Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Description of the Slow Slide to Fascism in the U.S. by Rocky Anderson

[Edited 3/30/12]

I don't watch much TV. I rarely turn it on at my place, much preferring to find news and entertainment on the internet. Tuesday night, at my best and dearest friend's home, I watched PB'S' "News Hour" and two NCIS programs on CBS. The "News Hour" had an obviously propagandistic piece subtly demonizing Syria and the Assad government, ultimately insisting upon Assad stepping aside. The one and only guest on that segment was Andrew Tabler from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a pro-Israeli foreign policy think-tank. WINEP is a simply another propaganda arm of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the most incredibly powerful lobby in the US today for the interests of Israel (See The Israel Lobby for starters). There were no opposing guests to speak for the Syrian state, whose territory on the Golan Heights has been illegally occupied by Israel since the 1967 war (never mentioned on "News Hour"). This is typical one sided PBS and NPR fare, even though they claim to God's gift for unbiased information to the American public.

It would have been adequately "fair & balanced," and much more informative and interesting, if they had included someone like Eric Margolis, or any of the stable of writers, on the same program as and antidote to PBS's (and NPR's) AIPAC/Neocon guest list.

For another side of the story, see "THE DANGEROUS MESS IN SYRIA GROWS MURKIER" and listen to Scott Horton's recent interview with Eric Margolis on Antiwar Radio. In the interview, Margolis states that the US, Britain, France, aligned with Israel and Saudi Arabia, along with right-wing forces in Lebanon, have been infiltrating armed fighters into northern Syria from the beginning, much like the French intelligence did to create the self-serving early Bengazi insurgency in Libya.

The sound went out on PBS, so I switched to NCIS on CBS. The first hour was the usual, promoting the military police as a profoundly caring, justice seeking organization, just like most cop shows do for the police. The second, NCIS Los Angeles, was different. Like other police and military TV programs I have watched in the past, it ended up promoting not just killing willy-nilly, but in addition, the most egregious violations of Constitutional due process, simply because a Navy Seal Team had decided it was OK to kill a citizen because they thought he was a spy for the Taliban in Pakistan. No court order and no due process needed, because Seal Teams are all about honor and defending us. Ultimately, the powers that be in NCIS gave a wink and a knowing smile, and looked the other way, even though they knew the Seal Team members were involved in an extrajudicial killing of an American citizen on US soil without due process. I guess the message is that we need to forget the Constitution when, not just the Commander in Chief, but even teams of military commandos, decide amongst themselves that an American citizen on American soil needs to be "taken out" without formal charge or trial.

I thought about what a brain-washed and militarized society we have become--as TV has traveled quite a long way from the "I Love Lucy" shows of my youthful days. But hey, that's who we Americans are now--that's what we do--we kill people without regard to their Constitutional rights, or their rights as human beings. We tell only one side of the story. We threaten or make war upon nations and national groups at the command of the governing elites, Neocon think tanks and the corporate and "public" media, whenever they tell us those nations are "undemocratic," "kill their own people" (as we did in the most atrocious fashion during our own "Civil War"), and otherwise need a good thrashing. All this with no regard to the consequences for our own lives or for the lives of the people we attack. Constitutional protections of due process in a court of law, simply don't matter if the Executive Branch, the Military, or some other powerful group decides they don't. They are God.

How the hell did we get here???? Have we always been this way? Well, sort of, but it keeps getting worse (Are we just going back to the dark ages?).

Back in the last "just war," WWII, we killed hundred of thousands of civilians by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, and killed many more thousands of innocent women and children, while destroying priceless European architecture, in Dresden, Germany, just to make a point. Afterwards we ignored all that and tried the Nazis for their atrocities during the war crimes tribunals, and made war crimes of the German sort, violations of international law. Since then, only weak nations have been tried for war crimes, even though it is the US and the West that violate those same international laws routinely.

Back in 1967 and '68, I faced a decision. As a poor boy of 17-18, I had fallen into an even deeper poverty than I had known previously, when growing up in a lower middle class family that became divided by separation, and then divorce. When I tried to go off on my own to escape an untenable situation, my brother helped me buy books so I could attend the local community college, during a time when my life and mind were in great turmoil (for reasons I won't go into). In the summer of 1967, a friend and I hitch-hiked to Montreal, Canada, for the world's fair, and on to Boston and New York, and I came home a changed person, even more aware of what I considered to be a dishonorable war against the people of Vietnam, a people who had every right to seek self determination and to fight their own civil war, even if one side was socialist/"communist". In late 1967, if I remember it all correctly, my roommate, another dear friend, and I protested the Vietnam war by inscribing "Hell No, we won't go" on the college lawn (a nearly meaningless and ineffective statement, I must confess). We were two of very few there who spoke out against the War, even though just months earlier we had considered going to Israel as volunteers to help the Israelis in their struggle with the Palestinians. My good friend and roommate was Jewish and at the time we had been overcome by the false pro-Israeli narrative in the popular press. Such was the change in my own personal awareness of American Empire during that brief period of 1967 and 1968.

To make a long and very personal story short, after the Viet Cong's Tet Offensive in January, 1968, a new draft of 48,000 men was announced in February. I faced the loss of my college deferment and ended up in the Army. I could have gone to Canada, but had no support or wherewithal to do that, and did not wish to saddle my Army-Airforce father with having a son who chose not to serve. I was not, and could not truthfully claim to be, a conscientious objector to all wars in the religious sense, because I was, and still am, essentially an atheist. Atheists, after all, couldn't possibly have strongly held moral and ethical convictions--Godless people are lost souls and excluded from the possibility of morality.

In my induction papers, I told the Army that I would not participate in any war that was not similar to World War II, and the attack on America at Pearl Harbor, which appeared at the time to be a truly defensive war. They took me anyway, but after my father's early death, just after my 20th birthday, I engaged in various forms of resistance. It was a long, difficult, problem-filled rocky road that eventually kept me out of the much more threatening and problematic Vietnam War, and which left me with an honorable discharge, thanks to military friends who favored my sentiments. My life was eventually deeply affected by my choices, especially when I faced bosses who had served willingly and had killed innocent Vietnamese as if it were the honorable thing to do. Even though I received an honorable discharge, I most often had to truthfully state the facts of my Army experience in job applications, and particularly in cases when the boss was a Vietnam vet, it did not serve me well. They had their own bitterness, and revenge to exact on those who opposed the war and who questioned the ultimate value of their service.

In any event, the fruitless and destructive Vietnam War produced many more war crimes against innocent civilians, including the dropping of napalm on villages and the massacre at Mai Lai.

The point of this story, is that we all face choices, and as a nation, we need to create choices with more productive outcomes. Unfortunately, if Americans choose to not willingly participate in thoughtless, often criminal, always destructive and murderous, US wars against any defenseless nation, targeted for dubious reasons by our government, there can be a heavy price to pay. Others make a different choice, and they too, will live with it the rest of their lives, even if they are economically and socially rewarded for it. The targeted nations, however, live in a hell that most of us cannot even imagine.

Most often, in the absence of an equitable draft, now referred to as the "volunteer Army," it is the poor, due to their circumstance, and other people with few options, who end up fighting these rich men's wars. Without an equitable draft, one that would not permit the purchase of college deferments by the wealthy, low income people are sucked in by what is really a "poverty draft" in order to find income producing work and the self esteem so easily bestowed upon them by the upper classses and the one percent--those who will never have to risk their lives doing the devil's work--and who can live their often successful lives as if it never happened.

To the other veterans I offend: In a world of media propaganda and lies, I understand why you did what you did, and the honor you were seeking. I also understand and most honor those war veterans who came to realize the falsehoods that drove them to war, and the shame some feel for killing innocents, but mostly I understand the contempt they must feel for the officials and government who stole their lives to send them into wars based upon falsehoods, as currently is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is time for all, veterans and non-veterans alike, to wake up to the carnage, cultural dysfunction, and reactionary "terrorist" hatred, that we Americans are inflicting upon the world through our senseless wars. They leave us and other nations impoverished and serve no one other than the military-industrial complex, the one percent and their global war on the national self determination of others. Too often today, the "State" of Israel, which was imposed upon the Palestinians and Arabs in 1948, and which has been violating international laws and the rights of Palestinians ever since, is the ultimate beneficiary, as if it were really in our national interest.

