DISPATCHES is one of my favorite reads in The Progressive Populist.  Editor Jim Cullen finds news and information we don’t want to miss.  Take a look. Vicki

President Obama laid down his marker for the midterm election with his Labor Day speech at Milwaukee, calling for a $50 bln jobs program to rebuild American highways, railways and runways. He also proposed to modernize the nation’s air traffic control system and create a national infrastructure bank to leverage private and state and local capital with federal dollars to invest in projects that are critical to our economic progress.

Obama also set aside talk of bipartisanship. “They talk about me like I’m a dog,” he ad-libbed with a smile, and then took a few bites at the obstructionist Republicans who opposed his agenda, even the tax cuts for small businesses that Republicans traditionally have backed. Obama joked about Republicans “sipping Slurpees” while Democrats did the tough work of getting the “car” out of a ditch over the past 18 months. “And then when we finally got the car up — and it’s got a few dings and a few dents, it’s got some mud on it, we’re going to have to do some work on it — they point to everybody and say, look what these guys did to your car. … After we got it out of the ditch! And then they got the nerve to ask for the keys back!” He added, “When you want to move forward in your car … you put it in D. They’re going to pop it in reverse. They’d have those special interests riding shotgun, then they’d hit the gas and we’d be right back in the ditch.”

Obama warned that the GOP’s fear strategy is designed to divide the nation and hold the country back:

“It’s easy sometimes for folks to stir up stuff and turn people on each other, everybody sets their sights a little lower. That’s not who we are. We do not give up. We do not quit. Whenever times have seemed at their worst, Americans have been at their best. Because it is in those times when we roll up our sleeves and remember that we will rise or fall together — as one nation, and one people. That’s the spirit that started the labor movement. Alone we may be weak, divided we may fall, but if we are united, we are strong. That’s why they call them unions. That’s why we’re called the United States of America. I’m gonna make this case all across America.”

Reaction ranged from Republicans, who quickly dismissed the $50 bln infrastructure program as just more government spending, to progressives who criticized $50 bln as too little to have an impact on the jobless rate. But it’s a down payment on the $2.2 tln the American Society of Civil Engineers says is needed to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure. As Joan Walsh wrote at Salon.com (9/7), “it’s good to see the president acknowledge that the government has a responsibility to continue to spend its way out of this recession, and not merely hinge his program on small business and research and development tax cuts.”

‘POST’ BANNERS GOP TALKING POINTS. The Washington Post published a story on page 1 (9/6) with the headline, “Small Businesses Feel Squeezed by Obama Policies,” that featured a D.C. real estate and construction business owner who complained that while revenue at his businesses doubled last year, “his taxes rose sevenfold.” Post reporter V. Dion Haynes wrote that there was “a growing backlash from businesspeople about the crush of higher taxes.”

However, Haynes failed to point out that Obama has not raised taxes on small businesses, nor did he report how the businessman’s taxes increased sevenfold. If anything, Obama has reduced taxes. Haynes did note that Obama’s small business loan program has been “wildly popular,” and the administration has implemented about a dozen small-business assistance programs, including a health-care tax credit, more opportunities for women business owners to receive government contracts and cuts in capital gains taxes.

As far as regulations go, the Post quoted a spokesman for the right-wing National Federation of Independent Business complaining about future provisions of healthcare reform and another’s complaint about a new regulation expanding the number of Form 1099s that businesses will have to file. Kevin Drum noted at MotherJones.com, “That’s it. The 1099 thing is probably legit, but aside from that there are no new taxes documented in the piece and no evidence of burdensome new regulations. None. So what’s going on? Surely if things were as bad as the flacks say they are, it would have been pretty easy to find plenty of good examples? Especially since I’m sure it was the flacks who produced the business owners quoted in the story in the first place.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Drum concluded: “modern American journalism.”

