HB Gary Federal CEO Resigns in Wake of Anonymous Attack

Aaron Barr

After being turned into a laughingstock by the Wikileaks-defending activist hacker group “Anonymous,” HB Gary CEO Aaron Barr has stepped down.

The announcement comes three weeks after Barr became the target of a coordinated attack by members of the online mischief making group Anonymous, which hacked into HBGary Federal’s computer network and published tens of thousands of company e-mail messages on the Internet. HBGary did not respond to telephone and e-mail requests for comments on Barr’s resignation.

In an interview with Threatpost, Barr said that he is stepping down to allow himself and the company he ran to move on in the wake of the high profile hack.

“I need to focus on taking care of my family and rebuilding my reputation,” Barr said in a phone interview. “It’s been a challenge to do that and run a company. And, given that I’ve been the focus of much of bad press, I hope that, by leaving, HBGary and HBGary Federal can get away from some of that. I’m confident they’ll be able to weather this storm.”

Good luck with that. For a nice, lucid explanation of what happened, along with numerous informative links, please refer to Sima’s recent post, Opening the Hive.

Here’s a quick and dirty summary of what Barr did to invite the attentions of Anonymous:

Barr had found himself at the center of a scandal that began when he told the Financial Times he planned to reveal the names of some “leaders” of the hacker group Anonymous. Anonymous responded by hacking HBGary Federal’s site, stealing 71,000 emails from the company and its sister firm HBGary, and defacing Barr’s Twitter account.

[....]

But the worst was yet to come. Anonymous posted HBGary’s emails in a searchable format, and the ensuing press scrum exposed a darker side to HBGary Federal’s business that offered a variety of dirty tricks on behalf of clients. In a proposal intended for Bank of America and written on behalf of a law firm referred to the bank by the U.S. Department of Justice, Barr suggested borderline illegal tactics that aimed at responding to a potential release of the bank’s documents by WikiLeaks. Those methods included cyberattacks, misinformation, forged documents, pressuring donors and even blackmailing WikiLeaks supporter and Salon journalist Glenn Greenwald. In another deal, HBGary suggested similarly a shady response to the Chamber of Commerce in its campaign against the Chamber’s political opponents including non-profit organizations and unions.

Another corporate buffoon bites the dust. Good riddance. Of course there are probably plenty of others like him still employed by HB Gary Federal.


The Republican War on Nearly Everybody

Republicans don’t seem to be able to help themselves any more. They’ve adopted the policy that no public good is a good public good.  Shortsightedness appears to rule their doctrine and policy measures.  The war on American Women is just one instance. Here’s Agent Orange telling Christian Extremists that defunding  planned parenthood is just one “battle’ that’s part of a “war” that he wants to win. Evidently forced pregnancy and death in childbirth appear to be front and center on Speaker Boehner’s list of priorities.  I’m warning you that this comes straight from the American christian version of the taliban so venture over to that site at the risk of killing some brain cells.

David Brody: “Can you commit to them that (defunding Planned Parenthood) will stay in the CR no matter what?”

Speaker John Boehner: “The continuing resolution passed 10 days ago did in fact defund Planned Parenthood and that bill has gone over to the United States Senate. They, like the House were out last week. What they’ll do with that bill I have no idea. In the short term CR though our focus is on cutting spending and making sure that we keep the government open. In order to get this through the House and through the Senate and signed by the President by March 4th, we’re not going to take any big chances on the fact that they’re looking for an excuse to shut down the government. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer they’ve been rooting for a government shutdown. We do not want to give them an excuse to do that.”

David Brody: “But then again with Planned Parenthood and this whole situation we know what’s going to happen in the Senate. It’s not going to be part of the CR. The pro-life community wants the GOP leadership to stand firm here in conference and is that a line in the sand?”

Speaker John Boehner: “The goal here again is to cut spending and keep the government open. I met with a lot of religious leaders earlier today to talk about the strategy and I think it’s important that we understand that what we want to do here is win the war not just win a battle and there will be an opportunity sometime in order to win the big war and we’re looking for that opportunity. I don’t think this short term CR is the opportunity that will get us there.”

