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Would Jeffrey Sterling Be in Prison If He Were White?

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. June 25, 2015

Former CIA operative Jeffrey Sterling has begun serving a 3-year prison sentence after being convicted, despite no conclusive evidence, of leaking classified information to a New York Times journalist. (Image: 'Invisible Man' documentary/Judith Ehrlich)

Last week CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling went to prison. If he were white, he probably wouldn’t be there.

Sterling was one of the CIA’s few African-American case officers, and he became the first to file a racial discrimination lawsuit against the agency. That happened shortly before the CIA fired him in late 2001. The official in Langley who did the firing face-to-face was John Brennan, now the CIA’s director and a close adviser to President Obama.

Five months ago, in court, prosecutors kept claiming that Sterling’s pursuit of the racial-bias lawsuit showed a key “motive” for providing classified information to journalist James Risen. The government’s case at the highly problematic trial was built entirely on circumstantial evidence. Lacking anything more, the prosecution hammered on ostensible motives, telling the jury that Sterling’s “anger,” “bitterness” and “selfishness” had caused him to reveal CIA secrets.

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After 13 Years of Hell, Human Held Without Charges Has One Question for US

'If the war in Afghanistan is over,' asks prisoner languishing at offshore prison, 'why am I still here?'

 

by Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. June 24, 2015

In a strikingly personal piece, Moath al-Alwi expresses his grief, anger, and frustrations after nearly 13 years of being held with no charges by the U.S. government. "I wonder now," he writes, "if the US follows any rule of law at all: the Geneva Conventions or even its own Constitution. Where is the freedom and justice for all that it so proudly boasts to the world?" (Photo: AP/file)

Moath al-Alwi, who has been a prisoner of the U.S. government and detained at the offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 2002 without ever being charged with a crime or afforded a trial, has a simple yet urgent question for the American people and the U.S. government: Why am I still here?

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Latest Poll Confirms Nation’s Desires Marching Leftward

'The shift in the electorate may help explain the attention being garnered by long-shot candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont,' says Gallup

 

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer
Common Dreams. June 18, 2015

Bernie Sanders participates in the Populism 2015 Conference in Washington, D.C.  (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty)

Democrats in the U.S. are shifting to the left, according to new data from Gallup.

Or, as Frank Newport writes for the research and polling firm: "Democratic candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination face a significantly more left-leaning party base than their predecessors did over the last 15 years."

According to telephone interviews conducted in the first week of May with more than 1,000 adults, 47 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents now identify as both socially liberal and economically moderate or liberal. This is compared with 39 percent in these categories in 2008, when there was last an open seat for their party's nomination, and 30 percent in 2001.

Elaborating on the poll's implications, Newport added: "The shift in the electorate may help explain the attention being garnered by long-shot candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont who has used the label 'socialist' to describe himself and who is avowedly liberal across the board."

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We’ll see you on June 20!

Coalition for Grassroots Progress
June 13, 2015                                                        
 
Are you looking forward to hearing from the Richmond Progressives about how they beat Chevron’s multi-million dollar campaign this past November?
 

RSVP today for this inspiring event, where Richmond City Council Member Gayle McLaughlin and Richmond Progressive Alliance activist Margaret Jordan will tell us how they did it!

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Renewable Energy Will Not Support Economic Growth

Published June 7, 2015 by Resilience.org
by Richard Heinberg
Common Dreams. June 7, 2015

(Image: Shutterstock)

The world needs to end its dependence on fossil fuels as quickly as possible. That’s the only sane response to climate change, and to the economic dilemma of declining oil, coal, and gas resource quality and increasing extraction costs. The nuclear industry is on life support in most countries, so the future appears to lie mostly with solar and wind power. But can we transition to these renewable energy sources and continue using energy the way we do today? And can we maintain our growth-based consumer economy?

The answer to both questions is, probably not. Let’s survey four important sectors of the energy economy and tally up the opportunities and challenges.

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A Misleading Moment of Celebration for a New Surveillance Program

Published on June 4, 2015 by ExposeFacts.org
By Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. June 4, 2015

The morning after final passage of the USA Freedom Act, while some foes of mass surveillance were celebrating, Thomas Drake sounded decidedly glum. The new law, he told me, is “a new spy program.” It restarts some of the worst aspects of the Patriot Act and further codifies systematic violations of Fourth Amendment rights.

Later on Wednesday, here in Oslo as part of a “Stand Up For Truth” tour, Drake warned at a public forum that “national security” has become “the new state religion.” Meanwhile, his Twitter messages were calling the USA Freedom Act an “itty-bitty step” — and a “stop/restart kabuki shell game” that “starts w/ restarting bulk collection of phone records.”

That downbeat appraisal of the USA Freedom Act should give pause to its celebrants. Drake is a former senior executive of the National Security Agency — and a whistleblower who endured prosecution and faced decades in prison for daring to speak truthfully about NSA activities. He ran afoul of vindictive authorities because he refused to go along with the NSA’s massive surveillance program after 9/11.

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Is Voter Turnoff Inviting a Progressive Rollback?

By Steven Mikulan
Capital & Main. May 27, 2015

It’s become an unsettling fact of political life that as election turnouts dwindle, campaign spending skyrockets. Los Angeles’ recently concluded school board races, which drew a paltry 7.6 percent of potential voters, underscored this point. Ref Rodriguez, who unseated the District 5 incumbent, received most of the $2.2 million contributed by political action committees (PACs) controlled by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates. Rodriguez has co-created several charter schools and his backers, unsurprisingly, came from that community. Among the familiar local names of extreme wealth and influence were Eli Broad, Richard Riordan and William Bloomfield. Equally familiar to followers of school privatization were more distant funders such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Walmart heir Jim Walton, Laurene Powell Jobs, the Gap Inc.’s Fisher family members and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Rounding out Rodriguez’s cascade of thousand-dollar checks were names associated with high-powered investment firms, various charter schools and charter-advocacy groups, such as Parent Revolution and StudentsFirst. Even among this varied and far-flung group, two names stuck out: Amplify Learning president Larry Berger of New York, and New Majority California, which calls itself the state’s largest Republican PAC.

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Labor for Bernie

Bernie Sanders has a long record of supporting pro-worker policies. Organized labor should back his presidential run.

 

Published May 27, 2015 by Jacobin
by Steve Early
Common Dreams. May 27, 2015
 

Bernie Sanders campaigns for Burlington mayor in 1981. (Photo: Vermont Press Bureau)

When I first met Brooklyn-born Bernie Sanders, he was a relatively marginal figure in his adopted state of Vermont. It was 1976 and he was running, unsuccessfully and for the fourth time, as a candidate of the Liberty Union Party (LUP).

Liberty Union was a radical third party spearheaded by opponents of the Vietnam War who had, like Sanders, washed up in the Green Mountain State as the sixties subsided. At its historic peak, the LUP garnered maybe 5 or 6 percent of the statewide vote for some of its more presentable candidates — in short, nothing like the winning margins racked up in recent years by the far more savvy and effective Vermont Progressive Party, which now boasts a ten-member legislature delegation and attracts growing union support.

During Sanders’s quixotic mid-1970s bid to become governor of Vermont, I accompanied him to a meeting of local granite cutters, teamsters, and electrical workers. This was not a “flatlander” crowd, nor one dominated by full-time union officials. His audience was native Vermonters, some of them Republican, who were still punching a clock at local quarries, trucking companies, and machine tool factories in an era when the future home state of Ben & Jerry’s and Vermont Teddy Bear Co. still had impressive blue-collar union density.

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Jeffrey Sterling vs. the CIA: An Untold Story of Race and Retribution

Published on May 27, 2015 by ExposeFacts.org
by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. May 27, 2015

Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling got on the wrong side of his employers at the CIA. And now he faces prison. (Photo: file)

A dozen years before his recent sentencing to a 42-month prison term based on a jury’s conclusion that he gave classified information to a New York Times journalist, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was in the midst of a protracted and fruitless effort to find someone in Congress willing to look into his accusations about racial discrimination at the agency.

ExposeFacts.org has obtained letters from Sterling to prominent members of Congress, beseeching them in 2003 and 2006 to hear him out about racial bias at the CIA. Sterling, who is expected to enter prison soon, provided the letters last week. They indicate that he believed the CIA was retaliating against him for daring to become the first-ever black case officer to sue the agency for racial discrimination.

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Get money out of politics by putting the people back in

Coalition for Grassroots Progress
May 20, 2015                                                                  
 
Recently the satirical publication The Onion asked “What is the purpose of super PACs?” Their answer was “To counteract the excessive influence ordinary voters exert on US elections.”

Satire or not, we at the Coalition for Grassroots Progress believe that The Onion is right, and that the only way we’ll be able to get money out of politics is if the people put themselves back in. 

We saw evidence in last year’s election that putting the people back into the political process makes a remarkable difference in election results. The grassroots group Richmond Progressive Alliance organized voters to beat Chevron’s multi-million dollar campaign spending in Richmond, California, and it worked: the progressives won!
 
 

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Establishment Journalists Pride Themselves on Staying on the Official Rails

Published on May 18, 2015 by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
by Jim Naureckas
Common Dreams. May 18, 2015

"It’s an odd choice of metaphor," writes Naureckas. "Rails, after all, are meant to keep a vehicle on a predetermined track."

In his brilliant analysis in Columbia Journalism Review (3/15/15) of establishment media reaction to Seymour Hersh’s re-examination of the killing of Osama bin Laden (London Review of Books, 5/21/15), the Guardian‘s Trevor Timm notes that one of the put-downs hurled at Hersh to discredit his story is “off the rails”–as in, “In recent years, however, Hersh has appeared increasingly to have gone off the rails,” as Max Fisher put it in his Vox broadside (5/11/15).

It’s an odd choice of metaphor. Rails, after all, are meant to keep a vehicle on a predetermined track. It’s not much of compliment to compare a journalist to a smoothly operating train, always showing up at the official stations.

