Garda Ghista (Author)
From the Back Cover
Garda Ghista (Author)
Police officers react during a demonstration outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong on Sunday. AP photo
Jittery Chinese authorities wary of any domestic dissent staged a concerted show of force Sunday to squelch a mysterious online call for a “Jasmine Revolution” apparently modeled after pro-democracy demonstrations sweeping the Middle East.
Authorities detained activists, increased the number of police on the streets, disconnected some mobile phone text messaging services and censored Internet postings about the call to stage protests at 2 p.m. in Beijing, Shanghai and 11 other major cities.
The campaign did not gain much traction among ordinary citizens and the chances of overthrowing the Communist government are slim, considering Beijing’s tight controls over the media and Internet. A student-led, pro-democracy movement in 1989 was crushed by the military and hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed.
On Sunday, police took at least three people away in Beijing, one of whom tried to lay down white jasmine flowers while hundreds of people milled about the protest gathering spot, outside a McDonald’s on the capital’s busiest shopping street. In Shanghai, police led away three people near the planned protest spot after they scuffled in an apparent bid to grab the attention of passers-by.
Many activists said they didn’t know who was behind the campaign and weren’t sure what to make of the call to protest, which first circulated Saturday on the U.S.-based, Chinese-language news website Boxun.com.
The unsigned notice called for a “Jasmine revolution” – the name given to the Tunisian protest movement – and urged people “to take responsibility for the future.” Participants were urged to shout, “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness” – a slogan that highlights common complaints among Chinese.
The call is likely to fuel anxiety among China’s authoritarian government, which is ever alert for domestic discontent and has appeared unnerved by recent protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Libya. It has limited media reports about them, stressing the instability caused by the protests, and restricted Internet searches to keep Chinese uninformed about Middle Easterners’ grievances against their autocratic rulers.
On Saturday in a speech to national and provincial officials, President Hu Jintao ordered them to “solve prominent problems which might harm the harmony and stability of the society.”
In a fresh operation in Khuzdar’s Thotak locality on Friday, the Frontier Corps (FC)killed two young activists of the Baloch Students Organization (BSO-Azad). The federal paramilitary force, which does not have even five percent Baloch representation in its overall composition, surrounded the locality in the early hours of Friday, reported the local residents. Later on, a massive operation was carried out against the civilian population in the midst of all communication system disrupted.
There is no official explanation yet as to why such a heavy contingent of forces was sent to Thotak as early as 4:00 a.m. The local residents insist that it was a preplanned operation intended to scare the local people and maintain FC’s uncalled for influence over the civilians. Besides the killing of two young residents of the area, the FC also injured a lot of citizens by applying brute force. At least thirty others have been whisked away and the homes of the local population were set ablaze.
The fresh operation in Thotak has understandably ignited fire across Balochistan. Different opposition parties such as the Baloch National Front, the Baloch Republican Party and Baloch National Voice have strongly condemned the incident. The Azad faction of the BSO held protest rallies in Karachi, Quetta and Pasni to renounce the use of force by the security forces against unarmed civilians. In Turbat, the BSO observed a shutter down strike.
The role of the Frontier Corps in Balochistan has always come under blistering criticism. By and large, the FC is accused to have established a more powerful government in the province than the actual elected democratic government. In fact, actions taken by the FC, often without the approval of the Balochistan government, do not only embarrass the provincial government but they also drastically contribute to the failure of initiatives taken by the democratic government to make peace in the troubled province.
There was a little ray of hope in Balochistan concerning the improvement of FC’s relationship with the civil population after the former FC Inspector General, Major General Saleem Nawaz, who was widely considered as a hawk from the country’s security establishment, was transferred from the province. In our editorial, we suggested the newly appointed IGFC to play his role in de-escalating tensions. Unfortunately, there are no signs of sanity prevailing in the minds of the big guns in the FC. It continues to run a rogue parallel government inside Balochistan.
