Sunday, January 30, 2011
Now that Don Blankenship is out as head of Massey Energy and the company faces serious charges with regard to its safety record and last year's explosion, company executives have decided it's a good time to have the company sold to a company with better government...um..relations.
New York City could lose $1 billion in education aid from the state, forcing the nation's largest school system to cut more than 21,000 teachers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday.
As Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepares to unveil his first budget proposal since taking office on New Year's Day, Mr. Bloomberg and his new schools chancellor, Cathie Black, are bracing for what could be devastating cuts to city schools.
On his weekly radio show Friday, Mr. Bloomberg stressed that he has yet to receive word of a definitive budget proposal from the governor. "Scuttlebutt is that the education budget will be cut statewide, and New York City's share of that would be a billion-dollar cut," he said.
If the governor proposes a $1 billion cut and the Legislature approves it, the mayor estimated the city would be forced to cut 15,000 teachers, most of which would be accomplished through layoffs. That's on top of plans, outlined by the mayor in November, to cut 6,166 teachers in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
In total, the administration is facing the specter of losing 21,000 teachers in the coming months, most through layoffs. An aide to the mayor warned that these numbers would probably change as negotiations with lawmakers over the state and city budgets begin in earnest in the coming weeks.
The city's Department of Education currently employs roughly 75,000 teachers.
As protests rage on in Egypt, the close relationship between the U.S. government and the regime of Hosni Mubarak has already garnered a lot of attention. But it's also worth taking a moment to examine the lobbying muscle that Egypt employs to secure its interests in Washington, including a mammoth $1.3 billion annual military aid package.
Seven firms are currently registered foreign agents for Egypt, including one, the Podesta Group, that has close ties to the Democratic Party and the Obama administration.
Founded by brothers Tony and John Podesta in the late 1980s, the Podesta Group has been retained by some of the biggest corporations in the country, including Wal-Mart, BP and Lockheed Martin. Tony Podesta's bio boasts that "if you want something done in Washington, DC, you go to Tony Podesta." After starting the firm, John Podesta went on to serve as Bill Clinton's chief of staff and, more recently, to found the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank closely associated with the Obama administration.
The Podesta Group counsels Egypt "on U.S. policies of concern, activities in Congress and the Executive branch, and developments on the U.S. political scene generally," according to forms filed with the Justice Department in 2009.
Records also show Tony Podesta himself meeting with members of Congress, governors and generals in recent years to discuss U.S.-Egypt relations and the military aid package and to introduce Egyptian officials to American power brokers.
For this work, the Podesta Group has profited handsomely. The Egyptian government in 2007 signed a deal to pay $1.1 million annually, plus expenses, to the PLM Group, which was a joint venture of the Podesta Group and the Republican firm the Livingston Group. (That's the lobbying shop of former Louisiana congressman Bob Livingston, who, on the eve of becoming speaker in the late 1990s, resigned from the House following revelations of extramarital affairs.)
PLM Group agreed to lobby Congress "to facilitate approval of commercial and non-subsidized government-to-government arm sales, and to improve the terms of the aid package." PLM would also "provide general, high-level strategic advice relative to the Egyptian image among American decision-makers."
If Camden, New Jersey, becomes the first American community to lower its medical costs, it will have a murder to thank. At nine-fifty on a February night in 2001, a twenty-two-year-old black man was shot while driving his Ford Taurus station wagon through a neighborhood on the edge of the Rutgers University campus. The victim lay motionless in the street beside the open door on the driver's side, as if the car had ejected him. A neighborhood couple, a physical therapist and a volunteer firefighter, approached to see if they could help, but police waved them back.
"He's not going to make it," an officer reportedly told the physical therapist. "He's pretty much dead." She called a physician, Jeffrey Brenner, who lived a few doors up the street, and he ran to the scene with a stethoscope and a pocket ventilation mask. After some discussion, the police let him enter the crime scene and attend to the victim. Witnesses told the local newspaper that he was the first person to lay hands on the man.
"He was slightly overweight, turned on his side," Brenner recalls. There was glass everywhere. Although the victim had been shot several times and many minutes had passed, his body felt warm. Brenner checked his neck for a carotid pulse. The man was alive. Brenner began the chest compressions and rescue breathing that should have been started long before. But the young man, who turned out to be a Rutgers student, died soon afterward.
The incident became a local scandal. The student's injuries may not have been survivable, but the police couldn't have known that. After the ambulance came, Brenner confronted one of the officers to ask why they hadn't tried to rescue him.