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Don’t Grade Justice on a Warped Curve: Assessing the Case of Jeffrey Sterling

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. May 14, 2015
 
Former CIA operative Jeffrey Sterling was sentenced to 3 years in prison earlier this week. (Image: 'Invisible Man' documentary/Judith Erlich)
 

Yes, I saw the glum faces of prosecutors in the courtroom a few days ago, when the judge sentenced CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling to three and a half years in prison -- far from the 19 to 24 years they’d suggested would be appropriate.

Yes, I get that there was a huge gap between the punishment the government sought and what it got -- a gap that can be understood as a rebuke to the dominant hard-line elements at the Justice Department.

And yes, it was a positive step when a May 13 editorial by the New York Times finally criticized the extreme prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling.

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CIA Officer Jeffrey Sterling Sentenced to Prison: Latest Blow in the Government’s War on Journalism

It’s a warning shot—not only against whistleblowing but against basic communication with journalists by government employees.

 

Published May 13, 2015 by The Nation
by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. May 13, 2015

Former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling with his wife after being convicted of leaking classified details to a New York Times reporter. (Photo: AP/Kevin Wolf)

The sentencing of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling on May 11 for espionage ends one phase of a long ordeal and begins another. At age 47, he has received a prison term of 42 months—three and a half years—after a series of ever more improbable milestones.

The youngest of six children raised by a single mother, Sterling was the only member of his family to go to college. He graduated from law school in 1993, worked briefly at a public defender’s office, and then entered the CIA, where he became one of the agency’s only African-American case officers. In August 2001, Sterling became the first one ever to file a lawsuit against the CIA for racial discrimination. (His suit, claiming that he was denied certain assignments because of his race, was ultimately tossed out of court on grounds that a trial would jeopardize government secrets.) Soon afterward, the agency fired him.

Sterling returned to his home state of Missouri and restarted his life. After struggling, he found a professional job and fell in love. But the good times were short-lived. One day in 2006, the FBI swooped in for a raid, seizing computers and papers at the small home that Sterling and his fiancée shared in a suburb of St. Louis. Slowly, during the next four years, without further action from the government, the menacing legal cloud seemed to disperse. But suddenly, a few days into 2011, Sterling was arrested for the first time in his life—charged with betraying his country.

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Exclusive: CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Speaks Out Upon Sentencing to 3.5 Years in Prison

DemocracyNow.org
May 12, 2015
 

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CIA Whistleblower Sentencing Today

Institute for Public Accuracy
May 11, 2015                                               

Nearly four months after a jury returned a guilty verdict on government charges that Jeffrey Sterling gave classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen, the former CIA officer is scheduled to be sentenced at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va. today.

The sentencing, by Judge Leonie Brinkema, is set for 2 pm. Immediately afterward, former CIA official Ray McGovern and former Justice Department official Jesselyn Radack will be available for comment in front of the courthouse.

McGovern and Radack — as well as NSA whistleblower Kirk Wiebe — will also be available for interviews later in the day. Contact information and summaries of their backgrounds are below.

Detailed coverage of the trial, which happened in January, is posted at ExposeFacts.org, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy. See letter from Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the case.

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DOJ to Investigate Pattern of Racist Policing in Baltimore

Though welcomed, rights advocates question whether prosecutions or probes will have meaningful impact on systemic discrimination in Baltimore and other U.S. cities

 

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Common Dreams. May 8, 2015

A Baltimore protester faces a wall of police in riot gear during a demonstration on April 28, 2015. (Photo: Arash Azizzada/cc/flickr)

The United States Department of Justice announced Friday that after weeks of uproar and protest it would open an official investigation into the Baltimore Police Department to determine whether the discrimination and events that led to the brutal death of Freddie Gray were part of systemic pattern of abuse.

After traveling to the city this week, the newly anointed U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that recent events, including the "tragic in-custody death of Freddie Gray," had led to a "serious erosion of public trust," prompting local officials and community leaders to seek federal oversight of policing practices.

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Broken Windows, Broken Spines

by Robert C. Koehler
Common Dreams. May 7, 2015

Activist DeRay Mckesson smacks down Wolf Blitzer: "You are suggesting this idea that broken windows are worse than broken spines, right?"

The 21st century has skewed off plan and begun to break open. Its self-designated guardians and explainers look on, at times, confused.

“But at least 15 police officers have been hurt, 200 arrests, 144 vehicle fires — these are statistics. There’s no excuse for that kind of violence, right?”

This is CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewing DeRay Mckesson last week as Baltimore convulsed. Mckesson, an organizer and citizen-journalist — a young, former school administrator radicalized last summer by the death of Michael Brown — stared into the camera and refused to succumb to, or be ensnared in, the anchorman’s agenda. That agenda was obvious: to turn “the riot” into the news, to sever Baltimore’s fury and despair from its cause, a militarized police force and the casual, ongoing murder of African-Americans. The official agenda was to portray the protesters as terrorists.

“Yeah, and there’s no excuse for the seven people that the Baltimore City Police Department killed in the last year either, right?” Mckesson answered, flipping the interview on its head.

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Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh to speak in Santa Rosa on May 13

A video introduction to Dr. Kanaaneh's book Chief Complaint: A Country Doctor’s Tales of Life in Galilee

Look here for information about where you can hear Dr. Kanaaneh in Santa Rosa on May 13.

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How We Reach Critical Mass to Stop Climate Chaos

Published May 06, 2015 by EcoWatch
by Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr.

'The movement needs to expand,' writes Yearwood, 'and to do so we need to re-frame the issue of climate change to make it an everyday, every person issue.'

This upcoming weekend at the University of the District of Columbia Law School, Bill McKibben, Dr. Michael Dorsey, Lester Brown, Professor Mark Jacobson, Mustafa Ali from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Professor Phillip Harvey, Barbara Arnwine, Rev. Rodney Sadler, Jay Nightwolf, Krystal Williams, Joe Uehlein, Ted Glick, Chuck Rocha, Professor Joel Rogers, Nikisha Glover, Mike Ewall, Jeffrey Wolfe, Joel Segal, State Sen. Ben Ptashnik, Jacquelyn Patterson, Terrence Muhammad, Mark Magana, Dr. Gabriela Lemus, Leslie Fields, Andrea Miller and many, many more, will address these two central questions in a convening sponsored by People Demanding Action:

1. How do we reach the political “critical mass'” to stop climate chaos, and simultaneously tackle poverty and its accompanying social inequities?


2. The social ills that create poverty and accompanying social inequalities are created by the same mechanisms which thwart the proper response to climate change. How can we change them all together?

The objective of this convening is to build a movement of solidarity which includes climate crisis action and reestablishment of justice.

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The Five-Step Process to Privatize Everything

by Paul Buchheit
Common Dreams. May 4, 2015

'The heart of privatization,' writes Buchheit, 'is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation.' (Image: stock/public domain)

Law enforcement, education, health care, water management, government itself -- all have been or are being privatized. People with money get the best of each service.

At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand 'freedom' unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf.

These privatizers have a system:

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The Significance of Bernie Sanders’ Decision to Enter the Democratic Primaries

by Tom Gallagher
Common Dreams. May 1, 2015

Sanders has correctly recognized, writes Gallagher, that the primary process affords him opportunities to be heard that running as an Independent or third party presidential candidate simply would not. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Why has the longest serving independent member of Congress in American history just announced that he will seek the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination?  Simply put, because Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), so long and so famously neither Democrat or Republican, has understood that the presidential primaries (and caucuses) offer him his best option for taking a politics of the 99 percent to the voters of the 99 percent.

This decision may not go down easy with all of Sanders’s potential supporters.  There will be those who may have to swallow hard to follow him into the Democratic primaries.  But Sanders obviously has not prefaced this decision by any trimming of his sails so far as arguing against the failure of the leading figures of the Democratic Party to demonstrate that they’re not merely the leaders of the country’s second party subservient to big money interests.  What he has done, however, is recognize that the primary process affords him opportunities to be heard that running as independent or third party presidential candidate simply would not. 

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Whistleblowers vs. “Fear-Mongering”

By John Hanrahan
ExposeFacts.org • April 28, 2015

Photo of (left to right) Kirk Wiebe, Coleen Rowley, Raymond McGovern, Daniel Ellsberg, William Binney, Jesselyn Radack, and Thomas Drake by Kathleen McClellan (@McClellanKM) via Twitter

Seven prominent national security whistleblowers Monday called for a number of wide-ranging reforms — including passage of the “Surveillance State Repeal Act,” which would repeal the USA Patriot Act — in an effort to restore the Constitutionally guaranteed 4th Amendment right to be free from government spying.

Several of the whistleblowers also said that the recent lenient sentence of probation and a fine for General David Petraeus — for his providing of classified information to his mistress Paula Broadwell — underscores the double standard of justice at work in the area of classified information handling.

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Move Over Shale, Solar Is Shining Brighter With Each Passing Day

Developments show how booming demand and support for solar is shaking up energy paradigm

 

by Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. April 27, 2015

If the fossil fuel industry has its way, the real promise of a "rooftop revolution" or "100% Renewable Energy Vision" is a long way off, but various factors reveal that a time may be coming where what oil, gas, and coal companies say, does not necessarily go. (Photo: SunCity)

Move over dirty fossil fuels, the solar revolution is coming.

That, at least, is the buried headline contained in new reporting from Reuters on Sunday which looks at the ability of the solar industry to upend the world's energy system in ways similar to recent innovations which allowed oil and gas companies to squeeze previously unattainable deposits from underground shale formations.

With a focus on Japan, Reuters catalogs how the rising capacity and falling prices of solar energy—even as it currently survives without contributions from a fleet of dormant nuclear plants —has led the country to turn off its "giant oil-fired power plants" one after another.

