Friday, January 28, 2011



This is Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live at approximately 11:30 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington.

In Part One: Goodbye Jack LaLanne, global unemployment, political prisoners – Lori Berenson and Bradley Manning, Oscar’s Top Ten, Vermont’s challenge to corporate “people,” Internet taxes, and the rumor of the week.

Live Stream:

Now for the state of the union – at least the president’s version of it. Obama started strong on Tuesday night, going for the heart by playing the Tucson card. He followed up his reference to the tragic Arizona shooting with a great rhetorical jujitsu move. He took a desperate desire to feel united – we’re “bound together as one people,” he proposed, and “we share common hopes and a common creed” – and he combined it with the idea that the country is special. He didn’t use the word exceptional, a favorite of the GOP these days. But he did say we’re “set apart as a nation” and returned to the idea later.
Then he went after the opposition. It was a brief attack, and subtle. “We will move forward together, or not at all,” he said. Cliché, but it’s also a way of saying, Hey GOP, get serious. We’re in this together. He called it “shared responsibility.” So, don’t screw up, guys. It was sort of a threat, but also a challenge.
From there Obama dove into his main argument, which is basically – things have changed. That makes sense, since promising change was how he got there. Here’s how he started: “You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors. If you worked hard, chances are you’d have a job for life, with a decent paycheck, good benefits, and the occasional promotion.”

But the “rules” have changed, he said. Technology has changed, the world itself has changed – and, by the way, countries like India and China have discovered how to compete. He didn’t mention it, but most people suspect they’re cleaning our clocks.

And still he promised that “The future is ours to win….But to get there, we can’t just stand still.” Which led directly to the basic theme of the speech – we’re in a race, a race about “winning the future.” Fortunately, he has a three point program for winning: encouraging innovation, educating our kids, and rebuilding the country.

He linked innovation – “it’s how we make a living” – to the free enterprise system and Sputnik. The proposition is that we’re having a “Sputnik moment.” What’s that? Apparently a race into some new, uncharted territory. To win the innovation race, he called for government investment in biomedical research, information technology, and clean energy technology. Republicans, of course, say investment is just another word for spending, something they normally don’t like – unless it’s military. By the way, Obama also called nuclear power, coal, and natural gas clean energy sources. So, winning the future also involves some magical thinking
The second race – to educate our kids – is complicated. It goes on everywhere – in homes, communities and, obviously classrooms. And it involves raising standards, making college affordable for more people, and regaining an old title: highest proportion of college graduates in the world. In a strong move, Obama also related education to immigration, talking about working together on a tough issue. Here’s the best line: “let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.” Practical and inspiring.

The third race – to rebuild America – was basically about infrastructure, a favorite word for politicians. Obama spoke specifically about high-speed rail and high speed wireless. Apparently winning this one involves increased speed. No surprise there.

But to win these three races some barriers need to be removed. One of them, he claimed, is the tax code. Here’s where it gets tricky. Obama argued that some businesses get away with murder using lawyers and loopholes, but the rest have to deal with what he called “the highest corporate tax rates in the world.” It was classic Clinton, a triangulation move designed to disarm the Republicans and persuade some of their base. He wants to get rid of loopholes, he said, but will use the savings to “level the playing field” and “lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years.”

He used the same tactic with health care, saying he wouldn’t bend on protecting the basics in health care reform but, at the same time, offered to work on fixing flaws like “an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.”

These speeches usually have at least one specific proposal. In this case, it was Obama’s plan to “freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.” This will include both things he likes – he mentioned community action programs – as well as the military. He was doing fine here until he tried to be funny. Sometimes humor works for Obama. But this attempt to be clever didn’t:

“Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact.”

You could hear the crickets. Somebody should explain that plane crashes are a comedy killer.

He soon recovered, however, triangulating like a crazy man on the deficit. But once he did that, there was a bold pivot. Just a month after orchestrating a lame duck session compromise on taxes, he said, “we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.” Then he challenged the GOP to “forge a principled compromise that gets the job done."

Getting things done will apparently also involve “reorganization,” another favorite fallback for politicians and bureaucrats. In Obama’s case the promise is to “merge, consolidate, and reorganize the federal government,” an idea he linked to the information age but sold with another joke:

“the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”

He got the laugh this time. At that point, about 45 minutes into the speech, Obama finally made it to relations with the rest of the world. He talked about “America’s moral example,” another mythical but very popular concept. This part of the speech requires some translation. For example:

“Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high; where American combat patrols have ended; violence has come down; and a new government has been formed.”

In other words, we won.

“Our purpose is clear – by preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe-haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.”

Translation: Forget about places like Yemen. They’re small and hard to find on a map.

“…we have sent a message from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe: we will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you.”

Translation: Hey, I can do Bush bravado as well as anyone.

“We have reset our relationship with Russia...”

You know, it’s like rebooting a PC.

“Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power – it must be the purpose behind it. In South Sudan – with our assistance – the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war. Thousands lined up before dawn. People danced in the streets.”

Yes, we are special. Can you hear the music?

“let us be clear: the United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.”

Translation: I can also do Reagan. And then came the longest standing ovation of the evening. It followed this standard power play – the patriot card:

“We must never forget that the things we’ve struggled for, and fought for, live in the hearts of people everywhere. And we must always remember that the Americans who have borne the greatest burden in this struggle are the men and women who serve our country.”

Score! But then he spoiled it, at least for me, with this:

“Our troops come from every corner of this country – they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim.”

What? Nothing for atheists. Then this:

“I call on all of our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and the ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. It is time to move forward as one nation.”

Even Bernie Sanders stood up. But I couldn’t tell whether he was excited about the return of ROTC or the idea of getting beyond divisiveness. In either case, I’m worried. But the main point was this:

“…as contentious and frustrating and messy as our democracy can sometimes be, I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.”

Translation: We’re still number one. And very special.

Since it’s becoming harder to accept this notion on pure faith, he backed it up with the American dream – always a winning argument. In this case, he used it not only to sell his case but to achieve another goal – making House Speaker John Boehner cry. Here’s how he did it:

“That dream is why someone who began by sweeping the floors of his father’s Cincinnati bar can preside as Speaker of the House in the greatest nation on Earth.”

The waterworks opened. Mission accomplished.

We were in the wrap up now. Here he used a vignette, in this case about a small business guy named Brandon Fisher, who helped rescue the Chilean miners last year using something he called “Plan B,” a new type of drilling equipment. But the important thing was a catch phrase one employee provided. Obama, who is also Marketer-in-Chief after all, adopted it for the country:

“We do big things.”

About a decade ago, Michael Moore released a movie about downsizing called The Big One. The idea was that it might be a good new name for the country. Obama has taken the next step – giving the country a slogan: “We do big things.” Perfect. Those “things” may be violent, radical, wasteful, brilliant, selfish – whatever. But at least they’re big. He was giving the people what they want, a sense – however misguided – that we’re big and special and can never be stopped.

He ended with this:

“…our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong.”

Why? Because he says so. USA, big, fast, winning the race for the future. Sounds exciting.

It’s week 526, 3682 days since the country was taken hostage in a court-ordered coup. This is Greg Guma with the Rebel News Round Up for January 28, 2011 on WOMM-LP. Broadcasting from high atop the Radiator’s 50-storey skyscraper in beautiful downtown Burlington, here in the People’s Republic of Vermont.

* This is an edited transcript and does not include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additions.

Thursday, January 27, 2011



Jimmy Buffet fell off a stage in Sydney, Dennis Kucinich sued a restaurant chain over a defective sandwich, and Jay-Z announced his black remake of Annie. It was another strange week. The Oscar nominees were also announced, and ten pictures, rather than the old five, were nominated as the best. It’s a diverse list. Five of the noiminees went with realism and contemporary themes: A dramady about lesbian parents and their children, a true adventure in which the hero survives by cutting off his arm, a Rocky-style, working class boxing saga, a dark tale of survival in the Ozarks, and a sharp look at social network entrepreneurs with limited social skills. I’m talking about The Kids Are Alright, 127 Hours, The Fighter, Winter’s Bone, and The Social Network.

The other five included a neglected piece of British history – The King’s Speech, a ballet melodrama – Black Swan, another installment of Pixar’s franchise – Toy Story (3), a western remake from the Cohen brothers – True Grit, and a special effects mind game from Christopher Nolan – Inception.

At this point, it’s hard to predict a winner. But one odd fact has already emerged. In the acting categories, for the first time in more than a decade, not a single non-white person was nominated.