"We didn't want to dislodge the bullet," he recalls the policeman saying. It was a ridiculous answer, a brushoff, and Brenner couldn't let it go.
He was thirty-one years old at the time, a skinny, thick-bearded, soft-spoken family physician who had grown up in a bedroom suburb of Philadelphia. As a medical student at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in Piscataway, he had planned to become a neuroscientist. But he volunteered once a week in a free primary-care clinic for poor immigrants, and he found the work there more challenging than anything he was doing in the laboratory. The guy studying neuronal stem cells soon became the guy studying Spanish and training to become one of the few family physicians in his class. Once he completed his residency, in 1998, he joined the staff of a family-medicine practice in Camden. It was in a cheaply constructed, boxlike, one-story building on a desolate street of bars, car-repair shops, and empty lots. But he was young and eager to recapture the sense of purpose he'd felt volunteering at the clinic during medical school.
Few people shared his sense of possibility. Camden was in civic free fall, on its way to becoming one of the poorest, most crime-ridden cities in the nation. The local school system had gone into receivership. Corruption and mismanagement soon prompted a state takeover of the entire city. Just getting the sewage system to work could be a problem. The neglect of this anonymous shooting victim on Brenner's street was another instance of a city that had given up, and Brenner was tired of wondering why it had to be that way.
Around that time, a police reform commission was created, and Brenner was asked to serve as one of its two citizen members. He agreed and, to his surprise, became completely absorbed. The experts they called in explained the basic principles of effective community policing. He learned about George Kelling and James Q. Wilson's "broken-windows" theory, which argued that minor, visible neighborhood disorder breeds major crime. He learned about the former New York City police commissioner William Bratton and the Compstat approach to policing that he had championed in the nineties, which centered on mapping crime and focussing resources on the hot spots. The reform panel pushed the Camden Police Department to create computerized crime maps, and to change police beats and shifts to focus on the worst areas and times.
When the police wouldn't make the crime maps, Brenner made his own. He persuaded Camden's three main hospitals to let him have access to their medical billing records. He transferred the reams of data files onto a desktop computer, spent weeks figuring out how to pull the chaos of information into a searchable database, and then started tabulating the emergency-room visits of victims of serious assault. He created maps showing where the crime victims lived. He pushed for policies that would let the Camden police chief assign shifts based on the crime statistics—only to find himself in a showdown with the police unions.
"He has no clue," the president of the city police superiors' union said to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I just think that his comments about what kind of schedule we should be on, how we should be deployed, are laughable."
The unions kept the provisions out of the contract. The reform commission disbanded; Brenner withdrew from the cause, beaten. But he continued to dig into the database on his computer, now mostly out of idle interest.
Besides looking at assault patterns, he began studying patterns in the way patients flowed into and out of Camden's hospitals. "I'd just sit there and play with the data for hours," he says, and the more he played the more he found. For instance, he ran the data on the locations where ambulances picked up patients with fall injuries, and discovered that a single building in central Camden sent more people to the hospital with serious falls—fifty-seven elderly in two years—than any other in the city, resulting in almost three million dollars in health-care bills. "It was just this amazing window into the health-care delivery system," he says.
So he took what he learned from police reform and tried a Compstat approach to the city's health-care performance—a Healthstat, so to speak. He made block-by-block maps of the city, color-coded by the hospital costs of its residents, and looked for the hot spots. The two most expensive city blocks were in north Camden, one that had a large nursing home called Abigail House and one that had a low-income housing tower called Northgate II. He found that between January of 2002 and June of 2008 some nine hundred people in the two buildings accounted for more than four thousand hospital visits and about two hundred million dollars in health-care bills. One patient had three hundred and twenty-four admissions in five years. The most expensive patient cost insurers $3.5 million.
rest at http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/01/24/110124fa_fact_gawande?currentPage=all
Friday, January 28, 2011
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) was one of the financial industry's biggest apologists during November's campaign, opposing the Dodd-Frank financial reform law while claiming that derivative deals were "non-risky," even as they cost schools and cities all across the country (including many in Pennsylvania) millions of dollars. And Toomey has been totally unrepentant about his personal role in deregulating the financial industry.
In 2000, former Sen. Phil "mental recession" Gramm (R-TX) attached the Commodity Futures Modernization Act to an unrelated, 11,000 appropriations bill. The CFMA ensured that the growing market in over-the-counter derivatives, including credit default swaps, stayed entirely unregulated. Toomey — then a member of the House of Representatives — voted for that bill, and said that he would do it again, inaccurately claiming that the legislation "did absolutely nothing to cause the financial crisis."
