Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Fund Abortion Now" Website Targeted by Denial of Service Attack @ MayFirst.org

Hear more news of this on Radio Free Kansas.


Using a Denial of Service attack, hackers crippled servers at May First/People Link hosting the websites of several pro-choice organizations Thursday, July 30.

The target was Fund Abortion Now (http://fundabortionnow.org/), the website of the National Network of Abortion Funds, a national network of pro-choice foundations and organizations and a May First/People Link member.

The attack, which appears to be part of a coordinated, national attack on pro-choice sites (including Planned Parenthood) started in the early morning hours of July 30 and continued for several hours after that.

May First technologists resolved the issue by routing the website traffic through Deflect (https://www.deflect.ca/), a free and open source-based service that assists websites that are under Denial of Service attacks. Deflect reroutes the website traffic through its own specially designed distributed network of servers that can filter out attacks like these before routing it back to May First/People Link. After that move, the website came up and is now functional.

Planned Parenthood, the target of a recent smear campaign by right-wing propagandists, suffered two on-line attacks this week: one involved theft of data from the organization's databases and the other was a Denial of Service attack that brought the organization's site down on Wednesday. Planned Parenthood's site, although recovered, remains off-line today.

"This bullying behavior is part of a brtoad and consistent pattern by anti-abortion zealots who want to interfere with personal decision-making," a statement from the National Network of Abortion Funds said. "Instead of spending our time fighting off anti-abortion harassment, we would prefer to be working towards more affordable reproductive health care, great economic security and the ability of people to support and protect their families."

"For us, this is a matter of human rights and reproductive justice,” said Dr. Jackie Smith, a member of May First/People Link's Leadership Committee and Coordinator of the International Network of Scholar/Activists. "These attacks on groups that are working to ensure that all women have access to comprehensive reproductive health care deny women their rights as equal members of our society. These are not only sexist acts, but they also discriminate based on class and race.”

"Our stance in protection of reproductive rights informs our advocacy on the rights of women to access and use technology safely and without fear of harassment; to be represented fully in the ranks of those who control this technology; and to use communications technology to facilitate a discussion about the important issues about and facing women. Clearly the people who attacked these websites seek to curtail not only those rights but the discussion of those issues and the use of the Internet to have that discussion. We, as an organization, won't let them."

May First/People Link is a membership organization specializing in Internet work with members world-wide, primiarily in the United States and Mexico.

Fred Whitehead: "Political Strategy 101" @ Free The State

This essay originally appeared at the new "Free The State" web site July 25, 2015.

In this “summer of discontent,” Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has declared his candidacy for the office of President. Most of the mass media initially portrayed this as a kind of political curiosity, a “last stand” of what remained of the Left in this country. Right away, however, Sanders began to attract sizeable crowds, not only in “Blue” States, but in places like Arizona. Pledging not to accept corporate donations, Sanders seems to be building some momentum anyway, depending instead on many small
contributions from supporters.

Furthermore, Sanders spelled out a platform which included planks such as free college tuition, increased money to restore our infrastructure, reversing climate change, raising the minimum wage, health care as a right, etc. When challenged by reporters that such a platform resembles Scandinavian socialism (actually “social democracy”), Sanders has not flinched, but responded: “Why not?” So in many ways, Sanders represents a surprising new force in American politics.

Already it seems clear that Sanders is mobilizing people who have simply been ignored by the political establishment. Most mainstream Democrats lack any kind of visionary capacity. These same Democrats often actually prefer a status quo, which they can control and manage. Large-scale participation of millions of people threatens that control, which they define as “stability.” We only need to harken back to the ill-fated candidacy of Senator George McGovern in 1972 to realize that much of the leadership of the Democratic Party will sabotage anyone with the slightest tint of “socialist” radicalism.

However, there is a much more serious, fundamental problem facing the revival of any kind of Left in America. And no one is talking about it. This is a failure of the most simply, basic kind of political thinking, namely a failure to begin the process of actually taking power. Nauseated by corruption, brutality and stupidity everywhere evident, including, and especially in the mass media, many people recoil from “politics,” especially the electoral process. The politicians and their media actually approve and support this mass turn away from elections, because it leaves their power intact. Indeed, the one thing they fear is mass participation, which could undermine, if not wholly destroy their power.

