Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Temp Agencies and ‘Raiteros' Take Advantage Of Latino Immigrants


CHICAGO — Ty Inc. became one of the world's largest manufacturers of stuffed animals thanks to the Beanie Babies craze in the 1990s.

But it has stayed on top partly by using an underworld of labor brokers known as raiteros, who pick up workers from Chicago's street corners and shuttle them to Ty's warehouse on behalf of one of the nation's largest temp agencies.

The system provides just-in-time labor at the lowest possible cost to large companies — but also effectively pushes workers' pay far below the minimum wage.

Temp agencies use similar van networks in other labor markets. But in Chicago's Little Village, the largest Mexican community in the Midwest, the raiteros have melded with temp agencies and their corporate clients in a way that might be unparalleled anywhere in America — and could violate Illinois' wage laws.

The raiteros don't just transport workers. They also recruit them, decide who works and who doesn't, and distribute paychecks.

And it's the low-wage workers — not the temp agencies or their clients, corporate giants like Ty — who bear the cost. Officially, the raiteros' fee, usually $8 a day, is for transportation. But, workers say, anyone who doesn't pay doesn't get work.

From this crowded barrio, raiteros ferry as many as 1,000 workers a day to warehouses and factories in Chicago and its suburbs. Many of these workers end up making about $6 an hour, well below Illinois' minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, because of the fees and unpaid waiting time.

"If you complain too much, they won't take you to work anymore," said Maria Castro, a Mexican immigrant who has worked on and off for Ty.

Like other workers, Castro said she has never been to Select Remedy, the temp agency that officially employs her. She knows Ty only as los peluches, Spanish for "the stuffed animals."

To Castro, her employer is Rigo, a raitero whose full name is Rigoberto Aguilar. He tells her and other workers whether they have a job and picks them up in a school bus in an alley at 4:30 a.m.

Ty is among a long list of brand-name companies that benefit from the raitero system. Workers report packing products for Sony, Frito Lay, Pampered Chef, Smirnoff, Marlboro and Fresh Express, a subsidiary of Chiquita Brands where workers cut vegetables for bagged salads and fast-food restaurants like Burger King and McDonald's.

The word raitero is a Spanglish invention that roughly means "a person who gives rides." In fact, the raiteros are effectively agents for Select Remedy and other temp agencies, which have grown steadily since the 1990s and are approaching new heights after the recent recession. While not a household name, the Select Family of Staffing Companies, which controls Select Remedy, posted $1.8 billion in revenue last year and employs nearly 100,000 people every week — about as many as Starbucks.

Select and other temp agencies maintain that the raiteros are merely van drivers hired by the workers. They say they have no contract or connection to the temp agency.

Yet the agencies provide applications so the raiteros can recruit workers. They call raiteros with the number of workers needed at each worksite. At the end of the week, the raiteros pick up the workers' paychecks from the temp agencies and bring them to check-cashing stores, where workers are charged $3 to $4 to cash them. In some cases, the raiteros say, the temp firms even provide the vans they use to drive workers to their jobs, or lend them money to buy the vans.

"Where there have occurred instances in which our well-established policies and protocols were not being followed, the appropriate corrective action was taken," Select Remedy wrote in a response to questions. "For some time now, we have instructed the managers who work at our branch offices that they are not to have direct contact with private van drivers, to reaffirm our policy that Select Remedy is to have no involvement in how our associates decide to get to work each day."

The company says it provides a valuable service to employers and employees: "In Illinois, Select Remedy puts thousands of people to work every year, and we are proud of that accomplishment."

Using raiteros, temp agencies and host companies like Ty can get the right number of workers to the right place at the right time. With such certainty, Ty can limit overtime as well as avoid paying benefits and the other costs of employing workers full time.

After dropping off about 50 workers, Aguilar leaves his big yellow bus in Ty's lot all day until he drives them back home.

Tania Lundeen, Ty's vice president of sales, said, "We typically don't do any kind of interviews." No one from Ty responded to a list of questions.

Wage Theft?

Key parts of the raitero system, especially the transportation fee, may run afoul of Illinois' temp labor law. But, ironically, that very law helped create the current system.

When he first started as a raitero, Aguilar said, he was employed directly by a now-defunct temp agency, Prime Staffing, which paid him $350 a week. In many cases, temp agencies recouped this cost by charging the workers, deducting ride fees from their paychecks.

Illinois changed its law in 2006, making it illegal for temp agencies to charge workers for transportation or to refer them to van drivers who did. The law already outlawed temp agencies from forcing a worker to pay a fee for cashing a paycheck.

As a result, temp agency managers say, most staffing firms did away with official, paid relationships with drivers. Instead, they developed informal arrangements with the raiteros, which insulated the temp agencies from responsibility.

In other parts of the country, the van systems have clearer ties to the temp agencies and the fees are legal, with some restrictions.

Throughout New Jersey, vans show up every morning right in front of the temp agencies. When hired, workers sign a waiver authorizing the agency to deduct the ride fee from their checks.

In Boston, vans sent by temp agencies pick up workers from street corners and shuttle them to fisheries and recycling plants throughout eastern Massachusetts. A new law that went into effect in January limits transportation fees to 3 percent of a worker's daily wages and mandates that the fees can't reduce pay below the state's hourly minimum.

According to labor and employment lawyers, whether Select Remedy and other temp agencies have violated Illinois law depends on how free the workers are to choose their own transportation and check-cashing store and whether the rides and long hours of waiting are for the benefit of the worker or the company.

Miguel del Valle, the former state legislator who sponsored the day and temp labor act in Illinois, said that in his view the new transportation system still violates the law.