So, naturally, Republicans have seen fit to name Toomey to the Senate Banking Committee, which has oversight of the nation's financial regulatory laws. The committee was instrumental in crafting Dodd-Frank.
Here's what the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission — which released its final report yesterday — had to say about the bill Toomey claims did nothing to bring about the financial crisis:
Once again, Big Government Republicans are trying to put federal bureaucrats between you and your doctor, while at the same time making the world safer for rapists by redefining the meaning of "rape" entirely. Via Nick Baumann at Mother Jones...Rape is only really rape if it involves force. So says the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.
For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. (Another exemption covers pregnancies that could endanger the life of the woman.) But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion.
Given that the bill also would forbid the use of tax benefits to pay for abortions, that 13-year-old's parents wouldn't be allowed to use money from a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA) to pay for the procedure. They also wouldn't be able to deduct the cost of the abortion or the cost of any insurance that paid for it as a medical expense.
rest at http://www.bradblog.com/?p=8328
Right-Wing Civil Rights Commission Trumps Up Report On Phony New Black Panthers Party Scandal @andrewbreitbart #p2
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Thursday, January 27, 2011
fuck you arizona: Girl, 9, and father shot dead by 'anti-immigrant vigilantes' as she begged for life #p2 #tcot #teaparty
A nine-year-old girl begged for her life before being shot dead along with her father by an anti-immigrant vigilante group, a court heard.
Brisenia Flores was gunned down at point-blank range in her own home in Flores, Arizona, as her terrified mother Gina Gonzalez, who had also been hit, played dead on the floor.
She sobbed as the court was told how she had heard Brisenia's desperate pleas as her killer stood over her.
'I can hear it happening,' Mrs Flores told the court describing how her daughter said: 'Why did you shoot my dad? Why did you shoot my mum?'
'I can hear her telling him to "please don't shoot me."'
The prosecution alleges that the child and her father Raul Flores Jr were murdered in May 30, 2009 by a group of vigilantes set up to tackle Mexican immigrants.
The shootings took place 200 miles from Tucson, the scene of the gun massacre earlier this month in which another nine-year-old girl died.
Shawna Forde, the head of the Minutemen American Defence group, is on trial accused of two charges of first degree murder.
She is allegedly orchestrated the attack on the Flores family with two male accomplices, due to face face court in.March.
Police claim that Forde believed Mr Flores was a drug trafficker and would have cash and goods in the house which they could use to fund their patrols.
She reportedly led the raid and gave instructions to the male accomplices.
On trial: Shawna Forde (centre) is accused of murdering Brisenia Flores, nine, and her father Raul Flores Jr
Mrs Gonzalez told the court that her husband woke her up just before 1am on May 30 and said that the police were at the door.
The couple went to the front room - where Brisenia had spent the night on the sofa to be near her new dog - and spotted two people outside.
Both were in camouflage. Mrs Gonzalez said one was a heavy-set woman while the other was a man whose face was blackened with greasepaint. He was armed with a rifle and pistol.
The mother-of-one told the court the pair had demanded to be let in, claiming the family were harbouring a fugitive.
They then burst into the house. The man told Mr Flores: 'Don't take this personal, but this bullet has your name on it.'
Accused: Shawna Forde is one of three people charged with two counts of first-degree murder over the shooting of Brisenia Flores and her father
He then opened fire, hitting Mrs Gonzalez in the shoulder and leg.
Her husband was hit multiple times before the gunman turned to her daughter.
She described hearing the murderer reload his weapon as he ignored Brisenia's pleas for mercy and then open fire.
The gunman and his accomplice left but as Mrs Gonzalez called 911, she heard him returning.
Desperately wounded, she dragged herself through the house to find her husband's gun and exchanged fire with her assailant, who police say is Jason Bush.
He was injured and fled the scene.
Forde was arrested shortly after the shooting. She had Mrs Gonzalez's wedding ring and other jewellery, according to police.
Investigators said that she was originally a member of the anti-immigrant Minuteman Project but left to form a more extreme breakaway group.
Members claim that it is their civil duty to protect the Mexican border with weapons as the authorities are unable to do so.
Forde allegedly funded her by group by robbing the houses of suspected drug dealers. When she reportedly proposed one such raid to two potential accomplices, they phoned the FBI - who did nothing because they believed the suggestion was too ludicrous to be true.
