It was hard to say for sure who won the budget showdown because, two days later, many of the details of the agreement to cut $38 bln from federal spending were still being negotiated between the House and Senate.

The agreement would cut $13 bln from programs at the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services and would extract $1 bln more in an across-the-board cut from domestic agencies, the New York Times reported (4/10). There will also be reductions to housing assistance programs and some health care programs, along with $8 bln in cuts to the State Department and foreign aid, said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer.

But many of the cuts involved money left over from previous years, using accounting tricks and going after programs President Obama had targeted anyway, Andrew Taylor of the Associated Press reported (4/12).

Democrats prevented Republicans from defunding healthcare and financial market reforms and crippling the EPA’s ability to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions. They also saved Head Start, Pell grants for poor to middle-income college students, health research, food inspection and “Race to the Top” aid for public schools. And they preserved national service AmeriCorps program and subsidies for public broadcasting, as well as funding for Planned Parenthood that was not related to abortion, which was a bitter disappointment to Republicans who hoped to shut down the clinics that provide medical care for women.

One of the items that was sacrificed in the budget deal that averted the federal budget shutdown was the “Free Choice” voucher program. The program would have allowed low-income workers to take the tax-free money their employer would otherwise have contributed to the cost of their health insurance and use it to buy more affordable health insurance at the exchange. Many smaller employers supported the provision because it would help them get out of the health insurance business. But Sen. Ron Wyden noted that some employers didn’t like the idea that Americans might be able to get good health insurance outside of their job or union, which is why some powerful interest groups fought the inclusion of Free Choice Vouchers in the health reform law.

Joan McCarter noted at DailyKos.com (4/11) that there’s not even any budget saving in 2011 by sacrificing this program. “It’s not operational until the exchanges are, in 2014. As far as reform goes, it was pretty small bore, creating a modicum of competition for this group of people,” McCarter wrote. “But what it did do was, for the first time, decouple health insurance and the workplace, an idea that many employers objected to on the theory that they’d lose younger and healthier employees in their plans. If health insurance reform works the way it is supposed to, that won’t be a problem for employers; they’ll still be able to afford coverage for all employees. The real problem seems to be in ceding a captive group of employees, who would have more freedom if they had more choice.”

Other cuts identified by the House Appropriations Committee (4/12) included Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), $504 mln; state and local law enforcement, $415 mln; community oriented policing services (COPS), $296 mln; FEMA first responder grants, $786 mln; energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, $438 mln; green jobs innovation fund, $40 mln; community health centers, $600 mln; dislocated worker assistance, $125 mln; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), $45 mln; Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), $49 mln; IDEA (special education): $16 mln; infectious disease prevention, $277 mln; National Institutes of Health, $260 mln.

Pat Garofalo noted at ThinkProgress.org (4/12) that “nothing in this deal will help lower the country’s unemployment rate or do anything to boost economic growth. It will simply result in fewer services for people still grappling with the effects of the Great Recession.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said (4/12) he would vote against the deal. “Today, in order to reduce deficits that Republicans helped create, they now are slashing programs of enormous importance to working families, the elderly, the sick and children. At a time when the gap between the very rich and everybody else is growing wider, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse. It takes from struggling working families and gives to multi-millionaires. This is obscene.”

BUDGET CUTS ARE POPULAR. Apparently a significant percentage of the national population doesn’t read liberal blogs that were critical of the budget deal that averted a government shutdown, Steve Benen noted at WashingtonMonthly.com (4/11), as a CNN/Opinion Research survey indicated that American support the budget agreement by a 58%-38% margin.

Two-thirds of Dems and a majority of independent voters backed the deal while Republicans were divided. A plurality (48%) of respondents gave Dems credit for striking the deal, compared with 35% crediting congressional Republicans. A majority (54%) approved President Obama’s handling of the negotiations, while 44% approved the GOP.

The poll also showed strong opposition to the Republican culture-war measures that nearly derailed the deal — 65% supported continued funding for Planned Parenthood and 71% support funding the EPA’s enforcement of “regulations on greenhouse gases,” which the GOP had targeted.

BEST LINES IN BUDGET DEBATE. After Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said on the Senate floor (4/8) that abortion is “well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does,” and his office was informed that abortion actually is about 3% of what the nonprofit clinics do, Kyl’s office replied that “his remark was not intended to be a factual statement.”

