26 February 2011

American Scapegoats

American-Scapegoats.jpg (JPEG Image, 500x362 pixels) http://0.tqn.com/d/politicalhumor/1/0/U/y/3/American-Scapegoats.jpg It's quite maddening that America's rich folk and politicians allowed this financial crisis that is rocking our nation to happen in the first place; it is infuriating that all the austerity measures Congress is ramming down our national gullet after extending tax cuts to the rich (which added an additional $868 billion to the deficit) are only affecting the lower classes. So where's the shared sacrifice?

More on Wisconsin

“What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy. And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.
For example, the bill includes language that would allow officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process.

And then there’s this: “Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state-owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).”

What’s that about? The state of Wisconsin owns a number of plants supplying heating, cooling, and electricity to state-run facilities (like the University of Wisconsin). The language in the budget bill would, in effect, let the governor privatize any or all of these facilities at whim. Not only that, he could sell them, without taking bids, to anyone he chooses. And note that any such sale would, by definition, be “considered to be in the public interest.”

If this sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it’s interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?"

-Paul Krugman

25 February 2011

Wisconsin police association urges members to join sleep-in at Capitol | The Raw Story

Wisconsin police association urges members to join sleep-in at Capitol | The Raw Story

Wisconsin lawmakers approved a rule change on Wednesday that would allow them to close the State Capitol building over the weekend and eject the protesters who have been camping there for the last week.

The new restrictions on items and sleeping areas within the Capitol were to go into effect at 4 PM on Friday, and the protesters were to be removed from state offices and hearing rooms after business hours on Saturday.

The head of Wisconsin's Professional Police Association, however, not only opposes the plan but has called on police to join the sleep-in. According to a posting at Dane101, a Madison area blog network, WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer has asked Governor Scott Walker to keep the building open and allow the protesters to remain.

“The law enforcement officers from across the state that have been working at the Capitol and have been very impressed with how peaceful everyone has been,” Palmer stated. “As has been reported in the media, the protesters are cleaning up after themselves and have not caused any problems. The fact of that matter is that Wisconsin’s law enforcement community opposes Governor Walker’s effort to eliminate most union activity in this state, and we implore him to not do anything to increase the risk to officers and the public."

Palmer also announced that the WPPA is asking its members from across the state to join the protests, explaining, “Law enforcement officers know the difference between right and wrong, and Governor Walker’s attempt to eliminate the collective voice of Wisconsin’s devoted public employees is wrong. That is why we have stood with our fellow employees each day and why we will be sleeping among them tonight.”

Palmer also noted that many police officers have already been participating in the protests in civilian clothes after providing security in their official function. "We may not have a big group but we're going to try to have a presence just the same," he stated. "Who knows, maybe I'll be there by myself."

Exclusive: Non-partisan ‘US Uncut’ group demands corporations pay taxes | The Raw Story

Exclusive: Non-partisan ‘US Uncut’ group demands corporations pay taxes | The Raw Story

WASHINGTON – Corporate tax evasion has evolved into a virtual art form. Two-thirds of US corporations didn't pay so much as a dime in taxes between 1998 and 2005, exploiting a multitude of loopholes, according to a Congressional report.

Targeting corporations who evade taxes turned out to be quite the anti-austerity rallying cry in England, where a new prime minister is pushing painful cuts for working people.

Now, that same rallying cry is going out across the United States, where the anti-spending tea party movement has in recent years overshadowed the voices of those who want government to be more active on behalf of the middle class.

A new non-partisan group called US Uncut -- named after UK Uncut -- aims in part to challenge the tea party's push for lower corporate taxes. They instead want Congress stop letting wealthy corporations dodge their taxes.

"This is an issue that has been ignored for way too long," Carl Gibson, a US Uncut spokesman, told Raw Story. "Congress has been chipping away and chipping away at corporate responsibility to pay taxes."

"And now it's gotten to the point where the middle class is being sacrificed on the altar of deficit reduction, while big corporations are getting away with not paying any taxes at all."

US Uncut boasts "no central leadership," and appears to be as organic as grassroots movements get. Gibson, 23, of Jacksonville, Mississippi, founded the first chapter. He works a few part-time jobs and confesses to having no prior experience in organizing or in politics. He was inspired by the vibrancy of UK Uncut, and spurred into action after reading an article in The Nation magazine about replicating such a movement in the US.

Is US Uncut a "liberal" or "progressive" movement? "Absolutely not," Gibson said. "This is nonpartisan. We don't endorse any specific political ideology or candidate or party."

The movement will hold its first day of organizing on Saturday, February 26, with demonstrations mainly outside banks in 50 cities. It's expecting crowds in the dozens in the smaller cities and hundreds in some bigger cities.

"This is our first national day of action," Gibson said. "And all of us are coming together to say: before you take away housing subsidies, raise college tuition and fire teachers, just make sure that corporations are paying their fair share in taxes like the rest of us."

The broader goal is to "reshape the national debate" and challenge the tea party's narrative that "government can't do good things for people, and that we can't raise taxes, we can only cut."

"Maybe there isn't a spending problem. Maybe it's a revenue problem," Gibson said. "And it's not that the money's not there. The money is there. It's with these corporations who aren't paying taxes."

Who needs unions?

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ThinkProgress » FLASHBACK: Gov. Walker Promised To End Late-Night Votes Because ‘Nothing Good Happens After Midnight’

ThinkProgress » FLASHBACK: Gov. Walker Promised To End Late-Night Votes Because ‘Nothing Good Happens After Midnight’

He promised to sign legislation if elected governor that prohibits the Legislature from voting after 10 p.m. or before 9 a.m.

“I have two teenagers and I tell them that nothing good happens after midnight. That’s even more true in politics,” he said in a statement. “The people of Wisconsin deserve to know what their elected leaders are voting on.”

Boycott These Koch Industries Companies/Scott Walker Contributors

Boycott These Koch Industries Companies/Scott Walker Contributors

Here’s an easy way to “protest” with the people in Madison and elsewhere: Boycott the fuck out of all these companies. IF there is something made by one of these companies you cannot live without, you shouldn’t be thinking about protests, anyway. (Think about delicious anus-burgers harvested by ill-paid, ill-treated illegal migrant labor in the slaughterhouses of the Midwest.)

Good-bye to this shit:

Wisconsin Realtors Koch Industries (obvs.) Wal-Mart Tavern League of Wisconsin AT&T Brawny paper towels Dixie cups Georgia-Pacific lumber Stainmaster carpet Lycra

Also quit buying gasoline and using natural gas; the Kochs own pipelines everywhere. Go solar and get a Nissan Volt, or better yet, don’t have a car at all and rent one (a Hybrid or EV) for road trips. Give a hoot.

BBC News - US growth estimate in surprise downward revision

BBC News - US growth estimate in surprise downward revision

The US Department of Commerce has unexpectedly cut its estimate of fourth-quarter growth to an annualised 2.8%, from 3.2% previously.

Analysts had instead expected the figure to be revised up slightly to 3.3%.

Lower government spending than previously estimated was the main reason for the downward revision.

Economic growth for the whole of 2010 was also revised down slightly, from 2.9% to 2.8%.

As well as lower state and local government spending during the final three months of last year, consumer spending grew at a slower rate than previously estimated.

Despite the downward revision, Wall Street gained ground in early trading, with the Dow Jones index rising 42 points to 12,110 as the price of oil retreated from the two-and-a-half year highs seen on Thursday.

