Monday, February 28, 2011

1985 photo of Omayra Sanchez - first broadcast of the pain and death of a human being

 Photography Frank Fournier Omayra Sanchez Photo Press World

Many see this photo from 1985 as the beginning of what we nowadays call "media globalization", because Omayra Sanchez's agony was followed by television cameras from all over the world. Despite all the footage that was recorded by those tv cameras, it was this photograph, of a shocking reality and humanity, that went down in history as the first broadcast of the pain and death of a human being.

Omayra Sanchez, 13 years old, was the victim of volcano Nevado del Ruiz's eruption in 1985, that devasted the Armero village, in Colombia. Omayra was trapped for three days under the mud, clay and water that was left from her own house. When the paramedics, with scarce resources, tried to help her, they sadly realized there was nothing they could do, since to remove her from the deadly trap they would have to amputate her legs and the lack of a speacilist on the scene would result in her death.

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Top Republicans Back Michelle Obama's Anti-Obesity Campaign #p2

Two high-profile Republicans, Mike Huckabee (likely presidential candidate for 2012), and Chris Christie (New Jersey Governor) have backed Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign - breaking ranks with most of their party.

Both Huckabee and Christie have had their own weight struggles - Huckabee once weighed 300lbs; Christie has described himself as "portly".

Much of the criticism of Michelle Obama's campaign has been from Republicans who believe it is not the government's role to interfere in individuals' private lives. The radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh complained that:

She's demanding that everybody basically eat cardboard and tofu, no calories, no fat, no nothing, gotta stop obesity.

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Jamie Oliver Calls Sarah Palin A 'Froot Loop' #p2

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver called Sarah Palin a "Froot Loop" for criticizing the Obama administration's healthy eating initiatives, and said getting healthy foods to kids is a civil rights issue.

The U.S. is in a "really dark moment" when it comes to children's health and needs to make it a priority, said Oliver, who tried to transform the diets of a West Virginia town with his 2010 ABC show "Jamie's Food Revolution" and is filming a new version in Los Angeles.

Improving what children eat at school alone can have a far-reaching, positive effect on their habits and health as adults, Oliver said Saturday during an Associated Press interview at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

He said he doesn't have much faith that government will lead the way, but said the Obama administration is on the right track.

Palin, in contrast, "clearly on this issue is a Froot Loop," he said.

The president recently signed a bill that increases the federal reimbursement for free school lunches and expands the government's nutrition requirements for the free and reduced meals it subsidizes to cover all foods sold during school hours.

Some school groups argue it will be hard for already-stretched schools to pay for the new requirements, and Palin and other conservatives have argued that telling children what to eat is a case of government meddling, and that parents should decide what their children eat.

But Oliver, who launched his career in England as "The Naked Chef," countered that he's heard from pediatricians and dentists who feel some parents are edging toward child abuse by not feeding them healthy food. And he argued that the obesity epidemic is hampering the American spirit of problem-solving and ingenuity.

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Corporate Profits Soaring Thanks to Record Unemployment #p2

In a January 2009 ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos, then President-elect Barack Obama said fixing the economy required shared sacrifice, "Everybody's going to have to give. Everybody's going to have to have some skin in the game." (1)
For the past two years, American workers submitted to the President's appeal—taking steep pay cuts despite hectic productivity growth. By contrast, corporate executives have extracted record profits by sabotaging the recovery on every front—eliminating employees, repressing wages, withholding investment, and shirking federal taxes.
The global recession increased unemployment in every country, but the American experience is unparalleled. According to a July OECD report, the U.S. accounted for half of all job losses among the 31 richest countries from 2007 to mid-2010. (2) The rise of U.S. unemployment greatly exceeded the fall in economic output. Aside from Canada, U.S. GDP actually declined less than any other rich country, from mid-2008 to mid 2010. (3)
Washington's embrace of labor market flexibility ensured companies encountered little resistance when they launched their brutal recovery plans. Leading into the recession, the US had the weakest worker protections against individual and collective dismissals in the world, according to a 2008 OECD study. (4) Blackrock's Robert Doll explains, "When the markets faltered in 2008 and revenue growth stalled, U.S. companies moved decisively to cut costs—unlike their European and Japanese counterparts." (5) The U.S. now has the highest unemployment rate among the ten major developed countries. (6).
The private sector has not only been the chief source of massive dislocation in the labor market, but it is also a beneficiary. Over the past two years, productivity has soared while unit labor costs have plummeted. By imposing layoffs and wage concessions, U.S. companies are supplying their own demand for a tractable labor market. Private sector union membership is the lowest on record. (7) Deutsche Bank Chief Economist Joseph LaVorgna notes that profits-per-employee are the highest on record, adding, "I think what investors are missing - and even the Federal Reserve - is the phenomenal health of the corporate sector." (8)

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Monsanto Shifts All Liability For Damages Caused By Its GM Crops to Farmers, Now & For Perpetuity #p2

soybean field photo
Soybean field in Kentucky, photo: Brian Bennett/Creative Commons

I'll say it bluntly and blanketedly: I can't stand Monsanto, even separate from my disdain for GM crops--they are a perfect example of the worst excesses of opaque corporate shenanigans that, alongside outright political dictatorship and oppression, are direct threats to true democracy.

Here's the source of that brief rant: As TruthOut highlighted earlier in the week, the Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement (the name itself is Orwellian in it's use of language to obscure and not illuminate) indemnifies Monsanto against "any and all losses, injury or damages resulting from the use or handling of seed (including claims based in contract, negligence, product liability, strict liability, tort, or otherwise) no event shall Monsanto or any seller be liable for any incidental, consequential, special, or punitive damages."

Which would be bad enough, but even if you terminate your contract with Monsanto, "Grower's responsibilities and the other terms herein shall survive."

If a Monsanto GM Crop Causes Damage, Monsanto Off the Hook


John Boehner's job creation plan: Defending anti-gay marriage law #p2

John Boehner Golfs
Wikimedia Commons

In his latest effort to create jobs and get our economy back on track, House Speaker John Boehner says that the House of Representatives will probably defend the Defense of Marriage Act, since the Justice Department won't. So that would create at least a handful of new staff jobs, at taxpayer expense.

"I'd be very surprised if the House didn't decide that they were going to defend the law," Boehner said on "The Brody File" of the Christian Broadcasting Network....

The administration's decision angered some Republicans, especially social conservatives, who accused Obama of overstepping his bounds as president in order to placate gay and lesbian supporters. Boehner joined in that chorus, accusing the president of "raw politics" on the issue.

"It strikes me as something that's just as raw politics as anything I've seen, knowing that a lot of people who believe in DOMA are probably not likely to vote for him and pandering to the other side on this issue," Boehner said.

