A former Iranian president provided new details about the deal that Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign struck with Ayatollah Khomeini in 1980 to delay the release of 52 American hostages until after Reagan was elected.
In a critique of the inaccuracies in the Oscar-winning movie, Argo, a fictionalized version of a CIA operation to get embassy employees out of the country, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, who was was elected president of Iran in February 1980 and learned of the deal between the ayatollah and Reagan’s representatives, wrote in the Christian Science Monitor (3/5) that the occupation of the embassy originally was regarded by the Iranian government as a short-term protest of the shah’s admittance to the US and Iran’s government opposed the hostage taking. He and the other major candidates for president supporting releasing the hostages. He won election with 76% of the vote and he added that 96% of the votes went to candidates who were against the hostage-taking. “Hence, the movie misrepresents the Iranian government’s stand in regard to hostage-taking. It also completely misrepresents Iranians by portraying us as irrational people consumed by aggressive emotion,” he wrote.
“I was deposed in June 1981 as a result of a coup against me. After arriving in France, I told a BBC reporter that I had left Iran to expose the symbiotic relationship between Khomeinism and Reaganism,” he wrote.
“Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the ‘October Surprise,’ which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place. The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the election in favor of Reagan.”
Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories writing for the Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s, noted at ConsortiumNews.com (3/7) that Bani-Sadr has talked and written about the Reagan-Khomeini collaboration before, but he added in his commentary on Argo that “two of my advisors, Hussein Navab Safavi and Sadr-al-Hefazi, were executed by Khomeini’s regime because they had become aware of this secret relationship between Khomeini, his son Ahmad, the Islamic Republican Party, and the Reagan administration.”
“Over the years, Republicans have adamantly denied that Reagan or his campaign struck a deal with Iranian radicals to extend the hostage crisis through the 1980 election. But substantial evidence has built up supporting Bani-Sadr’s account and indicating that the release of the 52 hostages just as Reagan was taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 1981, was no coincidence, that it was part of the deal, he wrote.
“In December 1992, when a House Task Force was examining this so-called October Surprise controversy – and encountering fierce Republican resistance – Bani-Sadr submitted a letter detailing his behind-the-scenes struggle with Khomeini and his son Ahmad over their secret dealings with the Reagan campaign,” Parry wrote.
“Bani-Sadr’s letter was dated Dec. 17, 1992, and was part of a flood of last-minute evidence that implicated the Reagan campaign in delaying the hostage release. However, by the time the letter and the other evidence arrived, the leadership of the House Task Force had decided to simply declare the Reagan campaign innocent.”
Lawrence Barcella, who served as Task Force chief counsel, later told me that so much incriminating evidence arrived late that he asked Task Force chairman, Rep. Lee Hamilton, a centrist Democrat from Indiana, to extend the inquiry for three months but that Hamilton said no. (Hamilton told [Parry] that he had no recollection of Barcella’s request.)”
Parry noted that Bani Sadr’s letter meshed with accounts of Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, who was acting foreign minister in August 1980 when he informed Iran’s Majlis that “We know that the Republican Party of the United States in order to win the presidential election is working hard to delay the solution of the hostages crisis until after the US election.” Former Defense Minister Ahmad Madani later told Parry he discovered that Iranian financier Cyrus Hashemi, who was supposed to be arranging negotiations on the hostage release, was double-dealing President Carter by collaborating with the Republicans. “In an interview with me in the early 1990s, Madani said Hashemi brought up the name of Reagan’s campaign chief William Casey in connection with these back-channel negotiations over the US hostages,” Parry wrote.
In the Task Force’s final report, issued on Jan. 13, 1993, Barcella’s team simply misrepresented Bani-Sadr’s letter, mentioning it only briefly, claiming that it was hearsay, and then burying its contents in a little-noticed annex to the report along with other incriminating evidence, Parry noted
[See Parry’s report at ConsortiumNews.com <http://consortiumnews.com/2013/03/07/october-surprise-and-argo/> as well as his book, America’s Stolen Narrative.]