Well. looks like Krugman was right again. Even though Republicans bashed him all over the place for his position, economist Paul Krugman predicted that restraining government spending would indeed slow economic growth and, as this report indicates, it has. So as the GOP continues to preach the economics of destruction through less spending and austerity measures for the lower classes, they are actually sowing the seeds for another economic collapse just as our fragile economy looks to rebound. But, as Mitch McConnell said, it's all about making Barack Obama a one term president. Besides, why should the GOP worry about something as silly as the economy? Their friends on Wall Street are doing just fine which means campaign contributions will be unaffected even if these good times did come at the expense of food benefits for poor families.

24 February 2011

Iowa bills open door for use of deadly force to protect the unborn | Iowa Independent

Iowa bills open door for use of deadly force to protect the unborn | Iowa Independent

Two bills sponsored by Iowa House Republicans could have significant public safety consequences, and perhaps the most unnerving of those potential outcomes would be the justifiable use of deadly force against abortion or family planning providers.

When the two pieces of legislation are combined they create a situation where a fertilized egg would be considered a person, and allow for the public execution of those who would threaten such a person.

If passed into law, the two bills — House File 7 and House File 153 — would offer an unprecedented defense opportunity to individuals who stand accused of killing such providers, according to a former prosecutor and law professor at the University of Kansas, and are something that might have very well led to a different outcome in the Kansas trial of the man who shot Dr. George Tiller in a church foyer.

So I guess the right is pro-life until they can't get you to do what they order you to; then it's all "let's rewrite the laws so we can shoot people in the face!"

Anti-government extremist groups on rise in US: study | The Raw Story

Anti-government extremist groups on rise in US: study | The Raw Story

Membership in anti-government extremist groups continues to explode in the United States amid frustration over the lagging economy and the "mainstreaming of conspiracy theories," a study released Wednesday found.

After nearly tripling in 2009 in the wake of the election of the nation's first black president, anti-government 'patriot' groups and militias grew another 61 percent in 2010 to 824, the report by the Southern Poverty Law Center found.

Meanwhile, the number of active hate groups rose 7.5 percent to top 1,000 for the first time since the civil rights group first began tracking them in the early 1980s.

Combined with modest growth among anti-immigrant "nativist extremists," the number of radical right extremist groups rose 22 percent in 2010 to 2,145 after jumping 40 percent in 2009.

"For many on the radical right, anger is focusing on President (Barack) Obama, who is seen as embodying everything that's wrong with the country," the report concluded.

"What may be most remarkable is that this growth of right-wing extremism came even as politicians around the country, blown by gusts from the Tea Parties and other conservative formations, tacked hard to the right, co-opting many of the issues important to extremists."

The report citing a number of cases in which conservative Republicans -- who made major gains in November's mid-term elections -- are pursuing legislation which "could help deflate some of the even more extreme political forces."

Oklahoma voters passed a measure prohibiting judges from considering Islamic law, prompting lawmakers to pass similar rules in Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.

There have also been calls to change the 14th amendment to the US Constitution, which grants citizenship to anyone born on US soil.

Legislators across various US states meanwhile, are trying to coordinate efforts in a bid to deny birth certificates to the children of unauthorized immigrants.

They are also seeking to deny the children of illegal immigrants benefits such as Medicaid that are guaranteed to US citizens.

Meanwhile, a Virginia legislator proposed a law to create an alternative currency in the event of the "destruction" of the dollar and a Montana legislator wants to require federal agents to get permission from local sheriffs to act in their counties.

"It's hard to predict where this volatile situation will lead," the report said.

"What seems certain is that President Obama will continue to serve as a lightning rod for many on the political right, a man who represents both the federal government and the fact that the racial make-up of the United States is changing, something that upsets a significant number of white Americans.

And that suggests that the polarized politics of this country could get worse before they get better."

The threat of violence is quite real, the report noted.

In an 11-day period in January, a neo-Nazi was arrested headed for the Arizona border with a dozen homemade grenades, police averted an attack on a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, Washington after discovering a bomb in a backpack, and a man with a long history of anti-government activities was arrested outside a packed mosque in Michigan and charged with possessing explosives with unlawful intent.

Meanwhile, the call for more civility in political discourse in the wake of the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona in an attack that left six dead seems to have had little impact.

you stay classy America

Gunrunning scandal uncovered at the ATF - CBS Evening News - CBS News

Gunrunning scandal uncovered at the ATF - CBS Evening News - CBS News

"Project Gunrunner" deployed new teams of agents to the southwest border. The idea: to stop the flow of weapons from the US to Mexico's drug cartels. But in practice, sources tell CBS News, ATF's actions had the opposite result: they allegedly facilitated the delivery of thousands of guns into criminal hands.

CBS News wanted to ask ATF officials about the case, but they wouldn't agree to an interview. We were able to speak to six veteran ATF agents and executives involved. They don't want to be quoted by name for fear of retaliation. These are their allegations.

In late 2009, ATF was alerted to suspicious buys at seven gun shops in the Phoenix area. Suspicious because the buyers paid cash, sometimes brought in paper bags. And they purchased classic "weapons of choice" used by Mexican drug traffickers - semi-automatic versions of military type rifles and pistols.

Sources tell CBS News several gun shops wanted to stop the questionable sales, but ATF encouraged them to continue.

Jaime Avila was one of the suspicious buyers. ATF put him in its suspect database in January of 2010. For the next year, ATF watched as Avila and other suspects bought huge quantities of weapons supposedly for "personal use." They included 575 AK-47 type semi-automatic rifles.

ATF managers allegedly made a controversial decision: allow most of the weapons on the streets. The idea, they said, was to gather intelligence and see where the guns ended up. Insiders say it's a dangerous tactic called letting the guns, "walk."

One agent called the strategy "insane." Another said: "We were fully aware the guns would probably be moved across the border to drug cartels where they could be used to kill."

On the phone, one Project Gunrunner source (who didn't want to be identified) told us just how many guns flooded the black market under ATF's watchful eye. "The numbers are over 2,500 on that case by the way. That's how many guns were sold - including some 50-calibers they let walk."

50-caliber weapons are fearsome. For months, ATF agents followed 50-caliber Barrett rifles and other guns believed headed for the Mexican border, but were ordered to let them go. One distraught agent was often overheard on ATF radios begging and pleading to be allowed to intercept transports. The answer: "Negative. Stand down."

CBS News has been told at least 11 ATF agents and senior managers voiced fierce opposition to the strategy. "It got ugly..." said one. There was "screaming and yelling" says another. A third warned: "this is crazy, somebody is gonna to get killed."

Sure enough, the weapons soon began surfacing at crime scenes in Mexico - dozens of them sources say - including shootouts with government officials.

One agent argued with a superior asking, "are you prepared to go to the funeral of a federal officer killed with one of these guns?" Another said every time there was a shooting near the border, "we would all hold our breath hoping it wasn't one of 'our' guns."

Then, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered. The serial numbers on the two assault rifles found at the scene matched two rifles ATF watched Jaime Avila buy in Phoenix nearly a year before. Officials won't answer whether the bullet that killed Terry came from one of those rifles. But the nightmare had come true: "walked" guns turned up at a federal agent's murder.

"You feel like shit. You feel for the parents," one ATF veteran told us.

Hours after Agent Terry was gunned down, ATF finally arrested Avila. They've since indicted 34 suspected gunrunners in the same group. But the indictment makes no mention of Terry's murder, and no one is charged in his death.

