Monthly Archives: October 2011

Axelrod latest to raise the sabotage question

via 2011 Political Animal by Steve Benen on 10/31/11

David Axelrod, a senior campaign strategist for President Obama, talked yesterday with CNN’s Candy Crowley, who asked whether it’s surprising that the White House has had “a hard time with Congress.” Axelrod responded:

“I think this is something — something different going on right now. When you have the leader — the Republican leader of the Senate say, ‘Our number one goal — in the midst of this economy, our number one goal is to defeat the president,’ and they’re acting like it.

“They don’t want to cooperate. They don’t want to help. Even on measures to help the economy that they traditionally have supported before, like a payroll tax cut, like infrastructure, rebuilding our roads and bridges and surface transport. These — so you have to ask you a question: Are they willing to tear down the economy in order to tear down the president or are they going to cooperate?

“And, listen, there’s a reason why the Congress is at 9 percent in some polls, approval, lowest in history. Because this is different than we’ve ever seen before.” [emphasis added]

This comes just three weeks after Jim Messina, the campaign manager for Obama/Biden 2012, sent an email to the Obama for America list, arguing that the Republican strategy is “to suffocate the economy for the sake of what they think will be a political victory.”

In other words, the “sabotage” question — concerns that Republicans are deliberately hurting the country, holding back the economy on purpose, for the express purpose of undermining the Obama presidency — is gaining mainstream traction. No one close to the president has been willing to broach this provocative line, and now we have one of Obama’s top political aides raising the question on national television.

Greg Sargent added, “At the very least, this may be the first time a top Obama campaign official has linked this argument to the idea that this GOP behavior may be historically unprecedented, and that it may be a key reason for Congress’ historical unpopularity — it’s a broadening of the indictment.”

Quite right. And as the indictment broadens, so too does the number of prominent figures make the accusations. What was once a rarely-asked question, largely confined to lefty blogs, is now a concern being raised by two top officials on the president’s re-election team, two leading Democratic senators, and a wide variety of prominent pundits, including a Pulitzer Prize winner and a Nobel laureate.

This shouldn’t be terribly surprising, of course, given the larger circumstances. Just over the last few months, we’ve seen the Republican debt-ceiling scandal, the GOP-driven downgrade, the Republican rejection of any efforts to boost the economy, the GOP pleading with the Federal Reserve not to even try to improve conditions, repeated Republican threats of government shutdowns, GOP lawmakers announcing their opposition to their own economic ideas, and Republicans killing jobs bills, large and small.

Under the circumstances, it’s hardly shocking that folks might start to wonder out loud, “Hmm, maybe Republicans are trying to hurt the economy on purpose?”

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Mario Piperni Does Mr. Mittens

The Souless, Empty Mitt Romney

October 31, 2011 By

President Obama’s chief adviser David Plouffe echoed the words of David Axelrod in describing Mitt Romney as such:

“He has no core.  I can tell you as one thinking, working a few steps down from the president, what you need in that office is conviction. You need to have a true compass, and you have got to be willing to make tough calls. You get the sense with Mitt Romney that if he thought it was good to say the sky was green and the grass was blue to win an election, he’d say it.”

Romney has reversed his thinking on so many key issues, it’s hard to keep up. Abortion, climate change, gay rights, Iraq, Afghanistan, health care, stimulus, bailouts, cap and trade, campaign spending and gun control are just some of the issues Romney has found reason to change his mind on. In truth, the only core principal Romney has displayed with any degree of conviction is his obsession with getting elected president.

The end result of Mitt Romney’s flip-flops is that while he might win the Republican primary in a year when the field is so horribly weak (Herman Cain?  Michele Bachmann?), he is making himself unelectable in a general election. When it comes down to an Obama/Romney contest, Dems will have no problem painting Romney as an empty, soulless politician willing to sell his principles for a vote. For the Obama campaign, the task will be no more difficult than directing independents to Rick Perry attack ads.

Mario Piperni Does Joe the Plumber

Joe, God and Backed-Up Plumbing

October 30, 2011 By

Warning: reading the following gibberish might make you ill.

Samuel “Joe The Plumber” Wurzelbacher formally announced his intention to run for the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, but when Political Correction caught up with him in April, Wurzelbacher sounded much more averse to the idea of pursuing higher office. “I pray to God I won’t,” he said. “I mean that very specifically.” Likening Washington, D.C. to some of his worst plumbing jobs, Wurzelbacher said, “I prayed to him, I said, ‘God, you know, I don’t want to run.’… Now, if God says, ‘Joe,’ you know, ‘I want you to do it,’ then I’ll do it, but I’ll do it because that’s what God, you know, that’s what prayer has led me to believe.”