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Superficial Internet v. the Deep Internet: How Understanding the Difference Can Preserve Global Internet Freedom

Friday, February 25, 2011


ABOUT THOSE PLANNED PARENTHOOD VIDEOS - HuffPost Hill watched all of those James O'Keefe-inspired Planned Parenthood videos Glenn Beck likes to talk about so you don't have to -- both the full-length and edited versions. Turns out, in many cases, the edited version is a complete distortion of reality, and sometimes a reversal of it. For instance, in one edited video, a Planned Parenthood volunteer says: "Um, we don't ask anything about the boyfriend." In the spliced video, the next words out of the volunteer's mouth are: "We don't really care about who, what the age of the boyfriend is." In the unedited clip, the volunteer says she isn't concerned about the boyfriend because the decision belongs to the woman. "Um, we don't ask anything about the boyfriend. We ask about you. We ask if you're married, if you have other children, and so on and so forth." Lila Rose promoted the edited video as proof that Planned Parenthood knew that a 13-year-old child was impregnated by a 31-year-old man but continued to counsel the patient. But in the full-length video, it becomes clear that Rose, who is pretending to be pregnant, tells a volunteer that she is 13 and later tells a nurse that her boyfriend is 31. Each person has only one piece of the information, though in the edited tape it appears as though Rose is talking to the same person the entire time. Rose was in fact over 18 at the time of the video, so the nurse would have little reason to suspect statutory rape. [HuffPost]

Behind The Assault On Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON -- The House Republican move to strip federal funds from the nation's most well-known reproductive health care provider as part of its budget last week was the culmination of a multi-year effort that involved parallel action by top Republicans and conservative media operatives playing up the work of a California college student who has been creating surreptitious videos of Planned Parenthood employees for years.

The student, Lila Rose, is the president of an organization called Live Action that pays actors to walk into Planned Parenthood offices with hidden cameras, much as James O'Keefe did to undermine the community-organizing group ACORN. The Live Action stars pretend to be a pimp and a prostitute engaged in human trafficking and looking for birth control, STD testing and abortions. The videos that the organization puts out can be convincing and disturbing -- and in at least two cases were found by Planned Parenthood to be legitimate cause for dismissals -- but thorough, frame-by-frame reviews of the full-length videos show that what is posted on YouTube often bears little relation to what happened in reality, due to heavy editing that alters the meaning of conversations.

Last Friday, the day the House moved to defund Planned Parenthood, Glenn Beck devoted the entirety of his hourlong Fox News show to the organization and brought Rose into the studio to narrate some of her videos -- clips that were spliced to create conversations that never happened. Along with Fox News, the conservative blog Big Government, which played a leading role in promoting the ACORN videos, has been pushing Rose's productions. In a column written for Big Government less than a week before the funding vote, Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, laid out the case against Planned Parenthood.

"Taxpayers deserve accountability, and recent undercover videos taken at Planned Parenthood centers demonstrate the egregious abuse of taxpayer funds. These videos show that Planned Parenthood is willing to use public funds to commit a federal crime," wrote Stearns, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. "Thanks to Live Action, a group of young people dedicated to strengthening the culture of life, we learn from undercover videos that Planned Parenthood is all too willing to ignore the law in promoting its services, among them abortion." (Planned Parenthood does not use federal money to pay for abortions, which make up a sliver of its operations; its opponents argue that money is fungible and that any tax dollars going to the organization indirectly subsidize abortions.)

The assault on Planned Parenthood is one part of the movement against abortion rights. House Republicans proposed banning federal funds that cover abortion in cases of rape if the attack was not "forcible," but backed down after a public outcry. In South Dakota, the GOP was pushing legislation that would appear to make it legal to murder an abortion provider; a Georgia law would make miscarriages illegal under certain circumstances; Iowa lawmakers would allow deadly force to protect a fetus; Nebraska, Virginia, Kansas and Pennsylvania lawmakers are all pushing similarly extreme legislation.

Defenders of abortion rights intend to make their stand in the Senate, where abortion rights have always had more allies than in the House. "We've already been talking to our allies in the Senate, both in the Republican party and the Democratic, and we're very hopeful that this horrible bill doesn't become law," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told HuffPost last Friday after the House vote.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, a national Republican leader, cited Rose's videos as justification for an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood on Feb. 2, a day after she released new footage. "The recent release of an undercover video exposing duplicity and potential criminality by an employee of Planned Parenthood is an outrage. Every American should be shocked that an employee of the largest recipient of federal funds under Title X has been recorded aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking," Pence said. "The time to deny any and all funding to Planned Parenthood is now. In the wake of yet another scandal involving Planned Parenthood, I urge Congress to move the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act to the floor for immediate consideration."

While the late ACORN and Planned Parenthood provide different services to the populations they serve, there is value to the conservative movement in eliminating both, because both offer a genuine, tangible service while also engaging directly in the political process. When people see firsthand what affordable health care or affordable housing mean in practice, they're more likely to support it in principle at the ballot box.

"I'm just telling you, I don't think they have any idea how far they have overreached," Richards said last week. "I think what you saw with Congresswoman [Jackie] Speier last night is very personal evidence of just how far these folks have overreached. And I think the women of America are expressing that, and will express it. This is not an academic, intellectual issue for them."

The same network and the same tactics are being put to use against Planned Parenthood that worked so effectively against ACORN, but the prospect for success is smaller for a variety of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, one in five women have visited a Planned Parenthood center at some point to receive health services, dwarfing ACORN's reach into the general population.


Hack Newt Gingrich and why his impeachment comment of Obama and DOMA is wrong #p2


Newt Gingrich
Photo credit: John-paul Zajackowski/

Newt Gingrich, arguing President Obama's decision to stop defending DOMA is impeachable:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who plans within two weeks to announce if he will run for president, said today that if President Obama doesn't change his mind and order his Justice Department to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, Republicans in Congress should strike back and even consider impeachment proceedings. ...

"Imagine that Governor Palin had become president. Imagine that she had announced that Roe v. Wade in her view was unconstitutional and therefore the United States government would no longer protect anyone's right to have an abortion because she personally had decided it should be changed. The news media would have gone crazy. The New York Times would have demanded her impeachment," said Gingrich

Leaving aside the fact that Roe v. Wade is a court decision and not a piece of legislation, Gingrich's argument is absurd. In his hypothetical, Palin actually would break the law as decided by the courts. Obama is merely saying that his administration will no longer defend the law's constitutionality. He's not saying he won't follow the law.

And as for his "principled outrage," Newt should consider this signing statement by his hero Ronald Reagan:

While I am signing S. 1192, it contains a legislative veto provision which the Attorney General advises is unconstitutional. ... The Secretary of Transportation will not, consistent with this objection, regard himself as legally bound by any such resolution.

Reagan was saying his administration would ignore the law before he even signed it. President Obama, as I wrote above, is saying his administration will no longer defend the law. Unlike Reagan, the Obama Administration will still enforce the law, until and unless the courts finally overturn it. They just aren't going to defend it. That's a huge difference.

Gingrich also said that President Obama campaigned in support of DOMA. That's also a lie. But what else do you except from a hack like Gingrich? Neither truth nor facts are his strong suit.

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FROM NORTH SHORE ANIMAL LEAGUE: Reese collie mix needs major heart surgery

Reese is a beautiful and sweet 1-year-old, brindle-colored collie mix. The Animal League rescued Reese from a very small animal shelter that was unable to care for her extensive needs. The Animal League placed Reese into the life-saving Help Me Heal Program, so that she would have a second chance at life.

Sadly, Reese has a life-threatening heart defect. A major blood vessel that connects the two main arteries of the body - the aorta and the pulmonary artery, has remained open, when it should have naturally closed shortly after birth. Because this vessel is open, it passes extra volumes of blood into the lungs. This fatal condition must be corrected.

Reese needs to have major heart surgery to block the excess blood flow. This intensive operation is very delicate and will require the expertise of a heart specialist. It is a high-risk procedure, and the Animal League is making sure that Reese gets the best care possible. Without this surgery, it is likely that Reese could die.

