Saturday, March 7, 2015

At Selma President Obama Calls Out Republican Attempts To Take Away Your Right To Vote


And with effort, we can protect the foundation stone of our democracy for which so many marched across this bridge – and that is the right to vote. Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed. Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood and sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence, stands weakened, its future subject to partisan rancor.

How can that be? The Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, the result of Republican and Democratic effort. President Reagan signed its renewal when he was in office. President Bush signed its renewal when he was in office. One hundred Members of Congress have come here today to honor people who were willing to die for the right it protects. If we want to honor this day, let these hundred go back to Washington, and gather four hundred more, and together, pledge to make it their mission to restore the law this year.

Of course, our democracy is not the task of Congress alone, or the courts alone, or the President alone. If every new voter suppression law was struck down today, we'd still have one of the lowest voting rates among free peoples. Fifty years ago, registering to vote here in Selma and much of the South meant guessing the number of jellybeans in a jar or bubbles on a bar of soap. It meant risking your dignity, and sometimes, your life. What is our excuse today for not voting? How do we so casually discard the right for which so many fought? How do we so fully give away our power, our voice, in shaping America's future?

Fellow marchers, so much has changed in fifty years. We've endured war, and fashioned peace. We've seen technological wonders that touch every aspect of our lives, and take for granted convenience our parents might scarcely imagine. But what has not changed is the imperative of citizenship, that willingness of a 26 year-old deacon, or a Unitarian minister, or a young mother of five, to decide they loved this country so much that they'd risk everything to realize its promise.

That's what it means to love America. That's what it means to believe in America. That's what it means when we say America is exceptional.

The president gave a remarkable and far-reaching speech. Make no mistake about it. President Obama was calling out both the Republican attempts at the state level to suppress the vote, and the congressional Republican foot-dragging on the Voting Rights Act.

Voting rights isn't a Democratic or Republican issue. All Americans should be standing together to demand that voter suppression tactics must stop. It was a disgrace when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, and it is even more shameful that Republicans in Congress have not restored the law.

The Voting Rights Act does have bipartisan support in Congress. The question is, are Republican leaders in Congress brave enough to allow a vote on restoring the law? President Obama delivered a stirring speech. Today is more than a day to mark the history and courage of fifty years ago. It is also a day to demand a rare bit of courage from Congress. It is time for Congress to do the right thing and restore the Voting Rights Act.

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Behind the US jobs report: Low wages and persistent mass unemployment


The US economy created 295,000 new jobs in February, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report released Friday. The percentage of the population officially unemployed shrank by 0.2 percentage points to 5.5 percent.

The report sent tremors throughout Wall Street, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 1.5 percent. Investors fear that any slacking of the jobs crisis could lead the Federal Reserve to scale back on its policy of ultra-low interest rates that has formed the basis of financial speculation in recent years.

Media outlets have celebrated the jobs report as a sign of the US economy's growing strength. However, some have been confused with the question, voiced by the New York Times, "So Why Aren't Wages Rising More?"

Behind the headline figures of February's report lie two underreported facts. First, the fall in the official unemployment rate is largely fictional. Second, new jobs are concentrated in lower-paying sectors, while the overall wages of workers throughout the economy are under sustained attack.

While February was the 60th straight month of job growth in the private sector, it was also the 11th straight month in a row that the labor participation rate—a more accurate measure of unemployment—remained below 63 percent. The figure fell 0.1 percentage points to 62.8 in February, the lowest level since 1978. The contrast between the extremely low labor participation rate and the ostensibly recovering official unemployment rate arises from the fact that millions of unaccounted laborers in the official statistics cannot find suitable work.

Indeed, more than two-thirds of the drop in the jobless rate was due to workers leaving the workforce, not workers finding jobs. In February the number of people reported as being unemployed shrank by 274,000. Of those, 178,000 left the work force and 96,000 gained jobs.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), there were 5,970,000 unemployed workers missing from the official statistics in this month's job report. Were they to be added to the unemployment rate, it would stand at 9 percent. These missing workers "are people who would be either working or looking for work if job opportunities were significantly stronger." The EPI notes that more than half of these missing workers are in their prime age of working, between the ages of 25 and 54.

There are several signs that the jobs market is entering a renewed downturn. The number of Americans who filed new claims for unemployment benefits rose sharply last week, by 7,000, to a seasonally adjusted 320,000.

Meanwhile, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the consultancy firm that tracks mass layoffs, reported yesterday that US employers announced 103,620 planned layoffs in the first two months of 2015, up nearly 20 percent from the same period last year.

As for wages, they remained stagnant for non-supervisory and production workers, the bulk of the workforce. Wages for all workers rose slightly, by $0.03.