OBAMA’S CHARM OFFENSIVE: NO DEAL. Nothing is more alarming to progressives than reports that President Obama is meeting with Republicans in the hopes of reaching a “grand bargain” on the budget. But after the president took a dozen senators out to dinner at a tony Washington hotel (3/6) and invited House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as well as the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), to the White House for lunch (3/7), Politico.com reported (3/10) that the schmoozing was not producing any deals. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) who is retiring and would be a ripe target for Obama to join in the supposed Grand Bargain, said GOP senators would not buck their party’s leadership to strike a deal. “It’s not going to happen,” Chambliss told Politico. “We’re not going to negotiate; that’s the leaders’ role.”
And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner have been adamant that they won’t agree to raise tax revenues and any future debt talks should focus on slashing federal spending. Obama has insisted that tax increases will be necessary.
RYAN’S FANTASY BUDGET SLASHES DEFICIT. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) produced a budget blueprint (3/12) that would reduce federal spending by $4.6 tln over the next decade, repeal the Affordable Care Act, reprise his effort to turn Medicare into a voucher program, cut $757 bln from Medicaid over the next decade and cut other safety net programs for the working poor — while keeping January’s tax “increases” but proposing an overhaul of the tax system that would largely benefit the wealthy and corporations.
As Ryan’s 2012 budget attempted, the 2013 version reduces the number of income tax brackets from six to two, cutting the top tax rate from 39% to 25% and converting the corporate tax code to an “international” system. The Center for American Progress estimated the tax cut would cost $7 tln in revenue. Ryan said he would close loopholes to pay for those cuts, but he has not specified which loopholes he would close.
Dems hammered the proposal as another attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class and the poor while not asking the wealthy to do more.
Charles Pierce analyzed the proposal at Esquire.com (3/12): “Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny starver from Wisconsin and most recent first runner-up in the vice-presidential pageant, has released his latest ‘budget,’ which is only a budget in the same way that what the guy says to the pigeons in the park is a manifesto. It is constructed from the same magical thinking, the same conjuring words, the same elusive asterisks, and the same obvious obfuscations of its actual intent that Paul Ryan and his running mate put forward in the last campaign, in which they were so thoroughly rejected that Ryan couldn’t even carry his home town. In fact, in this fiscal fantasia, the magical thinking, conjuring words, and obvious obfuscations are now run by us at 78 r.p.m. so as to balance the budget in 10 years rather than in 40. It is very doubtful that a country that declined to savage itself on a 30-year layaway plan is likely to agree to do so over a decade so as to get all the savaging done at once. What is it about elections that Paul Ryan doesn’t understand?”
Even on Fox News, Ryan’s “budget” didn’t get much respect. When he previewed the budget (3/10), Chris Wallace asked, “Are you saying that as part of your budget you would repeal — you assume the repeal of Obamacare?”
“Yes,” Ryan replied.
“Well that’s not going to happen,” Wallace noted.
“Well, we believe it should,” Ryan replied.
But Ryan has completed a 720-degree flip on President Obama’s cuts to Medicare providers when he revealed that while his budget plan once again assumes the repeal of “Obamacare,” it still includes the much-maligned cuts in payments to Medicare providers, Sahil Kapur noted at TalkingPointsMemo.com (3/11).
Ryan and Republican leaders started off opposing the Medicare cuts that were part of Obamacare in 2010; then they turned around and twice passed budgets that kept them; then, as vice presidential candidate, Ryan campaigned against those cuts, as did the rest of the GOP, in the 2012 election; and now they are embracing the Medicare cuts again.
Republicans also are looking for raising the eligibility age for Medicare and cutting federal costs for Medicaid, the New York Times reported (3/10). White House officials said that those proposals were deeply flawed as a matter of policy and that they did not intend to submit any more offers until Republicans expressed some willingness to make tax revenue part of the equation.
The White House apparently is still offering a compromise on the “chained CPI” that would limit cost-of-living increases for Social Security and means-testing for Medicare, which would require wealthy seniors to pay more in premiums, the Times reported.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told Greg Sargent of WashingtonPost.com (3/11) progressive Democrats should be prepared to band together to block any “grand bargain” that includes any cuts to entitlement benefits — and even hinted that he and others might filibuster such a deal, if necessary.
He said Dems must build a coalition to leverage public opinion to force Republicans to accept a resolution that combines judicious spending cuts with new revenues from the rich and corporations — while preserving entitlement benefits.
“It’s a question of making Republicans an offer they can’t refuse,” Sanders told Sargent. “Their position is no more revenues. You and I know that is not the position of the American people. One in four corporations doesn’t pay any taxes. What Democrats and progressives should say is, ‘Sorry, we’re not going to balance the budget on the backs of the vulnerable.’” Sanders described the idea of cutting education, Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ benefits as an “obscenity.”