Maybe they could add a special Oscar – best performance by a politician. Obama might have a chance there, although he’d be up against Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Darrell Issa, John Boehner, and more. They’re certainly actors. After all, they’ve convinced millions of people that they care about something more than their own careers. Bravo playas.

But Obama remains the man to beat. Who else could sell a slogan for the entire nation: We do big things. More on that later (in Part Two). As Denzel Washington put it in his own Oscar-winning role in Training Day, King Kong ain’t got nothing on Barack. This week, in a special report, we’ll consider his most recent performance in the State of the Union address.

Which leads to this week’s question: Is our Muslim Manchurian Candidate making a comeback?


This is Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live at approximately 11:30 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington.

This Week: Deconstructing the State of the Union. Plus, goodbye Jack LaLanne, global unemployment, political prisoners – Lori Berenson and Bradley Manning, Oscar’s Top Ten, Vermont's challenge to corporate “people,” Internet taxes, and the rumor of the week.

Live Stream:


People are crazy and times are strange
I'm locked in tight, I'm out of range
I used to care, but things have changed

-Bob Dylan, Things Have Changed



Last week marked the end of an era – or at least of an icon. In 2006, Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru, said "I can't afford to die. It would wreck my image." He was over 90 at the time and still pumping iron. Last Sunday his image took an inevitable hit when he passed away at age 96.

This was the man who told millions of underdeveloped kids that they didn’t have to let bullies kick sand in their faces. For decades he inspired TV viewers to stay trim, eat well, and exercise. He was instrumental in turning diet and exercise into big business. And he followed his own instructions right until the end.

LaLanne died of respiratory failure due to pneumonia at his home in Morro Bay on California's central coast. So, thanks Jack. You can take a break now. Have a cookie.


Americans are constantly hearing about the US unemployment rate. But the problem is really global. According to the International Labor Organization, worldwide unemployment was 250 million in 2010, hurting everywhere although slightly less in emerging economies like Brazil.

So far the so-called global recovery has had no impact on jobs. Actually, 27.6 million more people have lost their jobs since the crisis began. It’s not expected to change much this year. What are the hardest hit nations? The most developed. Meanwhile, more than 1.5 billion people have had to accept temporary work to get by.


More than 15 years ago a young New York activist was tried and convicted of aiding terrorists in Peru. Only 26 at the time, Lori Berenson was accused of helping rebels in the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement to plan an armed takeover of Congress. The attack never happened, but Berenson was sentenced to life in prison for sedition in a trial before hooded judges. After intense US government pressure, she was re-tried in 2001 and sentenced to 20 years for terrorist collaboration.

Well, she’s finally free. A Peruvian appeals court has rejected the attempt of a prosecutor to revoke her parole last year. This ends eight months of legal purgatory. But she still can’t leave Peru until her sentence ends in 2015 – that is, unless President Alan Garcia decides to commute it.

The judges said that Berenson has "developed projects for a future life, grounded in motherhood." Basically, they say she’s been rehabilitated. Berenson says she wants to return to New York, where her parents are professors, and work as a translator.
As the time she was convicted Berenson was unrepentant. But since her initial parole last May she has expressed regret. Specifically, she helped the rebels rent a safe house. But she still insists that she didn't know guns were being stored there and denies engaging in anything violent. As Berenson sees it now, she was a politically convenient scapegoat.


You may not consider Lori Berenson a former political prisoner. But young Bradley Manning certainly appears to fit the role. And his detention may turn out to be illegal. According to NBC, military officials say that their investigators haven’t been able to directly connect the Army private, who is suspected of leaking secret documents, with Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks.

Last week David MacMichael, who once ran the facility where Manning is being held, wrote a letter to Marine Corp Commandant James F. Amos. In part, he said:

"I wonder, in the first place, why an Army enlisted man is being held in a Marine Corps installation. Second, I question the length of confinement prior to conduct of court-martial. The sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing to the accused in all criminal prosecutions the right to a speedy and public trial, extends to those being prosecuted in the military justice system. Third, I seriously doubt that the conditions of his confinement -- solitary confinement, sleep interruption, denial of all but minimal physical exercise, etc. -- are necessary, customary, or in accordance with law, U.S. or international.

"Indeed, I have to wonder why the Marine Corps has put itself, or allowed itself to be put, in this invidious and ambiguous situation. I can appreciate that the decision to place Manning in a Marine Corps facility may not have been one over which you had control. However, the conditions of his confinement in the Quantico brig are very clearly under your purview, and, if I may say so, these bring little credit either to you or your subordinates at the Marine Corps Base who impose these conditions.

"It would be inappropriate, I think, to use this letter, in which I urge you to use your authority to make the conditions of Pfc. Manning’s confinement less extreme, to review my Marine Corps career except to note that my last duty prior to resigning my captain’s commission in 1959 was commanding the headquarters company at Quantico. ..."

There is also a new song on YouTube about Manning by David Rovics.



Following up on last weeks’ discussion of corporate personhood and David Cobb’s visit to Vermont, I’m happy to report that state Senator Virginia Lyons has introduced an anti-corporate personhood resolution in the Vermont Legislature. The resolution is the first of its kind in the country and proposes “an amendment to the United States Constitution that provides that corporations are not persons under the laws of the United States.” Chances of passage are good.

Last year the Vermont Senate became the first state legislature to weigh in on the future of a nuclear power plant, voting to shut down Vermont Yankee. Now they’re looking at the rest of corporate America. Here is some of the language:

“The profits and institutional survival of large corporations are often in direct conflict with the essential needs and rights of human beings,” it says. They “have used their so-called rights to successfully seek the judicial reversal of democratically enacted laws” and governments have become “ineffective in protecting their citizens against corporate harm to the environment, health, workers, independent business, and local and regional economies.”

The resolution also points out that large corporations own most of America’s mass media and use them to project a corporate political agenda and to “convince Americans that the primary role of human beings is that of consumer rather than sovereign citizens with democratic rights and responsibilities.” With such things in mind, the resolution concludes that the “only way” toward a solution is amendment of the Constitution “to define persons as human beings.”

Cobb, who is leading the Move to Amend campaign, calls the resolution an historic document. He told Alternet, “This is the first state to introduce at the legislative level a statement of principles that corporations are not persons and do not have constitutional rights. This is how a movement gets started. It’s the beginning of a revolutionary action completely and totally within the legal framework.”

It could work. After all, an ABC New polls recently found that 76 percent of Americans oppose the Citizens United decision, which has defined corporations as people and opened up the floodgates for contributions to elections.


Vermont is also looking at the tax system. A Blue Ribbon Commission has recommended a sales tax on Internet commerce. According to the Commission, “the explosive growth in e-commerce presents a devastating threat not only to state sales tax collections but to the health of retail commerce in their downtowns." It estimates that $30 to $40 million in tax revenues is being lost to e-commerce.

This wouldn’t be a new tax, at least that’s the claim. Vermonters are already supposed to declare Internet purchases on their tax forms. But only 25,000 currently admit to making out-of-state purchases and the state collects a mere $850,000. Clearly, some people are having memory problems.

Before you object, consider this: for some retailers it’s a survival issue. Economist Art Woolf has documented a decline in retail in Vermont towns along the New Hampshire border since the introduction of a Vermont sales tax. Now towns across the state face a challenge from online sales. Many local retailers say customers visit their stores to learn about a product, then buy it online. In the most recent holiday season, retail sales grew around 3 percent. But online sales grew in the double digits and are now over 10 percent of all retail sales.

Selling online also creates opportunities for some Vermont businesses. But many actual stores – as opposed to virtual ones – are being squeezed by online sellers who don’t charge sales tax. This is important in protecting downtowns. Vermont’s remaining local stores are part of what makes the place special.

The problem is that a court case has concluded that a company must have a "nexus," or a business presence, in a state if it’s going to collect sales tax. So, if you buy online from a company with a store in Vermont they collect sales the tax. A recent hope was that a "Main Street Fairness Act" would help. The idea was to develop a process for collecting online sales tax. But the "no new taxes" crowd killed that one.


GPS testing is a cover for…something bad

The Federal Aviation Administration recently issued a press release to pilots saying that the Department of Defense is testing the GPS system off the southern Atlantic coast. The tests have begun and will continue until February 11. But turned this into a rumor by including the following line: “Don't panic, but anyone planning on using GPS in the southeastern US for the next month or so will likely want to make sure they have a fallback option."

That was more than enough. Chat rooms exploded with rumors that the Defense Department is hiding something — war games off the coast, scientific experiments in the Bermuda Triangle, a plot to make the system more accurate in finding us or our cars for government tracking. Who knows?

