Aging mining law handcuffs the American West

Originally published in High Country News (June 12, 2012). Reprinted with permission.

By Ben Long

Two of my favorite western cities, Tucson, Ariz., and Boise, Idaho, share some common blessings and one common curse.

The blessings include lovely mountain backdrops, vibrant universities and increasingly diverse economies.

The shared curse: badly misguided mining claims upstream.

Photo courtesy Save the Scenic Santa Ritas.

Why, in the 21st Century, should communities like Boise and Tucson be shackled to an antiquated federal mining policy dating back to the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant?

I was a newspaper reporter in Boise for a short spell and when I return, I am drawn to the Boise River and its marvelous greenbelt. It’s a rare city where the trout fishing and kayaking are so good within city limits.

Folks in Boise are rightfully concerned about a Canadian company that has proposed a cyanide-leach gold mine upstream from the Boise River. Besides fishing and floating, the Boise provides about a fifth of drinking water for the largest metro area in Idaho. The battle cry there is: the Boise River is more precious than gold.

That scenario might sound familiar to folks in Tucson. There, the mining company Rosemont Copper recently unveiled plans for a giant, thirsty copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains on the outskirts of town. Water is even scarcer and more precious in Tucson than it is in Boise.

When the Montana winters start to wear us down, my family heads to Tucson and surrounding Sky Island mountain ranges.  We love to bird at local hotspots like Madera Canyon.

Mining has been, and will continue to be, important elements in both the Gem State and the Copper State economies. But it’s long past time to recognize that just because there is gold in the hills, it’s not always worth ripping the hill apart to get it.

When Karen and I visit Madera Canyon, we hope for a glimpse of a rare bird like an Elegant Trogon or Flame-colored Tanager. We are not alone. The two counties near Tucson bring in nearly $3 billion/year from tourism and recreation. What’s more, the natural settings and outdoor opportunities near cities like Boise and Tucson help attract investment and jobs in small business, light industry and technologies.

But forget all that. The 1872 General Mining Law mandates that mining is always the highest priority for our public lands, from the Boise National Forest to the Coronado National Forest. Local rangers may modify, but are not allowed to reject a mining proposal, even when it runs squarely against local sensibilities or modern economic interests.

That evidently made sense in the 1870s, when Col. Custer and Sitting Bull clashed over prospectors’ intrusions into the Black Hills. But those days are done. It’s time to give local communities a voice in determining the future of public lands that offer so much value, far beyond minerals. Even if that means sometimes saying “no.”


Image: The natural setting around Tucson, Ariz., such as the Santa Rita Mountains, are more precious than gold. Photo courtesy Save the Scenic Santa Ritas.

Ben Long is an outdoorsman, author and conservationist from Kalispell, Mont.,  who has yet to add the Elegant Trogon to his life list. He is senior program director for Resource Media.

Jeff Ackerman Leaving The Union

From today’s Union:

“Jeff Ackerman, publisher of The Union, announced today that he will be leaving the newspaper after 10 years of serving the western Nevada County community.

“Ackerman will be taking an expanded scope of … “

Read full article here: “Change in leadership at The Union

The Epidemic of Rape in the US Military

Here’s a short (1 min 54 second) trailer for an important documentary, dealing with the epidemic of rape in the US military:

;
See also www.notinvisible.org

I heard attorney Susan Burke interviewed about this on Bill Maher’s show. She is representing military women in a “series of lawsuits designed to reform the manner in which the military prosecutes rape and sexual assault.”

She mentioned that when they talk to Pentagon offiials about this problem they are always told that the US military has a “zero tolerance” for sexual assault, but when they actually get into court, the defense is often the statement that sexual assault is “an occupational hazard.” !!!!!

See more about her work at Susan L. Burke

Why The Rich Should Pay More Taxes

From the Robert Reich Blog

The New Obama Doctrine, A Six-Point Plan for Global War

Reprinted from TomDispatch.Com

Special Ops, Drones, Spy Games, Civilian Soldiers, Proxy Fighters, and Cyber Warfare

By Nick Turse

It looked like a scene out of a Hollywood movie.  In the inky darkness, men in full combat gear, armed with automatic weapons and wearing night-vision goggles, grabbed hold of a thick, woven cable hanging from a MH-47 Chinook helicopter.  Then, in a flash, each “fast-roped” down onto a ship below.  Afterward, “Mike,” a Navy SEAL who would not give his last name, bragged to an Army public affairs sergeant that, when they were on their game, the SEALs could put 15 men on a ship this way in 30 seconds or less.

