Wednesday, February 27, 2013
So Justice Scalia doesn’t like racial entitlements--such as the one conferring the right of members of certain races to vote
Monday, February 25, 2013
Friday, February 22, 2013
A bill introduced by Montana state Rep. Steve Lavin would give corporations the right to vote in municipal elections:
Provision for vote by corporate property owner. (1) Subject to subsection (2), if a firm, partnership, company, or corporation owns real property within the municipality, the president, vice president, secretary, or other designee of the entity is eligible to vote in a municipal election as provided in [section 1].
(2) The individual who is designated to vote by the entity is subject to the provisions of [section 1] and shall also provide to the election administrator documentation of the entity's registration with the secretary of state under 35-1-217 and proof of the individual's designation to vote on behalf of the entity.
The idea that "corporations are people, my friend" as Mitt Romney put it, is sadly common among conservative lawmakers. Most significantly of all, the five conservative justices voted in Citizens United v. FEC to permit corporations to spend unlimited money to influence elections. Actually giving corporations the right to vote, however, is quite a step beyond what even this Supreme Court has embraced.
The bill does contain some limits on these new corporate voting rights. Most significantly, corporations would not be entitled to vote in "school elections," and the bill only applies to municipal elections. So state and federal elections would remain beyond the reach of the new corporate voters.
In fairness to Lavin's fellow lawmakers, this bill was tabled shortly after it came before a legislative committee, so it is unlikely to become law. A phone call to Lavin was not returned as of this writing.
.@gop @speakerboehner House Republicans Strip Protections From LGBT Victims In New Violence Against Women Act #p2 #tcot
The Violence Against Women Act expired at the end of 2012 after House Republicans refused to accept the Senate bill's protections for LGBT, Native American, and undocumented victims. Though the Senate passed another bipartisan VAWA reauthorization over a week ago, House Republicans may derail passage once again. On Friday, House GOP leaders released their own VAWA bill, stripping protections for LGBT individuals and adding a loophole for Native American victims.
Where the Senate bill granted access to federal grants for LGBT victims, the House bill is silent, removing all mention of "sexual orientation" or "gender identity." As a result of this omission, LGBT-inclusive crisis centers could be shut out from essential grant programs:
The House GOP bill entirely leaves out provisions aimed at helping LGBT victims of domestic violence. Specifically, the bill removes "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program. The bill also eliminates a requirement in the Senate bill that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
The House bill also gives states some wiggle room by shifting greater authority to state government to decide which victimized groups are "underserved" and therefore deserve funding.
On February 22, 1983, Washington won the Democratic mayoral primary in Chicago and later was elected the first African-American Mayor of Chicago, serving from 1983 until his death in 1987.
Born in Chicago in 1922, Washington grew up in the Bronzeville neighborhood, at the time the center of black culture in the entire Midwest.
He attended DuSable High School, then a new segregated high school, and was a member of the first graduating class. He worked at a meat packing plant for a time before getting a job at the U.S. Treasury.
In 1942, Washington was drafted into WWII and sent overseas as part of a segregated unit of the Army Air Forces Engineers. Washington rose to the rank of First Sergeant in the Air Force. The three years Washington spent fighting for his country in the South Pacific while experiencing racial prejudice and discrimination, helped shape his views on racial justice.
In the summer of 1946, Washington enrolled at Roosevelt College (now Roosevelt University) the first integrated private college in Chicago, and one of few in the nation. 75% of the student had enrolled because of the nondiscriminatory progressive principles.
At Roosevelt, Washington was named to a committee that supported citywide efforts to outlaw restrictive covenants, the legal means by which minorities were prohibited from purchasing a home in predominantly white neighborhoods.
In 1948, Washington was elected the third president of Roosevelt student council. Under his leadership, the student council successfully petitioned the college to have representation on Roosevelt‚ faculty committees. At the first regional meeting of the newly founded National Student Association in 1948, Washington and nine other delegates proposed student representation on all faculty committees, and a "Bill of Rights" for students. but both measures were defeated.
Washington went to the state capital to protest Illinois legislators' coming probe of "subversives," that would outlaw the Communist Party and require loyalty oaths for teachers. He led students' opposition to the bills, but they passed in 1949.
Washington then studied at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago where he was the only black student in his class. In 1951, his last year, he was elected treasurer of the Junior Bar Association (JBA). During the evenings and weekends, Washington worked to supplement his GI Bill income. He received his J.D. in 1952.
Harold Washington spent many years in Chicago's predominantly black wards working within the tangled power politics of the Democratic Party machine run by Mayor Richard J. Daley. He later helped found the Chicago League of Negro Voters in 1960, although he was elected to the state House on the Daley slate.
Washington's years in the House were marked by constant tension with Daley and the rest of the machine leadership. In 1967, he was ranked by the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI) as the fourth-most independent legislator in the house and named Best Legislator of the Year.
In the House, he continued work on the Fair Housing Act, and worked to strengthen the state's Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC). He also worked on a state Civil Rights Act, which would strengthen employment and housing provisions in the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1976, Washington was elected to the Illinois Senate. There his main focus was to pass 1980's Illinois Human Rights Act.
In 1980, Washington was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Illinois' 1st congressional district. His major congressional accomplishment involved legislation to extend the Voting Rights Act. And he railed against GOP President Ronald Reagan's deep cuts to social programs on the Congress floor.
For the February, 1983, Democratic mayoral primary, Chicago community and labor organizers registered more than 100,000 new African American, Latino and poor and independent white voters. Washington won with 37% of the vote, versus 33% for Byrne and 30% for Daley.
Although winning the Democratic primary was normally tantamount to election in heavily Democratic Chicago, after his primary victory Washington found that his Republican opponent, Bernard Epton (earlier considered a nominal stand-in), was supported by many conservative white Democrats and machine ward organizations, including the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, Alderman Edward "Fast Eddie" Vrdolyak.
In his campaign, Washington stressed such things as reforming the Chicago patronage system and the need for a jobs program in a tight economy. In the April 12, 1983, mayoral general election, Washington defeated Epton 51.7% to 48.0%, to become mayor of Chicago. Washington was sworn in as mayor on April 29, 1983, and resigned his Congressional seat the following day.