In reality, Defense developed GPS after the original Sputnik moment. It was released for public use under an executive order in 1983. Ever since, the Defense Department has been in charge of software upgrades and satellite maintenance.

In January 2010, after an upgrade the Air Force lost about 10,000 signals. Current testing in the Atlantic may really be underway to protect against long-term disruptions in advance of another upgrade. The tests take 45 minutes, followed by a 15-minute blackout. Pilots are advised to contact control towers and check for outages before they take off. The rest of us don’t have much reason to worry. Or do we?


Analysis of the State of the Union address

...Until then, just keep in mind what the president said this week. If we want to stay special and win the future – and we all want that, don’t we? – we have to do big things. After all, the future is now and the race is on. So, citizens start your engines.

It’s week 526, 3682 days since the country was taken hostage in a court-ordered coup. This is Greg Guma with the Rebel News Round Up for January 28, 2011 on WOMM-LP. From Burlington in the People’s Republic of Vermont.

* This is an edited transcript and does not include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011



It’s been almost 40 years since President Nixon and Henry Kissinger opened up relations with China. Since then the People’s Republic – no, not Vermont – has avoided major conflicts, kept its military spending down, developed its manufacturing base, and raised millions out of extreme poverty. Along the way, when the US needed money China was more than willing to oblige.

But now the US is deeply in debt. It owes China about a trillion dollars, with more borrowing highly likely. Basically, China has become banker for the nation. As a result, its leaders now feel free to challenge US policies. They don’t agree on capping greenhouse gases and aren’t willing to go along on North Korea or Iran. Meanwhile, China is buying up raw materials – including so-called rare earth resources –while beginning to build up its military.

On the other hand, the two nations do share some vital interests. According to Robert Weil, author of Red Cat, White Cat: China and the Contradictions of Market Socialism, both want to stabilize the current global capitalist system. Where they disagree is on “the best means to carry out the exploitation of the working class” and division of the spoils. “China is challenging the US 'right' to dominate East Asia, economically, politically, and militarily,” Weil says. “This leads to a schizophrenic relationship and an increasingly dangerous rivalry.” Thanks to Sam Husseini for that quote.

Last week, as President Hu met with Secretary of Defense Gates, China simultaneously tested a new stealth fighter and publicly criticized US arms sales to Taiwan. The basic message – between the lines – is that the days of US dominance may be coming to an end – militarily and economically. Like many people in this country, Chinese leaders have serious doubts that the US economy will fully recover, that the borrowing will stop, or that it can regain its competitive edge.

So, the question for this week is: Are we seeing a basic power shift? If the US can’t even control its domestic bankers, how does it expect to deal with China? In short, does America, and perhaps the rest of the world, have a new boss?

This is Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up, broadcast live at approximately 11:30 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington.

This Week: Baby Doc vs. Haitian justice, one small step for space tourism, Julian Assange defends himself, an informer in Minnesota, a libertarian progressive movement, gun violence in Vermont, amending the constitution to control corporations, Burlington’s candidate gap, dead cows, and the rumor of the week.

Live Stream:
Call-in: (802) 861-9666



Former Haitian President Jean Claude Duvalier, who went into exile 25 years ago, made a surprise return from his refuge near Paris last Sunday. He only planned to stay in Haiti for a few days. But on Tuesday Haitian prosecutors charged him with corruption and embezzlement. Now he can’t leave.

The main charges against Duvalier stem from $4.6 million that his family held in Swiss bank accounts. Swiss authorities almost released the money to Duvalier in 2008, but authorities in Haiti blocked that. They argued that the money was part of hundreds of millions of dollars that Duvalier embezzled from the government.

The accusations are actually pretty mild against someone widely blamed for one of the darker chapters in Haitian history. Duvalier’s regime is accused of kidnapping, torturing and murdering thousands of political opponents. The case against Baby Doc represents a strong step by a country with a long history of ignoring horrendous abuses, one where leaders rarely face prosecution – , that is, if it goes anywhere.

Duvalier took control of Haiti in 1971 when he was 19, inheriting power after the death of his father Francois Duvalier, or Papa Doc, who mixed politics and voodoo. Their dynasty used a security force known as the Tonton Macoute to brutally repress opponents and dissidents. Baby Doc was forced to flee the country in 1986 when repression and social convulsion pushed Haiti to the brink of civil war. The outcome was the election of a priest, Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was forced into exile twice – during each of his terms as President.

For the record, Baby Doc, an un-elected dictator and former president for life, couldn’t have returned to Haiti without the cooperation of the US and France, according to Elizi Danto, president of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network. But Aristide, who was democratically elected, hasn’t been allowed to come home from exile in South Africa.


Virgin Galactic, the private spaceflight company started by Sir Richard Branson, had another modest success last week. Its commercial spaceship completed a second successful suborbital test. Dubbed the VSS Enterprise, it was carried high above the spaceport Branson has built in New Mexico, then released by a mothership called the WhiteKnightTwo. Sometime soon the Enterprise is expected to begin carrying six passengers and two pilots, taking them to the edge of space for a spectacular view of the Earth and several minutes of weightlessness. A short but very sweet $200,000 adventure vacation.

Meanwhile, the nearly completed Spaceport America – hub of Virgin Galactic's space travel operations – is being evaluated at the request of newly appointed New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez. The state-of-the-art launch site is located near Truth or Consequences – that’s the town’s name – and is expected to become fully operational this year.

Spaceport America works closely with a number of aerospace firms, including Lockheed Martin, to realize Branson’s dream of commercial travel into space. Branson also launched the Carbon War Room, which is where Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss made contact with Lockheed to discuss its interest in partnering with Burlington.

So, do we get a spaceport – or at least a few seats on the Enterprise? If not, how about some flight time on an F-35 – if they end up based at the airport?


If you’re worried about corporate consolidation – or democracy – you probably aren’t too pleased with the FCC’s decision to OK a merger between Comcast and NBC. Actually, it’s a takeover by Comcast. The decision was announced on Tuesday, with a few conditions. The Department of Justice has also said yes. With a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal, Comcast will own most of the network's channels, including CNBC and Bravo, as well as the Universal movie studio.

One condition is that Comcast gives up management of the portal website Hulu. It also has to promote competition in the video marketplace. According to the FCC approval letter, Comcast-NBCU must increase its news coverage, expand children's and Spanish language programming, offer broadband services to low-income people at reduced prices, and provide high-speed broadband to schools, libraries and underserved communities. It must also offer customers the option of having Internet service separate from a cable bundle - for the next seven years at least.

Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps opposed the vote. He warned that it "reaches into virtually every corner of our media and digital landscapes and will affect every citizen in the land. It confers too much power in one company's hands." Senator Al Franken called the deal a "tremendous disappointment."

Bernie Sanders says the FCC and the DOJ have “ignored their mandates to protect the public interest and preserve competition" by approving the deal. "At a time when a small number of giant media corporations already control what the American people see, hear, and read, we do not need another conglomerate with more control over the production and distribution of news and other programming," Sanders says.

The American Cable Association estimates that the merger will cost consumers $2.4 billion over a nine-year period, with higher monthly cable bills and subscription costs. That’s something to keep in mind in Burlington, where some people say the city should sell off Burlington Telecom. If that happens, the Queen City may again become one small piece of a vastly expanded Comcast media empire.


The US Justice Department has established a secret grand jury in Virginia to indict Wikilweaks founder Julian Assange under a discredited espionage act. The obsolete law was used to arrest peace activists during World War I. Judicial experts call it a “deliberate set up” since this area of Virginia is home for many employees of the Pentagon, CIA, and Department of Homeland Security.

In Switzerland Rudolph Elmer, a banker who publicized private client data on WikiLeaks, has been found guilty of breaching banking secrecy and threatening former colleagues. But he was given only a suspended fine. The prosecution had called for an eight-month jail term.

Journalist John Pilger talked to Assange last week about this and other developments. Despite the threats, Assange claims the US is not WikiLeaks’ main technological enemy. That honor goes to China, he told Pilger. “China has aggressive, sophisticated interception technology that places itself between every reader inside China and every information source outside China,” Assange said. “We’ve been fighting a running battle to make sure we can get information through, and there are now all sorts of ways Chinese readers can get on to our site.”

The US is obviously out to get Assange. In fact, US Vice President Joe Biden has declared him a “high tech terrorist.” Yet Assange is just as worried about what will happen to Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower, who is being held in conditions that the US National Commission on Prisons describes as “tortuous.” Pilger calls Manning “the world’s pre-eminent prisoner of conscience.”

