Saturday, March 19, 2011

Let's hear some music!!!

Status of the Nuclear Reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant

None of the six reactors at the plant have operated since the earthquake. But explosions have damaged four of the buildings, and fuel in the reactors and spent fuel stored in the buildings is in danger of melting and releasing radioactive materials.

Reactor 1
MARCH 18, 9:45 PM 
Japanese authorities raise the assessment of severity of the accident to a 5 out of 7 on the international nuclear event scale.
The plant expects to run a power cable to the reactor by Saturday to restart water pumps needed to cool fuel rods.
March 12, 8:20 PM 
Workers start flooding the reactor with seawater in a desperate effort to cool it.
MARCH 12, 5:00 PM 
Radioactive materials, including an isotope of iodine, are detected.
March 12, 3:36 PM 
An explosion blows the roof and top walls off the reactor building. The reactor containment vessel is not significantly damaged.
March 12, 5:22 AM 
The pressure-suppression pool stops working properly.
March 12, 3:48 AM 
Operators start injecting water into the reactor to cool it.
March 11, 3:41 PM 
Backup diesel generators for running the plant's cooling systems fail.
March 11, 2:46 PM 
An earthquake sparks a tsunami. The reactor shuts down automatically, though its fuel continues to produce large amounts of heat. 

Outer building is damaged and it is presumed that there was a partial meltdown. Small amounts of radioactivity have been vented. Reactor has 400 fuel assemblies, the spent fuel pool has 292. 

Reactor 2
MARCH 18, 7:15 PM 
Japanese authorities raise the assessment of severity of the accident to a 5 out of 7 on the international nuclear event scale.
There is an uncontrolled steam release from the reactor. The plant expects to run a power cable to the reactor by Saturday.
MARCH 15, 6:14 AM 
An explosion near the pressure suppression pool damages the containment vessel around the reactor.
MARCH 12, 3:48 AM 
Operators start injecting water into the reactor to cool it.
March 11, 3:41 PM
 Backup diesel generators for running the plant's cooling systems fail.
MARCH 11, 2:46 PM 
An earthquake sparks a tsunami. The reactor shuts down automatically, though its fuel continues to produce large amounts of heat. 

Partial meltdown is presumed to have occurred. The primary containment vessel is cracked and some radioactivity has vented. Reactor has 548 fuel assemblies, the spent fuel pool has 587.

Reactor 3
MARCH 19, 12:45 AM 
Fire engines hose down the building for 25 minutes to try to fill up the spent fuel pool.
MARCH 18, 7:15 PM 
Japanese authorities raise the assessment of severity of the accident to a 5 out of 7 on the international nuclear event scale.
MARCH 18, 2:00 PM 
Fire trucks are again used to try to hose down the building and the spent fuel pool.
MARCH 17, 7:00 PM 
Water cannon trucks spray water on the reactor building for an hour, though it is unknown if it has any effect.
MARCH 17, 9:48 AM 
Helicopters make four passes to dump water on the building in an effort to cover the spent fuel, which may have been exposed to the air.
MARCH 14, 11:01 AM 
An explosion damages the reactor building and the primary containment vessel. Eleven workers are injured.
MARCH 13, 9:00 AM 
Plant operators detect increasing levels of radioactive material.
MARCH 13, 6:00 AM
 Injection of water fails and officials warn that an explosion is possible.
MARCH 12, 8:25 PM 
A safety valve is opened to reduce pressure and seawater containing boric acid is injected in the reactor.
MARCH 12, 3:48 AM 
Operators start injecting water into the reactor to cool it.
March 11, 3:41 PM 
Backup diesel generators for running the plant's cooling systems fail.
MARCH 11, 2:46 PM 
An earthquake sparks a tsunami. The reactor shuts down automatically, though its fuel continues to produce large amounts of heat. 

The reactor used uranium and plutonium, which may produce more toxic radioactivity. The spent fuel pool may have become uncovered. Reactor has 548 fuel assemblies, the spent fuel pool has 514.

Reactor 4
Engineers say the spent fuel pool appears to be leaking as water is disappearing too quickly to be only caused by evaporation.
MARCH 17, 5:00 AM 
The chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the water covering the spent fuel rods may have boiled off.
MARCH 16, 5:45 AM 
A fire is reported in the building. An inspection 30 minutes later finds no sign of a fire.
MARCH 15, 7:00 PM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 183 degrees Fahrenheit (normal is 77 degrees).
MARCH 15, 6:00 AM 
A hydrogen-gas explosion created by chemical reactions with the spent fuel rods damages the building. A fire also breaks out.
MARCH 14, 7:08 PM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 183 degrees Fahrenheit.
MARCH 11, 2:46 PM 
An earthquake hits just off the coast, sparking a tsunami. The reactor was already shut down for maintenance. 

Spent fuel rods in a water pool may have become exposed to air, emitting radioactive gases. An explosion and fire have damaged the building. No fuel assemblies in reactor; 548 were removed for maintenance and are part of 1,479 in spent fuel pools. 

Reactor 5
MARCH 18, 3:00 AM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 150 degrees Fahrenheit (normal is 77 degrees).
MARCH 17, 12:00 PM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 148 degrees Fahrenheit.
MARCH 16, 12:00 PM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
MARCH 15, 7:00 PM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 141 degrees Fahrenheit.
MARCH 14, 7:08 PM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 139 degrees Fahrenheit.
MARCH 11, 2:46 PM 
An earthquake hits just off the coast, sparking a tsunami. The reactor was already shut down for maintenance. 

The reactor is shut down and the building is not damaged. But there is concern that spent fuel in the building may become exposed to air. Reactor has 548 fuel assemblies, the spent fuel pool has 826.

Reactor 6
MARCH 18, 3:00 AM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 144 degrees Fahrenheit (normal is 77 degrees).
MARCH 16, 12:00 PM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
MARCH 15, 7:00 PM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 137 degrees Fahrenheit.
MARCH 14, 7:08 PM 
Temperature in the spent fuel pool is 136 degrees Fahrenheit.
MARCH 11, 2:46 PM 
An earthquake hits just off the coast, sparking a tsunami. The reactor was already shut down for maintenance. 

The reactor is shut down and the building is not damaged. But there is concern that spent fuel in the building may become exposed to air. Reactor has 764 fuel assemblies, and there are 1,136 in spent fuel pools.

 The path of the Radiation Plume

(Speculation is that the radiation will be diluted so much that it won't pose health risks, but it is coming here, make no mistake. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, stay positive.-jef)

Debt, Austerity and How to Fight Back

Friday, March 18, 2011 by The Nation
by Frances Fox Piven and Cornel West

The Nation Editor's note: On Tuesday, April 5, hundreds of schools and community groups will participate in a teach-in on debt, austerity and how people are fighting back. From 2–3:30 pm (EST) a national teach-in will be streamed live from New York City, followed by local teach-ins and strategy discussions around the country. Read the call to action by Frances Fox Piven and Cornel West, check out the organizing guide and join the movement by attending or hosting a teach-in near you. Please see for more information.