Among his accomplishments as Mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington
Created the Ethics Commission
Issued an executive order increasing minority business contracts
Opened government with a Freedom of Information executive order
Led fight for ward redistricting; more black and Hispanic representation
Fought for equal provision of public services; neighborhood street, curb and gutter repair
Opened the city‚In budget process for public input and participation
Encouraged neighborhood festivals and projects
Led movement for Illinois's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Bill
For more on the legacy of Harold Washington, visit Chicago's Harold Washington Library Center, or go online here.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Universal Theme Park Will Drop Health Coverage For Its Part-Time Workers To Avoid Obamacare #p2 #tcot
Universal Orlando, a theme park resort in Florida that generates more than $1 billion dollars in annual revenue, plans to drop insurance coverage for its part-time employees at the end of this year — a tactic to avoid providing its workers with adequate health benefits under Obamacare.
The health care reform law attempts to put an end to several predatory insurance practices, and requires employers to provide their workers with sufficient insurance plans that don't put limits on essential benefits. Universal would be required to upgrade to a more comprehensive insurance plan under Obamacare. But instead of extending better benefits to its part-time employees, the company would rather drop those workers' health care altogether:
Universal currently offers part-time workers a limited insurance plan that has low premiums but also caps the payout of benefits. For instance, Universal's plan costs about $18 a week for employee-only coverage but covers only a maximum of $5,000 a year toward hospital stays. There are similar caps for other services.
Those types of insurance plans — sometimes referred to as "mini-med" plans — will no longer be permitted under the federal Affordable Care Act. Beginning in 2014, the law will prohibit insurance plans that impose annual monetary limits on essential medical care such, as hospitalization, or on overall spending. [...]
Critics of mini-med insurance plans say they ultimately provide little protection for workers, with meager payout limits that are nowhere near enough to cover medical emergencies. Supporters argue they are a realistic option for low-paid, limited-hour workers who can't afford better plans. [...]
Universal's announcement has angered some employees, who say the resort can afford to provide more-comprehensive health insurance for its part-time workers. Universal Orlando's immediate parent company, Universal Parks & Resorts, generated approximately $950 million in operating cash flow last year, up 10 percent from a year ago.
rest at http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/02/20/1613841/universal-avoid-obamacare/
BP has shaved $3.4bn off the maximum fine for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.
A court order, handed down by a judge in New Orleans, means BP will no longer be liable for a maximum of $21bn in fines at next week's civil trial – after a judge ruled the oil company would not have to pay for 810,000 barrels of oil collected at the source of the broken well.
The oil company had been facing up to $21bn in fines in the civil case, based on the amount of oil that gushed into the Gulf following the fatal blowout of its well.
The federal government estimates that about 4.9m barrels of oils were released before BP engineers sealed off the well three months later.
The case was set to be the costliest to date for BP, which has already spent billions on cleanup costs, and settling thousands of claims arising from the 2010 disaster.
But the oil company got a break when the Justice Department agreed not to hold BP accountable for 800,000 barrels of oil which were captured at the site of the broken well.
District judge Carl Barbier, who is hearing the case in New Orleans, accepted the agreement on Tuesday night. "The 'collected oil' … never came into contact with any ambient sea water, and was not released to the environment in any way," he said in the ruling.
The deal reduces BP's potential exposure to the civil trial from $21bn to $17.6bn.
The federal government has said it will establish gross negligence on the part of BP in the 2010 blowout, which killed 11 men and fouled the Gulf of Mexico. That could treble BP's fines under the Clean Water Act.
The oil company, in combative statements this week, accused the federal government of making excessive demands.
The company's lawyers have told journalists they believe damages should be capped at a few billion dollars, and they are ready to take the risk of taking the federal government to court. BP is also disputing the federal government's oil spill estimate, saying the figure is 20% too high.
With Tuesday's court order, however, BP appears to have taken a first step towards reducing its potential liability in the case.
WASHINGTON -- On the same weekend that 40,000 people gathered on the Mall in Washington to protest construction of the Keystone Pipeline -- to its critics, a monument to carbon-based folly -- President Obama was golfing in Florida with a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas and pipeline players.
Obama has not shied away from supporting domestic drilling, especially for relatively clean natural gas, but in his most recent State of the Union speech he stressed the urgency of addressing climate change by weaning the country and the world from dependence on carbon-based fuels.
"We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy and the most severe drought in decades and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence," Obama said in the speech, last week. "Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science -- and act before it's too late."
But on his first "guys weekend" away since he was reelected, the president chose to spend his free time with Jim Crane and Milton Carroll, leading figures in the Texas oil and gas industry, along with other men who run companies that deal in the same kinds of carbon-based services that Keystone would enlarge. They hit the links at the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club, which is owned by Crane and located on the Treasure Coast in Palm City, Fla.
Carroll is the chairman of CenterPoint Energy, a public utility company based in Houston, Texas. He is not a major donor to political candidates, having given just $5,800 since 2007, including a $2,300 donation to Obama's first presidential campaign. CenterPoint Energy benefited from the 2009 federal stimulus law signed by Obama through its receipt of $200 million in federal grant money to upgrade its system to a Smart Grid.
CenterPoint is not Carroll's only connection to the energy industry. Both Carroll and Crane are directors at Western Gas Holdings, the managing partner of Western Gas Partners, a midstream energy provider created by Anadarko Petroleum, one of the largest publicly traded oil and gas companies. Western Gas Partners' main investment is in the booming field of natural gas exploration, transportation and manufacture in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming.
Unlike Carroll, Crane has been more active in campaign funding circles. In 2012, he gave the maximum $5,000 to the Obama campaign and $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee (DNC). In 2010, he gave big to Democratic Texas gubernatorial candidate Bill White, with $125,297 in contributions. Crane's donations have exclusively flowed to Democrats since 2002. Before that, he made a few contributions to Republicans, including $5,000 to the Republican National Committee (RNC) in 2000, and to candidates such as former Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Texas Sen. John Cornyn.
Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman, reemphasized the president's commitment to confronting climate change in a statement Wednesday morning.
"The President could not have been clearer in both his second Inaugural address as well as his State of the Union address that continuing to confront climate change is a top priority. In fact the President has already taken historic action on this issue in the wake of Congressional inaction during his first term. This included establishing standards that will double how far our cars will go on a gallon of gas, doubling renewable energy generation from sources like wind and solar, and proposing the first national standard for carbon pollution from new power plants, among other steps. As the President said last week, if Congress will not take action on this important issue he will continue to build on the progress underway by his Administration to confront this threat."
Environmental groups have seen their policy priorities move up on the national agenda after Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, and many were excited by the president's pledge in his State of the Union address to take executive action if Congress fails to pass a climate bill.
But Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's Energy Program, said the president's new rhetoric around climate change doesn't square with his choice of golf partners, or with what he called Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy strategy.
"A golf outing does not policy make, but it's clear that folks in the oil industry have access to the president," Slocum said. "The president has made very clear his firm commitment to not just the oil and gas sector, but to expanding the oil and gas sector by increasing production, by, as he said, cutting red tape, and expanding offshore drilling."
Other environmentalists contacted by HuffPost agree.
"Obama's got a choice to make: He can either side with Big Oil or he can join the more than 40,000 Americans who came to Washington last weekend -- along with the millions more clean energy supporters across the country -- and take us forward on climate change by saying no to Keystone XL," said Jamie Henn, a spokesman for 350.org, a climate advocacy group. "Young people may not be so good at golf, but we vote in record numbers, and we're overwhelmingly on the side of climate action."
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, found Obama's golf outing less unusual than he'd like. "You can't throw a rock in Washington without hitting a deep-pocketed oil executive, which is why nearly 50,000 Americans had to come to the nation's capital to remind the president that the vast majority of Americans agree with his calls for climate action," he said. "There's an old adage that you're only as good as the company you keep, but we know President Obama can prove that saying wrong and do more for our children's future than any of his predecessors, or golfing companions, for that matter."
In some ways, Henn noted, a coastal resort in Florida is a peculiar place to try to avoid talk of climate change. If sea level rise continues, it will be among the first places to go.
This post has been updated for clarity.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Last week, after House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) blamed President Obama for automatic sequestration cuts, I reported an overlooked detail: in August 2011, Ryan told Fox News that he and congressional Republicans deserve credit for the sequester, which contradicts the new GOP line.
The good news is, someone at ABC News noticed my post. The better news is, ABC's Jonathan Karl confronted Paul Ryan with the quote and asked for an explanation. Here's what the far-right congressman said in response:
"So those are the budget caps on discretionary spending . Those occurred. We want those. Everybody wants budget caps. The sequester we're talking about now was backing up the super-committee. Remember the super committee in addition to those caps was supposed to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings. The Republicans on the super-committee offered even higher revenues in exchange for spending cuts as part of that . It was rejected by the president and the Democrats .
"So no resolution occurred and therefore the sequester is occurring. And what we've always said is let's cut spending in smarter ways to replace this sequester. We passed two bills doing that and we've heard nothing in response from the Senate Democrats or the president ."
This certainly won't help the "Lyin' Ryan" moniker go away anytime soon, since there's almost nothing in the response that was true. Consider:  when Ryan boasted about the sequester in August 2011, he wasn't talking about budget caps, he was talking about the sequester;  GOP members on the super-committee didn't offer "higher revenues," but rather, they offered tax breaks they said might someday lead to higher revenues;  President Obama and congressional Democrats were desperate to strike a super-committee compromise, but Republicans refused; and  the White House and Senate Democrats have proposed a sequester alternative, but the House GOP has not.
In other words, Ryan was confronted with a fact -- he took credit for the policy he now wants to blame on the president -- and he responded with a series of claims, each of which are demonstrably false. It's almost as if the House Budget Committee chairman assumes there are no consequences for saying things that aren't true.
Wait, it gets worse.
Here's Ryan explaining in the same interview why he wants a sequester deal in which Republicans get 100% of what they want.
"[T]aking tax loophole[s], what we've always advocated is necessary for tax reform, means you're going to close loopholes to fuel more spending not to reform the tax code. [...]
"[I]f you take tax loopholes to fuel more spending, which is what they're proposing, then you are preventing tax reform, which we think is necessary, to end crony capitalism and to grow the economy."
I'd like to get the DC establishment together and make them write on a blackboard 100 times, "Paul Ryan is not a deficit hawk; he just wants to cut taxes."
This quote is important because it illustrates a larger truth about the fiscal debate. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that the tax code has loopholes and unnecessary deductions that should be eliminated. Democrats and Republicans also agree that closing these loopholes and scrapping those unnecessary deductions would be worth hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.
But Ryan's answer to ABC makes clear exactly where the two parties diverge: Democrats believe the hundreds of billions of dollars should be used to reduce the nation's long-term debt problem, while Republicans believe the hundreds of billions of dollars must be applied to more tax cuts.
I don't know how much clearer this can get for the political establishment: Paul Ryan realizes that bipartisan tax reform could produce a half-trillion dollars or more in savings, which would do wonders to resolve the "debt crisis" Republicans occasionally pretend to care about, but Ryan insists it's not actually tax reform unless all of that money is applied to giving the wealthy tax breaks they don't need.
As Jon Chait explained, "Obama is offering to cut spending on retirement programs and to cancel out cuts to defense -- two things large chunks of the GOP would like -- in return for more revenue. He's not even demanding higher rates. He's merely asking to reduce tax deductions. Ryan insists he won't take the deal, because if he uses the revenue from reducing tax deductions to close the deficit, it won't be available to reduce tax rates. Every other fiscal priority must give way for the overriding goal of reducing marginal tax rates."
If you think Paul Ryan is serious about debt reduction, it's time to accept the fact that you've been suckered.
@speakerboehner - why your party will keep losing - John Boehner Calls Eliminating Food for 1.7 Million Americans ‘Common Sense Cuts’ #p2 #tcot @gop
John Boehner won't tell you this, but the "common sense cuts" he referred to that would avoid the sequester, will eliminate food for 1.7 million Americans.