"We didn't want to allow temp agencies to gouge people and take big chunks of money out of their paychecks," he said. "They're doing something that we tried to prohibit them from doing," he added. "It's abusive."

rest http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/29/taken-for-a-ride-temp-age_n_3180996.html?ir=Latino%20Voices&utm_campaign=043013&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-latino-voices&utm_content=Title

House Finance Chair Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas Goes on Ski Vacation with Wall Street


In January, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, ascended to the powerful chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee. Six weeks later, campaign finance filings and interviews show, Hensarling was joined by representatives of the banking industry for a ski vacation fundraiser at a posh Park City, Utah, resort.

The congressman's political action committee held the fundraiser at the St. Regis Deer Valley, the "Ritz-Carlton of ski resorts" known for its "white-glove service" and for its restaurant by superstar chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

There's no evidence the fundraiser broke any campaign finance rules. But a ski getaway with Hensarling, whose committee oversees both Wall Street and its regulators, is an invaluable opportunity for industry lobbyists.

Among those attending the weekend getaway was an official from the American Securitization Forum, a Wall Street industry group, a spokesman confirmed. It gave $2,500 in February to Hensarling's political action committee, the Jobs, Economy, and Budget (JEB) Fund.

Len Wolfson, a lobbyist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, which gave the JEB Fund $5,000 that month, posted a picture on Instagram from the weekend of the fundraiser of the funicular at the St. Regis. (It was labeled, "Putting the #fun in #funicular. #stregis #deervalley #utah.") Wolfson did not respond to requests for comment. (UPDATE 1 p.m. Wolfson has now set his account to private.)

rest http://www.propublica.org/article/house-finance-chair-goes-on-ski-vacation-with-wall-street

Jon Stewart Unloads: 'Congress Doesn't Care About Meals On Wheels Unless It Is Rolling Down An Aisle' @speakerboehner @gop


"The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart ripped into Congress on Monday for the bill pushed through both houses last week that fixed mounting flight delays, suggesting that Congress will only fix what affects them.

Congress failed to avert the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester earlier this year, which have led to a variety of painful consequences — from furloughs to air traffic controllers to indiscriminate cuts to programs like Meals on Wheels.

But Stewart noted that when faced with the personal problem of flight delays, Congress crafted a bill that was so quickly formed that parts of it were hand-written.

"Congress doesn't care about meals-on-wheels unless it is rolling down an aisle," Stewart quipped. 

Stewart mocked the lawmakers hailing the bipartisanship that led to the bill being quickly passed through both houses of Congress. He coined the term "congratsturbating" — which, he said, was "creating a problem that affects millions of people, then congratulating oneself for fixing only the small part of the problem that affects you and then [expletive]."

Watch the clips below, courtesy of Comedy Central:

rest http://www.businessinsider.com/jon-stewart-flight-delay-faa-bill-daily-show-april-30-2013-4?nr_email_referer=1&utm_source=Triggermail&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Politics%20Select&utm_campaign=Politics%20Select%202013-04-30&utm_content=emailshare

Obama's Judicial Nominees Blocked On All Sides By Senate Republicans @gop @speakerboehner


WASHINGTON -- It's bad enough that there are 82 vacant federal judge slots around the country, a level so high that many observers have deemed it a crisis situation.

But perhaps even more startling is the fact that of those 82 vacant slots, 61 of them don't even have a nominee.

On its face, the absence of nominees would appear to be a sign that President Barack Obama is slacking. After all, he is responsible for nominating judges, and he did put forward fewer nominees at the end of his first term than his two predecessors. But a closer look at data on judicial nominees, and conversations with people involved in the nomination process, reveals the bigger problem is Republican senators quietly refusing to recommend potential judges in the first place.

The process for moving judicial nominees is simple enough. A president takes the lead on circuit court nominees, while, per longstanding tradition, a senator kickstarts the process for district court nominees, which make up the bulk of the federal court system. Senators make recommendations from their home states, and the president works with them to get at least some of the nominees confirmed -- the idea being that senators, regardless of party, are motivated to advocate for nominees from their states. The White House may look at other nominees on its own, but typically won't move forward without input from the corresponding senators. Once a nominee is submitted to the Senate, he or she receives a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. If approved, the nomination heads to the Senate floor for a full vote.

It's hardly news that the judicial nomination process is gummed up. Democrats regularly blast Republicans for blocking Obama's nominees after they clear the Senate Judiciary Committee with broad support, making them wait an average of 116 days for a confirmation vote. That's three times longer than the average wait for President George W. Bush's nominees. But these obstacles come at the end of the nomination process. It's now clear that there's a serious problem at the beginning, too.

It turns out that since Obama took office, senators from some states -- particularly those represented by two Republicans -- have simply refused to make recommendations, according to data recently published by the Alliance for Justice, a left-leaning association of more than 100 organizations focused on the federal judiciary.

Take Kansas, for example. The state is represented by Republican Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, neither of whom has put forward nominees for a district court slot there that has been vacant for 1,246 days. Their inaction hasn't gone unnoticed -- both senators have taken heat for not participating in the nomination process.

Or look at Texas, where Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have not moved to fill seven vacant judicial slots, two of which have been vacant for 1,733 and 1,034 days, respectively, without a nominee. At least one Texas paper ran a piece suggesting Cornyn and former Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison were holding off on making judicial recommendations because they were hopeful Mitt Romney would become president in 2012.

There are four vacant judicial slots in Arizona, one of which has been vacant for 1,132 days. Neither of the state's Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, have put forward a nominee for any those spots.

rest http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/29/obama-judicial-nominees_n_3156050.html?ir=Politics&utm_campaign=043013&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-politics&utm_content=Title

Super-Rich Stashing Up To $32 Trillion Offshore, Masking True Scale Of Inequality


The global super-rich are stashing trillions of dollars offshore with the help of some of the world's biggest banks, putting billions of dollars out of the taxman's reach and masking wealth inequality's true heights.

