Thursday, March 31, 2011

Indiana Republican Rep Says Women Will Pretend To Be Raped To Get Free Abortions

Indiana Republican Rep Says Women Will Pretend To Be Raped To Get Free Abortions

Yesterday morning, the Indiana House considered an anti-abortion bill that “would put some of the tightest abortion restrictions in the nation into Indiana law.” Introduced by state Rep. Eric Turner (R), HB 1210 would make most abortions illegal after 20 weeks. Current law restricts abortions after the fetus is viable, generally around 24 weeks.

In an attempt to soften the blow this bill would land on Hoosier women, state Rep. Gail Riecken (D) introduced an amendment to exempt “women who became pregnant due to rape or incest, or women for whom pregnancy threatens their life or could cause serious and irreversible physical harm” from being forced to carry to term. Fearing this bill would “push women to the back alleys” for illegal abortions, Riecken pleaded with lawmakers to allow women to make the choice in these cases.

Turner then stepped to the podium and insisted that Riecken’s amendment would create a “giant loophole” for women. That loophole? Women “could simply say they’ve been raped”:

TURNER: With all do respect to Rep. Riecken, I understand what she’s trying to do. But as you know that when the federal health care bill was going through Congress there was a lot of discussion whether this would allow for abortion coverage and of course we were all told it would not. And the bill, my house bill 1210, would prevent that for any insurance company to provide abortion coverage under federal health care bill. This [amendment] would open that window and I would ask you to oppose this amendment.

I just want you to think about this, in my view, giant loophole that could be created where someone who could — now i want to be careful, I don’t want to disparage in any way someone who has gone through the experience of a rape or incest — but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest.

Outraged by Turner’s allegation, state Rep. Linda Lawson (D) — who spent six years as a sex crimes investigator for the Indiana police — delivered an emotional rebuke. Describing her experience with both elderly and young children who had been raped, she forcefully informed Turner that “they don’t make it up.” “Women don’t make this up! My Goodness!” she exclaimed. “This is the state of Indiana!”

The House voted down Riecken’s amendment 42 to 54. The bill “now is eligible for a final vote in the House later this week. It then would move to the Senate, which earlier passed similar legislation aimed at abortion.”
Let's us pretend that Indiana Republicans have any other agenda than acting like big government daddys who want the state to have the last word on women's fundamental reproductive rights. A woman may not be allowed to do have control over her uterus, that is a decision over which largely white male conservatives think they are the only ones to make those personal judgements. Not women, not women and their families, not women and their doctor and not women and their clergy. Nope, conservatives are the all seeing, all knowing sages who can just tell - women will lie all day every day to get them some of those free abortions after they have been raped.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What Do Republicans Stand For - The Rich Get Richer While Nurses, Teachers, and Firefighters Get Trounced

What Do Republicans Stand For - The Rich Get Richer While Nurses, Teachers, and Firefighters Get Trounced

Many people might think that the country's problems stem from the fact that too much money has been going to the very rich. Over the last three decades, the richest one percent of the population has increased its share of national income by almost 10 percentage points (Excel spreadsheet at link). This comes to $1.5 trillion a year, or as the deficit hawks are fond of saying, $90 trillion over the next 75 years.

To put this in context, the size of this upward redistribution to the richest one percent over the last three decades is roughly large enough to double the income of all the households in the bottom half of the income distribution. The upward redistribution amounts to an average of more than 1.2 million dollars a year for each of the families in the richest one percent of the population.

And this upward redistribution was brought about by deliberate policy. We pursued a trade and high dollar policy that was intended to put downward pressure on the wages of manufacturing workers. The Federal Reserve Board deliberately kept unemployment higher than necessary in order to weaken workers bargaining power. We extended patent monopolies to allow drug companies to jack up prices, raking in hundreds of billions a year. And, we gave the Wall Street banks the benefit of "too big to fail" status so they can borrow with a government subsidy.

These policies and others fueled this enormous upward redistribution. But the deficit hawks don't want us talking about any of these things.

The deficit hawks insist that we have to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits now! They are busy hyperventilating over the enormous deficits, the result of the economic collapse, which was in turn the result of their economic mismanagement. (Wait, we are not supposed to talk about that.)

And the deficit hawks have clear ideas on how they want to deal with the costs of Social Security and Medicare over coming decades. And, it does not involve taking money from the tiny group of wealthy people who have profited enormously at the expense of the middle class over the last three decades.

Nor are the deficit hawks interested in reining in the drug companies, the insurance companies or the doctors. The bloated prices and exorbitant pay of these actors is the main reason that U.S. health care costs are so wildly out of line with health care costs in other wealthy countries.

But deficit hawks don't get paid to go after rich people or the health care industry. Deficit hawks get paid to go after the benefits of middle-income people. This is why we were treated to a Washington Post column by finance industry executive Robert Pozen telling liberals that they should support his plan for raising the retirement age and cutting Social Security benefits for higher-income earners.

When Pozen talks about cutting benefits for higher-income earners he is not thinking of people like Peter Peterson or Robert Rubin. He has his gun sights on people earning $40,000 to $80,000 a year. In other words, Pozen wants to cut benefits for workers like schoolteachers, firefighters and nurses.

These are workers that definitely enjoy somewhat higher pay and a higher standard of living than most of the workforce, but only in Washington deficit hawks' circles are these people living lavish lifestyles that need to be cut back. These workers are quite explicitly the target of the Washington deficit hawk gang.

The deficit hawk crew will even shed some crocodile tears for the poor who earn near the minimum wage and live near the poverty level. They would raise their benefits if not for those greedy plumbers and mechanics who insist on getting the Social Security benefits that they paid for.

In the next few weeks we will be treated to an endless parade of budget experts who will be yapping about "entitlements" and insisting that middle-income workers are living too lavishly. While all these experts have really impressive credentials it is important to remember that these credentials did not prevent this highly paid crew from overlooking the largest asset bubble in the history of the world.

If this group had paid a tenth as much attention to the housing bubble as they are now paying to the deficit projections, we would not be sitting around with 25 million who are unemployed, under-employed or out of the workforce altogether. The deficit hawks are very good when it comes to whining about the deficit and demanding sacrifices from middle-class workers. They just aren't very good when it comes to understanding the economy.

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
When conservatives went on a spending spree in the 80s and during the Bush-Cheney era and put everything they bought on the conservative credit card that was not just circumstances. That was the plan. Run the economy into the ground so they could go after the social safety net - Social Security and Medicare. And gut worker's rights like collective bargaining. Now they've convinced everyone we have to have huge cut backs as they cut corporate taxes as corporations make historic profits.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

GE Signs Up for Class Warfare After Paying No Taxes

After Paying Zero Income Taxes, GE Plans To Ask Its Union Workers To Make Wage And Benefits Concessions

Last week, the New York Times reported that, despite making $14.2 billion in profits, General Electric, the largest corporation in the United States, paid zero U.S. taxes in 2010 and actually received tax credits of $3.2 billion dollars. The article noted that GE’s tax avoidance team is comprised of “former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.”

After not paying any taxes and making huge profits, ThinkProgress has learned that General Electric is expected to ask its nearly 15,000 unionized employees in the United States to make major concessions.

This year, 14 unions representing more than 15,000 workers will negotiate a new master contract with General Electric. Among the major concessions GE has signaled that it will ask of union workers is the elimination of a defined contribution benefit pension for new employees, a move the company has already implemented for its non-union salaried employees. Likewise, GE is signaling to the union that it will ask for the elimination of current health insurance plans in favor of lower quality health saving accounts, a move the company has already implemented for non-union salaried employees as well.