In a statement responding to President Obama's call for a balanced approach to avoiding the sequester, Speaker Boehner said, "Today the president advanced an argument Republicans have been making for a year: his sequester is the wrong way to cut spending. That's why the House has twice passed legislation to replace it with common sense cuts and reforms that won't threaten public safety, national security, or our economy. But once again, the president offered no credible plan that can pass Congress – only more calls for higher taxes. Just last month, the president got his higher taxes on the wealthy, and he's already back for more. The American people understand that the revenue debate is now closed. We should close loopholes and carve-outs in the tax code, but that revenue should be used to lower rates across the board. Tax reform is a once-in-a generation opportunity to boost job creation in America. It should not be squandered to enable more Washington spending. Spending is the problem, spending must be the focus."
While it is technically true that the twice passed cuts that won't jeopardize public safety or national security, Boehner didn't mention what his cuts really do.
The cuts that the House has passed twice would end funding for the Meals on Wheels program. Meals on Wheels serves up to 1.7 million seniors with food security issues. According to Meals on Wheels, "1 in 7 Seniors is threatened by hunger. 8.3 million Seniors faced the threat of hunger in 2010. This reflects a 78% increase since 2001 – and a 34% increase since the start of the recession in 2007. The threat of hunger for seniors increased in 44 states since 2007."
John Boehner isn't the only member of House leadership to support cutting food for seniors. On December 20, 2012, Majority Leader Eric Cantor called them, "common sense spending reforms." On Sunday, Paul Ryan called ending funding for food assistance and also throwing 600,000 children off food stamps and Medicaid, "smarter cuts."
The fact that Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan all agree that these spending cuts are common sense demonstrates that this is the stated policy of the House Republican caucus. The House leadership, much like history's most infamous dictators, believes that denying food and medical care to children and senior citizens is good policy.
This is what President Obama has to deal with as his opposition. There can be no middle ground for Obama when Republicans are advocating for starving kids and seniors.
There is nothing common sense about cutting aid to vulnerable people during a time of economic hardship, but to Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan, children and seniors are "takers."
Speaker Boehner doesn't want to tell you the truth, but it is time for you to tell him something.
Boehner has been quite active on twitter lately, so send him the message @SpeakerBoehner that there is nothing "common sense" about taking food and medical care away from seniors and children so that the wealthy can avoid paying a tiny bit more in taxes.
Speaker Boehner and his fellow House Republicans need to understand that the American people know what they are up to, and they aren't going to get away with it.
Mor Ostrovski, a 20-year-old Israeli soldier, posted a photograph of the back of a Palestinian boy's head in the crosshairs of his sniper rifle on his now deleted Instagram profile — reported The Guardian.
The Israeli military said the soldier's commanders were investigating the incident and that his actions "are not in accordance with the spirit of the Israel Defense Forces or its values.
And, though Ostrovski claims he did not take the picture but found it on the internet, the image has been criticized by — among others — Electronic Intifada, a news site focused on Palestinian issues, which described the photograph as "tasteless and dehumanizing."
The incident, mirrors the December discovery of racist posts from 22-year-old Israeli soldier Nisim Asis who posted racist images on his Instagram page, including a picture of himself licking tomato ketchup from a knife with the caption: "Fuck all Arabs their blood is tasty."
Monday, February 18, 2013
Last week, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district released a list of 129 schools to be closed this year. The closures will result in mass layoffs of teachers and staff. Students will be pushed into the remaining schools while having to travel longer distances and taking on unnecessary safety risks. Most of the schools targeted for closure are in poor neighborhoods and have higher than average special needs students enrolled.
Public opposition to the school closures is immense. A series of public hearings is being held on the closures, where parents, teachers and students are encouraged to plead for the retention of their school, pitting them against the parents, students and teachers from other schools. Hundreds of people have attended each meeting, some of which have been extremely tense. At least one hearing on the north side attracted more than 1,000.
Rita McNeal, a teacher of 25 years from the Austin-Lawndale area, told the WSWS, "When they close one school, it's a really bad thing. But what they're doing is like a systematic genocide of poor neighborhoods."
Chicago Public Schools is the third-largest school district in the US, serving more than 400,000 children. Over 18 percent of all public school students in Illinois attend Chicago public schools, and 87 percent of students enrolled at CPS come from poor families.
Parents, students and teachers expressed outrage at the loss of the schools that anchor their community, and at the contempt shown by city officials for the needs of the city's population, especially the most vulnerable. Many expressed disgust that people were being forced to beg for something as basic as a public school.
The public hearings are a sham. They are funded by a grant from the pro-charter school Walton Family Foundation, owners of Walmart, and staffed not by city officials, but by a local public relations firm.
Paulina, a mother of two, said, "I don't really think these school meetings are going to do anything about these kids either. Rahm Emanuel and the head of CPS are not here. All they are talking about is the bottom line."
Several organizations attending some of the meetings, including the Chicago Teachers Union, accept the basic framework of restructuring and the lie touted by city officials that there is no money, and complain only that the closures as proposed are racist, implying that shutting down an equal number of schools in white neighborhoods would be acceptable.
The school shutdowns in Chicago are part of nationwide assault on public education, led by the Obama administration and carried out by Democratic and Republican leaders alike. The shutdowns are to make way for privately operated charter schools and the selling off of public infrastructure and property.
One parent, Elizabeth Yarbrough, said, "Squeezing the poor—that's what all this is about. It's about money. My children went from public schools to charter schools. And I learned what charter schools are all about: money."
Plans for mass closings of schools this year have been publicized in other cities, like Detroit and Philadelphia. In Philadelphia, where a similar series of meetings was held, charter school owners are now poised to move in as schools are closed and consolidated, affecting thousands of students and resulting in mass layoffs of teachers and staff.
The Emanuel administration claims the schools are underutilized and need to be closed due to budget shortfalls. In reality, many classrooms are overcrowded. Recent investigations into CPS class sizes have revealed terrible conditions. Kindergarten classrooms in poor areas have as many as 40 students, including physically disabled students. Teachers are working in such packed classrooms without aides.