In 2008 candidate Barack Obama said government whistleblowers “are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.” Since winning, however, he has prosecuted more of them than any other president in US history.

“Cracking Bradley Manning is the first step,” Assange argues. “The aim clearly is to break him and force a confession that he somehow conspired with me to harm the national security of the United States. In fact, I’d never heard his name before it was published in the press. WikiLeaks technology was designed from the very beginning to make sure that we never knew the identities or names of people submitting material.”

According to Pilger, he added: “I think what’s emerging in the mainstream media is the awareness that if I can be indicted, other journalists can, too. Even the New York Times is worried. This used not to be the case. If a whistleblower was prosecuted, publishers and reporters were protected by the First Amendment that journalists took for granted. That’s being lost. The release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, with their evidence of the killing of civilians, hasn’t caused this – it’s the exposure and embarrassment of the political class: the truth of what governments say in secret, how they lie in public; how wars are started. They don’t want the public to know these things and scapegoats must be found.”

The US State Department recently issued a warning to human rights activists, foreign government officials and business people identified in leaked cables about possible danger from exposure. This is propaganda, Assange claimed. In a letter to Congress, he noted, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has admitted that no sensitive intelligence sources have been compromised. NATO in Kabul has told CNN it couldn’t find a single person who needed protecting.

Javier Moreno, the editor of Spain’s El Pais, which has published WikiLeaks material, writes, “I believe that the global interest sparked by the WikiLeaks papers is mainly due to the simple fact that they conclusively reveal the extent to which politicians in the West have been lying to their citizens.”

Pilger’s favorite leak so far is from the Ministry of Defense in London. It describes journalists who serve the public without fear or favor as “subversive” and “threats.” He calls that a badge of honor.


In a new article, author Ron Jacobs reports that Minnesota’s AntiWar Committee, which was raided last September by the FBI for alleged “material aid to terrorists,” has learned that they had an informer in their midst since 2008. The informer went by the name Karen Sullivan and claimed to be a single parent and a lesbian. After getting involved in the Committee, she traveled to Palestine with two other members. When they reached Israel, however, they were told to turn back. The two who chose to stay were detained. “Sullivan” went back to the US.

As it turns out, Israeli authorities had prior knowledge of the visit and the plan to meet with Palestinian women. But no one in the group could figure out how this happened at the time. It now appears that “Ms. Sullivan” provided information to her handler, who forwarded it to US officials. From there it was apparently passed on to the Israeli government.

Jacobs concludes that the discovery of such an informer demonstrates that the government “will stop at nothing in their attempt to silence protest against their imperial designs.”


An alliance of libertarian progressives could be the political movement of the future. According to Raw Story, the spark may be the greed of the ultra-rich, which could lead to a global youth resistance movement that breaks down old political boundaries. Ralph Nader sees a convergence of liberals, progressives and libertarian conservatives in the wake of a worsening financial crisis. On the Fox business channel, Nader recently called these shifting alliances "the most exciting new political dynamic" in the US.

How could this left-right movement begin? Maybe it already has, thanks to an alliance between Rep. Ron Paul, godfather of the Tea Party movement, and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The most conservative and most liberal members of their respective chambers have teamed up to propose cuts to the US defense budget and push a more thorough audit of the Federal Reserve, the private central bank which controls US currency. Sanders-Paul, now there’s a ticket.



Senseless gun violence isn’t restricted to the Wild West. On Tuesday morning a Vermont teenager was found dead inside a bathroom at Mount Mansfield Union High School. It appears as if he shot himself, although the police are withholding details while they investigate.

Fifteen-year-old Connor Menning was described as a conscientious athlete, a loyal friend, a polite and courteous young man who enjoyed team sports, especially lacrosse and football. “He was a very committed team player,” said Holly Stadtler, whose son played football and lacrosse with Menning.
His death, whether suicide or not, points to at least two things – easy access to guns puts teenagers at risk, and Arizona isn’t the only place with a problem.


Lawyer and former Green Party Presidential candidate David Cobb visited Vermont last week to promote a campaign to amend the US Constitution. The goal is that corporations are no longer legally recognized as people. Cobb spoke in Burlington, Waitsfield and Montpelier, and met with a dozen state senators, 11 of whom who have agreed to support a Vermont resolution calling on Congress to initiate the amendment process.

Exactly a year ago, on January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons. Basically, the Court said that they have the same First Amendment rights to make independent expenditures as natural people, and restrictions prohibiting corporations and unions from spending their general funds on independent expenditures violated the First Amendment. In other words, they’re entitled by the Constitution to buy elections and even run the government.

But critics of the decision say that only human beings are people, while corporations are merely legal fictions. Here is the basic wording of the proposed resolution:

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to: 1) firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights, 2) Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our vote and participation count, and 3) Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate "preemption" actions by global, national, and state governments.

There’s a good chance that a resolution with similar wording can be adopted in Vermont. But other legislative initiatives are also being considered in various states. In Vermont, for example, Jason Lorber (D-Chittenden) introduced H. 299 in 2009. Among several campaign finance provisions in his proposal are modifications to Vermont's public financing system and a provision to regulate reporting and disclosure of independent expenditures.

Last March, Vermont’s Senate Government Operations Committee introduced S.294, requiring sponsor identification information to be included on electioneering communications.

One of the most promising pieces of legislation has come from Maryland, Senate Bill 570. The proposal is to prohibiting a corporation from publishing or distributing campaign material in the State unless the material is true, the board of directors has decided that spending money is in the best interests of the corporation, and both the content of the campaign material and the expenditure have been approved by the stockholders in a vote.

So, maybe Vermont can go farther than recommending that Congress take action. How about some legislation with teeth?


Voters in the Queen City won’t have much of a choice in the City Council elections this March. Half the Council’s 14 seats are at stake, but according to Shay Totten, at best two of the seven races will be contested and just one progressive appears to be running.

Democratic and Independent incumbents in Wards 1, 2 and 5 will apparently run unopposed, as will first time Democratic candidates in Wards 4 and 6. There will be a race in Ward 7: Democrat Greg Jenkins will face off against Republican incumbent Vince Dober. The only Progressive on the City Council, another Vince – Vince Brennan, who was just elected in November to replace Ward 3 Progressive Marisa Caldwell – may also face a Democratic opponent.

The deadline for candidates is next Monday, so if you’re interested (and live in Burlington, obviously) there’s less than 100 hours left to get petitions signed.



According to Sports illustrated, Lance Armstrong may be indicted in a doping scandal. The FDA is currently investigating the period of 1999 to 2004, when Armstrong was a member of the team sponsored by the US Postal Service.

How serious is the inquiry? Very. If Armstrong is proven to be involved, the consequences would be stiff. “If evidence suggests that Armstrong was directing illegal doping activity,” reports Sports Illustrated, “the inquiry could result in charges against him of conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering, drug trafficking and defrauding the US government.”


Sarah Palin was on the defensive this week, trying to prove she was the victim of the Arizona shootings. TV host Regis Philbin and politician chameleon Joe Lieberman announced their retirements, just as a 7.2 earthquake rocked Pakistan. Coincidence? Let’s hope so. And Chinese leader Hu Jintao met with President Obama. Reassuring, isn’t it, when the boss comes to town for a site visit?

Meanwhile the list of mass animal deaths continued to grow. Recent examples includes the dozens of birds found dead in Romania, 300 grackles – tall blackbirds, I’m told – that dropped from the sky in Alabama, and thousands of fish discovered dead in Maryland. Now what? Up to 200 cows have mysteriously been found dead in Wisconsin.

In this case, vets say the cows were probably wiped out by an infectious disease. But the exact cause is unknown at this point. They could have contracted a respiratory condition known as red nose - infectious bovine rhinotracheitis - or Bovine Virus Diarrhea. Police say there’s no risk of illness spreading to other animals or humans.

If you’re a conspiracy theorist, this looks like either another government experiment – or one more sign of the apocalypse. So far this year unexplained animal deaths have been reported in Sweden, the US, Great Britain and New Zealand.

Finally, in strange music news, there’s a new Internet hit – a tribute song to Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. There's a video: Check it out. And here are some of the lyrics:

She’s a cold blast from Alaska,
Ingrained with common sense.
She’s not a Harvard lawyer, but she knew what the Founders meant.
A cold blast from the North,
That freezes Congress in their tracks.
With God and the Tea party, she’s gonna take it back.
Sarah Palin, she won’t listen to their bunk.
Sarah Palin’s coming south to hunt some skunk.
Sarah Palin, she’ll throw them all in jail.