David Brody: “So in essence you’re saying if it comes to that you’re not going to shut down the government over the defunding of Planned Parenthood.”

Speaker John Boehner: “There are a lot of options on the table but I don’t think in the short term CR (Continuing Resolution) this is the opportunity we’re looking for.”

There is absolutely nothing pro-life about these people.  It is merely about out and out ownership of women and their bodily functions. They will not be satistified until they set up a police state whose function it will be to check the results of women’s monthly cycles and enforce breeder status on every functioning uterus. This is seriously sick.

It’s just not reproductive rights that are at stake here.  It’s the funding of nearly all services that support the health and well being of women, pregnancies, and children.  The speaker is sadly obsessed with one small part of a huge federal budget.  This can only be seen through the lens of christianist extremism.

Speaking to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, Boehner vigorously supported a recent House vote that defunds the organization entirely, a move that would strip it of more than $75 million in government cash.

Currently, the organization is allowed to apply government subsidies to all services except abortion procedures. Critics argue that restriction is too limited, saying that applying the government’s money to other procedures leaves more of the group’s own cash on hand to allocate to abortion-related services.

“The goal here again is to cut spending and keep the government open,” Boehner said of the move to defund the organization, in an interview published Sunday. “I met with a lot of religious leaders earlier today to talk about the strategy and I think it’s important that we understand that what we want to do here is win the war not just win a battle and there will be an opportunity sometime in order to win the big war and we’re looking for that opportunity.”

The defunding vote from the lower chamber came as part of a continuing resolution that included dramatic spending cuts across a range of programs. The Democrat-controlled Senate is set to consider the spending bill this week and is likely to reject a significant amount of the GOP’s spending cuts, including those that affect Planned Parenthood.

We’ve seen the erosion of women’s autonomy and individual liberties now for decades.  There has been a method and a madness to the religious zealots who seek to enact specific religious tenets into the laws and funding of our national priorities.   This type of thinking has reached a zenith in crazyland.  Let me just remind you that Georgia legislature wants every single miscarriage investigated for possible wrongdoing.  Rational thought has left the building.

It’s only February, but this year has been a tough one for women’s health and reproductive rights. There’s a new bill on the block that may have reached the apex (I hope) of woman-hating craziness. Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin—who last year proposed making rape and domestic violence “victims” into “accusers”—has introduced a 10-page bill that would criminalize miscarriages and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal. Both miscarriages and abortions would be potentially punishable by death: any “prenatal murder” in the words of the bill, including “human involvement” in a miscarriage, would be a felony and carry a penalty of life in prison or death. Basically, it’s everything an “pro-life” activist could want aside from making all women who’ve had abortions wear big red “A”s on their chests.

I doubt that a bill that makes a legal medical procedure liable for the death penalty will pass. The bill, however, shows an astonishing lack of concern for women’s health and well-being. Under Rep. Franklin’s bill, HB 1, women who miscarry could become felons if they cannot prove that there was “no human involvement whatsoever in the causation” of their miscarriage. There is no clarification of what “human involvement” means, and this is hugely problematic as medical doctors do not know exactly what causes miscarriages. Miscarriages are estimated to terminate up to a quarter of all pregnancies and the Mayo Clinic says that “the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn’t developing normally.”

We’ve seen this kind of insanity coming out of statehouses and congress for several months now with little pushback by Democratic legislators. What type of people would seriously think and say these things?  How have they gotten into positions where they get to make laws?

Every penny spent on Planned Parenthood is a penny well-spent.  Unplanned and dangerous pregnancies are bad for children, bad for women,and bad for the society.  There exists an incredible amount of evidence that show that every dollar spent to prevent unwanted and dangerous pregnancies save thousands of dollars and lives later on down the road. Seriously, what kind of people live in this country that cheer on actions that would lead to abundant suffering? Again, what kind of a sicko do you have to be to say these things?  Speaker Boehner is an embarrassment to the country.  The sooner we get his pathetic drunk and emotionally damaged ass out of Washington DC the better off we will all be.  Unfortunately, he seems intent on damaging the present and the future as best he can.