In addition, General Electric may ask some workers for a wage freeze. Since the recession began in 2007, GE threatened to close plants in Schenectady, NY and Louisville, KY unless workers took wage concessions and adopted two-tier wage structure. In an interview with ThinkProgress, Mark Haller, a machinist at General Electric locomotive factory in Erie, PA, said:

The company I work for paid no federal taxes last year, but we all get these mass emails from GE asking us to call our Congressman to fund the useless, alternative GE engine for the F-35. As taxpayers, we are subsidizing the profits of this company to a huge extent and now after making the company even more profitable, they are asking us to make concessions on pensions, benefits, and perhaps even wages. You wonder why there is a jobs crisis in this country with a guy like G.E. CEO Jeff Immelt heading the President’s Jobs Commission.

In 2003, union workers at 16 different General Electric factories engaged in a strike when G.E. proposed to cut their health care. Workers are mobilizing again this year. They have planned a rally that is expected to attract 10,000 workers from all over the country at the General Electric Locomotive Factory in Erie, PA on June 4th.
Like many large US corporations GE practices its own form of socialism. They reap the profits, but workers must continually make sacrifices. How much profits will be enough for corporations and how much sacrifice from workers is enough. Never according to GE and the conservative movement.

Fox Hypes Trump's Birtherism

Fox News is promoting Donald Trump's recent call for President Obama to "show his birth certificate." Several Fox News hosts have hyped Trump's comments without noting that Obama released his certificate of live birth from the state of Hawaii when he was a candidate in 2008.

Obama Released Certificate Of Live Birth In June 2008; Experts Confirmed Validity. In June 2008, Obama's campaign made public a copy of Obama's certificate of live birth, which was published on the Internet by numerous media outlets. Many experts, including a team from, reviewed the document in person and determined it was authentic. On July 27, 2009, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, certified that she had personally seen Obama's birth certificate in the original records maintained by the Hawaii government. [Los Angeles Times, 6/16/08;, 8/21/08; USA Today, 7/28/09]

In the future all Republicans should be required to prove their birth in the US and their gender. You know, because we can never be too careful about being infiltrated by pretend patriots like Sean Hannity and most of the right-wing pundits who push these specious urban myths.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fox News Traitors Endanger Military Personnel

Fox News Traitors Endanger Military Personnel

This is a new low for Fox. It's one thing to argue that the ongoing operations in Libya came too late, or shouldn't have happened at all, or are backed by a coalition that's too big, or too small, or that U.S. involvement is too much, or too little -- all of which the right-wing media have managed to say in the past few weeks, sometimes in the same breath -- but it's another to engage in baseless fearmongering that even they admit could put our troops in danger. But, hey! When public opinion polls show that Americans support Obama's actions in Libya, they have to do something to turn the tide against Obama, right?

This began last night, when host Bill O'Reilly interviewed retired Colonel David Hunt and Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer, a former Army intelligence officer, about whether or not the U.S. has "boots on the ground" in Libya. From the March 24 edition of The O'Reilly Factor (via Nexis):

O'REILLY: In the impact segment tonight, not much new to report out of Libya other than Gadhafi's ground forces continue to be hammered by NATO war planes. Some Americans fear there will be boots on the ground in Libya.

The Obama administration says that's not going to happen, but what is happening on the ground may surprise you. Joining us now from Washington Lt. Colonel Tony Shaffer, a former Army Intelligence Officer and from Boston Colonel David Hunt, Fox News military analyst.

So we hear special forces are already on the ground in Libya. True, Colonel Hunt?

COLONEL DAVID HUNT, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): Yes, absolutely. You've got British service been in there about three weeks ago and captured and released. The French GIGN have been in there and our special forces and our U.S. intelligence operatives and their assets.

We do not conduct operations like this, large scale air operations without people on the ground. They have been very successful, very good, not a lot of contact with the rebels because you don't know who to talk to.

But, yes, we have got Intel gathering, and rescue guys and special operations guys on the ground, have had them for about 12 days.

O'REILLY: Now, do you agree with that, Colonel Shaffer?

LT. COLONEL TONY SHAFFER, FORMER ARMY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Yes, I have heard from my sources -- I got a call from one of my key sources on Monday and that's exactly what's going on. Let's be really clear here.

You have got to have these individuals doing what Dave just said, especially when you are talking about trying to protect and the stated goal here, Bill, is humanitarian support.

So you don't want to have weapons hitting the wrong targets. So, Dave is very good on the fact that we have special operations guys sitting there with laser designators. Bill, you saw -

O'REILLY: Well, tell me what a laser designator is?

SHAFFER: Well, laser designator is a thing you put on a target especially when you are talking about having close quarters between the adversary -

O'REILLY: So they actually from the air can see these laser designators? So we have guys saying here, you get these people?

SHAFFER: Right, right.

Horrifyingly, even as Hunt acknowledged that usually such special operations are not discussed because "[i]t's protecting guys whose assets are on the ground," O'Reilly egged him on, encouraging him to continue to talk publicly about operations that are normally kept secret in order to "[protect] our guys" (via Nexis, emphasis added):

O'REILLY: Now, the Obama administration says flat out we don't have any boots on the ground there. We are not going to have them. Is that a lie, Colonel Hunt?

HUNT: Yes, it's disinformation. It's protecting guys whose assets on the ground. We don't talk about covert activity. Some the stuff I have been involved in both the Southeast Asia and the Balkans, you know, it's really protecting our guys.

O'REILLY: You were one of the guys on grounds in the Balkans, Colonel Hunt was, when we weren't supposed it have any guys on the ground, correct?

HUNT: Yes, and the reason it's not published want to protect the guys I was with. In this case, it was Seals and trying to do some Intel work -- without the bad guys knowing about it. It's the same issue here with Libya.

O'REILLY: All right, but you were there yourself doing this while the Clinton administration was saying we didn't have anybody there. You were there. I just want people to know that that you have hands on experience and you know what's going on.

Now, Colonel Shaffer, when you say that we have guys in there, you are talking Delta Force guys? Green Beret guys? Navy Seals? All of those people?

SHAFFER: I know what group I was told are in there and their primary duty, their primary job is to make -- we would call them Forward Air controllers, Combat Air controllers.

O'REILLY: OK, but they are attached to the military service. We assume CIA guys are in there. You have got to assume that they are in there. They are everywhere, but they are civilians. You are talking about a military guys in there?

SHAFFER: Right, and their job is to basically make sure that on the terminal phase, the terminal ballistic phase of a bomb going into target that it goes into the target we want.

O'REILLY: Doesn't blow up villagers that have nothing to do with it.

SHAFFER: The bottom line is we trust our guys more than anyone else.

O'REILLY: Of course, look, we have the best Intel people in the world. They are all over the place and -- but I want people to know what's going on in Libya. That's my job.

Well, Bill, it might be your job to keep people informed, but doesn't it strike you as irresponsible to publicly speculate about operations that are normally kept secret for the safety of our troops?

Instead of reflecting on whether or not such reporting is responsible, Fox doubled down. This morning, Fox & Friends repeatedly replayed and hyped Hunt's interview, often without clarifying that Hunt -- who himself offered no concrete evidence for his claims -- specifically meant special forces whose missions are normally not discussed.

This text, for example, was repeatedly aired on screen:

Boots on the Ground chyron

Like O'Reilly, Fox & Friends co-hosts also seemed to possess no self-awareness about how their shameless fearmongering could be harmful, if there are indeed secret U.S. military operatives on the ground:

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Special ops are involved in 100 different operations at any point. And as -- you were on the show last night. You heard, they use the term painting the targets. They're on there, so when the jets come over, you have special ops on the ground actually saying, "Okay, hit here" -

STEVE DOOCY (co-host): The laser pointers --

KILMEADE: -- and the laser goes right there, and the bomb hits right there.