Prosecutor Kellie Johnson said: 'Not only will the state prove to you that Shawna Forde was in that house that night, barking orders and telling people what to do, the state will prove that Shawna Forde organised and planned this offence.'
Forde's lawyer Eric Larsen told the court that she was not at the house and that much of the evidence was circumstantial
Forde denies murder. The trial continues. If convicted, she faces the death penalty.
Over the course of 21 years, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas repeatedly broke a government ethics law requiring that federal employees disclose their spouse's income and employers, an open government advocacy group, Common Cause, reported last week.
In response, Thomas on Monday filed papers admitting his wife, Virginia "Ginnie" Thomas, was gainfully employed by right-wing and pro-corporate lobbying groups. Thomas sought to alter financial disclosure forms going as far back as 1989, two years before he joined the high court.
The revelations illustrate the advanced rot of the American judicial system and the control that corporate money wields over the highest court in the land. Thomas and another right-wing justice, Antonin Scalia, trample upon basic precepts of the judicial system—non-partisanship, court impartiality and the rule of law—with impunity, safe in the knowledge they will be shielded by the Obama administration and the court's liberal wing.
Virginia Thomas, an outspoken Republican and widely regarded as the most partisan Supreme Court spouse in the institution's history, was paid $686,589 from 2003 to 2007 by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, according to Internal Revenue Service tax filings. It is not yet known how much she was paid between 1998, when she was first hired by Heritage Foundation, and 2002. It is also not known how much she was paid in 2008 by right-wing Hillsdale College of Michigan for heading up its Washington D.C. constitutional law program. She earlier worked as a lobbyist for the US Chamber of Commerce and as a congressional aid to former Texas Republican Dick Armey, who is now a leading figure in the Tea Party movement.
In 2009 Virginia Thomas launched Liberty Central, another right-wing lobbying group closely linked to the Tea Party, the supposedly "grass roots" political movement funded with tens of millions from billionaires Charles and David Koch. Liberty Central was endowed by an undisclosed donor with $550,000, and a Koch Industries lobbyist, Matt Schlapp, was installed on its five-member board of directors.
In October 2010, it was revealed that Clarence Thomas and Scalia each spoke at secretive political strategy sessions hosted by Koch Industries, the second largest privately-held corporation in the US. According to a letter describing the events, entitled "Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity," "participants committed [themselves] to an unprecedented level of support" in order for Republicans to win in the midterm elections. Scalia and Thomas have admitted their presence at these events but not when they attended, which could have had a bearing on then-pending Supreme Court cases.
Clarence Thomas continues to insist that his wife was not paid anything for this work at Liberty Central, according to the revised conflict-of-interest forms he filed Monday. He brazenly claims that the falsification of his wife's employment status on the conflict-of-interest forms was an innocent mistake, saying it was "inadvertently omitted due to a misunderstanding of the filing instructions," in a letter to the Supreme Court office that submits the financial disclosure forms.
The claim that Thomas could have made such an error—which required him to fill in with pencil a specific box claiming his wife had no income over $1,000—is absurd on its face. Under a section of the form entitled "spousal noninvestment income," each year for more than a decade Thomas checked a box labeled "none." This is not "omission," but an out-and-out lie.
"Justice Thomas sits on the highest court of the land, is called upon daily to understand and interpret the most complicated legal issues of our day and makes decisions that affect millions," said Common Cause president Bob Edgar. "It is hard to see how he could have misunderstood the simple directions of a federal disclosure form. We find his excuse is implausible."
"It wasn't a miscalculation; he simply omitted his wife's source of income for six years, which is a rather dramatic omission," said Stephen Gillers of New York University law school. "It could not have been an oversight."
The fact that Thomas could be paid, through his wife, hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of dollars by Republican-affiliated pro-corporate lobbying groups delegitimizes hundreds of important cases argued before the Supreme Court. Many of these decisions were ultimately decided in the right wing's favor by 5-4 margins, including the infamous Bush vs. Gore decision stopping vote-counting in Florida and handing the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush, and last year's Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case, which overturned decades of campaign finance law and opened the floodgates to secret corporate donations to political candidates.
According to Common Cause, as a result of Citizens United, "Outside groups spent more than $296 million on the 2010 Congressional midterms—a 330 percent increase over 2006—with more than $135 million of that coming from undisclosed donors." Among those most active in supporting the Citizens United lawsuit were several right-wing groups funded by the Koch brothers.