One commentator on National Public Radio noted, "We're adding most of our jobs at or slightly above minimum wage, and as long as that's the case, you're not going to get a whole lot of upward pressure on wages."

A report released last April by the National Employment Law Project, "The Low-Wage Recovery," found that unlike previous recessions and post-recession recoveries, the current "recovery" has been dominated by low-wage growth. The authors wrote, "We find that low-wage job creation was not simply a characteristic of the first phase of the recovery, but rather a pattern that has persisted for more than four years now. Deep into the recovery, job growth is still heavily concentrated in lower-wage industries."

The largest industry to gain workers in February was in "food services and drinking places," which saw 59,000 new jobs, or about a fifth of all gains. Professional and business services increased by 51,000 jobs, retail by 31,000, construction by 29,000 and health care by 24,000. Part-time workers stood unchanged at 6.6 million people.

The Obama administration's "recovery," characterized by high stock prices for the rich, stagnating or declining wages for the majority, and long-term unemployment, is not a policy accident. Starting with the bailout of the auto companies, which cut in half the wages for new hires, the administration has led the charge in "wage restructuring" and "downsizing" in order to make American workers more easily exploitable. Meanwhile, the bailout of the banks and Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program have ensured record profits and stock prices for the super-rich.

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US orders 7,700 children deported without court hearings


More than 7,700 immigrant children have been ordered deported over the past 18 months without ever appearing in court, according to statistics released by the federal government recently and reported by the Los Angeles Times Friday.

The Times account was based on data supplied by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which processes data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal agencies.

Legal proceedings had been brought against 62,363 children over the past 18 months. In at least 7,706 cases, the children were ordered deported after they failed to make a court appearance. No figures were available on how many of these children were even aware of their hearings—they range in ages from toddlers to adolescents. But 94 percent of those ordered deported had no attorney to represent them.

Attorneys and advocates for the undocumented children said that many of these hearings are held without any notice given to those facing deportation. This problem has been exacerbated by an Obama order that immigration judges fast track such hearings, holding them within 21 days of ICE seeking a deportation order. With children scattered across the country, in detention facilities, foster care or staying with relatives, the fast-track hearing process makes timely notice extremely difficult.

ICE has not reported the total number of children deported in its efforts to combat the "surge" of refugees from Central America that began in late 2013. The agency reported that 1,901 unaccompanied children were deported during fiscal year 2014 (October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014), but some of these may have been detained earlier. ICE has not released figures on child deportations over the past five months.

The fact that deportations of unaccompanied children take place at all is outrageous. That the numbers are in the thousands, if not higher, demonstrates the brutality of the crackdown on Central American migrants conducted by the US government, in direct contradiction to the public pretense of sympathy adopted by President Obama.

The Obama administration has carried on a two-faced policy on immigration ever since taking office in January 2009. Obama claimed to advocate a more tolerant approach to undocumented immigrants and to support measures for their legalization and citizenship. But his government has deported more immigrants than any previous administration, more than two million men, women and children. Deportations are being carried out at nine times the rate of 20 years ago.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement began the latest crackdown at the end of 2013, when Central American women and children began arriving at the US southern border in much larger numbers than previously. The numbers swelled during the summer of 2014, leading to the detention of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children, mainly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The vast majority of the women and children were fleeing gang violence and military death squads in their home countries, as well as desperate poverty, conditions that are byproducts of a long history of oppression by American imperialism and its local henchmen in the wealthy oligarchies that rule Central America.

At the high point of the crisis, Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, declared that the mass jailing of mothers and children was intended as a deterrent against the continued flight of refugees. In other words, he effectively conceded that the administration policy was deliberately punitive, and in violation of due process norms.

Last month a federal judge in Washington DC ordered the administration to stop the jailing of children, whether accompanying their parents or alone. The Department of Homeland Security is considering whether to appeal.

In another federal courtroom, in Seattle, Washington, the American Civil Liberties Union has brought suit seeking the appointment of defense counsel for all children facing immigration or deportation hearings.

The plaintiffs in this lawsuit, J.E.F.M. v. Holder, are all unnamed, in view of their ages, but their descriptions in the court filing suggest the dimensions of the social crisis in Central America from which they have fled. As detailed in the court documents, the plaintiffs include:

* A three-year-old boy conceived when his mother was raped when she was only 15 years old. After she faced continuing threats from her rapist, his mother fled El Salvador and left her son in the care of his aunt. However, because his family continued to fear for his safety in El Salvador, he was brought to the border in Texas, taken into custody by the government, and put into deportation proceedings.

* A 10-year-old boy, his 13-year-old brother, and 15-year-old sister from El Salvador, whose father was murdered in front of their eyes. The father was targeted because he and the mother ran a rehabilitation center for people trying to leave gangs.