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The Sun Must Go Down on the Patriot Act

Published on April 22, 2015 by Blog of Rights / ACLU
by Anthony D. Romero
Common Dreams. April 22, 2015
'Allowing Section 215 to sunset is a crucial first step if we want to ensure that this unlawful and ineffective surveillance finally ends,' writes Romero. (Image: ACLU)
 

Not long after the Patriot Act was passed in 2001, I had dinner with the late Senator Paul Wellstone in Washington, who was a stalwart defender of civil liberties throughout his career. I asked him how he could have possibly voted for a law that so vastly expanded the government’s spying powers. He told me that he was facing a tough election, but as soon as it was over he’d invite my organization, the American Civil Liberties Union, to testify before Congress about the Patriot Act’s flaws and the threats it presented to privacy and civil liberties. “We’ll work together to get this repealed,” he promised. Unfortunately, that day never came, as the senator tragically died in a plane crash in October of 2002.

Almost 13 years later, the most egregious part of the Patriot Act, Section 215 – which underlies the National Security Agency’s call-records program – is scheduled to expire on June 1. Some legislators want Congress to reauthorize it in its current form – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has just introduced a bill that would do exactly that, extending it for another five years. Others want to make relatively minor changes. Congress shouldn’t do either of these things. Unless Congress can coalesce around far-reaching reform, it should simply let the provision expire.

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‘Right to Work’ Debunked: Economists Find Anti-Worker Laws Lead to Lower Wages

Workers in Right to Work states earn an average of $1,558 less per year than their counterparts in states without anti-labor laws

 

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer
Common Dreams. April 22, 2015

Protesters at an anti-Right to Work rally in 2014. Critics of the legislation have long said it has a detrimental effect on wages. (Photo: Light Brigading/flickr/cc)

Contradicting arguments typically used to advance so-called Right to Work legislation, new research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that wages and benefits are actually lower in states with such anti-worker laws on the books.

The paper, released as part of EPI's Raising America's Pay project, finds that the negative impact of Right to Work (RTW) laws—which undercut unions by allowing workers to benefit from collective bargaining without having to pay dues—translates to $1,558 less a year in earnings for a typical full-time worker.

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Fast-Track: A Gut-Kick to the Progressive Movement

The administration's push to ram massive new trade and investment deals through Congress is an unambiguous concession to corporate power.

 

Published April 21, 2015 by Foreign Policy In Focus
by Sarah Anderson
Common Dreams. April 21, 2015

More than a thousand people marched on the office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Monday to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that critics say puts profits and corporate power ahead of democracy, communities, and the planet. (Photo: National People's Action/flick)

In a move that elicited a collective groan from virtually all of progressive America, the Obama administration and congressional Republicans reached a deal on April 16 on so-called “fast track” trade authority. This is the legislation needed to ram new trade agreements through the U.S. Congress with limited debate and no amendments.

It was a gut-kick for labor unions and environmental, consumer, human rights, and other groups that have long called for a change of course on U.S. trade policy. Instead, the fast track legislation shows we’re still stuck in the same old failed model of the 1990s. The bill lays out trade policy objectives that elevate the narrow interests of large corporations and undercut efforts to support good jobs, the environment, and financial stability.

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Surge of the Opt-Out Movement Against English Language Arts Exam is Act of Mass Civil Disobedience

Published on April 19, 2015. New York Daily News
by Juan Gonzalez
Common Dreams.

At Public School 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, some 20% refused. And at Public School 321 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, 36% boycotted, local parent leaders said. (Todd Maisel/New York Daily News)

Remember the number 999.

It’s the computer code that keeps track of what will go down as a historic grass-roots movement in public education in New York State.

Tens of thousands of parents rebelled this week against years of standardized testing from the politicians in Albany. They joined the national opt-out movement by refusing to allow their children to take the annual state-mandated English Language Arts exam.

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‘Profiting From Misery’: Private Prison Corporations Driving Harsh Immigration Policies

Companies spent millions in lobbying on immigration issues that led to a spike in incarceration levels and, in turn, boosted corporate profits

 

by Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Common Dreams. April 16, 2015

A guard at the Northwest Detention Center, which is operated by private prison corporation GEO Group, on contract from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Photo: Alex Stonehill)

Private prison companies are spending millions of dollars to lobby the U.S. government for harsher immigration laws that, in turn, spike corporate profits by driving up incarceration levels, a new report from the national social justice organization Grassroots Leadership reveals.

Entitled Payoff: How Congress Ensures Private Prison Profit with an Immigrant Detention Quota, the report's release on Wednesday coincided with a renewed hunger strike at a privately-run immigrant detention center in southern Texas, where asylum-seeking mothers incarcerated with their children report inhumane conditions, including sexual assaults by prison guards and staff.

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Fight for $15: On Worldwide Day of Action, Workers Demand Livable Wages

Mass protests set for more than 200 cities nationwide

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer
Common Dreams. April 15, 2015

Low-wage workers across the globe mobilized for a day of action calling for livable wages and the right to unionize. (Photo: Fightfor 15.org)

Fight for $15—the movement calling for livable wages and union rights for low-income workers—launched a worldwide day of action on Wednesday morning with walkouts and rallies across the globe, spanning more than 200 cities in the U.S. and 35 countries.

By early Wednesday morning, protests were already taking place in numerous locations, including New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, St. Louis, and Boston, among others. Workers blocked intersections in front of McDonald's restaurants and planned speeches, presentations, and marches throughout the day for what organizers say will be one of the biggest Fight for $15 days of action yet.

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Chicago’s Chuy Garcia Lost an Election, but Won a Movement

by John Nichols
The Nation.com
April 8, 2013
 
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (AP Photo/ M. Spencer Green)
 
Chicago progressive Jesus “Chuy” Garcia made political history in February, when he forced Rahm “Mayor 1%” Emanuel into an unprecedented runoff election. For the first time since the nation’s third-largest city established a nonpartisan system for choosing local officials, a mayor fell short of 50 percent of the vote and had to face a challenger in a second election.

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See you this month in your neighborhood!

Coalition for Grassroots Progress
April 6, 2015                                                                      
 

Our CGP Spring Event is coming up soon! And you are invited…

Full details and RSVP here. Three dates and three locations to choose from.

We will discuss practical, concrete actions we can take today to counteract big money and corporate domination of our elections. You can hear about what CGP activists are doing here and now to help progressives win election to public office – where crucial decisions are made that affect our lives every day.

Please join us! We would love to hear from you.

We’ll be in:

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Reality Checking Our Water Woes

Published April 04, 2015 by Food & Water Watch Blog
by Kate Fried, Darcey O’Callaghan
Common Dreams. April 4, 2015
"It’s time for a reality check. Water service is not free, low prices are not to blame for the water crisis and climate change alone is not causing drought. The real culprit is a failure to align our water management policies with environmental and human needs." (Photo: philografy/flickr/cc)
 

This week while promoting his new music service, Tidal, Jay Z made a well intended but nonetheless tone deaf statement, gushing about the beauty of supposedly “free” water service. While tap water may seem free to a rap mogul, those in Detroit who have been living without this essential service because they cannot afford to pay their water bills are singing a very different tune. In a seemingly unrelated development, the New York Times published an editorial that day claiming that water isn’t priced highly enough and thus isn’t properly valued. Both statements were wrong, and reflect some fundamental misconceptions about how our society views and values water.

While many of us are conditioned to turning on the tap and always finding water flowing from it, it’s crucial to note that water is a finite resource. We may pay fractions of a penny for a glass of tap water, but that water doesn’t magically find its way to our homes—it gets there through a complex infrastructure system that requires billions of dollars a year for upkeep.

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Iran Deal: A Game-Changer for the Middle East

Negotiators in Switzerland just won a huge victory for diplomacy over war. Now we've got to protect it.

 

Published April 03, 2015 by Foreign Policy In Focus
by Phyllis Bennis
Common Dreams. April 3, 2015

'The current diplomatic initiative must be defended,' writes Bennis. (Photo: marsmet545 / Flickr)

Negotiators in Lausanne, Switzerland just won a huge victory for diplomacy over war.

The hard-fought first-stage negotiations resulted in the outlines of an agreement that will significantly limit Iran’s nuclear program in return for significant relief from crippling economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations.

Both sides made major concessions, though it appears Iran’s are far greater.

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Lodestar of Peace (and the Now Distant Efforts to Outlaw War)

by Robert C. Koehler
Common Dreams. April 2, 2015

President Calvin Coolidge signs the Kellog-Briand Pact in his office on August 27, 1928. (Credit: Corbis/Archive)

“Deeply sensible of their solemn duty to promote the welfare of mankind . . .”

What? Were they serious?

I kneel in a sort of gasping awe as I read the words of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a treaty signed in 1928 – by the United States, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and ultimately by every country that then existed. The treaty . . . outlaws war.

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Bernie Sanders Backs Chuy Garcia and a ‘Political Revolution’ in Chicago

by John Nichols
The Nation. April 1, 2015

Chuy Garcia (AP/M. Spencer Green)

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says America needs a "political revolution" to change the debate about economic inequality and he sees evidence of the upheaval in Chicago. So the senator is wading into that city's mayoral race as a backer of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the labor-backed progressive who is mounting a spirited challenge to incumbent Rahm Emanuel.

Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, has been exploring a possible 2016 presidential candidacy as a progressive-populist challenger to the Democratic establishment. And he argues that Garcia is forging the sort of "working-class coalition" that is needed to shake up politics in urban America and beyond.

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Burning Our Bridges: Failing Infrastructure in the Age of Corporate Tax-Dodging

President Obama and some members of Congress think the easiest way to fund infrastructure is by granting corporations a large tax cut on their untaxed offshore profits.

 

by Sarah Anderson, Scott Klinger
Common Dreams. April 1, 2015

To generate funds to shore up our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, the U.S. Congress is considering giving corporations large tax cuts on their offshore profits. Under current law, corporations can defer U.S. tax payments on overseas earnings until they bring the profits to the United States. The proposed “tax holidays” would generate a relatively small, one-time revenue bump while allowing large corporations to avoid much larger amounts of tax owed over the longer term.