PayPal cuts service to group supporting Bradley Manning: report | The Raw Story

PayPal cuts service to group supporting Bradley Manning: report | The Raw Story

Online payment provider PayPal has apparently frozen the account of Courage to Resist, a group raising funds to support US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, the whistleblower accused of passing classified documents to WikiLeaks.

The group said Thursday in a media advisory that PayPal recently chose to freeze its account -- created in 2006 -- after it began soliciting donations to support Manning. The 23-year-old, arrested in May, could face charges of espionage or treason.

He is currently being held in solitary confinement in a Virginia maximum security prison, where he sits alone in a cell for 23 out of 24 hours each day, according to Salon's Glenn Greenwald.

PayPal did not immediately return a request for comment.

According to Courage to Resist, the "Bradley Manning Defense Fund" -- run in collaboration with the Bradley Manning Support Network -- has raised a total of $176,250 from 2,801 individuals, and an additional $60,640 for Manning's legal trust account.

"We’ve been in discussions with PayPal for weeks, and by their own admission there’s no legal obligation for them to close down our account," said Loraine Reitman of the Bradley Manning Support Network. "This was an internal policy decision by PayPal."

The group said PayPal declined to provide documentation of its policies regarding the matter.

Shame on you Paypal; if I knew a way to organize folk to harm you financially I would!

23 February 2011

How China sees the Wisconsin debacle

A better bible


Scott Walker's Google problem

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Parents can't sue drug firms when vaccines cause harm, Supreme Court says - CSMonitor.com

Parents can't sue drug firms when vaccines cause harm, Supreme Court says - CSMonitor.com

The family of an infant who allegedly suffered a severe reaction to a vaccine may not sue the drugmaker for failing to update the vaccine with a newer, safer version, the US Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday. In a 6-to-2 decision, the high court said Russell and Robalee Bruesewitz’s lawsuit was preempted under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. The law grants drug companies immunity from certain lawsuits from injuries or deaths tied to vaccinations.

“We hold that the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act preempts all design-defect claims against vaccine manufacturers brought by plaintiffs who seek compensation for injury or death caused by vaccine side effects,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the majority decision.

In a dissent, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that, by preempting all design defect lawsuits by vaccine victims, the high court was imposing “its own bare policy preference over the considered judgment of Congress.”

The decision “leaves a regulatory vacuum in which no one ensures that vaccine manufacturers adequately take account of scientific and technological advancements when designing and distributing their products,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.

The conservative judicial activists of the Supreme Court let big business off the hook AGAIN! Thanks to this decision, getting your kids vaccinated will be like playing Russian roulette with their lives, let alone your own.

22 February 2011

Koch brothers quietly open lobbying office in downtown Madison

Koch brothers quietly open lobbying office in downtown Madison

The billionaire brothers whose political action committee gave Gov. Scott Walker $43,000 and helped fund a multi-million dollar attack ad campaign against his opponent during the 2010 gubernatorial election have quietly opened a lobbying office in Madison just off the Capitol Square.

Charles and David Koch, who co-own Koch Industries Inc. and whose combined worth is estimated at $43 billion, have been recently tied with Walker's push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers. The two have long backed conservative causes and groups including Americans for Prosperity, which organized the Tea Party rally Saturday in support of Walker's plan to strip public workers of collective bargaining rights and recently launched the Stand with Scott Walker website.

Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, acknowledged in a New York Times story Tuesday that he had encouraged Walker even before the election to mount a showdown with labor groups.

Koch Industries, which owns the Georgia-Pacific Corporation and the Koch Pipeline Company, operates gasoline supply terminals and a toilet paper factory in Wisconsin.

Koch Companies Public Sector LLC occupies a seventh-floor suite at 10 E. Doty St. According to an unidentified tenant there, the lobbying group moved in two weeks before Walker was elected governor on November 2. Jeffrey Schoepke, the company's regional manager, did not return a phone call seeking more information on the firm.

According to the Government Accountability Board's website, the firm has seven lobbyists who "represent various Koch Industries Inc. companies on public affairs matters, including Flint Hills Resources, LP, an energy purchaser and refiner & transporter of petroleum and Georgia-Pacific, LLC a manufacturer of paper, wood products and building materials." The group's lobbying interests are listed as "the environment, energy, taxation, business, policy and other areas affecting Koch Industries, Inc. companies."

The group has had a lobbying presence in the state before, with four contracted lobbyists from Hamilton Consulting billing just over $97,000 for services during the 2009-11 legislative session, according to the GAB. Three of those lobbyists — Amy Boyer, Andrew Engel and Robert Fassbender — are now joined also by Ray Carey, Jason Childress, Kathleen Walby and Jeffrey Schoepke.

The lobbyists for Koch Companies Public Sector registered with the state on January 5, two days after Walker's inauguration.

The expanded lobbying effort by the Koch brothers in Wisconsin raises red flags in particular because of a little discussed provision in Walker's repair bill that would allow Koch Industries and other private companies to purchase state-owned power plants in no-bid contracts.

"It's curious that the Kochs have apparently expanded their lobbying presence just as Walker was sworn into office and immediately before a budget was unveiled that would allow the executive branch unilateral power to sell off public utilities in this state in no-bid contracts," says Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy.

ThinkProgress » Disgraced Former Tea Party Leader Calls On Right-Wing Activists To Pose As SEIU Organizers

ThinkProgress » Disgraced Former Tea Party Leader Calls On Right-Wing Activists To Pose As SEIU Organizers National tea party groups like Americans for Prosperity have been bussing conservative activists to Madison, WI to confront protesters there standing up to Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) union busting. But Tea Party Nation and Mark Williams, the disgraced former chairman of Tea Party Express, who was forced to resign after making offensive racial comments, are calling for a more radical approach. In an email alert to supporters sent last night, Tea Party Nation promotes Williams’ “great idea” to impersonate SEIU organizers at upcoming labor rallies in an attempt to embarrass and discredit the union.

Williams lays out a highly dishonest and fairly involved scheme to have “plants” sign up on the SEIU website to be organizers for an upcoming rally, dress up in SEIU shirts, and to then make outrageous comments to reporters covering the events in order to “make the gathering look as greedy and goonish as we know that it is”:

That link will take you to an SEIU page where you can sign up as an “organizer” for one of their upcoming major rallies to support the union goons in Wisconsin. Here is what I am doing in Sacramento, where they are holding a 5:30 PM event this coming Tuesday: (1) I signed up as an organizer (2) with any luck they will contact me and I will have an “in” (3) in or not I will be there and am asking as many other people as can get there to come with, all of us in SEIU shirts (those who don’t have them we can possibly buy some from vendors likely to be there) (4) we are going to target the many TV cameras and reporters looking for comments from the members there (5) we will approach the cameras to make good pictures… signs under our shirts that say things like “screw the taxpayer!” and “you OWE me!” to be pulled out for the camera (timing is important because the signs will be taken away from us. [...]

Our goal is to make the gathering look as greedy and goonish as we know that it is, ding their credibility with the media and exploit the lazy reporters who just want dramatic shots and outrageous quotes for headlines. Even if it becomes known that we are plants the quotes and pictures will linger as defacto truth.

Williams is even hoping to make a few bucks off the idea, asking readers to “Please contribute!!!” as “I need to travel beyond Sacramento to the other SEIU rally cities and then Madison, and in short order!”