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Okay, so I’m going to show you two nifty pie charts first at The Business Insider.   They basically show how the federal balance is extremely unbalanced because expenses are growing and revenues are not growing at all.  Henry Blodgett correctly points out that there’s quite a bit of growth in ‘entitlements’.  Let me just point out that all this makes complete sense to me  What do you get in an economy that has normalized around a 10 percent unemployment rate or higher if you count the things like disenfranchised workers and the underemployed and couple that with year after year after year after year of excessive tax cuts on the uberrich who happen to be the only ones making money?  Well, you get more and more people that are reliant on unemployment and other government ‘entitlements’ and you get a huge revenue gap.  This is about the most careless set of policy choices made that I’ve seen since I first read up on the Hoover administration and the start of the Great Depression.

The “expense” pie is growing like gangbusters, driven by the explosive growth of the entitlement programs that no one in government even has the balls to talk about. “Revenue” is barely growing at all.

As we’ll illustrate with more of Mary’s charts next week, the US cannot grow its way out of this problem. It needs to cut spending, specifically entitlement spending. We hereby announce that we’ll give a special gold star to the first “leader” with the guts to say that publicly.

I’ll give a box of gold stars to any one that points out to this blowhard that the way to remove the growing entitlements is to put people back to work.  Also, giving tax money to rich people so they can invest in the BRIC economies and buy land where their money is parked in the Bahamas or Grand Caymans is a really, really stupid proposition.  We’ve needed a real jobs program for some times.  People with jobs pay taxes, buy things that are taxed, and don’t require entitlements.  How absolutely stupid do you have to be to not get that?  I don’t even need all those economics and finance degrees to figure that one out.

In the Friday Reads I mentioned that Fox News’ Roger Ailes was caught on tape encouraging colleagues to lie to Federal Investigators.  Well, it seems that lying has finally caught up with one Republican operative.  Maybe people will wake up to the Faux News’ and their dirty tricks now.  Here’s what Barry Ritholtz had to say about his scoop on the indictment.

Here’s what I learned recently: Someone I spoke with claimed that Ailes was scheduled to speak at their event in March, but canceled. It appears that Roger’s people, ostensibly using a clause in his contract, said he “cannot appear for legal reasons.”

I asked “What, precisely, does that mean?”

The response: “Roger Ailes will be indicted — probably this week, maybe even Monday.”

Well, it’s Monday. Does Rupert Murdoch know where Roger Ailes is?   Some times watching Karma unfold is a delightful thing.

I’m not sure if you’re a big enough masochist to spend time with the Sunday news shows anymore, but I do try to catch Christiane Amanpour and she delivered an interesting program yesterday.  She had an exclusive interview with one of Gadhaffi’s sons.  It was extremely interesting and I would recommend you go watch that segment. Amanpour actually traveled to Tripoli this weekend.  We will now refer to the son as Tripoli Saif al-Islam Gadhafi since he seems about as in touch with reality as Baghdad Bob did back in the day.

There was a “big, big gap between reality and the media reports,” Gadhafi told Amanpour. “The whole south is calm. The west is calm. The middle is calm. Even part of the east.”

In response to President Barack Obama’s call for Moammar Gadhafi to step down and the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous vote to impose an arms embargo on Libya and urge nations to freeze Libyan assets, Gadhafi’s son was defiant.

“Listen, nobody is leaving this country. We live here, we die here,” he insisted. “This is our country. The Libyans are our people. And for myself, I believe I am doing the right thing.”

“The President of the U.S. has called on your father to step down. How do you feel about that?” Amanpour asked.