MUSLIM-BASHING AIDS TERRORISTS, THREATENS GI’S. America’s enemies in Afghanistan are delighted by the vehement public opposition to the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero, Newsweek reported (8/30). “By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor,” Taliban operative Zabhullah told the magazine. (Like many Afghans, he uses a single name.) “It’s providing us with more recruits, donations and popular support,” he said. The issue is such a propaganda windfall — so tailor-made to show how “anti-Islamic” America is — that it now heads the list of talking points in Taliban meetings with fighters, villagers, and potential recruits. “We talk about how America tortures with waterboarding, about the cruel confinement of Muslims in wire cages in Guantánamo, about the killing of innocent women and children in air attacks — and now America gives us another gift with its street protests to prevent a mosque from being built in New York,” Zabihullah said. “Showing reality always makes the best propaganda.” He added, “The more mosques you stop, the more jihadis we will get.”

Meanwhile, a Florida fundamentalist preacher’s threat to publicly burn Islam’s sacred Quran on 9/11 caused hundreds of Afghans to rally in Kabul against the US to denounce the US and Obama. US. Gen. David Petraeus, the US commander in Afghanistan, said the planned burning of Qurans “could put the lives of American troops in danger and damage the war effort.” Petraeus said the Taliban would exploit the demonstration for propaganda purposes and make it harder for allied troops to carry out their mission of protecting Afghan civilians. “It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort,” Petraeus said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal (9/6). “It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here [in Afghanistan], but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.” The US Embassy in Kabul also issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups.”

Thousands of Indonesian Muslims marched in Jakarta and five other cities (9/4) to protest the proposed burning of the Quran. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world (86% of the population of 240 mln). It stipulates religious freedom for other faiths, including 8.7% of the population that is Christian.

Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Church in Gainesville, Fla., on CNN (9/7) seemed unwilling to reconsider his “Burn a Quran Day,” but he said he would pray for soldiers who might be put at greater risk. “We have firmly made up our mind, but at the same time, we are definitely praying about it,” he said.

During the interview, Jones conceded that he “would indeed offend” Muslims. But, he claimed, “peaceful Muslims” should support his campaign against radical Muslims. “Moderate Muslims should be on our side,” Jones argued.

CNN host Kiran Chetry, responded: “No moderate Muslim’s going to be on your side when you’re burning their holy book! I mean, that just sounds silly.”

By the way, GOP thinker Newt Gingrich said the federal government should step in and stop the developers from building the Islamic community center by whatever means necessary. “I think the Congress has the ability to declare the area a national battlefield memorial because I think we should think of the World Trade Center as a battlefield site; this is a war,” Gingrich said on David Barton’s Wallbuilders Live radio program (9/2, according to Rightwingwatch.org). Gingrich apparently thought that if Ground Zero was a national park, the so-called “Ground Zero mosque,” would be restricted from building near it.

NOT ENOUGH JOBS. The August jobs report showed little progress in creating more good jobs for America’s working families, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said (9/3), but voters shouldn’t be fooled about who is responsible. “There are policy solutions on the table that have been passed repeatedly by Democrats in the House of Representatives, but Republicans in Congress have chosen the beltway politics of obstruction over improving people’s lives. The result is a languishing economy that shed another 54,000 jobs in August while the unemployment rate edged up to 9.6%. Private employers added 67,000 jobs, down from the 107,000 added in July and still far below the 125,000 per month needed to even absorb new entrants into the labor force.

“As the recovery continues to weaken, the economy desperately needs new government support, both from both fiscal and monetary policy. It’s time for our leaders who are true economic patriots to fight to create jobs, reject unfair trade deals and put us on a path to make things in America again.

“This fall, Congress should take up and pass legislation that will create jobs and rebuild America, starting with the Surface Transportation bill, Clean Water Authorization, clean energy infrastructure spending, and expansion of nuclear power loan guarantees.

“We will not allow Republicans, who continue to say no to jobs, say no to unemployment benefits and want to privatize and cut Social Security, to derail our efforts to fight for a middle class economy. The future that we leave for our children depends on our success in beating back these barriers.” (See aflcio.org.)