At the public hearings, many spoke about how vital the public schools are for meeting children's basic needs, including two meals a day, on-site health and dental care, and social support like crisis counseling. Parents and teachers repeated throughout the meetings that consolidated schools will not be able to meet the needs of all the new students, and that charters do not provide anything like the level of services in public schools.
"How can you do this?" was the question most frequently directed to the panels of CPS's representatives.
Students with special needs will be especially badly affected, since the CPS formula for determining utilization is based on an average class size of 31. At a recent meeting, the principal of Trumbull elementary school spoke on how this formula should never be applied to special education classrooms, whose sizes are regulated by law for safety.
Paulina, who works as a clerk and has a child attending DePriest school, said, "As far as closing the schools, the schools are already overcrowded. Moving children from one school to another is going to make it harder for teachers. Children with special needs are going to be affected a lot. My three-year-old son has special needs and he is going to a school with 7 special needs students. Where are they going to go? What are they going to do with them?"
Many tearful appeals were made by students and parents afraid for the lives of those who will have to travel to other areas when their schools are closed. Chicago has the nation's highest youth mortality rate, primarily because of gunfire.
One mother of six told the WSWS, "If our schools close, we're going to have a territory problem with the gangs, and it's not going to be pretty. These kids are already affected by the violence. They can't go from one school to another without having to worry about their safety."
At several of the meetings, supporters of the Socialist Equality Party delivered copies of a statement, "Socialism and the defense of public education in Chicago," calling for an independent political movement of the working class. We urge all residents of Chicago and throughout the country who want to take up a fight to defend public education to contact us today.
this dumbass raises good points on the economy but blames Obama's golf game instead of the conservative policies that got us into this mess
UNFETTERED CAPITALISM is what got us into this mess and the government is going to need to spend its way out of it. Furloughs will not help; they will only make it worse.
I'm not against capitalism; on the contrary - I want people to make as much as they can and inject all those tax dollars into the economy. But, c'mon, to blame Obama is asinine. He didn't create the debt securities that burned our house down. I do blame Obama for not sending one single banker to jail. That is a sin. But conservative policies of paying less then a fair wage to employees, the insistence of no decent affordable health care, the unwillingness to re-work underwater mortgages, the high cost of living in the US and the constant attack on the social saftey net serves to undermine the middle class. We will reap what we sow, however, when the economy implodes under its own weight because no one in the middle class is buying anything.
If the economy is improving, then why are many of the largest retail chains in America closing hundreds of stores? When I was growing up, Sears, J.C. Penney, Best Buy and RadioShack were all considered to be unstoppable retail powerhouses. But now it is being projected that all of them will close hundreds of stores before the end of 2013. Even Wal-Mart is running into problems. A recent internal Wal-Mart memo that was leaked to Bloomberg described February sales as a "total disaster". So why is this happening? Why are major retail chains all over America collapsing? Is the "retail apocalypse" upon us? Well, the truth is that this is just another sign that the U.S. economy is falling apart right in front of our eyes. Incomes are declining, taxes are going up, government dependence is at an all-time high, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the percentage of the U.S. labor force that is employed has been steadily falling since 2006. The top 10% of all income earners in the U.S. are still doing very well, but most U.S. consumers are either flat broke or are drowning in debt. The large disposable incomes that the big retail chains have depended upon in the past simply are not there anymore. So retail chains all over the United States are now closing up unprofitable stores. This is especially true in low income areas.
When you step back and take a look at the bigger picture, the rapid decline of some of our largest retail chains really is stunning.
It is happening already in some areas, but soon half empty malls and boarded up storefronts will litter the landscapes of cities all over America.
Just check out some of these store closing numbers for 2013. These numbers are from a recent Yahoo Finance article...
Forecast store closings: 200 to 250
Sears Holding Corp.
Forecast store closings: Kmart 175 to 225, Sears 100 to 125
Forecast store closings: 300 to 350
Forecast store closings: 125 to 150
Barnes & Noble
Forecast store closings: 190 to 240, per company comments
Forecast store closings: 500 to 600
Forecast store closings: 150 to 175
Forecast store closings: 450 to 550
The RadioShack in a nearby town just closed up where I live. This is all happening so fast that it is hard to believe.
But the truth is that those store closings are not the entire story. When you dig deeper you find a lot more retailers that are in trouble.
For example, Blockbuster recently announced that this year they will be closing about 300 stores and eliminating about 3,000 jobs.
Toy manufacturer Hasbro recently announced that they will be reducing the size of their workforce by about 10 percent.
Even Wal-Mart is going through a tough stretch right now. According to documents that were leaked to Bloomberg, Wal-Mart is having an absolutely disastrous February...
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had the worst sales start to a month in seven years as payroll-tax increases hit shoppers already battling a slow economy, according to internal e-mails obtained by Bloomberg News.
"In case you haven't seen a sales report these days, February MTD sales are a total disaster," Jerry Murray, Wal- Mart's vice president of finance and logistics, said in a Feb. 12 e-mail to other executives, referring to month-to-date sales. "The worst start to a month I have seen in my ~7 years with the company."
So what in the world is going on here?
The mainstream media continues to proclaim that we are experiencing a robust "economic recovery", but at the same time there are a whole host of indications that things are continually getting worse.
Even global cell phone sales actually declined slightly in 2012. That was the first time that has happened since the last recession.
Perhaps it is time that we faced the truth. The middle class is shrinking, incomes are declining and there are not nearly as many jobs as there used to be.
Mort Zuckerman pointed this out in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal...
The U.S. labor market, which peaked in November 2007 when there were 139,143,000 jobs, now encompasses only 132,705,000 workers, a drop of 6.4 million jobs from the peak. The only work that has increased is part-time, and that is because it allows employers to reduce costs through a diminished benefit package or none at all.
So how can the mainstream media be talking about how "good" things are if we still have 6.4 million fewer jobs than we had back in November 2007?
And sadly, things may soon be getting a lot worse. If Congress does not do anything about the "sequester", millions of federal workers may shortly be facing some very painful furloughs according to CNN...