DOOCY: The other guy in the split screen is Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer, in operations like this, we always have guys on the ground who do recon, and surveillance and stuff like that. But for the administration to say, don't worry, we're not going to have boots on the ground, that's not exactly honest. Is it? Because we already do have boots on the ground.

At this point, co-host Gretchen Carlson's conscience seemed to catch up with her, though that still didn't stop her from talking about possible "secret, covert people" the U.S. military might have in Libya:

CARLSON: Well -- no. I don't think that's an issue. I think that you need to protect those people who are there. I think when it becomes an issue is if we actually have boots on the ground.

DOOCY: We have boots on the ground!

CARLSON: No, no, no, if we actually are there.

DOOCY: If we invade?

CARLSON: Yes. When you say boots on the ground --

DOOCY: We're not going to invade.

CARLSON: Ok, well, that's a totally different thing and most Americans would understand that we have secret, covert people there, and we don't want to blow their cover. But it's totally different when you're talking about what our long-term mission is there, and that remains unknown.

Fox & Friends didn't even bother to conceal their true motive with this irresponsible reporting. Following that segment, Doocy teased the story again later on the show by saying:

DOOCY: Meanwhile, a stunning revelation -- sources say there are troops on the ground in Libya. Will this spell more trouble for President Obama in the court of public opinion?
Fox had a choice to make - think up yet another baseless hypocritical attack on President Obama or do what was in the best interests of the military. They choose not to protect the military. There is no excuse for the ex-military that O'Reilly interviewed as experts. They too had a choice to make.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wisconsin Republicans Take a Piss on Justice and Democracy

Wisconsin Republicans Take a Piss on Justice and Democracy

Yet another shoe has dropped in the battle over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's (R) anti-public employee union law -- with state Republican leaders now apparently defying or attempting to circumvent a court order that temporarily blocked implementation of the law.

Last week, a judge in Dane County (Madison) blocked the law on procedural grounds, ruling that a key conference committee used to advance the bill -- and to get around the state Senate Dems' walkout from the state -- had violated the state open-meetings law by failing to give proper 24-hours notice.

The judge's order "restrain[ed] and enjoin[ed] the further implementation" of the law, including the prevention of Secretary of State Doug LaFollette (D) from publishing the act in the Wisconsin State Journal, which acts as the state's official newspaper for the purpose of giving the public official notice of new laws -- the final step for the law to take effect. That decision is now going through an appeals process, which remains up in the air.

But now, state Republicans have had the bill published through a different office -- the Legislative Reference Bureau, which handles drafting and research for the legislature -- according to the LRB's statutory requirement to publish legislation within ten days of enactment. Interestingly, the LRB itself says that this publication does not constitute action that would put the law into effect. But the state's Republican leaders disagree. Senate Majority Scott Fitzgerald (R) says the LRB publication constitutes official publication and the insists the law will take effect Saturday.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports:

"I think this is a ministerial act that forwards it to the secretary of state," said Stephen Miller, director of the Legislative Reference Bureau. "I don't think this act makes it become effective. My understanding is that the secretary of state has to publish it in the (official state) newspaper for it to become effective."


Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) claimed it didn't matter that it hasn't appeared in the paper.

"It's published," Fitzgerald said. "It's law. That's what I contend."

Following this action, State House Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) obtained a letter from Scott Grosz, the staff attorney for the Wisconsin Legislative Council -- which offers legal advice to the LRB -- further outlining the LRB's position. Key quote:

As described above, s. 35.095 (3) (b), Stats., refers to the publication activities of the Secretary of State, rather than the publication activities of the LRB. Accordingly, while certain statutory obligations regarding publication of Act 10 have been satisfied by the LRB, the statutory obligation that relates to the effective date of Act 10 has not yet been satisfied by the Secretary of State, and at this time the Secretary's actions remain subject to the temporary restraining order issued in Dane County Circuit Court.

However, Fitzgerald is insisting otherwise, the Wisconsin State Journal reports:

"Every attorney I have consulted said this will now be law," said Fitzgerald. "It wasn't a secret. I think they left the door open for this."

As WisPolitics reports, Fitzgerald said that he had sent the LRB the letter suggesting publication:

"It became clear that this was an option and they were on equal footing with the secretary of state," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said he could not speculate what legal actions may be taken following LRB publishing the act, but he was confident the move was proper.

"It's law tomorrow," he said.

So what does this all mean? Well, it now appears that Republicans are ready to move ahead with the new law eliminating most collective bargaining rights for public employee unions, despite a court order that prevented not only 'publication' but any "further implementation" of the statute. The move is almost certain to spark yet more litigation and provide more grist for the Democratic efforts to recall Republican state Senators this year and Walker himself next year.
Modern Republicans have been called modern proto-fascists. Gee, I can't understand why.

Progressives launch ad against WI justice who called colleague a ‘bitch’

The Wisconsin Supreme Court justice that recently admitted to calling a female colleague a "bitch" now has another problem.

Progressives in the state have launched an ad campaign against Justice David Prosser, suggesting that he's on the side of child molesters.

While District Attorney of Outagamie County in 1979, Prosser had refused to prosecute a priest that had allegedly sexually abused two children.
Wisconsin's Governor Hosni Mubarak Walker has said that Prosser would be a perfect "compliment" to his administration. Peas in a pod as it were. Both seem to have upside down values.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Maine Governor Continues Republican Attack on America's Proud Heritage

Maine Governor Continues Republican Attack on America's Proud Heritage

Maine Governor Paul LePage has ordered state workers to remove from the state labor department a 36-foot mural depicting the state’s labor history. Among other things the mural illustrates the 1937 shoe mill strike in Auburn and Lewiston. It also features the iconic “Rosie the Riveter,” who in real life worked at the Bath Iron Works. One panel shows my predecessor at the U.S. Department of Labor, Frances Perkins, who was buried in Newcastle, Maine.

The LePage Administration is also renaming conference rooms that had carried the names of historic leaders of American labor, as well as former Secretary Perkins.

The Governor’s spokesman explains that the mural and the conference-room names were “not in keeping with the department’s pro-business goals.”

Are we still in America?

Frances Perkins was the first woman cabinet member in American history. She was also one of the most accomplished cabinet members in history.

She and her boss, Franklin D. Roosevelt, came to office at a time when average working people needed help – and Perkins and Roosevelt were determined to give it to them. Together, they created Social Security, unemployment insurance, the right of workers to unionize, the minimum wage, and the forty-hour workweek.

Big business and Wall Street thought Perkins and Roosevelt were not in keeping with pro-business goals. So they and their Republican puppets in Congress and in the states retaliated with a political assault on the New Deal.

Roosevelt did not flinch. In a speech in October 1936 he condemned “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”

Big business and Wall Street, he said,

had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me – and I welcome their hatred.

Fast forward 75 years.

Big business and Wall Street have emerged from the Great Recession with their pockets bulging. Profits and bonuses are as high as they were before the downturn. And they’re spending like mad on lobbying and politics. After the Supreme Court’s disgraceful Citizens United decision, there are no limits.

Pro-business goals are breaking out all over. Governors across America are slashing corporate taxes as they slash state budgets. House and Senate Republicans are intent on deregulating, privatizing, and cutting spending and taxes so their corporate and Wall Street patrons will do even better.

But most Americans are still in desperate trouble. Few if any of the economic gains are trickling down.

That’s why the current Republican assault on workers – on their right to form unions, on unemployment insurance and Social Security, on public employees, and even (courtesy of Governor LePage) on our common memory – is so despicable.

And it’s why we need a President who will fight for workers and fight against this assault — just as Perkins and FDR did.

By the way, Maine’s Governor LePage may be curious to know that the building housing the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington is named the “Frances Perkins Building.” He can find her portrait hanging prominently inside. Also portraits and murals of great leaders of American labor.