Wall Street Banks, American corporations and their political allies have declared a one-sided war on the American people. This war is being waged at our schools and colleges, the workplace and in our communities.

Today, Americans are working harder and earning less while corporate profits soar. As homeowners, consumers and students we see our wealth being stripped away by banks. Our government plunges into debt waging trillion-dollar wars. Meanwhile, our infrastructure erodes and climate change proceeds unchecked. Schools, daycare centers, senior citizen facilities, clinics, parks and firehouses are starved for funds so that corporations and the rich can get billions in tax breaks!

Corporate America’s unprovoked assault on working people has been carried out by manufacturing a need for fiscal austerity. We are told that there is no more money for essential human services, for the care of children, or better public schools, or to help lower the cost of a college education. The fact is that big banks and large corporations are hoarding trillions in cash and using tax loopholes to bankrupt our communities.

Spending on social needs is not the reason governments at all levels are facing massive budget short falls. Our debt and deficit problems are a direct result of corporate tax rollbacks, and the extortionist policies of banks and financial institutions that are engaged in a coordinated and massive wealth transfer from the American people to their own coffers.

The courageous actions by the citizens in Wisconsin are an inspiring defense of the core values of this country: a civil society based on freedom of association, ensuring that our communities have high quality public services—education, public safety and support for our elderly and most vulnerable—along with good jobs for all. The outpouring of support nationally shows the possibilities for challenging deepening economic inequality and political marginalization of the majority of the American people.

We are on the cusp of a great movement to resist and roll back that corporate domination by banks, energy companies and war profiteers. To join that movement and escalate the activism planned in the days, weeks and months ahead we are organizing a “National Teach-in on Debt, Austerity and How People Are Fighting Back.” The live web-streamed teach-in will be held on Tuesday, April 5, 2011, at the Judson Memorial Church in New York City, beginning at 2 pm (EST). Admission is free. Speakers from schools and communities around the country will be hosted by moderators Frances Fox Piven and Cornel West in New York City through a live webcast that you can join by organizing a teach-in on your own campus.

HOW TO ORGANIZE A PARTICIPATING TEACH-IN ON YOUR CAMPUS (or at your home or local meeting space)

Please join us in organizing this event and building a progressive social movement to fight the destructive power of corporate greed. College campuses around the country will be linked to the New York City teach-in via the Internet. Anyone with a connection can participate. After the web cast, each campus will have its own discussion of how students can join with unions and community organizations to escalate their own local campaigns.

It’s easy to take part. All you need to do is:

Reserve a room with WIFI or an Ethernet connection to receive the webcast feed, and to make sure that you have audiovisual capability to make it available to the audience. The room reservation for Tuesday April 5, 2011, should be for several hours across the afternoon (or starting at 11:00 am Pacific Coast Time). Allot time in your reservation for setting up and testing equipment and your Internet connection and to clean up afterward.

Identify a person who will take charge of the webcast hook-up from your end.

Identify a moderator, even if only to welcome people before the webcast.

Publicize the event. Use social media and seek coverage from local media including newspapers, student papers, radio stations and television.

Organize a few people to help set up and clean up afterwards.

And then add your own teach-in to the national program:

Invite local speakers and activists to address national or local topics following the webcast.

Identify local actions and organizing efforts around student debt, home foreclosures, predatory lending and other destructive actions by banks, increases in college tuition, the Dream Act, cuts in public services, daycare cutbacks, teacher lay-offs, attacks on unions etc. in which students and other community members can participate.

Seek co-sponsorship from student groups, local labor unions, churches and local activist organizations.

Prepare educational materials for distribution at the event and available online. Include information about national, state and local efforts opposing austerity and budget cuts.

Publicize the event—again.

As you develop your plans, please contact us for technical details about how to connect to the live webcast from New York City and that so we can help connect you to others in your area also planning events. Please see

The Forgotten Millions

Friday, March 18, 2011 by The New York Times
by Paul Krugman
More than three years after we entered the worst economic slump since the 1930s, a strange and disturbing thing has happened to our political discourse: Washington has lost interest in the unemployed.

Jobs do get mentioned now and then — and a few political figures, notably Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, are still trying to get some kind of action. But no jobs bills have been introduced in Congress, no job-creation plans have been advanced by the White House and all the policy focus seems to be on spending cuts.

So one-sixth of America’s workers — all those who can’t find any job or are stuck with part-time work when they want a full-time job — have, in effect, been abandoned.

It might not be so bad if the jobless could expect to find new employment fairly soon. But unemployment has become a trap, one that’s very difficult to escape. There are almost five times as many unemployed workers as there are job openings; the average unemployed worker has been jobless for 37 weeks, a post-World War II record.

In short, we’re well on the way to creating a permanent underclass of the jobless. Why doesn’t Washington care?

Part of the answer may be that while those who are unemployed tend to stay unemployed, those who still have jobs are feeling more secure than they did a couple of years ago. Layoffs and discharges spiked during the crisis of 2008-2009 but have fallen sharply since then, perhaps reducing the sense of urgency. Put it this way: At this point, the U.S. economy is suffering from low hiring, not high firing, so things don’t look so bad — as long as you’re willing to write off the unemployed.

Yet polls indicate that voters still care much more about jobs than they do about the budget deficit. So it’s quite remarkable that inside the Beltway, it’s just the opposite.

What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that the economic arguments used to justify the D.C. deficit obsession have been repeatedly refuted by experience.

On one side, we’ve been warned, over and over again, that “bond vigilantes” will turn on the U.S. government unless we slash spending immediately. Yet interest rates remain low by historical standards; indeed, they’re lower now than they were in the spring of 2009, when those dire warnings began.

On the other side, we’ve been assured that spending cuts would do wonders for business confidence. But that hasn’t happened in any of the countries currently pursuing harsh austerity programs. Notably, when the Cameron government in Britain announced austerity measures last May, it received fawning praise from U.S. deficit hawks. But British business confidence plunged, and it has not recovered.

Yet the obsession with spending cuts flourishes all the same — unchallenged, it must be said, by the White House.

I still don’t know why the Obama administration was so quick to accept defeat in the war of ideas, but the fact is that it surrendered very early in the game. In early 2009, John Boehner, now the speaker of the House, was widely and rightly mocked for declaring that since families were suffering, the government should tighten its own belt. That’s Herbert Hoover economics, and it’s as wrong now as it was in the 1930s. But, in the 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama adopted exactly the same metaphor and began using it incessantly.

And earlier this week, the White House budget director declared: “There is an agreement that we should be reducing spending,” suggesting that his only quarrel with Republicans is over whether we should be cutting taxes, too. No wonder, then, that according to a new Pew Research Center poll, a majority of Americans see “not much difference” between Mr. Obama’s approach to the deficit and that of Republicans.

So who pays the price for this unfortunate bipartisanship? The increasingly hopeless unemployed, of course. And the worst hit will be young workers — a point made in 2009 by Peter Orszag, then the White House budget director. As he noted, young Americans who graduated during the severe recession of the early 1980s suffered permanent damage to their earnings. And if the average duration of unemployment is any indication, it’s even harder for new graduates to find decent jobs now than it was in 1982 or 1983.