In fighting the ever widening wars on "terror," which are the logical result of our own aggressive, oppressive, and wildly destructive wars on many nations, and beyond the important issue of degrading our own ethical and moral principles, we have decimated our own Constitutional rights to privacy and due process as American citizens, thus enabling the current slide into fascism. Today, President Obama thinks nothing of killing American citizens without judicial warrant simply on the advice of questionable advisors, while allowing the killing of others in foreign lands who resist, including many civilians, with drones directed from afar. He is cheered on by even more savage and "right-wing" militaristic AIPAC oriented Republicans who would likely be even more improvident and immoral were they in the oval office.

In the article below, Rocky Anderson, former Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, asks us to reconsider the guiding principles we have historically held dear, how they have been undermined in recent decades, and how we might restore them. I agree with much he has to say, but disagree with notions that would invite endless immigration to a finite nation with many long-term issues, both physical and social. It's a long read, but well worth your while.

An End To Authoritarianism and Plutocracy in the United States: It's Up to Us

By Ross C. "Rocky" Anderson
Hinckley Institute of Politics

March 28, 2012 "Information Clearing House" ---

Let us consider the fundamental guiding principles for the United States of America -- freedom, equal opportunity, compassion, and security.

Then let us consider how those principles have been severely undermined, and how we, the American people, can restore them so that once again our government is of, by, and for the people, rather than a tool of oppression cynically utilized for the benefit of a small, powerful, abusive, elite political and financial class, to the detriment of the vast majority of U.S. citizens, as well as billions of people around the world.

We often hear it said that the United States is the greatest nation in the world. What exactly is meant by that? And is it true? The more important question is: Can we, the American people, make this, once again, a great and proud nation -- a nation that lives up to its original promise? We can achieve that -- if only we will.

Who are we as a people, what do we really believe in, and just what does our nation stand for? How far have we drifted away -- or, rather, bolted away -- from what we once were? And how do we, once again, attain greater freedom, more equal opportunity, compassion, and security for all?

These questions have never been more vital to consider and confront. Our nation has been transformed in just a few short years -- virtually unrecognizable in fundamental respects when compared to the republic that once proudly proclaimed a constitutional system of checks and balances, the rule of law, and constitutional protections of due process, restraints on war-making, and a truly balanced system of separation of powers among three co-equal branches of government.

We are at a nation-changing -- even world-changing -- fork in the road. We can continue on the path of becoming more totalitarian, even fascist, with an imperial presidency that continues to accrue to itself unprecedented tyrannical powers; more greedy as a nation and as a people; less capable to compete on a global stage; more empire-building and war-mongering; less equal under the law; more divided, in terms of income and wealth, between a tiny elite financial aristocracy and the rest of our citizenry; more cruel toward men, women, and children, here and abroad, who are not part of the elite political and financial classes; and less secure, as a nation and as individuals, now and in the future.

Or we can turn things around radically, becoming more free and respectful of the fundamental rights and interests of people in the U.S. and elsewhere, with restraints on executive power -- and accountability for abuses of that power -- as contemplated by the founders and by our Constitution; more generous and helpful as a nation and as a people; more capable of competing with other nations, their students, and their workers; more cooperative and friendly toward other nations; more committed to liberty and justice for all; more prosperous, with a strong, healthy middle class, capable of living rewarding lives through equal opportunity; kinder and more compassionate toward our own citizens, immigrants, and men, women, and children in other nations; and more secure in our homes, our communities, and our nation, presently and in the future.

The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence sets forth the general guiding principles of the founding of our great nation:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

There could be no stronger affirmation of our nation's guiding principles of freedom, equal opportunity, compassion, and personal, familial, community, and national security.

These guiding principles ring loudly in the first sentence of our Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The guiding principles, then, set forth in the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are that people -- all people, not just citizens of the United States -- are created as equals, they all have unalienable rights, including the right to life, the right to liberty and the right to pursue happiness, that we seek to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility (that is, peace), provide for the defense of our nation (that is, security), promote the welfare of everyone, and secure liberty not only for us, but for later generations -- "our posterity".

It is for each generation to exercise conscientious diligence in sustaining those guiding principles. Sadly -- tragically --, those who were to have represented our interests in Washington, particularly during these past ten years, have severely undermined those principles. And we, the people, have not sufficiently spoken out and acted to return our nation to the principled course set by the Founders. But we can -- if only we will.

After World War II, the U.S. and its allies prosecuted and convicted Germans for war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Tribunal. The chief prosecutor was United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. He made it clear that aggressive war -- that is, a military attack by an aggressor nation against a nation that has not attacked, and is not preparing to attack the aggressor nation -- is a crime, as reflected in a treaty to which the United States is a signatory, the Kellogg-Briand Pact. He emphasized that if the criminal prohibition against war is to have any meaning, it must be applied to all nations, including, as he said, those sitting in judgment at Nuremberg.

The illegality of aggressive war has been reinforced by the U.N. Charter, which expressly prohibits a military attack by one nation against another unless the target nation has itself illegally attacked, or was about to illegally attack, the other nation.

Instead of continuing the proud tradition of the Nuremberg principles, and complying with the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the United Nations Charter, the United States, during the Bush administration, engaged in the blatantly criminal act of invading and forcibly occupying Iraq, a nation that posed no risk of harm whatsoever to the United States. It was the sort of crime for which people were tried and convicted at Nuremberg. Two Secretaries-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali, agreed it was a clear violation of international law -- yet no one has been held to account.

Making illegal war is the most serious crime because it purports to legalize mass murder, severe injuries, mass property destruction, and societal mayhem. Compounding this most serious crime in our invasion and occupation of Iraq, it was committed in blatant violation of the War Power Clause of the United States Constitution, which provides that Congress has the sole prerogative to decide whether to take our nation to war.

Congress cannot avoid its highest responsibility by unconstitutionally delegating to the President the authority to make the decision. However, that is exactly what Congress, in cowardly derogation of its constitutional duties, has sought to do repeatedly.

President Johnson lied to our nation about Vietnam in order to get Congress to allow him to make the decision as to whether we should make war against the North Vietnamese. Likewise, President Bush lied to our nation about Iraq in order to get Congress to pass the resolution allowing him to decide whether to make war against that nation, which had no involvement whatsoever in the attacks on 9/11. Our nation was deceived -- and we were betrayed -- all at an astounding cost in lives, tragedy, and national treasure.

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Congress's abdication of perhaps its most important constitutional role was so pathetic that all but a handful of U.S. Senators (including our present Secretary of State) didn't even bother to walk to a secure room in the Capitol Building to read a National Intelligence Estimate, which made clear, contrary to what President Bush and his administration were telling us, that much of the U.S. intelligence community disagreed with claims about Iraq developing a nuclear capability and about its possession of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, just a few months before 9/11, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell independently stated that, following the first Gulf war, Iraq's weapons had been destroyed, it had not re-armed, and it didn't even pose a danger to its neighbors. Senator Bob Graham, who urged his colleagues to read the National Intelligence Estimate, went so far as to warn, correctly, that the security of the people of the United States would be put at great risk if we attacked Iraq, saying to his colleagues that, if they voted to allow the president to make the decision to go to war, blood would be on their hands.

More than a million innocent Iraqis killed, more seriously injured, and vast hatred and hostility generated throughout the Muslim world toward the United States, making us much less safe for generations to come -- all on the basis of lies. Had Congress done its fact-finding job and met its constitutional responsibility to determine for itself if war against Iraq was justified, none of it would ever have happened.

Several presidents since Truman have unconstitutionally made war against other nations, and several Congresses have unconstitutionally sought to delegate their war decision-making power to the president. So where have the courts been to make certain that the War Power Clause of the Constitution is followed? That is, after all, how our constitutional system of checks and balances is supposed to work.

The sad answer that strikes at the heart of our Constitution is that the courts have checked out, making excuses for dodging the question, most often in the form of the court-made "political question" doctrine. The Congress and President both violate the Constitution -- and the courts say, "Sorry, it's a political question and we can't -- or, rather, won't -- do anything about it." In other words, the War Power Clause essentially has been ripped out of our Constitution -- leading to the incredibly dangerous point where one person -- the President -- can make the decision as to whether our nation goes to war. That takes us one giant step closer to the tyranny our Founders sought to prevent.

Our nation's proud tradition has been that we do not torture -- and we do not permit torture. George Washington ordered his troops to refrain from torturing British soldiers, even when the British were committing such atrocities against colonial soldiers. The Lieber Code forbade torture during the Civil War. The U.S. has court-martialed our own servicemen for torturing, including water boarding -- during the 1900 conflict in the Philippines and during the Vietnam War. Numerous high-ranking members of the military, including Utah's own Brig. Gen. (ret'd) David Irvine, have uniformly called for enforcement of the absolute prohibition against torture, arguing persuasively that torture is productive of misinformation because torture victims will say anything in order to avoid further torture; it creates far more hatred and more enemies; and it creates a more dangerous situation for our own servicemen and servicewomen. Also, of course, it is fundamentally immoral, blatantly illegal, under both international and domestic law, and dehumanizing and demoralizing to those who engage in the torture.

