to try to criminalize WikiLeaks or other whistleblowing organizations.

On Fox, Lieberman also said that the New York Times “has committed at least an act of, at best, bad citizenship, but whether they have committed a crime is a matter of discussion for the Justice Department.”

ThinkProgress

Kyl Repeatedly Corrects Schieffer: No Tax ‘Cuts’ for Rich, Just Extending Existing Rates; Schieffer: ‘I Gotcha’

December 5, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Republican Senate whip Jon Kyl kept correcting host Bob Schieffer about how extending tax “rates,” not “cuts,” is what is being debated, leading Schieffer to conceded “I gotcha” and even prompted Schieffer to let Kyl fill in for him the correct term. Schieffer: “Are the votes there now in the Senate, in your opinion, to extend these tax ah-“ Kyl: “Rates.”

Schieffer had asked: “Is the Senate going to get down to business and resolve this whole business of the tax cuts?” Kyl chastised: “Nobody is talking about tax cuts. We're talking about extending the rates that have been in existence for the last decade.” Nonetheless, Schieffer stuck with his terminology: “Why is it so important to Republicans to extend the tax cuts for the upper-income people?”

Democratic Senate whip Dick Durbin matched Schieffer’s framing: “I'm not voting for any permanent tax cut for the people of the highest income categories” and Kyl felt compelled to again correct Schieffer and Durbin: “First of all we're not talking about tax cuts.” Schieffer interjected “I gotcha” as Kyl continued: “We're talking about extending, for another period of time, the rates that have been in existence for the last decade.”

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NewsBusters.org – Exposing Liberal Media Bias

‘John McWeasel’ Tells 9/11 First Responder That ‘I Can’t Help You’

December 5, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that, this coming week, he will bring a 9/11 first responders bill up for a vote. The bill, which has been passed by the House, would provide $ 7.4 billion in medical treatment and lost wages for workers who were sickened and injured by their service at Ground Zero.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) office indicated that the chances for invoking cloture (ie, getting 60 votes to overcome a filibuster) hinge on getting more Republican support. “We still need one more Republican to come on board,” said a Gillibrand spokesman.

With that hurdle in mind, tow truck driver T.J. Gilmartin, “who hauled ruined FDNY vehicles away from Ground Zero and now suffers from breathing problems, headed to Washington this week to lobby” for the 9/11 health bill. Gilmartin described this rude and depressing encounter he had with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):

“I thought I could talk to him. I mean, he’s a real hero, not like us. We’re just little half heroes.

“Our country took care of him when he came back. He was a POW. I respect that.

“I wasn’t stalking him or anything, but then I saw him in a hallway going to an elevator near the rotunda.

“It was a floor up from where they have the badges.

“I stepped in front of him, and I was very respectful. I told him who I was and I asked for his help on the Zadroga bill.

“It lasted maybe 10 or 15 seconds.

“He said ‘Thank you for your service.’

“And ‘I can’t help you.’

“Then, bang, he stepped around me and onto the elevator.

“If his eyes were daggers, I’d be dead. They’d all be in my heart.

“John McCain was pathetic. I would have thought more of him.”

McCain’s “pathetic” attitude towards a 9/11 first responder earned him this cover headline from the New York Daily News yesterday:

ThinkProgress

Words I Don’t Say Very Often: ‘I Applaud Senate Republicans’

December 5, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Much to my surprise, Senate Republicans held firm yesterday and blocked President Obama’s soak-the-rich proposal to raise tax rates next year on investors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

I fully expected that GOPers would fold on this issue several months ago because Democrats were using the class-warfare argument that Republicans were holding the middle class hostage in order to protect “millionaires and billionaires.” Republicans usually have a hard time fighting back against such demagoguery, and I was especially pessimistic since Republican Senators had to stay united to block Senate Democrats from pushing through Obama’s plan for higher tax rates on the so-called rich.

But the GOP surprised me earlier this year with their united opposition to higher taxes, and they stayed strong again yesterday in blocking a bill that would raise tax rates on upper-income taxpayers. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times.

Republicans voted unanimously against the House-passed bill, and they were joined by four Democrats — Senators Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Jim Webb of Virginia — as well as by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut. “You don’t raise taxes if your ultimate goal, if the main thing is to create jobs,” said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, echoing an argument made repeatedly by his colleagues during the floor debate. The Senate on Saturday also rejected an alternative proposal, championed by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, to raise the threshold at which the tax breaks would expire to $ 1 million. Some Democrats said that the Republicans’ opposition to that plan showed them to be siding with “millionaires and billionaires” over the middle class.