“It’s not an American business, that’s number one,” said Gadhafi, who was dressed casually as he spoke with Amanpour. “Second, do they think this is a solution? Of course not.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting kind of tired of watching these jerks that we supported for some time prove exactly what is meant by the label “brutal dictator”.  Could we just once fund and support some one like His Holiness the Dali Lama for a change?  It’s no wonder we still get called ugly Americans.

Speaking of Ugly Americans responsible for diplomatic nightmares, Paul Wolfowitz showed up on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN on Sunday. Could some one please tell the media we don’t need to hear from the people that screwed up Middle East Policy any more?  Why do I keep seeing this man’s face despite his obvious failures with Iraq policy and peccadilloes made public during his time at the World Bank?  I did want to point you to Zakaria’s interview with Michael Lewis on global  financial crisis. The video is here. He has some interesting thing to say about banks in Greece, Ireland, and here.  Listen for this part:

LEWIS: …And the –the anger – the anger about the Wall Street bailouts, I think, is the beginning of the Tea Party.  I mean the – the injustice of people being rewarded for failure and – and supported by the public purse, that was the source of the original outrage.

ZAKARIA: But it went in a libertarian direction…

LEWIS: It did…It – but – but a qualified libertarian direction, because a true libertarian would be outraged that these Wall Street banks are still being subsidized by the government.  And there doesn’t seem to be any move on the right to – to remove those subsidies, not any – any serious one…But – but the politi – our leadership doesn’t have an interest in – a leadership that is intent on still stabilizing the financial system doesn’t have an interest in calling attention to the outrages of the financial system.  So I think they – Wall Street got very lucky.

Wall Street did not get very lucky.  Wall Street basically has a friend in the White House and tons of people in the Treasury Department.   The Tea Party was distracted by the Health Care Bill.  The kleptocracy is still at it.  Listen to the interview, it’s an earful! Many of us think that were going to get a repeat of the global financial crisis some time soon.  Lewis and I aren’t alone on that thought.

One of the things that’s really making me mad about the current conversation on budget cuts and higher education is the public’s ignorance on just exactly how many states have disabled tenure these days.  Tenure has long been a pet peeve of right wing ideologues who feel that every one should be terminated like they are in the private sector.  Basically, the private sector thrives on political firings and uses payroll cuts as the first line of defense when the bottom line is failing because of their bad, short-sighted, and overly-political decisions.

Here’s a list of states decimating tenure as we speak from articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  You know, I’m really sorry that people have to work for private corporations and that their lives are subject to the whims of really mean people, but it’s really no excuse to take it out on those of us that have tried to carve a better way to exist. Take my word for it.  Get yourself a union and they won’t be able to take advantage of you with out taking on a a million other people who have your back!   Those of us in the public sector are willing to forego short term salary highs for long term job security.  It’s evident that a new crop of governors want every one as miserable as employees in the private sector now.  If they intend to do this to us, then I want those seven to eight digits salaries I’d be paid for the 3-5 year short brutal career on Wall Street as a PhD in Financial Economics. I even added a few old links to show you that this is nothing new.   Believe me, tenure isn’t what most people outside of academic think it is …

From Louisiana (this week):

The University of Louisiana system’s Board of Supervisors on Friday voted to approve new rules that will allow its institutions to more quickly dismiss faculty members, even those with tenure, whose programs have been closed.

At a time when the state’s financial climate makes it difficult for campuses to determine their budgets from year to year, that kind of flexibility is key, system officials said. But professors at the board meeting, including representatives of each of the system’s eight campuses, told the supervisors that such a move would erode the protection tenure provides and could ultimately make the system’s institutions unattractive to job seekers and lead current faculty members to leave.

From Nebraska (2oo3):

The University of Nebraska at Lincoln is seeking to eliminate the jobs of 15 tenured faculty members as part of its latest round of budget cuts.