It is passing strange that Sanders and his supporters apparently have no strategy to run people for office. We have a long history in this country, of relying on messiahs to “save” us: Nader, Obama, etc. The idea is if we just elect a “good” President, all else will follow. The Republicans, on the other hand, aimed at developing and consolidating power at all levels, from local school boards to State Legislatures. While the Left was dreaming, the Right did their homework and the hard work.

Senator Sanders was long associated with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). I do not know if he is still a member, but the DSA is solidly behind him now. As a group that emerged from the old Socialist Party, DSA resolved not to become a political party as such, but rather to work as a kind of pressure group within the Democratic Party. Their members are around 7,000. According to their website, they do not run any candidates for office, but may from time to time, support those who do. So they have no strategy at all to build, let alone seize political power in cities or States.

I have implored people involved in opposition to the present extreme Right-wing legislature in Kansas, to run for office. Not as individuals, but as a movement. But I can find no “takers.” Again, this concedes power to the Right-wing.

Historically in Kansas, there has been a hegemony of the Republican Party, dating back to the foundation of the State, out of the turmoil of the 1850s. [Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861, in large part because the Congressional delegations of many Southern States had left Washington.] To be sure, we have had Democratic Governors within living memory, and even, occasionally, Democratic majorities in the Legislature. But typically, there was a working agreement between the Republican moderates (based in the suburbs of the major cities), and the Democrats, based in the cities. In recent years, supported by church-based Tea Party activists, the moderates were defeated, and the Right took control.

Considered from a sociological standpoint, the moderates were what are called “country club Republicans”—responsible, respected attorneys, bankers, doctors, etc. They never campaigned hard, because they didn’t need to. But the religious Right, starting out under Reagan, mobilized whole new groups, who finally overthrew these elites. As a friend of mine in western Kansas, a respected attorney, lamented: “My Party left me.”

Now, my late father, Bryan Whitehead, a railroad worker, and “yeller dog” Democrat, was a perceptive student of the political process in Kansas. He noted that registration of potential Democratic voters in the cities was low. But if they did register and did vote, they could potentially control Kansas politics, or at least become a decisive factor, if not always an outright majority. The Tea Party did for their “base”—the rural voters, who tended to be conservative anyway, what the Democrats rarely even tried to do for their base—the working class.



NEXT INSTALLMENT: POLITICAL STRATEGY 102, "HAMMERING OUT THE DETAILS"

Read the next installment and more articles, links to a Bernie podcast at FREE THE STATE.

Robert Reich: "How Goldman Sachs Profited From The Greek Crisis" @ The Nation

Matea Gold: "Inside the Koch Network's Plan To Create A Permanent Ground Force" @ Washington Post via McClatchy

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Alfredo Lopez: "Sexism, Racism and 'Corporate Pressure'" @ This Can't Be Happening!


The Internet -- always ablaze with controversy -- is a wildfire these days with revelations about more pernicious government spying, deals between governments and corporate "hacker companies", and Ellen Pao's resignation as head of Reddit.

I'll have things to say about the rest later this week but the Pao blaze is shining brightest right now and there are some important lessons to be drawn from it.

Since last Fall, Pao has been the "interim CEO" of the privately held corporation (a subsidiary of Conde Nast) that owns one of the Internet's most remarkable phenomenon. In its ten years of existence, Reddit has grown so large and become so complex that it defies definition.

At its core, it's a message board system, but with 160 million users and tens of thousands of message boards under its roof tied together by dizzying interaction, it is the closest thing the Internet has to a city. True to Internet culture, it's run by a kind of anarchistic democracy. People start message systems (called "subreddits") whenever they want about whatever they want and users who start them moderate and control them. You can post text, photos, links to any kind of content you want (including videos) and people answer each other constantly.