MANUFACTURERS: TRADE BALANCE NEEDED. While the jobs report showed increases in health care (28,000), mining (8,000) and construction (19,000), Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a nonpartisan coalition of US manufacturers and the United Steelworkers, noted the jobs report showed the first decline in manufacturing employment since December 2009. “With 27,000 jobs lost in manufacturing, it’s clear that we need new measures to jumpstart the engine of our economy. Investing in infrastructure and providing additional tax relief for American producers should be at the top of the Congressional agenda, along with a long-overdue reckoning with China on its currency manipulation. Together, these measures will create good jobs, bring down unemployment, and build a solid foundation for our economy.

“Congress and the administration should avoid gimmicks like rebate checks for taxpayers that will likely result in increased purchases of imported consumer goods. If Congress and the administration push forward with a permanent research and development tax credit, it should be enhanced for any increased domestic production that results from such research.

“Overall, the job market and growth numbers are anemic. Any good news has been washed away by our trade deficit, which is on the rise again. Unless we rebalance our trade relationship with China and put some real teeth behind ‘Made in America’ efforts, our economy will never truly get back on track.” (See aamfg.org.)

DON’T KNOCK BECK’S RALLY, KNOCK ON YOUR NEIGHBOR’S DOOR. Glenn Beck is a charlatan who can’t count. He claimed that his rally at the National Mall drew somewhere between 300,000 and 600,000 people. Experts hired by CBS who analyzed aerial photos put the crowd size at 87,000, plus or minus 9,000. Jed Lewison crunched the numbers at DailyKos (8/30) and found that the crowd occupied roughly 1 mln square feet of area. So CBS’ estimate would run to 10 to 13 square feet per person while Beck’s estimate would run to 3.3 to 1.7 square feet per person. Or, to use airline seats as an example, CBS’ estimate would man each person took up an area equal to 2.4 to 3.1 airline seats per person, while Beck’s estimate was 0.4 to 0.8 seats per person.

Meanwhile, that same weekend Organizing for America at BarackObama.com knocked on 200,000 doors and made 168,330 phone calls to voters.

Progressive radio talker Ed Schultz is working with unions, civil and human rights groups to organize a progressive “One Nation” march and rally on the Mall (10/2). See wegoted.com for details.

We wish Schultz luck and a big crowd, but if you’re a working person who can’t afford a trip to D.C., your time would be well spent knocking on doors or making phone calls to let your neighbors know what a Republican takeover would mean. Check BarackObama.com or your local Democratic organization can put you to good use.

OK, KNOCK BECK A LITTLE. Glenn Beck on his radio show (8/23): “When you pervert the founding documents. I think you’re a pretty bad dude. But when you pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you are evil.”

(Gospel According to Matthew, 25:31-46, noted by Paul Rosenberg, MYDD.com, 8/29)

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

”Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

It’s funny how many Christian preachers skip over that chapter.

ELECTORAL IRONIES. Carly Fiorina, who outsourced jobs as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and eventually was ousted from that job, is running even with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in California. Rand Paul, who rode the Tea Party movement to the Republican nomination, has shown that he doesn’t even understand the problems of rural Kentucky and thinks the Civil Rights Act went too far, but he still leads Atty. Gen. Jack Conway (D). And it’s a sign of the disconnect from reality that Dan Coats, who has been a D.C. lobbyist and ambassador since leaving the Senate in 1989, is benefiting from anti-establishment fever in his race with Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D) for the open Senate seat in Indiana.

GOP RECRUITS HOMELESS GREEN CANDIDATES IN ARIZ. A Republican political operative has recruited drifters and homeless people to run on the Green Party ballot in Arizona, the New York Times reported (9/7). One of the candidates, Benjamin Pearcy, candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, is a street musician who lists his campaign office as a Starbucks. Another is Thomas Meadows, 27, a Tarot card reader with less than a dollar to his name who is running for state treasurer. Anthony Goshorn, 53, a pedicab driver known as “Grandpa” to his fellow street people, is a candidate for the state Senate. Steve May, a Republican candidate for the state Legislature, admits he recruited the candidates but insisted they are not fake candidates.

Republicans also were implicated in coming up with signatures to put the Green Party on the Texas ballot. New Mexico Republican Chairman John Dendahl offered the Greens at least $100,000 from an unnamed source in Washington if they would field candidates in two of New Mexico’s three congressional districts. The Greens, who claimed Dendahl offered $250,000, declined.