Not only did GOPers stand firm, but they were joined by five other Senators (including four that have to face the voters in 2012). This presumably means Democrats will now have to compromise and agree to a plan to extend all of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.

At the risk of being a Pollyanna, I wonder if the politics of hate and envy is falling out of fashion.

Obama’s plan for higher tax rates hopefully is now dead, but that’s just one positive indicator. It’s also interesting that both of the big “deficit reduction” plans recently unveiled, the President’s Fiscal Commission and the Domenici-Rivlin Debt Reduction Task Force Report, endorsed lower marginal tax rates – including lower tax rates for those evil rich people. Both proposals also included lots of tax increases, so the overall tax burden would be significantly higher under both plans, but it is remarkable that the beltway insiders who dominated the two panels understood the destructive impact of class-warfare tax rates. Maybe they watched this video.


Big Government

Rep. Jim Jordan: ‘I Don’t Know If I’d Be Willing’ To Extend Tax Cuts For 95 Percent, Even With Cuts For Rich

December 3, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

As Congress considers extending the Bush tax cuts, Republicans have made it explicitly clear that they are prepared to go to the mat to extend the cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Now, White House officials are floating the possibility of including an extension of the so-called “Obama tax cuts” — middle-class cuts included in the economics stimulus package — as part of any larger tax deal. These cuts, such as The Making Work Pay tax credit, which reduced payroll taxes on 95 percent of working families, will expire in January unless Congress acts.

Asked about this potential deal yesterday by Fox News host Neil Cavuto, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who sits on the Budget Committee, suggested that congressional Republicans would not be willing to extend these middle-class tax cuts — which he called “much less effective” — even if the Bush cuts for rich are also extended:

CAVUTO: I know that extending it for everyone. But even if it included this provision that the White House, I guess, is now pushing?

JORDAN: Oh, the Making Work Pay and the tax credit? I think those are not near as effective, but I’d be willing to look for that if we keep all the Bush tax cuts in place

CAVUTO: So that’s what they just did. I think they offered you a negotiating point. And you would be willing to take it?

JORDAN: I have not seen that. Well, I don’t know if I would be willing to take it. I’d be willing to look at it.

Watch it:

Congressional Republicans have already been holding hostage the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $ 250,000 a year, threatening to let all Americans’ taxes go up if the cuts for wealthiest two percent are not extended as well. Yesterday, “Republicans were furious” that the House passed an extension of just the Bush cuts for the middle class, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has threatened to filibuster a similar bill in the Senate.

But Jordan’s comments yesterday bring the GOP’s brinkmanship in defense of the rich to a new level. The Making Work Pay credit boosted paychecks for 110 million families and were “designed exclusively as a middle-class benefit.” These cuts only applied to payroll taxes, meaning people had be employed and earning a living to enjoy them. Yet these too will apparently be taken hostage so the rich can get their share.

And Jordan is wrong in suggesting these cuts were “not near as effective” as the Bush tax cuts for the rich. As the Center for American Progress’ Michael Ettlinger noted, the Bush tax cuts simply “didn’t deliver” on their promise to stimulate the economy. “The economy did not add a single new job during three years under the Bush tax cuts.” However, as Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Chuck Marr explained about the Obama tax cuts, “Most people may have no idea they received it and no idea that it’s going away. But what you can be certain of is that they’ll have less money and they’ll spend less — and this is a terrible time for the economy to lose $ 60 billion of spending.”

ThinkProgress

Navy Chief Praises Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Report: ‘I Think The Work That Has Been Done Is Extraordinary’

November 22, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In May, Adm. Gary Roughead — the chief of naval operations — sent a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) registering his support for Don’t Ask, Dont’ Tell and his opposition to moving ahead with repeal. “My concern is that legislative changes at this point, regardless of the precise language used, may cause confusion on the status of the law in the Fleet and disrupt the review process itself by leading Sailors to question whether their input matters,” Roughead wrote.

McCain frequently cited Roughead’s opposition and that of the the other service chiefs to slow down the legislative repeal process. But now, after seeing a draft of the report, Roughead is publicly breaking with McCain and praising the Pentagon’s review of the policy:

I think the survey, without question, was the most expansive survey of the American military that’s ever been undertaken,” Roughead said during an interview Saturday aboard his plane. “I think the work that has been done is extraordinary.” […]

“I’ve done a review [of the report] and now I’m just trying to put it all in context,” he said. …But he added that the decision on whether to change the law is ultimately rests with Congress. “I’m eager to see where it goes on the Hill,” said Roughead, who previously served as head of the Navy’s legislative liaison operation.