Wealthy people were hiding between $21 and $32 trillion in offshore jurisdictions around the world as of 2012, according to a 2012 study from the Tax Justice Network, an organization which aims to promote tax transparency. The study, highlighted by a recent Bloomberg News report, found that more than $12 trillion of that money was managed by 50 international banks, many of which received bailouts during the financial crisis, according to James Henry, the study's author.

"There's a lot more missing wealth in the world than we had known about from previous estimates," Henry told The Huffington Post. "The real scandal is not all these individual scandals but the fact that world's policy makers who know about this stuff, have basically done nothing."

The issue of wealthy individuals hiding their money offshore has come into sharp focus in recent months as reports, including those of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, have noted the broad scope of the issue.

The study's findings also reveal that the true levels of global income inequality remain unknown, as current estimates do not incorporate the offshore stashes and hence underestimate its true levels. the study found.

The G20 only recently made a push for its member countries to automatically exchange financial information about possible tax evaders. Under such an agreement, the U.S. would alert Mexican officials if it suspected a wealthy Mexican resident of stashing cash in an American bank account.

According to Henry, it's not increasing tax rates that are driving the wealthy to move their cash offshore; it's simply the growth in the offshore money industry.

"This offshore wealth industry has been exploding even in a period in which we have been cutting taxes," he said. "It's been growing at something like 15 to 16 percent a year in nominal terms."

Many of the nations around the world being subjected to austerity in the face of major debt problems could use some of the tax revenue from all that money stashed offshore to address their woes. Overall, the world's tax authorities are losing $200 to $300 billion in taxes because of offshore wealth issues, the study found.

rest http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/29/wealthy-stashing-offshore_n_3179139.html?ir=Business&utm_campaign=043013&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Alert-business&utm_content=Title

Sunday, April 28, 2013

PBS: is you pay 2% fees on 7% annual return, wall street will eat 2/3 of your 401k. Obscene. #p2 #tcot


If you work for 50 years and receive the typical long-term return of 7 percent on your 401(k) plan and your fees are 2 percent, almost two-thirds of your account will go to Wall Street. This was the bombshell dropped by Frontline's Martin Smith in this Tuesday evening's  PBS program, The Retirement Gamble. 

This is not so much a gamble as a certainty: under a 2 percent 401(k) fee structure, almost two-thirds of your working life will go toward paying obscene compensation to Wall Street; a little over one-third will benefit your family – and that's before paying taxes on withdrawals to Uncle Sam. 

To put it another way – you work for Wall Street. You are their slave, their lackey and as long as their toadies dominate in Congress, nothing is going to change on the legislative front to stop the looting. Wall Street seized millions of homes through illegal foreclosures and stripped the equity from the owners. They got away with it. Some Wall Street firms further enriched themselves making bets that the housing market would collapse, using their inside knowledge of the bogus loans they had made. They got away with that also. Now Wall Street is busy asset stripping the retirement plans of the working class in America while President Obama proposes to cut Social Security benefits through a discredited calculation called Chained CPI – conveniently causing people to save more in their 401(k) plans to make up for the potential loss. But the more you save, the more Wall Street asset strips. 

The Retirement Gamble was written by the outstanding team of Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria, who exposed in January that when it came to Wall Street, the U.S. Justice Department had "no investigations going on. There were no subpoenas, no document reviews, no wiretaps." The head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, Lanny Breuer, announced he was stepping down one day after that program aired. He returned to Covington & Burling, the corporate law firm representing Wall Street firms. 

The revelation of the two-thirds wealth transfer machinery was delivered by none other than John Bogle, the legendary founder of The Vanguard Group, a low-load mutual fund firm, who served as its Chairman and CEO from 1974 to 1996. Bogle is no slouch. He's one of the most highly respected men in finance and graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with a degree in Economics. 

This is the relevant portion of the transcript from the program:

rest at http://wallstreetonparade.com/2013/04/pbs-drops-another-bombshell-wall-street-is-gobbling-up-two-thirds-of-your-401k/

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lawmaker Unemployment Hearing Attended By Single Member of Congress At Opening #p2 #tcot


WASHINGTON -- More than five years since the start of the Great Recession, unemployment remains a major economic problem in the United States, with long-term unemployment among its most stubborn aspects.

Nobody told Congress.

A hearing Thursday on long-term unemployment held before the 19-member Joint Economic Committee began with just a single lawmaker in attendance. Panelists testifying on the problem and its potential solutions spoke only to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the committee's vice-chair, for the beginning of the roughly 90-minute session.

The all-but-complete absence of congressional interest was first documented by National Journal reporter Niraj Chokshi, who tweeted a photo of the hearing. Shortly after the photo was posted, several other lawmakers did trickle in to participate. Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) arrived eight minutes into the hearing. Once the hearing had been under way for 35 minutes, Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) was also in attendance, according to Chokshi. Eventually Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) also joined, bringing the crowd to four.

More than 4.6 million Americans have been jobless for at least 27 weeks, according to the latest job figures, a rate of 3.0 percent. That's higher than at any point since World War II, including the 2.6-percent peak during the recession of the early 1980s. The official unemployment rate currently stands at 7.6 percent, down from 10.0 percent at the recession's darkest moments, although much of the reduction has been due to people leaving the workforce -- simply giving up hope of finding a job.

Jobs advocates have continually chastised Congress for focusing on the federal budget deficit instead of the shortage of employment in the U.S., which still features more than four job seekers for every open position in the country.

Senators who did not attend the hearing included Sens. Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), John Campbell (R-Calif.), Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) also did not attend.