We have time and again reminded the FC to adhere to the law of the land and refrain from playing an extra-constitutional role. The onus of solving problems lies with the elected democratic government while the task to maintain peace is entrusted to the provincial police. The FC has become a constant source of irritation for the masses and a cause of distraction and interference for the provincial government and the police department. Oblivious to the Baloch traditions, antagonistic actions by the FC will only alienate the local people and contribute to the problems of the provincial government.
Balochistan’s is purely a political problem which can be settled through political dialogue. Islamabad must dismantle the undemocratic government the F.C. has established in itself. In the short run, the FC has to be stopped from its unauthorized and illegal operations across Balochistan and, in the long run, it has to be reformed in order to make it a more represented, civilized and professional force which does not remain a source of trouble for the masses.
[These protests must be considered as another of the CIA “false-flag” revolutions, only this one is, so far, intended to keep the lid on, not calculated to boil over, as in the Middle East. This is the reason that the “counter-protesters” are not simply joining with the first group demonstrating to protect their incomes.
In Europe, there are no counter-protests, no anti-anti-government protesters seeking to nullify the anti-government protests. In these first American anti-austerity protests, we are seeing the expected, suspicious, corporate-sponsored counter-demonstrators, gathering in the streets to break the formation of a national focal point, preventing the formation of a solid center of the people. The protesters, calling themselves “conservatives,” who are championing program cuts do not, for some reason, want to see social service programs preserved, even though all of them will one day need some of those same programs just to get medical care, or to stay alive, or to have emergency programs and services, such as police and fire protection (SEE: Detroit, Less Than a Full-Service City). We are seeing an attempt to revive all the bad things of Reaganomics and Bushism in these counter-demonstrators, who march, coincidentally, as their national leader, Speaker Boehner is pushing Reaganite “supply-side” budget cuts in the House.
The people of Wisconsin, who want to see something remain of the American Republic, must turn-out support for the workers’ rights crowd in far greater numbers than the corporate-sponsored side can muster. The real story should concern this hostile anti-worker corporatism, which exists to attack workers who defend their rights, and to capitalize on the workers’ grief, relieving themselves of contractual obligations by transferring them to the workers themselves. All over Europe, the old age pensioners are in the streets defending their livelihoods against corporate privatization programs which really rob from the poor, the sick and the elderly, in order to profit the rich. Yet, here in the “land of the free,” we see brother set against brother, as the man with a decent job defends that job by attacking those who have nothing but the right to survive–and that is what is being taken from many of them–yet the corporate-backed thugs in the streets gather in mobs and shake their fists at them in disgust.
It’s happening in Wisconsin. Its Labor–vs- anti-labor. It’s Ronald Reagan–vs- Mondale…It is the basic right to organize to defend one’s rights and to improve working conditions–vs- the corporations and their mobs for hire, like the Tea Party gang, or whatever they are called. It may be true that much of the anti-union opposition is real (the “unions have killed this country” crowd), but, I would think that many of them are there because someone with either money or power asked them to attend. Believe it or not, people, it is a fight between corporations and the rest of us. If you are not a paid part of some corporation, then you are part of the general population being targeted for some great rip-off by those corporations. Unions and the fights for workers’ rights (which they have waged for all of us, down through the decades), are the reason that you legally cannot be worked like an abused animal, and your children cannot be forced to labor hard hours at dangerous jobs, whenever you can no longer work, or find work….and believe me, that day is coming, sooner than you think.]
By James Kelleher
MADISON, Wisconsin | Sun Feb 20, 2011 7:58am EST
(Reuters) – Supporters of legislation to reduce public employee union bargaining power and benefits in Wisconsin were far outnumbered by opponents on Saturday, as the two sides shouted competing slogans but did not clash.
Tens of thousands have demonstrated this week against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s proposed legislation, which supporters say is needed to control spending and opponents contend would break the back of state worker unions.
Wisconsin is the flashpoint for a U.S. struggle over efforts to roll back pay, benefits and bargaining rights of government workers. If the majority Republicans prevail, other states could be emboldened to take on the powerful unions.
Both sides drew thousands to the state capital Madison on Saturday — officials put the combined total at 55,000 — but no more than 5,000 of those appeared to be there for the rally backed by Tea Party groups, the first appearance by members of the conservative, limited-government movement this week.