Planned Parenthood reports that its largest services are contraception (35%), testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (35%), cancer screening and prevention (16%) and other women’s health services (10%), followed by abortion (3%) and other services (1%).

At another non-fact-based outlet, Fox News, commentators Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy joined in the Planned Parenthood bashing, claiming (4/9) that women’s health services such as pap smears and breast exams could be obtained at Walgreens. But a spokeswoman for Walgreens’ in-store health clinics told MediaMatters.org that neither Walgreen nor its Take Care Clinics offer pap smears or breast exams, though they do blood pressure checks and offer flu vaccines and other minor treatments. (If somebody at a Walgreens offers to do a pap smear or breast exam, report them to a clerk!)

WHITE HOUSE: RYAN BUDGET D.O.A. David Plouffe on NBC’s Meet the Press (4/10) reiterated Obama’s support for ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy; he said the Ryan fiscal plan was dead on arrival because it would cut key priorities and increase health care costs to seniors down the line; that Obama’s approach to reducing health care costs would be to reform the system rather than cut benefits; and that while he was willing to discuss ways to strengthen Social Security, he did not believe Social Security was a long-term driver of the nation’s debt. “It may pass the House. It’s not going to become law,” Plouffe said. “I don’t think the American people are going to sign up for something that puts most of the burden on the middle class, people trying to go to college, on senior citizens, while not just asking nothing of the wealthy, giving them at least a $200,000 tax cut.”

Jed Lewison noted at Daily Kos (4/11) that The Hill reported a divide within the administration over Social Security, with Plouffe and the political team opposing cuts to Social Security, but Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Jason Furman supporting reductions. “So far, the article says, Plouffe’s side is winning,” Lewison noted. “Obviously, it would be an epic disaster if Obama did agree to slash Social Security benefits, but the furthest Obama has gone in that direction is saying he’d be willing to talk with Republicans about strengthening the program.”

David Stockman, Ronald Reagan’s budget director, approves of Ryan’s proposals to cut entitlements, but he told Brian Beutler of TalkingPointsMemo.com (4/11) Ryan is “simply unrealistic to say that raising revenue isn’t part of the solution. It is a measure of how far off the deep end Republicans have gone with this religious catechism about taxes.”

Doug Holtz-Eakin, a former economic adviser to George W. Bush and John McCain, told the Huffington Post Ryan’s plan is “implausibly optimistic.”

In his New York Times column (4/8), Paul Krugman called the Ryan proposal “ludicrous” and “cruel.” He noted that “Republicans have once again gone all in for voodoo economics — the claim, refuted by experience, that tax cuts pay for themselves.”

The Heritage Foundation projected that tax cuts would increase tax revenue by almost $600 bln over 10 years and result in a boom that would bring the unemployment rate down to 2.8% — “a number we haven’t achieved since the Korean War,” Krugman noted. A more sober assessment from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office finds that “a large part of the supposed savings from spending cuts would go, not to reduce the deficit, but to pay for tax cuts. In fact, the budget office finds that over the next decade the plan would lead to bigger deficits and more debt than current law,” he said.

RYAN’S CONSTITUENTS UNEASY ABOUT MEDICARE CUTS. The Associated Press talked to voters in Rep. Paul Ryan’s district in southeast Wisconsin and found that voters were uneasy about his proposal to remake Medicare into a voucher program that would force senior Americans to seek private insurance (4/9). Greg Sargent noted at WashingtonPost.com (4/11) that voters who had supported Ryan were worried about doing away with Medicare as we know it, but they are grappling with whether it would be necessary to put the nation on firmer fiscal footing. “This suggests that they are not aware of the full Democratic case against the GOP approach to the deficit — that Republicans are also insisting on maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and that those cuts are part of what would make it necessary to reshape Medicare dramatically, in order to help pay for them. In other words, they are proceeding from the premise that Ryan’s Medicare proposal is about fixing our fiscal situation in a way that would spread the pain around evenly — and not aware that it would shift the burden for fixing our fiscal situation downward, in keeping with conservative tax-cutting ideology.”