The last time we tried this, in 2004, it failed miserably. Corporations that participated shaved nearly $100 billion off their long-term IRS bills. And instead of boosting investment, they used the windfalls to buy back their stock and boost dividends while laying off more workers than they hired. Once the holiday was over, they began rebuilding their overseas profit stashes.

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Seattle City Council Unanimously Declares Opposition to Fast Track, TPP

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer
Common Dreams. March 31, 2015

"Few things counterpose the interests of multinational corporations to the interests of workers, the environment, and democracy" like the TPP, says councilmember Kshama Sawant

 

A protest against Fast Track, with Seattle's Space Needle in the background. (Photo: Backbone Campaign/flickr/cc)

The Seattle City Council resoundingly approved a resolution Monday evening cementing its opposition to so-called Fast Track authority that's needed to speed passage of corporate-friendly, rights-trampling trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The resolution (pdf), which passed the nine-member council unanimously, expresses concern with the "closed-door manner" in which that 12-nation pact is being brokered, as well as its potential to "undermine local governmental authority to create reasonable rules and regulations, including those related to environmental safeguards, future climate policy, and food safety standards."

Furthermore, it outright opposes Fast Track authority, which would allow the TPP to be finalized with no opportunity for Congress to amend, review, or debate it. Lawmakers are expected to take up Fast Track as soon as they return from Easter recess on April 13.

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The Growing Progressive Movement to Save Public Education

Published March 29, 2015 by The Progressive
by Ruth Conniff
Common Dreams. March 29, 2015

Protesters rallied in New York City on Saturday, March 28 against the corporatization of the public school system. (Photo: United Federation of Teachers/ Facebook)

All over the country, a growing movement of parents, teachers, and students is rising up against over-testing, school closings, and shady schemes that channel public funds into private schools.

Saving public education is shaping up to be a key issue in the 2016 Presidential campaign.

In a front-page article this week, The New York Times described Hillary Clinton’s dilemma on so-called education reform.

On one side, charter school operators and hedge fund managers are urging Hillary to adopt their teachers-union-bashing, pro-privatization agenda.

On the other side, communities all over the country are experiencing education “reform” as a major threat to their local public schools.

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What Have Whistleblowers Done for Elite Journalists Lately?

Published March 28, 2015 by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
by Jim Naureckas
Common Dreams. March 28, 2015
 

David Gregory asks Glenn Greenwald to explain his lack of imprisonment.

To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?

Meet the Press host David Gregory’s question to journalist Glenn Greenwald (6/23/13; FAIR Blog, 6/24/13) sums up much of the elite media’s attitude toward whistleblowers–or what the Washington Post‘s David Ignatius refers to as “malcontents and self-appointed do-gooders who may get security clearances.”

This attitude is documented and questioned in a piece by John Hanrahan, a former Washington Post reporter who later headed the Fund for Investigative Journalism, that appeared on the pro-whistleblower Expose Facts site (3/24/15) and was reposted as “Journalists Who Hate Whistleblowers” by Consortium News (3/25/15).

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It’s OK to leak government secrets - as long as it benefits politicians

by Trevor Timm
The Guardian.com • March 26, 2015
Leaks that benefit Hillary Clinton probably won’t land you in jail. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
 

When it comes to classified information, some leaks are more equal than others. If you are a whistleblower like Edward Snowden, who tells the press about illegal, immoral or embarrassing government actions, you will face jail time. But it’s often another story for US government officials leaking information for their own political benefit.

Two stories this week perfectly illustrate this hypocrisy and how, despite their unprecedented crackdown on sources and whistleblowers, the Obama administration - like every administration before it - loves to use leaks, if and when it suits them.

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Whistleblowers and the Press Heavyweights

Published March 25, 2015 by ExposeFacts.org
by John Hanrahan
Common Dreams. March 25, 2015
 

Why do the established stars of the news media so readily brush off concerns about our dangerous warfare/surveillance state revealed by Snowden, Manning and the others? (Image: file/public domain)

Following the late January guilty verdicts in the espionage trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, more proof emerged — if any more were needed — that many elite mainstream journalists abhor whistleblowers and think they should go to prison when they divulge classified information.

One would think that a business that has relied on confidential informants for some of the major investigative stories of this and the previous century would applaud whistleblowers who risk everything on behalf of the people’s right to know what its government is doing in the shadows. But looking back at cases over the last five years, we see the unedifying spectacle of some of the nation’s best-known print and broadcast journalists venting their outrage at whistleblowers’ disclosures and expressing their preference for being kept in the dark by the government in the name of national security.

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How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives

by Paul Buchheit
Common Dreams. March 23, 2015

'USPS is so inexpensive, in fact, that Fedex actually uses the U.S. Post Office for about 30 percent of its ground shipments,' writes Buchheit. (Photo: file)

The Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 of 35 cases the federal government spent more on private contractors than on public employees for the same services. The authors of the report summarized, "Our findings were shocking."

Yet our elected leaders persist in their belief that free-market capitalism works best. Here are a few fact-based examples that say otherwise.

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Judge Orders US Government to Stop Suppressing Evidence of Torture and Abuse

Ruling on Friday is latest development in years-long legal battle, in which the ACLU has argued the photos 'are crucial to the public record'

 

by Sarah Lazare
Common Dreams. March 21, 2015

"Indefinite Detention" (Photo: Justin Norman/flickr/cc)

A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. government to release more than 2,000 photographs showing abuse and torture of people detained by the American military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The decision is the latest development in a more than 10-year-long legal battle, in which the American Civil Liberties Unions has argued the public has the right to know what the U.S. military has done.

Many of concealed photographs were taken by U.S. military service members and collected during more than 200 of military investigations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some could be on par with, or worse than, those released from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

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To Solve California’s Water Crisis, We Must Change the Nation’s Food System

Published March 20, 2015 by TruthDig
by Sonali Kolhatkar
Common Dreams. March 20, 2015

Irrigation water running along a dried-up ditch between rice farms in Richvale, Calif. (Photo: AP/Jae C. Hong)

The bold headline of a recent Los Angeles Times editorial by the hydrologist Jay Famiglietti starkly warned: “California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?” The write-up quickly made the social media rounds, prompting both panic and the usual blame game: It’s because of the meat eaters or the vegan almond-milk drinkers or the bottled-water guzzlers or the Southern California lawn soakers.

California’s water loss has been terrifying. But people everywhere should be scared, not just Californians, because this story goes far beyond state lines. It is a story of global climate change and industrial agriculture. It is also a saga that began many decades ago—with the early water wars of the 1930s immortalized in the 1974 Roman Polanski film “Chinatown.”

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California Stiffens Water Regulations Amid Devastating Drought

'No amount of money, no amount of political posturing, no display of military might, no act of Congress, no amount of chemicals, no amount of whistling by the graveyard can bring more water.'

 

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer
Common Dreams. March 18, 2015

California's drought will require drastic action to stave off immediate and long-term effects, officials said. (Photo: Robert Couse-Baker/flickr/cc)

As California approaches the end of a disappointing rainy season, officials are further narrowing restrictions on water usage to help stave off the effects of the state's ravaging four-year drought crisis.

Following record-low rainfall from December to April, with no extra precipitation expected for the rest of the year, the California State Water Resources Control Board voted Tuesday to increase emergency regulations on water usage for citizens and businesses alike.

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Lawmakers Say TPP Meetings Classified To Keep Americans in the Dark

Democratic lawmaker says tightly-controlled briefings on Trans-Pacific Partnership deal are aimed at keeping US constituents ignorant about what's at stake

 

by Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. March 17, 2015

US Trade Representative Michael Froman is drawing fire from Congressional Democrats for the Obama adminstration's continued imposition of secrecy surrounding the Trans-Pacific Parternship. (Photo: AP file)
 

Lawmakers in Congress who remain wary of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement are raising further objections this week to the degree of secrecy surrounding briefings on the deal, with some arguing that the main reason at least one meeting has been registered "classified" is to help keep the American public ignorant about giveaways to corporate interests and its long-term implications.

With a briefing set between members of Congress and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and the Labor Department for Wednesday, the lack of transparency and the inability to discuss openly what they learn in the meetings has especially drawn the ire of progressive Democrats who say the TPP is being jammed through without a full airing of its negative consequences

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Guardian Publicly Challenges World’s Largest Foundations to Divest

Fossil fuel divestment campaign calls on Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust to remove combined $70 billion from threatening industries

 

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Common Dreams. March 16, 2015

'Climate change poses a real threat to all of us,' charges the Guardian newspaper, 'and it is morally and financially misguided to invest in companies dedicated to finding and burning more oil, gas and coal.' (Image: The Guardian)

Having reached the mainstream with new backing from the United Nations, the global fossil fuel divestment campaign continues to gain momentum. On Monday, the Guardian news agency launched a campaign calling on the world's two largest charitable foundations, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, to follow the lead of the Rockefeller Foundation and nearly 200 other prominent universities and institutions by divesting their holdings from the fossil fuel industry.

"We are calling on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to remove their investments from the top 200 fossil fuel companies and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within five years," the news service announced in a statement.

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‘Patriot Act 2.0’? Senate Cybersecurity Bill Seen as Trojan Horse for More Spying

Framed as anti-hacking measure, opponents say CISA threatens both consumers and whistleblowers

 

by Nadia Prupis, staff writer
Common Dreams. March 15, 2015

The Senate Intelligence Committee approved the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) on Thursday, despite concerns from privacy advocates. (Photo:Free Press/flickr/cc)

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee approved a cybersecurity bill during a secret session on Thursday, marking the next step in a process that critics warn will nefariously expand the government's already substantial surveillance powers.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which passed by 14-1 vote, would ostensibly protect against large-scale data thefts of private consumer information, exemplified by recent hacks of Target, Sony, and Home Depot. But critics—including the lone dissenting voice on the committee Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or.)—say it would open the door for continued invasive and unlawful government spying operations.

