Budget: London Calling

Almost a year ago, the Guardian wrote that Britain was taking “a leap into the political unknown” when the Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats “formed the first full coalition government in Britain since 1945.” Many wondered if the new government would chart a unique course in history, pursuing policies that blended those of the old-line conservatives with those of modern progressives. Unfortunately, the resulting Cameron-Clegg government pursued a very old path — that of balancing budgets on the backs of working class people rather than asking the rich to pay their fair share. The coalition government pushed for “the sharpest cuts to public spending since World War II,” which would cost the country more than a half million jobs, dramatically cut back on social welfare spending, and raise the pension age to 66 by 2020, “four years earlier than planned.” These cuts come on top of massive education cuts that doubled or tripled tuition for many students, and which broke one of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s own campaign promises. Yet the citizens of the United Kingdom decided that it was unfair for them to have to pay for a budget crisis that resulted from a global recession they didn’t cause. A massive and renewed progressive movement has erupted across the pond focusing on the government’s failure to make tax dodging corporations and individuals pay what they owe while attacking the poor and middle class. This Saturday, this movement mobilized the largest protests since the Iraq war, with hundreds of thousands of people in London marching against the slash-and-burn coalition agenda. That movement is shaking the foundations of British society and forcing conservative retreats, and, slowly, Americans are learning from their Anglo neighbors and fighting back against the right-wing attack on the middle class on our shores as well.

THE COALITION’S DICKENSIAN VISION: Since taking power, the UK’s coalition government has aggressively rammed through, and continues to push for, massive cuts to social spending and necessities, championing a vision of Britain that has its roots in a Charles Dickens novel — one where the well-to-do have all the opportunities in life while most ordinary people struggle to get by. One of the major campaign promises of the Liberal Democrats’ leader Nick Clegg was that his party would not support increasing tuition at British universities, arguing that doing so would be fundamentally unfair to students. Yet this past winter, coalition lawmakers ignored massive youth protests and pushed through a plan that would effectively triple tuition fees for most students. The coalition also proceeded to make deep cuts to social services and aid to municipalities, continuing to force ordinary British citizens to pay for a recession they did not cause. All over the country, firefighters are being laid off, libraries are being shut down, and hospitals are facing staffing shortages. And these cuts are bad for the economy, removing needed stimulus and threatening to bring the country back into recession. By last fall, these planned cuts amounted to the sharpest cutbacks in public spending since World War II, with shadow chancellor Alan Johnson remarking that the gutting of services would be worse than former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing policies in the 1980’s. Meanwhile, the coalition has also increased the value-added tax by 20 percent, which primarily hurts middle class and lower-income people.

THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE: When Thatcher pushed through her policies three decades ago, she famously remarked, “There is no alternative.” Yet last Fall, a tiny group of British activists set off a massive movement that proved that there is, indeed, an alternative to brutal cuts to services for ordinary Britons. On October 27, 2010, a small number of protesters — outraged that ordinary citizens were being asked to sacrifice their services while tax-dodging cellphone firm Vodafone owed 6 billion pounds in back taxes it had refused to pay — began a sit-in in one of the company’s largest branches. News of the protest spread like wildfire on the Internet, with activists using Twitter and Facebook to spread the story of Vodafone’s tax dodging. Within three days, almost thirty Vodafone stores were forced to close down as more and more people took part in sit-ins against the company. Soon, this nascent movement, calling itself UK Uncut, exploded throughout the country, with protests against tax-dodging big corporations and wealthy individuals completely reshaping the narrative that the only way to deal with the country’s budget deficit was to ram through budget cuts that disproportionately hurt working people. The only part of the British media “that attacked UK Uncut outright was, predictably, Rupert Murdoch’s empire,” which also owns Fox News in the United States. This isn’t surprising, given that Murdoch’s companies are among the most egregious tax dodgers; his News Corporation has gone entire years without paying a penny in U.S. federal corporate income taxes, despite making billions of dollars in profits. UK Uncut worked in tandem with the country’s trade unions to mobilize as many as half a million people to march on London this weekend, “in the largest protest since the city’s 2003 march against the Iraq war.”