After the surgery, Reese will need several months of rest and rehabilitation so she can fully recover. Her exercise will need to be very limited, even when she's feeling like jumping and playing, so she will need to be monitored day and night.

You can help. When you support the Help Me Heal Program, you're supporting Reese and many other dogs, cats, puppies and kittens that need special care.

Please open your heart and donate today.


Rep. Paul Broun Asked At Town Hall: 'Who Is Going To Shoot Obama?'


The Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia reports that a shocking question was asked at a town hall event held by Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) on Tuesday. According to the article, an audience member asked the congressman, "Who is going to shoot Obama?"

Blake Aued reports:

Broun's press secretary, Jessica Morris, confirmed that the question was indeed, who is going to shoot Obama? "Obviously, the question was inappropriate, so Congressman Broun moved on," she said.

However, rather than confronting the questioner or condemning the question, Broun instead acknowledged "frustration" with Obama, according to the Banner-Herald. The paper reports that Broun responded to the stunning inquiry as follows:

"The thing is, I know there's a lot of frustration with this president. We're going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we'll elect somebody that's going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller, who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare."

Read the full story from the Athens Banner-Herald.

UPDATE: Paul Broun issued a statement in which he claims he "was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response."

Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in Oglethorpe County, Georgia an elderly man asked the abhorrent question, "Who's going to shoot Obama?" I was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response; therefore, at that moment I moved on to the next person with a question. After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities. I deeply regret that this incident happened at all. Furthermore, I condemn all statements--made in sincerity or jest--that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the President of the United States or any other public official. Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated.

Two witnesses tell Talking Points Memo that Broun laughed after the question was asked. The Banner-Herald reported that the question got "a big laugh" at the event.

How to Set up an Installment Agreement With IRS


When dealing with the IRS there are very few straightforward cases. When setting up an installment agreement special circumstances abound; here's what you need to know.   

PART I: Can't Pay Your Taxes? 

If you are insolvent or in the midst of filing bankruptcy do not file form 9465. Contact the collections department directly, or better yet, ask your attorney or tax pro to help you. If you are filing bankruptcy, some tax liabilities may be eligible for discharge under current tax law.

If you owe more than $25,000, complete form 433-F Collection Information Statement to accompany Form 9465. Form 433-F is used to evaluate your financial position to determine an appropriate monthly payment amount. If you owe more than $25,000 and find yourself unable to pay, I would suggest contacting your tax pro to determine if you can be deemed currently not collectible or to determine if you are a candidate for an offer in compromise.

It takes about 30+ days for the IRS to consider your request for an installment agreement. During that time agents are not allowed to take any collection actions affecting your property. In fact, the IRS will not levy or seize assets while your agreement is in effect or for 30 days after it rejects your request for an agreement or for any period while you appeal the rejection. And, as long as you remain in compliance, it will leave you alone.

If during the course of the agreement a month comes up in which you are able to double your monthly payment, do it. But this doesn't take you off the hook for the following month. If you fail to make the next month's payment, thinking you are paid ahead, you will instead find yourself in default.

There may also be a time when you are unable to make the payment. Don't just skip the payment and hope they don't notice, step up. Call the IRS and tell them your problem and ask for a reprieve--you should be given two reprieves before agents start getting testy. If something major occurs (you lost your job or have become disabled) and you know you won't be able to honor the agreement, let the government know immediately. Here again, you may be allowed a "currently not collectible" status with a one year reprieve. Of course, penalties and interest continue to accrue.

If you are already on an installment plan for prior years and find yourself owing again, don't file a form 9465. Call collections and request that they combine the current year liability with that of the prior year(s). The IRS does not take kindly to repeated failures to pay.

But it will, albeit reluctantly, agree to oblige you. And only if you are combining two years of liabilities. If you are on year three, you will be met with some resistance and questions about why you are continuing to not meet your tax obligation. You will be asked to adjust your withholding at work so that enough is deducted each payroll period. Or, if you are subject to estimated tax payments, you will be encouraged to honor those rather than take that long overdue vacation to Fiji or indulging in other luxuries like groceries and rent. If it's the latter, you'd have to skip in order to oblige, you may consider discussing the possibility of being deemed "currently not collectible." This gives you a one year reprieve to get your finances in order.

The IRS will reject a request for an installment agreement if you were successful in having an offer in compromise accepted within the past five years. One of its criteria to accepting an offer is that the taxpayer remains in compliance by timely filing and paying all taxes due for the subsequent five years.

If at any time during a discussion with collection personnel you feel you are in over your head, stop the interview and tell the collector you need to discuss your situation with your tax pro. It can be quite a relief to have an experienced professional optimize your IRS experience.


Bonnie Lee is an Enrolled Agent admitted to practice and representing taxpayers in all fifty states at all levels within the Internal Revenue Service. She is the owner of Taxpertise in Sonoma, CA and the author of Entrepreneur Press book, "Taxpertise, The Complete Book of Dirty Little Secrets and Hidden Deductions for Small Business that the IRS Doesn't Want You to Know," available at all major booksellers. Follow Bonnie Lee on Twitter at BLTaxpertise and at Facebook.

IRS Eases Debt Rules

In a rare show of leniency, the Internal Revenue Service on Thursday announced new rules designed to make it easier for people struggling with tax debts to climb out of the hole.

Among the changes, the IRS said it would place fewer claims on taxpayers' property and would make such "liens" less damaging to taxpayers' credit ratings. Other changes are intended to help small businesses and forgive debts of more people who are unable to pay.

Commissioner Doug Shulman called the changes an effort to "stand in taxpayers' shoes" following "the worst recession in a generation."

"This is a real effort to consider taxpayers' needs," said Benson Goldstein, a tax expert with the American Institute of CPAs.

Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate tapped by Congress to monitor the IRS, was more muted in her response. She called the changes "a significant step in the right direction," but added that "they are not sufficient to address the problems we have seen."

The changes affecting the largest number of taxpayers concern liens, or notices that give the IRS a legal claim to a taxpayer's property in the amount of an unpaid tax debt. The new rules generally prohibit the IRS from filing a lien unless unpaid taxes exceed $10,000, doubling the previous limit, which had been in effect since the mid-1980s.

The IRS also will ease the damage to taxpayers' credit scores after the full amount of the debt is paid. In an important technical move, the agency will grant more taxpayers "lien withdrawals"—a higher level of forgiveness than the current "lien release."

According to Ms. Olson, full withdrawal is often better for taxpayers' credit ratings because it expunges the lien from the record immediately, whereas a release leaves it on the record for at least seven years. A tax lien can knock 100 points off a person's credit score. The highest credit score is 850 at FICO, a leading credit scorer. Borrowers often need a score in the 700s to qualify for the best rates on loans.

In addition, liens now may qualify for full withdrawal even if the debt isn't fully paid, so long as the amount is less than $25,000 and the taxpayer enters into a "direct debit installment agreement."

This typically allows the IRS to make an automatic monthly withdrawal of a scheduled payment from the delinquent taxpayer's bank account. Taxpayers may apply for a direct debit agreement online at


Boeing shares gain following surprise tanker win

(Reuters) - Shares of Boeing Co (BA.N) gained 4 percent in premarket trade on Friday after the company won a $30 billion contract for 179 new U.S. Air Force refueling planes a day earlier.

The win for Boeing came as a surprise to many industry watchers who expected rival EADS (EAD.PA) to win the contract.