I’ll venture a guess and say that religion has screwed up more people than it’s ever helped. Conservative politicians invoke the name of god in much the same way that magicians use the term ‘abracadabra’. Say the word and the naive become instantly mesmerized as magician politician con-man pulls another fast one on his unsuspecting audience.

It seems that every second Republican running for public office is doing so at God’s calling. Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann have all stated they’re running because of voices chirping away in their heads. And Newt Gingrich, the poster boy of virtue and morality, when asked last year if he was seeking the presidency, had this to say:

“That will be up to God, and the American people.”

To which blogger Roger Fallihee responded

“…if God is willing to help Newt Gingrich become President of the United States, he either has a very twisted sense of humor or he’s completely lost his omnipotent mind.”

Since the Bible is filled with tales of mass murder and the slaughter of innocent men, women and children, I’m thinking that God is lacking anything resembling a sense of humor. So, I’m going with the part of him having lost his omnipotent mind.

The man who was to conservative to be elected back in 1964 . . .

LUV Newsletter

Police Disguise Protest Sabotage As Public Safety

by Allison Kilkenny

The Occupy movements, in addition to being some of the most important activist movements to come along in the United States in several decades, have helped underscore several societal crises. For example, the failure of the establishment media and the rise of the beltway pundit class, the disappearance of public space, and also vanishing civil liberties, to name only a few.

Occupy has also served as a reminder of the ever-present police state, which rather than acting to “serve and protect,” oftentimes crushes and suppresses freedom of expression. We’ve witnessed this in obvious, overt, batshit crazy behavior like police using horses to stampede into a Times Square crowd, and when Oakland police turned their city into a war zone. But there are subtler, far sneakier ways so-called public servants such as firefighters and the police, and by extension city officials, use the law as a weapon, or a convenient scapegoat, to control a rebellious faction of the population.

I’m going to examine two recent examples in this post, but they are by no means meant to be a complete list. To highlight all of the ways police use the law to suppress the Occupy movements would take a book-length effort.

First, there’s the odd timing of the NYFD confiscating Occupy Wall Street’s generators and fuel because they supposedly posed a danger. OWS has been in possession of these generators and fuel for quite some time, but the fire department chose to seize them the day before the first snow of the season is due. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that Mayor Bloomberg, who previously lost a showdown with protesters over the cleaning of Liberty Park, now feels he needs to get creative with the eviction process.

Placing protesters under constant police surveillance hasn’t scared them off, nor have mass arrests, or physical abuse by police officers. If anything, these kinds of assault by the city have strengthened the movement’s public popularity. A recent Quinnipiac University survey reported that 67 percent of New York City voters said they agree with the protesters’ views. A whopping 72 percent of voters said law-abiding demonstrators can stay “as long as they want.” Throughout the occupation, Bloomberg has looked painfully out-of-touch and foolish on several occasions, and even inept as a city leader. Surely, that has provided him with enough motivation to disguise protest sabotage as public safety.

Then there’s the outrageous example of Occupy Tucson, one of the comparatively smaller Occupy movements that has suffered a disproportionately large percentage of arrests. On any given weekday, there are about 100 occupiers demonstrating in city parks, according to Tucson Sergeant Maria Hawk. That’s not exactly a wild surge in the population, or anything that should overwhelm the city. Yet, an astonishing 351 protesters have been arrested since the genesis of the movement. Hawk admits “most of the arrests were for remaining in a city park after hours.” This was also one of the excuses given in Oakland, along with the usual, “your fuel tanks are going to raze the entire city to the ground” speech.

The citation carries a $1000 fine, a potential prison sentence of six months in jail, and up to three years probation. Tucson activists rightly view this as an effort by police to bleed the movement financially instead of using bad PR-generating pepper spray and batons. While Occupy Wall Street got its moments to publicly “battle” the police and display how a force gone wild stifles dissent, Tucson is being quietly suffocated in the dead of night, and most of the public will be none the wiser.

What’s so deeply nefarious about this kind of civil rights assassination is that curfew and fire safety laws were created with genuine good intentions. It makes sense to not want individuals walking around in secluded, dark spaces at night, or not allow people to create bonfires in the middle of grounds covered in dry grass. But these well-meaning laws are now being used to crush the First Amendment.