So the next time you hear some Republican declaring that he’s concerned about deficits because he cares about his children — or, for that matter, the next time you hear Mr. Obama talk about winning the future — you should remember that the clear and present danger to the prospects of young Americans isn’t the deficit. It’s the absence of jobs.

But, as I said, these days Washington doesn’t seem to care about any of that. And you have to wonder what it will take to get politicians caring again about America’s forgotten millions.

Judge Issues Temporary Order Blocking Wisconsin Union-Busting Bill

Friday, March 18, 2011 by PR Watch
by Brendan Fischer

A second judge has castigated Wisconsin Republicans for excluding the public from the legislative process. Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi has issued a temporary restraining order blocking implementation of Governor Walker's union-busting bill on grounds that the conference committee's rushed passage of the bill on March 9 likely violated state Open Meetings laws.

March 12, 2011

While both chambers of the State Legislature passed the bill and Governor Walker has signed it, the bill does not become law until it is published by Secretary of State Doug LaFollette. The decision bars LaFollette from publication until a full hearing takes place on Tuesday, March 29. Judge Sumi, appointed to the bench by a Republican governor in 1998, is the second judge to issue a temporary restraining order against the state, following Judge John Albert's decision earlier this month requiring access to the Capitol building.

The Lawsuit

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne brought the case challenging the March 9 vote on grounds that it violated Open Meetings laws. Those laws state that public notice of meetings must be issued 24 hours in advance, and while there is an exception when "for good cause such notice is impossible or impractical," there still must be two hours advance notice. Republican leaders gave only one hour and forty minutes advance notice for the Joint Conference Committee meeting that amended the "budget repair bill," and no notice for the subsequent Senate floor vote that passed it.

In finding against the state, Judge Sumi's ruling emphasized the importance of open government in a democracy. "This was something that would and did catch the public unaware," Sumi said, "in what ended up being a closed session of a body in propelling legislation forward."

Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, said “Judge Sumi confirmed today what we knew all along – that the bill stripping hundreds of thousands of hard working Wisconsinites of their voice on the job was rammed through illegally in the dark of the night."

Illegal March 9 Meeting

The March 9 vote occurred after weeks of massive protests bill supporters may not have anticipated. Governor Walker introduced his union-busting budget repair bill on February 11 and expected to force it through the legislature with minimal review or consideration. Senate Democrats stymied that effort, depriving the Senate of the quorum necessary for passing budget bills by taking an out-of-state-trip. The delay allowed the public to understand the bill's harsh impact on working families and Wisconsin communities, and opposition to the bill grew as GOP poll numbers declined. On March 9, after weeks of massive protests, and after weeks of Governor Walker insisting that union-busting was a necessary budget measure, Wisconsin Republicans amended the bill to make it "non-budgetary" and only limit collective bargaining. While this exposed union-busting as a purely ideological pursuit, it also allowed the Senate to pass the bill without Democrats. All of this may have been unethical and illegitimate, but only the lack of notice has been deemed illegal.

Despite Judge Sumi's rebuke, nothing prevents Governor Walker from calling a Special Session to allow the Republican-controlled legislature from passing an identical bill that complies with Open Meeting requirements. Spokesmen for Governor Walker and legislative leaders have not publicly stated whether they will do so.

Still, many bill opponents see the decision as a victory. "State employees believe that nobody is above the law. We are gratified to see some of our so-called 'leaders' finally held accountable for their illegal actions," says Marty Beil, head of the Wisconsin State Employees Union AFSCME. "They may think they can get away with ignoring the vast majority of Wisconsin citizens by attacking worker freedoms, but they simply cannot continue ignoring the law if we want to continue calling our state a democracy."

Continuing Legal Challenges

While Judge Sumi will decide whether to permanently enjoin the law on March 29, the state's Republican leadership is also facing other legal challenges. Because the Capitol building was in lockdown while the legislature voted on the union-busting bill, Judge John Albert is considering whether Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch is in contempt of Albert's Capitol access order. In late May, Judge Albert will decide whether to make permanent his temporary restraining order guaranteeing an open Capitol building. Additionally, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission is considering an unfair labor practices complaint from the state employee union AFSCME, alleging Governor Walker has violated his duty to bargain in good faith.

Unfortunately, successful legal challenges may not stop Wisconsin Republicans from passing legislation attacking workers and Wisconsin's poor. But successful lawsuits demonstrate how state GOP members are growing desperate in their attempts to pass laws paying-back their corporate campaign backers.

The Politics of Nihilism

A Call for Rebellion

Life is absurd said French existentialist writers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre back in the 1950s. But surely there is no more appropriate description of life in the American Empire sixty years later. Our meaningless lives are ruled by what psychiatrist M. Scott Peck once called “people of the lie.” We are completely subsumed by the politics of nihilism.

What could be more absurd than:

1. Barack Obama running for president in 2008 on a platform of “hope and change.”

2. Liberal Democrats claiming that he represents a sea change in political philosophy from that of President George W. Bush, when, in fact, he is merely a smirk-free Bush.

3. President Obama pretending that he is not a pawn of Wall Street, Corporate America, the Pentagon, and the Israeli Lobby.

4. Norway naming him the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate while promoting illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

5. Obama’s claim that he can fix the nation’s health care system even though it is driven by fear of death on the demand side and greed on the supply side rendering it completely unfixable.

6. His disingenuous opposition to the war with Iraq when he ran for president.

7. The White House charade that it supports the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

8. Obama’s refusal to close the Guantanamo prison or block passage of the renewal of the Patriot Act in clear violation of his campaign pledges to the contrary.

9. The White House’s hypocritical campaign of harassment against Chinese President Hu Jintao on the issue of human rights.

10. Our government’s duplicitous response to the political unrest in North Africa and the Middle East.

11. Allowing the right-wing, racist Likud government of Israel to dictate our foreign policy in the Middle East.

12. The realization that neither tax cuts, government spending, nor printing money have much impact on either the housing market or employment growth.

13. Our President creating the illusion that he and his administration know how to fix the ailing economy and that everything will soon be just fine.

14. His pretending to be a political liberal, which he is not, or more ridiculously, conservatives accusing him of being a socialist, when, in fact, he is a technofascist.

15. The notion that it is possible to control 310 million people from one central bureau in Washington, D.C.

And what can we do about all of this? We can rebél said Albert Camus. We can peacefully rebél against the nihilism of the American Empire – the separation, the meaninglessness, the powerlessness, and death.

What America needs is neither a tea party movement, a tenth amendment movement, a nullification movement, nor a secession movement but rather a peaceful revolution.

The premise underlying the tea party, tenth amendment, and nullification movements is that the U.S. government is fixable. All one need do is return to the Constitution and everything will be just fine. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Unfortunately, Wall Street, Corporate America, the Pentagon, and the bellicose Israeli government like things just the way they are and are prepared to make sure they stay that way.