* A 14-year-old girl who had been living with her grandparents, but was forced to flee El Salvador after being threatened and then attacked by gang members.

* A 15-year-old boy who was abandoned and abused in Guatemala, and came to the United States without any family or friends.

* A 16-year-old boy born in Mexico who has lived here since he was a year old, and has had lawful status since June 2010.

* A 16-year-old boy with limited communication skills and special education issues who escaped brutal violence exacted on his family in Honduras, and who has lived in Southern California since he was eight years old.

* A 17-year-old boy who fled gang violence and recruitment in Guatemala and now lives with his lawful permanent resident father in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit charges numerous agencies of the federal government with violating the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, as well as provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act requiring a "full and fair hearing" before an immigration judge. Such a fair hearing is impossible for a child deprived of both parental support and legal counsel.

This is the brutal reality of US immigration policy, behind the play-acting and stage-managed conflicts in Washington. President Obama and congressional Republicans engaged in such a mock battle over the past two weeks over funding of the Department of Homeland Security, which the Republicans had delayed in an effort to force the White House to abandon the executive order issued by Obama last November, providing limited work authorization for about four million undocumented immigrants.

The fight ended, as the WSWS predicted, with full funding for the DHS, one of key agencies of the emerging American police state, and with Obama's immigration order unchanged. With only a few exceptions, corporate America supports the Obama policy, which makes available a supply of cheap labor for agribusiness, construction and other industries, while maintaining the overall framework of brutal police repression of undocumented workers.

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Justice Department report on Ferguson police: An indictment of American capitalism


The US Justice Department released a report on Wednesday documenting systematic and wanton brutality, violence and outright criminality on the part of police in Ferguson, Missouri, carried out in violation of the legally protected constitutional rights of the city's population.

The report found that the Ferguson police—the department responsible for the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August—engaged in "stops without reasonable suspicion and arrests without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment; infringement on free expression, as well as retaliation for protected expression, in violation of the First Amendment; and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment."

The report documented numerous examples of egregious abuse at the hands of the police. It noted that in one incident, police sicced a dog on a fourteen-year-old boy, then "struck him while he was on the ground, one of them putting a boot on the side of his head." The officers were "laughing about the incident afterward."

The report also found that the city operates what one judge likened to a "debtors' prison," issuing vast numbers of arrest warrants and throwing the poor in jail in order to force them to pay traffic tickets. It notes that, for the city's poor and low-income residents, "Minor offenses can generate crippling debts, result in jail time because of an inability to pay, and result in the loss of a driver's license, employment, or housing."

The conditions described are a devastating indictment of the American economic and political system. The actions of the police in America are much more in line with what would be expected in an economically backward dictatorship than a major industrial power, one that declares itself to be a role model of democratic rule for the whole world.

Obama responded to the Ferguson report on Friday with his typical admixture of cynicism and deceit. Calling the police practice in Ferguson "oppressive and abusive," Obama declared that "it turns out" that protestors against police violence in the city "weren't just making it up." He added, however, that the abuse revealed was "not typical."

"The overwhelming number of law enforcement officers have a really hard, dangerous job and they do it well," Obama said in South Carolina. "They do it fairly, and they do it heroically."

Obama's paeans to the "heroic" police in America notwithstanding, the actions detailed in the Ferguson report are not an aberration. Indeed, the Justice Department itself found similar misconduct in reports on police in Albuquerque and Cleveland over the past year.

In the past two years alone, there have been nearly two thousand police killings in the US. All over the country, people in poor and working-class communities live in fear of the police, who are given legal immunity to harass and brutalize the population in service of the ruling elite.

Obama's comments followed earlier remarks by Attorney General Eric Holder in announcing the report. Holder declared that the findings showed that the concerns of demonstrators "were all too real." As he put it, "Some of those protesters were right."

A serious reporter, if such a thing existed in the White House press corps, would have asked Holder: "If the protestors were in fact right, why did you go to Ferguson during the height of the police crackdown against peaceful protestors against the killing of Brown and stage a photo op where you embraced Ron Johnson, who was coordinating the crackdown on peaceful demonstrators?"

This was, after all, the same White House that worked with Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to mobilize the National Guard against protestors, and sent over a hundred FBI agents to spy on those involved.

The White House combined its empty acknowledgment that protesters "were right" with its absolute defense of the decision not to bring charges against Darren Wilson for gunning down Brown in broad daylight. Obama made it a point Friday of explicitly defending the decision of the Justice Department not to charge Wilson—which followed a sham grand jury proceeding last year—as if the actions of the killer cop were not entirely of a piece with the outrageous conditions described in the Ferguson report released the very same day.