So, look out world. In the meantime, it’s week 525, 3675 days since the country was taken hostage in a court-ordered coup. This is Greg Guma with the Rebel News Round Up for January 21, 2011 on WOMM-LP. From Burlington in the People’s Republic of Vermont.

Thursday, January 13, 2011



Part One – Bernie Sanders’ Sandia Epiphany: Here’s Senator Bernie Sanders in 2009 talking about Lockheed Martin, the biggest defense contractor in the world. Lockheed and other top military contractors were guilty of what Bernie called “systemic, illegal, and fraudulent behavior, while receiving hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money.”

Among other crimes, Sanders mentioned how Lockheed had defrauded the government by fraudulently inflating the cost of several Air Force contracts, lied about the costs when negotiating contracts for the repairs on US warships, and submitted false invoices for payment on a multi-billion dollar contract connected to the Titan IV space launch vehicle program.

A month later, however, he was in a different frame of mind when he hosted a delegation from Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia is managed for the Department of Energy (DoE) by Sandia Inc., a wholly-owned Lockheed subsidiary. At Sanders’ invitation, a delegation from Sandia was in Vermont to talk partnership and scout locations for a satellite lab. He had been working on the idea since 2008 when he visited Sandia headquarters in New Mexico.

In January 2010 he took the next major step – organizing a delegation of Vermonters. The group included Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell; Domenico Grasso, vice president for research at the University of Vermont; David Blittersdorf, co-founder of NRG Systems and CEO of Earth Turbines; and Scott Johnston, CEO of the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, which runs Efficiency Vermont.

Despite concerns about Lockheed’s bad corporate behavior Sanders apparently didn’t think that inviting a subsidiary to Burlington meant helping them to get away with anything. Rather, he envisioned Vermont transformed “into a real-world lab for the entire nation” through a partnership. “We're at the beginning of something that could be of extraordinary significance to Vermont and the rest of the country,” he said.

More on Lockheed and Vermont later. This is Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live at approximately 11:30 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington.

The Question this week: Is the empire collapsing? Then, the Arizona shootings and extreme speech, Digital ID plans, Tom Delay gets easy time, Aerial accidents on Broadway, Unraveling Lockheed’s Burlington plans, plus the rumor of the week.

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About 103,000 new US jobs were reportedly created in December. That sounds promising, but it’s not enough to keep pace even with population growth. As a result, the official unemployment rate fell from 9.8 to 9.4 percent. But what really fell wasn’t the number of unemployed people but the number who are actively looking for work.

People who get discouraged and stop looking aren’t considered part of the work force by most statisticians. Therefore they aren’t counted as unemployed. So, the unemployment rate actually fell because the number of discouraged workers increased, not because employment rose.

The unemployment rate for short-term discouraged workers is actually 16.7 percent. When statistician John Williams ( adds the long-term discouraged, US unemployment as of December goes to 22.4 percent. In other words, more than a fifth of the population.

And what are those 103,000 new jobs? Mainly domestic service work – waitresses and bar tenders, health care workers, and staffers in the retail and wholesale trade.The US has only 11 million manufacturing jobs left. That’s less than 9 percent of the total workforce. Despite the country’s heavy dependence on foreign manufacturing and creditors, the experts in Washington claim the US is still an economic superpower. But the reality is that US corporations have taken too many jobs offshore. That’s big business patriotism.

Last Friday Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the Senate Budget Committee. He warned that the government must get its budget deficit under control or “the economic and financial effects would be severe.” But how do you get the budget under control when the government, regardless of party or president, is committed to basically running the world? The Congress has just passed the largest military budget in history, and there is no indication that any of America’s wars and occupations are near an end.

The financial crisis isn’t over either. More foreclosures and financial sector troubles loom ahead, which will probably lead to more bailouts for those “too big to fail.” The dollar is also in danger. And the Republican prescription? Cut into Social Security and Medicare to pay for the wars and bailouts.

So, the question for this week is: Is the empire collapsing? Even if there is a modest recovery, are its days as the leading economic power in the world winding down?



Back in October, when I returned to radio, my first question of the week was whether extreme ideas and speech led to violent acts, and if those who spread hateful ideas are responsible when someone follows through.

Now we have the shooting spree in Tucson, in which six people including a child were killed, and 14 people were injured, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The relationship between hateful speech and such attacks hasn’t been resolved – but the shootings have put the topic at the center of public attention and debate.

What happened in Arizona wasn’t an isolated incident. It was the culmination of a series of threats and attacks, most in response to Rep. Giffords’ support for health care reform. In November 2009, a visitor brandished a handgun during a "Congress on your Corner" event at a local Safeway. On March 22, 2010, just hours after Giffords cast her vote in favor of health care reform, a vandal jumped a gate and smashed the glass front door of her Arizona office. A few days later the now infamous map featuring Giffords' district in the crosshairs was posted by Sarah Palin's PAC. In announcing the map, Palin issued a tweet urging her supporters "Don't retreat. Instead — reload!” This week, through a spokesperson, Palin denied that the crosshairs targeting 20 Democrats who voted against health care reform represents gun sights. They were really surveyor’s markings. Right.

During last fall’s campaign season, Jesse Kelley, Giffords' Republican opponent, held an event in which he asked supporters to donate $50 in order to "shoot a fully automatic M16" to "get on target" and help "remove Gabrielle Giffords." Palin praised Kelly on Fox Business News, saying "I don't feel worthy to lace his combat boots."

Givern all that, should we be surprised about what happened?


How is Arizona processing its grief over the tragedy. I don’t want to over-simplify, but the legislature is debating whether to allow concealed weapons in colleges and universities. It’s beginning to look like the take away is “arm everyone.”

Even more telling is a new law designed to keep protestors away from the funerals of the six victims. Legislators from both parties want to make it illegal before the weekend to picket within 300 feet of any home, cemetery, funeral home or house of worship before, during or immediately after a ceremony or burial.

House Speaker Kirk Adams, a Republican from Mesa, has conceded that introducing, debating and approving such legislation so fast is "unprecedented.'' But that isn’t stopping them. An aide to Gov. Jan Brewer says she’ll sign the measure as soon as it reaches her desk.


Last week, if you recall, the rumor of the week was the idea that the Wikileaks controversy was a CIA conspiracy designed to crack down on the Internet. While that’s clearly a stretch, there is evidence that the government is using the situation to take some long-anticipated steps.

Case in point: White House officials say that President Obama plans to give the US Commerce Department authority over a plan to create an Internet ID. White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt calls Commerce "the absolute perfect spot in the US government" to centralize efforts toward creating an "identity ecosystem." Civil libertarians can at least take solace in the fact that Commerce beat out the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Now that would be scary.

The administration is currently drafting what it calls the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. "We are not talking about a national ID card," says Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. "We are not talking about a government-controlled system. What we are talking about is enhancing online security and privacy, and reducing and perhaps even eliminating the need to memorize a dozen passwords, through creation and use of more trusted digital identities." I must admit, the password idea does sound attractive.

Details are scarce. There might be a smart card or a digital certificate that proves online users are who they say they are. Digital IDs could be offered to consumers by online vendors for activities like financial transactions. But anonymity may still be possible and the ID itself will probably be created by private companies. Feel better?


The crimes of former Congressional strongman Tom DeLay clearly merit hard time. Among other things, he rigged redistricting in Texas and funneled illegal corporate money into elections. In the resulting court case, he faced up to 99 years behind bars for money laundering, and another 20 for engaging in a criminal conspiracy.

The specific crime that led to his conviction involved the use political action committee to move $190,000 in corporate campaign contributions to the Republican National Committee. Now that Citizens United has opened the corporate floodgates for campaigns, such tactics may no longer be necessary. In the Delay case, the RNC distributed money to Republican legislative candidates in Texas. Those elections shifted state House control to the GOP. Then, at DeLay's behest, legislators redrew Congressional district lines in a way that favored Republican candidates so much that five Democratic incumbents were defeated in the 2004 election.

The defeated Democrats had survived the Republican sweep in 2002. Yet, in 2004, a better year for most Democrats, they lost. It wasn’t just shifting voter sentiment. The defeats were caused by DeLay’s subversion of the 2002 elections and the redistricting process. Unrepentant in court, he explained: "I fought the fight. I ran the race. I kept the faith."