Secession, on the other hand, is viewed by most Americans, particularly those on the political left, as a complete anathema to be avoided like the plague.

The mere mention of the word conjures up images of slavery, the Civil War, violence, and racism. So ignorant are most Americans of the moral, philosophical, and legal principles underlying secession that anyone displaying secessionist tendencies is labeled a “racist.”

There may be no escape from the Empire. The fantasy of an individual state seceding from the United States is most likely an impossible dream. The Empire simply will not tolerate such an action, and the political will does not exist to make it happen.

The United States has lost its moral authority. When all is said and done, there is but one morally defensible alternative to the Empire—peaceful dissolution, just like back in the USSR.

Twenty years ago the Soviet Union unexpectedly, peacefully imploded. Could that happen to the United States? How sure are we that American exceptionalism will save us from the adverse effects of a crash of the dollar, financial meltdown, some major environmental catastrophe, or imperial overstretch?

This is a call for rebellion against the Empire, a Second American Revolution.

The objective is not the overthrow of the government, but rather the peaceful break up of the Union. In the poignant words of Albert Camus, “It is those who know how to rebél at the appropriate moment, against history, who really advance its interest.”


Criminalizing Consensual Sex

Louisiana's New "Crimes Against Nature" Law

Eve is a transgender woman living in rural southern Louisiana. She was molested as a child and left home as a teenager. Homeless and alone, she was forced to trade sex for survival. While still a teenager, she was arrested and charged with a Crime Against Nature, an archaic Louisiana law originally designed to penalize sex acts associated with gays and lesbians.

Eve, who asked that her real name and age remain confidential, spent two years in prison. During her time behind bars she was raped and contracted HIV. Upon release, she was forced to register in the state's sex offender database. The words "sex offender" now appear on her driver's license. "I have tried desperately to change my life," she says, but her status on the database stands in the way of housing and other programs. "When I present my ID for anything," she says, "the assumption is that you're a child molester or a rapist. The discrimination is just ongoing and ongoing."

Now Eve is one of nine plaintiffs fighting the law in a federal civil rights complaint that advocates hope will finally put this official discrimination to an end.

This legal action comes in the context of increased scrutiny from the federal government over the conduct of the New Orleans Police Department. A US Justice Department investigation of the NOPD, released today, found "reasonable cause to believe that patterns and practices of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law occurred in several areas," including "racial and ethnic profiling and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) discrimination."

Punishing Women

Eve was penalized under Louisiana's 205-year-old Crime Against Nature statute, a blatantly discriminatory law that legislators have maneuvered to keep on the state's books for the purpose of turning sex workers into felons. As enforced, the law specifically singles out oral and anal sex for greater punishment for those arrested for prostitution, including requiring those convicted to register as sex offenders in a public database. Advocates say the law has further isolated poor women of color in particular, including those who are forced to trade sex for food or a place to sleep at night.

In 2003, the Supreme Court outlawed sodomy laws with its decision in Lawrence v. Texas. That ruling should have invalidated Louisiana's law entirely. Instead, the state has chosen to only enforce the portion of the law that concerns "solicitation" of a crime against nature. The decision on whether to charge accused sex workers with a felony instead of Louisiana's misdemeanor prostitution law is left entirely in the hands of police and prosecutors.

"This leaves the door wide open to discriminatory enforcement targeting poor black women, transgender women, and gay men for a charge that carries much harsher penalties," says police misconduct attorney and organizer Andrea J. Ritchie, a co-counsel in a new federal lawsuit challenging the statute.

A media-fueled national panic about child molesters has brought sex offender registries to every state. But advocates warn that, across the U.S., these registries have been used disproportionately against African Americans and other communities of color, and are often used for purposes outside of their original intent. Louisiana, however, is the only state in the U.S. that requires people who have been convicted of crimes that do not involve minors or sexual violence to register as sex offenders.

In 1994, Congress passed Megan's Law, also known as the Wetterling Act, which mandated that states create systems for registering sex offenders. The act was amended in 1996 to require public disclosure of the names on the registries and again in 2006 to require sex offenders stay in the public registry for at least 15 years.

Megan's Law was clearly not targeted at prostitution. However, Louisiana lawmakers opted to apply the registry to the crimes against nature statute as well, and at that moment started down the path to a new level of punishment for sex work. "This archaic law is being used to mark people with modern day scarlet letter," says attorney Alexis Agathocleus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, another party in the lawsuit.

People convicted under the Louisiana law must carry a state ID with the words "sex offender" printed below their name. If they have to evacuate because of a hurricane, they must stay in a special shelter for sex offenders that has no separate facilities for men and women. They have to pay a $60 annual registration fee, in addition to $250 to $750 to print and mail postcards to their neighbors every time they move. The post cards must show their names and addresses, and often they are required to include a photo. Failing to register and pay the fees, a separate crime, can carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

Women and men on the registry will also find their names, addresses, and convictions printed in the newspaper and published in an online sex offender database. The same information is also displayed at public sites like schools and community centers. Women—including one mother of three—have complained that because of their appearance on the registry, they have had men come to their homes demanding sex. A plaintiff in the suit had rocks thrown at her by neighbors. "This has forced me to live in poverty, be on food stamps and welfare," explains a man who was on the list. "I've never done that before."

In Orleans Parish, 292 people are on the registry for selling sex, versus 85 people convicted of forcible rape and 78 convicted of "indecent behavior with juveniles." Almost 40 percent of those registered in Orleans Parish are there solely because they were accused of offering anal or oral sex for money. Seventy-five percent of those on the database for Crime Against Nature are women, and 80 percent are African American. Evidence gathered by advocates suggests a majority are poor or indigent.

Legal advocates credit on-the-ground organizing and the advocacy of the group Women With A Vision (WWAV) for making them aware of this discriminatory law. WWAV, a 20-year-old New Orleans-based organization, provides health care and other services to women involved in survival sex work. "Many of these women are survivors of rape and domestic violence themselves," says WWAV executive director Deon Haywood. "Yet they are being treated as predators."

Plaintiffs Tell Their Stories

Ian, another plaintiff in the legal challenge to the Crime Against Nature statute, was homeless from the age of 13, and began trading sex for survival. When an undercover officer approached him and asked him for sex, Ian asked for money. "All I said was $50," he says, "And they put me away for four years."

In prison, Ian was raped by a correction officer and by other prisoners, and like Eve, he contracted HIV. Now, he says, potential employers see the words "sex offender" written on his ID and no one will hire him. "Do I deserve to be punished any more than I've already been punished?" he asks. "I was 13 years old. That's the only way I knew how to survive."

Hiroke, a New Orleans resident and another plaintiff in the suit, spoke on a call set up by advocates. "I had just graduated from high school and was just coming out as transgender," she says. Hiroke was arrested and convicted while still a teenager. As she began to describe her experience, Hiroke's voice began to shake. "I was being held with men in jail at the time…" she began. Then there was silence on the line. Holding back tears, she then apologized for being unable to continue.

