Tag Archives: Egypt

Mitt Romney. Worst. Candidate. Ever.

GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s premature knee-jerk response to yesterday’s attacks on American embassies in Libya and Egypt reveal the low character of the man – and make it clear he is not fit for the Presidency.

Before Romney could possibly know the facts, before the State Department had identified our dead, before President Obama could publically address this national tragedy, Mitt sought the television cameras to score cheap political points with an unfounded, uneducated and vastly unhelpful attack on the President and, by extension, the heroic members of our foreign service stationed in harm’s way. Romney’s behavior in this moment of crisis was entirely selfish and profoundly un-American. (He even smirked as he walked away from the podium after launching his patently unserious salvo.)

American Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other embassy workers killed in the rocket attack in Benghazi, Libya deserved far better than to serve as props for Mitt Romney’s cheap political stunt.

There was a time when partisanship in American politics stopped at the water’s edge.

Romney’s ham-handed diplomatic buffoonery and lack of foreign policy wisdom should disqualify him as a candidate for President of the United States. The fact that Mitt’s rash, false and incendiary accusations against President Obama have been met with approval by right wing tools like disgraced former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Senator Jim DeMint (Tea Party-SC) and Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) only add to the argument against Romney’s judgment, his character, and his candidacy.

Sorry, my Republican friends, this is your guy for 2012: perhaps the worst Presidential candidate in the modern era. One wonders how — with that huge silver spoon in his mouth — he still manages to find room to stick his foot in it, too.

Shame on you, Mitt Romney.

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On, Wisconsin!

Hosni Mubarak, meet Scott Walker. Walker’s got a popular uprising on his hands, too.

A funny thing happened on the way to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s goal of rolling back the hard-earned rights and benefits of his state’s public employee unions. Tens of thousands of citizens began marching in the streets of Madison.

A newly elected Republican, Governor Walker wants his GOP-controlled state legislature to pass a law that forces state workers to pay more for their pensions and health insurance coverage and takes away most of their collective bargaining rights. Ironically, Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to grant public employees collective bargaining rights.

An imperious Governor Walker says there will be no negotiations on his union-busting budget plan. If the legislature doesn’t pass his plan, Walker has threatened massive layoffs and cuts in state services that will cost thousands of jobs.

And in a move that would make Hosni proud, Walker put the National Guard on alert in case state workers strike or rise in protest. The Wisconsin Guard hasn’t been called out in a labor dispute since 1934. (And that situation was deadly.)

On Tuesday, February 15, approximately 15,000 people jammed inside the Capitol building and on the grounds to express their opposition to Walker. The next day, schools in Madison were closed as 40% of the teachers union’s 2,600 members called in sick and joined the growing throng of protestors at the Capitol.

Also on Tuesday, more than a thousand demonstrators gathered outside Governor Walker’s home. The line of protestors was ten blocks long.

Surely, this is all big national news, right?

In recent weeks, our national news media was awash with breathless coverage of the mass demonstrations in Egypt that brought down a dictatorship. That was as it should be. The defiant pro-democracy rallies in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were clearly and importantly newsworthy. So why isn’t it newsworthy when 10,000 Wisconsin citizens gather in the frigid streets of Madison chanting, “This is what Democracy looks like!”

In fact, many of the protesters in Madison recognize similarities between their struggle to maintain their rights and the Egyptians’ battle against an autocratic, oppressive regime. Some protest signs in Wisconsin say things like, “Hosni Walker,” “Don’t Dictate, Negotiate,” and “Dictators Will Fall.”

Our news media should be showing all Americans the sights and sounds of this popular uprising within our own borders. There should be up-close-and-personal feature stories about the local Madison businesses giving free food and coffee to the demonstrators — or police officers buying lunch for protesting state workers. Or the cheers that rose up when a column of hundreds of firefighters from across the state joined the protest, marching to the sound of their bagpipers.