And, in the end he got off easy. The former congressman was sentenced last Monday to three years in jail and ten years probation. Still, DeLay refuses to admit he did anything wrong. His attorneys are appealing the sentence.


In New York theater circles the big story is Julie Taymor’s Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. It’s the most expensive Broadway musical ever staged -- $65 million. Also the most dangerous. Last October an actor broke both wrists when he was catapulted across the stage. Another broke a toe. During the previews, a lead actress got a concussion when she was hit by a rope. A month ago someone fell off a 30-foot platform, fracturing his skull and breaking four ribs. He just got out of rehab.

Meanwhile, ticket sales have soared. Is it the music or the possibility of witnessing an aerial accident?


Part Two – A New Business “Partner”: Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss evidently reached a similar conclusion to Bernie Sanders last November when he signed a letter of cooperation with Lockheed Martin. The plan is to work together on sustainable energy projects. Burlington is the first city in the country to develop such a partnership. Similar to Sanders, Kiss says working with Lockheed will help Vermont remain a leader in addressing energy issues and climate change. Its military work and record of corporate crimes aren’t factors for him.

When I asked Kiss at a Neighborhood Planning Assembly last week whether the plans for the Burlington-Lockheed partnership and a Sandia satellite lab were related, he described the corporation’s offer as “serendipitous.” In short, it is just good fortune, a lucky coincidence, that Lockheed wants to work with Burlington, Sandia is creating a lab here, and Lockheed's F-35 may be stationed a few miles away at the airport.

It was a bit hard to accept. One reason is that the details of both deals were worked out at about the same time and sounded eerily complimentary. During a two-day field trip in early November, just before Kiss announced the Lockheed partnership, Sandia officials again met with Bernie at his office, this time to discuss specific areas for collaborations.

Sanders painted a rosy picture. Businesses, ratepayers and researchers will get a boost. A $1 million DoE planning grant is already in hand and more support from the Department of Energy will arrive as the project gains steam. Sandia Vice President Richard Stulen has confirmed Bernie’s pledge that no weapons development work would be involved. The focus, he promises, would be cutting edge research on cyber security, specifically a “smart grid” that can stop hackers.

Sandia sees Vermont’s energy infrastructure as an “ideal place” to create a model for the rest of the country. The Department of Energy is reportedly impressed with work underway in the state on forward-looking renewable energy technology, as well as a willingness to “tinker with related policies and regulations.” True to the Lockheed playbook, Sandia defines the lab’s mission as energy “security.” But the big carrot is the prospect of not only some jobs but a chance for Vermont businesses to get a “global competitive edge.”

The letter of cooperation between the city and Lockheed backs up this argument. Lockheed Martin Corporation Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Ray O. Johnson has stressed national security and “the economic and strategic challenges posed by our dependence on foreign oil and the potential destabilizing effects of climate change.” The Burlington partnership, he says, will “demonstrate a model for sustainability that can be replicated across the nation."

It’s surely tempting to be a “model” for the nation, not to mention being offered enough money and technical expertise to help make it happen. But such a generous offer also opens up new lines of inquiry, like who exactly is making the offer, why here and now, and whether this eager partner can be trusted.

A related issue is whether it will be more difficult, or even possible, to say no to hosting Lockheed’s big ticket military project – the F-35 – if a close partnership with the corporation and its research lab is in place with the backing of Burlington’s Mayor and the entire Congressional delegation.

Part Three – A Flying Brick in the Green Mountains? For the past decade the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been Lockheed’s largest project. It’s also the largest project in the history of military aviation. As William Hartung explains in Prophets of War, winning the contract preserved Lockheed’s role as the leading producer of combat aircraft.

At first everyone wanted in – the US Air Force, Navy and Marines, the Royal Air Force and Navy, and seven other countries, Having so many buyers and partners was supposed to keep the unit cost down. But as the R & D proceeded, various capabilities and requests collided. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) added technical bells and whistles, hoping to produce a plane that could be used for not only for air-to-air fighting but also for air support and stealth missions. In other words, it was supposed to address the needs of three different military services and several foreign countries.

Lockheed’s problems with the plane came to a head in early 2010, only months after Defense Secretary Robert Gates proclaimed it a viable alternative to building more F-22 Raptors. Only 16 of 168 proposed test flights had been completed, and cost overruns were driving up the price as it became the costliest weapons program in Pentagon procurement history.

Last February South Burlington City Council Chair Mark Boucher sent a letter to the Air Force about the prospect that F-35s might be stationed at Burlington International Airport. Beyond expressing disappointment that the city wasn’t receiving enough notice about meetings, he wanted the military to know that many locals had problems with “bedding” the plane near them. Quite a few homes have already been torn down to make way for airport expansion. “Every home the airport acquires is one less available for a new working family in our City,” Boucher wrote.

There is also concern about the impacts of noise, light and other pollutants, and an increase in traffic as more military personnel arrive. At the very least, the city wants to see and hear an operational plane “so residents can judge the noise at landing and take-off,” hear the pitch of the engines, and see how it compares with the F-16.

The Air Guard responded by holding a public briefing for local leaders in April. Hundreds of residents showed up, many of them concerned about the plan. Sheryl Parker, coordinator of the fed’s Environmental Impact Study, was polite and seemed to say that lack of community support could be a factor in the final decision. But when asked if that meant fighters wouldn’t be based in South Burlington if enough people objected, she replied, "I wouldn't say that."

As it turned out, before the impact statement could be issued Senator Pat Leahy – who takes pride in bringing as much military money to Vermont as possible -- jumped the gun in November with what he considered good news. Without offering any specific reasons he announced that the airport had advanced to a two-member “short list” for the plane.

Congressman Peter Welch touted the Vermont Air Guard’s reputation, Leahy promised that the plane’s noise could be minimized, and Sanders saw the announcement as a “sign of the great national respect and admiration” for the Guard. But for F-35 critics like Juliet Buck, who has tracked the issue for months, the announcement meant something else. It had turned the environmental impact study into a pointless “dog and pony show.”

Funding is another matter. As Congress reconvened last week Defense Secretary Gates continued to insist that, despite years of delay and massive cost increases, the F-35 remains the “heart of the future of tactical combat.” But that didn’t stop him from putting forward a spending plan that includes cuts in the number of planes – “restructuring” in Pentagon-speak – to compensate for all the delays.

Ordering fewer planes doesn’t mean that the Pentagon is reconsidering anything, only that the cost of each will be even higher. Various military branches remain wedded to the plane, whatever the cost. As CBS put it in a December 2010 report, the F-35 is apparently “too big to fail.” Lockheed clearly sees it that way.



Remember those red-wing blackbirds that died in Arkansas on New Year’s Day? Well, here’s a possible explanation – an Air Force KC-767 tanker aircraft transporting Phosgene poisonous gas to Afghanistan that malfunctioned shortly after takeoff from Little Rock Air Force Base.

The charge supposedly came in a report by Russia’s Foreign Military Intelligence Directorate. The story begins at the Pine Bluff Arsenal, also known as “America’s Arsenal,” a base that specializes in chemical-biological defense. In the past, Russia has accused the US of removing chemical agents from Iraq and taking them there for testing and, hopefully, destruction.

The US reportedly relocated an estimated 63,000 metric tons of the poisonous gas Phosgene from Iraq to Pine Bluff between 2003 and 2008. Phosgene is one of the most dangerous chemical weapons ever used. It can literally cause the lungs and respiratory system to explode.

Last September, the government began “accelerated” disposal of the gas by injecting it into the ground in central Arkansas, the Russians claim. Unfortunately, this caused hundreds of small earthquakes. Then the government decided to ship part of the stockpile – the Russians say “massive quantities” – to Afghanistan. Why? Apparently because this poison gas can no longer be legally manufactured by the US. And that makes it valuable as a Weapon of Mass Destruction, especially in a situation where the enemy is firmly entrenched in hostile terrain.

After the aerial release the dead birds were quickly removed by US Environmental Services workers wearing hazmat suits and gas masks. A US report says that cause of death was “trauma in the breast tissue, with blood clots in the body cavity and a lot of internal bleeding.” This is consistent with Phosgene exposure. It was actually the second “accidental” release of Phosgene in as many days. The day before, the same Air Force tanker allegedly had another “critical malfunction,” causing a release over the Arkansas River that killed over 100,000 fish.

What happened next, the Russian report allegedly says, was a murder to cover it all up. The victim was John P. Wheeler III, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force during the second Bush administration, and more recently Special Assistant for Air Force Installations, Logistics and Environment. Wheeler was brutally murdered and dumped in a landfill sometime last week. Delaware police are investigating.