The bill’s opponents marched counter-clockwise around the state Capitol, encircling the legislation’s supporters and chanting “kill the bill.”
The supporters countered with “Recall them all,” referring to Democratic state senators who fled to Illinois to deny Republicans the quorum needed to consider the proposal.
In addition to sharply curtailing union bargaining power, the Republican legislation would make state workers contribute more to health insurance and pensions.
“I’ve been working in a factory for 26 years. We pay 15 percent for the cost of our healthcare. The state workers get Cadillac insurance and pensions. They have no God-given right to collective bargaining,” said bill supporter Anthony Thelen, 46, who works in a nonunion factory outside of Milwaukee.
Although there had been fears of a fight, the atmosphere was generally peaceful and friendly, with organizers on both sides urging followers to be courteous.
Margaret Derr, a high school math teacher and union member, said she didn’t dislike the governor personally.
“I’m just opposed to the bill. I have no problem contributing more to my healthcare and pension. I understand about the deficit, but some of the proposals are just about union busting.”
Like Derr, union and Democratic leaders say they are willing to compromise on benefits if Republicans back off on their bid to weaken collective bargaining, but so far Walker and his legislative allies have stood firm.
State Assemblyman and Minority Leader Peter Barca told Reuters, however, that he has not given up on a compromise.
“My hope is before Tuesday enough Republicans will recognize this proposal is over-reaching and the support for this proposal wanes. I’ve been told some Republicans will reconsider,” he said.
Tuesday is when the State Assembly is due to take up the proposals again. Barca said he did not know when the absent Democratic state senators might return, allowing that body to consider the measure. Senator Jon Erpenbach said Friday that the senators were prepared to be away for weeks.
Governor Walker estimates the state budget deficit for the rest of this fiscal year at $137 million and for the next two fiscal years under its biannual budget at $3.3 billion.
He wants state workers to increase contributions to pensions to 5.8 percent of salary and double contributions to health insurance premiums to 12.6 percent.
The proposal would limit collective bargaining to the issue of wages and cap increases to the rate of inflation, with a voter referendum needed for bigger increases.
It also would end government collection of union dues, allow workers to opt out of unions, and require unions to hold recertification votes every year. Walker said the alternative is to lay off more than 10,000 public employees.
U.S. state and local governments are struggling to balance budgets after the recession decimated their finances. In addition to Wisconsin, other states like Texas, Arizona and Ohio are relying mainly on cuts in spending to balance the books, while Minnesota and Illinois are raising taxes.
Larry Sabato, Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, called the polemical environment in Madison a “raging against the coming of the night” stemming from years of fiscal irresponsibility.
He said the conflict will spread. “As bad as this is at the Wisconsin State level, it is far worse in about 20 states,” Sabato told Reuters.
“In cases like this it always depends on how the governor handles it,” he said. “If you look around the country there are a whole bunch of these types of governors and I would be shocked something like this doesn’t happen in Ohio, New Jersey, and Florida.”
Despite such serious aspects of the issues, Wisconsonites on both sides did not let their differences get in the way of civility on Saturday.
When the opposing rallies ended, many retired to the numerous bars in the Capitol’s shadow, like The Old Fashioned Tavern & Restaurant.
Zog Begolli, a 23-year-old bill opponent, met four bill supporters there when they helped him get a drink at the crowded bar. “They allowed me to get closer so I could order,” he said.
“Beer is something we can all agree on,” said Randy Otto, 59, from Lake Mills, one of those who let Begolli squeeze in.
It’s happening in Wisconsin. Its Labor–vs- anti-labor. It’s Ronald Reagan–vs- Mondale…It is the basic right to organize to defend one’s rights and to improve working conditions–vs- the corporations and their mobs for hire, like the Tea Party gang, or whatever they are called. It may be true that much of the anti-union opposition is real (the “unions have killed this country” crowd), but, I would think that many of them are there because someone with either money or power asked them to attend. Believe it or not, people, it is a fight between corporations and the rest of us. If you are not a paid part of some corporation, then you are part of the general population being targeted for some great rip-off.Unions and the fights for workers’ rights (which they have waged for all of us, down through the decades), are the reason that you cannot be worked like an abused animal, and your children cannot be forced to labor hard hours at dangerous jobs, whenever you can no longer work, or find work….and believe me, that day is just around the corner.