Boeing shares traded at $73.66, up from a closing price of $70.76 on Thursday, but equity analysts have predicted a muted impact on the stock.

"Although we don't expect any short-term financial implications from the Boeing tanker win, as Airbus has 30 days to file a protest and the first aircraft are not expected to be delivered until 2017, this is good news and is widely being interpreted as so. As a result we expect the stock to be up today," said Alex Hamilton, managing director of EarlyBirdCapital.

Boeing's business is split between defense and commercial airplane products, and its shares more closely track developments in commercial orders and deliveries.

RBC Capital Markets analyst Robert Stallard said in a research note late on Thursday that he expects "little near term impact on Boeing's earnings in 2011."

"...the company has already factored in some spending related to winning the tanker program in its guidance," he said.

Boeing has given no details on pricing of the contracts, but some experts believe Boeing kept margins tight to keep its bid low.

(Reporting by Kyle Peterson, editing by Dave Zimmerman)


Boeing bests EADS with aerial tanker win

(Reuters) - Boeing Co won a $30 billion contract for 179 new U.S. Air Force refueling planes on Thursday, trumping arch rival Airbus parent EADS in a fiercely contested competition that began nearly a decade ago.

It was the third effort since 2001 to start replacing 50-year-old Boeing-made KC-135 Stratotankers, built before man first stepped on the moon.

"Boeing was the clear winner," Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told reporters at the Pentagon. He said Boeing offered a far better deal at a time when defense budgets are under increasing pressure.

Boeing's shares rose 3.9 percent in afterhours trading on the news which gave the Chicago-based aerospace giant a solid win as it struggles to gets its ailing 787 Dreamliner commercial airplane program back on track.

EADS expressed disappointment and concern about the decision, but said the contract was just "one business opportunity among many" in the United States.

EADS said last week it would only protest the contract if it saw egregious errors.

Boeing was "humbled" by the win, said Dennis Muilenburg, chief executive of Boeing's defense unit. He gave no details on pricing, but said Boeing was able to cut costs by working more closely with its commercial wing and making substantial investments to improve its 767 production line.

Muilenburg added that the Boeing plane was smaller, used 24 percent less fuel, and would result in less reconstruction costs for military airports.


Wisconsin Assembly approves plan to curb unions #p2

(Reuters) - The Wisconsin state Assembly on Friday passed a Republican plan to curb public sector union power over the fierce objections of protesters, setting the stage for a showdown with Senate Democrats who fled the state last week to prevent a vote in that chamber.

After two all-night debating sessions and an eleventh hour Democratic bid for a compromise, the Republican-dominated Assembly abruptly ended all debate early Friday morning and approved the bill by a vote of 51 to 17.

The outcome of the vote, which was taken so fast many Democratic lawmakers who were outside the chamber when it was called were unable to participate, was greeted by chants of "it's not over yet" and "we are here to stay" from more than a thousand protesters who stayed to watch in the capitol rotunda overnight.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators, from inside and outside the state, have converged on Madison in recent days to fight the proposal, which they fear could encourage similar measures in other states and cripple the American labor movement.

Passage of the measure was never in doubt. So as the news sunk in among the demonstrators, the initial confusion quickly gave way and they were singing a spirited version of "We Shall Overcome" within minutes.

Assembly Republicans took a private elevator to an exit sealed off from protesters and did not stop for reporters.

After the vote, the Democrats assembled on a balcony overlooking the rotunda that has been home to tens of thousands of demonstrators, waving at the protesters and telling them the measure's prospects in the state Senate are more uncertain.

The protesters shouted "thank you, thank you" and pumped their fists at the lawmakers, who returned the gestures.

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Time is running out to avert a government shutdown #p2

BEFORE November's election, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives solemnly promised that they would cut spending by $100 billion this year alone if voters put their party in charge. Voters did, in the House at least, and on February 19th the new Republican majority repaid the compliment by approving cuts of $100 billion in the budget Barack Obama proposed for last year (compared with the short-term "continuing" spending resolutions Congress has actually adopted, the cut is only $61 billion). The hitch is that the measure will not become law, since the Democrats who control the Senate, not to mention the president with his veto pen, are implacably opposed to it. With the continuing resolution due to expire on March 4th, there is little time to work out a compromise, and little evidence either side wants one.

The cuts the House approved are swingeing by Washington's standards. They constitute an unprecedented reduction of some 10% in non-defence discretionary spending, meaning all government programmes bar mandatory entitlement schemes and defence (see chart). Food-safety inspections, oversight of financial institutions, college scholarships for the poor, nutrition schemes for mothers and babies and other seemingly unobjectionable items would all be scaled down. Funding for pet Democratic causes, such as public broadcasting, regulating greenhouse-gas emissions and Mr Obama's health-care reforms, would be eliminated altogether. There were even some cuts to homeland security and defence—normally a sacred cow for Republicans. The party's fiscal hawks teamed up with Democrats, for example, to approve an amendment that would scrap a programme to develop a second engine for a military jet.

Tim Geithner, the secretary of the treasury, said the cuts would "damage our capacity to create jobs and expand the economy". Harry Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, complained that the Republicans were slashing "the programmes that keep us safe and keep the economy growing". Mr Obama, who proposed a mere freeze on non-security discretionary spending in his budget earlier this month, had threatened a veto of the House bill even before it was passed. Yet the Republican Study Committee, a group which counts 175 of the 241 Republicans in the House as members, had wanted to cut $22 billion more.

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IRS Announces New Effort to Help Struggling Taxpayers Get a Fresh Start; Major Changes Made to Lien Process

IR-2011-20, Feb. 24, 2011

WASHINGTON — In its latest effort to help struggling taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service today announced a series of new steps to help people get a fresh start with their tax liabilities.

The goal is to help individuals and small businesses meet their tax obligations, without adding unnecessary burden to taxpayers. Specifically, the IRS is announcing new policies and programs to help taxpayers pay back taxes and avoid tax liens.

"We are making fundamental changes to our lien system and other collection tools that will help taxpayers and give them a fresh start," IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. "These steps are good for people facing tough times, and they reflect a responsible approach for the tax system."

Today's announcement centers on the IRS making important changes to its lien filing practices that will lessen the negative impact on taxpayers. The changes include:

  • Significantly increasing the dollar threshold when liens are generally issued, resulting in fewer tax liens.
  • Making it easier for taxpayers to obtain lien withdrawals after paying a tax bill.
  • Withdrawing liens in most cases where a taxpayer enters into a Direct Debit Installment Agreement.
  • Creating easier access to Installment Agreements for more struggling small businesses.
  • Expanding a streamlined Offer in Compromise program to cover more taxpayers.

"These steps are in the best interest of both taxpayers and the tax system," Shulman said. "People will have a better chance to stay current on their taxes and keep their financial house in order. We all benefit if that happens."

This is another in a series of steps to help struggling taxpayers. In 2008, the IRS announced lien relief for people trying to refinance or sell a home. In 2009, the IRS added new flexibility for taxpayers facing payment or collection problems. And last year, the IRS held about 1,000 special open houses to help small businesses and individuals resolve tax issues with the Agency.

Today's announcement comes after a review of collection operations which Shulman launched last year, as well as input from the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council and the National Taxpayer Advocate.

Tax Lien Thresholds

The IRS will significantly increase the dollar thresholds when liens are generally filed. The new dollar amount is in keeping with inflationary changes since the number was last revised. Currently, liens are automatically filed at certain dollar levels for people with past-due balances.