We know now that President Bush and others in his administration authorized the use of torture. Unbeknownst to us at the time, on the day before President Bush was at the Opening Ceremony for the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games, he signed a memorandum stating, directly contrary to what the Supreme Court later ruled, that the Geneva Convention protections against torture would not apply to people detained in the so-called war on terror. His authorization of torture, and the authorization by others in his administration of torture, constitute war crimes, under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, as well as under laws passed by Congress, including the War Crimes Act of 1996 and the federal anti-torture statute.

When President Obama said concerning those war crimes -- and about the federal felonies committed by those who engaged in warrantless surveillance of Americans' communications -- that there should be no accountability for the crimes because, in his words, we should look forward and not back, he dangerously contributed to the further deterioration of the rule of law in our nation. His virtual granting of immunity, notwithstanding the requirement in the Convention Against Torture that all signatories must prosecute torture as they do other serious offenses, is completely contrary to all applicable laws -- and characteristic of a dictator who believes that he is the law. It is another major ratcheting up of the imperial presidency -- and another momentous degradation of the rule of law and our constitutional system, in which the president and other members of the Executive Branch are to be constrained by the law and by the other two branches of our government. That evisceration of the rule of law by President Obama and a Congress that has timidly fallen in line with the assertion by the Bush and Abama administrations of unprecedented executive powers take us one more giant step closer to the tyranny our Founders sought to prevent.

President Bush was not only a "decider," he was an innovator. For the first time in our nation's history, we fought a war, then two wars -- and, at the same time, instead of raising revenues for the wars, he and the complicit Congress gave enormous tax breaks to the very wealthy. It was as if we took out credit cards in the names of our children and charged the costs of the wars on them, while enriching the very rich even more. It was a continuation of a reckless pattern of pandering by so-called conservatives -- aided and abetted by Democrats. Between 1979 and 2006, the top incremental tax rate on earned income was cut in half; capital gains taxes were cut by almost as much; and corporate taxes were reduced by more than 25%. Of course, not many corporations pay according to even that rate because of all the loopholes and deductions their lobbyists have pushed through Congress over the years.

If the Bush tax cuts had been allowed to expire in 2010, as promised, for people with incomes over $200,000, federal revenues would increase approximately $140 billion during this year. That would be sufficient to cover basic health care needs for those without coverage in the United States. What would the impact be on those making more than $200,000 a year? It would reduce their aftertax incomes, on average, by about 4.5%.

When offered the choice between health care for all or an elimination of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Congress and the President have chosen less taxes for the wealthy.

The corrupting influence of money in our political system -- the massive campaign contributions that essentially put Congress and the White House on retainer to the wealthy -- has contributed significantly to what I call the Great Chasm. One of many examples is what Washington politicians -- those who are supposed to be representing all of us -- did for hedge fund managers. Our tax laws now allow hedge fund managers, some of whom make more than a billion dollars a year, to have most of their earnings taxed at the capital gains rate, 15%, while middle class working men and women pay a significantly higher rate. That loophole alone costs the federal government more than $6 billion in lost revenue, which would be enough to provide health care to three million children.[1] Almost $2 billion of that tax boondoggle goes to 25 people.[2]

Over the past decade, the incomes of the middle class have fallen, while those in the top 1 percent have enjoyed, on average, an increase of 18% in their incomes. And what incredible incomes they are! The top 1 percent in the United States are paid about 25% of the total income -- and they control a whopping 40% of the total wealth. The disparity in income and wealth between the small privileged class of the economic aristocracy and the rest of us in this nation has never been as great as it is now since the 1920's, on the eve of the Great Depression.

This is not something that just naturally happens because of market forces. It happens because of politicians serving the elite financial aristocracy to the immense detriment of the public interest.

How did we build a strong, healthy middle class and a prosperous economy following the Great Depression -- and what is taking us back now to the gross inequality and tremendous insecurity for most people reminiscent of the Gilded Age?

As Paul Krugman[3] describes, in the 1920s, there was a vast political polarization and an enormous income and wealth disparity -- very much like today. However, political reform -- public policy geared toward making life better for the vast majority of Americans -- made all the difference. There was a vast narrowing of the gap between the wealthy and the rest of the nation -- what Krugman calls "The Great Compression." It was entirely the opposite from today's Great Chasm.

Incomes for the very wealthy actually decreased from the 1920's to the 1950's, while the incomes for middle class families about doubled. The middle class also had greater security, with employers offering new benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. The federal government also provided unemployment insurance and Social Security for retirees.

It all equated to a major economic democratization of American society, with much narrower differences between the pay for executives and line workers, and much narrower differences between employees with formal education and manual laborers. Just the opposite of what we're experiencing today.

Much of the Gilded Age class consciousness was gone by the 1950s. And now it has returned. Many of the wealthy turn their backs on the quality of public education as they enroll their children in private schools. Many of the wealthy live only among themselves, providing for their own security, as they isolate themselves in gated communities. Only the best in medical care for the wealthy, while 50 million people go without basic health care coverage -- and, even if the Obama plan is fully implemented 23 million men, women, and children will be without essential medical coverage, unlike any other nation in the developed world. And 700,000 bankruptcies each year are attributable to enormous medical bills -- again, a tragedy unknown throughout the rest of the industrialized world.

Much of the change came about because of taxes. In the 1920s, the top income tax rate was only 24%. The top income tax rate rose to 63 % during the first Roosevelt administration, and 79 % in the second. By the mid-fifties, the top tax rate had risen to 91% -- and that was under the Republican administration of Dwight Eisenhower. Today's top tax bracket -- applicable only to income in excess of $388,000 -- is only 35%, yet listen to the wealthy and their lapdogs in Congress howl when anyone has the temerity to suggest that perhaps they should pay their fair share to help reduce the accumulated debt and tremendous interest burden we will hand off to our children and later generations -- and to lend a hand up to those living in poverty, including 22% of our nation's children.

The average corporate tax rate increased from less than 14% in 1929 to more than 45 percent in 1955 and 48% in 1979. Today's corporate tax rate is 35%, but the average corporation pays no more than 15%, and many corporations, like General Electric, taking advantage of massive loopholes and deductions corporate lobbyists have pushed through Congress, pay nothing at all.

The same thing happened with estate taxes -- what the Republicans, with the aid of the spin-meister Frank Luntz, would have us call "death taxes." Estate taxes went from 20% in the 1920's to 45%, then 60%, then 70%, and up to 77%. Today, the estate tax, applicable only to estates in excess of $5.12 million, is 35%. Yet listen to some of the wealthy whine -- as if their descendants are somehow entitled to more than $5 million without any taxation, while 22% of the children in the United States live in poverty.

If, following the 1920s, taxes accounted for the decrease in wealth for the very rich, what accounts mostly for the increase in wealth and income for most of the rest? In large part, it was the union movement. By the end of World War II, more than a third of nonfarm workers were union members. Strong union advocacy means higher wages, better benefits, and a rippling effect that raises wages for others. It also brings into focus the disparity between the pay of top executives and average workers.

Also, during the war, the Roosevelt administration set wages and, given the values of that administration, it tended to set the wages in such a way that the lower paid workers received more increases than others.

The increase in taxes for the wealthy, a strong union movement, and wage controls that shrunk the gap between the wealthy and the middle class led to a much more equal distribution of the total income for thirty years -- as well as unprecedented prosperity. Just the opposite of what we're experiencing today.

The gross inequalities today are alarming -- and tragic. As of 2007, the top 10% owned 84% of the financial wealth in the United States.[4] The bottom 80% owned just 7% of all financial wealth.

Between 1983 and 2004, in large part because of tax cuts for the wealthy and the defeat of labor unions, of all the new financial wealth created in the U.S., 43% of it went to the top 1%. Ninety-four percent of it went to the top 20% -- meaning that the bottom 80% received only 6% of all new financial wealth generated in the United States during the strong economic years of the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s.[5] In short, as working people produced more because of greater efficiencies, they shared in almost none of the gains -- while investors and top executives took almost all of it.