The Louisiana legislature recently passed a reform of the Crime Against Nature statute, but for the vast majority of those affected, the change makes little to no difference. Although the new law takes away the registration component for a first conviction, a second conviction requires 15 years on the registry, and up to five years imprisonment. A third conviction mandates a lifetime on the registry. More than 538 men and women remain on the registry because they were convicted of offering anal or oral sex, with more added almost every day.

The legal challenge to the Crime Against Nature law, called Doe v. Jindal, has been filed in Louisiana's US District Court Eastern District on behalf of nine anonymous plaintiffs. It was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, attorney Andrea J. Ritchie, and the Law Clinic at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. The anonymous plaintiffs include a grandmother, a mother of four, three transgender women, and a man, all of whom have been required to register as sex offenders from 15 years to life as a result of their convictions for the solicitation of oral sex for money.

Friday, March 18, 2011

House Votes To Cut All of NPR's Federal Funds

The Corporate Stash

Sitting on Top of $1.9 Trillion 

Two and a half years have passed since Lehman Brothers collapsed and US consumers are still digging out.

Last Thursday, the Fed released its "flow of funds" report which showed that households had trimmed their debt to $13.3 trillion in the forth quarter (4Q). But the crucial debt-to-income ratio remains significantly above trend at 120.9%. That means that consumers will have to cut back spending even more. 

During the boom years, (2000 to 2007) households more than doubled their debt by taking advantage of cheap, easily-available credit for purchasing mortgages, refinancing homes and maintaining their standard of living. Homeowners were able to drain (roughly) $500 billion per year from their rising home equity to spend as they pleased. The credit-binge stimulated demand, increased employment, and created a virtuous circle of profitability and growth. But now the process has slammed into reverse triggering a wave of foreclosures, bankruptcies and defaults. Consumers have been retrenching for 11 straight quarters trying to patch their balance sheets after sustaining heavy losses during the crisis.

Household deleveraging can have a devastating impact on the economy because consumer spending is 70% of GDP. Fortunately, the Obama administration initiated a $787 billion fiscal stimulus package to make up for the shortfall in private sector spending, otherwise the economy would have slipped into a long-term slump. Government spending (the deficits) pulled the economy out of recession, reduced the gaping output gap, and increased employment by an estimated 2 million jobs. 

Economists look to the flow of funds report to gauge the health of consumers, but sometimes the data can be misleading. For example, household net worth increased by $2.1 trillion to $56.8 trillion by the end of 4Q, but virtually all of the gains were in the stock market so it won't effect the spending habits of people who aren't invested in equities. As Barron's Randall Forsyth notes, "You have to be in the lottery to win it." 

Still, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke sees rising stock prices as a sign that his bond purchasing program (QE2) is working. Like former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, Bernanke believes that the "wealth effect" can boost spending and lead to recovery. Regrettably, the facts do not support Bernanke's claims. While the administration's fiscal stimulus increased economic activity and employment (according to 2 separate reports by the nonpartisan CBO), QE2 has merely inflated stock prices. There's nothing in the flow of funds report that suggests anything more than a normal cyclical recovery following a deep recession. In other words, QE2 is a bust. 

The Fed's main policy tool is interest rates. QE2 is an attempt to push rates below zero by large-scale purchases of Treasuries. The goal is to spark investment in riskier assets. And, to some extent, it works. Thanks to Bernanke's QE drip-feed into the banking system, stocks have climbed 12% in the 4Q. But higher stock prices haven't led to greater investment or spending, just more liquidity sloshing around the financial markets. The problem is that QE2 has no transmission mechanism for getting stimulus into the real economy. It doesn't increase wages, expand credit, or remove the red ink from household balance sheets. It just adds a few more gusts of helium to the equities bubble. This is apparent in last week's Consumer Credit report as well as the flow of funds report. The Fed's Credit Report showed that --apart from student loans and subprime auto loans--consumer credit is still shrinking. In fact, lending either stayed flat or dropped off at the commercial banks, finance companies, credit unions, savings institutions, nonfinancial business and pools of securitized debts. Bottom line: There's no indication that the Fed's policy is helping households reduce their debt or to resume spending at precrisis levels. In other words, QE2 is not paving the way to another credit expansion.

And then there's this from Bloomberg Businessweek:
"Those ordinary Americans who have jobs worry about holding onto them, and they expect few if any increases in pay as the recovery inches forward. For upper-income households, it's a different story, says Michael Feroli, a former Federal Reserve economist who is now chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase in New York: "They're the ones benefiting the most from the stock market rally, and they're spending."
..... Feroli estimates the top 20 percent of income earners account for about 40 percent of spending. Dean Maki, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Capital in New York, puts the figure at closer to 50 percent."
So, yes, rising stock prices have been good for the rich who have resumed their trips to Tiffanys and their dinners at high-end restaurants. But for everyone else, it's been a wash. The only thing that could change the situation is if QE2 pushed wages higher or lifted housing prices out of the doldrums. But it doesn't work that way.

Here's a clip from an article in the Wall Street Journal which sheds a little light on a part of the deleveraging story that's missed by most of the media:
"U.S. families shouldered a smaller debt burden in 2010 than at any point in the previous six years....Defaults on mortgages and credit cards played a large role in bringing down household debt, underscoring the extent of the financial distress still afflicting U.S. families. Commercial banks wrote off $118 billion in mortgage, credit-card and other consumer debt in 2010, the Fed said. That's over half the total $208.8 billion drop in household debt, which also includes new mortgages and credit cards....
Many consumers still have a long way to go to get their finances in order. Some economists believe a healthy household-debt-to-disposable-income ratio would be 100% or lower." ("Families Slice Debt to Lowest in 6 Years", Wall Street Journal)
So households are reducing their debt, but, what's interesting, is how they are doing it. They're defaulting. This is from an earlier Wall Street Journal article by Mark Whitehouse:
"The falling debt burden conjures up images of a nation seeking to repent after a decade of profligacy, conscientiously paying down mortgages and credit-card balances. That may be true in some cases, but it's not the norm. In fact, people are making much more progress in shedding their debts by defaulting on mortgages and reneging on credit cards......on average, aren't paying down their debts at all. Rather, the defaulters account for the whole decline, while the rest have actually been building up more debt straight through the worst financial crisis and recession in decades." ("Number of the Week: Default, Not Thrift, Pares U.S. Debt", Wall Street Journal)
Uh oh. So consumers are defaulting rather than paying-down their debts. That means more foreclosures and bankruptcies leading to larger losses at the banks and, perhaps, another bailout. It also increases the likelihood that stock and commodities prices will drop sharply when activity slows triggering another bout of deflation. So, can QE2 reverse the trend and ignite a flurry of investment and spending by tweaking the yield curve on US Treasuries? Don't bet on it. Just take a peak at this article by Mark Whitehouse and it's easy to see what's going on:
"U.S. companies' cash hoard keeps getting bigger, a trend both good and troubling. After hitting new highs in five of the last six quarters, nonfinancial corporations' cash and other liquid assets reached $1.9 trillion at the end of 2010, according to the Federal Reserve. That's 7% of all their assets, the highest level since 1963....the persistent growth of companies' cash hoard suggests a problem: Businesses appear to lack the confidence in the recovery needed to plow the money back into new projects and hiring..... companies are giving some cash back to their shareholders through stock buybacks,....hardly a sign of optimism." ("Companies' Cash Hoard Grows", Mark Whitehouse, Wall Street Journal)
So, why aren't corporations reinvesting their $1.9 trillion stash when the Fed has lowered rates to 0% and Bernanke is supporting the markets with QE2? 