Once on the aft deck, the special ops troops broke into squads and methodically searched the ship as it bobbed in Jinhae Harbor, South Korea.  Below deck and on the bridge, the commandos located several men and trained their weapons on them, but nobody fired a shot.  It was, after all, a training exercise.

All of those ship-searchers were SEALs, but not all of them were American.  Some were from Naval Special Warfare Group 1 out of Coronado, California; others hailed from South Korea’s Naval Special Brigade.  The drill was part of Foal Eagle 2012, a multinational, joint-service exercise.  It was also a model for — and one small part of — a much publicized U.S. military “pivot” from the Greater Middle East to Asia, a move that includes sending an initial contingent of 250 Marines to Darwin, Australia, basing littoral combat ships in Singapore, strengthening military ties with Vietnam and India, staging war games in the Philippines (as well as a drone strike there), and shifting the majority of the Navy’s ships to the Pacific by the end of the decade.

That modest training exercise also reflected another kind of pivot.  The face of American-style war-fighting is once again changing.  Forget full-scale invasions and large-footprint occupations on the Eurasian mainland; instead, think: special operations forces working on their own but also training or fighting beside allied militaries (if not outright proxy armies) in hot spots around the world.  And along with those special ops advisors, trainers, and commandos expect ever more funds and efforts to flow into the militarization of spying and intelligence, the use of drone aircraft, the launching of cyber-attacks, and joint Pentagon operations with increasingly militarized “civilian” government agencies.

Much of this has been noted in the media, but how it all fits together into what could be called the new global face of empire has escaped attention.  And yet this represents nothing short of a new Obama doctrine, a six-point program for twenty-first-century war, American-style, that the administration is now carefully developing and honing.  Its global scope is already breathtaking, if little recognized, and like Donald Rumsfeld’s military lite and David Petraeus’s counterinsurgency operations, it is evidently going to have its day in the sun — and like them, it will undoubtedly disappoint in ways that will surprise its creators.

The Blur-ness

For many years, the U.S. military has been talking up and promoting the concept of  “jointness.”  An Army helicopter landing Navy SEALs on a Korean ship catches some of this ethos at the tactical level.  But the future, it seems, has something else in store.  Think of it as “blur-ness,” a kind of organizational version of war-fighting in which a dominant Pentagon fuses its forces with other government agencies — especially the CIA, the State Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration — in complex, overlapping missions around the globe.

In 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld began his “revolution in military affairs,” steering the Pentagon toward a military-lite model of high-tech, agile forces.  The concept came to a grim end in Iraq’s embattled cities.  A decade later, the last vestiges of its many failures continue to play out in a stalemated war in Afghanistan against a rag-tag minority insurgency that can’t be beaten.  In the years since, two secretaries of defense and a new president have presided over another transformation — this one geared toward avoiding ruinous, large-scale land wars which the U.S. has consistently proven unable to win.

Under President Obama, the U.S. has expanded or launched numerous military campaigns — most of them utilizing a mix of the six elements of twenty-first-century American war.  Take the American war in Pakistan — a poster-child for what might now be called the Obama formula, if not doctrine.  Beginning as a highly-circumscribed drone assassination campaign backed by limited cross-bordercommando raids under the Bush administration, U.S. operations in Pakistan have expanded into something close to a full-scale robotic air war, complemented bycross-border helicopter attacks, CIA-funded “kill teams” of Afghan proxy forces, as well as boots-on-the-ground missions by elite special operations forces, including the SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The CIA has conducted clandestine intelligence and surveillance missions in Pakistan, too, though its role may, in the future, be less important, thanks to Pentagon mission creep.  In April, in fact, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the creation of a new CIA-like espionage agency within the Pentagon called the Defense Clandestine Service. According to the Washington Post, its aim is to expand “the military’s espionage efforts beyond war zones.”

Over the last decade, the very notion of war zones has become remarkably muddled, mirroring the blurring of the missions and activities of the CIA and Pentagon.  Analyzing the new agency and the “broader convergence trend” between Department of Defense and CIA missions, the Post noted that the “blurring is also evident in the organizations’ upper ranks. Panetta previously served as CIA director, and that post is currently held by retired four-star Army Gen. David H. Petraeus.”