One factor contributing to this gaping disparity is yet another outrage: the average executive pay as compared with the average factory worker pay. CEO pay by 102 major companies was about 40 times that of average full-time workers in the U.S. By the early 2000s, CEO pay averaged 367 times the pay of the average worker.[6] In 2007, the ratio between CEOs and factory workers was 344:1, while in Europe it was about 25:1.[7]

What can we, the American people, do? First, recognize that the Democratic and Republican Parties are a democracy-destroying political duopoly, which has joined forces in shafting the vast majority of Americans, who are struggling every day to just get by, while serving politicians' campaign contributors, including Wall Street bankers, for-profit insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, hedge fund managers, for-profit colleges (many of which are owned by investment banks), and anti-union forces. These Democrats and Republicans deregulated the financial industry and looked the other way while financial institutions and their officers engaged in wholesale fraud -- all of which led to the economic melt-down from which we are still reeling, while the perpetrators are still lining their pockets with multi-million dollar bonuses, derived from government bail-outs.

They are the same duopoly that has caved to the fossil fuel industry in failing to provide essential international leadership to prevent the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. They have become so craven that President Obama even vetoed the EPA's effort to reduce the emission of ground level ozone and has now paved the way for the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline and vastly expanded offshore oil drilling.

They are the same duopoly that thinks so little of our democracy that they have made it almost impossible for any new party or independent candidate to get on several states' ballots -- and, through their total control of the Presidential Debate Commission, which hijacked the presidential debates from the League of Women Voters, have prevented any non-plutocratic voices from being heard by the electorate during presidential debates.

In short, each of us can say: "We're not going to take it any more. We have drawn our line -- and won't budge from it.

We won't support anyone who disregards our Constitution and the rule of law.

We won't support anyone who tortures, authorizes torture, or opposes accountability for those who torture.

We won't support anyone who targets U.S. citizens for assassination.

We won't support anyone who will not work to stop the insane and inhumane incarceration of 2.3 million people, many of them for non-violent offenses -- an incarceration rate far greater than any other nation on earth and which is applied with a vengeance toward African-Americans and Latinos.

We won't support anyone who fails and refuses to face up to the need for rational, compassionate immigration reform.

We won't support anyone who will not commit to provide our students with an equal opportunity to obtain a higher education and equip themselves to be competitive globally with students and employees in other nations.

We won't support anyone who asserts the power to kidnap and indefinitely detain people, including U.S. citizens, without charges, trial, assistance of legal counsel, or right of habeas corpus -- perhaps the most subversive, anti-American stance ever taken by a Congress or a President in our nation's history.

We won't support anyone who takes, or purports to authorize a president to take, our nation to war without a finding by Congress that war is justified -- and without compliance with the U.N. Charter, to which the U.S. is a signatory.

We won't support anyone who allows the continuation of Bush's budget-busting tax breaks for the wealthy.

We won't support anyone who makes it more difficult for working men and women to organize.

We won't support anyone who continues to allow multi-national corporations to profit by depriving U.S. workers of their jobs while exporting millions of jobs with nearly slave conditions in other nations.

We won't support anyone who refuses to implement programs like the Works Progress Administration to hire millions of people to build up our nation's rapidly deteriorating infrastructure.

We won't support anyone who refuses to strengthen, rather than undermine, the safety nets provided by Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.

We won't support anyone who fails to provide crucial leadership on climate change and a thriving clean energy economy.

We won't support anyone who refuses to commit to do everything possible to rid our government and electoral system of the corrupting influence of money.

And we won't support anyone who refuses to join the rest of the industrialized world in providing a health care system that costs much less, produces far better medical outcomes, and is available to everyone.

For those who are cynical, for those who are resigned to not being able to overcome the corruption and perversity of the influence of money in our plutocracy -- that is, government of, by, and for the wealthy --, I urge you to find inspiration in our own nation's long history of progressive social movements, as well as from recent examples in the Arab world.

Major movements, such as the anti-slavery movement, the women's suffrage movement, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement, all succeeded because of the tenacious, passionate commitment and activism by people, organized at the grass roots level. And there was a lot of money aligned against many of them -- yet they prevailed.

Consider also that people in the Arab world -- for instance, in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya -- recently organized, utilizing the democratized means of communication offered by social media, and succeeded in overthrowing long-time oppressive dictators. So, too, can the people of the United States, organize together, take a principled, courageous stand, and overthrow the corrupting influence of money in our government, including our electoral system, and achieve the restoration of the rule of law, a recommitment to fundamental constitutional principles, the reestablishment of the system of checks and balances essential to our republic, and a recommitment to the core values that will make this country great again: freedom, equal opportunity, compassion, and security.

Ben Franklin was approached by a woman as he was leaving the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. She asked him, "Doctor, what do we have -- a monarchy or a republic?" Franklin responded, "A republic, ma'am, if you can keep it."

It's up to us. If we don't take action, and insist on a return to the practices and policies that reaffirm our most fundamental values, our republic and all it stands for could be lost forever. However, if we will, we can restore our republic and breathe life once again into our Constitution and recommit to all that can make this nation once again what the Founders, and those who have given their lives for our freedoms and values, intended and expected. Rocky Anderson's 2012 Presidential Campaign Website


[1] Paul Krugman, The Conscience of a Liberal (W.W. Norton & Company: New York London: 2007), p. 250.
[2] Id.
[3] Paul Krugman, The Conscience of a Liberal.
[4] "Financial wealth" means net worth minus the value of one's home.
[5] G. William Domhoff, "Wealth, Income, and Power,", citing E. N. Wolff (2007) "Recent trends in household wealth in the United States: Rising debt and the middle-class squeeze. Working Paper No. 502. Annandale-on-Hudson, NY: The Levy Economics Institute of Bard College.
[6] Paul Krugman, supra, at 142.
[7] G. William Domhoff, supra.


Michael Franti - Bomb the World


Iris Dement Wasteland Of The Free


"War" by Edwin Starr (Original Video - 1969)


Peter Paul & Mary - Blowin in the wind

Monday, March 19, 2012

Comments on the Economy from Baseline Scenario

One of my go-to sources for information on the American economy is Baseline Scenario, by Simon Johnson and James Kwak. Here are three recent posts (Neil Young and "all Along the Watchtower" is a special treat at the end):

A Colossal Mistake of Historic Proportions: The “JOBS” bill
Posted on March 19, 2012 by Simon Johnson

By Simon Johnson, co-author of White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, And Why It Matters To You

From the 1970s until recently, Congress allowed and encouraged a great deal of financial market deregulation – allowing big banks to become larger, to expand their scope, and to take on more risks.  This legislative agenda was largely bipartisan, up to and including the effective repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act at the end of the 1990s.  After due legislative consideration, the way was cleared for megabanks to combine commercial and investment banking on a complex global scale.  The scene was set for the 2008 financial crisis – and the awful recession from which we are only now beginning to emerge.

With the so-called JOBS bill, on which the Senate is due to vote Tuesday, Congress is about to make the same kind of mistake again – this time abandoning much of the 1930s-era securities legislation that both served investors well and helped make the US one of the best places in the world to raise capital.  We find ourselves again on a bipartisan route to disaster. . . . .


Who’s a Freeloader?
Posted: 14 Mar 2012 04:30 AM PDT
By James Kwak

. . . .The moral of the story is that if you follow the money, almost everyone is a freeloader; by this criterion, there’s no meaningful distinction between Social Security and Medicare, on the one hand, and welfare programs, on the other hand.
. . . .


The Koch Brothers, The Cato Institute, And Why Nations Fail
Posted on March 8, 2012 by Simon Johnson
By Simon Johnson

A dispute has broken out between the Cato Institute, a leading libertarian think tank, and two of its longtime backers – David and Charles Koch. The institute is not the usual form of nonprofit but actually a company with shares; the Koch brothers own two of the four shares and are arguing that they have the right to acquire additional shares and thus presumably exert more control. The institute and some of its senior staff are pushing back.

According to Edward H. Crane, the president and co-founder of Cato, “This is an effort by the Kochs to turn the Cato Institute into some sort of auxiliary for the G.O.P.” Bob Levy, chairman of the Cato board, told The Washington Post: “We would take closer marching orders. That’s totally contrary to what we perceive the function of Cato be.” . . . .

Oh really, I thought Cato was already an "auxiliary for the G.O.P.”

Neil Young & Bruce Springsteen - All Along The Watchtower


The Calmer, Original Version:
Bob Dylan - All Along The Watchtower (Audio Only)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Irish American History Slighted in the Schools & Bad Week for Wolves

[Edited 3/18/12]
In this Edition:

- Irish American History Slighted in the Schools

- Bad Week for Wolves
----- 9th Circuit Panel Upholds Congressional Rider Removing N. Rocky Mountain Wolves from ESA Protection
----- Wolves to the Slaughter
----- It’s perspective over perception for Carter Niemeyer


Irish American History Slighted in the Schools

My Scottish and Irish ancestors on Dad's side of the family arrived in Boston, on their way to Wisconsin, in 1846. I don't suppose it was pure coincidence that the Irish potato famine had begun in September 1845. Before it ended, over one million Irish men and women were dead. It is worth noting that the fungus that caused the potato blight, which was in part responsible for the famine, had come to Ireland in ships sailing from North America, and resulted in more waves of Irish immigrants sailing for the United States in the same or similar ships.