Roughead’s description of the policy echoes the words of Army Gen. Carter F. Ham — the co-chairman of the Pentagon’s Working Group on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — who told Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) last week that the study is, in fact, “the most comprehensive assessment of a personnel policy matter that the Department of Defense has conducted.”

But that’s still unlikely to sway McCain, who has insisted that the Department of Defense conduct an entirely new study on “the effects on morale and battle effectiveness.” McCain made this claim during a recent appearance on Meet The Press, despite the fact that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ specifically asked this review to “assess and consider the impacts, if any, a change in the law would have on military readiness, military effectiveness and unit cohesion, and how to best manage such impacts during implementation.”

Yesterday, Gates has announced that he will move-up the release of the study from December 1 to November 30th, to allow Congress more time to review the report and possibly move to repeal the policy in the lame duck session. “[I]f this law is going to change, it’s better that it be changed by legislation than it simply be struck down — rather than have it struck down by the courts with the potential for us having to implement it immediately,” Gates said today at roundtable with reporters in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Wonk Room

Murkowski To Alaska TV: ‘I Would Not Oppose The Defense Authorization Bill Because Of DADT,’ But Then Tells CNN She Doesn’t Know How Bill Will Be ‘Presented’

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

This afternoon, during an interview with KTVA’s Matt Felling, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said that she would not oppose repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell “as long as as long as it is supported by the troops as long as it doesn’t hurt the performance, the morale, the recruitment”:

MURKOWSKI: I have said that I would work to make sure that as long as it is supported by the troops as long as it doesn’t hurt the performance, the morale, the recruitment, that these are all things we want to take into consideration. I think we will see this play out in this report. If in fact, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is included in the defense authorization and we get to a point where we can move that bill through, I would not oppose the Defense Authorization Bill because Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell — the repeal of it — is included within it.

Watch it:

Murkowski went on to say that the country was at “different point in time.” “There is clearly a level of acceptance within our communities, at all levels, of supporting and providing for that level of equality for the homosexual community and I think it’s important to recognize that,” she added.

Interestingly, hours after taping this interview (sometime before 4pm EST), Murkowski appeared on CNN’s The Situation Room (after 6pm EST) and suggested that she didn’t know how she would vote on the issue, possibly hinting that her vote would depend on an open amendment process. “I don’t know how it is going to be presented in the upcoming lame duck in terms of that defense authorization bill, and whether or not we will get to that,” she said. “It is indeterminate at this point in time.” Watch it:

Wonk Room

Allen West On Whether Congress Should Be Looking At Defense Spending Cuts: ‘I Think You Have To’

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

ThinkProgress has been documenting a growing number of Republican members of Congress and newly incoming freshmen who are calling on Congress to reduce defense spending as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce the debt and deficit. Joining Democratic senators who have long called for defense cuts, this Tea Party-progressive coalition is coming together to take on America’s bloated defense budget — which is larger than the 2008 GDP of 116 countries and in 2009 was more than the combined defense expenditures of the next 17 countries. Today on ABC’s Top Line, Tea Party-backed incoming GOP congressman Allen West — a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel — appeared to saddle up with this coalition:

WEST: We’ve lost focus on the enemy and we’ve gotten too far focused on nation building and that is one of the critical things I want to look at.

RICK KLEIN: So should we be cutting from the defense budget? Should we be looking for cuts in defense?

WEST: I think you have to. I think that nothing can be sacrosanct but I think that it’s so important that you have people that have a defense background and understand the situation on the ground to make sure that the cuts that we’re doing are the right and proper cuts and that we’re supporting our men and women that are out there on the front line.

Watch it:

ThinkProgress

Kim Phuc’s Odyssey: ‘I Dream One Day People . . . Can Live In Real Peace’

November 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 


I had the privilege of covering a good many big stories during a long newspaper career. The visit of a diminutive woman by the name of Phan Ti Kim Phuc to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day 1996 would seem to pale in comparison to the Clinton impeachment circus or O.J. Simpson trials, to name two of the biggies, but it is one that I cherish.

I had been tipped that Ms. Phuc would be making a surprise appearance at the memorial during the annual Veterans Day ceremonies. Following is the story that I wrote for the Philadelphia Daily News about this event, which for me and many other people at The Wall that day completed a circle that had been broken for many, many years:

By SHAUN D. MULLEN
Daily News Staff Writer

Phan Thi Kim Phuc will always be the Girl in the Photograph.

Nine years old when her South Vietnamese village was bombed in 1972, she was photographed fleeing down Highway One from the ferocious napalm attack, the clothes burned off her reed-thin body, arms outstretched and face contorted into a silent, agonizing scream.

The powerful Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph seemed to represent all that had gone horribly wrong for the United States in Vietnam. Some say it hastened the end of the war.

