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April 8, 2011                    Vol. 1:3    



Conflict seems to be dominating the news these days. In the Middle East nation after nation is being thrown into political upheaval. Libya seems poised to draw American troops into yet a third war. Washington can't seem to resolve it's own issues and now faces a possible government shutdown.


The problems are certainly numerous and many of them self-inflicted. And while there may not be any quick fixes, if anything is to be done, we must work together, as Americans.


Whether the problem is in the Middle East or our own Midwest, as our feature article examines, now is not the time for partisanship but rather for partnership. Our founding fathers and the generations after them never hesitated to pray for the needs of our country. Such action is a good starting place.


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With Best Regards,

Bob Signature

Bob Waldrep


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Linwood BraganIt happened during the Late Great Unpleasantness. I'm not talking about Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln and the War Between the States. I am referring to the legislative "battle" in Madison, Wisconsin over collective-bargaining rights which continue to be the subject of news headlines and media discussion. It is a hotly contested issue with claims being asserted about rights being violated, strong arm tactics being used, and government oppression.


Some are even drawing an analogy to the, seemingly popular, uprisings across the Middle East, such as that in Egypt which overthrew a US ally of 30 years and are yet to produce a new government. For example, NBC News anchor, Brian Williams, likened union members' actions to the populist revolts in the Middle East; stating in his Feb. 18 opening segment, "From the Mideast to the American Midwest tonight, people are rising up. Citizen uprisings are changing the world." He went on to say Wisconsin's capitol, Madison, "has been taken over by the people."


However, let's not forget that Egypt is of course the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood the organization that spiritually birthed radical Wahhabi Islam and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's chief lieutenant.


In considering the upheaval in the Middle East today, some think back to the lost opportunity of 2009. The Green Revolution swept Iran - students, shopkeepers, professionals, mothers, dissidents and just plain ordinary people wanting to live free stood up, spoke up and protested. They were ignored by the West, unsupported by our President and left to the mercies of a madman seeking nuclear weapons to be murderously suppressed, shot down and sent home to continue to live in fear of their government.


Others look to the recent revolution in Tunisia. You can also look at the various attempts at public protest for government change in Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria. Much of our focus however is now on Libya where the US is entering into our third simultaneous military action.


It wasn't so long ago that the American people were promised to be out of Iraq. The war in Afghanistan is now the longest the United States has ever been involved in; yes, even longer than Vietnam. And yet we've now opened up a third front of "kinetic military action" in Libya.


What is the worthwhile goal - completely avoided as our stated chief aim - the removal, exile, impoverishment and hopeful execution of Col. Muammar Qaddafi? Admittedly nations don't often call for the execution of a foreign leader, even a rogue one. It tends to get a bounty placed on the head of democratically elected officials such as our own president. I will confess that I didn't vote for President Obama, but I don't want him dead, or harmed - he is the President.  I'm equally sure that my dreams of the end of Col. Qaddafi are timid compared to those who have had to live under his boot.


What went on in the Middle East for the last 30 years was the repression of people's dreams, desires and their very lives. Whether the regime came to power after assassination (Anwar Sadat in Egypt), Royal succession (Jordan & Saudi Arabia), military coup (Iraq & Libya) or a religious revolution (Iran) repression of individual, political, economic and electoral rights has been the norm. Not once in 30 years were there free and fair elections, until sponsored by the US in Iraq.  When elections were held they were a sham, corrupt, a farce.


The Middle East cauldrons have been brewing an almost indescribable stew. The situation made more complicated by a different recipe being used in each country with endless combinations of students, enterprising shopkeepers, women, modernist, radical Wahhabi's, corrupt political party members, police, militias, secularists, imams, tribal leaders, and the professional military. The simple truth: most of these groups were excluded from any free political expression.


Contrast that situation of the Middle East circumstances with those of the American Midwest.  Regular elections are held. Governors are elected every four years. Most legislatures are elected for two-year terms, with varying rules as to how the Senators are elected for two or four-year terms.  In America's Midwest elections have meaning - power is transferred, political party's fortunes wax and wane. No one is deprived of their rights!


Things did change with elections last year. The 2010 election forced a new direction on Republicans and Democrats in Wisconsin. Under the previous governor a Democrat, and before him four-term Republican Gov. Thompson, government grew in Wisconsin. State budgets grew. Government spending increased. Worker payrolls exceeded the private taxpayers' average take-home pay. Government employees' pensions and benefits continued to climb.