Still unexplained is how Alvin Greene, an unemployed political unknown who had no organized campaign and was facing a felony obscenity charge, came up with the $10,440 filing fee for the US Senate race after he was unable to afford a lawyer. Greene beat a former circuit judge for the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). A state investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing when Greene applied for a public defender and the State Law Enforcement Division determined that money spent on Greene’s filing fee was from the candidate’s personal funds, but CNN reported that the state attorney general’s office said it never received a request to subpoena Greene’s bank records.

Ironically, South Carolina Greens are fielding a credible Senate candidate in Tom Clements, an environmentalist who has worked with Friends of the Earth.

‘SHERIFF JOE’ NOT ONLY RACIST, BUT INEFFECTIVE. The US Justice Department sued Sheriff Joe Arpaio (9/2), saying he refused for more than a year to turn over records in an investigation of complaints that his department discriminates against Latinos. But Markos Moulitsas noted at DailyKos (9/3) that while Arpaio’s office remains obsessed with immigrants, his actual record is a disaster: Violent crime is up 58% in his jurisdiction while they have fallen throughout the rest of Arizona, as Arpaio diverted resources from law enforcement to immigration sweeps. (Crime in the city of Phoenix dropped 14%.) Arpaio also has failed to serve over 40,000 felony warrants; over 2,700 lawsuits have been filed against Arpaio between 2004 and 2007; and evidence exists that Arpaio’s deputies forced an undocumented mother to give birth while handcuffed to a bed, then threatened to turn over the baby to state custody. Mesa Police Chief George Gascon thinks Arpaio’s approach undermines the years of trust that area police departments have built up in immigrant communities.

GOP STALLS FED JUDGE NOMINEES. A determined Republican campaign has stalled confirmation of President Obama’s nominees for judgeships so that he has put fewer judges on the bench than any president since Richard Nixon at a similar point in his first term 40 years ago, Mark Stewart reported for the Associated Press (9/6). Fewer than half of Obama’s nominees have been confirmed and 102 of 854 judgeships are vacant. Even with 59 or 60 seats under Democratic control, the Senate has confirmed only 40 of his judges while 45 are awaiting action, two for nearly 13 months. At this point in George W. Bush’s first term, 72 judges had been confirmed by a Senate that Dems controlled for much of Bush’s first two years. Nixon got 33 judges through a Democratic-controlled Senate in his first two years.

BISHOPS CALL FOR NEW ‘SOCIAL CONTRACT.’ “Workers need a new ‘social contract,’” the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said in its Labor Day statement, according to National Catholic Reporter (9/2). The statement, written by Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., compares the massive changes in today’s global economy with the social upheavals of the 19th-century Industrial Revolution that led to Pope Leo XIII’s famous 1891 social encyclical, Rerum Novarum (“Of New Things”), on capital and labor, which helped legitimize labor unions. The new statement suggests that Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (“Charity in Truth”) offers a similar 21st-century response to the challenges of globalization, putting the life and dignity of the worker at the center of economic renewal. Murphy suggested that wage fairness might be a good starting point for a new social contract. “Families struggling to make ends meet cannot have wage earners shortchanged on overtime or not get paid for all the hours they work,” he said.

A new social contract for the common good of all humanity “begins by honoring work and workers,” he said.

GOP EYES INCREASE IN RETIREMENT AGE. Republicans such as Alan Simpson, co-chair of the president’s deficit reduction commission, argue that the retirement age should be raised to 70 because life expectancy has risen since Social Security was signed into law back in the 1930s. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the GOP’s numbers guy in the House, noted that when the retirement age was set at 65, the average life expectancy was 63 years. But Ezra Klein noted in the *Washington Post* (9/5) noted that the low average was driven by high infant mortality. “If you were a white male who’d made it to age 60 in 1935, you could expect 15 more years going forward,” he said. “If you’re a white male who lives to 60 today, you can expect 20 more years going forward.”

It makes sense to a lot of members of Congress and pundits who spend their time in air-conditioned offices that we live longer, so we should work longer. “But most people don’t work in Congress or in the media,” he noted. “They work on their feet. They strain their backs. They’re bored silly at the end of the day. By the time they’re in their 60s, they want to retire.”