The Joint Economic Committee is one of only a handful of congressional panels that features members of both the House and Senate. Its hearings are thinly attended at times, but the contrast between Thursday's hearing and a March 14 hearing on "Solving The Federal Debt Crisis" is revealing. That hearing on debt opened with five members of Congress in attendance, including three Democrats and two Republicans. Over the course of the nearly two-hour session, several other members of the committee filed in.

Kevin Hassett, the author of Dow 36,000, which predicted a fantastic rise in equities before two subsequent crashes, said he wasn't surprised. "There are often moments like that at hearings. Very few are ever heavily attended. People came in late, after the picture, I suppose," he told HuffPost.

rest http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/24/lawmaker-unemployment-hearing_n_3148362.html

stop the white washing: 13 Reasons To Be Glad Bush Is No Longer President #p2 #tcot


The five living presidents will meet in Texas on Thursday to dedicate the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. And while Bush and his aides are using the occasion to soften the 43 president's image and solidify his legacy, a recounting of Bush-era policies — from his deregulation of Wall Street to the invasion of Iraq — greatly undermine the new rosy narrative of the Bush years:

Authorized the use of torture

Though the US Code bans torture, Bush personally issued a memorandum six days after the September 11th attacks instructing the CIA that it could use "enhanced interrogation techniques" against suspected terrorists. The methods included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and "stress positions." A recently-released bipartisan committee concluded it was "indisputable" that these techniques constituted torture, and that the highest authorities in the country bore responsibility for the creation of a torture programs at Guantanamo Bay and CIA "black sites" around the world.

Politicized climate science

Bush's "do-nothing" approach to climate change prevented the U.S. from pursuing meaningful action. Though he claimed that global warming was a serious problem that was either a natural phenomenon or caused by humans, the administration routinely edited scientific reports to downplay the threat of climate change, censored CDC testimony that climate change was a public health threat, and promoted climate denying studies financed by ExxonMobil. At the end of the Bush presidency, a top intelligence adviser warned the incoming president that climate change was a massive destabilizing national security threat that would lead to "Dust Bowl" conditions in the Southwest.

Ignored Afghanistan to launch a war in Iraq

Rather than consolidating gains after the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Bush and his neoconservative allies pushed for removing Saddam Hussein from power, kicking off a war that led to one mistake after another. Ten years later, the war is estimated to have cost cost up to $6 trillion and resulted in the death of more than 100,000 Iraqis, 4,000 Americans and another 31,000 wounded. Meanwhile, Afghanistan saw a resurgence of the Taliban after Bush shifted resources to Iraq.

Botched the response to Hurricane Katrina

Bush appointed Michael Brown — a man whose only real qualifications were political connections and a sting at the International Arabian Horse Association — to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2003 and he preceded to undo everything the Clinton Administration had done to make FEMA functional, botching the response to 2004′s Hurricane Frances so badly as to prompt calls for his firing. But Bush kept Brown on board and, as a detailed timeline of the response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrates, neither man took the storm seriously until it was too late. Bush, who famously said "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" midway through the crisis, thus presided over the most deaths due to a single natural disaster in the United States since 1900.

Defunded stem cell research

At the turn of the century there was perhaps no greater hope for finding cures to illnesses ranging from Alzheimer's to diabetes than ongoing stem cell research. But months after taking office, Bush eliminated all federal funding for any new research involving stem cells, citing a religious objection to the use of embryos — even though the embryos in question were byproducts from couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and would have been destroyed by IVF clinics regardless. Twice more during his presidency, Bush vetoed legislation that would have restored funding.

Required Muslim men to register with the government

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush's Attorney General, John Ashcroft, instituted an anti-terrorism program to register all male immigrants between 18 and 40 years old from 20 Arab and South Asian countries. Thousands of innocent men came forward to register, only to be rounded up for minor visa violations. Roughly 1,000 men and boys in the process of applying for permanent residence were arrested and confined in standing-room-only centers, enduring invasive strip searches and beatings by guards. Many were deported, while others were held for months after their immigration cases were resolved, without a shred of evidence they had any links to terrorism.

Reinstated the global gag rule

On Bush's first day in office he reinstated a rule that prevented any non-profit doing work overseas from using any of their own, private money to fund family planning services. This so-called "Global Gag Rule" posed a serious threat to international maternal health, but it also cut off funding for HIV/AIDS initiatives, child health programs, and water and sanitation efforts.

Supported anti-gay discrimination

In 2004, President Bush endorsed the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), which would have banned same-sex couples from marrying in the U.S. Constitution. The Massachusetts Supreme Court had just ruled in favor of marriage equality, and Bush hoped to block the ruling from taking effect because "a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization." Though the FMA failed numerous times in Congress during Bush's tenure, he exploited the issue of same-sex marriage to turn out conservative voters for the 2004 election. That year, 11 states added constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage.

Further deregulated Wall Street

Under Bush, federal agencies eliminated regulations on predatory lending, capital requirements, and other Wall Street practices, allowing banks to engage in riskier and more destructive practices that contributed to the financial crisis that started on his watch. Bush's Treasury Department also pushed for even further deregulation that would have given Wall Street more oversight over its own practices even after the housing collapse had begun.

Widened income inequality

The per-person benefits of Bush's tax cuts accrued to the top one percent of Americans, as the rate for capital gains dropped to 15 percent. The CBO found that federal income taxes dropped far more as a percentage of the one percent's income than for any other group after 2000.

Undermined worker protections

Under Bush, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, whose mission is to protect safe working conditions, issued 86 percent fewer rules or regulations and pulled 22 items from its agenda of proposed safety and health rules. The office's funding and staff were also consistently reduced. Meanwhile, funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency charged with helping workers who claim discrimination against their employers, was similarly low and staffing fell even as the number of complaints increased, leading to a rising backlog of cases.