The proposed dismissals, which Chancellor Harvey Perlman announced this month, would save Nebraska about $2.7-million. They are part of a plan to reduce the university’s budget by $26-million, or 12 percent, in the wake of substantial state budget cuts. The new cuts come on the heels of layoffs, proposed in March, that would affect 55 faculty

From Florida (last November) where the attempt to layoff tenured faculty was blocked by an arbitrator.  Notice the decision protected the union faculty but not the nonunion faculty.

An independent arbitrator on Friday ordered Florida State University to rescind layoff notices to several tenured faculty members and slammed how administrators there had decided which jobs would be cut.

In a major victory for the state’s faculty union, Stanley H. Sergent, a Sarasota-based lawyer picked by the university and the union to arbitrate the dispute, held that the university had failed to clearly justify its choices to eliminate certain positions, and had violated a provision of its faculty contract calling for it to try to protect the jobs of those faculty members who had continuously worked there the longest.

In his 83-page decision, Mr. Sergent wrote that the only reason the university had declared certain departments “suspended” was “to allow the effective layoff of all faculty and the selective recall of certain faculty,” apparently for the sake of creating a subterfuge to avoid having to comply with a contractual requirement that it lay off tenured faculty members last. Mr. Sergent characterized the reasoning used by a dean in eliminating one faculty member’s job as “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.”

The arbitrator’s decision applies only to 12 tenured faculty members who belong to the campus chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, and does not cover nine other tenured faculty members who do not belong to the union and also received notices of pending layoffs last year.

From Washington State (May2009):

Community colleges in Washington State could soon be able to lay off tenured faculty members much faster than normal, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

At its regularly scheduled meeting next month, the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges will decide whether to declare a financial emergency — a move allowed by a state law passed in 1981 to deal with budget crunches. Such an emergency would speed up the process for laying off tenured faculty members in that they would get only 60 days’ notice of layoffs and the grounds on which they could appeal the decision would be limited, the Post-Intelligencer reported.

I would also like to take this space to mention that I no longer have access to Social Security and that my state pension and the matches that I get from the State basically are what the private sector donates to social security on the behalf of private sector workers.  Many states have pension plans that replace Social Security.  Therefore, I’m personally not getting any thing ‘special’ from taxpayers.  Also, when the defined benefit plan showed up short this year, they decreased the contributions to my optional retirement plan and the others who selected that option to make up the shortfall in the defined benefit pool. Wall Street stole my appreciation and then the state took more from me to pay for their problems in other folks’ annuities.  Other state employees–like me–paid for that shortfall.  It came from our compensation.  I’ve just about had it up to here with reading a bunch of grumbly idiots on other blogs that have no idea how state employee pensions are managed and funded.  If you want to go after high paying state employees that are worthless, try taking it out on the university football coaches and the damned governor’s staff for a change.  It’s not us little guys!

Anyway, it’s Monday morning and I’m a curmudgeon today.  Think I’ll spend the day with the TV off and I’ll stay here on Sky Dancing with the sane people!  Now, where’s my coffee?

What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Sunday Night, Open Thread

I have a tale to tell, not a tale more an embarrassment. While working on my puzzle tonight, I decided that I would partake in a little treat of Animal Crackers. We have a constant supply of these little critters in my house because it seems they are fat free. Anyway, as I was working on my cookies and putting together my puzzle, I got a bit carried away. Did you ever realize that an Animal Cracker is about the same size and shape as a puzzle piece? And since these things are fat free, they taste about the same  as the cardboard pieces of the puzzle. Yes, I chomped on a puzzle piece. That I did this to begin with is a funny thing…that I did it 3 times in a span of 5 minutes is pathetic!

So, this is an open thread. Feel free to share a link or two…or an embarrassing story of your own, so I don’t feel so damn foolish.

And here for your enjoyment, a tale of one who steals from the rich and gives to the poor…to trip and trip and trip it up and down!


Diary of a Madman

Gaddafi continues to cling to delusion and power in Libya.   His insane tenure has joined Arabs and Israelis and sent the above Youtube into viral territory.  It seems every one wants to get into the act of sending Gaddafi a get out of Dodge message.