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE CRAZY. Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster of the confirmation of John O. Brennan as director of the Central Intelligence Agency pretty much defined a “good news, bad news” moment. The Kentucky Republican’s filibuster briefly brought the nation’s attention on an important issue — the use of drones to target American citizens who have been identified as terrorists, with little or no public accountability. But Paul and his tea-party allies largely focused attention on the hypothetical threat of drones on US citizens on American soil; it delayed confirmation of Brennan who has criticized the secrecy of the drone program and supports moving the overseas operations from the covert CIA to the more accountable military service; and it promoted a flawed spokesmen for a review of what should be a controversial practice.
Glenn Greenwald, a blogger for the Guardian who was cited by Paul in the filibuster, tweeted: “Claimed assassination powers unite people,” and later, “Pretty sad — and pretty revealing — that it was left to Rand Paul to raise in the Senate the killing of 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki” (who died in a 10/14/11 drone strike at an outdoor restaurant in Yemen). He was the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born propagandist for al Qaeda who had been killed in a drone strike two weeks earlier (9/30/11) in Yemen, along with Samir Khan, another US-born al-Qaeda propagandist. While the Obama administration claimed credit for killing the elder Awlaki, for whom they had been searching for years, US officials have said the younger Awlaki was a bystander in a strike targeted at Ibrahim al-Banna, an Egyptian senior operative in Yemen’s al-Qaeda affiliate.
Some Republicans leaped at the chance to score points against the Obama administration, although they didn’t object when President George W. Bush assumed the authority to target American citizens.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the only Democrat to join the filibuster, said after he left the floor that “we’re pushing our efforts as visibly as we can,” Rosie Gray noted at BuzzFeed.com (3/6).
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told HuffingtonPost.com, “I think the question should be answered. I think [Sen.] Paul was generally right on it,” but Brown added, “I’ve got stuff to do and was doing a lot of other things.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who in 2010 launched the most recent old-fashioned “talking” filibuster before Paul’s, against the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, told HuffPost he never considered joining Paul’s effort. “I’m working right now on many, many, other issues,” Sanders said. “Presumably you go down on the floor because you believe in something,” he added, though he argued that the method Paul used to raise his questions and his timing weren’t “particularly constructive.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), a critic of the drone program and an advocate of the talking filibuster, said the arguments Paul was making are legitimate and important ones to raise, but he is concerned about a host of issues, “not just simply issues related to drones but related to overall powers to spy on Americans and to take action without any sort of check ... I think broadly I share the concerns of the amount of secrecy [and] I share the concerns about secret law with the FISA court making interpretations of common law language that we don’t know what it means,” he added.
But Merkley told HuffPost he didn’t join the filibuster because he believes the president should be granted an up-or-down vote on cabinet nominees.
Progressive Democratic senators reportedly confronted Obama on drones and the president defended the program in a closed session (3/12), HuffPost reported. “Basically, the president said that they’re doing everything they can to comply with the law and to give information to members of the Intelligence Committee,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who paused for a long moment before answering. “And he said they would continue on that path.”
Charles Pierce of Esquire.com, whom Paul also name-checked in the filibuster, noted (3/7) that the son of former Rep. Ron Paul is seldom more than five minutes from saying something crazy and he kept that pace in his filibuster. At one point, Pierce noted, Paul found occasion to praise the Supreme Court’s infamous Lochner decision in 1905.
Ian Milhiser of ThinkProgress.org noted that “Lochner v. New York is widely viewed as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in American history. It is taught in law schools, alongside decisions upholding segregation and permitting Japanese detention camps, in order to instruct budding lawyers on how judges should not behave. Even Robert Bork, the failed, right-wing Supreme Court nominee who claimed women “aren’t discriminated against anymore,” called Lochner an “abomination” that “lives in the law as the symbol, indeed the quintessence of judicial usurpation of power.”
Lochner fabricated the “right to contract” in order to strike down a New York law preventing bakery owners from overworking bakers, but its rationale has implications for any law intended to shield workers from exploitation, Milhiser noted. “In essence, Lochner established that any law that limits any contract between an employer and an employee is constitutionally suspect. The Supreme Court finally overruled Lochner in a 1937 case that upheld a statewide minimum wage in Washington.