The criminality of the police in the US is of a piece with the operation of the state as a whole, and of the corporate and financial aristocracy that runs the country. As for the response of the Obama administration, it follows a definite playbook. Whenever the criminality of the American state comes bubbling to the surface and is revealed before the public, Obama admits the crimes while making sure that the people responsible for them go unpunished and acting as if the White House itself had no hand in the matter.

In May 2013, Obama gave a speech in which he declared, "I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any US citizen—with a drone or with a shotgun—without due process. Nor should any president deploy armed drones over US soil."

This was after the president had already carried out the drone murders of multiple American citizens, and only two months after Holder had declared the right of the president to carry out drone assassinations "within the territory of the United States."

Then there is the question of the government's complicity in torture. In August of last year, Obama declared that over the past decade and a half, "We tortured some folks... We did some things that were contrary to our values." And yet, none of the torturers, whose activities were exhaustively documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee report released last year, have been punished. Only a few months later, the corporate-controlled media now acts as if the report never existed.

The same pattern is evident in numerous revelations of outright criminality on the part of the banks and financial speculators. The US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations' 2011 report on the Wall Street crash proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that individual executives at major banks, including Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and others, have committed crimes mandating prison sentences. The Senate turned over the report to the Justice Department, but no one was charged, much less prosecuted.

In all of these scandals, the entire political establishment works to ensure that no one will be held accountable. In relation to the Ferguson report, despite its damning revelations, it concludes with only a few empty and toothless proposals for "reform."

No one can be held accountable because all of these great crimes are part of an even greater criminal conspiracy by the financial oligarchy to keep the great mass of the population in poverty and subjection.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

.@gop @reince GOP leaders to skip Selma event


Scores of U.S. lawmakers are converging on tiny Selma, Alabama, for a large commemoration of a civil rights anniversary. But their ranks don't include a single member of House Republican leadership — a point that isn't lost on congressional black leaders.

None of the top leaders — House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy or Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was once thought likely to attend to atone for reports that he once spoke before a white supremacist group — will be in Selma for the three-day event that commemorates the 1965 march and the violence that protesters faced at the hands of white police officers. A number of rank-and-file Republicans have been aggressively lobbying their colleagues to attend, and several black lawmakers concurred.

"It is very disappointing that not a single Republican leader sees the value in participating in this 50th commemoration of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. I had hoped that some of the leadership would attend, but apparently none of them will," said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina. "The Republicans always talk about trying to change their brand and be more appealing to minority folks and be in touch with the interests of African-Americans. This is very disappointing."

Former CBC Chair Marsha Fudge (D-Ohio) agreed.

"Not only do they have an opportunity to participate in something that is historic in this country, but certainly they've lost an opportunity to show the American people that they care," she said. "Their loss."


Merle Haggard – It’s ‘Almost Criminal’ What They Do To Our President

A Merle Haggard quote has been circulating social media over the last two days, almost as if it appeared in response to the incredible disrespect shown to President Obama by Republicans in Congress and foreign leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. The quote is from a 2010 Rolling Stone interview. Patrick Doyle spoke with music legend Merle Haggard, who was attending the 33rd Kennedy Center Honors. Haggard was invited to the White House to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Doyle asked Merle Haggard about President Obama, and the traditional 'stone-country' singer-songwriter said he enjoyed meeting Obama and found the President to be quite different from what he had seen in the media. That's when Haggard interestingly added:

It's really almost criminal what they do with our President. There seems to be no shame or anything. They call him all kinds of names all day long, saying he's doing certain things that he's not. It's just a big old political game that I don't want to be part of. There are people spending their lives putting him down. I'm sure some of it's true and some of it's not. I was very surprised to find the man very humble and he had a nice handshake. His wife was very cordial to the guests and especially me. They made a special effort to make me feel welcome. It was not at all the way the media described him to be.

Doyle asked, 'What's the biggest lie out there about Obama?'

He's not conceited. He's very humble about being the President of the United States, especially in comparison to some presidents we've had who come across like they don't need anybody's help. I think he knows he's in over his head. Anybody with any sense who takes that job and thinks they can handle it must be an idiot.

When Doyle asked if Haggard talked to the President much, the interview took a much lighter tone:

I told him, "You and I have something in common: our wives are both taller than we are." And he said "No! She's got on 3-inch heels! And she is not that tall!" He was like me. He grabbed that real quick.


U.S. Companies Are Stashing $2.1 Trillion Overseas to Avoid Taxes


Eight of the biggest U.S. technology companies added a combined $69 billion to their stockpiled offshore profits over the past year, even as some corporations in other industries felt pressure to bring cash back home.