A short walk across the mall will bring Governor LePage to an imposing memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt, should the Governor wish to visit.

Governor, you might be able to erase some of Maine’s memory, but you’ll have a hard time erasing the nation’s memory – even if it’s not in keeping with your pro-business goals.

Robert Reich is Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He has written twelve books, including The Work of Nations, Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His "Marketplace" commentaries can be found on

It should come as no surprise that Paul LePage has never built a bridge, driven a nail, painted a house, emptied a bed pan, taught a room full of children to read or any other labor. Nope, he has spent his life telling other people to do those things. Those people have in return provided him and like minded right-wing conservatives with a comfortable living. Lepage suffers from a common ailment among conservatives, they think their issuing orders from behind a desk makes them inherently superior to everyone else. He actually thinks he has created jobs. Jobs are never created without the value added by labor. Nothing much is accomplished by acting like a arrogant assclown who thinks of "business" as some supernatural entity that could accomplish great things if only America's workers would get out of the way.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Unhinged Republicans - Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) So Eager To Cut Spending He’d Leave Prison Guard Towers Empty

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) So Eager To Cut Spending He’d Leave Prison Guard Towers Empty

In his lust to cut state spending, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) proposed a plan that could leave guard towers unmanned at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison located near two schools and a residential neighborhood in Lucasville. The plan would close six of the prison’s eight towers, resulting in savings of a measly $2.1 million. The proposal was met with resistance from local union officials and state Rep. Terry Johnson (R), who recalled the 1993 riot that left one guard and 10 inmates dead inside the facility:

“The people guarding the prison are my friends and neighbors,” Johnson said. “Their welfare and that of their families are my highest priority. The public owes them an enormous debt of gratitude for the difficult job they do so well. This potential tower closure presents a grave concern for me. If keeping those towers open will help ensure a single time that one guard gets home safely to his or her family when they might otherwise have been harmed then I am for keeping the towers open.” [...]

“I was here in 1993 with the (Ohio) National Guard and saw the disastrous consequences of a full-scale riot firsthand,” Johnson said. “That was a terrible time and lives were lost. We need to ensure that never happens again.”

Given his short time in office, Kasich is already remarkably unpopular with Ohio voters. Endangering prison guards, school children and families in the name of saving money probably isn’t the way to bring those poll numbers back up.
Is Gov. John Kasich (R) one crazy Republican. Not really. In the sense that this is the way conservatives think. They get to be seen making budget cuts which seem like they are saving money, only the problems those cuts create ultimately cost tax payers even more because of the problems they cause and the mess - like possible prison riots - that have to be cleaned up. Kasich, like your average conservative does not believe in thinking, he believes in reacting. That has never amounted to much in the way of good governance, but since conservative hate good government, by and for the people, creating more problems makes perfect sense in what passes for Republican thinking.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Most Hyped Non-controversy of the day - Former SEIU Official Reveals Secret Plan To Destroy JP Morgan, Crash The Stock Market, And Redistribute Wealth

Most Hyped Non-controversy of the day - Former SEIU Official Reveals Secret Plan To Destroy JP Morgan, Crash The Stock Market, And Redistribute Wealth In America

A decade ago, Henry Blodget was caught fraudulently hyping tech stocks and was banned from the securities industry. Now Glenn Beck is peddling a ridiculous story that's also being hyped by Blodget at Business Insider -- a story about (wait for it) the coming destruction of capitalism in America by an ex-union guy and his massive leftist army of ... well, you'll just have to read Blodget's write-up:

CAUGHT ON TAPE: Former SEIU Official Reveals Secret Plan To Destroy JP Morgan, Crash The Stock Market, And Redistribute Wealth In America

A former official of one of the country's most-powerful unions, SEIU, is detailing a secret plan to "destabilize" the country.

... The former SEIU official, Stephen Lerner, spoke in a closed session at a Pace University forum last weekend.

... Lerner's plan is to organize a mass, coordinated "strike" on mortgage, student loan, and local government debt payments--thus bringing the banks to the edge of insolvency and forcing them to renegotiate the terms of the loans. This destabilization and turmoil, Lerner hopes, will also crash the stock market, isolating the banking class and allowing for a transfer of power.

Lerner's plan starts by attacking JP Morgan Chase in early May, with demonstrations on Wall Street, protests at the annual shareholder meeting, and then calls for a coordinated mortgage strike.

... Lerner was ousted from SEIU last November, reportedly for spending millions of the union's dollars trying to pursue a plan like the one he details here. It is not clear what, if any, power and influence he currently wields....

First of all, I would be ecstatic if I thought something like this could possibly be done successfully in America in 2011. But not only is organized, widespread progressive action of this kind extraordinarily unlikely, but Lerner's notion of how it would play out (if the voice on the tape is his -- Blodget admits he can't verify this) is ridiculously naive.
The former SEIU guy is behind the curve if nothing else. Wall St and right-wing conservatives, who do Wall Street's biding like good little handmaidens, have already redistributed the wealth. Has everyone already forgotten the billions of dollars used to bail out those big banks and financial firms - the bail-outs started during the Bush administration and were passed by Republicans in both Houses of Congress. The six largest Wall Streets holding banks already have assets that equal 63% of the US GDP. The 400 wealthiest Americans already have assets that equal those assets held by the bottom 155 million Americans. Yet anti-American conservative pundits like Beck, Michelle Malkin etc are claiming this SEIU story is big news. Only if you have severely impaired cognitive skills. The Great Recession
The pithiest explanation I've seen comes from New York Times columnist and Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, who noted in one interview: "Regulation didn't keep up with the system." In this view, the emergence of an unsupervised market in more and more exotic derivatives—credit-default swaps (CDSs), collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), CDSs on CDOs (the esoteric instruments that wrecked AIG)—allowed heedless financial institutions to put the whole financial system at risk. "Financial innovation + inadequate regulation = recipe for disaster is also the favored explanation of Greenspan's successor, Ben Bernanke, who downplays low interest rates as a cause (perhaps because he supported them at the time) and attributes the crisis to regulatory failure.

A bit farther down on the list are various contributing factors, which didn't fundamentally cause the crisis but either enabled it or made it worse than it otherwise might have been. These include: global savings imbalances, which put upward pressure on U.S. asset prices and downward pressure on interest rates during the bubble years; conflicts of interest and massive misjudgments on the part of credit rating agencies Moody's and Standard and Poor's about the risks of mortgage-backed securities; the lack of transparency about the risks borne by banks, which used off-balance-sheet entities known as SIVs to hide what they were doing; excessive reliance on mathematical models like the VAR and the dread Gaussian copula function, which led to the underpricing of unpredictable forms of risk; a flawed model of executive compensation and implicit too-big-to-fail guarantees that encouraged traders and executives at financial firms to take on excessive risk; and the non-confidence-inspiring quality of former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's initial responses to the crisis.
There was and is a open conspiracy to redistribute wealth and the mission has pretty much been accomplished. If you're middle or working class and your finances go sideways, you're screwed. If you're one of the Republican parties rich benefactors the government will bail you out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Are Republicans Making Working Class Americans Pay for The Failure of Their Economic Policies

Why Are Republicans Making Working Class Americans Pay for The Failure of Their Economic Policies

An important new initiative from Half in Ten, a national campaign to reduce poverty by 50 percent over the next ten years, and the Coalition on Human Needs, is putting a face on irresponsible “slash and burn” deficit reduction by showing how it would damage real lives. The organizations are collecting people’s stories so that the cruel consequences of draconian cuts to key federal programs are plain to see.

Consider the story of Carolyn, who was in her 40s when her husband of 25 years left her with two daughters. She had never received any kind of assistance and describes turning to her local community action agency as “the hardest thing I had ever done.” Her fears were quickly allayed as she “was treated with respect and was never made to feel like a drain on society.” She enrolled in a workforce development program that helped her with tuition and books while she attended community college.