And Williams has no qualms about employing this treachery, telling his “plants”: “Chances are that because I am publishing this they’ll catch wind, but it is worth the chance if you take it upon yourself to act.” In an update, Williams say activists in Iowa, Colorado, Massachusetts, “and several other states” were already on board, and he said “Tea Party Patriot groups and individuals are flooding me with emails vowing to participate and come up with their own creative ruses!”

Williams’ plan appears to have been taken down from both Tea Party Nation and Williams’ own site, suggesting they perhaps realize this plan is entirely in the wrong, but view a cached version here, and screen grabs here and here.

Update In a statement to ThinkProgress, SEIU spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette condemned Williams' plot, saying: "At a time when Americans are standing up and courageously speaking out, these guys are playing the same old dirty tricks. Last week we learned about the Chamber trying to create phony research to debunk and hack into our computers, this week the Tea Party dons purple. It's like the emperor has no clothes: they have to rely on subterfuge because they do not really represent the majority of people."

ThinkProgress » While Brewer Gives Corporations A Tax Cut, Another Arizonan Joins The 98 Waiting For Transplant Funding

ThinkProgress » While Brewer Gives Corporations A Tax Cut, Another Arizonan Joins The 98 Waiting For Transplant Funding

As ThinkProgress has reported, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) and the GOP-controlled state House have turned a blind eye to the plight of 98 Arizona patients in desperate need of organ transplants. Since Brewer enacted painful cuts to the state’s Medicaid program in October, two Arizonans unable to pay for the transplants they needed passed away. After months of appeals and protests, it appears Brewer has finally agreed to set aside a $151 million “uncompensated-care pool to pay health-care providers for ‘life-saving’ procedures, including transplants.”

However, state House Republicans remain vigilant in their anti-human life campaign. They are refusing to let measures to restore funding for organ transplants advance because, as the state House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jon Kavanagh (R) explained, “not enough lives would be saved to warrant restoring millions in budget cuts” for the transplants.

But as Brewer and the GOP-led legislature waffle over the value of human lives, two more people — including 23-year-old leukemia patient Courtney Parham — join the 98 others standing before the Brewer death panel. Because the state has so far refused to pay for her transplant, Courtney’s family “must raise somewhere between $400-$800 thousand dollars for a transplant, or their daughter will die.”

There's a video at the link. Republicans are all heart aren't they? They talk about being pro-life until push comes to shove and they want to give tax breaks to the rich instead. Not enough lives would be saved to warrant restoring money for transplants? How many lives need to be on the verge of death before it is worth it? WWJD? Send you assholes to hell, that's what!

Indiana Democrats flee state to protest anti-union bill | The Raw Story

Indiana Democrats flee state to protest anti-union bill | The Raw Story

Indiana Democrats are reportedly joining their Wisconsin counterparts in staging an exodus from their state to protest a new union-busting Republican measure.

Only two of Indiana's 40 House Democrats showed up for a session Tuesday morning, precluding Republicans from attaining the votes needed to proceed on motions. The rest are fleeing to Illinois to stage a walkout, according to the Indianapolis Star and the local Indy Channel news station.

Only 58 lawmakers were present, falling short of the 67 required for a quorum. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma called for a recess until later in the afternoon.

"A source said Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky," the Indy Star reported.

"Sources gave conflicting information about the whereabouts of Indiana Democrats" to the Indy Channel.

It's a virtual repeat of what took place in Wisconsin last week: Indiana's Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, backed by a GOP majority in the legislature, introduced a bill that would restrict the bargaining rights of some unions. In response, indignant Democrats declined to show up to do the state's business as a protest.

Democrats held a demonstration in the Indiana statehouse, as they did in Wisconsin. Hundreds of protesters gathered to chant, "We vote! We work!"

The outcomes of the two showdowns could have significant impacts on other cash-strapped states as Republican governors and legislators consider provisions that diminish the clout of unions.

Is the fire spreading? Man, I sure hope so!

ThinkProgress » Priorities? GOP Governors Shift Burden To Poor, Middle Class To Pay For Tax Breaks For Rich, Corporations

ThinkProgress » Priorities? GOP Governors Shift Burden To Poor, Middle Class To Pay For Tax Breaks For Rich, Corporations State budgets across the country are in disarray as a weak economy, the end of tens of billions in Recovery Act funds, and a GOP-led House that is pushing for deep cuts to many programs that benefit state and local governments set the stage for massive in shortfalls over the next two years. Instead of making the tough choices necessary to help their states weather the current crisis with some semblance of the social safety net and basic government services intact, Republican governors are instead using it as an opportunity to advance several longtime GOP projects: union busting, draconian cuts to social programs, and massive corporate tax breaks. These misplaced priorities mean that the poor and middle class will shoulder the burden of fiscal austerity, even as the rich and corporations are asked to contribute even less. Here’s a detailed look at how the GOP’s war on the poor and middle class is playing out at the state level:

Arizona: Following months of national outcry and at least two deaths, Gov. Jan Brewer’s administration has finally relented on what many likened to real-life “death panels” that denied care to those in need of transplants in order to save the state just over a million dollars. Now, however, Governor Jan Brewer is proposing to kick some 280,000 Arizonans, mostly childless adults, off the state’s Medicaid rolls. Brewer claims such a move is the only way to get the state’s fiscal house in order, as it would save $541.5 million in general funding spending. Brewer also wants to save $79.8 million by dropping 5,200 “seriously mentally ill” people from the state’s Medicaid program. Instead of balancing out these draconian cuts with additional revenue increases or simply not making the cuts in the first place, Brewer instead signed $538 million in corporate tax cuts into law two weeks ago.

Florida: Last week, Gov. Rick Scott announced that he was canceling a proposed high-speed rail line between Orlando and Tampa — something that will cause Florida to forego $2 billion in federally-funded investments and cost the state at least 24,000 jobs. Scott’s move is opposed even by the Republican chairman of the U.S. House’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Obama administration officials are seeking ways to bypass Scott to keep the project moving.

Scott’s radical budget proposal, unveiled at a tea party event, includes $4.6 billion in spending cuts that would result in the direct loss of more than 8,000 jobs. It would also privatize large areas of state services, including juvenile justice facilities, Medicaid, and some hospitals. Education spending would be cut by more than $3 billion and teachers and other public employees would see their pensions under threat. Such deep cuts in essential programs and services are necessary to offset Scott’s proposal to cut corporate and property taxes by at least $4 billion.

Michigan: While newly-elected Gov. Rick Snyder has said he won’t “pick fights” with unions, his budget plan echoes the misguided priorities of other GOP governors. As Matt Yglesias has noted, Snyder has an innovative definition of “shared sacrifice.” His plan calls for “$1.2 billion in cuts to schools, universities, local governments and other areas while asking public employees for $180 million in concessions.” In addition, it would raise taxes on individuals by ending many deductions and taxing pensions — all in order to pay for $1.8 billion in tax cuts for businesses. Since the state’s entire budget shortfall this year is only about $1.7 billion, all or most of the cuts to services and programs important to the poor and middle class (many of whom will also see their taxes increases) could be avoided if the governor was willing to forego corporate tax breaks.