Microsoft Corp., Apple Inc., Google Inc. and five other tech firms now account for more than a fifth of the $2.10 trillion in profits that U.S. companies are holding overseas, according to a Bloomberg News review of the securities filings of 304 corporations. The total amount held outside the U.S. by the companies was up 8 percent from the previous year, though 58 companies reported smaller stockpiles.

The money pileup, reflecting companies' incentives to park profits in low-tax countries, has drawn the attention of President Barack Obama and U.S. lawmakers, who see a chance to tap the funds for spending programs and to revamp the tax code. That effort is stalled in Washington, and there are few signs that tech companies will bring the profits back to the U.S. until Congress gives them an incentive or a mandate.

"It just makes no sense to repatriate, pay a substantial tax on it," said Joseph Kennedy, a senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a policy-research group whose board of directors includes executives from Microsoft and Oracle Corp. "Computing and IT companies especially have a lot of flexibility in where they declare their profits."

Apple, Google

Microsoft, Apple and Google each boosted their accumulated foreign profits by more than 20 percent over the year, the largest increases by any of the 34 companies with at least $16 billion outside the U.S. International Business Machines Corp., Cisco Systems Inc., Oracle, Qualcomm Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. each added at least $4 billion.

The profits added by the eight technology companies accounted for 45 percent of the net gain in overseas funds among the corporations surveyed. At the same time, firms in some other industries felt enough pressure to meet domestic needs that they chose to take the tax hit by bringing money home.

 Duke Energy Corp., based in Charlotte, North Carolina, took a $373 million tax charge against earnings in February as part of a plan to get access to $2.7 billion in accumulated foreign profits. Stryker Corp., a Kalamazoo, Michigan-based maker of medical devices, is planning to repatriate $2 billion this year.

Apache Corp., a Houston-based oil and gas company, had $17 billion indefinitely reinvested overseas at the end of 2013. Now, it has none.

"The company made the decision to utilize international cash to pay down U.S. debt and grow its North American operations," Castlen Kennedy, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

GE Leads

General Electric Co. topped the list for the fifth straight year. The company now has $119 billion outside the U.S., an increase of 8 percent from the end of 2013 and a 27 percent gain since 2010.

By contrast, Microsoft has more than tripled its offshore holdings since 2010. Apple, which counts only part of its non-U.S. holdings as indefinitely held offshore, increased that portion to $69.7 billion from $12.3 billion in 2010. Cisco now has $52.7 billion outside the U.S., up 10 percent since 2013.

Microsoft referred back to 2012 Senate testimony by Bill Sample, its vice president for worldwide tax. Sample said then that the Redmond, Washington-based company is "fundamentally a global business" and that U.S. law creates a disincentive for U.S. investment.

Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, declined an interview request.

Google Needs

Google referred to a December 2013 letter that the Mountain View, California, company sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It said Google needs $20 billion to $30 billion for future acquisitions outside the U.S., $12 billion to $14 billion for foreign subsidiaries' share of developing intellectual property and $2 billion to $4 billion for capital expenditures.

John Chambers, Cisco's chief executive officer, said on Bloomberg TV on Feb. 20 that his company is investing in India, Israel and France in the absence of U.S. tax law changes.

"I'd prefer to have the vast majority of my employees here," Chambers said. "And our tax policy is causing me to make decisions that I don't think is in the interest of our country, or even in our shareholders, long term."

The Bloomberg analysis covers 304 large U.S.-based companies that are required to report annually how much they hold outside the country in profits, which isn't the same thing as cash.

Won't Repatriate

It's a measure of accumulated profits, including those reinvested in active businesses and factories. The companies say they won't repatriate these profits, and they haven't assumed that they will pay future U.S. taxes that would be owed if they did.

"One of the reasons that they're holding the hoards of cash abroad is they don't want to pay the repatriation tax when they bring it back," said Rosanne Altshuler, a Rutgers University economist who studies international taxation.

The analysis starts with corporations in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and excludes purely domestic firms, real estate investment trusts and companies with headquarters outside the U.S. It includes each company's most recent annual report, many of which were filed over the past month.

The companies owe taxes at the full U.S. corporate tax rate of 35 percent on profits they earn around the world. They get tax credits for payments to foreign governments and don't have to pay the residual U.S. tax until they bring the money home.

Offshore Incentive

Keeping money overseas is particularly easy for technology and pharmaceutical companies whose profits stem from intellectual property that can swiftly be moved.

"It's very easy to place a patent in another country and accrue the income there," Altshuler said. "They're very sensitive to differentials in corporate tax rates."

Gilead Sciences Inc., for example, reported that it held $15.6 billion outside the U.S. as of Dec. 31, up from $8.6 billion a year earlier. That's because the intellectual property for the company's blockbuster drug -- Sovaldi -- was in Ireland before the Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2013.