“I went to college five days a week and spent the weekend working, so I never had a day off,” writes Carolyn. “When I graduated I became a Registered Nurse, able to support myself and my family. I couldn’t have done it without the Federal Workforce Development Program and the supportive services the local Community Action Agency provided.”

But the Boehner-led “so be it” Republicans would nearly eliminate funding for Community Service Block Grants (CSBG) for the remainder of 2011, and President Obama proposes cutting it in half in 2012. The cuts would disrupt the antipoverty services provided by 1,065 community action agencies nationwide to over 20 million low-income people, including 5 million children, 2.3 million seniors and 1.7 million people with disabilities. What makes the cuts even more insane is that the agencies generate $6.54 from state, local, and private sources for every federal dollar received, according to the Coalition on Human Needs.

People like Carolyn would be hit doubly hard—not only would the community action agencies reach fewer people, but the kind of workforce development programs that allowed her to change her life would also be slashed by Republicans. In fact, at a time when 14 million Americans are out of work, more than 8 million adults and youth would lose access to job training and other employment services. Job training under the Workforce Investment Act programs for adults, youths, and dislocated workers would essentially be shut down until July 2012.

But, hey, at least folks can turn to higher education, right? Actually, not really. At a time when the US is now 12th in the world in the percentage of 25 to 34 year olds with a college degree, the GOP bill would result in 9.4 million low-income college students losing all or some of their Pell grant. It would reduce the maximum Pell grant by a whopping 17.4 percent! (Obama would increase Pell Grant funding by 20 percent.)

The GOP cuts would be a disaster for students like this senior at University of Missouri who anonymously writes, “I will be applying to medical school at the end of this year. I come from a single-parent household and my mother makes about $20,000/year; hardly enough to put me through college. Without federal aid such as the Pell Grant, I would not have enough money to attend college at all.”

The student also works as a medical assistant at Planned Parenthood, where the GOP would eliminate all federal funding. That means zero funding for 820 health centers that do 90 percent of their work on preventive, primary care.

“I know first-hand how important the services we provide to people really are,” writes the Mizzou student. “The majority of our patients literally cannot afford to go anywhere else, and without our care, they simply would not receive services such as cancer screenings, birth control, and so much more.”

Nor would many of them be able to heat their homes, if the Chainsaw Republicans have their way, and President Obama’s 2012 budget isn’t much better. Despite the fact that a record number of households are expected to need assistance to pay for heating or cooling, the cuts in the GOP bill would essentially wipe out the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) contingency fund for 2011. The contingency fund provides aid during periods of particularly severe weather or energy price increases. Obama’s cut of about $2.5 billion would deny assistance to more than three million households.

That doesn’t sit very well with Kimberly Thompson, who turned to her local community action agency when her 89 year old, very independent grandmother was facing “nursing home institutionalization.” Through the CSBG, the agency was able to purchase a walker for her, deliver a hot lunch daily, and “provide a home care worker to do light housekeeping and help her with personal care.” The agency also signed her up for LIHEAP and “weatherized her home which lowered her utility bills and gave her more money each month to buy food and medicine.”

“All of these services enabled my grandmother to stay at home for the rest of her life until she died at the age of 92, three years later,” writes Thompson. “If she didn’t have those community services, she would have had to move to a nursing home which would have been a much greater cost to the government—and therefore, the taxpayers—and also would have caused her much emotional distress.”

What is most maddening about the budget debate is that few legislators are talking about alternatives like increasing revenues by closing obscene tax loopholes and corporate giveaways and making the wealthy pay their fair share. Instead, the proposals hit the most vulnerable people the hardest—lower-income people, children, seniors, people with disabilities, unemployed workers, and others. (For a “Better Budget for All” check out this report.)

Kudos to Half in Ten and the Coalition on Human Needs for collecting these stories and making these budget cuts real. If you have a story to tell, please share it. The only way we win this budget battle is to show the very real consequences of these abstract numbers being thrown around Washington, DC, and then organize and demand alternatives. - Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.

Before the 2010 mid-term elections Democrats made a deal with Republicans to keep their tax cuts for the richest ten percent of Americans in exchange for extending unemployment benefits and some other pro-working class programs. That does not mean the states cannot do something. But many states have decided to stick middle and working class Americans with the bill for the recession they caused by their borrow and spend economic policies. What have far Right conservatives governors like Scott in Wisconsin, Ohio governor John Kasich and Florida criminal governor Rick Scott done to fix their budgets? They have cut corporate taxes. Corporations that are sitting on over two trillion dollars in profits. Like most modern right-wing conservatives they cannot connect the dots. Cutting education and public sector jobs just means another generation of Americans who will be living at the poverty level with little opportunity to work their way up. The people like the ones in this article. And it is not just the working age adults, it is their children who will be living hand to mouth.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Zombies Attack. Woman Arrested for Thinking About Abortion?

The Zombies Attack. Woman Arrested for Thinking About Abortion?

Last month, legislators in South Dakota introduced a bill that was worded in such a way that it could allow for the legalized murder of abortion providers. Under a firestorm of controversy, the bill was withdrawn, but similar bills have also been introduced in Nebraska and Iowa.

Legislators who introduce these bills invariably claim they aren’t encouraging terrorism or trying to infringe on the right to abortion, which is protected by the Supreme Court under Roe v. Wade. In fact, the argument for these kinds of laws is that they're about protecting pregnant women from violent assault. The sponsor of the South Dakota bill, Phil Jensen, laughably announced that his bill was about giving pregnant women the right to fend off attackers, even though pregnant women--like all citizens of South Dakota--already enjoy a broad right to self-defense in that state. More likely, this proposed bill, along with a broader one in Nebraska and Iowa, would work both to subtly encourage terrorism and establish a potential defense for those who kill abortion doctors.

Even short of that, laws like these are about establishing the notion that a fetus, or even a fertilized egg, is a separate person from the woman in which it resides, and therefore has rights equal to, or in most cases, greater than her rights. This would seem most obviously an attack on women’s health, freedom and safety, but supporters always strike a pose of protection for pregnant women, claiming to have their interests at heart. But the real-world results of these laws demonstrate that, just as pro-choice activists claim, women--especially pregnant women--are being assaulted rather than protected by attempts to establish fetal rights.

Take the more direct “personhood” bills, which define fertilized eggs as “persons” under the law. One such law is winding its way through North Dakota's legislature. Proponents of these laws admit they are laying groundwork for abortion bans, but still promote the laws as somehow being pro-woman, with Rep. Dan Ruby claiming that “women and children” will be protected by this law. Planned Parenthood disagrees, arguing that women who miscarry or suffer pregnancy complications will find themselves turned over to the police for criminal misconduct. Not very protective of pregnant women! At least four other states, including Florida, are looking at similar laws.

If you find yourself wanting to dismiss the possibility that these laws will be used to jail women who miscarry or suffer pregnancy complications, consider a recent event in Iowa where a pregnant woman was arrested for falling down a flight of stairs. You read that correctly. Christine Taylor fell down a flight of stairs after having a fight with her husband on the phone. When she went to the hospital--to makes sure the fetus was okay--she was arrested under one of the many state laws that grant fetuses rights separate from the mother. In this case, Iowa has a “feticide” law that pertains to the second trimester and beyond, and since Taylor confessed that she had contemplated abortion but had chosen to have the baby, the nurse and doctor at the hospital decided to phone the police and accuse her of trying to terminate her pregnancy illegally. She was eventually not charged, but in light of these events, any notion that a law such as this will be used for any other purpose but to harass and punish women should be disregarded.