Ideological court appointments

Bush filled the federal bench with ideologues, including two lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. These conservatives believe that corporations should be able to buy and sell elections, ruled against equal pay for equal work, and have sought to undermine a woman's right to choose.

Presided over a dysfunctional executive branch

A 2008 analysis by the Center for Public Integrity documented more than 125 executive branch failures over Bush's two terms. These included government breakdowns on "education, energy, the environment, justice and security, the military and veterans affairs, health care, transportation, financial management, consumer and worker safety," and others. "I think we'll look back on this period as one of the most destructive periods in American public life . . . both in terms of policy and process," Thomas E. Mann, senior fellow at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution observed, noting "genuine distortion in the constitutional system, an exaggerated sense of presidential power and prerogative and acquiescence by a Republican Congress in the face of the first unified Republican government since Dwight Eisenhower."

rest http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2013/04/25/1913311/13-reasons-to-be-glad-bush-is-not-president-anymore/

most of members of Congress' Joint Economic Committee didnt care to show up to hearing on unemployment #p2 #tcot


via National Journal's Niraj Chokshi on Twitter

The good news is, Congress' Joint Economic Committee held a hearing yesterday on a chronic national problem in need of meaningful policy solutions: long-term unemployment. As the Huffington Post reported yesterday, long-term jobless rates are at their worst point in the post-World War II era.

And while I'm glad the Joint Economic Committee agreed to take the issue seriously enough to hold a hearing, the bad news is, most of the committee's members didn't care enough to show up.

National Journal's Niraj Chokshi, who tweeted the above image reported:

It stands to reason that lawmakers who often decry the high jobless rate would want to be seen publicly trying to tackle the problem, right? Well, apparently not.

When a hearing to explore how to get the long-term unemployed back to work kicked off on Wednesday morning, only one lawmaker was in attendance. That was Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who was holding the hearing in her role as the vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee. The Joint Economic Committee is one of a handful of committees whose members come from both parties and both houses of Congress.

Yep, by the time the hearing began, Klobuchar was literally the only lawmaker in the room. In time, she was joined by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). The committee has 20 members -- 10 from the House, 10 from the Senate -- and 16 of them failed to make an appearance, including every Republican member of the panel.

For context, it's worth noting that members have busy schedules, and it's routine for lawmakers to skip hearings, come late, or leave early. I imagine some of the Joint Economic Committee's members had good excuses for missing yesterday's discussion.

But that doesn't change the sad spectacle on display. When members of Congress consider an issue important, they show up for the hearings, at least making an appearance to demonstrate some level of interest.

Put it this way: if you'd told congressional Republicans that Benghazi would have been a topic of conversation, their attendance almost certainly wouldn't have been 0 for 10.

rest http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/04/25/17911474-ignoring-a-problem-does-not-make-it-go-away

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) Voted Against Background Checks After Telling Shooting Victim's Mother He Supported Them


Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) recently wrote a letter to the mother of a gun violence victim, telling her that he supported expanding background checks shortly before going on to vote against a bill that would have done so, the New York Daily News reported on Friday.

On April 17, the gun control amendment authored by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) failed 54-46, narrowly missing the required 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

Flake joined the group of senators who voted against the bill.

Shortly before the vote, he wrote to Caren Teves, whose son, Alex, was killed while shielding his girlfriend from bullets in the mass shooting at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. in July 2012. Teves invited Flake over for dinner earlier this month to have the GOP senator sit "in Alex's seat."

"I am truly sorry for your deep loss. Your son's actions were truly heroic," Flake wrote in the letter. "While we may not agree on every solution, strengthening background checks is something we agree on."

rest http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/22/jeff-flake-background-checks_n_3131293.html?ncid=txtlnkushpmg00000037

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Shameful - 45 Senators Side with Gun Lobby As Newtown Families Look On @gop

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Apr 17, 2013 | By ThinkProgress War Room

45 Senators Side with Gun Lobby As Newtown Families Look On

You'd think that more than 90 percent of the American people and 55 senators — a majority — in favor of something would be enough to get it done. You would be wrong. Late this afternoon, a minority of senators "chose instead to obey the leaders of the powerful corporate gun lobby, instead of their constituents," as former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly said following the vote.

These 45 senators, most but not all of whom were Republicans, voted against a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks in order to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous people. 90 percent of Democrats voted for expanding background checks, but 90 percent of Republicans voted no. As New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, today's vote "handed criminals a huge victory, by preserving their ability to buy guns illegally at gun shows and online and keeping the illegal trafficking market well-fed."

That wasn't the end of it. A bipartisan plan to crack down on gun trafficking — a plan even the NRA agreed to — also failed to attract the necessary 60 votes. A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, something backed by a majority of Americans, was also voted down.

Worse yet, all of this happened as Newtown families and other victims of gun violence looked on from the Senate gallery. One woman, a survivor of the Tucson shooting, shouted "shame on you!" after they watched senators vote down background checks.

Despite today's setback, President Obama, Newtown parents, and other gun violence prevention advocates vowed to continue the fight to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. In fact, it's time for all of us to redouble our commitment to action and let our elected leaders know that there's a price for ignoring 90 percent of us.

BOTTOM LINE: Every day that we fail to pass comprehensive background checks is a day we put at risk the safety of our children, our law enforcement, our neighbors—indeed, the safety of all Americans. The price of the Senate's inaction will be paid by the Americans whose names will be added to the list of gun-violence victims every day as a result.

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You Might've Missed

The media keeps screwing up coverage of the Boston bombings.

High-schooler protests "slut shaming" despite threats from her principal.

Senate nearly approves George Zimmerman right to carry amendment.

GOP congressman claims a danger of immigration bill is "radical Islamists" who are "trained to act Hispanic."

New Zealand passed marriage equality.

Top Iowa election official: pass voterID so the GOP can kill marriage equality and abortion rights.