New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie has become a right-wing sensation, particularly because of his war on public employees — especially New Jersey’s teachers. He’s often lauded by the conservative punditocracy for his tough talk and for balancing the state’s budget last year without raising taxes. Unfortunately, a look behind the curtain reveals that Christie’s numbers simply don’t add up. After vetoing Democrats’ plans to raise taxes on New Jersey’s millionaires, Christie closed the state’s multi-billion dollar shortfall through a combination of measures, including simply refusing to make contributions to the state’s pension fund and steep cuts in education funding and assistance to municipalities. Democrats accused Christie of simply shifting the burden to local governments, which caused New Jersey’s already-high property tax rates to double even as the state was slashing funding to its property tax rebate program. (Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty used a similar gimmick during his final year in office.) Christie is also being sued by Federal Transit Administration for keeping $271 million in federal funding for a tunnel under the Hudson — money he insists on keeping even after having personally canceled the project.

New Jersey is staring down another large deficit and Christie’s budget, expected to be released today, will pair continuing austerity for education and local governments with further cuts to the state’s Medicaid program. The austerity measures and cuts to programs for the poor will have to be all the deeper this year as Christie is also insisting on cutting corporate tax rates.

Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin after the jump.

Ohio: Gov. John Kasich demonstrated an early propensity for making future-losing choices when he made good on a campaign promise to kill Ohio’s federally-funded high-speed rail project — a move that will cost Ohio $400 million in badly-needed infrastructure investment, cost thousands of jobs, and derail millions of dollars in related private sector investments in economic development. Kasich, along with numerous other Ohio Republicans, has signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge that rules out any tax increases to help the state make ends meet. Even though the state has an $8 billion budget shortfall, Kasich has gone even further in proposing a variety of tax cuts that would benefit corporations and the wealthy. In addition to going after public employees (who Kasich thinks should not ever have the right to strike) and essential government programs, he has proposed a variety dubious privatization schemes to finance such massive tax breaks.

Kasich has voiced support for radical Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s assault on the middle class and workers. The Ohio Senate takes up SB5, its version of anti-union legislation, today; at least 8 Republican Ohio state senators have already come out in opposition to the current proposal. The current proposal goes even further than the Walker plan in eliminating collective bargaining rights for Ohio’s public employees.

Texas: As ThinkProgress has reported, Gov. Perry spent the last two years traveling around the country attacking the stimulus and other Obama administration initiatives, all while touting the “Texas Miracle” (low taxes, low services, and low regulations). However, as Matt Yglesias noted, “It looks like the secret behind Texas’ ability to avoid the kind of budget woes that afflicted so many states last year was two-year budgeting rather than the miracle of low-tax, low-service, lax-regulation policies.” Moreover, Perry relied more on the stimulus than any other state to fill his 2010 budget gap, with stimulus funds plugging a full 97 percent of the gap.

In facing down a $25 billion budget crisis on par with that of California, Perry categorically rejected any tax increases. Texas, as Paul Krugman said, already takes a “hard, you might say brutal, line toward its most vulnerable citizens,” as indicated by its poor educational performance and sky-high 25 percent child poverty rate. Still, Perry also refuses to use any of the $9.4 billion in the state’s rainy day fund (some of which, ironically, comes from stimulus funds intended to help states stave off draconian cuts that Perry instead squirreled away) and is instead contemplating deep cuts to child services programs and education, among other things. Perry even floated a plan to drop Medicaid entirely. Perry’s proposed education cuts are so deep that they prompted an unlikely source to take to the pages of the Houston Chronicle to write in opposition to them — none other than former First Lady Laura Bush. Bond ratings agency Standard & Poors has also weighed in, saying Texas’ cuts-only approach “won’t solve the state’s long-term fiscal problems” and that revenue increases need to be considered alongside the deep cuts being proposed.

Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker first gained national headlines for joining Ohio’s Kasich in a future-losing decision to cancel an $800 million investment — fully paid for the by the federal government — in high-speed rail. This decision prompted train manufacturer Talgo to announce it was leaving the state and will likely cost the state thousands of jobs.

Walker is of course now famous for his high-stakes war against Wisconsin’s workers. Walker has used a very small short-term shortfall and larger shortfall to come (which is still smaller than shortfalls the state has faced in recent years) to move forward with an unpopular plan to destroy the state’s public employee unions. As Ezra Klein and many others have noted, Wisconsin’s unions aren’t to blame for the state’s budget problems and taking away their collective bargaining rights will have no impact on the state’s fiscal situation. Indeed, the unions offered to concede to all of Walker’s financial demands, so long as they could retain their collective bargaining rights. Walker balked at this offer, betraying his true motive: busting unions. Walker is also late in offering his budget, but it is believed that in spite of the supposed “crisis” and being “broke,” as Walker himself has said, his budget plans will include “a LOT more tax breaks” for the rich and corporations that will have to be balanced on the backs of workers or with painful cuts to state services and the state’s Medicaid programs, BadgerCare. It’s also worth noting that the last time Scott Walker went union busting, it turned into a massive boondoggle when he was overruled by an arbiter, wasting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers dollars in the process.

When Republican governors speak of “shared sacrifice,” it seems that the only thing they mean is sacrifices by the poor and middle class in order to fund massive tax breaks for the rich and corporations. As governors from across the country gather in Washington, D.C. at the end of this week at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, ThinkProgress hopes to catch up with some governors to discuss their priorities — misplaced or otherwise.

ThinkProgress » Is Scott Walker Cutting Off Internet Access To Thwart Protesters?

ThinkProgress » Is Scott Walker Cutting Off Internet Access To Thwart Protesters? According to pro-labor protesters in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) may be taking a page from former Egyptian Dictator Hosni Mubarak and cutting off internet access to key protest organizers within the state Capitol building.

If you are in the Capitol attempting to access the internet from a free wifi connection labeled “guest,” you cannot access the site defendwisconsin.org. The site has been used to provide updates on what is happening, where you can volunteer, and where supplies and goods are needed to support protesters. Administrators of the website were notified on Monday that the page is being blocked. Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate says that the site was put on a blacklist typically used to filter out pornography sites so that protestors inside the Capitol could not access this key site.

Former Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Charles Hoornstra said that, if Walker is blocking the website, it could be a violation of state and federal laws concerning free speech laws. The accusation by the Wisconsin Democratic Party accompanies an accusation by the Teaching Assistants Association that Wisconsin state authorities cut off wifi access to a room they had taken over as a headquarters inside of the Capitol.

Likewise, the Teacher Assistants Associations (TAA), which has been coordinating the various cleaning and food operations of the protesters occupying it, has been allowed to occupy room 300NE in the Capitol as their headquarters or situation room. They have used this room to help coordinate protests within the Capitol. Up until today, they had been able to arrange a special high speed Wifi so they could work their coordinating.

Yesterday, however, the Wifi connection mysteriously ended and it’s not clear exactly why. Whatever the reason, the TAA Wifi connection ending has made it more difficult for TAA organizers to coordinate actions and movements throughout the Capitol.

Walker’s decision to take steps to block certain types of internet access to protestors comes as a new poll shows that public support for Walker is plummeting. A poll of Wisconsin voters, conducted by Democratic pollster GQR Research for the AFL-CIO between Feb. 16 and 20, shows support for organized labor in Wisconsin as high while support for Governor Walker is plummeting.