It’s not entirely clear what exploiting workers has to do with drone strikes, Milhiser noted. But Paul seemed to think that Lochner was relevant because that case claimed that its fabricated right to contract flowed from the Constitution’s “due process” guarantee.
“You get to the Lochner case. The Lochner case is in 1905. The majority rules 5-4 that the right to make a contract is part of your due process. Someone cannot deprive you of determining how long your working hours are without due process. So President Obama’s a big opponent to this, but I would ask him — among the other things I’m asking him today — to rethink the Lochner case. ... I think it’s a wonderful decision.”
“Paul’s endorsement of Lochner reflects a disturbing evolution in Tea Party thought,” Milhiser wrote. “For much of Obama’s first term, Tea Party conservatives rallied behind ‘tentherism,’ the false belief that most of what the federal government does is unconstitutional. Unlike tentherism, which applies only to federal laws, Lochnerism prevents both the federal government and the states from enacting necessary legislation. Although a handful of the most radical federal judges openly embrace Lochnerism or similar reasoning, this particularly virulent misreading of the Constitution was largely absent from elected officials’ rhetoric until Paul’s speech yesterday.”
COLE: DRONE SECRECY BOUGHT ON BRENNAN FILIBUSTER. John O. Brennan was confirmed as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (3/7), after the confirmation was held up for 13 hours by a filibuster by Rand Paul and other Senate tea partiers. Juan Cole, a historian and progressive observer of the Middle East and South Asia at the University of Michigan, noted at JuanCole.com (3/8) that Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas gave as his reason for the attempt to delay the vote his concerns that the Obama administration has a secret doctrine that it can kill Americans by drone at will, asking if there was a precedent “for the proposition that this administration seems willing to embrace, or at least unwilling to renounce explicitly and emphatically, that the Constitution somehow permits, or at least does not foreclose on, the US government killing a US citizen on US soil who is not flying a plane into a building, who is not robbing a bank, who is not pointing a bazooka at the Pentagon, but who is simply sitting quietly at a cafe, peaceably enjoying breakfast?”
Attorney General Eric Holder sent over to Paul a statement that the president does not have the authority to drone to death an innocent noncombatant, which ended the filibuster, Cole noted.
“It is alarming that Cruz appears to have thought that there are circumstances in which a US citizen *could* legitimately be droned to death on American soil,” Cole wrote, but he added,
“Obama and Brennan brought this kind of humiliation on themselves by their extreme secrecy about the drone program, a secrecy that even a federal judge castigated as paradoxical. As a classified endeavor handled in large part by the CIA, it cannot be discussed publicly, cannot be probed by the public. It is a policy for insiders with a high security clearance (apparently the 15 senators on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence are among the few public officials who are kept in the loop. Two of them, Marco Rubio and Saxby Chambliss, joined the filibuster of Brennan, so even they seem not to feel that the Obama administration is leveling with them.
Ironically, Brennan in the past was a severe critic of the kind of secrecy about covert operations that the Obama administration has championed with regard to the drone program, Cole noted. In a 2008 interview while in the private sector, Brennan said: “What is needed is a ‘fair and open discussion’ about US counterterrorism policy ... While some aspects are too classified to be discussed openly, many are not. But when ‘you stifle discussion— and make decisions in secrecy and vacuums— you run the risk of alienating portions of the US population and triggering questions about what else may be going on.’”
Cole added, “To be fair, in his confirmation hearing, Brennan advocated turning the drone program over to the Department of Defense (which is under civilian authority), and he admitted that as it has been practiced up till now it may well contravene international law. Maybe Brennan the CIA head can undo some of the damage to American democracy and to international law he admits the drone policy has done.”
REPUBLICANS TAKE CREDIT FOR ANTI-RAPE LAW THEY VOTED AGAINST. Shortly after President Obama signed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization into law, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) claimed in a press release that a “Cornyn bill” to “eliminate nationwide rape kit backlog” was signed into law. Ian Milhiser noted at ThinkProgress.org (3/11) that the so-called “Cornyn bill” is the SAFER Act, which was incorporated into the VAWA renewal, and which “provide[s] funding for state and local governments to conduct audits of untested DNA evidence and create[s] a national reporting system to help track and prioritize untested rape kits,” according to Cornyn. Milhiser noted, “By all appearances, it seems like a wonderful law. There’s only one problem. Cornyn voted against it.”