Corporations that rely on intellectual property -- trademarks, logos or patents -- have an advantage over heavy industrial companies and the financial industry, which relies on providing services to customers, said Jennifer Blouin, an associate professor of accounting at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

"You can't move an oil rig out of certain jurisdictions," she said. "You can't shift the service income without moving the people."

Shareholder Obligation

Companies have a duty to their shareholders and they're responding logically to the incentives in the system, Kennedy said. "Companies are strongly driven by the need to increase shareholder value, and especially any public company has to meet market expectations," he said.

Whatever the reasons, the potential tax revenue from offshore profits is tempting to U.S. lawmakers, who have been struggling to fund road projects and revamp the tax system.

Obama and top Republicans on the tax-writing committees say they won't repeat a 2004 law that gave companies a voluntary repatriation holiday with a 5.25 percent tax rate.

Instead, Obama earlier this year proposed applying a 14 percent mandatory tax on the stockpiled profits and a 19 percent minimum tax on foreign earnings going forward.

The one-time tax would generate $268 billion over six years, which Obama wants to use for infrastructure.

Because the one-time transition tax is levied on past earnings, it doesn't distort companies' decisions, Altshuler said. The real questions are the rate and the details of the tax system for future earnings.

Obama's plan hasn't advanced in Congress, amid Republican objections to some of the details and the idea of using one-time money for needs such as highway construction.

The president met March 2 with the chief executive officers of Xerox Corp., Micron Technology Inc., Qualcomm, IBM and EMC Corp., which have a combined $114 billion in accumulated offshore profits.

"The president and the executives also discussed a shared desire to work with Congress to enact pro-growth, business tax reform," the White House said in a statement.

That doesn't mean it's going to happen anytime soon.

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.@NRA : The NRA’s latest bad idea: taunting Gabrielle Giffords


Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), nearly killed by a deranged assassin in 2011, was back on Capitol Hill this week, encouraging lawmakers to approve expanded background checks. And while opposition from the National Rifle Association comes as no surprise, the far-right group raised eyebrows with a rhetorical shot at Giffords directly.
Hitting a new low in its bullying barrage against gun laws, the National Rifle Association on Thursday targeted Gabrielle Giffords in an attack mocking her 2011 shooting.
"Gabby Giffords: Everyone Should Have to Pass Background Check My Attacker Passed," the NRA tweeted from its main account.
The tweet – which one lawmaker called "pathetic" – aimed to argue that background checks don't reduce gun violence and linked to an article on the right-wing Breitbart website.
The Breitbart article that the NRA promoted  noted, accurately, that the gunman responsible for the 2011 massacre in Tucson passed a background check, as did several other notorious killers. As best as I can tell, the Breitbart article is accurate.
That said, both the article and the NRA seem to be badly missing the point.
As Alec MacGillis explained very well, Giffords "is not devoting herself to the cause of expanding background checks because that measure would have stopped [Jared] Loughner, but because that measure is the one that police and criminal justice experts believe would have the biggest impact on reducing gun violence overall."
Exactly. The NRA's argument seems to be that Giffords' argument must be rejected because expanded background checks wouldn't have stopped her would-be assassin. But Giffords isn't talking about her shooting; she's talking about taking sensible, responsible steps to prevent future mass murders.
MacGillis added, "The same was true of the families of the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre: Universal background checks would not have stopped Adam Lanza, who got his guns from his mother, but the families wanted to push for whatever reform would limit shooting deaths, period. Making it harder for people with criminal records, histories of domestic violence, and adjudications for mental illness to obtain guns is one of the best measures at our disposal to do so. In other words, Giffords and others whose lives have been upended by gun violence are thinking about others, not themselves – they are exhibiting a form of political empathy."


Top Republican Warns Obama Might Make Black People Immune From Prosecution ‘Regardless Of The Crime’

As reported by Right Wing Watch, Kansas' Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) told listeners of his radio show that President Obama could absolve black people of all crimes and refuse to prosecute them in the future. He also implied that Attorney General Eric Holder is a reverse racist for not applying civil rights laws to white people.

During the weekly show, a caller named Stu postulated that Obama may announce in the future that a "black person accused of a crime, charged with a crime, is not going to be prosecuted, regardless of the crime," based on his recent immigration action. He also argued that the government is already in the process of doing so, since Holder did not prosecute Black Panthers.

Kobach didn't dispute the claims, saying, "Well, it's already happened more or less in the case of civil rights laws. I guess it's not a huge jump. I think it's unlikely, but you know I've learned to say with this president, never say never." He also claimed that Holder "basically made it clear….that the civil rights laws were only to protect minority races, and he was not going to be enforcing them to the benefit of white people who were discriminated against on the basis of their race."