GOP VOTER REMORSE GOOD FOR OBAMA. After a little more than three months in charge, House Republicans have fallen so far out of favor with the public that Democrats could regain control of the House next year, Public Policy Polling reported. The poll (4/12) found 43% of likely voters think House Repubs are doing a worse job now than Dems did, compared with only 36% who think the GOP has brought improvement. If there were an election for Congress today, 46% said they would vote Democratic, compared with 41% who would vote Republican. That is only a hair below the margin by which Republicans won in the national popular vote last year.

“The key to this strong movement back toward the Democrats right now is the same as the key to the strong movement away from the Democrats last year — fickle independents quickly growing unhappy with the party in power,” pollster Tom Jensen noted. “Exit polls showed independents supporting the GOP by a 19-point margin last year at 56-37. Now only 30% of those voters think that the Republican-controlled House is moving things in the right direction, compared to 44% who think things were better with the Democrats. Given those numbers it’s not much of a surprise that independents now say they’d vote Democratic for the House by a 42-33 margin if these was an election today, representing a 28 point reversal in a span of just five months.”

Jensen concluded, “Republicans taking control of the House may have been one of the best things that could possibly have happened for Obama’s reelection prospects.” When asked whether they had more faith in Obama or congressional Republicans to lead the country, 48% picked Obama to only 42% who went with Republicans. “Voters may not love Obama as once they did but they’re finding him to be more reasonable than the alternative and that means it will be hard for the GOP to knock him off next year without a top notch nominee,” Jensen wrote.

SHORT SUBJECTS. “Top notch” is not the term that comes to mind when reviewing the crop of GOP presidential wannabes. New York real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump was tied with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for first place with 19% each among Republicans asked which candidate they support for the presidential nomination in 2012, according to a CNN poll (4/12). Others include 12% for Sarah Palin, 11% each for Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, 7% for Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and 5% for Rep. Michele Bachman (R-Minn.). Others registered in the low single digits.

Trump’s standing his risen among Tea Party Republicans since he joined the “birthers” who question whether President Obama actually was born in Hawaii, as his birth certificate attests Honolulu newspapers reported the week after his birth and state officials confirmed last year.

Steve Benen wrote at WashingtonMonthly.com (4/12), “this isn’t complicated — the GOP base includes a big chunk of very strange people. When a clownish television personality plays to their worst instincts, these folks are inclined to like what they see.” Benen added, “I still think Trump’s sudden interest in electoral politics is just an elaborate publicity stunt, closer to a practical joke than an actual campaign. Indeed, even the right-wing fringe will balk when they learn Trump was a pro-choice advocate of universal health care, a donor to Democratic candidates, and a supporter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

UTAH CUTS AID FOR JOBLESS. Utah has joined the states that have refused to extend unemployment assistance. Skinflint Republicans in Michigan, Missouri and Florida also have moved to cut or restrict unemployment benefits, even as long-term unemployment has failed to drop significantly for months. Utah state Senate President Michael Waddoups (R) said refusing to accept the federal government’s offer of 13 additional weeks of benefits for 23,000 Utah residents who have exhausted other benefits “is a motivation for people to get back to work.” Utah provides 26 weeks of state unemployment benefits. Another 47 weeks of federal benefits is available for people after state benefits end. As part of the federal stimulus package in 2009, states with unemployment rates of 6.5% or higher could qualify for 13 weeks of additional benefits. Utah unemployment is 7.7%.

Pat Garofalo noted at ThinkProgress.org (4/11) that unemployment benefits, at roughly $290 per week, are hardly lucrative, and research by the San Francisco Federal Reserve has found that workers who qualify for UI benefits stay unemployed just 1.6 weeks longer than those who do not qualify for such benefits.

OHIO RALLIES TO REPEAL UNION-BUSTING BILL. More than 10,000 people rallied on the lawn outside the Capitol in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday (4/9) to kick off efforts to repeal SB 5, the bill that would strip collective bargaining rights for Ohio state employees. The bill was enrolled 3/31, giving labor, Democrats and progressives 90 days to collect 232,000 signatures to call a ballot repeal initiative — but Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine (R), a former US senator, can delay the start of petition circulation until he approves the language on the petitions. And many businesses who support unions and/or serve union members are breaking with the state Chamber of Commerce, which could undermine support for the bill and union-busting Gov. John Kasich (R) if the referendum is placed on the November 2011 ballot. See the “Stand Up for Ohio” page at facebook.com.