Yesterday, after a remarkable personal odyssey, 32-year-old Kim Phuc (pronounced kim fook) stood before the long black slash that is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and laid a wreath in memory of the 58,212 fallen American men and women whose names are inscribed on the sweeping granite wall.

Several thousand people, many of them former veterans in faded fatigues, looked on from the sweeping lawn below the Lincoln Memorial. Many had tears in their eyes. Some wept. The war was already all but lost on the day 24 years ago that an American commander ordered South Vietnamese Air Force planes to drop napalm on a Buddhist temple in the village of Trang Bang near Saigon.

Kim Phuc had crowded into the temple with other villagers thinking they’d be safe. The napalm attack burned her arms and shoulders to the bone. Her two younger brothers died instantly.

Bundled in a long coat against the autumn chill, Kim Phuc said yesterday that despite everything, she feels no anger.

“I do not want to talk about the war,” she said, almost apologetically, before she and a retired Air Force colonel, a POW for six years after his fighter plane was shot down, carried a large wreath to the wall.

“I cannot change history,” she explained in English. “Even if I could talk face-to-face with the pilot who dropped the bomb, we could not change history. ”

Many in the crowd were surprised when she was introduced. The program for the Veterans Day ceremony had been printed before she decided to come.

Her appearance was a measure of the extent to which Americans have come to terms with a war that divided them. It does not seem likely Kim Phuc would have felt welcome, let alone be a guest of honor who received a sustained ovation, at a Veterans Day ceremony 10 or 15 years ago.

The first major national catharsis toward reconciling the Vietnam tragedy was construction of the memorial itself. Many others have popped up in Philadelphia and elsewhere as Viet vets gained a measure of respect initially denied many of them, and their fallen comrades came to be viewed as heroes no matter how wrong the war may have seemed to many Americans.

The Washington memorial, dedicated in 1982 after a firestorm of controversy over its starkly simple design and intentional lack of overtly military images, is now the most visited memorial in the nation’s capital.

Finally, in 1995, 20 years after the war officially ended with the rooftop helicopter evacuation of diplomats from the American embassy in Saigon, the United States formally recognized the Communist Vietnamese government.

Despite two decades of anguish, guilt and bitterness and a president who had dodged the draft and protested the war, there was remarkably little political fallout. But reactions between the former adversaries have warmed slowly. The Hanoi government may still not have divulged all it knows about the fate of more than 2,000 Americans listed as missing, and members of MIA/POW groups were present yesterday to make sure that was not forgotten. Recently, Washington’s interest in cultivating Vietnam as a trading partner has gotten the most attention. But American Viet vet groups have worked quietly and largely behind the scenes for rapproachement through contacts with former foes and Vietnamese allies.

It was through the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation, which has worked to find and remove landmines and provide prosthetics for Vietnamese amputees, that arrangements were made for Kim Phuc to travel from Canada for the ceremony.

How she got from Trang Bang to Toronto is a story in itself. Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, who won the Pulitzer for his photo, and British television cameraman Alan Downes, who shot less well-known film footage of Kim Phuc that day, saved her life by rushing her to a military hospital.

After the Americans fled in defeat in 1975, she became a propaganda tool for the Communist regime, her burn scars a vivid reminder of the war to be shown to visiting foreign dignitaries along with downed fighter jets and captured artillery pieces.

Kim Phuc says she wanted to go to medical school when she grew older, but was relegated to a secretarial job at a provincial government office. She eventually received permission to attend college at the University of Havana. During six years of study and continuing therapy for her burns, she says she found Jesus, converted to Christianity, and met her future husband, a fellow Vietnamese.

Following a trip home, their plane stopped in Toronto. They defected and received asylum.

She told National Public Radio that while she had wanted to live in the United States, she felt the Vietnamese community here was too fractious politically, and was concerned she again would become a pawn.

The cosmopolitan Canadian city, with its large Asian community, seemed a better choice, and today she lives with her husband and their 2 1/2-year-old-son. But Kim Phuc keeps being reminded of her past.

She was invited to visit Los Angeles earlier this year for an exhibit of historic photographs, including Ut’s famous shot. After numerous requests from journalists, she relented and allowed a Canadian documentary crew to film her life.

There is another reminder of who she is: The hideous scars from the crude battlefield surgery on her burns. She dreams in vain of being able to wear sleeveless shirts and dresses without feeling self conscious. And the scars, she said, are especially painful during the cold Toronto winters.

Kim Phuc has another dream, too, she explained, and you know she means it:

“I dream one day people all over the world can live in real peace.”


The Moderate Voice

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