The poll showed that only 39% of respondents had a favorable view of Walker, while 49% had an unfavorable view of him. This is a tremendous drop of a support for a Governor who was elected with just 52% of support just a few months ago. While support for Governor Walker is dramatically dropping, the poll showed that 62% of Wisconsin voters agree with the protestors at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Update CNN follows up on the story and quotes a state employee confirming that the protest-organizing website has been blocked:
State Department of Administration spokeswoman Carla Vigue responded, saying, "DOA's security software automatically blocked the site, as it does all new websites." "No one here at DOA decided to block it or took action to do so," he said. "The website is handled like any other website."

21 February 2011

5394124406_7f658daa2e_o.jpg (JPEG Image, 1280x960 pixels) - Scaled (53%)

5394124406_7f658daa2e_o.jpg (JPEG Image, 1280x960 pixels) - Scaled (53%) http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4130/5394124406_7f658daa2e_o.jpg

Exclusive: Troopers would ‘absolutely’ use force on Wisc. protesters if ordered, police union president tells Raw | The Raw Story

Exclusive: Troopers would ‘absolutely’ use force on Wisc. protesters if ordered, police union president tells Raw | The Raw Story

But: 'That would not be something I recognize as the United States of America,' state patrol inspector adds

Amid the largest protests Madison, Wisconsin has seen in decades, newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker last week issued a stark message to public labor unions occupying the capitol building: we have options, and using the National Guard against protesters is among them.

Since then, a myrad of rumors have circulated through crowds gathered at the state capitol, united in protest of a bill that would strip public unions of their collective bargaining rights. One rumor, which had not yet come to pass, even suggested that like Egypt's former dictator did in Tahrir Square, Gov. Walker may call in police to forcibly clear out the capitol.

And according to a Wisconsin police union president, whether the police agree or disagree with their governor's politics, they would "absolutely" carry out any order given to them ... even if that order included using force against their fellow Americans gathered in peaceful protest.

That's the message from Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association (WLEA) executive board president Tracy Fuller, who's organization recently issued a statement condemning the governor's attempt to strip public unions of their collective bargaining rights. Fuller is also a Wisconsin State Patrol inspector.

"This bill has some provisions that make no sense, unless the basic intent is to bust unions," he recently wrote, in a post found on the WLEA website. "One provision makes it illegal for public employers to collect dues for labor organizations. The employer can take deductions for the United Way, or other organizations, but they are prohibited from collecting union dues.

"How does that repair the budget?"

Fuller explained to Raw Story that he was speaking only for himself when he wrote of his regrets over the troopers' endorsement. This detail was initially misreported by David Schuster, who claimed it was the Troopers Association itself that had come into a spot of buyer's remorse over Walker.

That was not the case, Fuller said.

While the WLEA does not make political endorsements, he continued, the Wisconsin Troopers Association does. In the last election cycle, they endorsed Walker for governor.

Within the governor's "budget repair" proposal, Fuller explained, is a provision to literally split the WLEA into groups, dividing in a very direct manner the size of their union.

"I am trying to fight to maintain the continuity of our union because of the governor's proposal," he told Raw Story. "In our union, we don't just represent the state troopers and patrols. We also represent the capitol police, the University of Wisconsin Police Department, all the communications officers and the Department of Transportation field agents."

Walker's proposal would effectively remove "half of our membership," he said, by taking communications, campus, DMV and capitol officers out of the union.

"That's pretty close to half of our membership," Fuller said. "I think that any reasonable person could understand how that could be a problem for a union."

He added that while the WLEA is a much younger group than the troopers' association, many members belong to both, and both have seen significant political divisions over the association's endorsement of Walker.

Nevertheless, he said, they would all still don riot gear and "do their job," even if Walker's order were to suppress the protests.

"I have worked with the University of Wisconsin police officers that are there, along with the capitol police officers, and certainly I've worked with the state patrol officers because I'm a state patrol inspector. I'm not able to even fathom that any of those police officers would not carry out whatever orders were given to do their job.

"I guess that's the one ironic thing about this," he continued. "Last night my wife asked me to make a sign for her to take down there to protest. On that day, I thought to myself I could be making a protest sign for my wife to take down there ... Then I could be down there confronting my wife with the protest sign that I made. God, you see ... That's ... That's my job.

He said that the conversation of resisting an order to attack the protesters "hasn't even come up" between he and fellow officers.

However, Fuller insisted, "I can't even imagine that the governor or anybody else would think that's a viable option. The protesters are not being violent. It's their right to come and protest; it's public property. The politicians are being allowed to come and go... I don't know why there would be the need for clearing anything.

"It would not look like the United States, if we did that. No one said anything to me about anything like that."

He also said that was "possible," given America's history, that some agent provocateurs could infiltrate the protesters to stir up trouble.

But, Fuller cautioned, "any action like that would not be something I recognize as the United States of America. That would be something that dictatorships in foreign countries do."

Hmmm, where have I heard this "we were just following orders" excuse before?

U.S. to boost naval forces as China develops carrier: admiral | Reuters

U.S. to boost naval forces as China develops carrier: admiral | Reuters

(Reuters) - The U.S. navy will continue to upgrade its military capabilities in the Pacific given its steadfast commitment to the region, a U.S. vice admiral said on Monday, while urging China's growing navy to avoid provocation.

China's swelling defense budgets, rapid development of advanced systems including aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles, and its growing naval aggression in bordering seas, have unnerved regional neighbors and the United States in recent years.

"It is our sincere hope that as China continues to develop a blue-water navy, one which may soon include an aircraft carrier, it will employ that navy in a way that is responsible and constructive," said Vice admiral Scott Van Buskirk during a visit to Hong Kong.

The vice admiral who commands the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet -- the largest forward deployed military force with up to 70 ships and 300 aircraft -- also urged China not to utilize such military hardware in a "threatening or provocative manner."

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last month a U.S. military presence in the Pacific is essential to restrain Chinese assertiveness.

Following on from Gate's comments that China's military advances in cyber and anti-satellite warfare technology could challenge the ability of U.S. forces to operate in the Pacific, Van Buskirk said the United States would upgrade its hardware there.

A new Littoral combat ship (LCS) will be deployed to the area soon, carrier fighter squadrons upgraded, attack submarine attack capabilities increased, and surface destroyers rekitted to "boost their ability to detect and kill enemy submarines", Van Buskirk said.

Faster P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft will replace P-3 Orion planes in the next two years.

"We remain committed. We remain engaged," he said.

While Gates breakthrough visit to Beijing last month reestablished high-level strategic level ties, Van Buskirk said much more needed to be done at a tactical level to ensure encounters at sea wouldn't escalate or lead to conflict.

"We're just not as successful in receiving return communications," said Van Buskirk of attempts by U.S. ships to hail Chinese vessels on the high seas.

Veterans Journal: VA and HUD issue first-ever report on homeless veterans | Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal

Veterans Journal: VA and HUD issue first-ever report on homeless veterans | Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal

For the first time, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development have published the most authoritative analysis of the extent and nature of homelessness among veterans.

According to their assessment, nearly 76,000 American veterans were homeless on a given night in 2009, the latest year for which reliable statistics are available, while roughly 136,000 veterans spent at least one night in a shelter during that year.

The report explores in depth the demographics of veterans who are homeless, how the number of veterans compares with others who are homeless and how veterans access and use the nation’s homeless-response system.

HUD’s report, “Veteran Homelessness: A Supplement to the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress” is available online at http://www.hudhre.info/documents/2009AHARVeteransReport.pdf. “More veterans are moving into safe housing,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, “but we’re not done yet. Providing assistance in mental health, substance abuse treatment, education and employment goes hand-in-hand with preventive steps and permanent supportive housing.” Last June, President Obama announced the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness, including a focus on homeless veterans. That report, “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness,” puts the country on a path to end chronic homelessness by 2015 and to end homelessness among children, family and youth in the general population by 2020.