Federal workers could start facing furloughs as early as April, according to federal agencies trying to prepare for the worst.
Unless Congress steps in, some $85 billion in massive spending reductions will hit the federal government, doling out furloughs to much of the nation's 2.1 million federal workforce, experts say.
If you still live in an area of the country where the stores and the restaurants are booming, you should be very thankful because that is not the reality for most of the country.
I often write about the stunning economic decline of major cities such as Detroit, but there are huge sections of rural America that are in even worse shape than Detroit in many ways.
For example, many Indian reservations all over America have been shamefully neglected by the federal government and have become hotbeds for crime, drugs and poverty.
Business Insider recently profiled the Wind River Indian reservation in western Wyoming. The following is a brief excerpt from that outstanding article...
The Wind River Indian Reservation is not an easy place to get to, but I had to see it for myself.
Thirty-five-hundred square miles of prairie and mountains in western Wyoming, the reservation is home to bitter ancestral enemies: the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.
Even among reservations, it's renowned for brutal crime, widespread drug use, and legal dumping of toxic waste.
You can see some amazing photos of the Wind River Indian reservation right here.
It is hard to believe that there are places like that in America, but the truth is that conditions like that are spreading to more U.S. communities with each passing day.
We are a nation that is in an advanced state of decline. But as long as the financial markets are okay, our leaders don't seem too concerned about the suffering that everyone else is going through.
In fact, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan essentially admitted as much during a recent interview with CNBC. The following is how a Zero Hedge article summarized that interview...
Starting at around 1:50, Greenspan states the odds of sequester occurring are very high - in fact, the playdough-faced ex-Chair-head notes, "I find it very difficult to find a scenario in which [the sequester] doesn't happen" But when asked how this will affect the economy, Awkward Alan is unusually clearly spoken - "the issue is how does it affect the stock market."
While not so many of our leaders have taken the path to direct truthiness, Greenspan somewhat shocks a Botox'd and babbling Bartiromo when he admits "the stock market is the key player in the game of economic growth."
Bartiromo shifts uncomfortably in her seat, strokes her imaginary beard and stares blankly as Greenspan explains that while the sequester will have a real effect on the real economy, "if the stock market can hold up through this, then the effect will be rather minor."
Do you see?
As long as the stock market is moving higher they think that everything is just fine and dandy.
And the Obama administration?
They continue to pursue the same policies that got us into this mess.
Their idea of "economic reform" is to threaten to sue businesses that do not hire ex-convicts.
And of course now that Obama has been re-elected he is putting a tremendous amount of effort into "stimulating the economy".
Meanwhile, the U.S. economy is getting worse with each passing day.
If you doubt that economic conditions are getting worse, please read this article: "Show This To Anyone That Believes That 'Things Are Getting Better' In America".
When you look at the cold, hard numbers, it is undeniable what is happening to America.
And our leaders are not doing anything to fix our problems. In fact, most of the time they are just making things worse.
So buckle up and get prepared. We are in for very bumpy ride, and this is only just the beginning.
The world's richest man is apparently making a lot of money off a government program aimed at helping the poor Americans.
Every time someone gets a phone through Lifeline, a government program that gives phones to low-income Americans, TracPhone, a company in which Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim has a controlling stake, nets $10, Fox News reports. The company's CEO, Frederick "F.J." Pollak, who is a major Obama donor, also makes a profit from the data plans and minutes beneficiaries of the Lifeline program buy.
The Lifeline program has been pushed into the spotlight recently after a video surfaced of an Obama supporter saying she would be voting for the president because he gave her a free phone. Though the woman credited Obama for her phone, the president didn't start Lifeline; it began in 1984 -- Ronald Reagan was president then, for your information -- as a landline-only program, and President Clinton expanded it to include cell phones in 1996, according to the Atlantic Wire.
After the "Obamaphone Lady" video was posted on The Drudge Report, some alleged that the video's widespread circulation was fueled by racism, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Regardless of the controversy over the phone itself, the allegations that Slim is benefiting off a program aimed at helping the poor may only fuel characterizations of the $69 billion man as a super-rich mogul who capitalizes on the woes of others. Slim's son noted in an interview with Bloomberg in May that his father was taking advantage of the "opportunities" provided by the European Debt Crisis.
Critics, including hundreds of protesters at George Washington University in May, have also accused Slim of making his money off the backs of the Mexican people, as well as off of stifling the country's economic development. Slim has additionally urged us normals to continue working until we're at least 70, arguing that it would help to boost the world's struggling economies.
Facebook's Multi-Billion Dollar Tax Break: Executive-Pay Tax Break Slashes Income Taxes on Facebook-- and Other Fortune 500 Companies #p2 #tcot
Facebook Status Update: A $429 Million Tax Rebate, Compliments of U.S. Taxpayers #p2 #tcot @facebook
Last year at this time, CTJ predicted, based on Facebook's IPO paperwork, the company would get a federal tax refund in 2012 approaching $500 million, and the company's SEC filing this month tells us we were right: Facebook is reporting a $429 million net tax refund from the federal and state treasuries. And it's not because they weren't profitable. Indeed, Mark Zuckerburg's little company earned nearly $1.1 billion in profits.
Facebook's income tax refunds stem from the company's use of a single tax break, that is the tax deductibility of executive stock options. That tax break reduced Facebook's federal and state income taxes by $1,033 million in 2012, including refunds of earlier years' taxes of $451 million.
Of course, Facebook is not the only corporation that benefits from stock option tax breaks. Many big corporations give their executives (and sometimes other employees) options to buy the company's stock at a favorable price in the future. When those options are exercised, corporations can take a tax deduction for the difference between what the employees pay for the stock and what it's worth (while employees report this difference as taxable wages). On page 12 of our 2011 Corporate Taxpayers and Corporate Tax Dodgers report, we discuss how 185 other large, profitable companies have exploited the stock option loophole.
Saturday, February 16, 2013
In an interview on Thursday with conservative magazine Newsmax, Tea Party standard-bearer and so-called 'savior' of the Republican party Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) revealed that he will become a cosponsor of the "Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act." The bill is a concerted effort to prevent girls in dangerous family situations from going across state lines to receive abortions.