In junior and senior high school, I learned that the potato blight was responsible for the famine, and it was not until some years later that I read about the "let 'em starve" attitudes of Englishmen who controlled the country at the time. One might think such a savage attitude was shed long ago by Christian and not so Christian hearts, but is was just a few weeks ago, in a conversation with a local proprietor about needed training for the poor and unemployed, that I heard those very words again: "let 'em starve."

On this Saint Patrick's Day, an Irish friend in La Grande sent me the following article about the sad lack of curriculum to teach about the history of the Irish in America, even though there "are 41 million Americans who claim 'Irish' as their primary ethnicity." By comparison, there around 50 million German-Americans, 50 million Hispanics, 5.3 Jewish-Americans, and 1.2 million people who self identify as British-Americans (although there are many, many millions more with a partial English heritage.) It is much more complex that this of course. For example, while I may be "mostly" Irish, I'm roughly 1/4 Scottish, and my Grandfather on my mother's side was Welsh, which while a part of Briton, is not the same as English. Anyway, apples mixing with oranges, no doubt.

Published on Thursday, March 15, 2012 by Common Dreams
The Real Irish American Story Not Taught in Schools
by Bill Bigelow

"Wear green on St. Patrick's Day or get pinched." That pretty much sums up the Irish American "curriculum" that I learned when I was in school. Yes, I recall a nod to the so-called Potato Famine, but it was mentioned only in passing.
. . . .
Nor do these texts raise any critical questions for students to consider. For example, it's important for students to learn that the crop failure in Ireland affected only the potato -- during the worst famine years, other food production was robust. Michael Pollan notes in The Botany of Desire, "Ireland's was surely the biggest experiment in monoculture ever attempted and surely the most convincing proof of its folly." But if only this one variety of potato, the Lumper, failed, and other crops thrived, why did people starve?

Thomas Gallagher points out in Paddy's Lament, that during the first winter of famine, 1846-47, as perhaps 400,000 Irish peasants starved, landlords exported 17 million pounds sterling worth of grain, cattle, pigs, flour, eggs, and poultry -- food that could have prevented those deaths. Throughout the famine, as Gallagher notes, there was an abundance of food produced in Ireland, yet the landlords exported it to markets abroad.

The school curriculum could and should ask students to reflect on the contradiction of starvation amidst plenty, on the ethics of food exports amidst famine. And it should ask why these patterns persist into our own time.
See Link above for rest of article.

Bad Week for Wolves


Michelle Dennehy
show details 5:39 PM (20 hours ago)
OSP news release, any questions about the investigation should go to OSP.

News Release from: Oregon State Police
Posted: March 16th, 2012 5:21 PM

Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division, with the assistance of Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW), is investigating the death of what is believed to be a wolf in northeast Oregon's Union County. The deceased animal's measurements and physical appearance match that of a wolf, but confirmation of the species is pending through DNA analysis.

On March 16, 2012 at approximately 8:30 a.m. OSP Fish & Wildlife Senior Trooper Kris Davis received a call regarding the discovery of a possible deceased wolf on private property about 6 miles north of Cove, Oregon. Davis and Sergeant Isaac Cyr responded and contacted the property owner and person who reported finding the deceased animal to Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife this morning.

After taking possession of the 97-pound animal, OSP took it to a local veterinarian for x-rays. The initial examination didn't confirm a cause of death and the investigation will continue to determine if it was the result of a criminal act.

According to ODFW, a wolf in this area would not be part of one of the four known wolf packs in northeast Oregon. ODFW has received a handful of reports of wolf activity in this area over fall-winter 2011-12. The agency documented a single set of wolf tracks in the area twice in early October 2011 and again on January 31, 2012. Since January 31, ODFW has conducted track surveys and installed remote cameras in the area, but no additional sign of wolves has been found.

Wolves are protected by the state Endangered Species Act throughout Oregon. Except in the defense of human life or with a special permit, it is unlawful to kill a wolf. Doing so is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine up to $6,250.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Sergeant Isaac Cyr at (541) 523-5867 ext. 4170.

Questions regarding wolf management or activity should be directed to Michelle Dennehy, ODFW, at (503) 931-2748.

### ###

Contact Info: Sergeant Isaac Cyr
Oregon State Police - Baker City
Fish & Wildlife Division
Office: (541) 523-5867 ext. 4170

Wolf Management / Activity Contact Person:
Michelle Dennehy
Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife
Phone: (503) 931-2748


9th Circuit Panel Upholds Congressional Rider Removing N. Rocky Mountain Wolves from ESA Protection

Center For Biological Diversity
Appeals Court Denies Challenge to Congressional Rider That Stripped Northern Rocky Mountain Wolves of Endangered Species Act Protection

For Immediate Release, March 14, 2012

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017

SAN FRANCISCO— The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today denied a challenge brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and its partners to a congressional budget rider than stripped Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. A three-judge panel rejected the conservation organizations’ argument that the rider is unconstitutional because it violates the separation-of-powers doctrine.

“Congress set a terrible precedent by passing this backdoor rider that took away protection from wolves. Scientists, not politicians, need to decide which species need protection,” said Michael Robinson, a wolf expert at the Center. “That’s the law. And that’s what makes sense if we’re going to save animals and plants from extinction.”

The rider marked the first time Congress has removed a plant or animal from the endangered species list. The rider directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue a rule removing federal protections from northern Rocky Mountain wolves, despite ongoing litigation over the lawfulness of that delisting rule.

Today’s ruling holds that the rider is constitutional because it amends the Endangered Species Act by exempting the delisting rule from all law. The panel rejected arguments by conservation groups that Congress violated the separation-of-powers doctrine because the rider blocked judicial review and ordered an outcome, in ongoing litigation, without clearly amending the Endangered Species Act, effectively negating the role of the judiciary.

“We will continue to fight the good fight on behalf of wolves across the country,” said Robinson. “These incredible animals deserve a shot at recovery beyond just the few pockets where they eke out a living today.”

After Endangered Species Act protections lifted in April 2010, the state of Idaho authorized hunting and trapping seasons with no limit on how many wolves can be killed and committed to maintain only 150 wolves out of an estimated population of at least 1,000. Montana set a hunting quota of 220 wolves with a goal of reducing the population by 25 percent. In Oregon, where the wolf population includes just two dozen or so wolves, state wildlife officials killed two wolves last year and planned to kill two more, but have been temporarily stopped by a state lawsuit filed by the Center and others.

“Wolves have been an integral part of North American landscapes for millions of years and are cherished, iconic animals that deserve a future in this country,” said Robinson. “If we want to keep wilderness alive in America, we need to keep our wolves.”

See Also:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Wolf Rider.
by KEN COLE on MARCH 14, 2012

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the many wolf advocacy groups who held that Congressman Mike Simpson’s and Senator Jon Tester’s budget rider, which delisted wolves in Idaho, Montana, and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah, was unconstitutional. The panel of judges upheld Judge Donald Mollloy’s ruling that the rider was constitutional.

Wolves will remain delisted unless their numbers drop below the minimum number of 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves identified in Idaho’s or Montana’s wolf management plans. That may become increasingly difficult to prove if the rate of hunting and trapping success continues in Idaho. The Idaho Fish and Game already projects that by the end of the month there will be only 577 wolves left in Idaho. I don’t think this number accounts for unknown number of wolves killed illegally so it is likely high. . . . .


Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Federal Appeals Court Upholds Wolf Delisting
Conservationists Concerned for Wolves' Future

Contact: Jay Tutchton 720-301-3843
Other contact: Wendy Keefover | WildEarth Guardians | 303.573.4898 x 1162

Pasadena, CA – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a legislative rider that eliminated Endangered Species Act protections for Northern Rocky Mountain wolves last April. Conservation organizations had challenged the constitutionality of the rider, which contravened a previous judicial order that reinstated protections for the Northern Rockies population. Wolves are now delisted in Montana, Wyoming, and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah.


Two excellent Articles on Wolves:

Wolves to the Slaughter


The reintroduction of the gray wolf to the Northern Rockies was an ecological success story—until big money, old superstitions, and politics got in the way.