Common Cause filed a complaint with Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday arguing that the Citizens United case should be vacated because both Thomas and Scalia were obligated to recuse themselves from the proceedings. Had they done so, the plaintiffs in the case would very likely have lost in a 4-3 decision
Thomas' actions in leaving out from his conflict-of-interest filings his wife's income and employer identity is a violation of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, a law that allows the Attorney General to "bring a civil action in any appropriate United States district court against any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or who knowingly and willfully fails to file or report any information that such individual is required to report." The law defines such falsification as "unlawful" and punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year, or, if it is prosecuted under the Title 18 US Code 1001 injunction against making false statements or entries, by up to five years imprisonment.
In appealing to Holder to petition for a retrial in the Citizens United case, Common Cause points to the US Code's Title 28, Section 455, which stipulates, "Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned," including cases in which a judge's spouse "is known by the judge to have an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding."
In fact Virginia Thomas openly celebrated the decision, telling the Los Angeles Times in March, 2010, that Liberty Central could now "accept donations from various sources—including corporations—as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court."
There has so far been no comment from the White House or the Attorney General's office. With the Obama administration attempting to outdo the Republicans in the courtship of big business, there is no desire to retry the Citizens United case.
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US Supreme Court justice's wife has leading role in ultra-right group
[1 November 2010]
The Supreme Court ruling on corporate political spending
[23 January 2010]
SOTU: revealed obliviousness/indifference of political establishment to social disaster confronting millions of Americans #P2 #TCOT
President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night demonstrated the insular, sclerotic and reactionary character of the American political system.
The annual presidential address before the US Congress long ago degenerated into a hollow ritual. What was remarkable about Obama’s address, however, was how completely it revealed the obliviousness and indifference of the political establishment to the social disaster confronting tens of millions of Americans.
No aspect of social reality can be openly and honestly addressed by any section of the American ruling class or the corporate-controlled media. This is itself a reflection of the staggering levels of social inequality and the intensity of class tensions that permeate American life. The fear is that any acknowledgment of the real state of American society could become a focus for the social anger building up just below the surface.
There was no mention in the speech of record levels of long-term unemployment, plunging home values or the million-plus foreclosures occurring each year. Nor was the steady growth of hunger, homelessness and poverty even raised. One would not know from the hour-long address that virtually every American state and city is insolvent and in the process of shutting schools, laying off teachers and other public employees and imposing furloughs and cuts in wages and pensions.
Instead, Obama boasted of having “broken the back of the recession.” His proof? “Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up.”
That Obama, in a prime-time, nationally televised speech to the nation, should hail the good fortune of the financial parasites who were chiefly responsible for bringing the US and world economies to their knees is highly revealing of the real constituency of the president and both political parties.
What social strata are benefiting from the bull market and record corporate profits? What comfort are such tidings to working Americans, when 90 percent of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds in the US is owned by the wealthiest 10 percent of the population, and more than half is controlled by the richest one percent?
There was plenty more good news for big business in the speech, including Obama’s promise to slash the corporate tax rate and gut regulations on business.
Wall Street’s recovery has been the direct result of the administration’s policies, beginning with the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the banks. The Federal Reserve’s cheap credit policy and the lack of any serious reform of the financial system have fostered a resumption of the type of financial swindling and criminality that led to the crash of September 2008.
Record corporate profits have also been the result of White House policy. Despite its pronouncements to the contrary, the administration welcomes high levels of joblessness because it enables corporations to boost their profits by pressuring workers to accept lower wages and benefits. The White House initiated a nationwide wage-cutting drive with its attack on GM and Chrysler workers last year, and has accelerated it with its recent pay freeze on federal employees.
In his speech Tuesday, Obama signaled that a drastic and permanent reduction in working class living standards is at the center of his strategy to double exports within five years. What does “making the US competitive” with low-wage countries such as China and India mean in the context of an economic policy that equates “growth” and “job-creation” with boosting corporate profits? It means shrinking the labor cost gap between the US and these emerging market countries by reducing US wages, pensions and benefits and intensifying speedup on the job.
Obama sought to evoke the aura of Kennedy and the 1960s space race, declaring that globalization and the rise of China had created “our generation’s Sputnik moment.” This was an entirely cynical attempt to make the case for unity and sacrifice in answer to a new challenge to the nation as a cover for an actual policy of class warfare against the vast majority conducted in the interests of a small, aristocratic minority.