For the most part, it works wonderfully, making it potentially a model for larger societies -- except that in this case the "mean user" is male between 18 to 29 years old and living in the United States. Whether that particular demographic is a cause or an effect, the fact is that this is no utopia. While most subreddits are friendly informative communities talking about the subreddit's subject, there are subreddits that are virulently sexist, homophobic and racist. Reddit can, and sometimes does, quickly turn into a lynch mob of immature young men acting destructively and viciously.

Ellen Pao was brought in to deal with the craziness; the craziness has forced her out.

Essentially, the Internet is a giant community comprised of billions of people who connect to each other in virtually every way humans can redefining human relationship and significantly enhancing communication. What's more, the Internet is fundamentally designed by its users. It is as close to world-wide democratic communications as human society has ever come.

Reddit has developed a way of concentrating that collectivizing energy by building a system of sharing and conversation that is, for the most part, regulated by the people who use it.

What's it like? Make a list of the first five things you did today: maybe rising, eating breakfast, perhaps reading a paper or watching the news, riding or driving someplace and starting work. Now search for each activity on Reddit and you'll find several subreddits on that very topic: people sharing information, debating it, providing links on it, posting photos or videos of it...


For the rest of this article by ALFREDO LOPEZ in ThisCantBeHappening!, please go to www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/2802


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Please use the handy Paypal button at the top of our home page, or send a check made out to David Lindorff/TCBH at POB 846, Ambler, PA 19002

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thomas Witt: "Brownback Has Gone Too Far" @ Equality Kansas

HERE BE, RESISTANCE!
Click here to donate and read the news.


This essay by our Radio Free Kansas "Wednesday With Wit" co-host was excerpted by the Kansas City Star ed/op columnist Barb Shelley and hinted at during the show, which airs 6:30AM (Central, USA) every Wednesday on the Radio Free Kansas station.

[Excerpt]   ... His order is an affront to religion and people of all faiths. More damning, however, is Governor Brownback’s unlawful and unconstitutional power grab. In his order, Brownback claims authority over “all departments, commissions, boards, agencies, and political subdivisions of the State of Kansas.” With those words, Governor Brownback has just declared himself the supreme ruler of every local school board, every state university, every community college, and every independent commission, hospital board, library board, township, city and county in our state.


This is not the statement of a democratically elected governor who honors his oath to the constitutions of the United States and the State of Kansas. This is the unhinged raving of a tyrant and a dictator. ... [End of Excerpt]


Read more at Equality Kansas.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Sustainability Action Network Newsletter, 7 July 2015 @ Discomfit Magazine

Tom Tomorrow: "Health Care Glossary Update" @ Daily Kos Comics

Andres Cala: "Greek 'No' Vote Spurs Wider Resistance" @ Consortium News

Dave Lindorff: "The Greek People Have Voted "No" to Austerity and Economic Blackmail" @ This Can't Be Happening!


Something huge has happened in Greece, though you wouldn’t know it if you rely on the US corporate media for your information.

That reporting has, with rare exceptions, followed the party line that a bunch of naive “leftists” led by Greece’s relatively young and new prime minister Alexis Tsipras and his motorcycle-riding radical economist finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, have pushed Greece “to the brink of chaos” through their ineptitude. This same biased reporting has been pushing the argument that Greece has “no choice” but to swallow even more austerity, selling off all its public assets to circling capitalist vultures, in the vain hope that someday the country’s economy will bottom out and begin “growing” again.

The reality of what has just happened is quite different. Actually, Greece has suffered seven years of austerity the likes of which countries like the US and northern Europe haven’t seen since the Great Depression. Unemployment is over 20% (50% for young people!), and there is no end in sight if the so-called Troika -- the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank -- continues to hold the country by the throat, demanding regular payments on a debt that even the IMF admits can never be repaid.

Far from being naive or inept, Tsipras, Varoufakis and the ruling Syriza Party have done two remarkable things brilliantly -- one of which should not really be remarkable at all, except that the so-called “free world” has moved so far away from real democracy at this point that it’s forgotten what democracy is, and the other of which would not have been necessary were the global media not so fawning towards ruling elites in their respective countries.