Noy Alooshe, 31, an Israeli journalist, musician and Internet buff, said he saw Colonel Qaddafi’s televised speech last Tuesday in which the Libyan leader vowed to hunt down protesters “inch by inch, house by house, home by home, alleyway by alleyway,” and immediately identified it as a “classic hit.”

“He was dressed strangely, and he raised his arms” like at a trance party, Mr. Alooshe said in a telephone interview on Sunday. Then there were Colonel Qaddafi’s words with their natural beat.

Mr. Alooshe spent a few hours at the computer, using Auto-Tune pitch corrector technology to set the speech to the music of “Hey Baby,” a 2010 electro hip-hop song by American rapper Pitbull, featuring another artist, T-Pain. He titled it “Zenga-Zenga,” echoing Col. Qaddafi’s repetition of the word zanqa, Arabic for alleyway.

It’s a bit of levity in some otherwise gruesome news as AJ reports on Gaddafi’s defiance. It does seem like it’s just a matter of time before Gaddafi falls, however, that’s not helping people in Tripoli that are suffering.

As more cities fall into the hands of the pro-democracy protesters, Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, is hanging on to the capital where security forces loyal to him seem to have a firm hold, even amid reports of sporadic gunfire.

On Sunday, protesters had reportedly taken over the towns of Misurata and Zawiyah, further shrinking the control of Gaddafi’s government.

However, tanks were surrounding Zawiyah, 50km from Tripoli, and locals feared an imminent raid by pro-Gaddafi  forces.

In an interview with Serbian television, a defiant Gaddafi repeated his message that he will stay in Libya and blamed foreigners and al-Qaeda for the unrest that is threatening his 41-year rule.

The phone interview with TV Pink in Belgrade was carried out while Gaddafi was in his office in Tripoli.

The Libyan leader also condemned the United Nations Security Council for imposing sanctions on him and launching a war crimes inquiry.

Gaddafi said the UN council could not see that the capital, Tripoli, was secure.

Residents said banks were open but bread and petrol remained tightly rationed as the opposition grip on large swathes of the nation disrupted the distribution of basic goods.

Gaddafi is now bribing families $400 each to like him.  That hasn’t stopped the Security Council of the UN from calling for a War Crimes inquiry into Gaddafi’s treatment of Libyan citizens.

The vote, only the second time the Security Council has referred a member state to the International Criminal Court, comes after a week of bloody crackdowns in Libya in which Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces have fired on protesters, killing hundreds.

Also on Saturday, President Obama said that Colonel Qaddafi had lost the legitimacy to rule and should step down. His statement, which the White House said was made during a telephone call with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, was the strongest yet from any American official against Colonel Qaddafi.

The Security Council resolution also imposes an arms embargo against Libya and an international travel ban on 16 Libyan leaders, and freezes the assets of Colonel Qaddafi and members of his family, including four sons and a daughter. Also included in the sanctions were measures against defense and intelligence officials who are believed to have played a role in the violence against civilians in Libya.

Unfortunately, sanctions have not worked very well in the past and the people are asking for a no-fly zone.  This would stop Gadaffi from firing on his citizens with airplanes and helicopters.  How many more people will die before this madman is finally gone?


Sunday Reads, and little bald gold men.

It is Sunday and we are open for business…so grab your coffee, or cafe con leche, and let’s get this bus rolling.  We finally heard our President mention Gaddafi by name,  Obama and Secretary Clinton have finally said Gaddafi must step down. Boston Boomer put up a post about it last night.

Here are a couple updated links below:

Live Blog – Libya Feb 27 | Al Jazeera Blogs

Libya Protests: Obama Says Muammar Gaddafi Must ‘Leave Now’

I found this Opinion on the AJE site, it is written by Mark Levine, a professor at UC Irvine. I think what drew me to this commentary is that he seems to say what won’t be said in our own MSM. Here are some exerts of the article, however I think it best for you to read the entire thing.