Under Obama’s program―dubbed “winning the future”―all the sacrificing will be done by the working class. It will be devastated by cuts in social spending (a five-year freeze in non-defense discretionary spending) followed by attacks on the basic entitlement programs―Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
The rich will get a further cut in their tax rates (in the name of “simplifying” the tax code) and an even bigger share of the national wealth.
“We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business,” Obama proclaimed, echoing the remarks of President Calvin Coolidge that the “business of America is business.” Obama has unashamedly turned the White House into a branch office of JPMorgan Chase or General Electric. Indeed, in the run-up to the speech he appointed multi-millionaire JPMorgan executive William Daley as his White House chief of staff and put General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt in charge of the newly created Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
In 2008, powerful financial and political interests maneuvered to channel popular anger against the Bush administration and its militarist and pro-business policies behind the Obama campaign. In 2010, the ruling class manipulated the mid-term elections―exploiting widespread popular disillusionment over the betrayal of Obama’s campaign promises and disgust with his right-wing policies―to engineer a Republican victory and justify a further lurch to the right by Obama.
The entire experience of this administration proves the undemocratic character of the two-party system and its complete subordination to the financial oligarchy.
In order to defend its interests, the working class must build a socialist movement, independent of the Democratic Party and its allies in the trade union apparatus, that will fight for a workers’ government to break the stranglehold of the financial aristocracy and reorganize economic life on the basis of social need, not private profit.
We urge all workers and young people determined to carry out this fight to make the decision to join and build the Socialist Equality Party.
So Sarah Palin went on Greta Van Susteren's show last night and one of the "questions" was about what she thought of President Obama's reference to America's "Sputnik moment" during his State of the Union address.
Just about everyone knows that the phrase "Sputnik moment" refers to America's response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite and how it galvanized the nation to make the scientific and technological advantages that allowed us to go to the moon and beyond, but not Sarah Palin.
To Palin, the Sputnik moment was a bad thing for America and the fact that President Obama "would aspire Americans to celebrate" it represents a "WTF moment." Why? Because, she says, Sputnik "resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union."
Of course, the collapse of the Soviet Union had to do with more than just Sputnik (and does Palin really think its collapse was a bad thing?), but the point of President Obama's speech wasn't that we should emulate the Soviet Union -- it was that we should emulate our own history and our own response to Sputnik. Palin obviously didn't understand that, which makes for a truly remarkable 45 seconds of television -- quite possibly the stupidest 45 seconds of babbling by a potential presidential candidate in American history:
GRETA: Governor, last night there was a lot of discussion about the Sputnik Moment the President wants us to have. Do you agree with him? Is this our moment?
PALIN: That was another one of those WTF moments, when he has so often repeated, the Sputnik Moment, that he would aspire Americans to celebrate, he needs to remember that what happened back then with the former communist USSR and their victory and that race to space, yeah, they won, but they also incured so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union so I listen to that Sputnik Moment talk over and over again and I think, no we don't need one of those.
.@GOP Puts Guy Who Thinks Federal Child Labor Laws Are Unconstitutional On Senate Judiciary Committee #P2 #TCOT #TEAPARTY
There's only three things Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) likes in a sentence: a noun, a verb, and "unconstitutional." Indeed, Lee has recently claimed that federal child labor laws, FEMA, food stamps, the FDA, Medicaid, income assistance for the poor, and even Medicare and Social Security violate the Constitution. Yet Senate Republicans have inexplicably chosen to put Lee on the very Senate committee that has jurisdiction over constitutional questions and the judiciary:
[A]ides said two Republicans, Sens. John Thune, R-S.D. and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and one Democrat, Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., will take seats on the Finance Committee. Freshman Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, will join the Senate Judiciary Committee and freshman Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D. and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., are expected to win two of several open Appropriations Committee seats.
Placing Mike Lee in charge of overseeing the Constitution is a bit like putting Dick Cheney in charge of hunting and gun safety, yet the Senate GOP was so eager to put this radical tenther on the Judiciary Committee that it waived a rule prohibiting both of a state's senators from serving on Judiciary in order to ensure Lee's membership. Bizarrely, this move exposes a very real divide between Senate Republicans and the President. While President Obama's State of the Union Address specifically highlighted "child labor laws" as an example of the kind of "commonsense safeguards" that all Americans can embrace, the Senate GOP apparently sees no problem with Lee's view that federal child labor laws cannot constitutionally exist.