Klein also noted that an August survey from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research tested reactions to a variety of Social Security fixes. One of the options was raising the retirement age to 70. Two-thirds of respondents opposed it. Another option was eliminating the cap on payroll taxes so that wealthy workers pay the tax on their full income, just as middle-income workers do now. A solid 61% supported it.

Klein concluded, “Reforming Social Security will be politically difficult and result in worse policy. That’s the good thing about putting everything on the table. It allows you to think more clearly about what should be taken off.”

PROG DEMS NIX SOCIAL SECURITY FIX. Progressive Democrats led by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are drawing a line in the sand: They will oppose any legislation based on the White House fiscal commission’s report unless Social Security is taken off the table, Brian Beutler reported at TalkingPointsMemo.com (9/2). “We oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age,” the letter to the White House reads. “We also oppose any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part … If any of the Commission’s recommendations cut or diminish Social Security in any way, we will stand firmly against them.”

FCC STILL LOOKING AT NET REGS. The Federal Communications Commission announced (9/1) it would seek further comment on Net Neutrality to further explore issues related to managed services and mobile broadband. S. Derek Turner, Free Press research director, called on the FCC to “stop writing notices and start making clear rules of the road. The phone and cable companies have shown us what the Internet will look like if they are allowed to write their own rules and build a two-tiered Internet with fast and slow lanes and zero protections on mobile broadband. We don’t need more questions from the FCC, we need more answers.” Turner said the FCC should reassert its authority and reclassify broadband access services under Title II of the Communications Act before Net Neutrality rules can be finalized.

GOP: OBAMA NEEDS TO GET BACK TO MIDDLE. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is supposed to be on of the more level-headed Republicans, but he said on NBC’s Meet the Press (9/5), “The only way the president could possibly survive is come back to the middle.” Graham accused Obama as running as a centrist but governing “from the left,” an assertion that comes as a surprise to actual members of the left. Graham added that the White House’s agenda has been the “most liberal agenda of modern times.” (Was Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society not considered “modern times”?)

To prove his point, Steve Benen noted at WashingtonMonthly.com (9/5), Graham noted that the administration has prepared to try terrorists in criminal courts on American soil. “Of course, the Bush/Cheney administration did the exact same thing, without complaint from Republicans like Graham, but it’s ‘tone-deaf’ liberalism now because, well, Graham says so. He added that the president is ‘certainly tone deaf on the economy,’ though he didn’t say why.”

“It’s an absolute, guaranteed, mortal lock that if Republicans make huge gains in the midterms, as seems likely, Graham’s rhetoric will be the accepted conventional wisdom, if it isn’t already. Pundits, politicians, and the establishment in general will simply accept as fact that Dems would have fared far better if only they hadn’t governed ‘from the left.’ Obama, we’ll hear, has no choice but to go ‘to the middle.’

“And every time this nonsense is repeated,” Benen wrote, “an angel will lose its wings.”

In reality, of course, Benen said, “Obama already is and has been in ‘the middle.’ It’s what led to a smaller and less effective stimulus; it’s what led to a more moderate health care reform bill; it’s what produced a less ambitious Wall Street reform package. The president has sought to compromise, over and over again, with a comically right-wing GOP that’s not only refused to meet him half-way on literally anything, but at times seems intent on undermining national progress purely for partisan gain …

“The conventional wisdom will be that liberalism did Democrats in, despite all evidence to the contrary, and despite the fact that liberals were right, especially about the economy. And we’ll be reminded again as to why the accepted political truths are often neither conventional nor wise.”

DON’T BE SURPRISED AT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. Republicans already are talking about shutting down the federal government if they take over Congress. Republicans plan to “defund” health care policy, effectively holding the government hostage unless President Obama goes along with the cuts. But most of the funds are self-executing, Christina Bellantoni noted at TalkingPointsMemo.com (9/3) Only $150 bln is discretionary, and it goes to help the Department of Health and Human Services and the IRS implement the law.