Governor Walker had tried to keep the cops and firefighters out of this fight by exempting them from his regressive new anti-labor law – but Walker’s gambit to divide key groups of Wisconsin’s public employees against each other didn’t work. The President of Madison Fire Fighters Local 311 declared that even if supporting the protest leads to the cops and firemen getting their rights and benefits cut, too – organized labor sticks together.

“Oh you can’t scare me, I’m stickin’ to the union…”

According to all reports, the uniformed cops monitoring the protests are friendly and supportive — and off-duty officers are carrying “Cops for Labor” signs.

Of course, the struggle in Madison isn’t just about public workers’ rights in Wisconsin. It could be a pivotal event for the labor movement in America: a galvanizing moment when working people begin to push back against the 30-year conservative war on organized labor that began when Ronald Reagan broke the PATCO union during the air traffic controller’s strike.

President Obama appears to understand the larger implications of (what I’m calling) the Great Badger Labor Revolt…

“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions. And I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers.

“They make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution. And I think it’s important not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.”

But where Obama sees “neighbors” and “friends” who “make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution” – right wing gasbag Rush Limbaugh sees only enemies, calling teachers “parasites” and union workers part of an “anti-democracy” movement.”

It’s sad to think that Limbaugh’s ranting may carry farther on the media airwaves than President Obama’s pro-union message.

And why has Governor Walker launched his assault on middle-class jobs and collective bargaining? Walker claims his state is broke — but an independent analysis by the Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau projects a net positive balance of $56 million for the state budget at the end of 2011. And a report by the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future estimates the cuts in public employees’ pay will cost the state $1.1 billion in reduced economic activity annually – which will lead to the loss of some 9,000 private sector jobs.

Walker’s plan is not about what’s good for Wisconsin.

This trumped-up “budget crisis” is really an extension of the Republican war against workers’ rights that Walker’s fellow GOP governors, like Ohio’s John Kasich and Arizona’s Jan Brewer, are also waging.

But in Wisconsin, Walker is facing a revolt. And that revolt has spread to the legislature itself.

Today, on Thursday February 17, in the midst of heated debate as Walker pressed his GOP majority to hastily ram his budget plan through the legislature — all 14 members of the Senate Democratic caucus walked out — depriving the state Senate the three-fifths majority it needs for a quorum on budgetary issues. Soon afterward, the NBC affiliate in Madison reported that the Democrats left the state entirely.

“I know the whereabouts of not a single Democratic senator,” said Democratic Party communications director Graeme Zielinski Zielinski. “I do not know what latitude they’re on, or know what longitude they’re on. I assume they’re in this hemisphere, I’ll say that.”

GOP Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said that at some point, if necessary, Republicans will call upon the State Patrol to round up the Democratic diaspora and return them to the Senate floor. (And how’s this for nepotism, cronyism, and conflict of interest? The state Senate leader and the Assembly Speaker are brothers — and the new head of the State Patrol is their dad. You just can’t make this stuff up.)

Working people in America are fighting for their survival. This uprising by unions members and citizens of Wisconsin should be a major news story.

We’ll see what kind of play it gets in the corporate-controlled (and thus, anti-union) national media — other than MSNBC.

Will we see Anderson Cooper live from the Capitol Grounds in Madison?

I hope so.

I doubt he’ll have to worry about any Cheese-heads hitting him in the head.

On, Wisconsin!

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Regime Change…

On February 11, 2011, after massive public protest, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak announced he was relinquishing the power he held over his ancient country for the past three decades. Mubarak’s grudging resignation capped an incredible 18 days of revolutionary reality television – and while it’s far too soon for anyone not wearing an Egyptian military officer’s uniform to predict the form Egypt’s next government will ultimately take, now is the time to marvel at what we’ve witnessed on the streets of Cairo, in the shadow of the Great Pyramids. From one of the cradles of human civilization came another great victory for human civilization.

Peaceful change.