It's because of the lack of demand. Financial alchemy and waves of speculation have papered over the dismal performance of the underlying economy which grows more anemic with every business cycle. Businesses are no longer able to find productive outlets for investing their surplus capital, so the whole system is slowing down. And, when corporate savings are not recycled into the economy via investment, demand dries up. That's what's happening now. 

Reformers can divert attention from the central problem by pointing at deregulation, low interest rates, and a foreign "savings glut", but the fact remains that the recoveries get weaker and weaker, unemployment stays higher for longer, and the crashes get more catastrophic. All these point to a sclerotic and unstable system blighted by overproduction and underconsumption that is gradually succumbing to stagnation. The persistent slowdown is deepening inequality, inciting class antagonisms, and fomenting social unrest. Marx said that "the real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself." The $1.9 trillion sitting idle on corporate balance sheets proves that Marx was right.

Motörhead vs the Banksters - Get Back in Line

No Reactor is Safe

Worse Than Chernobyl? 

The latest news is that the Japanese military are dropping sea water on the reactors by helicopter.

That sounds very inefficient, very ineffective, and very dangerous.

I described this event to a loved one today as one of the worst catastrophes in the history of humanity. What will she tell her 13-year-old while he watches the news tonight? That Ace is STILL saying the worst may be yet to come? That we might have one spent fuel pool fire after another... and dry cask fires, too... and more reactor meltdowns, and more explosions?
That over the next 20 years there will probably be more than a million dead in Japan from this accident, and thousands dead here in America?

Do we tell them that? These are pretty hard things to have to try to explain to a child.
Do we tell them the poisons are particularly bad for youngsters, infants, and fetuses?
"If you don't understand what's happening, you're probably so young that you REALLY need to know!! It will affect YOUR life most of all!"

There's no way to explain that.

Of course, you can always listen to the pro-nukers tell you not to worry because it can't happen "here", wherever "here" is for you. They will tell you the radiation levels from the Fukushima-Daiichi catastrophe will be little more than background levels by the time they get to you, wherever you are. They'll say background radiation is harmless and might even be good for you. They'll say it's just a dusting. That's it's all going to land in China. That the deaths from Chernobyl didn't happen.

They'll say it all.

Radiation sickness isn't pretty. People in Japan will be coming down with it in droves. Workers undoubtedly already are being visited behind plastic screens for the last time by their loved ones who, if they live close to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, were also irradiated, but not as badly.

I spoke at a hearing last night, near my local nuclear power plant. It was a common council hearing in San Clemente, the city nearest the reactor. I've posted a You-Tube video from the event. 

The public speaking portion of the evening started with this author. The reactor company was allowed to speak last, for as long as they wanted. The representative explained that the reactor was built to withstand all foreseeable earthquakes in the area, and all tsunamis that they could foresee as well. And that was that. No talk of new studies, no talk of building the wall higher, nothing like that. Everything's fine at San Onofre, according to them.

Lately at all the hearings for San Onofre, the activists have been overwhelmed by plant employees, some of whom always speak, such as the union duckie, and some of whom just clap for their team and leave when its the activists' turn to talk.

There were NO employees making themselves obvious at this hearing, besides the one management representative. I did not see a single logoed shirt, patch, or San-Onofre beeper this time.

An emergency services person told us that KI is not indicated for people here in the United States. That was yesterday. Today the government admits that we will be getting some amount of radiation from this accident. However, KI consumption for the general public is still not indicated.

I asked several people to help me suggest what to do to prepare. You should not take KI unless authorities are recommending it (or you own a Geiger Counter and know it is properly calibrated, and have been checking it regularly, and are willing to go with that decision on your own...). KI has side effects, such as allergic reactions and so forth.

Dr. Carolyn Dean, a medical doctor, and also a naturopath, herbalist, acupuncturist, nutritionist, lecturer, consultant, author and friend, sent the following suggestion, after I sent her Dr. Brownstein's suggestions: "I'm using some Iodorol anyway. It's a KI. I take 25 mg every day anyway and bumped to 50mg."

Dr. Dean also suggested investigating something called RnA drops. Their claims seem to both of us to be a bit extreme and confusing, but perhaps they're harmless, if nothing else!
Dr. Dean also posted a newsletter at her web site, with additional suggestions

It is clear now that this is worse than Chernobyl. The Japanese have been calling for U. S. military help at Fukushima Dai-ichi. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says help should have been asked for sooner: They say the Japanese made mistakes that it's now too late to fix.
I think somebody wants to cover their posterior for a later investigation! Accidents like this can't happen here, the NRC will tell Congress soon. Our reactor operators would have called us in sooner! We would have known what to do! Sure.

Nuclear power will do this to us again and again, unless there is a global effort to close the plants. The local communities are profiting too much from the local reactor, it funds their schools and police and other local services. Everywhere jobs are hard to find and work is scarce. So nobody wants to close a reactor and put people out of work.
But look at the alternatives. No reactor is safe.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Republican tax chairman: Reduce taxes for the richest Americans

(Greed has truly found its soulmate in the GOP. Even after the Bush tax cuts, the rich STILL want to cut their own taxes and put even more of a burden on the poor and middleclass. And they always lie and say it will promote job growth. Really? Because the Bush Tax cuts are a huge part of the reason the deficit is so high and so many people are unemployed. 22% OF THEM.
Eat the rich!--jef)

Greedy, Greedy, Greedy Old Party

By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he hopes to cut the tax rate for the richest individuals and corporations to 25 percent to help spur job growth.

The top U.S. tax rate has been 35 percent for both individuals and corporations since 2001, when President George W. Bush pushed for tax cuts. The previous rate, which President Barack Obama has proposed the US returns to, was 39.6 percent.

"There is no doubt that today’s tax code is too complex, too costly and takes too much time to comply with," Rep. Camp, who heads the House committee charged with writing tax legislation, said in a statement. "Add to that the unpleasant reality that America will soon have the highest corporate tax rate in the world, and it is no wonder that the current economic recovery has been far more muted than in past recoveries."

Along with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), Rep. Camp has directed the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) to investigate ways the Congress can enact comprehensive tax reform.

Rep. Camp told the Wall Street Journal that the current tax code is "too burdensome for families and employers of all sizes to comply with." He said the tax code needs to promote job growth and would also like to see many popular deductions cut or eliminated.

"Congress must take a comprehensive approach to tax reform so that we address the needs of all job creators – big and small," he said. "I look forward to using this additional research to identify the pathways to the tax policies that promote the job creation our country needs."