MASS. MARKS HEALTH REFORM ANNIVERSARY. April 12 marked the fifth anniversary of Massachusetts’ landmark health care reform law, whose mandate that individuals buy insurance if they were not otherwise covered was the model for the federal individual mandate. When, as governor, Mitt Romney signed the bill, he trumpeted it as an application of conservative principles to a major social problem, but he did not participate in the anniversary celebration, as he is now running for president as a Republican opposed to the federal government interference in health care. But ThinkProgress.org noted that as recently as March 2010, on Fox News, Romney said “our plan is working well. And perhaps the best thing I can say about it, it’s saving lives. It is the ultimate pro-life effort ... We said people have to take responsibility for getting insurance if they can afford it or paying their own way. No more free riders.”

SCIENTISTS: ALT ENERGY COULD REPLACE FOSSIL FUEL, NUKES. All the power the world needs could be provided by alternative energy sources within 20-40 years, replacing fossil fuels and nuclear energy, if the political will could be found, according to Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark Delucchi of the University of California-Davis. In a paper for Energy Policy, the researchers call for using wind, water and solar energy to generate power, with wind and solar power contributing 90% of the needed energy. Vehicles, ships and trains would be powered by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Aircraft would run on liquid hydrogen. Homes would be cooled and warmed with electric heaters — no more natural gas or coal — and water would be preheated by the sun.

One of the biggest hurdles with wind and solar energy is that both can be highly variable, which has raised doubts about whether either source is reliable enough to provide “base load” energy, the minimum amount of energy that must be available to customers at any given hour of the day.

Jacobson said that the variability can be overcome. “The most important thing is to combine renewable energy sources into a bundle,” he said. “If you combine them as one commodity and use hydroelectric to fill in gaps, it is a lot easier to match demand.”

Jacobson said a large scale transformation is needed. “It would require an effort comparable to the Apollo moon project or constructing the interstate highway system. But it is possible, without even having to go to new technologies,” Jacobson said. “We really need to just decide collectively that this is the direction we want to head as a society.”

Jacobson is the director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program and a senior fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy.

US JOINS THIRD WORLD IN LABOR STANDARDS. Danville, Va., celebrated when Ikea, the iconic Swedish brand, announced it was going to establish a manufacturing facility there. But it turned out, according to a report by Nathaniel Popper in the Los Angeles Times (4/10), that they were opening the plant in Virginia to take advantage of its relaxed labor standards. Laborers at factories in Sweden produce bookcases and tables similar to those manufactured in Danville. The big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation. Full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days — eight of them on dates determined by the company. What’s more, as many as one-third of the workers at the Danville plant have been drawn from local temporary-staffing agencies. These workers receive even lower wages and no benefits, employees said.

Bill Street, who has tried to organize the Danville workers for the machinists union, told the Times Ikea was taking advantage of the weaker protections afforded to US workers. “It’s ironic that Ikea looks on the US and Danville the way that most people in the US look at Mexico,” Street said.

Charles Lemos noted at MyDD.com (4/11) that last year, after 110 years of the leading the world in manufacturing output, the United States was at last surpassed by China, which accounted for 19.8% of global production in 2010, slightly higher than the 19.4% of the US. “But it is not just quantitatively that we have lost our lead,” Lemos wrote. “What we have seen in the United States is a general degradation of labor standards and worker rights since Ronald Reagan broke the air traffic controllers strike and their union, PATCO, in 1981.”

In September 2010, Lemos noted, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) issued a scathing report on workers’ rights and labor conditions in the US. The report was almost completely ignored by the American media but among its findings were the following:

• The National Labor Relations Act, which gives workers the right to organize and bargain collectively, is full of holes. One big hole is that large groups of workers are exempt. Besides excluding 40 percent of all public sector workers, “the statute excludes many categories of private sector employees from its scope, including agricultural and domestic workers, supervisors, and independent contractors,” ITUC said.

• The Supreme Court in 2006 also yanked away protections from undocumented workers, forcing the AFL-CIO to complain to the international groups. They upheld its complaint, but all the groups could do was to urge Congress to change Federal law.

• ITUC also noted the National Labor Relations Board, which administers the act, expanded the scope of “supervisors” in 2006 to cover an estimated 8 million more workers, all with minimal supervisory duties.