In April 2001, a U.S. government wildlife trapper named Carter Niemeyer choppered into the mountains of central Idaho to slaughter a pack of wolves whose alpha female was famed for her whiteness. He hung from the open door of the craft with a semiautomatic shotgun, the helicopter racing over the treetops. Then, in a clearing, Niemeyer caught a glimpse of her platinum fur. Among wolf lovers in Idaho, she was called Alabaster, and she was considered a marvel—most wolves are brown or black or gray. People all over the world had praised Alabaster, had written about her, had longed to see her in the flesh. Livestock ranchers in central Idaho, whose sheep and cows graze in wolf country, felt otherwise. They claimed Alabaster and her pack—known as the Whitehawks—threatened the survival of their herds, which in turn threatened the rural economy of the high country. She had to be exterminated.

When Alabaster appeared in Niemeyer’s sights, a hundred feet below the helicopter, her ears recoiled from the noise and the rotor wash, but she was not afraid. She labored slowly along a ridge, looking, Niemeyer says, “like something out of a fairy tale.”

Then he shot her. . . . .


It’s perspective over perception for Carter Niemeyer

It’s perspective over perception for wolf researcher
March 13, 2012 by Scott Sandsberry  

YAKIMA, Wash. —

Within six feet.

That’s how close Carter Niemeyer has been to wolves in the wild — conscious ones, that is, not counting the dozens he has trapped, darted and collared.

He has spent weeks alone in wolf country, sleeping in his one-man tent on ridgetops far from any gurgling creek, the better to hear the howling of the wolves and pinpoint their location.

Then he would go find them. Unarmed.

“I never carry guns when I’m working with wolves. Don’t even think of it,” Niemeyer says. “It just doesn’t even enter my thought processes to carry a gun when I’m out with wolves. They’re just not dangerous.

“But there’s a lot of people who tend to disagree with me on that.”

It’s that chasm between those willing to listen to Niemeyer’s viewpoint on wolves and those who would prefer to dismiss it — along with any and all wolves, for that matter . . . .

Thursday, March 15, 2012

There is a New Blog in Baker County!: Reclaim Baker County

[Edited, 3/16/12]
Gary Dielman, Baker City Historian par excellence, informed me the other day about a new website/blog in Baker County. It is called Reclaim Baker County.

After checking in to some of the pages there, and reading Gary's objections to their anonymity, I tried to track down the "owners" and principal writer. Reclaim Baker City gives a P.O. Box of 1157, in Baker City as their contact address. After some searching, I located an owner of P.O. Box 1157, but it is not clear as to whether the owner listed at the Oregon Secretary of State's office's Corporate Division's Business Name Search is still the owner of the P.O. Box. The owner listed at the Business Name Search is No Bull Communications, and the person listed as Authorized Representative is Edward Franklin Merriman. The address for the concern is 230 COURT STREET, P O BOX 1157. There is no County record of 230 Court Street, and as far as I can tell, the address does not exist. There was an Ed Merriman who worked as a reporter from 2008 to October, 2010, at the Baker City Herald, and who subsequently reported for the Bend Bulletin from October 2010 until october, 2011.

[Added 3/16/12] Yesterday, I neglected to mention the following:
On 2/20/12, PO Box number 1157 was also being listed under the name “Buck Sterling” (likely a pseudonym) for the website (Reclaimbakercounty), with the registrar being listed as Wild West Domains, LLC, which is not registered in Oregon. The email address listed is and a phony phone number listed is (541) 523-0000. This information can be found at IP

The website, Reclaim Baker County, has made several accusations against both the Baker County Sheriff's Department and its employees, including Mitch Southwick, and against Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff. For the most part, the allegations are unsubstantiated, with little actual evidence of wrongdoing having been produced on the website.

See for example:

DA Shirtcliff Commits Fraud in Child Support Prosecutions!

"Know anybody in Baker County being prosecuted for delinquent Child Support obligations? Better have him read this article. He is the victim of FRAUD.

Let us first make this “perfectly clear”. We at Reclaim Baker County do not condone any unlawful or immoral or deceptive practices by anyone in private or public conduct. We believe in traditional family values, and oppose legislation that tears us away from those values."

They go on to say that:
"Matthew Shirtcliff has signed an agreement entitled “DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE COOPERATIVE AGREEMENT–CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT”, under the terms of which he has agreed that he will actively prosecute violators of federal and state law AS AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTING PARTY!"

Their conclusion is that DA Shirtcliff, in these cases, acts without any authority and that his actions are "an outright fraud!"

Are there problems with child support prosecutions? Probably. Is it fraud? Probably not.

I asked Tony Green, Communications & Policy Director at the Oregon Department of Justice to comment. Here is the relevant portion of the response:

ORS 25.080(1) provides DA offices with the responsibility for support enforcement. ORS 25.080(6) and (7) require all county governing bodies and district attorneys to enter into child support cooperative agreements with DOJ. Every county, whether they provide the child support services or not, enters into these agreements.


The primary enforcement authorities are The Division of Child Support of the Department of Justice, and the district attorney in cases other than those described in paragraph (a) of ORS 25.080(1).
ORS 25.080 (6) & (7)
6) The district attorney of any county and the department may provide by agreement for assumption by the Division of Child Support of the functions of the district attorney under subsection (1) of this section or for redistribution between the district attorney and the Division of Child Support of all or any portion of the duties, responsibilities and functions set forth in subsections (1) and (4) of this section.

(7) All county governing bodies and all district attorneys shall enter into child support cooperative agreements with the department. The following apply to this subsection:

(a) The agreements shall contain appropriate terms and conditions sufficient for the state to comply with all child support enforcement service requirements under federal law; and

(b) If this state loses any federal funds due to the failure of a county governing body or district attorney to either enter into an agreement under this subsection or to provide sufficient support enforcement service, the county shall be liable to the department for, and the liability shall be limited to, the amount of money the state determines it lost because of the failure. The state shall offset the loss from any moneys the state is holding for or owes the county or from any moneys the state would pay to the county for any purpose.

DA Shirtcliff has said he will get back to me on this, and another inquiry has yet to be responded to.

Reclaim Baker County also posted the following about Sheriff Southwick and his department:

Sheriff’s employee “security issues” rip off the public!

Sheriff Deputies Intimidate Halfway Crab Feed Participants!

Similarly, Peggy Iler sent the following letter to the Baker City Herald yesterday, March 14, 2012.

Bail machine at jail is not fair

The similarities between the letter posted by Peggy Iler and those on Reclaim Baker County were close enough for me to look into cases involving Iler at the County Court House today. What I found prompted me to send in a reply on Reclaim Baker County today. I sent it in at 5:49 PM, and it is now 8:45 PM. It is still being looked at by the moderator and has not been posted.

On the other hand, Gary Dielman sent in a response around 6:40 PM and it was almost immediately posted.

Here was my reply to their posts about DA Shirtcliff and the Sheriff:

Christopher Christie
March 15, 2012 at 5:49 PM
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
You folks, whoever you are, may have a point that there are problems within the justice system, I believe that to be the case, but there are also glaring problems with your approach.

You say:
“We at Reclaim Baker County do not condone any unlawful or immoral or deceptive practices by anyone in private or public conduct.”

If that is so, why don’t you reveal who you are, as a writer, and as a committee? It is deceptive to present many serious claims against the Sheriff’s Office, the judicial system, and DA Shirtcliff without revealing who you are. FRAUD is a very serious charge.

It is also possibly immoral and certainly deceptive, to make the claims you have made without presenting evidence, such as the contract you refer to, along with the legal references in the federal code or the Oregon Revised Statutes. If you are serious in your claims, don’t leave it to the reader to prove you are wrong or right–-present your actual evidence, a real case. Words are cheap.

It appears to me that you, the writer, are engaged in a vendetta against DA Shirtcliff and the Sheriff’s department.

I noticed the letter to the editor in last night’s Baker City Herald from Peggy Iler.
See: Bail machine at jail is not fair ,

The letter raises valid questions about the practice of using a cash bail machine with a 7% charge. I think it is wrong to charge an additional 7% of bail to hard-pressed people entangled in the justice system. Peggy also suggests voting for Dee Gorrell for Sheriff.

I also thought of the similarity between Peggy’s letter and the two posts on Reclaim Baker County about the Sheriff. On Reclaim Baker County, one talks about the problem of the bail machine, the other suggests voting for Dee Gorrell and speaks of honor (as did Peggy’s).


Are you James Iler?

What are your political beliefs?

Have you had troubles with the Sheriff and the DA in the past?

Have you brought charges against, or filed civil injunctive relief petitions against the DA and Judge West in the past?