LESSONS FOR MAIN STREET AMERICA: When Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), fresh off of passing a $117 million corporate tax cut package, decided to gut public employee collective bargaining rights in the state, he never expected to face a mass movement of thousands of Wisconsinites fighting back. Yet the progressive upsurge in Wisconsin, which may end up unseating Walker and many of his legislative allies, has spread throughout the country, comprising a Main Street Movement of ordinary Americans demanding fair sacrifice. Across the country, Americans are battling unfair budget cuts and demanding just taxation of the super wealthy. Inspired by the British example, activists have launched US Uncut, which is targeting companies like Bank of America — which, despite being the country’s largest bank, paid nothing in federal corporate income taxes in 2009 and 2010. US Uncut had 40 demonstrations across the country over the weekend, with protesters shutting down a major Washington, D.C. branch of the bank. Meanwhile, protests continue across the country as more than a dozen conservative state governments across the country plan to slash corporate tax rates while increasing taxes and/or cutting services for low and middle-income Americans. “We have a deficit problem. It has to be addressed,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in a press release addressing tax fairness. “But it cannot be addressed on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the poor, young people, the most vulnerable in this country. The wealthiest people and the largest corporations in this country have got to contribute. We’ve got to talk about shared sacrifice.”

Stop Fracking Now

I bet you’re wondering what the heck “fracking” is. That’s a good question.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a controversial drilling technique used by the oil and gas industry that has injected millions of tons of highly toxic chemical fluids into the ground to break apart shale and release natural gas.

Scientists believe these chemicals are poisoning America’s drinking water.

That didn’t stop Vice President Dick Cheney from exempting fracking from the Safe Water Drinking Act in the 2005 Energy Bill or the natural gas industry from unleashing a massive 34-state drilling campaign.

Now, six years later, with the facts stacking up showing the damage being caused and the American lives being placed at risk, a few members of Congress are standing up to close the loophole and hold the oil and gas production industry to the same standards as any other industry to ensure the safe protection of America’s drinking water.

But they’ll need our help to win. Join us in calling on Congress to pass the FRAC Act now.

Representatives Diana DeGette, Jared Polis, and Maurice Hinchey have introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act in the U.S. House while Senators Bob Casey and Chuck Schumer have introduced the companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

In the past, the oil and gas industry has spent millions of dollars fighting against these common-sense regulations and have succeeded in defeating similar bills. This time, we’re not going to let Congress fight the industry alone.

That’s why Democracy for America is building a coalition of grassroots activists and environmental organizations to work together with leaders in Congress to pass the FRAC Act this year.

We’ll educate the public, expose scientific studies that reveal the real risks, hold rallies, meetings, public forums, and organize grassroots action until we win.

Please add your name and join the campaign to protect America’s drinking water right now.

It’s been reported that since 1999 more than 90 percent of the natural gas wells have used the fracking process. Because of the Safe Water Drinking Act exemption, industry is not required to reveal the exact chemicals used in fracking, but researchers in independent scientific studies suspect 65 percent of the compounds used in fracking are hazardous to human health.

It only takes low concentrations of benzene and diesel fuel, two compounds found in fracking studies, to lead to severe health and environmental consequences and illnesses traced to fracking have been documented in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Alabama.

As if that wasn’t enough to demand proper regulation and environmental oversight, a recent New York Times article revealed that the inability to properly process wastewater from fracking, may even be allowing radioactive materials into local rivers, streams, and drinking water.

The oil and gas industry is too big and too powerful for us to let members of Congress take them on alone. It’s up to us to stand with them, fight back, and make sure they have the support they’ll need to win.

Join the campaign at www.StopFrackingNow.com  today.

Thank you for everything you do.


Jim Dean, Chair

Democracy for America

Support RAN …they support rainforests …a message from Executive Director

A home for Indigenous communities. A sanctuary for endangered species. A priceless ecosystem.

That’s what Indonesia‘s rainforests are to me. But for unethical logging companies Asia Pulp & Paper and APRIL, these forests are nothing more than a source of cheap paper—and their bottom line is wiping out rainforests that can’t ever be replaced. We need your support today to stop this tragic destruction.