Senate Majority Leader Reid's powerful plea for gun violence prevention legislation.

Republican New Hampshire lawmaker calls all women "vaginas."

The real Gosnell conspiracy.

THINKPROGRESS | Center for American Progress Action Fund
1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor | Washington, DC 20005

Tea Party Rep. Steve King (R-IA) Uses Boston Marathon Bombing To Justify Opposing Immigration Reform


If you're looking for an example of a politician cloaking his cowardice in principle, look no further than Rep. Steve King (R-IA).

On Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the Boston Marathon bombing that left three dead and more than 150 injured, King gave an interview to National Review Online where he used the attack to justify his opposition to immigration reform.

From the interview:

Representative Steve King of Iowa, a prominent House conservative, says Congress should be cautious about rushing immigration reform, especially after Monday's bombing in Boston, where three people were killed.

"Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa," King says. "If that's the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture."

On immigration, King says national security should be the focus now, and any talk about a path to legalization should be put on hold. "We need to be ever vigilant," he says. "We need to go far deeper into our border crossings. . . .We need to take a look at the visa-waiver program and wonder what we're doing. If we can't background check people that are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we are going to background check the 11 to 20 million people that are here from who knows where."

To be clear, investigators still do not know who perpetrated the attack. The "speculation" King is referring to involves an apparent case of racial profiling, whereby a college student of Saudi nationality was tackled by bystanders because he was fleeing the blast. He "appears to have no connection to the case," according to the Christian Science Monitor.

rest http://thinkprogress.org/immigration/2013/04/16/1874071/steve-king-boston-immigration/

Senate Votes Down Background Check Bill


As Vice President Joe Biden called the finally tally, Tucson survivor Patricia Maisch yelled, "Shame on you!" Outside of chamber she said, "They have no soul."


The Senate voted down an amendment offered by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) to expand background checks for gun purchases at gun shows and online, in a vote of 54-46. The measure needed 60 votes to be included in the underlining bill. As Vice President Joe Biden called the finally tally, Tucson survivor Patricia Maisch yelled, "Shame on you!" Outside of chamber she said, "They have no soul." Watch it:

rest http://www.alternet.org/shame-you-senate-votes-down-background-check-bill

$$ does not equal smarts: Jonathan Papelbon @Papelbon_News Is Afraid Obama "Wants To Take Our Guns From Us" #p2 #tcot #fuckingmoron

from http://deadspin.com/jonathan-papelbon-is-afraid-obama-wants-to-take-our-gu-474932432

The Boston Marathon bombings have had a particular resonance for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who spent seven seasons with the Red Sox and says he once lived above the spot where one of the bombs detonated. Papelbon is rightly concerned about security at open gatherings in the wake of the attacks, and his worries include the Phillies' annual tradition of parading through the concourse area and the outfield stands on Opening Day.

The 700 Level has video of part of the interview Papelbon gave about this, which included the following remarks:

"I don't feel comfortable doing that," Papelbon said. "I really, truly don't. In today's day and age, it's gotten so crazy… everything. All this stuff going on. Shoot, man, Obama wants to take our guns from us and everything. You got this kind of stuff going on. It's a little bit insane for me. I don't really know how to take it."

rest http://deadspin.com/jonathan-papelbon-is-afraid-obama-wants-to-take-our-gu-474932432

The Top 10 Private Equity Tax Loopholes #p2 #tcot

from http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/04/fleischer-.html

New York Times DealBook:  The Top 10 Private Equity Loopholes, by Victor Fleischer (Colorado; moving to San Diego):
  1. Carried Interest
  2. Management Fee Waivers
  3. The Limited Partner Loophole
  4. The S Corp Loophole
  5. Private Equity Publicly Traded Partnerships
  6. Supercharged Public Offerings
  7. Enterprise Value
  8. The Angel Investor Loophole
  9. IRA Stufing
  10. Interest Deductions

"Tax reform will close special-interest loopholes to help lower rates," said Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Representative Dave Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion article. Mr. Baucus and Mr. Camp have led a great process thus far. Let's keep this column as a scorecard and see how they're doing in six months.

rest at http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/04/fleischer-.html

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

again, in a 5-4 decision US Supreme Court certorari denied to an individual seeking redress against a corporation for unfair wages #p2 #tcot


"Conservative Supremes thwart fair wages claim, and Kagan lets 'em have it."

Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan
attribution: The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
Yet again, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has closed the courthouse doors to an individual seeking redress against a corporation. A registered nurse had sued the Northeast Philly nursing home where she worked because she was being docked pay for lunchtime hours during which she was in fact working, and the Court has barred her claim on behalf of herself and her coworkers because she refused to accept a settlement offer from her employer for the full extent of her personal claim (including attorney's fees) because it only covered her, and not others similarly situated.

There's a lot of procedural mumbo-jumbo involved in today's Supreme Court decision in Genesis HealthCare Corp. v. Symczyk, so I'll try to make things as simple (and easy to pronounce: it's sim-chick) as possible so we can leap ahead to an absolutely badass dissent by Justice Kagan.