Have you filed other petitions for adjudication of claims and had them dismissed?

Have you changed your name to James Russell Iler in a civil name change petition?

Have you faced failure to appear charges?

Have you faced charges for failure to carry present license, driving uninsured, and failure to register a vehicle driven?

Have you faced charges of criminal trespass 2 and been convicted on any charges?

Are you engaged in a senseless vendetta against the Sheriff and the DA?

Anything else?

How about canning the deception and starting with a little transparency? How about toning down the wild charges and just sticking to a realistic, evidence based analysis of the problems within law enforcement and the justice system? A good mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Daniel Myers sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, with 2 years added for unlawful delivery of methamphetamine.

Defense attorney Mark Rader to file appeal today.
[Edited to add information from DA Shirtcliff, 3/7&8/12]

If not overturned on appeal, Meyers will, at the earliest, get out of prison at 81 years old on the murder conviction, and at age 83 after serving the consecutive two year sentence on delivery of methamphetamine charge.

With the agreement of defendant Myers, his attorney Mark Rader stated that he will file a petition for appeal today.

I admit that I have not attended the Myers trial before yesterday, but I was curious about what a sentencing hearing for murder looks and feels like, so I attended the sentencing in District Court. When hearing the sentence, I thought the DA and Judge Baxter were acting with leniency and compassion because I was under the impression that the sentence could include the death penalty. That impression was incorrect. After reading Oregon laws related to murder last night, I learned that a person in Oregon cannot be sentenced to death for any charge except "aggravated murder." ("Aggravated murder is the only crime subject to the penalty of death under Oregon law." ) See: "aggravated murder" (The list of qualifying offenses is below the list of links.)

I attempted to talk to someone in the DA's office this morning so as to clarify this, but after being inadvertently hung-up on in the first call, I was unable to reach a human being in several subsequent calls. District Attorney Shirtcliff did call back this afternoon and confirmed for me that my understanding of the law was correct. Meyers' crime was not defined as "aggravated murder," but was instead, "murder." The charge in fact was originally "manslaughter," but was subsequently changed to "murder," neither of which are punishable by death. Thus the sentence of life in prison and 25 for murder, which translates to the possibility of parole after 25 years served.

During the hearing, Mr.Meyers seemed composed and well behaved, staring directly into the camera, which was at a room in the Baker County Jail. He was in handcuffs and attended to by the Undersheriff (Thompson). Judge Baxter explained to those present that Mr. Meyers had said that once again he did not wish to be in the courtroom or next to Defense Attorney Rader, and also that Mr. Meyers had stated that he would cause a "ruckus" in the courtroom if he was forced to be present. Judge Baxter explained the law, including the relevant Oregon Revised Statutes and that, if needed, Mr. Meyers would be afforded the opportunity to speak with his attorney privately via the video link. When asked if he understood, Mr. Meyers responded with "Yes, I understand, thank you."

Defense Attorney Rader once again asked for a mistrial, citing all the reasons cited previously. (See Herald: "Murder suspect refuses to attend his trial") DA Shirtcliff objected and Judge Baxter denied the motion for all the previously cited reasons.

DA Shirtcliff called the murder a "senseless act" on a sleeping person and cited the affect of the murder on the Weems family and others. (District Attorney Shirtcliff told me today that although Mr. Weems had a leatherman tool on his person, and a bowie knife behind the seat, he had no weapon in his hands at the time of the shooting.) DA Shirtcliff then read the letters of family members telling of the toll the killing had taken on the families. Weems younger sister wrote that Travis Weems would be the "first to forgive" as he was a "peacemaker."

DA Shirtcliff reminded the court that a family member was present during the shooting and that the then 55 year old Mr. Meyers had victimized a nineteen year old woman to run drugs for him so as to shield himself from discovery as the actual dealer. He also noted that the case serves to show what can happen when people become involved with methamphetamine, and detailed the involvement of Meyers in other drug crimes in Oregon, as well as an assault. He stated that Mr. Meyers was a criminal, a drug dealer and a dangerous person who kept an assault rifle on his property, and had committed intentional murder over a debt of a relatively small amount of money ($1,650 owed to Mr. Weems). He also asserted that Mr. Meyers deserves every year of the 27 year sentence.

Defense Attorney Rader then reiterated his view of the violation of Mr. Meyers' rights according to the 4th, 5th, 6th and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution, as well as Article 1 of the Oregon Constitution. He stated that the sentence was "exceedingly excessive," and that the additional sentence for meth delivery should run concurrently with the sentence for murder.

Interestingly, Mr. Rader noted that the victim and some witnesses were also involved in this, a possible reference to methamphetamine usage or worse, and that Mr. Weems wouldn't have been at the scene otherwise.

DA Shirtcliff objected to Attorney Rader's interpretation.

When asked by Judge Baxter, Mr. Myers stated "I have nothing to say, your Honor. Thank you."

Judge Baxter then explained to Mr. Meyers that if he intended to appeal, he must do so within 30 days. Defense Attorney Rader stated that he intended to file an appeal today (3/7/12). Mr. Meyers said he would agree to that. (At about 3:20 PM yesterday, I observed Attorney Rader asking a court clerk for appeal petition papers.)

DA Shirtcliff stated to the Court that Mr. Meyers had made the choices not to attend the trial and that they were his choices.

Judge Baxter then sentenced Mr. Meyers to:

Count 1, Murder; Life imprisonment which has a minimum of 25 years at the Department of Corrections.

Count 2, Unlawful use of a weapon; 5 years concurrent at the Department of Corrections.

Count 3, Felon in possession of a firearm; 90 days in County Jail, concurrent

Count 4, Unlawful delivery of methamphetamine; 24 months consecutive with two years post prison supervision

Count 5, Unlawful possession of methamphetamine; 24 months concurrent, 36 months post prison supervision.

No financial obligations were imposed.

After I left the courtroom, I spoke with one person who had read the press accounts, and she told me that the verdict was a "slam-dunk."

As I noted previously, I haven't been studiously following this case, and additionally, I haven't listened to the court recordings. I did though take notice earlier of the fact that Mr. Meyers objected to Attorney Rader handling the case, citing his view that Mr. Rader had not called witnesses to refute evidence produced against him. It seems odd that an indigent defendant wouldn't be allowed at least one or two changes in attorney's when facing a potential sentence of life imprisonment in a murder case. A person of greater means would certainly be able to do that. Would Mr. Meyers have participated more productively in his defense if he had been granted a change in defense attorneys? Is denying him that change equal protection under the law?

I also tried to think about Mr. Rader's idea that the victim and the witnesses were also involved, and that Mr. Weems wouldn't have been at the scene otherwise.

The validity of that thought is left to the justice system. I did though look up previous criminal involvement in the Baker County records (only Baker County) by the victim, Mr. Weems. His criminal record was not included in previous press reports.

Mr. Travis Weems was charged on May 18, 2001, with being a felon in possession of a firearm and for possession of a controlled substance. The charges were dismissed without prejudice on May 25th, 2001, with the statement to the effect that the matter will be taken up with a grand jury later.

On July 9, 2001, Mr. Weems was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a controlled substance-2, C felony. Mr. Weems plead guilty to the firearms charge on April 22, 2002 and was convicted. The other charge was dismissed, perhaps on the condition of the completion of 36 months probation. The probation was later revoked and associated with case # CR99200 in Wasco County.

On August 31, 2001, there was a Domestic Relations Abuse Prevention Restraining Order.

On August 6, 2002 there were other charges against Mr. Weems:
1) Offense felony Manufacturing/Delivery of a controlled Substance-SC2
2) Same as above
3) Possession of a Controlled Substance 2 - C/Felony; 18 Mo. Probation
4) Felon in Possession of a Firearm - C Felony, probation later revoked
5) Attempt to Allude Police - A Misdemeanor, probation later revoked
6) Attempt to Allude Police - A Misdemeanor
7) Reckless Driving - A Misdemeanor
8) Probation Violation - 18 Months probation, revoked

Charges 1, 2, and 6 were dismissed. Charges 3, 4, 5, and 7 involved guilty pleas and convictions.

In a world of illicit drugs, unpaid debts, and guns, I can't help but ask--What might have been going on in the likely meth addicted mind of Mr. Meyers that night, when he walked out to Mr. Weems vehicle, parked in his driveway, and shot a sleeping man to death?

Monday, March 5, 2012

What to Do About Citizens United?; Fish & Wildlife Service Goes Rogue on Wolves

In This Edition:

- What to Do About Citizens United?
- Fish & Wildlife Service Goes Rogue on Wolves.

Enchanted Financial Forest


What to Do About Citizens United?