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Conservatives May Control State Governments, But Progressives Are Rising

by George Goehl, Ana María Archila, Fred Azcarate
Common Dreams. March 13
Progressive activists flooded the rotunda of the State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois as part of the 'We Rise' national day of action on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (Photo: National People's Action/flickr/cc)
 
In November, conservatives swept not only Congress, but a majority of statehouses. While gridlock in Washington is frustrating, the rightward lurch of statehouses could be devastating. Reveling in their newfound power, state lawmakers and their corporate allies are writing regressive policies that could hurt families by exacerbating inequality, further curtailing an already weakened democracy, and worsening an environmental crisis of global proportions.
 
 
 

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Save the Date! What Does Your Neighborhood Have to Do With It All?

Coalition for Grassroots Progress
Sonoma County. March 9, 2015                       

                                                                                                    

Corporate Chevron-supported candidates all lost to progressive candidates in the recent city council election in Richmond, CA.

Mayor 1%, Rahm Emmanuel just became the only Chicago mayor to face a run-off for re-election. The candidate challenging him?  Long-time progressive activist Chuy Garcia.

Yes, our progressive electoral victories are few and far between. But when they do happen, what do they have in common? Regular people doing the unglamorous, seldom heralded, mostly invisible but highly effective work of contacting and educating their neighbors, identifying supporters and getting them out to vote. In a word:

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US Ground Troops in Syria? Top Military Official Doesn’t Rule It Out

Gen. Martin Dempsey's comments highlight openness allowed by vague language included in Obama's proposed AUMF.

 

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Common Dreams. March 6, 2015

 

The nation's top military officer told a House subcommittee Wednesday that U.S. troops could potentially hit the ground in Syria to fight Islamic militants, offering another sign the operation is headed towards expansion.

Speaking to the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said, "If the commander on the ground approaches either me or the secretary of defense and believes that the introduction of special operations forces to accompany Iraqis or the new Syrian forces, or JTACS (joint tactical-air controllers), these skilled folks who can call in close-air support, if we believe that's necessary to achieve our objectives, we will make that recommendation."

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Ignore the Drumbeat of Doom, the NSA’s Call Records Program Didn’t Stop a Single Terrorist Attack

by Rachel Nusbaum
Common Dreams. March 4, 2015
The director of US national intelligence, James Clapper, spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Monday and warned that if the Patriot Act was not renewed, lawmakers would be to blame if another 9/11-style attack occurs. (Photo: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
 
 
Do you hear that? It's starting.

 

The predictable drumbeat of dire warnings about what will happen if portions of the Patriot Act – the post-9/11 law being used to conduct controversial NSA dragnet surveillance – are allowed to expire on June 1 has already begun.

 

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Netanyahu Threatens War In Speech to Congress

by Phyllis Bennis
Common Dreams. March 3, 2015

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint session of the US Congress on March 3, 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC.(Photo: Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images)

This was a speech threatening war.

Realizing he has insufficient clout to stop the negotiations, Netanyahu demanded a back-up position: If not "no" deal, then we can have a better deal.

His vision of a "better" deal, however, is grounded in Iranian surrender. And since that is not going to happen, demanding it means abandoning diplomacy in favor of—yes, war.

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As Bibi Marches on Congress, Obama Says If Iran Talks Fail ‘Military Actions’ Await

Obama says Iranians "have been serious negotiators," but called Israeli prime minister's speech to Congress a "distraction" of efforts aimed at finalizing a nuclear agreement

 

by Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. March 3, 2015
 
Obama indicates that remaining options would be limited, including additional sanctions or military actions, if ongoing negotiations with Tehran fail. 'Why wouldn't we take that deal?' the president asked, if there are assurances Iran cannot build a covert nuclear weapons program. (Image: Screenshot/Reuters)
 
Though voicing no overall criticism of Israeli state policy when it comes various issues involving regional politics, its own nuclear weapons program, or its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the number of U.S. lawmakers who now say they will not attend the speech of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday has grown to nearly 60 members of Congress, with high-profile Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Al Franken among the most recent to register their objection to the address.
 
 

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Answers Demanded Following Fatal Shooting of Homeless Man by LAPD

Caught on tape by bystander, a graphic video shows several officers failing to subdue homeless man before opening fire

 

by Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. March 2, 2015

Investigators with LAPD stand at the scene after a homeless man was shot and killed on skid row by Los Angeles police on Sunday. (Christina House, For The Times)

The fatal shooting of a homeless man by Los Angeles Police Department officers on Sunday that was caught on video is spurring outrage in California and around the country with criticism focused on why deadly force was necessary given the number of officers on the scene and reports which indicate the man, who witnesses said suffered from mental illness, did not have a weapon, at least when the altercation began.

The graphic video—posted to Facebook and viewed several million times overnight—comes as just the latest example of a police shooting caught on camera and is sure to add to the national outrage surrounding excessive force used by law enforcement.

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People Power Just Dealt a Major Blow to Mayor 1%

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel forced into runoff by progressive challenger Chuy Garcia

 

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 28, 2015

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  (Photo:  Daniel X. O'Neil/flickr/cc)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, dubbed Mayor 1 Percent, was forced into a runoff Tuesday after failing to achieve more than 50 percent of the vote in his bid for re-election.

Despite what the Chicago Tribune described as "his multimillion-dollar campaign war chest," Emanuel got 45 percent of the vote, pitting him in the April 7 runoff against Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who came in second with 33 percent of the vote. Emanuel outspent Chicago Teachers Union-backed Garcia 12-to-1.

The "election numbers reveal one clear result: Chicago’s voters shunned Mayor Emanuel and soundly rejected his corporate agenda that benefits the richest 1%," stated April Verrett, Executive Vice-President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois.

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What You Should Know About Walmart’s Raise

by Michelle Chen
Common Dreams. February 27, 2015

Walmart workers on strike in Pico Rivera, California, October 4, 2012. (Photo: Courtesy of Matt Hamilton, CC by 2.0)

Remember when Walmart got panned for running a Thanksgiving food drive for its own employees—overlooking the irony of demonstrating noblesse oblige by asking customers to subsidize the workers the company itself impoverished? The retail giant took a more strategic approach last week when rolling out its latest do-gooder scheme: raising its base wage incrementally to $10 an hour. The move was widely praised even by labor groups—for lifting wages slightly closer to… well, what it should have been paying workers all along.

Still, the announced raise, to a $9 minimum, then rising to $10 an hour by early next year, isn’t chump change: for many, it means earning perhaps $1 or $2 more per hour, which, spread across an estimated half million workers, may generate a not-insignificant economic stimulus. Moreover, Walmart promises to offer more stable scheduling and boost some managers’ starting pay, as well—all measures that respond partially to the longstanding demands workers nationwide have aired in protests, petitions and lawsuits.

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When Politics Is Local, Who Decides?

by David Morris
Common Dreams. February 27, 2015

In state after state a clear pattern has emerged: Cities legislatively address a local problem.  Big business complains. State legislatures clamp down. (Image: gaebler.com)

Who decides? Conservative Republicans in Texas are split on the issue. Darren Hodges, a Tea Party councilman in the West Texas city of Fort Stockton, fiercely defends his town’s recent decision to ban plastic bags.  City officials have a “God-given right” to make that decision he tells the New York Times

James Quintero of the conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation disagrees, “What we’re arguing is that liberty, not local control, is the overriding principle that state and local policy makers should be using.”  He apparently would strip communities of the right of local control, at least to regulate commercial behavior. Quintero is Director of TPPF’s Center for Local Governance.  Perhaps they should change the “for” to “against.”

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CIA Evidence from Whistleblower Trial Could Tilt Iran Nuclear Talks

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. February 26, 2015

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano addresses a news conference after a board of governors meeting at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna June 2, 2014. If the CIA has been conducting "sting" operations in order to sabotage Iran's nuclear program, wonder some at the IAEA, what more are they capable of doing when it comes to undermining the global nuclear regulatory regime? (Photo: Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader)

A month after former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was convicted on nine felony counts with circumstantial metadata, the zealous prosecution is now having potentially major consequences—casting doubt on the credibility of claims by the U.S. government that Iran has developed a nuclear weapons program.

With negotiations between Iran and the United States at a pivotal stage, fallout from the trial’s revelations about the CIA’s Operation Merlin is likely to cause the International Atomic Energy Agency to re-examine U.S. assertions that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

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‘Going up Against a Beast’: Wisconsin Workers Rise to Fend Off GOP Attack

'Right-to-work legislation is part of a national anti-worker agenda that won't bring one job to our state or help a single family put food on the table.'

 

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 24, 2015

In front of the Wisconsin State Capitol on Tuesday. (Photo: Overpass Light Brigade/Facebook)

State and national labor leaders rallied in the Wisconsin State Capitol on Tuesday, ahead of a day-long committee hearing on a so-called 'right-to-work' bill, which undermines collective bargaining by allowing workers to opt-out of paying the costs of union representation.

Wisconsin Republicans, who have expanded their majority in the state legislature since the last labor showdown in 2011, called a surprise "extraordinary session" late last week in an attempt to fast-track the bill. Anti-union Gov. Scott Walker, a potential Republican presidential candidate, said he would sign the legislation if it reached his desk.

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Your Comment in Lights – in front of the FCC

Coalition for Grassroots Progress
February 20, 2015                                           
                                                 

Are you ready for your Internet speed to slow down? On February 26, the Federal Communications Commission is set to vote on new rules for the Internet, and the big phone and cable companies continue to lobby hard for a loophole that will allow exceptions to net neutrality. They’d love to get a last minute change to the proposed “bright line” rules against blocking, throttling, or paid authorization, that would allow them to charge Web giants (like Netflix and Amazon) for access to fast lanes and preferential treatment on the Internet.

Preferential treatment for the big companies that can pay more would mean individual users like us would be stuck with slower Internet speeds.