Iowa is far from the only state where even pregnant women who want their babies are being punished and controlled with laws that establish a separate personhood and rights for a fetus. Nebraska banned abortions after 20 weeks on the unscientific grounds that fetuses feel pain at that gestational age. Shortly thereafter, Danielle Deaver discovered at 22 weeks she had a pregnancy that could not result in a living baby. Banned from having an abortion, she was forced to give birth to a baby that lived for 15 terrible minutes before dying. The notion that either mother or child is well served by this law should be dashed, and the brutal sadism of such laws immediately apparent.

If a woman in Iowa can be arrested for accidentally putting a wanted fetus in danger in the second trimester, and a woman in Nebraska forced to give birth to a baby with no chance of living, then what will happen now that states such as Iowa, Ohio, North Dakota, and Nebraska find ways to claim there’s a person in there when there’s a heartbeat, or a complete strand of DNA, or even in women who aren't actually pregnant? If you can get arrested for falling down a set of stairs while in your second trimester, what happens when the law is expanded to protect embryos, zygotes and even theoretical “persons” in pregnancies that might happen in the future?
If only right-wing conservatives would put this much energy into caring about actual children. Drastic Medicaid cuts have become the mindless mantra of newly elected tea nut conservatives. Cuts to programs that are essential to the health and well being of children. Cuts to the Head Start program would negatively affect millions of children, especially those from poor families. They may lose ground in cognitive skills they will never make up for in later schooling. Notice a trend. Republican economic policies trashed the economy. Now instead of Wall St and wealthy Americans paying for the damage they caused, Republican leadership across the country is making the poor, children, the sick and the elderly pay for the economic damage these ordinary Americans had nothing to do with. So much for tea baggers being genuine populists.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Time to Recall Ohio Gov. John Kasich Who Wants To Open Up State Parks For Oil And Gas Exploration

Time to Recall Ohio Gov. John Kasich Who Wants To Open Up State Parks For Oil And Gas Exploration

At the behest of then-Vice President Dick Cheney, an exemption was inserted into a 2005 energy bill — dubbed the “Haliburton loophole” — which stripped the EPA of its power to regulate a natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing. This method, called fracking, entails drilling a L-shaped well deep into shale and pumping millions of gallons of water laced with industrial chemicals — chemicals which the energy companies are not legally bound to disclose. The poisonous fluid fractures the shale and releases natural gas deposits for collection.

Due to the documented water contamination issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, both New York and New Jersey have imposed bans on fracking in their states. But the public health risk doesn’t seem to bother Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and state Republicans. The Ohio House introduced a bill early this month that would create a panel to open any state-owned land for oil and gas exploration to the highest bidder. This week, in an unreleased portion of Kasich’s proposed budget, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would be given authority to lease 200,000 acres of state park land for oil and gas exploration.

Kasich has fully endorsed drilling in Ohio state parks, saying, “Ohio is not going to walk away from a potential industry.” State Rep. John Adams (R), the House bill’s sponsor, said drilling in state parks can help erase a projected $8 billion budget deficit, and “keep our parks and our lakes up to the standards that the citizens of Ohio want.”

But the evidence proves contrary. Since 2005, large amounts of radioactive material have been found in water supplies near fracking sites, many Pennsylvanians have gotten sick, the tap water in homes near fracking sites have caught on fire, and a home in Celveland, Ohio blew up.

Responding to the threat fracking imposes on public health, Congress has directed the EPA to study how fracking affects drinking water. Reps. Diana Degette (D-CO) and Jared Polis (D-CO) have reintroduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, which would restore the EPA’s authority to regulate fracking — effectively closing the “Halliburton loophole.”
Gov. John Kasich (R) has taken to the current Republican habit of jumping up and down while waving his arms like a mad man pointing to crisis that do not exist or solutions that are counter productive. Either Kasich, and governors like Scott Walker of Wisconsin, do not understand the problem or they are hoping people do not look at the facts. Giving away public lands, land held in the public bank so to speak, will do next to nothing to lower energy prices. At the same time it will become an economic problem and environmental disaster down the road. And we all know who pays for disasters. Not people like Kasich and his wealthy friends like the Koch brothers. Regular working folks will pay. Domestic production rose sharply over the last two years, but didn't make a darn bit of difference

[D]omestic production of crude oil and related liquids rose 3 percent last year to an average of 7.51 million barrels a day -- its highest level since 2002.

The rise enabled a 2 percent drop in U.S. oil imports to 9.45 million barrel per day, in spite of rising demand as the economy recovered. U.S. oil imports have fallen steadily since 2006.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fox News Is Not Just a Propaganda Outlet for Proto-fascism, It is an Attack on Democracy

Fox News Is Not Just a Propaganda Outlet for Proto-fascism, It is an Attack on Democracy

In the 7 March issue of the Tribune, Mark Seddon reported on the threat that Glenn Beck, "as a sort of hired gauleiter on Fox News", poses to American democracy. The article hit the nail on the head when it comes to Beck's paranoiac propaganda. Seddon, however, misses the broader danger of the Murdoch-owned Fox News: the media outlet's audience is growing even as its programming veers away from broadcast journalism and shapes instead a rightwing political operation.

Consider the facts: more than twice as many Americans watch Fox News as watch CNN, the next most popular cable news channel, and almost five times as many as watch MSNBC. Fox's audience cuts across age, gender, race, education, and income level. The average Fox News viewer is a male between the ages of 30 to 49 -- far from most people's perception that mostly seniors watch Fox. So where Seddon pointed to a fabled minority audience of "not-so-bright … American citizens", Fox is instead popular among a wide swath of well-educated, contributing members of society. Fox's audience includes your neighbour, your cousin and the guy in front of you in line every morning at Starbucks.

This growing audience also puts significant faith in the credibility of the news delivered by Fox, even while trust in other major news outlets declines. Fox is among the most trusted news outlets in the US, despite countless demonstrable instances of their anchors and pundits spreading misinformation. This rise in influence is not an accident or a coincidence. It is the result of a sophisticated strategy to gain market dominance through an almost monopolistic aggregation of media platforms in individual markets, an aggressive strategy of cross-marketing between entertainment and news, and a systematic denigration by Fox News on air of all other outlets.

Fox's pre-eminent position has had an irrefutable and destructive impact on the state of political discourse in the United States. Since its inception, Fox News has performed as a political party, not as an objective journalistic outlet. Since President Obama took office, Fox has succeeded not only in spreading misinformation and lies, but also in entrenching those fictions so that its audience relates to them as irrefutable fact. One in four Americans believes "most or all" of what's said on Fox News, despite Fox's fabrication of everything from death panels to Climategate. (Coined by Sarah Palin, the term "death panels" -- an inaccurate claim that the healthcare reform bill would require end-of-life counseling -- was picked up by Fox to advance the provocative and false threat that the government would "tell grandma and grandpa… how and when to die". Climategate is Fox's name for the so-called scandal in which emails -- stolen and then distorted -- from the UK's Climate Research Unit suggested that "scientists are fudging data to make their case for global warming", when the "evidence isn't really there.")

Fox News' approach to these issues has, among other things, limited genuine debate about the merits of healthcare policy, forcing elected representatives to spend time insisting to their constituents that the president of the United States does not want to kill their grandmothers. The claims are so outrageous that they would be funny -- if they didn't have real impact on people's lives.

Not content to spread misinformation and singlemindedly pursue an extreme agenda, Fox decided in 2009 it would contribute explicitly to the rise of a social movement. Fox spent disproportionate airtime rallying people to join the Tea Party, the radical right group that was formed in the wake of the presidential election in 2008. Over ten days in April of 2009, Fox aired 107 ads for its coverage of Tea Party protests and, in that same time period, featured at least 20 segments on the upcoming protests. By contrast, in the recent legislative battle over collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, Fox called the protesting union supporters a "shrieking leftist mob".