Many U.S. children’s book publishers have been using paper from these unethical companies, pitting children’s books against the survival of Indonesia’s rainforests. But, thanks to your actions and generous support, this is changing.

Already eight major publishers committed to get Indonesian rainforest destruction and human rights violations out of their supply chain. That’s major. Your support made this possible.

Disney Publishing and HarperCollins, on the other hand, have been lagging behind. Finally, last week Disney announced their new policy. Though this is a step in the right direction, their policy is terribly weak—and HarperCollins has ignored all calls to change their ways. With your support, we can push Disney and HarperCollins to go the distance to protect rainforests.


Disney’s new policy does not begin to address the rights of forest communities or really help to protect rainforests. If we can move Disney and HarperCollins, it will mean that the top ten children’s book publishers will no longer have Indonesia’s rainforests in their books, and that you and I will have shifted the status quo for an entire industry.

Just two more to go. We can do this!

Please make a generous donation today to get these major publishers on board to protect Indonesia’s rainforests.

Believe me when I say there is no time to lose in this battle. Indonesia is losing its forests at an alarming rate., If we don’t act quickly, these forests—this home, this sanctuary, this precious ecosystem—will be lost forever. Please make an urgent contribution today.


Thank you for your support,

Rebecca Tarbotton

Executive Director

Rep. Chris Van Hollen …CRITICAL FEC DEADLINE: Fight the Radical Republican Agenda

It’s a sham.

House Republicans think they can impose their right-wing agenda — privatizing Social Security and ending Medicare as we know it — under the pretext of deficit reduction.

And here’s the scary part: if we don’t stop them, that’s exactly what they’ll do.

The DCCC is up with ads calling Republicans out on their real agenda, but with only 3 days until the FEC deadline hits, they are still more than $200,000 short of hitting their Million Dollar grassroots goal.

Contribute $3 or more right now and my fellow House Democrats and I will match every dollar you give with $2 of our own, tripling your impact.


Republicans are not serious about deficits. If they were, then why give huge tax breaks to the Big Oil companies and the wealthiest Americans that will add a trillion dollars to the deficit?

I’ve seen their budget plans. Here’s what they are really serious about:

**Stopping Planned Parenthood from offering cancer screening and family planning services.

**Repealing Health Insurance Reform

**Ending Medicare as we know it and imposing the cost of rising health care on senior citizens. Under their scheme, seniors would lose their current Medicare guarantees and be left to the whims of the insurance industry.

We can’t stand by and let House Republicans launch this risky experiment with our seniors’ health care.

Contribute $3 or more right now and my fellow House Democrats and I will match every dollar you give with $2 of our own, tripling your impact.


As a former DCCC Chairman and current Ranking Member of the Budget Committee, let me tell you from experience: the numbers that each party reports after these FEC deadlines can make all the difference. The media, pundits, and Members of Congress here on Capitol Hill will be watching to see which side has the momentum. We can’t fall short now — Contribute today.

Thank you,

Rep. Chris Van Hollen

P.S. The first FEC quarterly deadline of the year is just 3 days from now. We must exceed our $1 million grassroots goal to show Republicans, their special interest backers, and pundits that we are united, strong, and determined to fight back against the right-wing Republican agenda. Contribute now.

Monday mashup &some News

Today, President Obama held a White House Forum Commemorating Women’s History Month and will be addressing the Nation tonight about Libya 4:30 Pacific Time 7:30pmET –