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In Richmond, We Would Not Let Democracy Be Bought

Published February 18, 2015 by Moyers & Company
By Gayle McLaughlin.Common Dreams. February 18, 2015

Protest against Chevron in Richmond, California in April 2012. (Photo: Daniel Arauz/flickr CC 2.0)

In November 2014, my city of Richmond, California, provided us with a beautiful and successful David vs. Goliath story in which ordinary people (the people of Richmond) triumphed over the Chevron Corporation and its $3 million attempt to stop Richmond’s progressive direction. We experienced a clean sweep in the elections with all the progressives winning and all of Chevron’s candidates losing.

Until recent years in Richmond, Chevron was not accustomed to having progressives inside and outside elected office working side by side for the interests of the people (rather than rolling over to corporate interests). A decade of hard-won successes, including initiatives for fair taxation; legal action requiring greater transparency; and public health, safety and environmental protections, as well as enormous local mobilizations for environmental justice and climate justice, made the corporate giant furious. Despite its rage, we persevered.

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Uber Wants to Reorganize the Economy? Workers, Too, Can Play at that Game

Published February 17, 2015 by Grit TV
By Laura Flanders
Common Dreams. February 17, 2015

Chicago taxi drivers outside City Hall and circling the neighboring streets protest the granting of a city license to ride-sharing company Uber. Cab drivers say the company has an unfair advantage because they aren't subject to the same stringent regulations. (Photo: Scott L/flickr/cc)

The global newswire Associated Press announced this January that it will no longer refer to the app-based cab-hail service Uber as “ride-sharing.”

The move follows criticism that services like Uber and Lyft are very far from sharing; to the contrary, they are taking more than they’re giving.       That’s certainly the view of Bhairavi Desai co-founder and director of the National Taxi Worker’s Alliance. Desai told GRITtv this week that while it characterizes itself as an innovative disruption, Uber’s more like Walmart on wheels. They’re not democratizing the workplace, she said, they’re de-regulating it or rather, re-regulating it, to the benefit of app-owning bosses and the detriment of drivers.       Minimum guaranteed wages, health and safety insurance, and the chance to negotiate collectively: taxi drivers fought decades for those minimal protections, said Desai. Now in comes Uber and behind the sharing spin, what’s it really want? She says, “It’s nothing less than the reorganization of the economy.”

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Obama’s ISIS War Request Is an “Extraordinary Opportunity” for Congress

Published February 16, 2015 by Moyers & Company
by Andrew Bacevich
February 16, 2015
 

US President Richard Nixon poses in the White House after his announcement to the nation April 30, 1970 that American ground troops have attacked, at his order, a Communist complex in Cambodia. Nixon points to area of Vietnam and Cambodia in which the action is taking place. (AP Photo)

 

Try this thought experiment. Pretend that it’s the spring of 1970. President Richard Nixon has just sent US troops into Cambodia. He thereby expands the Vietnam War, a costly undertaking already ongoing for years with no sign of victory in sight.

Now imagine further that Nixon sends a message to Congress asking that it authorize him to do what he has already done (while simultaneously insisting that even without legislative approval he already has the necessary authority).

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From Warrior Cops to Community Police

A Former Chief on How We Can Turn Back the Tide of Militarization.

 

Police in America belong to the people—not the other way around. Former Seattle police Chief Norm Stamper on how we can turn war zone occupiers back into friendly neighborhood officers.

 

Published February 13, 2015 by YES! Magazine
By Norm Stamper
Common Dreams. February 13, 2015

The routinization of police militarism ought to concern us all. (Photo: JPL Designs / Shutterstock)

You’re in the kitchen. It’s a Saturday morning, still dark outside. Your partner, three-year-old son, and the family dog are all sound asleep at the back of the house. You’ve put the coffee pot on, are making sandwiches—a trip to the lake is planned, your son’s first fishing trip.

Without warning, the pre-dawn quiet is shattered as your front door flies off its hinges, followed by back-to-back explosions and blinding light. Your local police department calling, decked out in cammies, ballistic helmets, and full-body armor, brandishing M4 and M16 rifles.

“Knife!” shouts a cop. “Drop the knife! Drop the knife!” roar his nine fellow officers, each pointing a rifle or a pistol at your chest. The knife in question? A standard, dullbladed utensil you’d been using to slather mustard and mayo on the sandwiches.

You drop the knife.

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Endless War? Obama Sends Congress Expansive Anti-ISIS Measure 6 Months After Bombing Began

Democracy Now
February 12, 2015
 

President Obama has sent Congress a formal request to authorize military force against the Islamic State six months after the U.S. began bombing Iraq and Syria. The resolution imposes a three-year limit on U.S. operations, but does not put any geographic constraints.

It also opens the door for ground combat operations in limited circumstances. The resolution’s broad language covers military action against the Islamic State as well as "individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside [ISIS] or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."

The resolution also leaves in place the open-ended Authorization for Use of Military Force Congress enacted one week after the Sept. 11, 2001, which has been used to justify U.S. action in Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen and beyond, and which Obama had previously called for repealing.

We speak with Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and author of many books, including "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."

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Brian Williams Suspended for False Iraq Tale, But Media’s Real Scandal is the War Lies Spun Daily

Democracy Now
February 12, 2015
 

NBC News has suspended anchor Brian Williams for six months without pay for making false statements about a 2003 incident in Iraq. Williams apologized last week after it emerged he had wrongly claimed he was on board a U.S. helicopter downed by rocket fire. American soldiers publicly challenged Williams’ account, saying he was nowhere near the aircraft that came under attack. Williams has blamed the "fog of memory" for his mistake. But in a statement, NBC said Williams’ claims were "wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position."

We are joined by Norman Solomon, author of "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."

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Was Jeffrey Sterling Trial a Gov’t Effort to Divide Investigative Journalists & Whistleblowers?

Democracy Now
February 12, 2015
 

In January, a federal jury in Virginia convicted former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling on nine felony counts, including espionage. Prosecutors accused Sterling of leaking classified information about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program to journalist James Risen of The New York Times. Risen later revealed how the risky operation could have inadvertently aided the Iranian nuclear program.

Supporters of Sterling described him as a whistleblower, but prosecutors claimed he leaked the information to settle a score with the agency. Sterling is scheduled to be sentenced in April. He faces a maximum possible sentence of decades in prison.

We speak with Norman Solomon, who reported from the Sterling trial. "We’ve got to support investigative journalists and whistleblowers. We can’t allow the government to drive a wedge between the two," Solomon says, co-founder of RootsAction.org, which has launched public campaigns to support both Sterling and Risen.

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California’s 2014 Voter Turnout Was Even Worse Than You Thought

 
By John Myers
KQED News. Feb 11, 2015
 

For a state whose political leaders pride themselves on being focused on the future, California’s 2014 elections seem to have decidedly been driven by its past — as in, its older voters.

Or put another way: It was the Year of the Grandparents.

“Not only was the average voter older than the average Californian,” says political data expert Paul Mitchell. “The average voter was older than the average Californian’s parents.”

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13-Year-Old Boy Who Lived In Fear of US Drones, Killed by CIA Strike in Yemen

'In their eyes, we don’t deserve to live like people in the rest of the world,' said the victim ahead of his ultimate death, 'and we don’t have feelings or emotions or cry or feel pain like all the other humans around the world.'

 

by Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 10, 2015

Mohammed Saleh Tauiman was 13 when the Guardian newspaper gave him a camera to record his family life. (Photograph: via the Guardian)
 

Just weeks after speaking with western journalists about his pervasive fear of the U.S. drones flying overhead in his home country of Yemen, 13-year-old Mohammed Tuaiman was reportedly killed in a CIA-directed bombing on January 26.

His family vows that it will demand justice for Mohammed and insists, "He wasn’t a member of al-Qaida. He was a kid."

As Common Dreams reported on January 27, the suspected CIA drone strike which killed Mohammed was the first such attack reported in Yemen this year and came just two days after U.S. military officials announced that the drone campaign would not by deterred by ongoing unrest in the region.

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In Deadly Industry, US Oil Workers’ Historic Strike for Safety Spreads to More Plants

Staging the largest U.S. oil workers' walkout in 36 years, thousands are demanding protections from some of world's most powerful oil giants

 

by Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 08, 2015

The biggest U.S. oil workers' strike in more than three decades just grew even larger, with two mid-western BP plants joining in the work stoppage to demand basic health and safety protections from some of the world's most powerful fossil fuel corporations.

The United Steelworkers announced Saturday that over 1,400 employees at two BP refineries—in Whiting, Indiana and Toledo, Ohio—have joined the 3,800 oil workers on strike at nine refineries in California, Kentucky, Texas and Washington.

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Why is Bulk Collection of Telephone Records Still Happening?

Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to NSA: Why is Bulk Collection of Telephone Records Still Happening?

 

Published February 05, 2015 by Deeplinks Blog
by Nadia Kayyali
Common Dreams. February 5, 2015
 
(Photo: EFF/flickr/cc)
 
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) exists to ensure that national security does not trump privacy and civil liberties, and it has been especially busy since the publication of the first Snowden leak. Congress and the President asked the Board to review the use of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, as well as the operations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. In 2014, PCLOB published two reports addressing these issues. And last week, the Board published a “Recommendations Assessment Report [pdf].”
 

Section 215 Recommendations

The most striking piece of the report is also the first:

    Recommendation 1: End the NSA’s Bulk Telephone Records Program

    Status: 
Not implemented (implementing legislation proposed)

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CIA Mission: Destroy the Whistleblower and Perfume the Stench of ‘Operation Merlin’

Published February 04, 2015 by ExposeFacts.org
By Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. February 4, 2015

'From the government’s standpoint in the courtroom, the worse it could make Sterling look, the better the CIA and Operation Merlin would look, and vice versa.' (Photo: file)

The leak trial of CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling never got near a smoking gun, but the entire circumstantial case was a smokescreen. Prosecutors were hell-bent on torching the defendant to vindicate Operation Merlin, nine years after a book by James Risen reported that it “may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.”

That bestselling book, State of War, seemed to leave an indelible stain on Operation Merlin while soiling the CIA’s image as a reasonably competent outfit. The prosecution of Sterling was a cleansing service for the Central Intelligence Agency, which joined with the Justice Department to depict the author and the whistleblower as scurrilous mud-throwers.