Cornyn was one of 22 Senate Republican men who voted against the VAWA renewal. He opposed the bill because he objected to a provision enabling tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans who commit rape or other violent crimes against women on Indian reservations. This provision is intended to combat the virtual lawlessness that faces Native American women on these reservations without the VAWA renewal. A 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office found that federal prosecutors “declined to prosecute 46% of assault matters and 67% of sexual abuse and related matters” on reservations.
In the House, 138 Republicans voted against the reauthorization, but 87 Republicans joined 199 Democrats in carrying the bill to passage. Earlier, a watered-down Republican version of the bill, which stripped protections for LGBT, Native American and undocumented aliens, was rejected by a 257-166 vote. Voting against both versions on behalf of wife beaters and rapists were 27 Republicans.
Sahil Kapur noted at TalkingPointsMemo.com (3/8) that several Republicans who voted against final passage of the bill took credit for helping renew the domestic abuse legislation. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said in a statement that he supported the bill because he understood “the importance of reauthorizing VAWA” and “I know how important it is to empower women in difficult situations.” But while he supported the House Republican version of the bill, which failed, he voted against the final version of the bill.
The same goes for Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), who voted for the GOP version but against the final VAWA, yet took credit for its passage. Other Republicans who voted against final passage but claimed credit for the bill were Reps. Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.), Tim Murphy (R-Pa.). Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) and Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), according to Steve Benen at MaddowBlog.com (3/7).
KANSAS GOP WOULD CUT COLLEGE AID TO PAY FOR TAX BREAKS. Republican lawmakers in Kansas eager to further cut taxes (after already having laid off hundreds of public employees) have targeted another program: a college savings plan specifically designed to benefit the state’s poorest students.
Adam Peck of ThinkProgress.org notes (3/9) that the state currently provides annual matching funds of $600 for low-income families that invest in the state’s college savings program. Close to 1,000 families take advantage of the program at a cost to the state of approximately $1.2 mln. Instead, Republicans argue that the money should go to more tax breaks for the state’s wealthiest residents.
“The real question is: Is is a core function of government,” asked Rep. Pete DeGraaf (R), chairman of the House General Government Budget Committee. Lawmakers are looking to trim the budget to lower income taxes even as Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has asked legislators to keep a penny sales tax increase that many of them opposed when it was passed in 2010.
Peck noted that Brownback has sought to roll back and eventually eliminate his state’s income tax in favor of a higher sales tax, a regressive tax system that punishes poorer taxpayers and rewards wealthier ones. But this latest move — to eliminate funding for a program designed specifically to educate the state’s poor in order to pay for tax breaks that benefit the wealthy the most — is “perhaps the most brazen volley yet in the Republicans’ war on the poor.” Meanwhile, countless studies have shown that access to higher education is the surest way for students to climb out of poverty.
CON MEDIA STARS PAY $150,000 FOR ACORN PIMP HOAX. Conservative media fixture James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles rose to stardom on the right wing in 2009 after posing in a secretly filmed video as a pimp and his lady seeking assistance from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in a scheme to smuggle underage prostitutes into the US. Conservative activists exploited the edited clip as proof that ACORN, a major force in organizing and voter registration drives in low-income communities, was corrupt. Democratic officeholders took the videos at face value, distanced themselves from ACORN and the employee, Juan Carlos Vera, was fired.
Only later did it come to light that the video was deceptively edited, Vera had played along to collect information, then called police to report O’Keefe, who also may have violated a California law against secret recordings. Four years after the video went viral, O’Keefe has agreed to pay Vera $100,000 to settle a lawsuit, Wonkette reported (3/7). Brad Friedman reported at BradBlog.com (3/12) that Vera also got $50,000 in a settlement from Giles. During the course of Vera’s lawsuit, Friedman reported, it was revealed that Andrew Breitbart, who died in March 2012, paid the pair $125,000 for their hoax tapes, with O’Keefe getting $65,000 and Giles $60,000. Friedman also noted that the uncorrected videos remained on the website at Breitbart.com (3/12).