Throughout most of that time period the economy cycled from - okay, to pretty good, to splendid. Not anymore! Almost everyone seems to realize it. Some sense it and try to protect all they have and grab what they can get. Others know it's time for a diet - to cut back on the goodies and pay down the credit cards. This carries forth into their view of the government, as well.


The protests began.  Power has again transferred, a new regime is in place and it intends to constrain spending and cut back government budgets. But there's just one problem, the constituents of the old regime don't like that plan. In fact they despise it and they're willing to tell everyone about it. So there ensue the Wisconsin teachers' and government employees' labor union protests and the occupation of the capital in Madison.


Unlike the Middle East there is no shooting, tear gas, or actual rioting. Sure there was some pushing and shoving. Some people called dirty names, vilified, subjected to harassment and cursed at. The governor was portrayed as Adolf Hitler - something that for months we've been told was utterly inappropriate when done by the Tea Partiers.  (Still waiting for Mainstream Mediato comment on this.) Some senators ran away to prevent legislative action. Others stayed to force the legislative action and face the harassment. Some even endured death threats.


Again the contrast must be made: in the Middle East they are killing people by the dozens, hundreds or thousands. In America, power is transferred, people protest, some loudmouths shoot from a lip and then we resort to more political means.


In Wisconsin, today, 16 different recall campaigns are underway. Eight Democrats and eight Republicans are under assault by means of legitimate political tools of grievance. A recall election is one in which the constituents of an electoral district or the entire state can basically call for a "redo vote". These are obviously retaliatory measures.


People on one end or the other of this budget dispute did not like how at least 16 people voted or failed to vote. In the best hopes of the petitioners the incumbent officeholders will be thrown out. At a minimum, they will know that their opponents are watching, waiting and willing to strike when the opportunity presents itself.


There is another contrast to be made between the Middle East and America's Midwest. In the Middle East the problem that persisted for decades has been the government defrauding the rights of the people it governs. As I said earlier, in America, elections have meaning.  Agendas are either certified to be continued or negated - by changing the persons who hold the levers of power.


In America, you don't have to like it when the agenda changes. You can speak out or shout about it. One of the most famous instances of that occurring was a comment by the late Peter Jennings, Anchor of the ABC Evening News.  When the 1994 midterm elections elevated Newt Gingrich to Speaker of the House, Jennings snidely remarked,"... The voters had a temper tantrum last week..."


With that Wisconsin change of agenda we did not see a Middle Eastern styled government defrauding of the people. Change occurred, drastic change according to some, but not fraud.


However there was a fraud perpetrated on the streets of Madison.  That fraud was captured by television cameras and can be seen even now on YouTube. Employees of the government defrauded the taxpayers by alleging to be sick while tramping around the state capital in frigid temperatures. Sufficient numbers of teachers "called in sick" that entire schools had to be closed for days. Some went so far as to bring their students down to participate in the protests they were staging while not working because of some alleged malady they were suffering.


In the upcoming weeks I expect we will be treated to many more instances of protest in America. In the Rust Belt in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, as well as, the Sun Belt in places like Alabama, South and North Carolina and Florida budgets are under constraint. Governors and legislatures have tough decisions to make.


They don't have the luxury of printing money. They must balance their budgets therefore they must make hard choices. Most will understand, many will not like it, much protest will ensue and some may even idiotically riot (let's sincerely pray and hope not).


But the real action will occur in Washington DC. Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats control the Senate. Speaker John Boehner uneasily rules the House because of the split between his Tea Party and old-line Republicans. And of course President Obama is sticking by his submitted budget that has over a $1.4 trillion deficit for next year. 


The whole town is waiting for a donnybrook to bust out. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York recently told the media that he's been instructed to refer to the Republicans as being "extreme".  Freshman Republicans are already making it hard on their leaders to make compromises. The chattering class remembers 1995 and is just drooling over the prospects while waiting for a shutdown - stay tuned for your local news - film at 11:00!




Linwood Bragan serves as the Executive Director of CapStand.

He is an Attorney, Counselor & Consultant based in Alexandria Virginia. Mr Bragan has an extensive background in political activism having served on numerous political camnpaigns and, most recently serving on Capitol Hill as a Congressional Counsel and Legislative Assistant. He was also an Assistant Attorney General - Associate Counsel for the Alabama State Banking Department. He has lectured in 20 states on political activism, finance, organization and elections.


Contact Linwood at:

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