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As California Water Resources Dwindle, New Fears Over Drilling Waste Contamination

Situation described as 'unfolding catastrophe' as investigation finds oil drilling companies injected untold amounts of waste into protected groundwater reserves

 

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 2, 2015

While the Friant-Kern canal (pictured here in July 2014) is no longer being used to irrigate orange groves due to low water levels, the groves are likely being watered by underground aquifers. (Photo: Don Barrett/cc/flickr)

With the blessing of California state regulators, drilling companies have injected an untold amount of toxic wastewater left over from fracking and other drilling operations into potable groundwater, according to an investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle published on Sunday.

In October, it was confirmed that nearly 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater had been illegally dumped in aquifers through at least nine disposal wells. According to data reviewed by The Chronicle, it is now evident that more than 170 such wells injected a mix of "briny water, hydrocarbons and trace chemicals," including acid, into aquifers suitable for drinking and irrigation.

This information about the extent of the aquifer contamination comes as the state's historic drought continues to push many desperate municipalities to tap groundwater reserves for drinking water and agricultural irrigation.

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‘Accountability, Not Surveillance’: Group Raises Flags Over Police Body Cameras

NYCLU among the stakeholders called to testify before Presidential Task Force on policing reform

 

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 2, 2015

(Photo: West Midlands Police/cc/flickr)

Police body cameras must be used as a tool for more police accountability, not a means of more surveillance, civil liberties advocates warned speaking before a President-appointed board on Saturday during a series of briefings to address policing reform.

Community leaders, activists and rights groups were among the witness stakeholders called to the University of Cincinnati this week to testify before the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing on a broad swath of topics, from the 'use of force policy' to police body cameras to social media.

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Sanders’ Focus Not Clinton, But Whether 2016 Run Could Mobilize the Masses

As he ponders presidential run, Bernie Sanders doubts Hillary Clinton "bold enough." But the bigger questions, he says: "Can you bring people out on the streets? Can you mobilize people? Can you tap the anger that's out there?"

 

by Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. January 30, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., joins House Democrats in stating their disagreement and disappointment with President Barack Obama's State of the Union request for fast track trade authority on Capitol Hill last week. Sanders says he continues to weigh presidential run, but only if he can do it well. (Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Ahead of upcoming trips to both New Hampshire and Iowa, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) is talking again this week about his possible plans to run for president in 2016 and made it clear that although his platform would center around propping up the nation's working class while undoing the damage being wrought by the nation's oligarchy, he will not shy away from putting pressure on Hillary Clinton, currently and widely seen as the presumptive Democratic nominee.

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If Elections Matter for Greece, Why Not America?

Published January 29, 2015 by The Nation
By John Nichols
Common Dreams. January 29, 2015

A supporter of Alexis Tsipras leader of Syriza left-wing party holds the Greek flag during a rally outside Athens University Headquarters, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. A triumphant Alexis Tsipras told Greeks that his radical left Syriza party's win in Sunday's early general election meant an end to austerity and humiliation and that the country's regular and often fraught debt inspections were a thing of the past. "Today the Greek people have made history. Hope has made history," Tsipras said in his victory speech at a conference hall in central Athens. (Photo: AP/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Elections are supposed to have consequences. When countries establish electoral processes that are sufficiently free and functional to ascertain the clear will of the people—and when those votes are cast and counted in an election that draws a solid majority of eligible voters to the polls—that will should be expressed as something more than a New York Times headline or a Fox News alert. It should be expressed in leadership, law and governance.

That governance should be sufficient to address poverty, tame inequality and conquer injustice. And if outside forces thwart those initiatives, that government should challenge them on behalf of the common good. After all, if meaningful economic and social change cannot by achieved (or at the very least demanded) with a stroke of the ballot pen, then what is the point of an election?

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You made a difference. Now about fracking…

Coalition for Grassroots Progress
January 28, 2015                                  
 

On January 10 this year, many progressives went to San Rafael to vote for the Progressive Slate of candidates running to represent Assembly District 10 in the California Democratic Central Committee.

Thanks to a high turnout of progressives, the Progressive Slate won every available seat in that election. Look here to see the names of the delegates representing AD 10 at the state Democratic Party level for the next two years.

Assembly District 2 is likewise well-represented by progressives. Here is the list of the AD 2 delegates.

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The Invisible Man: Jeffrey Sterling, CIA Whistleblower

Published January 27, 2015 by ExposeFacts.org
By Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. January 27, 2015
Courtroom sketch of Jeffrey Sterling by Debra Van Poolen. (Credit: www.debvanpoolen.com/)
 

The mass media have suddenly discovered Jeffrey Sterling — after his conviction Monday afternoon as a CIA whistleblower.

Sterling’s indictment four years ago received fleeting news coverage that recited the government’s charges. From the outset, the Justice Department portrayed him as bitter and vengeful — with the classic trash-the-whistleblower word “disgruntled” thrown in — all of which the mainline media dutifully recounted without any other perspective.

Year after year, Sterling’s case dragged through appellate courts, tangled up with the honorable refusal of journalist James Risen to in any way identify sources for his 2006 book State of War. While news stories or pundits occasionally turned their lens on Risen, they scarcely mentioned Sterling, whose life had been turned upside down — fired by the CIA early in the Bush administration after filing a racial discrimination lawsuit, and much later by the 10-count indictment that included seven counts under the Espionage Act.

 

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CIA Leak Trial: “This Case Is Not About Politics” [sic]

Published January 26, 2015 by ExposeFacts.org
By Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. January 26, 2015

Courtroom sketch by Debra Van Poolen. (Credit: debvanpoolen.com/)

Continuing to deliberate as this week gets underway, the jurors in the CIA leak trial might ponder a notable claim from the government: “This case is not about politics.”

The prosecution made that claim a few days ago in closing arguments — begun with a somber quotation from Condoleezza Rice about the crucial need to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Of course prosecutor Eric Olshan was not foolish enough to quote Rice’s most famous line: “We don’t want the smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud.”

During the seven days of the trial, which received scant media coverage, Rice attracted the most attention. But little of her testimony actually got out of the courtroom, and little of what did get out illuminated the political context of the government’s case against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling.

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Leak Trial Shows CIA Zeal to Hide Incompetence

Published January 22, 2015 by ExposeFacts.org
By Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. January 22, 2015

Courtroom sketch by Debra Van Poolen. (Credit: debvanpoolen.com/)

Six days of testimony at the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling have proven the agency’s obsession with proclaiming its competence. Many of the two-dozen witnesses from the Central Intelligence Agency conveyed smoldering resentment that a whistleblower or journalist might depict the institution as a bungling outfit unworthy of its middle name.

Some witnesses seemed to put Sterling and journalist James Risen roughly in the same nefarious category — Sterling for allegedly leaking classified information that put the CIA in a bad light, and Risen for reporting it. Muffled CIA anger was audible, coming from the witness stand, a seat filled by people claiming to view any aspersions on the CIA to be baseless calumnies.

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Why the CIA Is So Eager to Demolish Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

Published January 20, 2015 by ExposeFacts.org
By Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. January 20, 2015

Midway through the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, one comment stands out. “A criminal case,” defense attorney Edward MacMahon told the jury at the outset, “is not a place where the CIA goes to get its reputation back.” But that’s where the CIA went with this trial in its first week — sending to the witness stand a procession of officials who attested to the agency’s virtues and fervently decried anyone who might provide a journalist with classified information.

The CIA’s reputation certainly needs a lift. It has rolled downhill at an accelerating pace in the dozen years since telling President George W. Bush what he wanted the nation to hear about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. That huge bloody blot on the agency’s record has not healed since then, inflamed by such matters as drone strikes, rendition of prisoners to torture-happy regimes and resolute protection of its own torturers.

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Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Economic Justice

by Martin J. Bennett
Beyond Chron. January 19, 2015

Commemorations on the Martin Luther King holiday tend to portray a moderate civil rights leader who aimed to end segregation and racial discrimination by nonviolent direct action.

Often forgotten is his lifelong belief that a “radical restructuring of the architecture of American society” was needed, and that the fight for racial equality and the struggle for economic justice are intertwined.

As University of Washington historian Michael Honey demonstrates in his book, “All Labor Has Dignity, for King, race and class were inseparable and only a mass interracial movement of poor and working people could achieve inclusion and full citizenship for all.

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Race, Leaks and Prosecution at the CIA

Published on Friday, January 16, 2015 by ExposeFacts.org
by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. January 16, 2015
 
CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling. (Photo: AP)
 

Condoleezza Rice made headlines when she testified Thursday at the leak trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling — underscoring that powerful people in the Bush administration went to great lengths a dozen years ago to prevent disclosure of a classified operation. But as The Associated Press noted, “While Rice’s testimony helped establish the importance of the classified program in question, her testimony did not implicate Sterling in any way as the leaker.”

Few pixels and little ink went to the witness just before Rice — former CIA spokesman William Harlow — whose testimony stumbled into indicating why he thought of Sterling early on in connection with the leak, which ultimately resulted in a ten-count indictment.

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News Conference on Prosecution of CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015

Former CIA Analyst Joins with Petition Signers Urging DOJ to Drop Charges

A news conference addressing key issues in the ongoing trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling took place at 9 a.m, Jan. 14, 2015 in front of the U.S. District Court Building in Alexandria, Va.

Speakers included former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s. McGovern prepared the daily briefs for presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush. For his CIA service he received the Intelligence Commendation Medal. Also speaking were Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org, and David Swanson, the organization's campaign coordinator.

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The Revenge of the CIA: Scapegoating Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

By Norman Solomon
Expose Facts • January 15, 2015     

This week, in a federal courtroom, I’ve heard a series of government witnesses testify behind a screen while expounding on a central precept of the national security state: The CIA can do no wrong.