According to the Wall Street Journal, lowering taxes on the wealthiest Americans to 25 percent would cost $2 trillion over a decade.

The Batman Complex

This is really clever.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Shock Doctrine" Unleashed by Right-Wingers in Wisconsin and Throughout the Country: Naomi Klein

For decades right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises. Wisconsin is no different.
By Amy Goodman and Naomi Klein, Democracy Now!
Posted on March 9, 2011

AMY GOODMAN: As a wave of anti-union bills are introduced across the country in the wake of the Great Recession, many analysts are picking up on the theory that award-winning journalist and author Naomi Klein first argued in her bestselling book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In it, she reveals how those in power use times of crisis to push through undemocratic, radical, free market economic policies.

Nobel Prize-winning economist, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, recently referenced the book in his column called "Shock Doctrine, U.S.A." He wrote, quote, "The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority [in Iraq] was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein’s best-selling book The Shock Doctrine, which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

"Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display," Krugman wrote.

Well, Naomi Klein joins us in our studio for the hour. In addition to The Shock Doctrine, she’s the author of two previous books: No Logo: Taking Aim at Brand Bullies and Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate. She’s currently writing a new book which focuses on the public relations campaign distorting climate change facts.

Naomi Klein, welcome to Democracy Now!

NAOMI KLEIN: Hi, Amy. Great to see you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. Let’s talk Wisconsin. What do you see is happening in this uprising?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, first of all, it’s such an incredible example of how to resist the shock doctrine. And it should not be in any way surprising that we are seeing right-wing ideologues across the country using economic crisis as a pretext to really wage a kind of a final battle in a 50-year war against trade unions, where we’ve seen membership in trade unions drop precipitously. And public sector unions are the last labor stronghold, and they’re going after it. And these governors did not run elections promising to do these radical actions, but they are using the pretext of crisis to do things that they couldn’t get elected promising to do.

And, you know, that’s the core argument of and the thesis of the book, is not that there’s something wrong with responding to a crisis decisively. Crises demand decisive responses. The issue is this backhanded attempt to use a crisis to centralize power, to subvert democracy, to avoid public debate, to say, "We have no time for democracy. It’s just too messy. It doesn’t matter what you want. We have no choice. We just have to ram it through." And we’re seeing this in 16 states. I mean, it’s impossible to keep track of it. It’s happening on such a huge scale.

Teachers’ unions are getting the worst of it. March 8th was International Women’s Day. This is—you know, as you pointed out on your show, it’s overwhelmingly women who are providing the services that are under attack. It’s not just labor that’s under attack; it’s the services that the labor is providing that’s under attack: it’s healthcare, it’s education, it’s those fundamental care-giving services across the country, which could be profitable if they were privatized.

AMY GOODMAN: In Ohio, more than 20,000 people marched to oppose the Republican Governor John Kasich’s attempted anti-union legislative putsch. Kasich recently defended his policy proposals on Fox & Friends.

GOV. JOHN KASICH: It’s part of a big piece of reform. Come March the 15th, we will be reforming Medicaid, K-through-12, higher ed, prisons. It is going to be a reform agenda in Ohio like no one has ever seen, all designed to get us in a good position. In terms of unions? I respect unions. I come from a union family. I mean, the idea that we’re attacking anybody is—look, what we’re attacking: poverty, joblessness. OK, that’s what I’m attacking. And all I’m doing is saying to everybody, participate. Everybody jump in this. Together, we can make Ohio stronger. If we do not do that, you know, then we’ll continue to lose jobs, and that means misery for everybody. That’s not going to happen. We are going to be successful here.

AMY GOODMAN: Republican Governor John Kasich, going back to his old haunt. He was a commentator for a long time for Fox and, before that, a conservative congressman.

NAOMI KLEIN: You know, the reason why this isn’t working and why people are so outraged by it and why they’re in the streets and we’re finally seeing the resistance in this country that we have seen in Europe, with this chant, "We won’t pay for your crisis," that really started in 2008 in Greece and spread to Italy and France and England—and, you know, the rest of the world has been waiting for the United States to—you know, how much are Americans going to take of this? It seems that Americans were willing to say, you know, "We will pay for your crisis, and would you like a tax break with that?" Right? And finally, they went too far. And so, that resistance is finally happening.

And this attack on collective bargaining, the reason why people won’t take it is precisely because they understand that this is not shared pain. It is not being shared equally. The people who created the crisis in the first place are not sharing the pain. And the injustice of this response is so blatant. This isn’t just any economic crisis. This tactic has worked. And this is, you know, what I’ve tracked over a 30-year period, that it is really easy to use an economic crisis—people panic, hyperinflation, issues like that. In the '90s, when Newt Gingrich was Speaker, it was possible for him to argue that the source of the budget crisis really was so-called entitlement programs. You cannot do that in this moment in history because everybody understands that the crisis was created on Wall Street, it was created through speculation and greed, and a decision was made to bail out the bankers with public money and to pass the bill on to the public. And they're seeing the bonuses back. They’re seeing the outrageous salaries. They’re seeing corporations not paying their taxes. And it’s just too unjust. It’s just so morally outrageous. And then to turn on the television and talk about everybody sharing the pain? I mean, people are just not that stupid. Thankfully.

AMY GOODMAN: And where does the Obama administration fit into this? We have played that clip of President Obama when he was running for president, saying, "If anyone challenges your collective union rights, I will be walking with you."

NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. Well, I mean, this is the irony of this moment, and this is—it really is about democracies. Scott Walker was not elected with a mandate to bust unions and to strip collective bargaining rights. He did not mention that in his campaign. He talked about balancing the budget. He made some vague statements, you know, about shared sacrifice. But he absolutely did not campaign promising to do what he is now doing. Obama, on the other hand, campaigned promising to strengthen union rights. He promised, again and again, whenever he had a labor audience, that he was going to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, and he promised to stand with them.

And, you know, one of the things that’s so important for us to understand about why—you know, there are many reasons why the resistance is so strong in Wisconsin and why they’ve become this beacon for not just the rest of the country, but the world, and so much of it, I think—you know, my colleague at The Nation, John Nichols, has written beautifully about it this week in a cover story where he talks about the rich sense of collective history, of collective memory, and the fact that people know their progressive history in Wisconsin, so they’re harder to exploit. You know, they’re not going to fall for the latest Fox News messaging, because they know their history. But, you know, this is—there’s something else that’s going on here. And, well, I mean, I’ll just let you take it from there.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask you about Michigan. About a thousand people rallied in Michigan—


AMY GOODMAN:—reminiscent of Wisconsin. Talk about the proposal there.

NAOMI KLEIN: ... there’s so much going on that these extraordinary measures are just getting lost in the shuffle. But in Michigan, there is a bill that’s already passed the House. It’s on the verge of passing the Senate. And I’ll just read you some excerpts from it. It says that in the case of an economic crisis, that the governor has the authority to authorize the emergency manager—this is somebody who would be appointed—to reject, modify or terminate the terms of an existing contract or collective bargaining agreement, authorize the emergency manager for a municipal government—OK, so we’re not—we’re talking about towns, municipalities across the state—to disincorporate. So, an appointed official with the ability to dissolve an elected body, when they want to.