Jeffrey Clements on Citizens United and Constitutional Amendments

In a recent (3/2/12) Letters & Politics audio, Clements goes over the history of the events leading up to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed seemingly unlimited amounts of money to be spent in our elections by corporations, unions, and individuals (like Sheldon Adelson) [See also: Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Says He Might Give $100M To Newt Gingrich Or Other Republican] who donate to super pacs. He points out that Americans have historically used the Constitutional tools available to them to create Constitutional Amendments to overturn the over-reach of Supreme Court decisions. Examples of Supreme Court decisions which were ultimately over-turned through the Constitutional process are those that denied women the right to vote (19th Amendment) and another which overturned the Supreme Court decision (Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co.) outlawing the income tax (16th Amendment).

Jeffrey D. Clements is the author of Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About It

Amazon description of the book:
"This is the first practical guide for every citizen on the problem of corporate personhood and the tools we have to overturn it. Jeff Clements explains why the Citizen's United case is the final win in a campaign for corporate domination of the state [I.E. America] that began in the 1970s under Richard Nixon. More than this, Clements shows how unfettered corporate rights will impact public health, energy policy, the environment, and the justice system. Where Thom Hartmann's Unequal Protection provides a much-needed detailed legal history of corporate personhood, Corporations Are Not People answers the reader's question: "What does Citizens United mean to me?" And, even more important, it provides a solution: a Constitutional amendment, included in the book, which would reverse Citizens United. The book's ultimate goal is to give every citizen the tools and talking points to overturn corporate personhood state by state, community by community with petitions, house party kits, draft letters, shareholder resolutions, and much more."

Listen to this valuable and informative audio:
Letters & Politics 3/2/12

Letters and Politics - March 2, 2012 at 10:00am

Click to listen (or download)

See Also:

We the People, Not We the Corporations



Fish & Wildlife Service Goes Rogue on Wolves.

Center forBiological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 1, 2012

Contact: Noah Greenwald, (503) 484-7495

Feds Plan to Strip Endangered Species Act Protection From Gray Wolves Across United States

Propose Exceptions in Special Cases Only: Subspecies, Northwest/Northeast Regions

PORTLAND, Ore.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today recommended removing federal protections from gray wolves that remain on the endangered species list after wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and upper Midwest had their protections stripped last year. The move could be devastating to wolf recovery. Fish and Wildlife conceded it will still consider protection for subspecies or breeding populations (including Mexican gray wolves, a recognized subspecies) and for populations in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast; its recommendation came in a five-year review of the Endangered Species Act listing for gray wolves in the lower 48.

“The agency’s saying protection for wolves should be taken away from them anywhere they don’t live right now, even if they lived in those places for thousands of years before we exterminated them and even if those places are still good habitat for them,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, which has worked for decades to restore wolves. “If this approach had been taken with, say, bald eagles, we’d never have recovered eagles across much of the Midwest, Southeast or Northeast, where they didn’t exist when they were protected. This is a frightening example of the Fish and Wildlife Service abandoning the recovery mandate of the Endangered Species Act.”

According to the agency, ongoing status reviews covering the Mexican wolf, northwestern wolves and eastern wolves in New England will conclude by Sept. 30, 2012, at which point the agency signaled national-level protection for wolves would cease, likely including protections for wolves anywhere they are not currently found — such as the Northeast, Great Plains and central Rocky Mountains.

“Scientists have identified extensive wolf habitat in the Northeast, Southwest, Rocky Mountains and West Coast,” said Greenwald. “Protections should stay in place in all these wild areas, and recovery plans should be written allowing wolves to return safely.”

Wolves may retain protections in the Northwest, including portions of California and western Washington and Oregon, where wolves have recently been establishing packs. Two packs currently reside in western Washington, and wolves have been moving west from newly established packs in eastern Oregon — including a wolf known as OR-7, or Journey, that traveled 1,000 miles to become the first wolf in California in almost 90 years. The situation is less clear in the Northeast, where there are currently no breeding packs, although there are wolves a mere 100 miles north of the Canadian border.

“We hope wolves in the Southwest and Northwest will retain protection and gain the benefits of scientific recovery plans,” said Greenwald. “But stripping protections for wolves in the central Rocky Mountains of Utah and Colorado, and in verdant New England where overlarge deer populations are devouring tree seedlings and stopping forests from regrowing, hurts these ecosystems and is tragic for pioneering wolves.”

In the vacuum of federal leadership for wolf recovery, and in light of OR-7’s ongoing two-month-long journey into Northern California, a hopeful precursor of other wolves’ arrivals, the Center petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission on Monday to list wolves as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act and to develop a state wolf recovery plan.

“Wolves are a keystone species that have shaped North American landscapes for eons,” said Greenwald. “They restore natural balance and in the process benefit a host of species.”

Scientists have found that wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995 forced elk to move more, and in so doing allowed for recovery of streamside vegetation, helping beavers, fish and songbirds. Wolves also benefit scavenging animals such as weasels, eagles, wolverines and bears; and they increased numbers of foxes and pronghorns in Yellowstone and nearby Grand Teton National Park by controlling coyotes, which wolves regard as competitors.

“If we want to keep any part of America wild, we need to keep our wolves,” said Greenwald.

Read more about the Center’s work to save wolves.

Hollywood turns wolves into man-killers
High Country News
Feb 23


A Final Refuge for Wolves


More on OR 7

March 2, 2012 | 10:34 AM | By Cassandra Profita
Welcome Home? OR-7 Crosses Back Into Oregon


A Few of My Other Posts on Wolves:


Idaho Hunter Illegally Kills Collared Oregon Wolf, OR 9; Idaho Fish and Game Shrugs

Wolves, Prison Labor, NPR

For all posts, see the Baker County Blog Search facility at the left of the blog title, and enter the word "wolves."

I haven't had a chance to read today's Baker City Herald Article "Are Wolves Bigger, Badder Than Before?" I have noticed recent flyers about that would like to imply that the reintroduced wolves are not the same wolves that used to inhabit Oregon, but that irrelevant straw man has been going around for quite some time. If a response is even necessary, it will be addressed in a later post.

Friday, March 2, 2012

ODFW Says OR 7 Back In Oregon & Oregon Wolf Legislation Update

ODFW Press Release

Michelle Dennehy Fri, Mar 2, 2012 at 10:00 AM
March 2, 2012

Wolf OR7 crossed back into Oregon March 1

SALEM, Ore.—Wolf OR7 was located in Oregon for the first time since late December at noon yesterday, March 1. As of midnight last night, OR7 was in Jackson County, Oregon.

OR7 had been in northern Siskiyou County, California, less than 10 miles from the Oregon-California border, for the past 12 days. While OR7 crossed a state boundary yesterday, his movement was small (about 30 miles).

“While wolves crossing state boundaries may be significant for people, wolves and other wildlife don’t pay attention to state borders,” said Russ Morgan, ODFW wolf coordinator. “It’s possible OR7 will cross back into California and be using areas in both states. ODFW will continue to monitor his location and coordinate with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Fish and Game.”

While OR7 is west of Highways 395-78-95 in Oregon, he remains protected by both the federal and state Endangered Species Acts.

OR7 left the Imnaha pack in September 2011 and went through Baker, Grant, Lake, Crook, Harney, Deschutes, Klamath and Jackson counties before entering California Dec. 28, 2011. While in California, he travelled through eastern Siskiyou County, northeastern Shasta County and then resided in Lassen County for a few weeks. On Feb. 11 he re-entered Shasta County and then, about a week later, he crossed north into Siskiyou County. California Fish and Game has been updating his status on the website

For more information on wolves in Oregon visit


Michelle Dennehy

Wildlife Communications Coordinator

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Tel. 503 947 6022

Cell 503 931 2748

See Also:

California wolf trek shows importance of wilderness

HB 4148, the attempted end run around the Oregon Endangered Species Act, died in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee

HB 4148, the attempted end run around the Oregon Endangered Species Act, died in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee after being referred there on February 21st, the last day for scheduling hearings. Senator Dingfelder’s committee didn't schedule it.

HB 4005 Goes to Governor Kitzhabers Desk.

HB 4005 "Establishes credit against income taxes in compensation for loss of livestock due to wolf depredation" The bill passed easily through the Oregon House and Senate today. It had been sent back to the House yesterday for a vote on Senate changes to the bill.

Oregon Legislature approves tax credit bill for livestock killed by wolves
Capital Press


Lots of bills, big and small, before sine die: Oregon Legislature 2012
Published: Friday, March 02, 2012, 5:30 AM
By Janie Har, The Oregonian