Not to be outdone, last year the State Department, once the seat of diplomacy, continued on its long march to militarization (and marginalization) when it agreed to pool some of its resources with the Pentagon to create the Global Security Contingency Fund.  That program will allow the Defense Department even greater say in how aid from Washington will flow to proxy forces in places like Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

One thing is certain: American war-making (along with its spies and its diplomats) is heading ever deeper into “the shadows.”  Expect yet more clandestine operations in ever more places with, of course, ever more potential for blowback in the years ahead.

Shedding Light on “the Dark Continent”

One locale likely to see an influx of Pentagon spies in the coming years is Africa.  Under President Obama, operations on the continent have accelerated far beyondthe more limited interventions of the Bush years.  Last year’s war in Libya; a regional drone campaign with missions run out of airports and bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles; a flotilla of 30 ships in that ocean supporting regional operations; a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, including intelligence operations, training for Somali agents, secret prisonshelicopter attacks, and U.S. commando raids; a massive influx of cash for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; a possible old-fashioned air war, carried out on the sly in the region using manned aircraft; tens of millions of dollars in arms for allied mercenaries and African troops; and a special ops expeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and his senior commanders, operating in Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic (where U.S. Special Forces now have a new base) only begins to scratch the surface of Washington’s fast-expanding plans and activities in the region.

Even less well known are other U.S. military efforts designed to train African forces for operations now considered integral to American interests on the continent.  These include, for example, a mission by elite Force Recon Marines from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force 12 (SPMAGTF-12) to train soldiers from the Uganda People’s Defense Force, which supplies the majority of troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia.

Earlier this year, Marines from SPMAGTF-12 also trained soldiers from the Burundi National Defense Force, the second-largest contingent in Somalia; sent trainers into Djibouti (where the U.S. already maintains a major Horn of Africa base at Camp Lemonier); and traveled to Liberia where they focused on teaching riot-control techniques to Liberia’s military as part of an otherwise State Department spearheaded effort to rebuild that force.

The U.S. is also conducting counterterrorism training and equipping militaries in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Niger, and Tunisia.  In addition, U.S. Africa Command (Africom) has 14 major joint-training exercises planned for 2012, including operations in Morocco, Cameroon, Gabon, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Senegal, and what may become the Pakistan of Africa, Nigeria.

Even this, however, doesn’t encompass the full breadth of U.S. training and advising missions in Africa.  To take an example not on Africom’s list, this spring the U.S. brought together 11 nations, including Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Liberia, Mauritania, and Sierra Leone to take part in a maritime training exercise code-named Saharan Express 2012.

Back in the Backyard

Since its founding, the United States has often meddled close to home, treating the Caribbean as its private lake and intervening at will throughout Latin America.  During the Bush years, with some notable exceptions, Washington’s interest in America’s “backyard” took a backseat to wars farther from home.  Recently, however, the Obama administration has been ramping up operations south of the border using its new formula.  This has meant Pentagon drone missions deep inside Mexico to aid that country’s battle against the drug cartels, while CIA agents and civilian operatives from the Department of Defense were dispatched to Mexican military bases to take part in the country’s drug war.

In 2012, the Pentagon has also ramped up its anti-drug operations in Honduras. Working out of Forward Operating Base Mocoron and other remote camps there, the U.S. military is supporting Honduran operations by way of the methods it honed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In addition, U.S. forces have taken part in joint operations with Honduran troops as part of a training mission dubbed Beyond the Horizon 2012; Green Berets have been assisting Honduran Special Operations forces in anti-smuggling operations; and a Drug Enforcement Administration Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team, originally created to disrupt the poppy trade in Afghanistan, has joined forces with Honduras’s Tactical Response Team, that country’s most elite counternarcotics unit.  A glimpse of these operations made the news recently when DEA agents, flying in an American helicopter, were involved in an aerial attack on civilians that killed two men and two pregnant women in the remote Mosquito Coast region.

Less visible have been U.S. efforts in Guyana, where Special Operation Forces have been training local troops in heliborne air assault techniques. “This is the first time we have had this type of exercise involving Special Operations Forces of the United States on such a grand scale,” Colonel Bruce Lovell of the Guyana Defense Force told a U.S. public affairs official earlier this year.  “It gives us a chance to validate ourselves and see where we are, what are our shortcomings.”