AMY GOODMAN: A municipal government.

NAOMI KLEIN: A municipal government. And it says specifically, "or dissolve the municipal government." So we’ve seen this happening with school boards, saying, "OK, this is a failing school board. We’re taking over. We’re dissolving it. We’re canceling the contracts." You know, what this reminds me of is New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, when the teachers were fired en masse and then it became a laboratory for charter schools. You know, people in New Orleans—and you know this, Amy—warned us. They said, "What’s happening to us is going to happen to you." And I included in the book a quote saying, "Every city has their Lower Ninth Ward." And what we’re seeing with the pretext of the flood is going to be used with the pretext of an economic crisis. And this is precisely what’s happening. So it starts with the school boards, and then it’s whole towns, whole cities, that could be subject to just being dissolved because there’s an economic crisis breaking collective bargaining agreements. It also specifies that—this bill specifies that an emergency manager can be an individual or a firm. Or a firm. So, the person who would be put in charge of this so-called failing town or municipality could actually be a corporation.

AMY GOODMAN: Whose government they dissolve, a company takes over.

NAOMI KLEIN: A company takes over. So, they have created, if this passes, the possibility for privatization of a whole town by fiat. And this is actually a trend in the contracting out of public services, where you do now have whole towns, like Sandy Springs in Georgia, run by private companies. It’s very lucrative. Why not? You start with just the water contract or the electricity contract, but eventually, why not privatize the whole town? So—

AMY GOODMAN: And what happens then? Where does democracy fit into that picture?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, this is an assault on democracy. It’s a frontal assault on democracy. It’s a kind of a corporate coup d’état at the municipal level.


AMY GOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is Naomi Klein—yes, the journalist and author. Her latest book is called Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. You can go to our Facebook page, and you can post questions there for her and just continue to participate in the dialogue. Let me ask you a question that came to us from Facebook. This is a question about the Madison protest for you, posted on our Facebook page. Kevin Williams—Kelvin Williams asks, "Are there any specific ways that Wisconsin workers can use the ideas in [your book] 'The Shock Doctrine' to go on the offensive and force true fiscal responsibility, perhaps even rolling back the compromise contract?"

NAOMI KLEIN: Mm-hmm. It’s a great question. I think what’s finally starting to happen, and this is—Wisconsin has really been going from one victory after another. This started off with an attack, but people have been—have just found such incredible reserves of resolve and dignity and collective history that the ground is shifting. So, the situation under which those compromises were made, those concessions were made, it’s changed. You know, people are feeling their power and their possibility.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, it’s amazing now. The Governor, who was just elected, Scott Walker, a few months ago, is now—his popularity has dipped to the 30s.


AMY GOODMAN: And even the conservative newspapers are asking serious questions.

NAOMI KLEIN: Mm-hmm, yeah. I mean, he clearly made a real miscalculation. I mean, what was obvious is that he was really playing to the national stage. He’s clearly a very ambitious guy. He’s got real national political aspirations. I think that’s clear. You know, in that conversation with fake David Koch, the prank call, he compares himself to Reagan. He compares his actions to Reagan’s firing of the air traffic controllers, that sort of "shot heard around the world" moment. That’s what he wanted, you know? And he is not getting that.

AMY GOODMAN: And then he said, first he fired the PATCO strikers, and then the Berlin Wall came down. He made that link.

NAOMI KLEIN: He said it. And it’s not a crazy link, in the sense that it was part of a frontal assault on labor and the left, and it continued for many, many years. But, you know, it’s not the ’80s anymore, and people are on to these tactics.

And I do think—you know, just coming back to that question—that it is possible. But the real key is that we have to be having the debate about where the money should be coming from. I mean, if there is a fiscal crisis—and in Wisconsin, there’s a crisis that was created by tax cuts, and this is why there’s so much outrage, because it comes back to that false claim that there’s shared sacrifice here. There isn’t shared sacrifice here. There are gifts that are being handed out to the elites. Scott Walker is governing based on this radical free market ideology that if we just create the perfect, most hospitable, most gentle, less demanding conditions for corporations to do business, then we’ll have a booming economy, and it will trickle down, and everyone will benefit. And that is exactly the ideology that Obama campaigned against—and won—saying we can’t keep giving more and more to the people at the top and waiting for it to trickle down. And that was a message that really resonated with voters.

One thing I wanted to come back to that I was starting to get at earlier about why what’s happening in Wisconsin is happening in Wisconsin and what we need to take from it is that when bad things are happening, it’s helpful to have a bad guy. And Scott Walker is a good bad guy. And he has galvanized progressives. And people have, you know, an enemy to organize around and to point out these disparities. It hasn’t happened at the federal level, despite the fact that Obama is also involved in attacking labor rights with his pushing of charter schools and draconian budget cuts. He’s not a good bad guy for progressives. So, we’re still in a situation where Obama is getting away with, in my opinion, shock doctrine-style tactics, because people don’t—still don’t want to believe that Obama is doing it, too. So, when you have an easy bad guy, a Republican governor who’s obviously trying to be the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, you can mobilize the left. But it won’t just work if we are only going after the Republicans and if this is fought along just partisan lines, as opposed to being fought based on principle. No matter who is doing it, we need to be mobilizing, if it’s Obama, if it’s Scott Walker.

AMY GOODMAN: And the people that President Obama surrounds himself with, especially when it comes to the Wall Street insiders, especially as we move into the 2012 election, when it’s said Obama will raise more than a billion dollars for the presidential election?

NAOMI KLEIN: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of denial, still, about who Obama is and who he surrounds himself with. And, you know, we’re going to talk a little bit later about Tim DeChristopher, but I’ve said it many times: Obama is fundamentally a centrist. And I do think that when there is a mobilized progressive movement in the United States that is putting pressure on him, on Democrats in Congress, they will respond.

And that’s another lesson that we can take from Wisconsin. You know, I was talking, once again, to John Nichols the other day, and he said, "What’s really working here is that we have the inside-outside pincer." Right? You’ve got people in the streets, but you also have Democrat—Democratic lawmakers willing to put themselves on the line, being surprisingly courageous, leaving the state, and blocking it. So it isn’t just the people in the Rotunda. It isn’t just the protesters at the rally. It’s a kind of a partnership that’s going on. Why is that happening? Well, they looked out the window, and they saw their voters in the streets really committed and really mobilized, and that gave them courage.

And that’s something really important to remember about how—you know, so many liberal groups are involved in this gentle backroom lobbying, a token protest here and there, which says, "I’m willing to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday, but I’m not really willing to fight to win." And what’s going on in Wisconsin is something very different. It’s not just a rally on a Saturday afternoon. It is people really upending their lives for weeks and weeks and weeks on end. That sends a message to politicians who want to get re-elected that this is a big issue, a top priority. And they hear that.