Daily Beast retracts story on Scott Walker

Another major media outlet has apologized after getting a story about Scott Walker wrong. Last week, it was the New York Times; now, it's The Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast has retracted an article from one of its college columnists that claimed that the Wisconsin governor's budget would cut sexual assault reporting from the state's universities.

The post, published Friday, cited a report from Jezebel that wrongly interpreted a section of the state budget to mean that all assault reporting requirements were to get cut altogether.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin system requested the deletion of the requirements to get rid of redundancy, as it already provides similar information to the federal government, UW System spokesman Alex Hummel told The Associated Press on Friday.

The Daily Beast's correction and retraction is posted in full below. The "USA Today" story it references, however, is actually an AP article posted on the site:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is pictured. | AP Photo

"A Daily Beast college columnist at the University of Wisconsin based this article off a Jezebel posting which was incorrectly reported. Jezebel updated their post on Saturday with the following after USA Today [sic] published a story debunking Jezebel's account and clarifying Gov. Scott Walker's position. 'UPDATE: After Jezebel ran this item yesterday, a spokesman for the University of Wisconsin came forward—over two weeks after the budget was released—to clarify: the University requested that Gov. Walker delete the requirements because efforts were redundant with their compliance of the Cleary Act. Scott Walker's camp assures that he's committed to protecting victims.'


.@govwalker Scott Walker says $7.25 an hour is a living wage


Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has treated the idea of raising his state's minimum wage with about the tact and seriousness you'd expect from a man who made his name attacking workers. Walker's administration has rejected the request of a group of low-wage workers to use an unusual Wisconsin law saying that the state's minimum wage has to be a living wage. The reasoning for refusing to raise the minimum wage? They're claiming $7.25 is a living wage:
"The department has determined that there is no reasonable cause to believe that the wages paid to the complainants are not a living wage," Robert Rodriguez, administrator of DWD's Equal Rights Division, wrote in the denial letter.
No. Reasonable. Cause. Remember that $7.25 an hour is below the poverty threshold for a family of two. A minimum wage worker would have to work 81 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Wisconsin. And check out a few of the details submitted by workers petitioning the governor to raise the minimum wage:
Denise Merchant said she makes $7.25 an hour and often puts off buying diabetes test strips because she can't afford them and couldn't afford to fix her car when it broke down two months ago. Dan'l Scott makes $7.70 an hour and is homeless. Marvin Mayes makes $7.45 an hour sometimes has to go without buying groceries in order to make rent. Even those with higher wages described struggling: Carolyn Jackson makes $12 an hour but risks getting her lights and phone turned off because she has to choose between buying food and paying bills, plus she forgoes medication for her diabetes in order to get her son's medication.

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.@foxnews Fox News Ignores Latest Jobs Report Showing Lowest Unemployment Rate In Seven Years


"The Bureau of Labor Statistics released February's jobs numbers on Friday showing that the unemployment rate ticked down to 5.5%, the lowest rate the country has seen since May 2008, months before the financial crisis that rocked the American economy and led to huge job losses. Overall, the economy added 295,000 new jobs in the month, far more than expectations from experts who estimated that the bitter cold weather in the Northeast would cause a slowdown in job creation.

February's report marks the 12th straight month that we've seen 200,000 or more jobs added, the first time that has occurred since 1984. This is also the 53rd consecutive month of positive job growth and 58th straight month of private sector growth. We haven't seen sustained total job growth like this since 1939 and the private sector has never seen growth go on this long. Since the unemployment rate hit a high of 10.0% in October 2009, less than eight months into President Obama's tenure in the White House, it has nearly been cut in half down to its current level of 5.5%. Under any normal analysis, that would be considered a rousing success.

Of course, not everyone is ecstatic over the robust job growth and plummeting unemployment rate. Fox News, whose entire business model these days is based on Obama being an abject failure, cannot possibly let their bubble-dwelling audience know about good news that occurs under the President's watch. On Friday morning, shortly after the BLS released the report, you would have no idea that this was a major news story if you were on Fox News' website. While CNN and MSNBC both listed it as a top story on their sites and talked about at length on their morning shows, Fox News pushed the story to a small sidebar on its main page and barely mentioned anything about the report in the morning."

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

What We Lose With a Privatized Postal Service

Our nation's founders understood that a universal, affordable, and yes, public postal system helps knit us together as a nation. They recognized that commerce requires a common infrastructure and public institutions that belong to and benefit the entire country.

Instead of shrinking the Postal Service, we should build on it. That means, first of all, appreciating that the USPS can be much more than a delivery service.

In many small towns, the local post office continues to be a community hub, a place to meet neighbors and get news. And postal carriers don't just deliver letters — they often keep an eye on the elderly and homebound, and alert first responders if things look amiss.