The administration’s strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness in America can be read online at http://www.usich.gov/PDF/OpeningDoorsOverview.pdf.

Key findings of the latter report include these facts: More than 3,000 cities and counties reported 75,609 homeless veterans on a single night in January 2009; 57 percent were staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program; the remaining 43 percent were unsheltered.

Also: Veterans represent approximately 12 percent of all homeless people counted nationwide during 2009. During a 12-month period in 2009, an estimated 136,000 veterans, or about one in every 168 veterans, spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. The vast majority of sheltered homeless veterans (96 percent) experienced homelessness alone while a much smaller share (4 percent) was part of a family.

Sheltered homeless veterans are most often white men between the ages of 31 and 50 and living with a disability. In 2009, twice as many poor Hispanic veterans used a shelter at some point during the year compared with poor non-Hispanic veterans. African-American veterans in poverty had similar rates of homelessness.

House Passes Amendment to Block Funding of Oversight Measure for For-Profit Schools - ProPublica

House Passes Amendment to Block Funding of Oversight Measure for For-Profit Schools - ProPublica

The House today passed an amendment that could curtail the Department of Education’s attempts to regulate for-profit colleges.

The amendment is aimed at a proposed Education Department rule that could bar schools from accessing federal student aid if too many students can’t repay their loans. That regulation—called the “gainful employment” rule—has not yet been finalized and was at the center of a hard-fought PR and lobbying war [1] last year between the for-profit industry and consumer and student advocates.

The amendment, which passed 289-to-136, blocks the department from using any money in the latest spending bill to implement the rule.

Some advocacy groups have opposed the rule, claiming that it unfairly affects schools that serve greater numbers of poor and minority students and will deprive those students of the full range of educational opportunities available to more affluent, traditional college students.

But many advocacy groups support tightening restrictions on the for-profit college sector, which they say has used questionable recruiting tactics, and left students with crushing debt and dim job prospects. In a letter to President Obama, nearly 50 civil rights, consumer and student advocacy groups urged the administration to adopt the rule, which they said would “eliminate waste, fraud and abuse” by education programs that “consistently leave students buried in debt they cannot repay.”

Despite today’s passage of the amendment in the House, student advocates said they did not believe it would pass the Senate.

Last summer, we pointed out that many of the lawmakers who joined the for-profits in their fight against the rule had also received large amounts of campaign cash from the industry and its lobbyists.

So, we took a look to see whether the four lead sponsors of this amendment had also received donations from the industry—and they have.

Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the lead sponsor of the bill, is the chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. He received at least $33,600 in contributions in the last two years from for-profit schools, or their employees, according to an analysis we did of campaign finance records.

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who chairs the subcommittee on Higher Education, took in at least $2,750.

A spokesman for Congressman Kline denied that contributions had played any part in the chairman’s support for the amendment. “The department’s regulation will deny access to the millions of students who need the flexible job training and higher education options proprietary institutions provide,” said Brian Newell, in an e-mail to ProPublica. That concern is echoed by the industry’s lobby group, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, which was one of the main contributors to the sponsors of the amendment. Congresswoman Foxx also denied that contributions were a factor in her opposition to the new rule.

Two Democrats who co-sponsored the amendment also received campaign contributions. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., who has written to the Education Department opposing the rule, received at least $8,900 in the 2009-2010 reporting period. And Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., received at least $55,350 from the career college industry, according to the filings.

During the debate over the amendment, Congressman Hastings said that the department’s rule was overbroad and would be burdensome to implement. Hastings also said it would lead to school closures and would deprive many Americans of attending the schools of their choice. A spokesman for Congresswoman McCarthy said she has a long-standing commitment to career schools and believes that the schools can help their graduates.

Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success, a research and advocacy group that has criticized for-profit schools, said the amendment runs contrary to the goal of increasing accountability and reducing waste.

“Especially when there's so much concern, as there should be, that tax dollars are being spent carefully, it's frankly astonishing that there'd be an attempt to prevent the monitoring and oversight of billions of dollars of state funds,” she said.

20 February 2011

on majority rules vs. the Republic

I've said the pledge of allegiance countless times in school as I have no doubt anyone who reads this has.  I suppose when you learn a meme like that, it becomes very easy to recite the words and not really think about what they mean.  Most of us can rattle off the pledge and see it simply as an affirmation of American unity, but there's more to it than that which gets lost in our group conscience because no one really talks about the old Republic anymore.  Too inconvenient, too restrictive to those who crave absolute power.  But it's there in the pledge and hundreds of millions of us have recited it: I pledge allegiance to the flag... and to the Republic for which it stands.

So what is a Republic?  A Republic (from the Latin res publica=public affair) denotes a form of government that is both free from hereditary or monarchical rule, has popular control of the state and a conception of public welfare.  In addition, a Republic is a state in which all segments of society are enfranchised and in which the state's power is constitutionally limited. Traditionally a Republic is distinguished from a democracy [Gr.,=rule of the people], as distinct from governments controlled by a single class, select group, or autocrat.  A Republic operates through a representative assembly chosen by the citizenry, while in a democracy the populace participates directly in governmental affairs.
That's a bit of a mouthful so allow me to break it down.  In a Republic, especially a secular one such as ours, the minority is protected from the whims of the majority through elected officials who negotiate a balance between the 2. 

So what happened to our Republic?  Why is it we in the America of 2011 think of ourselves as a mere democracy where the majority rules.  Because of Reagan Republicans.  Allow me to share some of my history.  Back when Reagan was President, I was politically naive and thought he was a great leader (thank goodness I know better now!).  Being naive I didn't know just how corrupt Reagan was or what he and his administration was doing to redistribute wealth to the rich or that he was paving the way for the desecration of our fundamental freedoms.  Reagan saw the US through a Hollywood lens in which America was the cutting edge of progress and science, a global force of good that could save the world through our morals and values, a powerful nation to ensure the world did things our way and he was the great and glorious leader, the leader of the whole free world.  Oy!  I can almost see Metropolis running through his by then addled brain.  

Anyway, it was once he was elected that conservatives began hitting the airwaves with the talk of "this is a democracy and in a democracy, majority rules."  At the time, I didn't think anything of it because I didn't understand the nuances of the Republic and it made sense to me because I was ignorant.  Of course a majority rules, I believed.  But today, now that I'm all grown up, I know better.  But the lie, oft repeated until it became the new national truth (a tactic Republicans still use to this day with far greater success thanks to Fox Republican Propaganda News), is fully embraced --haha!-- by the majority of Americans.
Like Founding Father and revolutionary James Madison once wrote, "Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death."

You can see why this truth might be inconvenient for Republicans, especially those who happen to be fundamentalist Christians.  America has been run by the fundamentalists and other religious folk for decades now, if not a good century and a half and you can see the mess they made of our nation.  Gone are our equal protections under the law; present is the real, dangerous threat of the police state.  Gone is our rights for public redress; present is the threat of "calling in the National Guard" and the tyranny of "free speech zones".  Gone is the wise politician forging the best compromises for ALL of his constituents; present are the abuses of a religious, political majority. 