The U.S. military has been similarly active elsewhere in Latin America, concluding training exercises in Guatemala, sponsoring  “partnership-building” missions in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Peru, and Panama, and reaching an agreement to carry out 19 “activities” with the Colombian army over the next year, including joint military exercises.

Still in the Middle of the Middle East

Despite the end of the Iraq and Libyan wars, a coming drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, and copious public announcements about its national security pivot toward Asia, Washington is by no means withdrawing from the Greater Middle East.  In addition to continuing operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. has consistently been at work training allied troops, building up military bases, and brokering weapons sales and arms transfers to despots in the region from Bahrain to Yemen.

In fact, Yemen, like its neighbor, Somalia, across the Gulf of Aden, has become a laboratory for Obama’s wars.  There, the U.S. is carrying out its signature new brand of warfare with “black ops” troops like the SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force undoubtedly conducting kill/capture missions, while “white” forces like the Green Berets and Rangers are training indigenous troops, and robot planes hunt and kill members of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, possibly assisted by an even more secret contingent of manned aircraft.

The Middle East has also become the somewhat unlikely poster-region for another emerging facet of the Obama doctrine: cyberwar efforts.  In a category-blurring speaking engagement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton surfaced at the recent Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Florida where she gave aspeech talking up her department’s eagerness to join in the new American way of war.  “We need Special Operations Forces who are as comfortable drinking tea with tribal leaders as raiding a terrorist compound,” she told the crowd. “We also need diplomats and development experts who are up to the job of being your partners.”

Clinton then took the opportunity to tout her agency’s online efforts, aimed at websites used by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.  When al-Qaeda recruitment messages appeared on the latter, she said, “our team plastered the same sites with altered versions… that showed the toll al-Qaeda attacks have taken on the Yemeni people.”  She further noted that this information-warfare mission was carried out by experts at State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications with assistance, not surprisingly, from the military and the U.S. Intelligence Community.

These modest on-line efforts join more potent methods of cyberwar being employed by the Pentagon and the CIA, including the recently revealed “Olympic Games,” a program of sophisticated attacks on computers in Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities engineered and unleashed by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Unit 8200, Israeli’s equivalent of the NSA.  As with other facets of the new way of war, these efforts were begun under the Bush administration but significantly accelerated under the current president, who became the first American commander-in-chief to order sustained cyberattacks designed to cripple another country’s infrastructure.

From Brushfires to Wildfires

Across the globe from Central and South America to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, the Obama administration is working out its formula for a new American way of war.  In its pursuit, the Pentagon and its increasingly militarized government partners are drawing on everything from classic precepts of colonial warfare to the latest technologies.

The United States is an imperial power chastened by more than 10 years of failed, heavy-footprint wars.  It is hobbled by a hollowing-out economy, and inundated with hundreds of thousands of recent veterans — a staggering 45% of the troops who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq — suffering from service-related disabilities who will require ever more expensive care.  No wonder the current combination of special ops, drones, spy games, civilian soldiers, cyberwarfare, and proxy fighters sounds like a safer, saner brand of war-fighting.  At first blush, it may even look like a panacea for America’s national security ills.  In reality, it may be anything but.

The new light-footprint Obama doctrine actually seems to be making war an ever more attractive and seemingly easy option — a point emphasized recently by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace.  “I worry about speed making it too easy to employ force,” said Pace when asked about recent efforts to make it simpler to deploy Special Operations Forces abroad.  “I worry about speed making it too easy to take the easy answer — let’s go whack them with special operations — as opposed to perhaps a more laborious answer for perhaps a better long-term solution.”

As a result, the new American way of war holds great potential for unforeseen entanglements and serial blowback.  Starting or fanning brushfire wars on several continents could lead to raging wildfires that spread unpredictably and prove difficult, if not impossible, to quench.

By their very nature, small military engagements tend to get larger, and wars tend to spread beyond borders.  By definition, military action tends to have unforeseen consequences.  Those who doubt this need only look back to 2001, when three low-tech attacks on a single day set in motion a decade-plus of war that has spread across the globe.  The response to that one day began with a war in Afghanistan, that spread to Pakistan, detoured to Iraq, popped up in Somalia and Yemen, and so on.  Today, veterans of those Ur-interventions find themselves trying to replicate their dubious successes in places like Mexico and Honduras, the Central Africa Republic and the Congo.