By encouraging people to attend local rallies and providing incessant coverage of town halls around the healthcare bill, Fox lent structure and legitimacy to what might have otherwise been a brief episode of "tax day" anger. And as far as the 2010 midterms are concerned, both the Tea Party movement and Fox News deserve credit for the Republican sweep of the nation. What's sinister here is not the change of power -- the response of an unsatisfied American populace is, indeed, "vote another guy in" -- but the very deliberate manufacturing of that change by a force masquerading as a reputable news outlet.
Can the average viewer even tell the difference where Fox's news begins and its opinion programing starts. Fox deffly merges the two, with "news" people regularly giving opinions which seem as though they are news. Some of the "smart" people who watch Fox actually claim Fox cannot lie because that would violate some kind of broadcasting law. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our FCC bends over backwards to accommodate freedom of speech even when it means complete fabrication is reported as fact. Fox is following a recipe used by authoritarians through the ages: use freedom and democracy to undermine democracy. The scary thing is so many people do not seem to mind.

O’Reilly Demands Liberals Condemn Death Threats Against Wisconsin Republicans. So Will He Condemn Death Threats Against Obama, Liberals And Others On Fox Nation?

Republicans Double-Cross the Elderly

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) has his eyes the retirement and health care programs for the elderly as well. Despite decrying the supposed "huge cuts in Medicare" Cantor claimed in December 2009 were part of the Affordable Care Act, declared this week that "It is very difficult to balance the budget within 10 years without cutting seniors' benefits now." And as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan told the AP this week, for fiscal year 2012 House Republicans will propose major changes to Social Security as well as the Medicaid and Medicare programs that provides health insurance for 100 million Americans. While withholding specifics, Ryan declared:

"What I'm going to put forward is a serious and honest attempt to fix this country's fiscal problems."

And as his Roadmap for America's Future shows, Paul Ryan is serious if not quite so honest about privatizing Social Security and rationing Medicare.
One has to give Cantor and Ryan credit. They are both good at talking in circles. One of the things that would have made Social Security, Medicare and the economy stronger is to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. They opposed that modest increase to the same rates multi-millionaires paid during the Reagan years.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Judicial Activism. Conservative Supreme Court is the Best Money Can Buy

Judicial Activism. Conservative Supreme Court is the Best Money Can Buy

A recent study co-authored by conservative Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner confirms something that has been obvious to Supreme Court watchers for years — the Roberts Court places a huge thumb on the scale in favor of corporate interests. According to the study, the Roberts Court rules in favor of business interests 61 percent of the time, a 15 point spike from the five years before when Chief Justice Roberts joined the Court.

While the Chamber of Commerce has recently tried to downplay the favorable treatment it receives from the Supreme Court, its own top lawyer admitted a few years after Roberts joined the Court that the justices give his client special treatment:

Carter G. Phillips, who often represents the chamber and has argued more Supreme Court cases than any active lawyer in private practice, reflected on its influence. “I know from personal experience that the chamber’s support carries significant weight with the justices,” he wrote. “Except for the solicitor general representing the United States, no single entity has more influence on what cases the Supreme Court decides and how it decides them than the National Chamber Litigation Center.

Phillips’ confession, and the Posner study’s conclusion, corroborates other data showing the Roberts Court’s favoritism towards corporate interests. A recent study by the progressive Constitutional Accountability Center determined that every single justice is more likely to side with the Chamber than the justice who held their seat 25 years ago (the study did not include the Court’s two newest members because of an insufficiently large data sample):

Welcome to John Roberts’ America, where the wealthy and the well-connected receive the best justice money can buy.
Most Americans think the courts, especially the federal courts are the last bastion of impartiality. The one area of American life where justice is blind to such things as race, gender or political affiliation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The current Supreme Court is mostly Republicans, with a very conservative Republicans Chief Justice. They are supposed to be self policing. Instead they are bought and paid for by the extreme right's Chamber of Corruption.

Fox News' Union-Busting Crusade

Fox News' coverage of the recent protests in Wisconsin was rife with falsehoods about unions and attacks on the pro-union protesters. This continues a long pattern of smears and fabrications that characterizes Fox News' campaign to scapegoat and vilify labor unions.
More details at link.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Further Analysis Finds Deceptive Editing In NPR Scam Video, As NPR Gains An Unlikely Defender

Further Analysis Finds Deceptive Editing In NPR Scam Video, As NPR Gains An Unlikely Defender

Last week, a Project Veritas "sting" operation directed at National Public Radio cost some NPR executives their jobs. Beginning with Senior Vice President for Fundraising Ron Schiller, who was depicted on tape disparaging the Tea Party movement and suggesting that NPR should move away from federal funding (a position with arguable merit, but probably very unpopular at NPR), the fallout eventually cost NPR CEO Vivian Schiller her job as well.

That's sort of the NPR way: when one of the humans under their employ gets in trouble for expressing their opinions, everyone starts panicking and people start getting fired. Further analysis of the original video, however, demonstrates the wisdom of the old maxim, "act in haste, repent in leisure."

Glenn Beck-branded website The Blaze may seem an unlikely defender of NPR, but when the site's editor, Scott Baker, and video production specialist, Pam Key, examined the raw footage, they found "questionable editing and tactics" and reported them all out. The observations they make in their analysis include the following:

-- The video "does not explain how the NPR executives would have a basis to believe they were meeting with a Muslim Brotherhood front group," and indeed "includes a longer section of description that seems to downplay connections of the MEAC group to the Muslim Brotherhood as popularly perceived."

-- The video is edited to make it appear that Ron Schiller "is aware and perhaps amused or approving of the MEAC['s]" advocacy for Sharia law, but Schiller's "Really? That's what they said?" remark is actually made in reference to "confusion" involving the "restaurant reservation."

-- Schiller is actually complimentary of Republicans, and prefaces his criticism of the Tea Party by indicating that it's his own opinion, not NPR's. (Plenty of conservatives and Tea Party activists have averred that NPR has treated them fairly.) Baker also finds footage in which Schiller and director of institutional giving Betsy Liley express a hesitancy to disparage the "education of conservatives" and defend "intellects of Fox News viewers."

NPR's Dave Folkenflik and Mark Memmott add their own reporting to this:

Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member for broadcasting and online at the Poynter Institute, says to David that he tells his children there are "two ways to lie. One is to tell me something that didn't happen. And the other is not to tell me something that did happen." After comparing O'Keefe's edited tape to the longer version, "I think that they employed both techniques in this," Tompkins says.

One "big warning flag" Tompkins saw in the shorter tape was the way it made it appear that Schiller had laughed and commented "really, that's what they said?" after being told that the fake Muslim group advocates for sharia law. In fact, the longer tape shows that Schiller made that comment during an "innocuous exchange" that had nothing to do with the supposed group's position on sharia law, David reports.

Tompkins also says that O'Keefe's edited tape ignores the fact that Schiller said "six times ... over and over and over again" that donors cannot buy the kind of coverage they want on NPR.

Per Memmott, Project Veritas' James O'Keefe continues to maintain that their video is "very honest." It's easy to see why: the effects of his "sting" operation manifested themselves in several public firings, so he can couch his claims -- however dubious they may be -- in the fact that NPR's response was a de facto acceptance of the video's premise.

Which is why organizations like NPR shouldn't freak right the hell out and start firing people until all the facts are known. Had NPR just waited, they'd have Ron Schiller and his perfectly protean opinions on the Tea Party headed to the Aspen Institute, and Vivian Schiller citing the Project Veritas video's content and NPR's own coverage as a demonstration of NPR's editorial integrity. But they decided to go in a different direction.
So the right-wing Republican media, whether it is ACORN, Planned Parenthood, breaking into a Senator's communications room or pulling a con job where they try to provoke their subjects into doing something unethical - they cannot make the case there is a vast conspiracy of mean non-conservatives out to get them.