• An analysis by the University of California-Davis on NLRB union recognition elections shows the odds of making it all the way through the agency’s union process, from filing a petition to getting a first contract, are less than one in four.

• Union-busting, the ITUC says, has become a $4 bln industry. Some 82% of employers hire such companies that employ a wide range of anti-union tactics. Employers often force employees to listen to anti-union propaganda and threaten workers with company closures if they vote to form a trade union.

• Child labor is in many cases not effectively addressed in the US, particularly in agriculture and not least because of the hazardous conditions that children are exposed to. Many of the children are migrant farm workers, often Latino. The AFL-CIO estimates that between 300,000 and 800,000 children are employed in agriculture under dangerous conditions. Moreover, the number of child labour inspections has been falling.

• Employers routinely violate labor law and penalties are few, low or treated as a cost of doing business. “Employers have a statutory right under the NLRA to express their views during a union campaign so long as they do not interfere with employees’ free choice. In practice, however, employers have a legal right to engage in a wide range of anti-union tactics that chill the exercise of freedom of association and do, in fact, interfere,” the report noted.

“None of the above really permeates the national conservation,” Lemos noted. “We have reached a point where a United States Senator, Mike Lee of Utah, thinks that Congressional child labour laws are *unconstitutional*. With thinking like that is it any wonder that we are a nation in decline?

“And the saddest part of all is that those workers at the Ikea plant in Danville, Va., if they vote at all, are more likely to vote GOP than Democratic. Then again, it’s not like the Democrats have done them many favors either, because who lured Ikea to Danville, Va.? Yes, that’s right, Tim Kaine, a Democrat who until this week was head of the Democratic National Committee.”

Kaine quit as DNC chair to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.).

COAL MOGUL GETS PA. ENVIRO JOB. For years C. Alan Walker, a coal industry mogul and wealthy donor to Pennsylvania’s Republican Party, clashed with environmental officials who tried to regulate his companies. He described them as “vindictive” and “out of control.” In 1981, Walker argued that the state should let someone from industry influence how environmental regulations were enforced.

Now the state’s new Republican governor, Tom Corbett, who has accepted nearly $184,000 in political donations from Walker since 2004, has appointed Walker acting secretary for the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, Abraham Lustgarden of ProPublica reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (4/11). In March Walker got authority to expedite and influence permits at any state agency, including the Department of Environmental Protection, which regulates drilling in the Marcellus Shale, a major source of natural gas. Walker also was appointed to the state’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, a multi-stakeholder group that will advise the state in developing the resource. The goal, Corbett has said, is to “make Pennsylvania the Texas of the natural gas boom.”

MEXICAN RALLIES DEMAND END TO DRUG WAR. On April 6, multitudes took to the streets in more than 40 Mexican cities — and their friends at consulates and embassies in Europe, North America and South America — to demand an end to the violence wrought by the US-imposed “war on drugs.”

Al Giordano wrote in “And This Is What History Looks Like in Mexico,” for The Field at NarcoNews.com (4/7): “A sea change has occurred in Mexican public opinion. The people have turned definitively against the use of the Mexican Army to combat against drug traffickers. The cry from every city square yesterday was for the Army to return to its barracks and go back to doing the job it was formed to do; protect Mexico from foreign invasion and provide human aid relief in case of natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. Since President Felipe Calderón unleashed the Armed Forces, four years ago, to combat drug trafficking organizations, the violence between it and the competing narco organizations has led to a daily body count, widespread human rights abuses against civilians, and more than 40,000 deaths, so many of them of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire and used by all sides in the armed conflict that still has no winners, that never will have any winner.

“A fast moving series of events that began on March 28 have converged to usher Mexico into its very own ‘Arab spring.’ And it began just outside ‘the City of Eternal Spring,’ Cuernavaca, in the state of Morelos, about an hour south of Mexico City. Narco News has been covering these events for the past week (sadly, we are so far the only English-language media to do so at each step of the story, even as it has huge consequences for United States drug policy not only in Mexico but throughout the world and at home). On that date, in the town of Temixco, seven young men were assassinated. These were kids with jobs, who went to school, model kids, not criminals. And one of those kids, Juan Francisco Silvia, was the son of a nationally respected journalist and poet, Javier Sicilia, of Cuernavaca.