The first of these two things was the bold decision by Tsipras to hand the question of what to do next in Greece to the Greek people, by allowing them to vote on whether they wanted to surrender to global and European bankers and the governments of the world’s wealthiest nations, or wanted to say “No!” to further demands for austerity. When Tsipras walked away from further bailout negotiations and made his surprise call for that referendum, and when the Greek parliament backed him by passing a bill setting the poll up, a cacophony of doomsaying pundits in Europe, the US and the Greek conservative media all warned the Greek people to “see reason” and to “vote for Europe,” as though voting against more austerity would inevitably mean pariah status for Greece.

There was a kind of smug gloating over early polls showing that a majority of Greeks planned to vote “Yes” to accepting whatever the banks and the European Union demanded, or later, when it appeared that the vote would be close...

For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, uncompromised, five-time Project Censored Award-winning online alternative newspaper, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/2797

PLEASE SUPPORT OUR FIRST-EVER FUNDRAISER!

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Please use the handy Paypal button at the top of our home page, or send a check made out to David Lindorff/TCBH at POB 846, Ambler, PA 19002

Sam Zeff & Matthew Hodapp: "Then And Now, Former Senators Compare And Contrast Kansas Legislatures" @ KCUR 89.3fm Podcast

Saturday, July 04, 2015

"As Walker Announces Run for the White House, WI GOP Guts Open Records Law" @ Center for Media and Democracy


July 3, 2015

"Cowardly" Move Directly Related to CMD's Lawsuit Over "Drafting Error" Documents

On the same day that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced his run for president, the Wisconsin GOP has proposed a virtual gutting of Wisconsin's open records law, long considered one of the best in the nation. The drastic changes were proposed in a last-minute, anonymous budget motion, with zero public input on the eve of a holiday weekend. The motion will be rolled into the state's massive budget bill and voted on in the coming weeks.

The unprecedented proposal would give lawmakers broad authority to hide the special interests who are working to influence legislation. It would keep legislative drafting files under wraps, create a new "deliberative materials" exemption in the open records law that would exempt records at all levels of government, and give the legislature an easy way to hide even more records from disclosure in the future.

The move to gut the open records law appears to come in direct response to a lawsuit that the Center for Media and Democracy filed against Governor Walker in May.

CMD was the first to reveal that Walker's office had struck the "search for truth" from the university's mission and eliminated the "Wisconsin Idea," and sued Walker after he withheld records pertaining to the changes, based on a claimed "deliberative process privilege. Although Walker's lawyers claim there already exists a deliberative privilege in Wisconsin law, that clearly is not true, because if it were, his allies in the legislature wouldn't have to add one through the budget process.

The sweeping proposal would gut the public records law as it applies to the legislature and governor's office, hiding special interest influence over public policy. The measure would help candidate Walker sidestep public scrutiny as more and more national media outlets file records requests with his office. The Joint Finance Committee chairs, Sen. Alberta Darling (R) and Rep. John Nygren (R), have refused to say who asked for the changes.

Bill Lueders, president of the transparency watchdog Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, called the proposal a "cowardly" and a "shocking assault on the state’s long and proud tradition of open government."

"These radical and sweeping changes represent a full-frontal attack on Wisconsin’s history of open government," Lueders said. "They are clearly intended to block the public from discovering what factors drive the official actions of government, especially the Legislature, and will inevitably lead to abuse, malfeasance and corruption."

Ron Sklansky, a former senior staff attorney at the nonpartisan Wisconsin Legislative Counsel for 35 years and one of the attorney experts on open records, told CMD he had never seen a legislative proposal put forward that was as "devastating" to the open records law as this one. The measure is "almost a complete gutting of open records as it applies to the legislative and executive branch. It prevents the public from investigating the undue influence of special interests on the passage of legislation and the development of executive branch proposals and rule making," he said.