Justice Thomas' decision for the majority (the five you'd expect) relies on the fact that while Symczyk pleaded on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, no such person had formally entered parallel FLSA claims in this case, such that once Symczyk received an official offer covering the entirety of her claims it mooted any "case or controversy" which had existed:

In the absence of any claimant's opting in, respondent's suit became moot when her individual claim became moot, because she lacked any personal interest in representing others in this action. While the FLSA authorizes an aggrieved employee to bring an action on behalf of himself and "other employees similarly situated," the mere presence of collective-action allegations in the complaint cannot save the suit from mootness once the individual claim is satisfied
Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now read the Justice Kagan dissent. There's something rhetorically here which reminded one friend from law school of Judge Richard Posner, or Prof. Richard Epstein, in terms of possessing and sustaining a tone of this is easy, and you people are idiots for thinking otherwise. Shame on you. From the top, then:
The Court today resolves an imaginary question, based on a mistake the courts below made about this case and others like it. The issue here, the majority tells us, is whether a "collective action" brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) "is justiciable when the lone plaintiff's individual claim becomes moot." Embedded within that question is a crucial premise: that the individual claim has become moot, as the lower courts held and the majority assumes without deciding. But what if that premise is bogus? What if the plaintiff's individual claim here never became moot? And what if, in addition, no similar claim for damages will ever become moot? In that event, the majority's decision—founded as it is on an unfounded assumption—would have no real-world meaning or application. The decision would turn out to be the most one-off of one-offs, explaining only what (the majority thinks) should happen to a proposed collective FLSA action when something that in fact never happens to an individual FLSA claim is errantly thought to have done so. That is the case here, for reasons I'll describe. Feel free to relegate the majority's decision to the furthest reaches of your mind: The situation it addresses should never again arise.
Let's continue, shall we?

rest http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/04/16/1202200/-Conservative-Supremes-thwart-fair-wages-claim-and-Kagan-lets-em-have-it

Monday, April 15, 2013

Louisiana governor: I’ve got no problem with creationism in public schools

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Friday said he had no problem with creationism being taught in public schools.

During an interview with NBC host Hoda Kotb, Jindal said students should be taught "the best science" in public schools, but implied that teaching creationism would not interfere with that.

"We have what's called the Science Education Act that says that if a teacher wants to supplement those materials, if the school board is okay with that, if the state school board is okay with that, they can supplement those materials," he explained.

"Bottom line, at the end of the day, we want our kids to be exposed to the best facts. Let's teach them about the big bang theory, let's teach them about evolution, let's teach them — I've got no problem if a school board, a local school board, says we want to teach our kids about creationism, that people, some people, have these beliefs as well, let's teach them about 'intelligent design.'"

Jindal said students should be free to question "controversial issues" like climate change and other scientific theories, adding, "What are we scared of?"

Activist Zack Kopplin has launched a campaign to repeal the LSEA, which was signed into law by Jindal in 2008. The law permits local school boards to approve supplemental classroom materials that support creationism and question the theory of evolution.

Watch video, courtesy of NBC News, below:

rest http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/15/louisiana-governor-ive-got-no-problem-with-creationism-in-public-schools/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheRawStory+%28The+Raw+Story%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

.@gop @ChuckGrassley @speakerboehner explosion is a reminder that ATF needs a director. Shame on Senate Republicans for blocking apptment #p2 #tcot

An influential Republican senator has threatened to put on hold President Obama's nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, raising once again the possibility that the gun-regulating agency will not have a director.

The president two weeks ago nominated acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones to become the agency's full-time director. The ATF has been without a director for six years. But on Thursday, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, released a statement criticizing Jones and questioning his ability to lead the ATF. Grassley criticized Jones's decisions in a Minnesota legal case involving housing discrimination and raised questions about an ATF operation in Milwaukee. He also criticized Jones for not answering questions from his staff about his decisions at ATF in the aftermath of the bungled Phoenix gun operation known as Fast and Furious.

"I believe that ATF needs a Senate-confirmed director," Grassley said at a Senate Judiciary Committee business meeting. "However, if we are prohibited from asking questions about important matters that get to the core of leadership, character and candor about a nominee's ability to run an agency, it makes our job that much harder."

Jones became the acting director of the ATF after his predecessor resigned amid the pressure connected to Fast and Furious. He has served as a part-time director, while also serving as the U.S. attorney in Minnesota.

Several former and current ATF officials have praised Jones's leadership of the agency. But a former FBI special agent in charge in Minneapolis has sent members of the Senate Judiciary Committee a letter sharply criticizing Jones's leadership and accusing him of declining to prosecute cases involving gangs, drugs and gun crimes.

In his letter, which was first reported by a local Fox television station in Minneapolis, Donald Oswald said that Jones has an "atrocious professional reputation" and is motivated by "personal political gain."

The ATF has been without a director since the position was first required to be confirmed by the Senate in 2006. President George W. Bush's first nominee, Michael J. Sullivan, was blocked by three Republican senators who accused Sullivan of not doing enough to end the ATF's "overly burdensome regulatory policies" on gun owners.

The National Rifle Association vowed to fight Obama's first nominee, Andrew Traver, who headed the ATF's Chicago field office, accusing him of being "deeply aligned with gun-control advocates and anti-gun activities."

rest http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-01/world/36682602_1_atf-operation-andrew-traver-fast-and-furious

Summer Ice Melt On Antarctic Peninsula Is Now Nonlinear, Fastest In Over 1000 Years

Scientist: "The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed to a level where even small increases in temperature can now lead to a big increase in summer ice melt."

Credit: British Antarctic Survey

A new study finds "a nearly tenfold increase in melt intensity" on the Antarctic Peninsula in the last few hundreds years.

Here's the most worrisome news from this 1000-year reconstruction of "ice-melt intensity and mean temperature" published in Nature Geoscience:

The warming has occurred in progressive phases since about AD 1460, but intensification of melt is nonlinear, and has largely occurred since the mid-twentieth century. Summer melting is now at a level that is unprecedented over the past 1,000 years. We conclude that ice on the Antarctic Peninsula is now particularly susceptible to rapid increases in melting and loss in response to relatively small increases in mean temperature.

In short, while some mistakenly assert the climate is less sensitive than we thought, the fact is that polar ice loss is accelerating far beyond what the models had projected even a few years ago, and the whole region appears even more sensitive than previously thought.