Familiarly known as "the Grandmother Incarceration Act," CIANA bills have come up in Congress several times in recent years. Nearly every iteration of the legislation would prevent even a victim of rape or incest from getting a ride to an abortion clinic beyond state lines from her grandmother or older sibling, if she is under the age of 18. Instead, the girl would be forced to inform her parents or legal guardian, and be required to have them present.
While the bill has not yet been introduced, previous versions of the text would even apply the requirements to girls who require a medically necessary, potentially lifesaving abortion.
The fact that Rubio will serve as a co-sponsor on the legislation reveals a lot about the supposed new face of the Republican party. The policy, like many of Rubio's policy choices, is actually an old trick from the Grand Old Party, not some new approach to Republican ideals. And it falls in line with Rubio's party's, and the Senator's own, recent anti-woman efforts:
MINIMUM WAGE: He won't support a minimum wage, despite its huge benefits for women.
BIRTH CONTROL: The senator introduced a bill that would have prevented millions of women from accessing birth control.
PAY EQUITY: He called a bill to promote pay equity between men and women "nothing but an effort to help trial lawyers."
With his post-State of the Union rebuttal, Rubio signed up to be the face of a Republican party that is working hard to win over women and people of color, the groups that cost Republicans the election last time around. But with Rubio's history of anti-woman policies, and now his renewed commitment to co-sponsor more of the same, he may just on the vanguard of a new Republican path back to the same Republican problems.
Exxon Mobil gave a cease-and-desist order to Comcast, forcing the cable provider to pull an ad about climate change from Fox News' coverage of the State of the Union address in some areas Tuesday night, according to emails provided to The Huffington Post by one of the groups responsible for the ad.
The satirical spot, which is brazenly titled "Exxon Hates Your Children" and urges Congress to eliminate fossil fuel industry subsidies, was produced by progressive advocacy groups Oil Change International, The Other 98% and Environmental Action. Having already aired on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" and "Up With Chris Hayes", the video has also been viewed more than 170,000 times on YouTube.
The ad was scheduled to air Tuesday in Houston, Texas, and Denver, Colo., during Fox's State of the Union coverage. However, a few hours before the event began, a senior vice president of Universal McCann, which handles global media duties for Exxon, fired off an email to Comcast, which provides Fox programming in those areas.
"Please let this serve as an official cease & desist notification that claims made by Oil Change International that their claims in any spot that 'ExxonMobil Hates Your Children' is false and unsubstantiated," the email stated.
"ExxonMobil fully expects the spot in question to be pulled down immediately," the email continued. "Any delay in executing this cease & desist will be viewed as willful defamation and slander of the Exxon Mobil Corporation and will result in aggressive action."
The ad did not air at all on Tuesday night, David Turnbull of Oil Change International told HuffPost. The ad has aired on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" and "Up With Chris Hayes" and has been viewed over 170,000 times on YouTube.)
When asked what the basis was for the cease-and-desist order, Kimberly Brasington, a spokesperson for Exxon Mobil Corporation told HuffPost in an email: "The advertisement is offensive, nonsensical and fails to meet any basic standard of accuracy, so we requested that the broadcast network reconsider airing it."
Now, the groups that made the ad are fighting back.
By Friday afternoon, a donation page created by the three activist groups that made the ad -- Oil Change International, The Other 98% and Environmental Action -- had raised over $13,000 to help make sure the ad gets seen by more people.
"Exxon thinks that they can take away our right to freedom of speech. They have made a huge mistake. They will only make us louder," John Sellers of The Other 98% said in a statement released to the press Thursday.
"We feel that we're on strong footing with the ad and hope that Comcast will change their mind," Oil Change International's Turnbull said.
Comcast did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Friday, February 15, 2013
The incident occurred on February 8th. It's not so much as a fellow passenger being a dick, but this particular dick is 60 year-old Joe Rickey Hundley,President of an aircraft parts manufacturer headquartered in Hayden, Idaho. He should know better.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Republicans are responding to President Obama's proposal raise the federal minimum wage by arguing that requiring businesses to pay their workers at least $9 an hour would lead employers to shed jobs or increase prices and pass the costs onto consumers.
"When you raise the price of employment, guess what happens? You get less of it," House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said at a House Republican press conference on Wednesday. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) agreed, explaining that "the impact of minimum wage usually is that businesses hire less people." It's a fairly logical and simple argument: increasing the cost of labor causes competitive employers to cut employment or hours to make up for the additional cost, hurting the very low-skilled workers that the policy was designed to benefit in the first place.
The problem? What sounds perfectly reasonable in theory doesn't actually hold up in the real world and the overwhelming empirical consensus shows little if any effect of the minimum wage on employment.
For instance, in 2009 researchers conducted a review of 64 minimum-wage studies published between 1972 and 2007 measuring the impact of minimum wages on teenage employment and when they graphed "every employment estimate contained in these studies (over 1,000 in total), weighting each estimate by its statistical precision, they found that the most precise estimates were heavily clustered at or near zero employment effects." The following year, researchers published a study comparing restaurant employment differences across 1,381 U.S. counties with different levels of the minimum wage" in every quarter between 1990 and 2006. Their conclusion: "The large negative elasticities in the traditional specification are generated primarily by regional and local differences in employment trends that are unrelated to minimum wage policies."
The findings raise an important question: if employers aren't responding to minimum wage increases by the seemingly logical action of cutting employment — which is what Republicans predict — then, what are employers doing?
John Schmitt finds the answer in a paper out this month for the Center for Economic and Policy Research. After reviewing the available data, he concludes that employers react to minimum wage increases by adjusting their practices in a wide range of ways, some of which can strengthen their businesses and the economy as a whole:
@gop @marcorubio House Republicans: Gosh, maybe opposing Violence Against Women Act is a bad idea for 2014
Republicans might not give a damn about women, but at least they give a damn about winning in 2014. Via The Hill:
Several House Republicans are signaling support for the once-controversial Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a development that carries political ramifications as the GOP seeks to repair its image among female voters in time for 2014.This is really starting to look pathetic. House Republicans allowed VAWA to expire last year because they considered it unacceptable that "women" should include lesbians, immigrants and Native American women. So once again, the Senate overwhelmingly—and yes, with bipartisan support—passed it. And once again, House Republicans just aren't sure if they can bring themselves to even hold a vote on it.