The Wilmington News Journal reports that Wheeler was last seen riding an Amtrak train from Washington to Wilmington. According to Fox News, somebody initially reported that the body was dumped out of a refuse truck. Newark Police told Fox that nobody reported Wheeler missing before he was found.

Wheeler wrote one of the most important manuals on the effectiveness of biological and chemical weapons. In 2009 he was hired as a consultant to the Mitre Corporation. Its aviation development department creates computer systems used by the Air Force on aerial spraying planes. According to the Russian report, when Wheeler discovered what was happening with the Phosgene stockpiles, he went to Washington and threatened to expose the officials responsible. As a Vietnam Veteran he knew about US chemical and biological attacks in that conflict and had vowed to not let happen again.

His mistake, at least if you believe the rumor, was threatening to go public.

It’s week 524, 3668 days since the country was taken hostage. This is Greg Guma with the Rebel News Round Up on The Rose Show. January 14, 2011 on WOMM-LP. From Burlington in the People’s Republic of Vermont.

*This is an edited transcript and does not include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additons.

Thursday, January 6, 2011



In early January Burlington Peace and Justice Center director Nancy Lynch announced she was leaving her job. The timing wasn’t the best, since it looks like Lockheed Martin, one the world’s largest defense contractors – or “global security” company if you prefer euphemisms – may be coming to Vermont's largest city to work on climate issues.

A letter of cooperation has been signed between the city and company. They’ve pledged to “work together and share technical expertise to "explore mutually beneficial arrangements involving sustainable environmental practices and renewable energy projects that can be applied in Burlington and elsewhere."

The most surprising twist – beyond the fact that this is happening in the People’s Republic of Burlington, where Bernie Sanders was once mayor – is that Mayor Bob Kiss, a former conscientious objector, actually solicited the business. The talks began during the Winter Olympics at the “Carbon War Room,” a pet project of the 212th richest person in the world, billionaire Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group. This is the guy selling space shuttle tickets for $200,000 a pop.

So, my question this week: What’s wrong with a partnership between Burlington and a huge defense contractor if the focus is safe energy and climate change? Is it green jobs or green-washing? Is Burlington at long last for sale? We’ll come back to that later. Meanwhile…

This is Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up, broadcast live at approximately 11:30 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington.

This week’s question: Does the Lockheed deal mean Burlington is for sale? Also, the downside of microcredit, the Wiki leaks continue, Goodbye birds and bees, Top Word Hits, Corporate “people” under fire by local government, Gannett furloughs. Plus, more on Lockheed, Burlington and climate change, and the rumor of the week.

Live Stream:
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End of the World Department:
Goodbye Birds and Bees

On New Year’s Eve, thousands of red-wing blackbirds tumbled from the sky in Arkansas. A few days later a flock of mixed birds died in Louisiana. And last Tuesday a hundred jackdaws were found dead on a street in Sweden. A little spooky. Maybe they all just got the flu or became confused. Right?

But what about the 96 percent drop in four common species of bumblebee in the US over the past few decades? At first scientists claimed the decline was likely a result of disease. But then memos suggested the illegal release of pesticides. Bumblebees are key pollinators of wild plants and agricultural crops around the world including tomatoes and berries. A big decline could have devastating implications.

It’s getting strange out here, like the opening of some apocalyptic thriller that doesn’t work out too well.

Recent Wiki-Leaks

Every day, whether we want them or not, we get a few more inconvenient facts. Newly released WikiLeaks cables show, for example, that the US embassy in Paris advised Washington to start a military-style trade war against any European Union country that opposed genetically modified crops. In response to moves by France to ban a Monsanto GM corn variety in late 2007, the ambassador, Craig Stapleton, a friend and business partner of George Bush, asked Washington to penalize the EU and particularly countries that didn’t support the use of GM crops. That’s multi-lateral negotiation.

Another bunch of cables show that high US government officials have obliged special requests from foreign heads of state to help close big deals for Boeing. Call them incentives, or pay offs. In 2006, a senior Commerce Department official hand-delivered a personal letter from George W. Bush to the office of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, urging the king to complete a deal with Boeing for 43 airliners, including some for the king's family fleet. As part of the deal, the King wanted his personal jet "to have all the technology that his friend, President Bush, had on Air Force One."

Once he had his high-tech plane, the King said, "God willing," he would "make a decision that will 'please you very much.'" The US authorized an upgrade for Abdullah's plane.

Still another cable describes a November, 2009 meeting between a high-level delegation of Israeli and American political, military and intelligence operatives. On the agenda was the US delivery of 100 bunker-buster bombs to Israel, meant to be used to assault Iran's fortified nuclear facilities.

Those attending the meeting urged "that deliveries should take place in silence so that we could avoid allegations that the U.S. government was helping Israel to prepare for an attack on Iran."

On the bright side, we have a heads up on the next war.

Reality Check: Microcredit Has a Downside

For years one of the most popular programs helping the world's poor has been microcredit, the practice of making small loans to very poor people. It’s a multibillion-dollar business. But microfinance companies have been accused of predatory lending and collection practices so harsh that they’ve driven borrowers to suicide. In India, one state government has enacted legislation that will, in effect, put microlenders out of business.

The idea is altruistic enough: give a small loan to a very poor person to buy an asset that will help her work her way out of poverty. The typical client is a poor woman living in a slum or a rural village. She might earn money as a farm worker or selling vegetables at the side of the road. The theory is that as little as $200 could allow that woman to buy more goods to sell, or a couple of goats to milk, or a sewing machine to make clothing. It’s "up-by-your-bootstraps" capitalism, so appealing to thinkers in the developed world that one of the pioneers of microfinance, Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

But in India microcredit doesn't come cheap. The cost may be shocking to anyone who has borrowed for a car or a house. Brace yourself, says Vijay Mahajan, president of the Microfinance Institutions Network. “The typical interest rates are in a range of 24 to 30 percent per year,” he reports. “Most people find it very hard to see that this interest rate does any good to poor people who are the recipients."

Happy Anniversary Gitmo

On January 11, the prison at Guantanamo will enter its 10th year of operation, despite Barack Obama's campaign promise to close it. 174 men are still imprisoned there. It’s one of the most obvious promises that hasn’t been kept and a prime cause of that growing political disorder – Obama Fatigue.

Going After Corporate People

The campaign to legislate a way past the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision isn’t completely new. According to Allen D. Kanner, writing on the Move to Amend website, since 1998 more than 125 cities and towns have passed ordinances that put citizens' rights ahead of corporate interests. They’ve banned corporations from dumping toxic sludge, building factory farms, mining, and extracting water for bottling. Many have even refused to recognize corporate personhood.

Over a dozen towns in Pennsylvania, Maine, and New Hampshire have recognized the right of nature to exist and flourish (Ecuador has done the same in its new constitution). Four municipalities, including Halifax in Virginia, and Mahonoy, Shrewsbury, and Packer in Pennsylvania, have passed laws imposing penalties on corporations for chemical trespass – in the form of involuntary introduction of toxic chemicals into the human body.Communities are also beginning to band together. When Pennsylvania’s attorney general proclaimed, "There is no inalienable right to local self-government," and then threatened to sue Packer Township for banning sewage sludge, people were outraged. Six other towns adopted similar ordinances and 23 others passed resolutions in support of their neighbors.

Bigger cities are joining the fray. In Pittsburgh, council member Doug Shields is trying to ban corporations in the city from drilling for natural gas, a damaging practice known as "fracking." As Shields put it, "Many people think that this is only about gas drilling. It's not. ­It's about our authority as a municipal community to say 'no' to corporations that will cause damage to our community. It's about our right to community, to local self-government."

Why is this happening? Here’s a typical story. Local citizens oppose a corporate practice, let’s say toxic sludge dumping. It’s taken a huge toll on health, the economy, and the natural surroundings. They fight for years for regulatory change, only to discover a bitter truth: the system consists of interlocking state and federal laws designed by industry to serve corporate interests. The deck is stacked. They can’t stop corporations from destroying the local environment for the sake of profit – at least without changing laws.

Now Vermont may be getting into the act. Work is underway to introduce a Move to Amend resolution in the State Legislature. Which brings us back to corporations and the Queen City…


War and Peace in Burlington

Once upon a time a bold independent socialist said “Burlington Is Not for Sale.” But at the opening of 2011, 30 years after Bernie Sanders first ran for mayor, a contract has been announced between the City of Burlington and Lockheed Martin, one of the largest defense contractors. Irony Alert. But it’s not defense work. Rather, it is supposed to include “joint work” on sustainability and climate adaptation analysis; energy and transportation technologies; solar photovoltaic systems; electric car technology; property-assessed clean energy (PACE); and “three-dimensional light detection and ranging (LIDAR) city model.” In other words, good stuff.