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[Sources reveal that tracking chips (“sim cards,” SEE: Paramilitary Pretense, Who Controls the Predators?) were found on Raymond Davis. These chips have been linked to Predator drones, used to assassinate targeted Pakistanis. The fact that one or more of these were in the US agent’s belongings, confirms that he was connected to the murder program, which have stopped since Davis’ arrest.]
KARACHI: Investigation teams were astonished to learn about Raymond Davis’s alleged connections in North Waziristan, sources told DawnNews.
It was also learnt during the probe that Davis made upto 12 visits to the tribal areas without informing Pakistani officials.
The 36- year-old US official was reluctant in giving out information about his visits to the tribal region, sources added.
The US Embassy officials were exerting pressure on the authorities, asking them not to expose the information received from Davis.
Meanwhile, the Punjab government has shared the investigation and the possessions recovered from Davis with the federal government, said sources.
[The first “supply-side” cuts in social programs would never have passed without the enormous outpouring of public sympathy for Reagan, after Hinckley’s bullet caught him under the left arm. As the pundits have since said, we got “Reaganomics” thanks to Jodie Foster. I guess we will have to blame her for the shit that has flowed downhill since that major mistake. Who will get the sympathy bullet needed to gain public support for the next round of Congressional throat-cutting, Mr. Boehner?]
According to Mundell, the wave of sympathy for Reagan that was engendered by the assassination attempt deterred Democrats in Congress from voting against his proposed tax cuts. Because of this accident of history, the US administered a big fiscal stimulus at the same time that Paul Volcker at the Federal Reserve was administering tight money. This, for Mundell, was vital in creating the era of prosperity that followed.
” Taxi Driver is the most important movie ever made from the standpoint of creating GDP,” Mundell told delegates. “It’s the movie that made the Reagan revolution possible. That movie was indirectly responsible for adding between $5trn and $15trn of output to the US economy.”
The bill, which takes aim at healthcare, social services, environmental regulation and more, gets no Democratic votes.
|House Speaker John Boehner returns to his office after votes Friday. (Alex Wong, Getty Images /February 19, 2011)|
The House has approved a sweeping package of budget cuts that, if enacted, would shrink the federal government’s role in American life, curtailing its involvement in healthcare, social services, environmental regulation, child care and research.
The bill, approved 235-189 Saturday with overwhelming Republican support and over united Democratic opposition, would reduce federal spending by more than $60 billion over the next seven months. It represents the completion of the top objective of the new Republican majority and its emboldened wing of budget hawks and government critics.
But the vote, coming after 4:30 a.m. Eastern time following an all-night session, set the House on a collision course with Senate Democrats and the Obama administration. Both camps have dismissed the House package as extreme, especially with the economy still on such uncertain footing.
Without a spending agreement approved by all sides, funding for the government will expire March 4. A political confrontation could end in a government shutdown in as little as two weeks.
In passing the package, House supporters said they were carrying out the will of the voters who sent nearly 100 new Republicans to Washington in November. They claimed to be taking the lead on the painful choices necessary to reverse course on a surge in federal spending that has put the deficit at $1.5 trillion.
However, Democrats charged that Republicans were using the budget as an excuse to eliminate or cripple government services they dislike, such as the healthcare law and climate change research and regulation.
The debate concerns government funding for the remaining months in the 2011 fiscal year. Later this year, lawmakers will battle over President Obama’s proposed $3.7-trillion budget for fiscal 2012.
The 2011 GOP cuts scarcely dent the federal deficit, but touch nearly every federal budget category not considered defense or “entitlement” spending. The bill would reduce funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by one-third, slash aid to poor women and children and cut support for NASA.