But at least, according to The Hill, some Republicans are starting to think about how opposing this heretofore uncontroversial legislation might have some negative side effects. Like, say, on Election Day in 2014. West Virginia Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, for example, said, "It is far, far past due to reauthorize VAWA." Gee, ya think?
Capito and a handful of other House Republicans are suggesting that maybe they should get over themselves and their weak-tea objections to the Senate's bill, but it's not as if they've had a change of heart and suddenly want to embrace those very women they've been saying do not deserve protection from rape and abuse. Republicans aren't about to have a change of heart on non-white non-straight women. But this just might be reason enough for them to have a change of heart on the bill:
The 2012 election cycle saw Republicans up and down the ballot face accusations that they were "out of touch" on women's issues — a Democratic argument that gained traction with voters following inopportune comments about rape and pregnancy by Republican Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana.Yeah. Turns out the Republicans' War on Women did not bode well for Republicans in the last election, and if they don't do something to change the perception that, you know, they're bad for women, they just might be looking at another gaping gender gap in next year's election.
National exit polling showed 55 percent of women voted for House Democratic candidates, compared to 45 percent who supported House Republicans.
The presidential race saw an identical gender gap in favor of President Obama.
That's the ugly reality House Republicans are starting to accept—especially those blue state Republicans who will be particularly vulnerable in 2014—which is why they sent a letter this week calling on their party leadership to hold a vote and pass the damn bill already. So will they?
Yeah. Don't hold your breath. Instead, sign the petition from Daily Kos and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee urging House Republicans to protect all women by passing the Senate version of the expanded, bipartisan Violence Against Women Act.
Some of the nation's biggest corporations donated more than a million dollars to launch a Republican nonprofit that went on to play a key role in recent political fights.
A records request by ProPublica to the IRS turned up a list of the original funders of the group: Exxon, Pfizer, Time Warner, and other corporations put up at least 85 percent of the $1.3 million the foundation raised in the first year and a half of its existence, starting in 2003.
The donor list is stamped "not for public disclosure," and was submitted to the IRS as part of the foundation's application for recognition of tax-exempt status. If approved, such applications are public records.
The foundation and other similar nonprofits are allowed to take anonymous and unlimited donations from individuals or corporations. That's because they are classified as "social welfare" nonprofits, which are supposed to benefit the community at large, and not just one group or political party.
Last year, we reported how the State Government Leadership Foundation paid for Republican redistricting consultants to draw new congressional district maps in North Carolina. The resulting gerrymander helped flip the state's congressional delegation to Republicans.
In recent years, the foundation has also funded TV ads targeting Democrats during the 2011 Wisconsin showdown over collective bargaining rights; attacking President Obama in Virginia over his energy policy; and accusing teachers unions of "destroying our children's future."
rest at http://www.propublica.org/article/big-corporations-put-up-seed-money-for-republican-nonprofit
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
President Barack Obama’s failure to mention financial reform during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address is a disappointing setback
President Barack Obama's failure to mention financial reform during Tuesday night's State of the Union address is a disappointing setback that shows the White House has lost interest in the topic, advocates working to curb fraud on Wall Street told The Huffington Post.
"I was extremely disappointed by this sort of notion [that] we can just turn the page on the financial crisis," said Neil Barofsky, a former special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program who has been active in advocating for financial reform since leaving government service.
During Tuesday's speech, the president made one direct reference to the financial crisis, saying during the first few minutes of his address, "Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger."
Obama noted that housing is healing, stocks are on the rise, "and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before."
Barofsky noted what was left out of the speech. "No mention of regulatory reform. No mention of the very significant work that still needs to be done under Dodd-Frank. No reference to the necessary things we need to do beyond Dodd-Frank to really fix the financial system," Barofsky said.
The continued political horse-trading over how to implement the Dodd-Frank financial reform law of 2010, the recently renewed push by congressional Republicans to weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the fact that the "too big to jail" issue has been highlighted recently led some to at least hope that Obama would broach the subject of financial reform.
None of those issues were directly touched upon during Tuesday's speech. The word "bank" only appeared in the speech in reference to "food banks." "Financial institutions" were mentioned once, portrayed as victims of foreign computer hackers "seeking the ability to sabotage" them.
"I don't think it's the right thing to completely omit reform from the State of the Union," said Lisa Gilbert, a director at pubic interest group Public Citizen. "[It] shows the topic has dropped in priorities, and that's something we're not happy about."
This speech stands in stark contrast to one year ago, activists noted, when the president criticized "phony financial profits," warned banks that "the rest of us are not bailing you out ever again" and asked for "a small fee on the largest financial institutions" to "give those banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust."
The president also used his 2012 speech as an opportunity to unveil an initiative within the Department of Justice -- a special investigative unit that Obama said would "hold accountable those who broke the law" in the lead up to the financial crisis.
"The president didn't say anything about the promises he made in the last State of the Union," Kevin Whelan, campaign director at anti-foreclosure and financial reform advocacy group Home Defenders League, said. "A year later, not only have no bankers been arrested, but no actions have been taken on the scale that is needed to bring relief to communities."
In contrast to the financial reform advocates, some people in the financial services community were elated at the lack of attention Wall Street received in the speech. Politico's Ben White quoted an unidentified "top Wall Streeter" Wednesday saying that "the fact [Obama] didn't bash the financial sector is obviously notable and possibly suggests a more pragmatic second term approach."
That dynamic bodes ill for the economy, Barofsky, the former TARP watchdog, said.
"The real risk is that [Wall Street lobbyists] are going to win this war in the trenches through regulatory rules," he said, calling that possibility "a sad and predictable outcome."
"It certainly augurs the fact that we aren't going to have the type of reforms we need to prevent another crisis," Barofsky said.