The IRS plans to review the results and impact of the lien threshold change in about a year.

A federal tax lien gives the IRS a legal claim to a taxpayer's property for the amount of an unpaid tax debt. Filing a Notice of Federal Tax Lien is necessary to establish priority rights against certain other creditors. Usually the government is not the only creditor to whom the taxpayer owes money.

A lien informs the public that the U.S. government has a claim against all property, and any rights to property, of the taxpayer. This includes property owned at the time the notice of lien is filed and any acquired thereafter. A lien can affect a taxpayer's credit rating, so it is critical to arrange the payment of taxes as quickly as possible.

"Raising the lien threshold keeps pace with inflation and makes sense for the tax system," Shulman said. "These changes mean tens of thousands of people won't be burdened by liens, and this step will take place without significantly increasing the financial risk to the government."

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IRS Announces Changes to Lien Process

The IRS has announced a set of new policies designed to help taxpayers pay their back taxes and avoid liens (IR-2011-20). The changes to the IRS' lien filing practices include:


  • Increasing the dollar threshold above which liens are generally filed.
  • Making lien withdrawals easier after the taxes have been paid.
  • Withdrawing liens in most cases when a taxpayer enters into a direct debit installment agreement.


The IRS also announced that it is making it easier for taxpayers to enter into an installment agreement and is expanding its streamlined offer in compromise program.


The IRS uses liens to establish a legal claim to a taxpayer's property when the taxpayer has an unpaid tax debt; once filed, a lien gives the IRS priority over certain other creditors. While under IRC § 6321 a tax lien automatically arises when a taxpayer fails to pay taxes due after a notice and demand for payment from the IRS, the IRS will file a lien when a taxpayer's past due balance exceeds a certain dollar amount. The IRS announced that it will "significantly increase the dollar thresholds" above which liens are generally filed; however, it did not announce what the new threshold would be. The Internal Revenue Manual currently calls for the automatic filing of a lien for unpaid balances above $5,000 (IRM §


Under the new procedures, the IRS will withdraw a lien once the taxpayer has fully paid the taxes due, if the taxpayer requests it. The IRS also says that it will streamline its internal procedures to allow collection personnel to withdraw liens.


For unpaid assessments of $25,000 or less, the IRS will allow lien withdrawals if the taxpayer enters into a direct debit installment agreement or converts a regular installment agreement to a direct debit installment agreement. The IRS says it will also withdraw liens on existing direct debit installment agreements upon taxpayer request. There will be a probationary period before the lien is withdrawn to satisfy the IRS that the direct debit payments will be honored.


Installment Agreements and Offers in Compromise


Currently, only small businesses with under $10,000 in liabilities can participate in the IRS' streamlined installment agreement process. The IRS is raising the maximum to $25,000. Small businesses will then have 24 months to pay off their tax debt.


Finally, the IRS is expanding a new streamlined offer in compromise program to allow taxpayers with annual incomes up to $100,000 to participate. The tax liability maximum is being raised from $25,000 to $50,000.

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Rising Oil Prices Pose New Threat to U.S. Economy #p2

This article is by Motoko Rich, Catherine Rampell and David Streitfeld.

The American economy just can't catch a break.

Last year, as things started looking up, the European debt crisis flustered the fragile recovery. Now, under similar economic circumstances, comes the turmoil in the Middle East.

Energy prices have surged in recent days, as a result of the political violence in Libya that has disrupted oil production there. Prices are also climbing because of fears the unrest may continue to spread to other oil-producing countries.

If the recent rise in oil prices sticks, it will most likely slow a growth rate that is already too sluggish to produce many jobs in this country. Some economists are predicting that oil prices, just above $97 a barrel on Thursday, could be sustained well above $100 a barrel, a benchmark.

Even if energy costs don't rise higher, lingering uncertainty over the stability of the Middle East could drag down growth, not just in the United States but around the world.

"We've gone beyond responding to the sort of brutal Technicolor of the crisis in Libya," said Daniel H. Yergin, the oil historian and chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "There's also a strong element of fear of what's next, and what's next after next."

Before the outbreak of violence in Libya, the Federal Reserve had raised its forecast for United States growth in 2011, and a stronger stock market had helped consumers be more confident about the future and more willing to spend.

But other sources of economic uncertainty besides oil prices have come into sharper focus in recent days. After a few false starts, housing prices have slid further. New-home sales dropped sharply in January, as did sales of big-ticket items like appliances, the government reported Thursday.

Though the initial panic from last year has faded, Europe's deep debt problems remain, creating another wild card for the global economy. Protests turned violent in Greece this week in response to new austerity measures.

Budget and debt problems at all levels of American government also threaten to crimp the domestic recovery. Struggling state and local governments may dismiss more workers this year as many face their deepest shortfalls since the economic downturn began, and a Congressional stalemate over the country's budget could even lead to a federal government shutdown.

"The irony is that we just barely got ourselves up and off the ground from the devastating financial crisis," said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group, who had been optimistic about the country's prospects. "The recovery itself is less than two years in, and we haven't yet seen jobs make a decent comeback. Now we're being hit with this new, very ominous event, so the timing couldn't be worse."

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Wisconsin Assembly Passes Bill Stripping Union Rights From Public Workers #p2

MADISON, Wis. — (AP) The Wisconsin Assembly early Friday passed a bill that would strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights – the first significant action on the new Republican governor's plan.

The vote put an end to three straight days of punishing debate, but the political standoff over the bill is far from over. The measure now goes to the Senate, where minority Democrats have been missing for a week, preventing a vote in that chamber.

No one knows when – or if – the Senate Democrats will return from their hideout in Illinois. Republicans who control the chamber sent state troopers out looking for them at their homes on Thursday, but they turned up nothing.

Gov. Scott Walker's proposal contains a number of provisions he says are designed to fill the state's $137 million deficit and lay the groundwork for fixing a projected $3.6 billion shortfall in the upcoming 2011-13 budget. The flashpoint is language that would strip almost all public sector workers of their right to collectively bargain benefits and work conditions.

Democrats and unions see the measure as an attack on workers' rights and an attempt to cripple union support for Democrats. Unions have said they would be willing to accept a provision that would increase workers' contributions to their pensions and health care, provided they could still bargain collectively. But Walker has refused to compromise.

Tens of thousands of people have jammed the state Capitol since last week to protest, pounding on drums and chanting so loudly that police who are providing security have resorted to ear plugs. Hundreds have taken to sleeping in the building overnight, dragging in air mattresses and blankets.

While Senate Democrats fled to prevent a vote, Assembly Democrats had been filibustering.

After more than 60 hours in which Democrats threw out dozens of amendments and delivered rambling speeches, Republicans halted debate early Friday. In a matter of seconds, they had approved the bill. Only a few Democrats realized what was going on and managed to vote before the roll was closed.

The Democrats rose from their seats and rushed at the Republicans shouting, "Shame!" as the Republicans exited the chamber.

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Why We Need Unions #p2

Here's a tweet from one of the economists at Modeled Behavior:

I'm highlighting this not to pick on MB or to weigh in on charter schools. Nor even to weigh in on whether teachers unions should be friendlier toward charters. (I happen to think they should be, as long as charters aren't used as merely a sub rosa way of busting unions.) I'm highlighting it because it represents an all too common style of argument, which goes something like this:

Unions do (or support) X.