FASTEST-GROWING JOB IN US PAYS LESS THAN $10 AN HOUR. They swap out bed pans, tend to wounds, and assist with every facet of day-to-day life — sometimes even living with their patients. They’re home health care aides, and they are a crucial resource in caring for America’s sick, elderly, and disabled — and they do it all for an average wage of $9.70 per hour, less than the mean hourly compensation for lifeguards, food servers, and dry cleaners, Sy Mukherjee wrote at ThinkProgress.org (3/11).
Growth in the home health care industry has been fast — and it’s only going to get faster. And as CNN Money points out, an uptick in America’s elderly population — fueled by aging Baby Boomers — will lead to an explosion in demand for such workers’ services. But due to a loophole in labor protection laws, home health aides often make less than minimum wage, earning about $20,000 per year. And that’s just the full-time workers. Part-time health aides, who make up most of the profession, make even less and don’t receive benefits — leading to a sadly ironic situation in which health workers are often forced to forgo their own health care and turn to government safety net programs:
Under these conditions, it’s no surprise then that about 40% of home aides rely on public assistance, such as Medicaid and food stamps, just to get by.
“What you have is a situation here where the people that we count on to care for our families cannot take care of their own, and that’s got to change,” said Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
A recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates immigrants make up 28% of home health care workers, and of those, one in five are undocumented.
The Census Bureau has found that 53% of home health aides are minorities. By their calculations, it is the single most common job for black women, who alone represent nearly a third of the entire profession.
This is part of the reason workers are undervalued and underpaid, say worker advocates like Eileen Boris, a professor of feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Under Obamacare, Mukherjee noted, home health aides will serve as essential foot soldiers in the fight to make America’s health care system more efficient. The Obama Administration has been pushing to revamp labor protections for home health aides, but that effort has not enjoyed much success so far.
DRONE PILOT MEDAL OUTRANKS COMBAT MEDALS. A new medal that would honor drone pilots and cyber warriors and outrank battlefield combat medals such as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star is facing backlash from veterans organizations and members of Congress, with a bipartisan group of 22 senators pressing the Pentagon to change the designation, Amanda Terkel reported at HuffingtonPost.com (3/11).
The newly created Distinguished Warfare Medal, approved last month by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will honor members of the military for achievements beyond the battlefield since Sept. 11, 2001. The backlash to the medal centers around the fact that it will take precedence over traditional several combat awards, which require that the recipient risk his or her life in order to receive them.
VoteVets.org Co-Founder Jon Soltz recently argued that new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel may better understand the importance of keeping the Purple Heart and Bronze Star above the Distinguished Warfare Medal because of his experience in Vietnam.
“This isn’t a knock on Leon Panetta, but unlike Chuck Hagel, Panetta was never a grunt, an enlisted man,” wrote Soltz. “In Hagel, we have someone who brings that unique experience to the table. In fact, he’d be the first enlisted man ever to serve as Secretary of Defense. Of course, in addition to that, Senator Hagel was awarded two Purple Hearts, so he knows full well the kind of sacrifice it takes to be awarded that medal.”
Hagel has ordered a review of the Distinguished Warfare Medal, which has not been awarded yet, Terkel reported (3/12). In the meantime, the military has stopped production of the medal, AP reported.
ALA. SENATE ADVANCES ANTI-UNION AMENDMENT. Because it’s not enough to have anti-union laws on the books merely as regular laws, Alabama Republicans are seeking to write into their state’s constitution that workers covered by a union contract don’t have to pay any of the costs of their representation. The state Senate passed the proposed amendment, which now goes to the House and then will be voted on in the next general election.
Democratic Sen. Bobby Singleton of Greensboro said putting the anti-union provision in the constitution is unnecessary because no one has tried to repeal the “right-to-work” law, the Associated Press reported (3/7). But the amendment’s sponsor, state Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) replied, “Times change in this legislative body,” noting that he had been a Democrat and an independent prior to becoming a Republican.
Laura Clawson noted at DailyKos.com (3/11), “The good news, such as it is, is that it’s not like putting a free rider law in the Alabama constitution makes anyone’s life any worse. And while it would make the law a lot harder to repeal in the event that Alabama shifted to being a Democratic state, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.”
Al Henley, president of the Alabama AFL-CIO, said the right-to-work law keeps the standard of living low for Alabama’s middle class. “Senator Dial and the anti-middle class state Senate should create ideas and enact laws to make the middle class stronger instead of trying to weaken it. Putting bad laws in the constitution is a horrible idea,” Henley told AP.
From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2013
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