Although the proposal passed the Joint Finance Committee along party lines--with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats against--the move has prompted outrage across the political spectrum. The president of the right-wing MacIver Insitute, Brett Healy, said the proposal "looks to be a huge step backwards for open government." Wisconsin's Republican Attorney General, Brad Schimel, said "Transparency is the cornerstone of democracy and the provisions in the Budget Bill limiting access to public records move Wisconsin in the wrong direction."

The proposal would:

1) Create a new "deliberative materials" exemption

The amendments would exempt all "deliberative materials" from disclosure under the public records law, protecting anything that might have informed a policy decision.

"Deliberative materials" are broadly defined as “communications and other materials, including opinions, analyses, briefings, background information, recommendations, suggestions, drafts, correspondence about drafts, and notes, created or prepared in the process of reaching a decision concerning a policy or course of action.”

This measure could protect the disclosure of communications, draft legislation, or background materials from groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, or "ALEC." It would allow legislators to hide their communications with lobbyists or campaign donors seeking policy favors. And it would allow the governor to hide how the executive budget was developed--including, for example, how, and why, his office might have sought to alter the purpose of the university system.

2) Allow legislators to hide the identity of any person who communicates about the development of policy

This could allow lawmakers to hide the special interests who are working to influence legislation.

For example, CMD has filed an open records request with Joint Finance Chair Alberta Darling, who received thousands of dollars of contributions from Bill Minahan, whose company Building Committee Inc. received a $500,000 unsecured loan from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), then promptly went bust leaving taxpayers to foot the bill.

The Wisconsin State Journal used the open records law to take a deep dive into this loan, documenting that it came shortly after Minahan gave Walker a $10,000 contribution and linking it to Walker’s chief of staff Keith Gilkes and second-in-command Mike Huebsch. Most recently, the State Journal discovered that Minahan loan had not gone through the underwriting required by law and many more loans failed to go through proper underwriting, putting millions of taxpayer dollars at risk.

WEDC has been the subject of two damning state audits which documented continued lawbreaking at Walker’s flagship jobs agency. Shortly after the last audit was published, two legislators threatened to get rid of the highly respected non-partisan audit bureau. CMD sent records requests to Reps. Adam Jarchow and David Craig, curious as to who was behind the radical move to destroy the audit bureau, but has not yet received their response.

3) Hide the "drafting files" showing how legislation is developed

"Drafting files" reveal the process of developing a bill or budget provision, and are used regularly by journalists to gain insight into how policy is developed. And those insights can sometimes be embarassing.

Drafting files were key to undermining Walker's claims about his offices changes to the Wisconsin Idea. After the deletion of the "search for truth" sparked a "political firestorm" in Wisconsin and around the country, the governor blamed the change on a “drafting error,” and then on a “miscommunication,” then claimed that the university never raised concerns about the changes. Yet those statements were contradicted by the drafting files examined by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and documents obtained through records requests, earning Walker a “pants on fire” rating from Politifact.

Drafting files also informed other important investigations. In 2014, for example, a Wisconsin State Journal examination of drafting files showed a wealthy, divorced donor to Rep. Joel Kleefisch helping to write a bill that would have lowered his child support payments. If these amendments were enacted, those records--and the donor's influence--would have been kept secret.

Additionally, drafting records aren't just important for accountability, "they are needed by the courts to discern the legislative intent behind the construction of statutes," said Sklansky who noted that legislative intent was a consideration in the recent Supreme Courts ruling on the federal health care law last week.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, for example, a former Republican legislator, regularly consults drafting files and legislative records to ascertain legislative intent.

4) Allow the legislature to override the Public Records Law via legislative rule

The proposal also gives the legislature the ability to exempt any additional records from disclosure merely by adopting a new rule by majority vote--without having to go through the legislative process.

By eliminating access to records that had previously been public, this move limits the ability of the press and public to play their watchdog role. Taken together with proposals to dismantle the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board (after it investigated alleged campaign finance violations by Walker's campaign) and the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (after it critiqued Walker's jobs agency in a scathing audit), all evidence indicates that Governor Walker and his allies are seeking to muzzle the watchdogs.

Click here to see proposal.

Bernie Sanders: July 1, 2015 Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Madison, WI.

June 30, 2015