Indelible images of Molotov cocktail-tossing provocateurs and whip-cracking thugs on camelback notwithstanding, the most important aspect of this spontaneous popular uprising was that it was an essentially peaceful protest. Against all odds, and despite desperate acts of violent provocation by forces loyal to (or paid by) Mubarak’s regime, millions of unarmed Egyptian citizens stood strong in the streets day after day to demand redress of their long-suffered grievances.

Many of those on the barricades in Cairo’s Tahrir Square echoed the language of American patriots from our own Revolution. “Give me liberty,” I heard one student declare to a listening world on CNN, “Or give me death!” And he meant it every bit as much as Patrick Henry did. We tend to forget that, like the anti-Mubarak protestors we saw chanting and praying on our TV screens, our revolutionary forbears really were risking their lives and fortunes in a bid to free themselves from the yoke of despotism. Unlike King George III, however, Hosni Mubarak either would not – or could not – get his army to mete out the “death” option to his rebellious subjects. (It’ll take a while before we see how the “liberty” option plays out.)

Regime change without war.

Think about it. The 30-year reign of a powerful dictator who sanctioned the torture of his enemies while looting his country and driving millions of his citizens into economic despair was overthrown by the non-violent mobilization of a resolute citizenry: by people taking to the streets armed with nothing but their resolve to reclaim their national dignity and demand a better future for themselves and for their children. Incredibly, regime change came without guns.

The Power of Social Media

Egyptian demonstrators used Facebook and Twitter to help organize their massive protests and share news and information in a country whose mainstream media was controlled by the party line lies of Mubarak’s totalitarian regime. It’s shocking to see how little politicians are aware of the power, speed and reach of the Internet and social media – whether it’s an Egyptian despot or a Republican Congressman looking for extra-marital love on Craig’s List. In both cases, ignorance of the scope of electronic media led to inevitable resignations.

Though in many ways this epochal event exposed the limits of American power and influence in the Middle East, President Obama and his administration managed to signal a guarded solidarity with the aggrieved Egyptian populace while at the same time cautioning the Egyptian military to stand down and encouraging Mubarak (our hold-your-nose regional ally) to accede to the will of his people.

A clarion call on behalf of the protestors may have thrilled some less temperate lovers of democracy, but the American President was wise not to be seen as encouraging a foreign population to revolt – especially in a volatile region where autocratic Middle Eastern leaders love to scapegoat foreign interference in their domestic affairs. President Obama was firm but diplomatic. Which is, after all, the way diplomacy works. (Sorry, Fox News, but this was never about Barack Obama anyway.)

Unemployment had a lot to do with this Egyptian revolution. One thing is certain: a person without a job – and without the prospect of a job – has both a reason to march in the streets and the time to march in the streets! I can only hope that the outsourcing, shortsighted, anti-American corporate toadies at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have been paying attention to what has happened in Egypt the past few weeks. You can send all of our manufacturing jobs overseas, you can have all of our service calls routed through Bangalore and New Delhi – but when 20% of the U.S. population is out of work: beware.

When a future generation of dispossessed and disenfranchised Americans comes out into the streets to demand that their corporate overlords listen to their grievances and share the wealth, will the U.S. military – our all-volunteer force – turn their guns on their fathers, uncles, brothers, high school buddies, mothers and sisters? Egypt’s army did not. I can’t imagine that the U.S. Army would either. (Maybe that’s why Bush and Cheney were so busy funding and training Blackwater, now Xe Services LLC?)

But I digress. Let’s get back to the historic events in Egypt. And let’s celebrate this display of human courage and dignity. We don’t know what the future will hold for Egypt. Will their next government roll rightward toward religious zealotry and anti-Semitism? Or will it become a liberal lantern that lights the way to true freedom in the region? That’s for Egyptians to decide.

The opportunity to make another giant leap for human civilization is within Egypt’s grasp. Chances to fundamentally advance humanity come along very few times in a millennia. Or two. Or three. Or four…

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