Now, I do not truly believe that the Christian fundamentalists are a true majority here in America, but as political groups go, they are the most organized, networked, rabid and angry voters.  Why?  Because they have convinced themselves that they are all persecuted by the rest of the nation, which is absurd, but they cling to this whining, desperate idea because it is a sort of permission for themselves to be abusive to the rest of their countrymen through their draconian ideas of what America is and how it should be.  To them, only their rights matter, no one else's because in their brains they are doing everything they can to save out nation from an impending "end time".  Never mind that America is a melting pot of religions, ideas, philosophies.  No, if America will not yield to Christ, they will force their beliefs on all of us whether we like it or not.  So they need a democracy; they need majority rules; they covet it and are glad for it because it is the only way they have to force us all to behave as they would have us to behave.  Don't like it?  Tough tit!  Majority rules!
We are seeing the truth of all of this since the midterm elections.  Voted in on the message of jobs, jobs, jobs the Republican party has instead focused on limiting a woman's medical rights and privacy; on breaking unions and cutting back wages; on repealing child labor laws; on ensuring their wealth redistribution to the rich continues unabated for at least another 2 years; on repealing EPA statutes to protect our environment and our planet; on repealing the already lame health care reform act while they get the very "socialized medicine" for free that they rail against; on oppressing minorities, immigrants and people with a different religion; on cutting social programs for the neediest folk in America; on slashing benefits for the elderly and infirm.  Everything but what they were elected to do from a populace desperate to get back to work so that they can provide a better life than they had to their children.  Instead of the gospel of Jesus, they preach the gospel of the Republicans which is "fuck you America!"

As I watch the protests in Wisconsin, I long for the days of the Republic which was way better than this crappy democracy that shackles or infuriates most of us Americans today.  I especially get angry about it because the Republicans and their counterparts the Republocrats keep talking about shared sacrifice like they've given up anything in these tough financial times.  I defy anyone to show me where they have sacrificed anything.  Instead, the democracy has yielded a majority that firmly believes all the burdens for the problems they have created should be shifted upon the shoulders of the middle and lower classes and that all the sacrifices they speak of should come solely from there.  There is no more equal representation or protection for us, instead all the protections afforded to us by our Founding Fathers have been hijacked away from us and given instead to the rich, politicians and corporations and they view all of us as property or chattel do be dealt with as they see fit.  The sad thing is, until we get our Republic back, they are right.

Billionaire tea party tycoons financed Wisconsin’s anti-union governor, records show | The Raw Story

Billionaire tea party tycoons financed Wisconsin’s anti-union governor, records show | The Raw Story

Who was the principle financiers of Wisconsin's Republican Governor, now embroiled in a controversial attempt to destroy public sector unions?

None other than reviled tea party financiers Charles and David Koch, is who.

Turns out, the billionaire oil tycoons' political action committee gave Gov. Scott Walker (R) roughly $100,000 in campaign contributions during the 2010 election, according to campaign finance records highlighted by Mother Jones.

The contributions came from the same source -- Koch Industries PAC -- and though through two channels which were both legal under current campaign finance law.

About $43,000 worth of PAC monies went directly to Walker's campaign, while the Republican Governors Association (RGA) sent $65,000 from the PAC to Walker.

Wisconsin's governor also received help from the RGA by way of a $3.4 million ad buy on television and direct mail attacks against his political opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

What's more, it's not just the Koch presence behind the governor that's got some worried: it's that the bill causing so much strife is virtually pulled from the tycoon brothers' own playbook.

A similar bill was being considered in Ohio, where it drew a similar reaction from workers.

By pulling collective bargaining rights away from the unions, that's exactly what they'd be doing: effectively eradicating them. All leverage the workers have over management would be ended.

As if the connection weren't clear enough, the Koch brothers front group Americans for Prosperity produced a website called standwithwalker.com, encouraging people to support elimination of labor union rights.

Just over 24,000 had signed the Koch brothers' petition at time of this story's publication.

What Wisconsin's governor is really threatening - History - Salon.com

What Wisconsin's governor is really threatening - History - Salon.com

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has declared war on state workers, almost literally.

First, he proposed a state budget that would cut retirement and healthcare for workers like teachers and nurses, and strip away nearly all of their collective bargaining rights. But even more significantly, he announced last Friday that he had alerted the National Guard to be ready for state workers to strike or protest, an unprecedented step in modern times.

This would be the first time in nearly 80 years that the National Guard would be used to break a strike by Wisconsin workers, and the first time in over 40 years that the National Guard would be used against public workers anywhere in the country. The last time was the Memphis sanitation strike in 1968, just before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

The outrage was immediate across labor message boards, Twitter and Facebook pages. Over the last two days, tens of thousands have protested in front of the capitol building in Madison in defiance of the governor, some even camping overnight.

To understand the visceral, emotional nature of this outcry, you have to understand the history of the National Guard and the labor movement -- and what this means for the relationship between labor and the state today.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, governors often mobilized the National Guard during strikes. Sometimes the Guard was genuinely neutral, assigned to buffer the dangerous zone between strikers and their employers. Other times, the Guard was explicitly charged with breaking the strike. During these instances, violence often erupted between strikers and soldiers with terrible, bloody results.

National Guard soldiers clashed with strikers in Buffalo, N.Y., Birmingham, Ala., Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Salt Lake City and Telluride, Colo., at the turn of the 20th century. In just two years, between 1911 and 1913, the militia was mobilized against coal miners in West Virginia, textile workers in Massachusetts, textile workers in New Jersey, and copper miners in Michigan. During an infamous bloodbath in 1914, soldiers killed striking coal miners and their families in Ludlow, Colo., including at least six men, two women and 12 children.

During the 1934 Auto-Lite strike in Toledo, a battle raged for five days between 6,000 strikers and 1,300 members of the Ohio National Guard, leaving two strikers dead and more than 200 injured. Three years later, during the famous occupation of General Motors in Flint, Mich., the governor ordered thousands of soldiers to the factory, as the workers swore to resist them by force.

And in Wisconsin, Gov. Albert Schmedeman used the National Guard to disrupt a 1933 strike by dairy farmers, sometimes with bayonets and tear gas, when they tried to raise the price of milk. Newspapers reported that he was preparing for a "bona fide war." The Guard mobilized again the next year during a strike by the United Auto Workers. It was the last time the National Guard would be used during a strike in Wisconsin. Until, possibly, now.

The use of the National Guard against workers is supposed to be a relic of the past, nearly unimaginable to us. That's because of an uneasy understanding, evolved over time, between citizens and the state over the use of state force against civilians. In her excellent book "Army Surveillance in America, 1775-1980," historian Joan Jensen argued that this understanding "maintained restraint, sometimes precariously, in using the army to defend the government from the domestic population."

In other words, Jensen argues that the concept of voluntary restraint by the executive branch -- as opposed to codified legal restraint -- is still largely the governing principle at work when deciding whether to mobilize a domestic military force. So Gov. Walker's action is significant because it is an expanded interpretation of the power of the executive office. This would introduce once again the idea that a governor could use the military to impose his personal, political will on a state.

The cultural and historical significance of Gov. Walker's action can't be ignored. When he proposes using the National Guard to break a strike, he conjures a period of American history in which labor and capital were locked in violent, terrible struggle, when income inequality had reached epic heights, and workers had to bleed to organize. This is a step backward, not forward, in the march of American progress.

Stephanie Taylor is a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and a doctoral candidate in American history at Georgetown. Her research focuses on the relationship of labor and the state in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.