So, as I asked earlier, what could be so wrong about a partnership between local government and a big company, even if it is a defense contractor, as long as they’re working together on turbines and solar power? To start, it could lead toward privatizing not-for-profit projects like PACE, which lets US home owners bundle home renewable energy financing into their mortgage and spread out the payments. But a more controversial aspect is the plan to connect Burlington school children with Lockheed Martin engineers.

When General Dynamics started distributing pencils, bookmarks and books stamped with their corporate logo a few years ago, Burlington parents and students were upset. Told to attend an assembly to listen to General Dynamics employees, one nine-year-old at Champlain Elementary asked her mom, "Are we for bomb-makers?”

Peace activist Joseph Gainza recently told Jonathan Leavitt*, who has been leading the questioning of the Lockheed contract, "I would hope that the City of Burlington and the Burlington School District wouldn't let a corporate member of the military industrial complex take credit for solving the climate change problems it helps everyday to perpetuate."

Meg Brooke, Chair of Chittenden County Progressives, says of Lockheed's involvement with students: “I am deeply concerned by the way we normalize violence and war and desensitize our young to the horror our military perpetrates, especially on the young, women, and the elderly. Welcoming one of the leaders of this military industrial complex into our schools goes against all I, and many others, believe. I do not want young Vermonters to see the Lockheed logo on TV and have a positive thought about what that business might have done in their school.”

Leavitt met recently with Kiss to discuss the issue. The Mayor called the offer “serendipitous” and said the contract will go forward despite local objections. He apparently wasn’t concerned that a huge defense company might be using the city’s good name to lend it environmental legitimacy. There will be no outreach, beyond informing the City Council. Kiss also wasn’t persuaded by discrimination lawsuits filed against Lockheed, even though the Progressive Party platform insists on having contracts only with responsible employers and favors coops and local business to multinationals.

By the way, the F-35 fighter plane, which may end up stationed at the Burlington Airport, is a Lockheed project.

A few Lockheed facts: 84 percent of its revenue comes from the US government, the majority Pentagon contracts. The company spent $10 million on lobbying just in 2010. Berne Sanders himself has noted that it has been involved in dozens of instances of misconduct and paid huge fines.

Progressive City Councilor Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (Ward 3) said in a statement, "When any municipality considers partnering with a corporation there needs to be some sort of conversation around a set of standards and principals that reflect the community. With Burlington those standard would need to include language to reflect issues long enshrined in the fabric of the City's life: human rights issues, equality issues, peace and war issues. Any agreement or discussion needs to be guided by these community standards, be it on a project level or a policy level. Sometimes the money involved in a potential deal or partnership is not enough to compromise these principals. This deal, frankly, considering Lockheed's long track record would violate any reasonable community standards for the City of Burlington."

Burlington has many NGOs, non-profits and local companies already doing environmental work. So, another question is why Burlington even needs Lockheed to deal with climate change? Progressive Party Chittenden County Chair Meg Brooke warns that it will “take credit for twenty years of grassroots organizers blood and sweat.”

In the irony department, there’s also the idea of Lockheed working on climate change when it’s the single largest purchaser of oil in the world (363,000 barrels a day). Again, Chittenden County Progressive Chair Meg Brooke: "The military is the number one enemy of sustainability and Lockheed isn’t going to do much to change that as their money comes from manufacturing machines that are completely unsustainable. Their F35’s, which threaten our environment, use 2,000-4,000 gallons of fuel and hour."

At the end of his meeting with Mayor Kiss, Leavitt asked to what degree the outraged grassroots of Burlington could affect the outcome. Would civil disobedience, for example, have any influence on the contract? Kiss eventually replied, "Well there's nothing date certain in it. This is just a letter of intent, it doesn't have specific benchmarks for specific projects."

To some people that sounds like an invitation to organize and push for a public hearing to reconsider the whole deal. Maybe even making Burlington a no-fly zone for the military-industrial complex. Or better yet, to set clear standards for the kind of business Burlington wants.

* Thanks to Jonathan Leavitt for much of the research in this story.


The Words according to Google

Sam Smith, a DC-based journalist, keeps a running list of the words and phrases that get the most Google hits. Here are the Big Words from the past month. Feel free to free associate…

First, the top 20 Google word hits. In first place, with 11 billion hits, are those obsession-creating six letters – Twitter – followed by his voyeuristic half-brother Facebook and their tedious uncle Blog at 10 billion each. Google itself got 4 billion hits. Other big words are 5. Tweet (3.1 billion), 6. Amazing (1.8 billion), 7. Awesome (1 .5 billion), 8. Marketplace (1.4 billion), 9. Embed and embedded (1.4 billion), 10. Absolutely (1.1 billion), 11. Fuck, fucked and fucking (894 million), 12. Inappropriate (851 million), 13. Empire, imperialism, and imperial (807 million), 14. Shit (656 million), 15. Epic (a new entry with 630 million), 16. Enhanced (555 million), 17. Concerns (435 million), 18. Guru (370 million), 19. Context (339 million), and 20. Closure (302 million).

And here are the current Top (mainly Cliché) Phrases. First place goes to “Prior to” (408 million), then “I/we/you have a situation” (148 million). 3. “As a matter of fact” (125 million), 4. “Next generation” (123 million), 5. “No problem” (114 million), 6. “Check it out” (86 million), 7. “All new” (47 million), 8. “Resolve the issue” (40 million), 9. “State of the art,” 10. “Best practices” (32 million), 11. “Day one” (28 million), 12. “World class” (28 million), 13. “Take full responsibility” (25.1 million), 14. “Partner with us” (25 million), 15. “Bottom line” (24 million), 16. “Real time” (21 million), 17. “Homeland security” (21 million), 18. “Top notch” (18.8 million), 19. “In terms of” (17 million), and 20. “Policies and procedures” (11 million).

Now a chant, words to unite your mind with cyberspace:

Bottom line, no problem. We have a situation. Empire. Homeland Security. Absolutely inappropriate. Epic and embedded. But let’s take full responsibility, resolve the issue -- in real time, in terms of closure and the marketplace. We need policies and procedures, best practices, enhanced, real time, top notch, world class, all new, next generation. From Day One. Amazing? Awesome. State of the art.

(That’s about 27 of the top 40 words and phrases, and very relaxing meditation by the way. Check it out.)

Rumor of the Week: Wilileaks is a CIA plot

This rumor has been circulating for several weeks. I got it from F. William Engdahl, a writer who thinks the whole Wikileaks situation is fishy. To Engdahl and others it looks like a less-than-believable movie plot: A hacker holds the President and his State Department hostage to a gigantic cyber “leak” unless he and his comrades are allowed to release hundreds of thousands of pages of sensitive US Government memos. In reality, goes the rumor, the so-called leaks support the US agenda around the world from Iran to Russia to North Korea. Bottom Line: It’s actually a huge US intelligence con job which will be used to crack down on the Internet.

The notion here is that the whole course of the leaks controversay advances a long-standing Obama and Bush agenda. The government has already shut the Wikileaks server in the US, although no identifiable US law has been broken. More evidence? Ok, policing the Web was underway before the current leaks scandal. In 2009 Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller and Republican Olympia Snowe introduced the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 (S.773). The idea was to give the President unlimited power to disconnect private-sector computers from the internet. The bill "would allow the president to 'declare a cyber-security emergency' relating to 'non-governmental' computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat." It could become a top priority when a new Republican House gets to work.

The US Department of Homeland Security has already begun to crack down on the Internet. They are quietly seizing and shutting down web domains without due process or a trial. Homeland Security simply seizes domains and posts a "Department of Justice" logo on the site. Over 75 websites were seized and shut in one recent week.

At the moment, the focus is websites that supposedly "violate copyrights." But at least one seized,, contained no copyrighted content whatsoever. It was just a search engine that linked to destinations where people could access copyrighted content.

What’s coming? Cyber censorship to combat cyber terrorism? Virtual Fascism? And ultimately, Max Headroom? Stay Tuned.

Until then, it’s week 523, 3661 days since the country was taken hostage. This is Greg Guma with the Rebel News Round Up* on The Rose Show. January 7, 2011 on WOMM-LP. From Burlington in the People’s Republic of Vermont.

*This is an edited transcript and does not include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additons.