In the summer of 2009, Americans and the World saw Neda, a student die for protesting for the right to speak out freely and some say she became the symbol to carry on. Unfortunately, we all know that the regime or government cracked down on the protesters in such a way that made us all gasp. The events in Iran shocked, offended and made most of us cry given the protests started out as peaceful demands for a new way of life, freedom to speak, better wages etc. That uprising became backburner news given the US had our own problems but quietly something was smoldering something the World can no longer turn away from. I have no idea how the US, UN or the NATO can actually help create change, help change practices so ancient that we all agree the devil is in the detail and that was in 2009. I will admit that my first experience in watching a human being shot, killed and die was during the Iran uprising because whoever was behind the video camera would not, could not, and did not stop filming. I was shocked, very sad, felt like a voyeur, and cried watching brave Iranians die. While I did not feel good about it being captured on camera for all to see before their family members were notified but it was a fight for freedom and life in the making of what I have chosen to call freedom fighters. In addition to Neda, a young man shot while protesting in Iran filmed as it happened, there were people surrounding him crying, yelling to make him breathe, and asking why he will not breathe. As the tragic events unfolded we viewers watched as someone else puts pressure on his chest but he died…that was the first time i had ever seen such a thing. I was angry, sad and hoped everyone in the streets of Iran knew that Americans and the International community were watching, demanding, and praying the abuse, atrocities, and assaults would stop. As in everything else life gets in the way and your own life takes a front seat and that Middle Easterner, Arab and or African becomes back burner news because well what can we as individuals do to help what with two wars waged by the last guy who btw didn’t end them either.

Now, or at least since February 2011 that we all know of, the World watches again while more senseless acts of terror and genocide coming from the Continent of Africa. Once inside it’s called the Arab World with an outdated autocratic system still brandishing ancient practices as Dictators and or Kings along with their forces against their own people in horror. The problem is someone got a taste of what could be, an opportunity to say what they want. The idea someone even risked speaking up and out about the possibilities of better wages, housing, that the trickledown theory just doesn’t work and low and behold there were others who feel the same way, maybe hundreds, thousands, actually millions of people mostly young educated and progressive thinking human beings wanting freedom of the ways of oppression and slavery.

The facts are that about 9000 people were reported murdered by Gadhafi forces in matter of a few weeks in Libya because they want freedom from oppression, please. I don’t know about you but that has got to upset anyone with compassion. If that wasn’t enough information came out that the Women being mistreated, left out of a reshaping a new Egypt even after getting rid of Mubarak the army or men -are also subjecting women to virginity checks in Egypt. In Libya, a woman burst in to a hotel yelling and screaming that pro-Gadhafi men had raped her and while the security fought the foreign press, smashing cameras this woman managed to give her story. I want to say thank you to the savvy person who managed to capture most if not all of the horrible incident on film, though she was dragged and taken away to who knows where at the time it was happening. I believe she is yet another symbol of the oppression women are subjected to and while the security stated she was going to jail, is said to have been released to her family, but I think this is a situation that warrants a call to the International Human Rights Organization.

I think about my generation who did not personally experience slavery of the 1800’s nor have i ever March for an issue with the idea that this could be the day that i die for wanting to be treated equality. Yes, slavery and discrimination still exists on so many levels here in the 21st Century and in my opinion the definition twisted by those with money, public servants or hold high offices who either engage or accept both as a way of life . Today, Americans watch and debate the good, bad or the ugly reasons to help the protesters, rebels and or freedom fighters in Africa and the Middle East. The hesitation to help is somewhat understandable but the way some seem to analyze it out loud is a real lesson in humanitarian behavior, how code words are used which when you break it all down, if not for the oil would Libyans get help from the French, the UK, and Italy, all who have more at stake.

The Social Network Media, which helped start the journey of change in Africa and the Middle East can no longer be ignored and has let the proverbial possibilities out of the bottle and while these tools of ancient practices refuse to accept change there are many who feel persuing freedom and happiness is well worth the risk of virtual death.

Other News …

**Contaminated water found in Japan’s underground tunnels

**Libyan rebels close to key Gadhafi locations

**Syrian troops fire at their own people

**Japan suffers another big quake 6.5 on Sunday

**A sample of rainwater in Boston finds a very small amt of radiation might be linked to Japan’s crisis


**President to Address Nation on Libya

To discuss U.S. role in conflict


**Lawmakers Return to Funding Debate and Situation in LIbya

Gov’t. funding runs out April 8


Pentagon Contracting System in Question

Wartime panel calls hearing


Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University, examines how the legacy of slavery has shaped the history of America’s academic institutions. Her keynote address was part of an Emory University conference on the role of slave labor in the building of numerous American universities.