Some readers might be asking themselves: But Allison, how can we tell the difference between when the cops are trying to protect citizens, and when they’re using public safety laws to disguise protest sabotage? Well, it’s quite easy. Here’s an example: Let’s give the OPD some credit and assume they really were concerned protesters were going to start a fire with their fuel. Why not walk in and seize the equipment? Why escalate the enforcement of a public safety regulation into full-blown warfare on the streets of Oakland, including critically injuring a war veteran? Unless, of course, what happened in Oakland was never about public safety, and all about crushing the will of the protesters. It’s not very safe for the public to, say, shoot them with rubber bullets, tear gas them, and explode flash bang grenades in their midsts.

Another example: Let’s assume the NYPD is super freaked out by OWS having generators. Why wait until the day before first snowfall to seize them? Were these generators not a public safety issue on the first day of the occupation? What was special about October 28, 2011 that suddenly turned generators into Public Enemy Number One? Unless, of course, this has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with crushing one of the most successful branches of the Occupy movement.

The answers to these questions should seem fairly obvious to anyone who is familiar with how law enforcement agencies prefer to handle public dissent. The NYPD, OPD, and Tucson police don’t want a bloody, drawn out war on their hands. It’ll look terrible in the media, and public sentiment is already on the side of the protesters.

What police and city officials prefer is a death by a thousand subtle little cuts. Take the generators, issue tickets, pull down the tents, and make life unbearable for the protesters. Hope they give up and go home when it snows, and if that doesn’t work, try to freeze the bastards out.

Allison Kilkenny is the co-host of the progressive political podcast Citizen Radio (wearecitizenradio.com) and independent journalist who blogs at allisonkilkenny.com. Her work has appeared in The American Prospect, the L.A. Times, In These Times, Common Dreams, Truthout and the award-winning grassroots NYC newspaper The Indypendent.

The Borowitz Report

China Announces ‘Occupy America’

Mysterious Movement’s Goals Unclear

BEIJING (The Borowitz Report) – The Chinese government raised eyebrows around the world today by announcing a mysterious national movement called “Occupy America.”

In a brief statement, the Chinese government said that while Occupy America was “not exactly a protest movement,” its effects would be felt in “every city, town and Wal-Mart in America.”

Hinting that the movement had widespread support in China, the statement said that Occupy America “would have the full participation of approximately 1.3 billion Chinese.”

At the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the goals of Occupy America “remain unclear,” adding, “The official policy of the U.S. government towards things we don’t fully understand is to do nothing.”

Later, after a phone call with Chinese officials, Secretary Clinton said she came away feeling reassured: “They told me that Occupy America actually started thirty years ago.”

Elsewhere, to mark the Statue of Liberty’s 125th birthday, police across the country beat up protesters.

BuzzFlash on Oakland’s History of Thuggery

As the medical condition of Marine Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen appears to have improved, he is becoming the Neda Agha-Soltan — the martyr of the Iranian Green Revolution — of the “Occupy” struggle for economic justice.

What occurred this week in Oakland — including the wounding of Olsen — shouldn’t have happened. In June of 2004, the Oakland Police Department reached an agreement to refrain from using the kind of bloody and militarized tactics that they employed earlier this week.

According to a November 2004 San Francisco Chronicle article:

Oakland police will no longer indiscriminately use wooden or rubber bullets, Taser stun guns, pepper spray and motorcycles to break up crowds, under an agreement announced Friday….

The new policy settles part of a federal class-action lawsuit filed by 52 people who claimed their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly were violated as they targeted two shipping companies with contracts tied to the war in Iraq.

“What we’ve done is create a comprehensive policy that really provides a much more sensible, reasoned approach to managing demonstrations and crowds,” said Rachel Lederman of the National Lawyers Guild in San Francisco.

Obviously, as Olsen’s situation demonstrates, the Oakland Police did not adhere to the letter or spirit of the 2004 agreement on Tuesday night. Lederman told the San Francisco Chronicle that when the policy was negotiated, “these projectile weapons are very dangerous. It was only a matter of luck that someone wasn’t killed on April 7, 2003, in Oakland. That’s what we’re trying to prevent.”

Lederman is referring to a 2003 Oakland police riot against anti-Iraq war demonstrators that resulted in the serious wounding of many protesters. In fact, according to ThinkProgress, “the demonstrators were not without recourse. They took the city to court, and Oakland eventually awarded $2 million to 58 demonstrators for police abuses.”

You would think that after signing an agreement and paying out taxpayer money to “compensate” for abusive police practices, the Oakland Police Department would learn how to behave in a civilized fashion when dealing with people exercising their First Amendment rights.

Meanwhile, the Oakland School Board voted on Wednesday night, this week, to close five elementary schools, in large part due to budget constraints. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland school district officials say that the school closings will save about $2 million a year, about what the Oakland Police Department paid out to protesters it abused in 2003.

Mark Karlin
Editor, BuzzFlash at Truthout