History demonstrates that the U.S. is not very good at winning wars, having gone without victory in any major conflict since 1945.  Smaller interventions have been a mixed bag with modest victories in places like Panama and Grenada and ignominious outcomes in Lebanon (in the 1980s) and Somalia (in the 1990s), to name a few.

The trouble is, it’s hard to tell what an intervention will grow up to be — until it’s too late.  While they followed different paths, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq all began relatively small, before growing large and ruinous.  Already, the outlook for the new Obama doctrine seems far from rosy, despite the good press it’s getting inside Washington’s Beltway.

What looks today like a formula for easy power projection that will further U.S. imperial interests on the cheap could soon prove to be an unmitigated disaster — one that likely won’t be apparent until it’s too late.


Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com.  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Timesthe Nationand regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author/editor of several books, including the just published Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050 (with Tom Engelhardt).  This piece is the latest article in his new series on the changing face of American empire, which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation.  You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Nick Turse

Mining Gold, Undermining Democracy

Reprinted from Other Words

Neither foreign investors nor unelected tribunals deserve the power to trump democratically elected leaders.

By Robin Broad and John Cavanagh

A tribunal in Washington, D.C. that nobody elected recently issued a verdict that potentially hinders the democratic rights of millions of people. Its three members ruled that a foreign company may continue to sue El Salvador for not letting the company mine gold there. The impoverished Central American country could potentially be forced to pay a Canadian mining company called Pacific Rim $77 million or more in damages. This anti-democratic ruling has ominous implications for all of us.

We visited El Salvador last year to learn more about this landmark case. A wide vein of gold lies alongside the northern portions of a large river that flows down the country’s middle. This river provides water for more than half its population. The gold remained relatively undisturbed until about a decade ago, when foreign companies began to apply for mining permits.

Farmers and others told us that they were initially open to gold mining, thinking it would bring jobs to ease the area’s deep poverty. But as they learned more about the toxic chemicals used to separate gold from the surrounding ore and about the massive amounts of water used in the process, they began to organize a movement that opposed mining. Their simple cry: “We can live without gold, but we can’t live without water.”

By 2007, polls showed that close to two-thirds of Salvadorans opposed gold mining. In 2009, Salvadorans elected a president who promised he wouldn’t issue any new mining permits during his five-year term. He has kept this pledge.

But Pacific Rim didn’t sit idly by as democracy worked its way from El Salvador’s northern communities to its national government. The company sought a mining license. When the government didn’t approve its environmental impact assessment, the Canadian company resorted to lobbying Salvadoran officials. And, when its lobbying failed, Pacific Rim lodged a complaint against El Salvador at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington under a U.S.-initiated trade agreement and a little-known investment law in El Salvador.

Laws and trade agreements like these grant corporations the right to sue governments over actions — including health, safety, and environmental regulations — that reduce the value of the corporation’s investment.

To the surprise of many observers, the tribunal ruled on June 1 that Pacific Rim can proceed with the lawsuit against El Salvador. Even if the cash-strapped Salvadoran government wins in the end, it will likely have to shell out millions on legal fees to defend an action taken after lengthy democratic deliberations. If it loses in the tribunal’s next ruling, it will cost even more.

Laws and trade agreements that allow corporations to sue governments should worry us all. No international tribunal should have the right to punish countries for laws or measures approved through a democratic process, be it in the United States, El Salvador, or anywhere else. President Barack Obama said this himself in 2008 when he promised to limit the ability of corporations to use trade agreements to sue over public-interest regulations.

Yet the Obama administration is currently negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership with several countries. And it’s pushing for provisions that would allow companies to sue governments under this trade pact. But an expanding coalition of labor, environmental, religious, and other groups opposes giving Big Business this privilege. A similar coalition in Australia, another country negotiating this trade deal, has convinced its government to oppose such corporate “rights.” The Trans-Pacific Partnership may well prove an opportunity for this outrageous assault on democracy to be defeated.

Democracy belongs to the people. Those of us standing up to defend democracy and counter corporate abuse should strongly oppose any new “rights” for corporations being written into new trade pacts as we try to overturn the existing ones.

El Salvador’s government has the right to act upon the will of its people — and should be expected to do so. Neither foreign investors nor unelected tribunals deserve the power to trump democratically elected leaders.


Robin Broad is a professor at American University’s School of International Service, and John Cavanagh directs the Institute for Policy Studies.