“In a week, the soft spoken, increasingly beloved, intellectual has become the national vessel through which millions of voices now demand: End the war on drugs.”

Giordano translated Sicilia’s “Open Letter to Mexico’s Politicians and Criminals” and penned his third editorial in 11 years to provide context and background to the crisis. He also translated Sicilia’s statements calling for the legalization of drugs to restore peace and dignity to Mexico, and then Giordano and others headed out to report the marches in Cuernavaca, in Mexico City and numerous other Mexican and international locations. Space doesn’t allow TPP to do it justice (and we didn’t note any coverage in US media), but see (http://narcosphere.narconews.com/thefield/4372/and-what-history-looks-mexico).

LEFT CASE FOR LIBYA INTERVENTION. Juan Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan and a distinguished progressive scholar of the Middle East and Islamic societies, is a high-profile supporter of US leadership of the UN Security Council’s intervention. “I am unabashedly cheering the liberation movement on, and glad that the UNSC-authorized intervention has saved them from being crushed,” he wrote at JuanCole.com (3/27). “... The United Nations-authorized intervention in Libya has pitched ethical issues of the highest importance, and has split progressives in unfortunate ways. I hope we can have a calm and civilized discussion of the rights and wrongs here.”

Cole noted that “Libya’s workers and townspeople had risen up to overthrow the dictator in city after city—Tobruk, Dirna, al-Bayda, Benghazi, Ajdabiya, Misrata, Zawiya, Zuara, Zintan. Even in the capital of Tripoli, working-class neighborhoods such as Suq al-Jumah and Tajoura had chased out the secret police. In the two weeks after February 17, there was little or no sign of the protesters being armed or engaging in violence ...”

“Then Muammar Qaddafi’s sons rallied his armored brigades and air force to bomb the civilian crowds and shoot tank shells into them. Members of the Transitional Government Council in Benghazi estimate that 8,000 were killed as Qaddafi’s forces attacked and subdued Zawiya, Zuara, Ra’s Lanuf, Brega, Ajdabiya, and the working class districts of Tripoli itself, using live ammunition fired into defenseless rallies. If 8,000 was an exaggeration, simply “thousands” was not, as attested by Left media such as Amy Goodman’s *Democracy Now!* As Qaddafi’s tank brigades reached the southern districts of Benghazi, the prospect loomed of a massacre of committed rebels on a large scale.

“The United Nations Security Council authorization for UN member states to intervene to forestall this massacre thus pitched the question. If the Left opposed intervention, it de facto acquiesced in Qaddafi’s destruction of a movement embodying the aspirations of most of Libya’s workers and poor, along with large numbers of white collar middle class people. Qaddafi would have reestablished himself, with the liberation movement squashed like a bug and the country put back under secret police rule. The implications of a resurgent, angry and wounded Mad Dog, his coffers filled with oil billions, for the democracy movements on either side of Libya, in Egypt and Tunisia, could well have been pernicious.

“The arguments against international intervention are not trivial, but they all did have the implication that it was all right with the world community if Qaddafi deployed tanks against innocent civilian crowds just exercising their right to peaceful assembly and to petition their government. (It simply is not true that very many of the protesters took up arms early on, though some were later forced into it by Qaddafi’s aggressive military campaign against them. There still are no trained troops to speak of on the rebel side).

“Some have charged that the Libya action has a Neoconservative political odor. But the Neoconservatives hate the United Nations and wanted to destroy it. They went to war on Iraq despite the lack of UNSC authorization, in a way that clearly contravened the UN Charter. Their spokesman and briefly the ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, actually at one point denied that the United Nations even existed. The Neoconservatives loved deploying American muscle unilaterally, and rubbing it in everyone’s face. Those who would not go along were subjected to petty harassment. France, then deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz pledged, would be ‘punished’ for declining to fall on Iraq at Washington’s whim. The Libya action, in contrast, observes all the norms of international law and multilateral consultation that the Neoconservatives despise. There is no pettiness. Germany is not ‘punished’ for not going along. Moreover, the Neoconservatives wanted to exercise primarily Anglo-American military might in the service of harming the public sector and enforced ‘shock therapy’ privatization so as to open the conquered country to Western corporate penetration. All this social engineering required boots on the ground, a land invasion and occupation. Mere limited aerial bombardment cannot effect the sort of extreme-capitalist revolution they seek. Libya 2011 is not like Iraq 2003 in any way.”