History’s shifting sands – Opinion – Al Jazeera English

Although she likely did not intend it, when Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, warned Arab leaders in early January that they must “reform” lest their systems “sink in the sand” her words were as relevant in Washington as they were in Tunis, Tripoli, Cairo or Sanaa. But Americans – the people as much as their leaders – are so busy dismantling the social, political and economic foundations of their former greatness that they are unable to see how much they have become like the stereotype of the traditional Middle Eastern society that for so long was used to justify, alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) supporting authoritarian leaders or imposing foreign rule.

A well known Egyptian labour organiser, Kamal Abbas, made a video telling Americans from Tahrir that “we and all the people of the world stand on your side and give you our full support”. It is a good thing, because it is clear Americans need all the support they can get. “I want you to know,” he continued, “that no power can challenge the will of the people when they believe in their rights. When they raise their voices loud and clear and struggle against exploitation.”

Aren’t such lines supposed to be uttered by American presidents instead of Egyptian union activists?

[...]

The problem clearly starts from the top and continues to the grass roots. Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency on the slogan “Yes we can!” But whether caving in to Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, on settlements, or standing by as Republicans wage a jihad on the working people of Wisconsin, the president has refused to stand up for principles that were once the bedrock of American democracy and foreign policy.

The American people are equally to blame, as increasingly, those without healthcare, job security or pensions seem intent on dragging down the lucky few unionised workers who still have them rather than engage in the hard work of demanding the same rights for themselves.

The top one per cent of Americans, who now earn more than the bottom 50 per cent of the country combined, could not have scripted it any better if they had tried. They have achieved a feat that Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and their fellow cleptocrats could only envy (the poorest 20 per cent of the population in Tunisia and Egypt actually earn a larger share of national income than does their counterpart in the US).

The situation is so desperate that a well known singer and activist contacted me in Cairo to ask organisers of Tahrir to send words of support for union workers in Wisconsin. Yet “Madison is the new Tahrir” remains a dream with little hope of becoming reality, even as Cairenes take time out from their own revolution proudly to order pizza for their fellow protesters in Wisconsin.

[...]

Will Ibn Khaldun be proved right?

It now seems clear that hoping for the Obama administration to support real democracy in the Middle East is probably too much to ask, since it cannot even support full democracy and economic and social rights for the majority of people at home. More and more, the US feels not just increasingly “irrelevant” on the world stage, as many commentators have described its waning position in the Middle East, but like a giant ship heading for an iceberg while the passengers and crew argue about how to arrange the deck chairs.

Luckily, inspiration has arrived, albeit from what to a ‘Western’ eye seems like the unlikeliest of sources. The question is: Can the US have a Tahrir moment, or as the great Arab historian Ibn Khaldun would have predicted, has it entered the irreversible downward spiral that is the fate of all great civilizations once they lose the social purpose and solidarity that helped make them great in the first place?

It is still too early to say for sure, but as of today it seems that the reins of history have surely passed out of America’s hands.

Imagine, people in Egypt sending pizzas of support to those in Wisconsin, it tugs at my waning sense of idealism…On a side note, if you have never read Ibn Khaldun, please take a look at some of his writings.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Moammar Gadhafi: Time to Step Down

It looks like President Obama finally gave Hillary the go ahead to say what she probably wanted to say several days ago. From the LA Times:

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday called on Moammar Kadafi to step down, reversing previous reticence by the U.S. leaders to directly urge the Libyan president to leave office.

In a statement, Clinton said Kadafi “has lost the confidence of his people and he should go without further bloodshed and violence,” and that the Libyan people deserved a government that “protects their universally recognized human rights.” The U.S. has always said that the future of Libya should be decided by its people, she said, and “they have made themselves clear.”

Meanwhile the White House released the contents of a phone call between Obama and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama did not cite Kadafi by name, but said that the Libyan leader had lost his legitimacy. “The President stated that when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now,” a White House statement said.

What is his problem with calling out Gadhafi by name anyway? Read Hillary’s full statement below the fold.
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