It was just 2006 when Penn State climatologist Richard Alley explained that observations had indicated the great ice sheets appear to be shrinking "100 years ahead of schedule."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported in 2011 that polar ice sheet mass loss is speeding up and is on pace for 1 foot sea level rise by 2050.

What's happening at the South Pole, which has 90% of the world's ice. In 2009, we learned that Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier has been thinning 4 times faster than it was 10 years ago: "Nothing in the natural world is lost at an accelerating exponential rate like this glacier." The same year Naturereported that "Dynamic thinning of Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheet ocean margins is more sensitive, pervasive, enduring and important than previously realized."

As for the cause, we know that "deep ocean heat is rapidly melting Antarctic ice." And we knew that these warm ocean currents melting Antarctica were so intense that, seawater appears to "boil on the surface like a kettle on the stove." Last April, researchers reported in Nature that this melting from below "May Already Have Triggered A Period of Unstable Glacier Retreat." We learned in December that West Antarctica is warming three times faster than global average.

The key point is that the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS) is inherently far less stable than the Greenland ice sheet because most of it is grounded far below sea level. As I wrote in the "high water" part of my book:

rest http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/04/15/1864401/summer-ice-melt-on-antarctic-peninsula-is-now-nonlinear-fastest-in-over-1000-years/

@fixnews Erik Rush @erikrush Tweets All Muslims Should Be Killed in Response To Boston Explosions


FOX News contributor Erik Rush tweeted that Muslim terrorists are to blame for the Boston explosions. He has no evidence to back up his claim.

His remedy for the violence in Boston is to kill all Muslims.

If you scroll down his Twitter feed, you will find messages of hate and blame.

What a sad and irresponsible example of rightwing hatred based on nothing but an assumption.




Kimberley A. Johnson (BIO) – A.K.A. The Anti Coulter is the author of The Virgin Diaries and an activist for women's rights. Like her on Facebook, Twitter or friend her on FB HERE.


Westboro Baptist Church having Twitter-gasms over Boston Marathon explosions, plan to picket funerals


It took about a New York minute for Westboro Baptist Church to lay the blame of the Boston Marathon bombings on the gay community, abortion and of course, President Obama. And as always they plan to picket the funerals of the fallen Americans. Margie Phelps is just delighted over the bombings, which have left at least 2 dead and 28 injured.





rest at http://freakoutnation.com/2013/04/15/westboro-baptist-church-having-twitter-gasms-over-boston-marathon-explosions-plan-to-picket-funerals/

Alex Jones @RealAlexJones is already calling bombing a false flag.


Friday, April 12, 2013

@speakerBoehner , @EricCantor and @RepPaulRyan -- with every other House Republican -- blocked a vote on Paycheck Fairness yesterday #p2 #tcot

source https://www.facebook.com/electdemocrats

Boehner, Cantor and Ryan -- with every other House Republican --blocked a vote on Paycheck Fairness yesterday. This has got to stop. Sign here to tell them that equal work deserves equal pay --> http://dems.me/PaycheckFairness

Jay-Z cuba trip - really wealthy douchbag goes to visit a place with immense poverty that's trying to cater to rich...when do elite learn to turn into graceless morons?


Jay-Z Blasted by '21 Jumpstreet' Director Over Cuba Trip

Phil Lord, the son of a Cuban refugee, responds to Jay-Z's "Open Letter" with an open letter criticizing the rapper for both his Cuba trip and new song

Jay-Z responded to critics of his Cuba trip with a song called "Open Letter" and now "21 Jump Street" director Phil Lord has responded to the song with an open letter of his own, blasting the rapper for "being a bad artist."

Although Jay-Z's Cuban excurision with his wife, Beyoncé, and both their mothers was approved by the U.S. Treasury Department, Lord -- the son of a Cuban refugee -- told the Huffington Post that the rapper's newest single upset him to the point where he had to speak his mind.

An Open Letter to Jay-Z

Dear Mr. Z,

I just heard your new track, "Open Letter," released today. It's got everything I love about your music: looping internal rhymes, an infectious beat, and imagery that draws me into a kind of swaggering, defiant fantasy.

Speaking of defiant fantasies, I've been following news of your recent trip to the island nation of Cuba. As the son of a Cuban refugee, and cousin and nephew to many Cubans on the island, I cringe when Americans visit Cuba for a fun island vacation. For one thing it's illegal (which nobody seems to care about), but more importantly, it's either ignorant of or calloused to the struggles of Cubans on the island. I actually encourage my friends to travel to Cuba, to bear witness to one of the great tragedies of our time, to learn about the real Cuba, to put a human face on the caricature of Americans that the Castros propagate. Exchange and travel between our two nations should be a catalyst for change, as it has been even in my own family. But for me, Cuba is not the place to have a fun, sexy, vacation. Because for Cubans on the island and living elsewhere, it's not.

So when I heard of your visit, I thought to myself, Jay Z seems like a smart, thoughtful guy. He doesn't realize what he's walking into. He probably just thinks Cuba is a chic place to relax with the family. He probably just doesn't know the things I know.

He likely doesn't know that the Cuban tourism industry is run by the Cuban military, so when he spends money at an officially sanctioned hotel, or restaurant, he is directly funding the oppressors of the Cuban people.

He doesn't know that most Cubans have poor access to independent news sources, the internet, books, and food.

He doesn't know that Cuba has two health systems, one for the well-connected, and one for everyone else.

He doesn't know that before Castro, the Cuban peso traded one-to-one with the dollar, and that since then, the Castros have raided the nation's coffers and introduced widespread poverty to a once prosperous nation.

He doesn't know that my ancestors fought to free Cuba from Spain, and to set up a democracy to ensure that they would always be free.

rest at https://www.thewrap.com/movies/article/jay-z-lectured-21-jumpstreet-director-cuba-trip-open-letter-85551