Thursday, February 15, 2007

John Howard's Iraq Stance Deeply Unpopular With Most Australians


Australian Prime Minister John Howard raised eyebrows when he took aim at Sen. Barack Obama with a vicious attack that used the sort of language that one usually encounters only in the right-wing nutcase blogosphere.

In criticizing Obama's call for the removal of U.S. combat forces by March 31, 2008, Howard had this to say:

"I think that will just encourage those who want to destabilize and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for an Obama victory. If I were running Al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats."

It's interesting how Howard seems to be so concerned about bringing democracy to Iraq, when he has utter contempt for democracy in his own nation.

The fact is, Howard ignored the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the Australian people in 2003 when he committed Australian troops to Bush's "Coalition of the Willing."

An astonishing 76 percent of Australians opposed their nation participating in the U.S.-led attack on Iraq. The Australian Senate even voted to censure Howard for committing 2,000 soldiers to Iraq.

Some cynics have noted that perhaps there was some ulterior motive for Howard's participation in the Iraq invasion.

In fact, in Jan. 2005, the U.S. and Australia signed The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) perhaps the most important bilateral economic agreement ever undertaken by Australia, (which was viewed by many observers as a reward for Australian loyalty in the U.S. war on terrorism).

In any case, Howard's utter contempt for doing what the Australian people want appears to have finally caught up with him.

A recent poll shows that Australia's opposition Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd has overtaken Prime Minister John Howard in popularity ahead of elections later this year. The ACNielsen survey of 1,412 voters found that 65 percent of Australians approve of Rudd, the highest satisfaction rating for an opposition leader in the poll's 35 year history. The Associated Press noted that recent polls have suggested that voters are growing increasing unhappy about Howard's involvement in the Iraq war.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Speaking Out Against Excessive CEO Pay Is Bush's Most Cynical Move Yet


No doubt, George W. Bush's handlers must have looked on with envy when Sen. Jim Webb spoke eloquently about America's increasing economic polarization in his Democratic rebuttal to Bush's tepid SOTU address.

Clearly, Webb's well-received speech struck a chord among millions of working class Americans, who are working harder than ever these days for increasingly less and less pay.

One of the key tactics in politics is to never let your opponents define an issue (and to get behind the eight-ball on any issue that strikes a chord among the people).

But when Bush's team had him speak out today about excessive CEO pay, it smacked of extreme desperation from an increasingly out-of-touch White House. Bush speaking out against spiraling CEO compensation is like Charles Manson speaking out against violence.

Bush has presided over six years of the most vicious screw-the-working-class policies in the history of this nation. Only the Ronald Reagan years would come close to the lousy deal that working people have faced under Bush.

Americans are working longer hours than ever these days. Median workers' pay continues to stagnate or decline. Worker benefits are vanishing. Unions are under assault from six years of hostile anti-labor legislation under Bush.

The only people who've benefited under Bush have been wealthy stockholders and CEOs, whose pay has soared into the stratosphere (even as their taxes have plunged under Bush).

Bush's criticism of CEO pay was, quite frankly, bizarre. For a quarter of a century, Republicans have been trying to convince America that unbridled, brutal, dog-eat-dog capitalism is the way to go. Under this logic, there is really no such thing as "excessive" CEO pay.

Surprisingly large number of Americans initially bought into this bullsh*t when Reagan first proposed it. But 25 years later, ordinary Americans have woken up to the reality that only the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans are benefiting from this concept, while the rest of us are falling further behind every year.

Webb is one of a growing number of Democratic leaders who have spoken eloquently about America's economic polarization. He's clearly struck a nerve among America's shafted working class.

But for Bush to try to pick up the ball and run with it on this issue is laughable. Even right-wing talk radio and the fascist nutcase right-wing blogosphere must be scratching their heads in puzzlement.

A decade ago, the NeoCon movement was brash, bold and arrogant. Its members were cocky and confident that they could sell ordinary voters on their vision of a new America, completely deregulated and privatized, with no cumbersome unions or labor laws (or anything else to put on crimp on corporate profits).

Nothing has demonstrated the complete and utter failure of the NeoCon movement than its own crown prince, Bush, taking aim at excessive CEO pay. (Or at least pretending to: no one in his right mind really thinks that Bush cares about how much CEOs pull down---or that he will take any action whatsoever to curb CEO pay).

Americans have finally woken up to the concept that if you let corporations run amok, with no regulation, they will screw everything in sight (from the environment to their workers) and the only people who'll benefit are CEOs and rich stockholders.

In fact, Americans are increasingly becoming aware that the Bush economic model goes beyond even screwing workers and outsourcing their jobs, even as taxes on the wealthy plummet.

The worst part of Bush's economy actually isn't economic polarization, as bad as that is. The worst part is that Bush has conspired to turn America's economy into nothing less than socialism for the rich. Halliburton is just the tip of the iceberg. In today's America, corporations pocket some $300 billion in corporate welfare annually (even as 60 percent of corporations pay zero taxes these days).

In fact, the tax burden in the U.S. over the years has been shifting from corporations to individual taxpayers. In the 1950s, corporations paid around half of all taxes. Today, their burden has shrunk to less than 10 percent (as has been documented by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Donald Barlett and James Steele).

So after six years of screwing the working class and taking our money and handing it over to his wealthy friends and contributors, Bush is now suddenly styling himself as a populist "man of the people"? For an administration that has long been noted for lies, deceit and corruption, this has got to be Bush's most cynical move yet.