Those CIA employees and consultants are more than mere loyalists for an agency that soaks up $15 billion a year and continues to loosen the bonds of accountability. The docket says “United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling,” but a more discerning title would be “National Security State v. The Public’s Right to Know.”

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Sterling Trial Opens in Security-State Matrix

By Norman Solomon
ExposeFacts • January 14, 2015     

When the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling got underway Tuesday in Northern Virginia, prospective jurors made routine references to “three-letter agencies” and alphabet-soup categories of security clearances. In an area where vast partnerships between intelligence agencies and private contractors saturate everyday life, the jury pool was bound to please the prosecution.

In a U.S. District Court that boasts a “rocket docket,” the selection of 14 jurors was swift, with the process lasting under three hours. Along the way, Judge Leonie M. Brinkema asked more than a dozen possible jurors whether their personal connections to the CIA or other intel agencies would interfere with her announced quest for an “absolutely open mind.”

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The selective prosecution of leaks threatens democracy

Charging Jeffrey Sterling but not David Petraeus captures the hypocrisy of government leaks

 

by Norman Solomon                                                    
ALJAZEERA America. January 13, 2015
 

One of the grossest hypocrisies of Washington officialdom is the willingness to denounce leaks of some classified information and to countenance leaks of other classified information. But the gap between indignant pretense and standard practice has widened into a chasm in recent years, with Barack Obama’s administration prosecuting leakers in record numbers while protecting its own. Selective prosecution of leaks in the name of national security has never been more extreme.

This duplicity is on full display as the long-delayed trial of former Central Intelligence Agency officer Jeffrey Sterling, charged with seven counts under the Espionage Act and three related charges, began today in a U.S. District Court not far from the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Prosecutors say Sterling was the source for a chapter in the 2006 book “State of War” by New York Times reporter James Risen, revealing a CIA operation that gave flawed nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in 2000.

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‘Something Momentous is Happening’:

Hundreds of Stanford Professors Call For Full Fossil Fuel Divestment

'The urgency and magnitude of climate change call not for partial solutions,' argue more than 300 faculty members in open letter to university president and board

 
by Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Common Dreams. January 12, 2015
 
Students with the group Fossil Free Stanford calling for the university to "divest the rest" and pull their holdings from all fossil fuel companies. (Photo: Fossil Free Stanford)
 

Hundreds of Stanford University professors published an open letter on Sunday demanding that the university divest the entirety of its holdings from all fossil fuel companies.

"If a university seeks to educate extraordinary youth so they may achieve the brightest possible future, what does it mean for that university simultaneously to invest in the destruction of that future?" asks the letter addressed to university president John Hennessy and the school Board of Trustees.

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THE LATEST. Special coverage of the Jeffrey Sterling trial

ExposeFacts.org
Janurary 12, 2015

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Going Underground: Press freedom after Charlie Hebdo massacre

RT. January 10, 2015

Afshin Rattansi interviews Norman Solomon:

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What Happened in Vermont: Implications of the Pullback from Single Payer

by Steffie Woolhandler, David Himmelstein
Common Dreams. January 10, 2015

Vermont Statehouse Rally for Healthcare, May 2011

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s Dec. 17, 2014, announcement that he would not press forward with Vermont’s Green Mountain Care (GMC) reform arose from political calculus rather than fiscal necessity. GMC had veered away from a true single payer design over the past three years, forfeiting some potential cost savings. Yet even the diluted plan on the table before Shumlin’s announcement would probably have lowered total health spending in Vermont, while covering all of the state’s uninsured.

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CIA Whistleblower Faces Decades in Prison for Exposing Botched CIA Plan

Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org, says Jeffrey Sterling and other whistleblowers have leaked classified information against the interests of the ruling elite, but in the interest of democracy

The REALNews.com • January 7, 2015

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You can make a difference in state-wide politics

January 5, 2015
Coalition for Grassroots Progress                                    
 

Electing delegates to the California Democratic Party Central Committee is one way that progressives can have a voice in Democratic Party politics. The California Democratic Party holds delegate elections every two years, and this Saturday, January 10, is the date for its Central Committee delegate  and Executive Board representative elections in the North Bay. 

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Why Jeffrey Sterling Deserves Support as a CIA Whistleblower

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. January 5, 2015

No one disputes that Jeffrey Sterling told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers about  a CIA operation that had provided flawed nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in 2000, dubbed Operation Merlin, which Risen’s book later exposed and brought to light as dumb and dangerous. (Photo: UCB J-School/flick)

The trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, set to begin in mid-January, is shaping up as a major battle in the U.S. government’s siege against whistleblowing. With its use of the Espionage Act to intimidate and prosecute people for leaks in “national security” realms, the Obama administration is determined to keep hiding important facts that the public has a vital right to know.

After fleeting coverage of Sterling’s indictment four years ago, news media have done little to illuminate his case—while occasionally reporting on the refusal of New York Times reporter James Risen to testify about whether Sterling was a source for his 2006 book “State of War.”

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10 Good Things About the Year 2014

by Medea Benjamin
Common Dreams. December 30, 2014

(Photo: Daniel Arauz/flickr/cc)

It’s been a year of fervent activism on police accountability, living wages, climate change, personal freedoms, immigrant rights, an open internet and diplomacy over war. The electoral beating the Democrats received has prompted both the Administration and some spineless congresspeople to realize that support for progressive issues could reinvigorate their base —a realization that has already led to Obama’s executive action on immigration and the opening to Cuba.

So here are some of the 2014 highlights.

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Governor Brown: Ban Fracking in California Now

To: Governor Jerry Brown, California

                                                                                      

Tell Governor Jerry Brown that it is time to ban fracking in California

Why is this important?

Governor Cuomo of New York just declared a ban on fracking. Howard Zucker, the acting New York State Health Commissioner, said a recently released scientific study found that there were "significant public health risks" associated with fracking, including water contamination and air pollution. In California we have the added problem of drought conditions. The millions of gallons of water used in fracking is an incredible waste of this precious resource.

It is time for Governor Jerry Brown to take action and ban fracking in California now.

CLICK HERE to sign this petition.

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Vermonters Ready Celebration as Nuclear Plant Shuts Down for Good

Owners of Vermont Yankee lost their battle with local residents to keep accident-prone plant running for decades more

 

by Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. December 29, 2014

(Photo: Basil Tsimoyianis/Greenpeace)

Residents throughout New England have reason to celebrate on Monday as Vermont Yankee, the sole nuclear power plant in the state of Vermont, powers down for the final time after years of grassroots organizing and political opposition.

The owners of Vermont Yankee, the Entergy corporation, had fought hard to extend the license of the plant, but a series of accidents in recent years and a pronounced campaign against the extension took place in the streets and within the state legislature ultimately overwhelmed those efforts. Earlier this year, citing economic reasons, Entergy announced it would shutter the plant by the end of the year.

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After 13 Years, US-Led Afghanistan War is Officially Over but Nightmare Goes On

The war in Afghanistan claimed the lives of about 3,500 foreign troops—at least 2,224 of them American soldiers—and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians

 

by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer
Common Dreams. December 28, 2014

Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Gen. John Campbell, right, and ISAF Gen. Hans-Lothar Domrose attend a ceremony at the ISAF headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

With little fanfare, the United States and NATO formally ended the longest war in U.S. history with a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, leaving observers to wonder what—if anything—was achieved.

Over 13 years, U.S.-led war in Afghanistan claimed the lives of about 3,500 foreign troops (at least 2,224 of them American soldiers) and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians; most experts agree that the country is as violent as ever and that the death toll will continue to rise. Many say the war is over in name only.

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In His Own Words

  • It’s war and peace that to me circumscribe our realities here…. We’re being depleted of resources for state and local government services. We need to redefine what national security is. It’s not national security to have our schools crumbling. I would argue that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made us less secure.

    Norman Solomon
    Pacific Sun, Jan. 14, 2011

  • I revere the New Deal legacy that gave our country Social Security and other key aspects of the social compact. President Franklin D. Roosevelt fought for economic fairness. Before the end of his first term, FDR denounced “the economic royalists.” He said: “They are unanimous in their hate for me -- and I welcome their hatred.”  He did not say, “They hate me -- and I want them to like me.”

    Norman Solomon
    Marin Independent Journal, Dec. 23, 2010

  • Washington’s failure to respond to climate change is an abysmal betrayal of hopes. The coal and oil industries, along with other corporate behemoths, have managed to trump the interests of life on Earth… It doesn’t do much good for officials to agree that the planetary house is on fire if they won’t really fight for turning on the fire extinguishers.

    Norman Solomon
    Solar Times, Autumn 2010

  • When I listened to children from Helmand province at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul, it was clear that they didn't know or care whether the man in the Oval Office had a “D” or an “R” after his name. They, and their surviving parents, were trying to stay alive. For all the talk about winning hearts and minds, the refugee camp told a different story about priorities.

    Norman Solomon
    Marin Independent Journal, Oct. 7, 2010

  • The survival of all living beings on this planet, the entire ecosystem, depends on our civic engagement, on our working together to do the difficult tasks, to engage in the tedious activities, to be part of the political process, to insist that the ocean is not for sale, that the government is not for sale, that our earth is not for sale.

    Norman Solomon,
    speaking at rally against offshore oil drilling
    Marin Independent Journal, June 27, 2010

  • No amount of rhetoric about the dignity of work can make up for the deficit of determination from elected officials to roll back the scourge of unemployment…. Even when they decry high jobless levels, many in Congress seem to passively accept the myth that government can do little other than boost the private sector…

    Norman Solomon
    The Press Democrat, June 24, 2010

  • We can generate sustainable green jobs, protect small independent fishers and ecologically fragile coastlines, and rebuild local economies to serve communities rather than the big corporate model of take the money and run.

    Norman Solomon
    Eureka Times-Standard, August 10, 2011

  • In Washington, job one should be creating jobs. And that won't happen by continuing to give tax cuts to the wealthy while imposing benefit cuts on the rest of us.

    Norman Solomon
    Marin Independent Journal, August 15, 2011