Republicans continue their class warfare on working Americans - Michigan’s GOP Gov. Slashes Corporate Tax Rate by 86 Percent, Hikes Taxes for Working Poor

Following suit, Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) has proposed ending his state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, cutting a $600 per child tax credit, and reducing credits for seniors, while also cutting funding for school districts by eight to ten percent. At the same time, as the Michigan League for Human Services found, the state’s business taxes would be reduced by nearly $2 billion, or 86 percent, under Snyder’s plan:

Business taxes would be cut by 86 percent from an estimated $2.1 billion in FY 2011 to $292.7 million in FY 2013, the first full year of the proposed tax changes…Taxes on individuals from the state income tax would rise by $1.7 billion or nearly 31 percent, from an estimated $5.75 billion in FY 2011 to $7.5 billion in FY 2013, the first full year of the tax changes.

As the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found, the practical upshot of Snyder’s tax increases is to place even more of a burden on Michigan’s poorest residents, who will see a bigger hike than those at the upper end of the income scale:
And so much for being pro-family. What Republicans are, is pro-rich white families.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Deficit Reduction Requires Shared Sacrifice. Republicans Demand Hands Off Their Wealthy Patrons

Deficit Reduction Requires Shared Sacrifice. Republicans Demand Hands Off Their Wealthy Patrons

The rich are getting richer. The middle class and poor are getting poorer. What is the Republican solution to the deficit crisis? More tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Savage cuts in programs that are desperately needed by working families.

There is another approach, which is why I've just introduced legislation imposing a surtax on those households earning a million dollars or more and the elimination of tax loopholes which the big oil companies take advantage of.

Everyone agrees that this country has a major deficit crisis, but few discuss how we got there. When George W. Bush inherited the White House from Bill Clinton we had a significant surplus. Now we have a $1.5 trillion deficit. How did that happen?

First, against my vote, Bush and Congress launched a war in Iraq. By the time we take care of our last veteran that war will end up costing us some $3 trillion. When the war drums were beating do you recall any of our Republican friends wanting to know how that unnecessary war was going to be paid for? I don't.

Second, Republicans for years have pushed for huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people. I didn't hear them ask how that was going to be paid for.

Third, under President Bush and a Republican-run House, Congress passed a $400 billion-plus Medicare prescription drug program. Written by the insurance companies and the drug companies, it barred the government from negotiating better prices. It drove up drug costs, padded pharmaceutical company profits and added to the deficit.

Fourth, again over my objection, Congress voted for a massive bailout of Wall Street. I didn't hear too many people talking about how we would pay for that $700 billion to bail out Wall Street. I didn't hear them worrying that it would drive up the deficit. Wall Street, having destroyed the economy through their reckless and illegal behavior, needed a welfare check and Congress provided it. End of story.

Those are some of the reasons we now have a deficit crisis, reasons Republicans don't talk much about when they provide soaring rhetoric about the dangers of large deficits.

The corporate media have been very lax in describing the devastating and unprecedented pain that the Republican House passed budget bill, HR 1, would bring about for low and moderate income families. Let me briefly mention just a very few of their cuts.

The Republicans want to decimate the Head Start Program. Every working family in America knows how hard it is today to find affordable childcare or early childhood education. At a time when we have the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world, the Republican solution is to slash Head Start by 20 percent, throw 218,000 children off the program and lay off 55,000 Head Start instructors.

The cost of college education today is so high that many young people are giving up their dream of going to college, while many others are graduating deeply in debt. The Republican solution? Make a bad situation much worse by slashing Pell grants by $5.7 billion and reducing or eliminating Pell grants for 9.4 million low-income college students.

Social Security is another target. We get calls in my office every week from senior citizens, people with disabilities, widows who are having a hard time getting a timely response to their Social Security claims. It takes much too long to process the paperwork today. What is the Republican solution? They want to slash the Social Security Administration, the people who administer Social Security, by $1.7 billion. That means half a million Americans who are legally entitled to Social Security benefits will have to wait significantly longer to receive them. (Become a citizen member of the Defending Social Security Caucus)

When it comes to health care, we have 50 million Americans with no insurance today, and 45,000 Americans die each year because they don't get to a doctor in time. Last year, as part of health care reform, I worked very hard to expand community health centers so that more and more low-and moderate-income people could walk into a doctor's office, get health care, dental care, low-cost prescription drugs, mental health counseling. What is the Republican response to the health care crisis? They want to drastically cut-back funding for community health centers and deny primary health care to 11 million Americans.

For the poorest of the poor in our country, the Community Services Block Grants provide the infrastructure, the mechanism to get out emergency help for food, heat, housing and other very basic necessities of life. With homelessness and poverty increasing, the Republicans want to slash $405 million from the Community Services Block Grant Program.

In cold weather states like Vermont, where the weather can get to 20 below zero, home heating assistance is critically important. In fact it is a life and death issue. At a time when home heating oil costs are soaring, the Republicans want to cut $400 million from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

After decades of progress cleaning up our air and water, and preventing much illness, the Republicans want to slash the EPA by 30 percent and undercut enforcement of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

Republicans also want to cut the WIC program, which provides supplemental nutrition for women, infants, and children. They want to cut that by $750 million.

Everybody understands we have problems with education right now, including large dropout rates. At a time when states are laying off hundreds of thousands of teachers, Republicans want to cut $5 billion from the Department of Education.

On and on and on it goes.

In my view, we do need to boldly address our deficit crisis, but we need to do it in a way that is fair -- that is not on the backs of the sick, the elderly, the children and the poor. In other words, we need shared sacrifice. The wealthiest people in this country, who are now doing phenomenally well, are also going to have to help us with deficit reduction. That is why I introduced legislation which would place a 5.4 percent emergency surtax on income over $1 million. The revenue would go into an Emergency Deficit Reduction Fund. Just doing that - asking millionaires to pay a little bit more in taxes after all the huge tax breaks they have received -- will bring in up to $50 billion a year.

I think that is a good idea, but it is not just me. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll recently asked the American people about the best ways to go forward on deficit reduction? Eighty-one percent of the American people believe it is totally acceptable or mostly acceptable to impose a surtax on millionaires to reduce the deficit. My legislation also would eliminate tax loopholes that enable the big oil companies from avoiding their fair share of taxes.

The American people get it. They understand that we cannot move toward deficit reduction just by cutting programs that working families, the middle class, and low-income people desperately need. They understand that serious, responsible deficit reduction requires shared sacrifice. They know that at a time when the top 1 percent earn more income than the bottom 50 percent, that when the effective tax rate for the rich is now lower than at any time in recent history, that it is absurd not to ask the wealthiest people in this country to provide additional revenue to help us lower the deficit.

The federal budget is not just a bunch of big numbers. It is the document that speaks to the values of our country, our national priorities and our hopes for the future. At a time when the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider, it is a moral abomination to give more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, while cutting programs for the most vulnerable people in our society -- the children, the elderly, the sick and the hungry. The Republican budget proposal must be defeated.
Abraham Lincoln once made the then obvious statement that all wealth ultimately come from labor. Have a great idea, a great invention - just try manufacturing, mining the materials to make, distributing or finding consumers to buy it without labor. Republicans have become the party of labor is just a bunch of peons who should know their place, to shut up and take the crumbs that business hands out. Republicans have this fantasy that greedy assclowns like the Koch brothers crate wealth, or the Coors family or sugar daddies like Richard M. Shaife. Those people do not create wealth, they only cash the checks that comes from the assets created by labor. Who is paying for the failures of business (Wall St), not millionaires. Working Americans are the ones Republicans think should pay for the mistakes of their sugar daddies.