X is a bad thing.

Therefore unions are bad.

And (sometimes this is implicit, sometime explicit) they should be done away with.

Every single human institution or organization of any size has its bad points. Corporations certainly do. The military does. Organized religion does. Academia does. The media does. The financial industry sure as hell does. But with the exception of a few extremists here and there, nobody uses this as an excuse to suggest that these institutions are hopelessly corrupt and should cease existing. Rather, it's used as fodder for regulatory proposals or as an argument that every right-thinking person should fight these institutions on some particular issue. Corporations should or shouldn't be rewarded for outsourcing jobs. Academics do or don't deserve more state funding. The financial industry should or shouldn't be required to trade credit derivatives on public exchanges.

Unions are the most common big exception to this rule. Sure, conservatives will take whatever chance they can to rein them in, regulate them, make it nearly impossible for them to organize new workplaces. But they also routinely argue that labor unions simply shouldn't exist. This is what's happening in Wisconsin: Gov. Scott Walker isn't satisfied with merely negotiating concessions from public sector unions. He wants to effectively ban collective bargaining and all but do away with public sector unions completely.

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Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin Is Really About #p2

IN 2008, A LIBERAL Democrat was elected president. Landslide votes gave Democrats huge congressional majorities. Eight years of war and scandal and George W. Bush had stigmatized the Republican Party almost beyond redemption. A global financial crisis had discredited the disciples of free-market fundamentalism, and Americans were ready for serious change.

Or so it seemed. But two years later, Wall Street is back to earning record profits, and conservatives are triumphant. To understand why this happened, it's not enough to examine polls and tea parties and the makeup of Barack Obama's economic team. You have to understand how we fell so short, and what we rightfully should have expected from Obama's election. And you have to understand two crucial things about American politics.

The first is this: Income inequality has grown dramatically since the mid-'70s—far more in the US than in most advanced countries—and the gap is only partly related to college grads outperforming high-school grads. Rather, the bulk of our growing inequality has been a product of skyrocketing incomes among the richest 1 percent and—even more dramatically—among the top 0.1 percent. It has, in other words, been CEOs and Wall Street traders at the very tippy-top who are hoovering up vast sums of money from everyone, even those who by ordinary standards are pretty well off.

Second, American politicians don't care much about voters with moderate incomes. Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels studied the voting behavior of US senators in the early '90s and discovered that they respond far more to the desires of high-income groups than to anyone else. By itself, that's not a surprise. He also found that Republicans don't respond at all to the desires of voters with modest incomes. Maybe that's not a surprise, either. But this should be: Bartels found that Democratic senators don't respond to the desires of these voters, either. At all.

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KRUGMAN: Union-busting/privatization remain GOP priorities, will smuggle those priorities in name of balanced budgets #p2

Here's a thought: maybe Madison, Wis., isn't Cairo after all. Maybe it's Baghdad — specifically, Baghdad in 2003, when the Bush administration put Iraq under the rule of officials chosen for loyalty and political reliability rather than experience and competence.

As many readers may recall, the results were spectacular — in a bad way. Instead of focusing on the urgent problems of a shattered economy and society, which would soon descend into a murderous civil war, those Bush appointees were obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision. Indeed, with looters still prowling the streets of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy, told a Washington Post reporter that one of his top priorities was to "corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises" — Mr. Bremer's words, not the reporter's — and to "wean people from the idea the state supports everything."

The story of the privatization-obsessed Coalition Provisional Authority was the centerpiece of Naomi Klein's best-selling book "The Shock Doctrine," which argued that it was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, she suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

Which brings us to Wisconsin 2011, where the shock doctrine is on full display.

In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor's budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state's fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.

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.

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VIDEO: WI: proof what happens when billionaires, like the Koch brothers, buy out democracy for their own gain #P2


.@glennbeck Glenn Beck Turns Against "The American Dream"

Media Matters for America

Glenn Beck Turns Against "The American Dream"

On February 24, Glenn Beck said "most likely you don't know what the American dream is," that it is actually a progressive invention of the 1930s, and that it is currently being used by communists, unions, and other assorted bogeymen to cloak their radical intentions behind a term that is "warm and cuddly like bunny rabbits." Oddly, Beck himself previously embraced "the American dream" as have former President Bush and congressional Republicans.

Beck Ties "American Dream" To Progressives And Communists

Van Jones Op-Ed Turns Beck Against "The American Dream." In a February 22 Huffington Post piece, Van Jones stated, "our country needs a national movement to defend the American Dream itself. And the fight in Wisconsin creates the opportunity to build one." Jones promoted rallies on February 26 to "mark the beginning of the national movement to renew the American Dream and return us to the moral center - where everybody counts, and everybody matters." [Huffington Post, 2/22/11]

Beck: "You Most Likely Don't Know" What The American Dream Is. It's A Progressive Idea Now Being Used By "Communist" Van Jones. From the February 24 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: [Van Jones is] a revolutionary communist. He's suddenly now cloaking his message, like Jesus and the American dream. Well, who doesn't like the American dream? I love the American dream. Don't you? Quick, before I go any farther, tell me what the American dream is. I mean, you can't tell me because I can't hear you, because I'm actually in New York. I don't know where you are.

So, think about what the American dream is. Got it? Unless you have read this book [Epic of America], you most likely don't know what it is. This is a progressive book. This was written by a Woodrow Wilson progressive who was, oh, he was great. He was an advisor. Big progressive. The American dream, you think everybody gets a fair shake. Right? Yeah, no, no.

This is the actual definition of the American dream because it was a progressive that coined the term in this book. It's that everybody gets a house and a car and a chicken in every pot. It's that, well, you know, c'mon, a fair shake isn't enough. It's state capitalism.

Well now Van Jones is picking up where this author long, long time ago left off. He wrote about it in the Huffington Post. He wrote about this. Now, I want you to know, this came -- this was Van Jones probably praying to the sequoias, and thinking about Mao. Say, "Mao, what should we do? Talk to the sequoias so they can talk to me. What should we do? I'm so worried about what I see going on. There's so much hatred." And he heard the sequoias say "Van, introduce the American Dream Movement." The heart part, said Mao. The heart part.

So he wrote. He took, I hope, a biodegradable pen and definitely not paper. Sorry Mr. Tree, I need to use some paper. And he went right to the Huffington Post and he introduced his concept, the American Dream Movement where we'll all come together, finally, because we care about the American dream. Spontaneous. Sure, sure it is. Sure it is. Unless you do your research. Which, gosh darn it, it must suck to be them because we do every day. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 2/24/11]

Beck Ties AFL-CIO, SEIU, La Raza, NAACP, Wisconsin Protestors,, Code Pink, Protests In India and Egypt And Others To "American Dream" Plot. From the February 24 edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: In July of 2008, who had video of this? Did we? Yes, we did. Didn't see it coming, did you, guys? The progressive Netroot conference, where Van Jones was the keynote speaker. Oh, he wasn't there alone. No. No, no, no. Everybody on the democracy chain -- train. He had La Raza. He had the Islamic Center of America. Love those guys. [gasp] The NAACP. And Richard Trumka, were you there, too? Bing bing. Where's the stop we're getting off? Oh yeah. I remember. The American dream.

Well, it's kind of -- the American dream kind of like hope and change, isn't it? Doesn't really mean anything, does it? Maybe it means different things to different people. They talked about a different American dream. I never heard it expressed this way, but here it is. Listen, 2008.

RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO president (video clip): The American dream is a progressive vision. It is something that we share together. It is not about an individual climbing the ladder. It is about making sure that there are ladders for all of us to climb. The American dream is a progressive vision and that it requires collective action in our society.

BECK: Collective action. The American dream is progressive. Pensions and ladders and all kind of stuff. Not what you thought. Not about a fair shake. The actual phrase does not mean what you think it -- doesn't mean the heart part like you think it does from our founders. No, no, no, no, no. I guess mandatory houses and making sure everybody has equal stuff. That was Martin Luther King's dream, we found out from Al Sharpton earlier.

I told you, it will feel as if progressives are perverting or redefining the meaning behind the American dream but most likely you don't know what the American dream is. They are not. It was coined by progressives, and it is collective action. Well why not have collective action? So we can have collective salvation. It is the original definition from the progressives of the American dream.


BECK: Now listen to the rhetoric used by progressives in this Wisconsin union fight. You got to get more people so you have few options. You got to get more people into the unions, right? Well, how do you do that? Well, with change. You just raise the salary of a federal worker so high, make it so far and above the average American salary that you got people saying you have to work for the government. Then you could pass draconian bills, let's say a health care bill, and make it almost impossible to do business. OK? Then you -- because you're on top, top-down. You could provide special waivers for your union buddies and certain union businesses so they can be successful. But private small businesses that you don't like will fail.

And if that doesn't work, you use force. And we'll get to that. You got it? But keep on making sure you are talking about change. But then everybody will figure out they don't want that kind of change. And so you change again and talk about something else warm and cuddly like bunny rabbits and kitty cats. The American dream.

JESSE JACKSON (video clip): Ask God to bless our efforts, keep us humble and focused in the struggle as we seek to protect basic things. Defend their rights, workers and their families, as we seek to protect the integrity of the American dream.

BECK: Yes. Then there's this statement, coincidently, from the Wisconsin city and federal and state workers: "We stand united for the right and freedom of all Americans to collectivity bargain for their piece of the American dream." From the Daily Kos here it is. "This fight is not about public employees. This fight is not about unions. It's about Americans standing up to defend the American dream from soulless multinational corporations and their political goons," the heart part. From "We call for an emergency rally in front of every state house this Saturday at noon." Quick, it's an emergency. We didn't plan this at all. "Stand together to save the American dream." Oh, man, you would think that it wouldn't be such an emergency seeing they knew this in 2008.


BECK: This is a wild, wild coincidence and conspiracy theory, that back in 2008, and over a year ago again, all the unions get together and the progressive and they are talk about how Egypt is the key and they have to reclaim the American dream two years ago. And now suddenly, spontaneous, it's an emergency, says The protests pop up in Egypt and Code Pink and the AFL-CIO are there. Surprisingly. Well, I think on vacation. And SEIU and ACORN are over in India and all over the world, it's great. What a wild conspiracy theory. Too bad we have the videotapes to back it up. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 2/24/11]

Beck Himself Has Repeatedly Embraced "The American Dream"

Beck: "Our Side" Is "Motivated By ... The American Dream." From the March 22, 2010, edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Our side isn't motivated by the cash. We are motivated by the truth, the American Dream. And you don't have to keep printing those dreams. Those dreams never run out as long as there are people -- that never give in.

You ask your friends, do you believe you can make it? Or do you need a big government to come and take care of you and hold you at night, because I'm afraid of the dark? Are you part of the group that says, "I just want my stuff and I want his stuff too."

Are you part of the group says, "I make my own destiny. I stand on my own two feet"? If that's you, you keep meeting me here every night, because I've got news for you gang. The game is on. We're going to win. They might win a few battles. We'll win the war because we'll never give in. Never. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 3/22/10, accessed via Nexis]

Beck: "I'm Living The American Dream." From the October 22, 2010, edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: I'm living the American Dream. Not because I have a nice house or a nice car. My dream was always just to do radio. I wanted to work at Rockefeller Plaza. I wanted to work in Radio City.

When I first moved to New York City, this time around, I built my studios or I was about to build my studios in Radio City. And then somebody said, yes, we can make that happen for you. Oh, yes.

I let 7,000 square feet in Rockefeller Plaza sit empty for a year because I wouldn't pay a bribe. I'm not going to sully myself. You can't build good business on bad foundations.

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to work on radio. I didn't really want to do television. I wanted to be on stage. I wanted to entertain.

I'm doing all -- I'm living my dream. My dream never had anything to do with money. Ever. For a while when I was drinking, it became that and that's why I destroyed myself.

My dream has everything to do with an uneducated man who has an idea - - a kid who says, "I'm going to do something" and then do it.

I wasn't handed the opportunity. Throughout my life, I failed. I failed more in my life than I've succeeded, but I never gave up. I kept pushing and pushing and pushing until I found the right spot, the right thing to do, the right time and most importantly, the truth inside of me.

I'm the product in me. And if I'm not real, then you are going to see through that like that.

That's the American Dream. If you keep trying, you keep following what you do, and you sometimes you fall flat on your face. You might break your noise. You might break the system. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 10/22/10, accessed via Nexis]

Beck: "I Believe In The American Dream." From the October 5, 2009, edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: Lindsey Graham keeps calling me a cynic. I am not a cynic. I believe in the American people. I believe, look -- my dad was a baker. His dad was a baker. His dad was a baker.

I'm the first guy to ever go to college in my family, and you know what? I went for about 60, 70 days, that's it. You know why? I couldn't afford it.

I believe in the American Dream. We can make it as long as we're being honest with each other, and we help each other out. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 10/5/09, accessed via Nexis]

Beck Gushes Over Mitt Romney Whose "Life Really Is The Story Of The American Dream In Many Ways." From the February 7, 2008 of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: You know, the story of Mitt Romney's life really is the story of the American dream in many ways, and having it all kind of go off the tracks there at the end.

Romney is a smart guy. He worked hard. He built up a business. He became a millionaire. He married his college sweetheart. They had a family. They stayed together. They worshipped the God of their understanding every single Sunday, a decent human being. He decided to give something back, to become a public servant. After success in that, he decided to serve his country in even a bigger way by running for president of the United States.

That's where it got ugly. That`s where that dream become a little more like a nightmare. Facing religious discrimination and destructive party politics. The man I believe was best qualified to turn this country around has dropped out of the race today. [CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck, 2/7/08]

Martin Luther King Embraced The American Dream

King Said Protestors At Segregated Lunch Counters Were "Standing Up For What Is Best In the American Dream." From Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from the Birmingham Jail:

One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence." [Letter from Birmingham Jail, 4/16/63]

  • Beck Has Repeatedly Asserted That He Is "Reclaim[ing] The Civil Rights Movement" From Those Who Distorted King. Beck has regularly attempted to cloak himself in King's mantle, stating that the left has "distorted" King's dreams and is "perverting" his legacy, which Beck purports to "reclaim." [Media Matters, 8/25/10, 1/17/11]

Guest On Beck's Show Said That King's "Dream Was About Equal Access To The American Dream." From the July 16, 2010, edition of Fox News' Glenn Beck:

BECK: When the government says, we'll make everybody equal with equal stuff. We'll -- I'll take from you to give somebody else a house. That doesn't change anybody's heart. In fact, I think it makes it colder and darker.