$49+ Trillion Of Median Family Net Worth Destroyed Since 2007

From the Huffington Post/Reuters:

WASHINGTON, June 11 (Reuters) – Americans suffered a record decline in wealth between 2007 and 2010 as home values tumbled, according to a Federal Reserve report on Monday that underscored the severity of the recent recession.

The median family’s net worth dropped 38.8 percent during the three-year period, the Fed said in its latest report on changes in U.S. Family Finances, derived from a survey of consumer finances. Fed economists told reporters that this was the biggest drop in net worth since the survey started in 1989.

The median net worth, which is the value of assets minus debt, plunged to $77.3 trillion in 2010 from $126.4 trillion in 2007. Net worth in 2010 was at levels last seen in 1992.

From the New York Times:

The new data comes from the Fed’s much-anticipated release on Monday of its Survey of Consumer Finances, a report issued every three years that is one of the broadest and deepest sources of information about the financial health of American families.

While the numbers are already 18 months old, the survey illuminates problems that continue to slow the pace of the economic recovery. The Fed found that middle-class families had sustained the largest percentage losses in both wealth and income during the crisis, limiting their ability and willingness to spend.

From the Federal Reserve Bulletin:

Econ 101 teaches us that with such a massive collapse of the aggregate demand engine of the American economy — the wealth and income of middle class families — the government must be the spender of last resort.

At a time when the government’s ability to borrow at incredibly low interest rates (effectively below zero after adjusting for inflation), it should be a no-brainer to increase deficit spending and invest in the sort of infrastructure projects that would lay the foundation for future economic growth while creating jobs now.

Unfortunately, however, we are living in the Global Age of  Economic Illiteracy, the chief pathological indicator of which is the ruling belief that austerity will lead to renewed economic growth.

On the contrary, austerity will further dampen growth and exacerbate deficits and unemployment.

But, on the bright side (for bankers) austerity will shift the burden to the working classes (the 99.9%) while safeguarding the interests of the financial sector (the 0.1%) … in the short run.

Voters Reject Public Pensions, Worker Rights, Liberalism

Excerpts from Matt Stoller’s article at Naked Capitalism Blog. Read full story here.

“The big story on Tuesday was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s win over unions and liberals, as voters ratified his attacks on public workers, the young, and women’s rights.  But that vote was relatively close.  Two other voter initiatives, in deep blue California, were not.  San Diego and San Jose residents voted overwhelmingly to cut the pensions of city workers.  In San Diego, the measure passed with two thirds of the vote, and in San Jose, the measure passed with seventy percent of the vote.

The measure gives city workers an option: They can keep their current pension, as long as they agree to contribute more of their salaries — up to 16 percent — to the pension fund, or they can enter a less generous pension plan with a higher retirement age, benefits that accrue more slowly and smaller cost-of-living adjustments. Future hires would be put into a plan that costs even less, and would be required to contribute up to half of its cost.

[ … ]

“The states and localities suffering from budget crises are having problems because Wall Street blew up the economy, and in many cases, ensnared these municipalities in extremely bad deals.  The wealth of taxpayers was and is being transferred to banks.  In 2008, the choice before Bush, and then Obama, was clear.  They could hand taxpayer resources to Wall Street and oversee a series of budget crises in states and localities, with the opportunity for later privatization of public assets and the breaking of public sector unions.  Or Bush, and then Obama, could crack down on Wall Street, and make sure that bailout monies went to states and localities, and, with record low interest rates, spur tremendous investment in new energy, infrastructure, and education initiatives. It was a choice.  Bush picked Wall Street.  Obama also picked Wall Street, with public sector unions supporting Obama like turkeys cheering on Thanksgiving.

Read Full Story Here.

Nebraskans Against the TransCanada Pipeline (Inspiring Anthem)

This beautiful video gave me goose pimples when I first saw it … and heard it.

Now I want to be a Nebraskan!

It was produced by Bold Nebraska, a group of Nebraskans of all stripes fighting the TransCanada Pipeline.

The soundtrack is from “Some Nights,” by the group, Fun.

Jane Kleeb, Executive Director of Bold Nebraska, played this video at the end of the pipeline panel this morning at Netroots Nation 2012:

Follow Netroots Nation 2012 From Home (Live Streaming)


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BALLROOM A:


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BALLROOM B:


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BALLROOM D:


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ROOM 552:


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