Cole concluded, “I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time. It is possible to reason our way through, on a case-by-case basis, to an ethical progressive position that supports the ordinary folk in their travails in places like Libya. If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left. We should avoid making ‘foreign intervention’ an absolute taboo the way the Right makes abortion an absolute taboo if doing so makes us heartless (inflexible a priori positions often lead to heartlessness). It is now easy to forget that Winston Churchill held absolutely odious positions from a Left point of view and was an insufferable colonialist who opposed letting India go in 1947. His writings are full of racial stereotypes that are deeply offensive when read today. Some of his interventions were nevertheless noble and were almost universally supported by the Left of his day. The UN allies now rolling back Qaddafi are doing a good thing, whatever you think of some of their individual leaders.”

For Cole’s entire post, see (http://www.juancole.com/2011/03/an-open-letter-to-the-left-on-libya.html). And for an answer to criticism by Glenn Greenwald, an unvarnished critic of the intervention, see (http://www.juancole.com/2011/03/answer-to-glenn-greenwald.html).

SCIENTISTS: ALT ENERGY COULD REPLACE FOSSILS, NUKES. All the power the world needs could be provided by alternative energy sources within 20-40 years, replacing fossil fuels and nuclear energy, if the political will could be found, according to Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark Delucchi of the University of California-Davis. In a paper for Energy Policy, the researchers call for using wind, water and solar energy to generate power, with wind and solar power contributing 90% of the needed energy. Vehicles, ships and trains would be powered by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Aircraft would run on liquid hydrogen. Homes would be cooled and warmed with electric heaters — no more natural gas or coal — and water would be preheated by the sun.

One of the biggest hurdles with wind and solar energy is that both can be highly variable, which has raised doubts about whether either source is reliable enough to provide “base load” energy, the minimum amount of energy that must be available to customers at any given hour of the day.

Jacobson said that the variability can be overcome. “The most important thing is to combine renewable energy sources into a bundle,” he said. “If you combine them as one commodity and use hydroelectric to fill in gaps, it is a lot easier to match demand.”

Jacobson said a large scale transformation is needed. “It would require an effort comparable to the Apollo moon project or constructing the interstate highway system. But it is possible, without even having to go to new technologies,” Jacobson said. “We really need to just decide collectively that this is the direction we want to head as a society.”

Jacobson is the director of Stanford’s Atmosphere/Energy Program and a senior fellow at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy.

RIGHT GOES AFTER UNIVERSITY EMAILS. Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan, noted (4/7) that proxies for the Koch brothers in Wisconsin went after the emails of prominent University of Wisconsin professor William Cronon (the incoming head of the American Historical Association who had contributed a column to the New York Times criticizing the Wisconsin Republican Party for breaking with the state’s tradition of open-government). Then a Koch-brothers-funded think tank in Michigan requested the emails of state university professors that included several key words, including Maddow’s name.

“Academics are given tenure to protect their free speech from political reprisals, and this misuse of the Freedom of Information and Open Meeting provisions is intended to take back some of that intellectual freedom, as the Modern Language Association has correctly argued,” Cole wrote.

“It is legitimate to bar bureaucrats from using state resources for partisan party purposes. But for academics to discuss labor policy by email with colleagues is in a different category. Indeed, if labor historians cannot discuss labor policy in private with colleagues, they will be prevented from getting feedback for their ideas, and that would be a detraction from the purposes of tenure. It will also detract from the purpose for which the academic was hired by the people of the state, which is precisely to think critically about society. Academics are a strange sort of bureaucrat charged with skepticism of shibboleths. And, yes, the public has a say in hiring us. In Michigan, regents are elected by the public and run on party bases. The regents finalize the award of tenure, which is almost always a bipartisan decision, though it would be rare that politics came into it.”

The Center for Campus Free Speech (campusspeech.org) also commented, “While open records laws certainly serve a purpose, this instance is a blatant attempt to use the law to attack a faculty member for expressing criticism and to intimidate and chill the speech of his colleagues.”

Cole noted that he switched to private email years ago for most purposes other than making office hours appointments, “but I think I have to seriously consider just getting rid of the darn thing altogether.” He added, “I do almost all of my email after 5 pm, moreover, so it isn’t on university time.”

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2011


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