PASTOR STEPHEN BRODEN (Fair Park Bible Fellowship: Well, that's a perversion of the gospel. That's not what the gospel teaches, nor was that what Martin Luther King was in pursuit of. His dream -- if you go back and visit his dream -- his dream was about equal access to the American dream.

BECK: Right. [Fox News' Glenn Beck, 7/16/10, accessed via Nexis]

President Bush And Other Republicans Embraced The American Dream

GOP-Controlled Congress Passed "American Dream Downpayment Act of 2003." In 2003, Congress, with a Republican majority in both houses, passed the American Dream Downpayment Act of 2003. President Bush signed the bill in December 2003. In a signing ceremony, Bush stated:

One of the biggest hurdles to homeownership is getting money for a down payment. This administration has recognized that, and so today I'm honored to be here to sign a law that will help many low-income buyers to overcome that hurdle, and to achieve an important part of the American Dream. [George W. Bush White House website via, 12/16/03]

Bush White House Website Contains "About 670" Pages Mentioning The American Dream. A search of President George W. Bush's White House website for "American dream" results in "about 670 results found." [Bush White House website via, accessed 2/24/11]

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Huckabee Falsely Claims Wisconsin Public Union Employees Earn More Than Private Counterparts #p2

Media Matters for America

Huckabee Falsely Claims Wisconsin Public Union Employees Earn More Than Private Counterparts

During a guest spot on Fox & Friends, Fox News host Mike Huckabee falsely claimed that Gov. Walker's anti-union legislation helps "balance the budget" because "public union workers [make] 30% better wages [and] 70% better benefits than their private sector counterparts." In fact, after controlling for factors such as education and experience, public union workers in Wisconsin and nationally make less than their private sector counterparts.

Huckabee Falsely Claims Public Sector Workers Make More "Than Their Private Sector Counterparts"

Huckabee: "Public Union Workers [Make] 30% Better Wages [And] 70% Better Benefits Than Their Private Sector Counterparts." On the February 25, 2011, edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee claimed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's efforts to end collective bargaining power for public sector unions is important because "he's having to balance the budget." As evidence, Huckabee falsely claimed public union workers make "30% better wages" and "70% better benefits than their private sector counterparts." From Fox & Friends:

HUCKABEE: Well, he's having to balance the budget. And you can't do that if you're spending more money than you take in. It's really about the budget issue. I know that there are sort of subplots, the unions of the public employees. Interestingly enough, on page 35 of the book, I exactly talk about the fact that we have a train wreck coming. I wrote this almost a year ago. And it now proves to be somewhat prophetic because you can see the meltdown coming. Public union workers, 30% better wages, 70% better benefits than their private sector counterparts. Do the math. If you're the person paying the bill, and the person you're paying is making substantially more, there comes a point at which that intersection is going to be the scene of a wreck.--

DOOCY: We're there! We're there!

HUCKABEE: That's what we have. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 02/25/11]

EPI Study: WI Public Employees Earn "4.8% Less ... Per Hour" Than Private Sector Counterparts

EPI: "Wisconsin Public Employees Earn 4.8% Less In Total Compensation Per Hour Than Comparable Full-Time Employees In Wisconsin's Private Sector." A study published February 10, 2011, by the think tank Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that when "[c]omparisons controlling for education, experience," and other factors are taken into account, "Wisconsin public employees earn 4.8% less in total compensation per hour than comparable full-time employees in Wisconsin's private sector." From the executive summary of the EPI study:

[T]he data indicates that state and local government employees in Wisconsin are not overpaid. Comparisons controlling for education, experience, organizational size, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship, and disability reveal that employees of both state and local governments in Wisconsin earn less than comparable private sector employees. On an annual basis, full-time state and local government employees in Wisconsin are undercompensated by 8.2% compared with otherwise similar private sector workers. This compensation disadvantage is smaller but still significant when hours worked are factored in. Full-time public employees work fewer annual hours, particularly employees with bachelor's, master's, and professional degrees (because many are teachers or university professors). When comparisons are made controlling for the difference in annual hours worked, full-time state and local government employees are undercompensated by 4.8%, compared with otherwise similar private sector workers. To summarize, our study shows that Wisconsin public employees earn 4.8% less in total compensation per hour than comparable full-time employees in Wisconsin's private sector.

These compensation comparisons account for important factors that affect earnings, the most important of which is the educational levels of public employees. When comparing public and private sector pay it is essential to consider the much higher levels of education required by occupations in the public sector. As a consequence of these requirements, Wisconsin public sector workers are on average more highly educated than private sector workers; 59% of full-time Wisconsin public sector workers hold at least a four-year college degree, compared with 30% of full-time private sector workers. Wisconsin state and local governments pay college-educated employees 25% less in annual compensation, on average, than private employers. The compensation differential is greatest for professional employees, lawyers, and doctors. On the other hand, the public sector appears to set a floor on compensation, which benefits less-educated workers. The 1% of state and local government workers without high school diplomas earn more than comparably educated workers in the private sector. [EPI, "Are Wisconsin Public Employees Over-compensated?" 2/10/11]

EPI: "Workers With A Bachelor's Degree Or More ... Are Compensated Between $20,000 ... To Over $82,000 A Year Less" Than Private Sector Counterparts. The EPI report also included a graphic showing the average compensation for public and private sector employees in Wisconsin by education:

EPI WI Wage Chart

The February 18, 2011, EPI post accompanying this graphic stated:

The campaign against state and local workers is often justified with claims that they are privileged relative to their private-sector peers or have somehow been cushioned from the effects of the recent recession and slow recovery. These claims are clearly false.

In Wisconsin, which has become a focal point in this debate, public servants already take a pretty hefty pay cut just for the opportunity to serve their communities (Keefe 2010).  The figure below shows that when comparing the total compensation (which includes non-wage benefits such as health care and pensions) of workers with similar education, public-sector workers consistently make less than their private-sector peers.  Workers with a bachelor's degree or more--which constitute nearly 60% of the state and local workforce in Wisconsin--are compensated between $20,000 less (if they just have a bachelor's degree) to over $82,000 a year less (if they have a professional degree, such as in law or medicine). [EPI, 2/18/11, emphasis in original]

Klein: "The Ones Who Got Played" In Wisconsin "Are The Public Employees." In a February 19, 2011, blog post, The Washington Post's Ezra Klein discussed EPI's analysis to argue that, in reality, it was the public employees who got the "bad deal" from the state government when negotiating their contracts. From his post:

The deal that unions, state government and -- by extension -- state residents have made to defer the compensation of public employees was a bad deal -- but it was a bad deal for the public employees, not for the state government. State and local governments were able to hire better workers now by promising higher pay later. They essentially hired on an installment plan. And now they might not follow through on it. The ones who got played here are the public employees, not the residents of the various states. The residents of the various states, when all is said and done, will probably have gotten the work at a steep discount. They'll force a renegotiation of the contracts and blame overprivileged public employees for resisting shared sacrifice.

Which gets to the heart of what this is: A form of default. There's been a lot of concern lately that states or municipalities will default on their debt. This is considered the height of fiscal irresponsibility -- an outcome so dire that some are considering various forms of federal support. But the talk that states or cities will default on their obligations to teachers or DMV employees? That's considered evidence of fiscal responsibility. And perhaps it's a better outcome, as defaulting to the banks makes future borrowing costs higher, and can hurt the state economy in the long-run. But it's not a more just outcome. [The Washington Post, 2/19/11]

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