After Congress won control of the House and Senate in the 1994 midterms, new Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to bully President Clinton into accepting the Republican budget in October 1995. Between November 1995 and January 1996, two federal government shutdowns occurred, which cost the government at least $800 mln.

Alex Cortes, a 21-year-old University of Virginia political science student who organized DeFundIt.org, has gotten 163 Republican candidates to sign the pledge to defend the healthcare legislation. He doesn’t think a shutdown will happen, he told Bellantoni, but added, “We’d ultimately win the PR battle if we did it. We won the battle in the 90s because we stood on principle.”

Steve Benen wrote at WashingtonMonthly.com, “Conservatives who think the shutdown(s) made Republicans look *good* probably need a quick refresher of the politics of 1995.”

Benen added, “The conventional wisdom seems to be that in a showdown, Obama would come out ahead of [presumptive speaker John] Boehner & Co., in much the same way Clinton looked better than Gingrich. I think that’s true. But I also think Republicans have already backed themselves into a corner — they’ve made the president out to be the devil; they’ve all but ruled out compromising; and they’ve committed to a path that almost certainly ends in a government shutdown. GOP leaders may have even deluded themselves into thinking that they’re more popular than Obama (they’re not), and that if a shutdown hurts the economy, they’ll avoid blame (they won’t).”

BLAIR: CHENEY WANTED WAR WITH SYRIA. Syria always feared that the Bush/Cheney administration wanted to take Damascus once it had dispatched with Baghdad in 2003, and in his newly released memoirs, former British prime minister Tony Blair confirmed that those fears were well founded. Describing former vice president Dick Cheney as an advocate of “hard, hard power,” Blair said Damascus was next on Cheney’s hit list. “He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it – Hizbollah, Hamas, etc,” Blair wrote in his autobiography, A Journey. “In other words, he thought the whole world had to be made anew, and that after September 11, it had to be done by force and with urgency.”

Phil Sands wrote in the National of Abu Dhabi (9/2) that “Syria’s correct assumption that powerful US forces wanted to attack it had profound implications, domestically and in Iraq. Although no friend of Saddam Hussein, Damascus had every reason to want the American occupation to fail and, therefore, no incentive to stop Islamist militants crossing the border to fight US troops. For years, US military officials complained that insurgents entering from Syria were among their most deadly opponents, playing a key role in undermining US attempts to build a Washington friendly Iraq. Faced with this very real US threat, the Syrian authorities also moved to quash growing domestic dissent, arresting and jailing dozens of pro-democracy activists. That crackdown continues to this day.”

Matt Yglesias added at ThinkProgress.org (9/4), “One of the aspects of the Iraq disaster that hasn’t really penetrated the American psyche in an adequate way is the degree to which this kind of erratic belligerence undermined global nonproliferation goals. In a world where the United States initiates aggressive wars unilaterally, nuclear weapons become a vital source of security and responsible and patriotic leaders of all sorts of countries are going to want to at least keep the door open to WMD acquisition.”

UNION: HOLD OFF DRILLING IN GULF UNTIL SAFE. The explosion and fire on an offshore petroleum platform in the Gulf of Mexico (9/2) shows “we need to make sure all these rigs in the Gulf are safe to operate before we put personnel back to work on them,” United  Steelworkers Vice President Gary Beevers said.

One person was injured in the explosion on a platform owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy Inc.

Beevers, who heads the union’s National Oil Bargaining division, said, “I would hate to see a worker killed in our haste to reopen the Gulf to drilling. We need to give the government adequate time to do its inspections and ensure adequate health and safety provisions are in place.”

It’s ironic, said Beevers, the explosion happened one day after the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil industry’s trade association, held rallies to lift the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf. “Instead of holding political protests, the API and the industry should be helping the government ensure all the rigs are safe to operate so the moratorium can be removed sooner. We want drilling to return to the Gulf just like everyone else in the industry, but we have to make sure these rigs are safe first. We don’t need another oil explosion and oil spill.”

Meanwhile, Beevers adds, offshore workers and the businesses affected by the moratorium that came as a result of the BP explosion and oil spill should be given “adequate assistance.”

From The Progressive Populist, October 1, 2010

Copyright © 2010 The Progressive Populist

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