Medical research at the National Institutes of Health would be curbed, along with funds that help low-income families heat their homes. In all, the bill would eliminate 150 federal programs, Republicans said.
The spending cut package is historic in its size as well as its scope. It is many times the size of the cuts passed by the House in 1995, when Republicans led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich sought to reduce non-defense discretionary spending by roughly 5%. The package debated Friday would cut about 15%.
Then-President Bill Clinton vetoed the 1995 bill, setting up the standoff that led to a series of government shutdowns months later.
This year’s measure was approved after a nearly round-the-clock voting spree that spanned three days — a result of House Speaker John Boehner’s promise to allow for a more open debate and deliberation in the House. Nearly 600 amendments were proposed, most seeking further spending cuts and restrictions on funding for various operations.
Examples of GOP targets included implementation of Obama’s healthcare bill, EPA regulation of greenhouse gases and Planned Parenthood.
The late changes made the final size of the package difficult to measure. But as the scope of the proposed 2011 cuts widened, the Social Security Administration and other government agencies said there would be at least temporary job losses if the cuts are enacted into law.
Other departments, including the Department of Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service and National Labor Relations Board, also said the cuts would have adverse effects. Officials warned of a backlog in their ability to provide services.
“The quickest way to achieve savings, if you have to do it very fast, is cutting off paychecks,” said Robert Bixby, a budget hawk and executive director of the Concord Coalition, who favors a slower approach. “It’s the easiest way to do it.”
Next week both chambers will take a weeklong recess that will sharply limit the time available to avoid a potential shutdown. When the two sides return to work, they will have a maximum of just five days — and probably fewer, given the usual legislative workweek — to resolve deep differences and put a new spending plan in place for the remainder of the year.
Even the option of a stopgap measure that could temporarily fund the government for a few weeks until the impasse can be resolved now appears off the table as Republican leaders refuse to bend.
Each side has tried to position the other to take the blame if the standoff results in shuttered government offices affecting Americans across the nation.
“We don’t want to do that; we hope our Republican colleagues don’t want to do it,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a leader of House Democrats. “But if the posture they take is ‘our way or no way,’ it’s possible that will happen.”
Feelings have hardened over the weeklong debate. Earlier, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) dismissed concerns that the spending cuts would eliminate programs that help employ thousands of Americans, saying that if jobs are lost, “so be it.”
As the debate over this year’s budget stretched on for another day and night, the exercise helped to define both parties. The day’s events also revealed a persistent divide within the ranks of House Republicans. Boehner allowed a free-wheeling debate, which exposed deep rifts between his emboldened conservative wing and other members.
The conservative flank of the GOP lost one pivotal vote to reduce government funding to 2008 levels, as many of them wanted. Veteran Republican leaders admonished the leading budget cutters for pushing the additional $22 billion in cuts, saying they went too far.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas) echoed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s concern that cuts in global aid programs could threaten national security.
The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), said the conservatives’ proposal “hits everything indiscriminately in a heavy-handed way.”
“We were elected to make choices, not run on auto-pilot,” he said.
Republicans approved a measure offered by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) that would prohibit federal funds for Planned Parenthood. The group already is prohibited from using federal grants in providing abortion services. Sen. Barbara Boxer called the amendment “an extreme attack on women’s health.”
A full-scale attack on the healthcare overhaul law advanced as Republicans approved several measures that had the effect of preventing the law from taking effect. Republicans have pledged to dismantle the healthcare law, a key demand of the “tea party” movement.
In a series of votes Friday, Republicans approved measures to block funding, including one that would bar salaries for government workers implementing the law.
Pelosi delivered a lengthy defense of the legislation she led to passage in the last session of Congress.
“This is, yet again, another example of our friends standing up for the insurance companies at the expense of the American people, standing up for the insurance companies at the expense of the health and well-being of our country,” Pelosi said.
The healthcare votes came as the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said in an updated assessment that repealing the healthcare law would actually drive up federal deficits by $210 billion by 2021 and leave 22 million more Americans without health insurance.
Staff writer Noam N. Levey in Washington contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times