They could do even more. The Postal Service's fleet of vehicles — the largest in the country — could be equipped to detect air pollutants and report potholes, water leaks, and other infrastructure repair needs.

Why stop there?


White House Struggles to Explain Clinton Email Flap

Washington - As Republican lawmakers criticized Hillary Clinton Tuesday for using her personal email account to conduct government business at the State Department, the White House would not say whether the former Cabinet secretary violated federal law.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily briefing that he could not say why Clinton did not use a government account, and referred reporters to the State Department.

Clinton, the likely frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president, used a personal e-mail account to conduct government business during her four years at the State Department, which may have violated federal regulations, The New York Times reported Monday night.

Earnest said "very specific guidance has been given to agencies all across the government, which is specifically that employees in the Obama administration should use their official e-mail accounts when they're conducting official government business."

Emails from official government accounts are saved for public record but, according to the Times story, Clinton did not preserve her personal emails as required by the Federal Records Act.

"Violations of the Federal Records Act within federal agencies is something we take very seriously," said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Chaffetz said his committee will work with the Select Committee on Benghazi to further explore Clinton's use of personal emails.

In December, Clinton turned over 55,000 pages of personal e-mails to the State Department after her aides reviewed them and selected which pages to hand over.


Netanyahu Speaks, Money Talks

Everything you need to know about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress Tuesday was the presence in the visitor's gallery of one man – Sheldon Adelson.

The gambling tycoon is the Godfather of the Republican Right. The party's presidential hopefuls line up to kiss his assets, scraping and bowing for his blessing, which when granted is bestowed with his signed checks. Data from both the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics and the Center for Public Integrity show that in the 2012 election cycle, Adelson and his wife Miriam (whose purse achieved metaphoric glory Tuesday when it fell from the gallery and hit a Democratic congressman) contributed $150 million to the GOP and its friends, including $93 million to such plutocracy-friendly super PACs as Karl Rove's American Crossroads, the Congressional Leadership Fund, the Republican Jewish Coalition Victory Fund, Winning Our Future (the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC) and Restore Our Future (the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC).

Yet there's no knowing for sure about all of the "dark money" contributed by the Adelsons – so called because it doesn't have to be reported. Like those high-rise, multi-million dollar apartments in New York City purchased by oligarchs whose identity is hidden within perfectly legal shell organizations, dark money lets our politicians conveniently erase fingerprints left by their ink-stained (from signing all those checks) billionaire benefactors.

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Petraeus and Snowden: Both Leakers of Classified Material, Same Punishment?

"That's the American moment for you.  A general with powerful friends gets a slap on the wrist for leaking highly classified material to his mistress and lying about it to the FBI, and a young patriot who acts to shed light on the growing power of governmental agencies to spy on the people and to violate their liberties is hounded into exile and denounced as a traitor.

And justice for all, America?"


Prominent Ferguson officials sent racist emails about the Obamas and a pregnant black woman

The Department of Justice just published the results of six-month long investigation into the Ferguson police department and municipality after an officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, last year.

The report, which found evidence of racial bias in arrests and excessive use of force, also includes specific details about employees' mindset concerning minorities. 

The screenshot below describes 7 emails sent by current Ferguson officials. They sent almost all of the correspondences during work hours from city email accounts.

DOJ racist emails

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Architecture critic compares Google's new HQ to a 'Truman Show-style nightmare of total surveillance'

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Last week, Google released new renderings of the campus it plans to build in Mountain View, California. But not everyone is enamored with the design.

Edwin Heathcote, an architecture critic at the Financial Times, published a scathing critique of the campus this week, saying that "the designs for Google's huge new Mountain View HQ look oddly like a vision of the future from somewhere in the past." 

The campus was designed by star architects Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick. The renderings show an incredibly futuristic construction made up of translucent canopies and modules that can be changed to adjust the buildings' layout. The images also promise an adaptable environment with lots of light, bike paths, and even retail opportunities for local businesses.

Campus Google Google

Heathcote compares the architecture to various sci-fi cliches, like glass biodomes and alien settlements.

He then compares the Google HQ to the tech campus depicted in Dave Eggers' dystopian novel "The Circle," which Heathcote says is a "'Truman Show'-style nightmare of total surveillance." 

Campus Google

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.@govrauner IL Gov Rauner Gets $750,000 Tax Break, Proposes Slashing Services to Middle Class and Poor


Illinois' new GOP Governor, Bruce Rauner, will personally receive a $750,000 per year tax cut as a result of his decision not to continue the state's temporary 1.25% income tax surcharge that expired last year.

His taxes were cut by an amount equal to the annual income of 14 families of four making the median income. And remember that after adjusting for inflation, that median income number has not materially increased in about 35 years, since virtually all of the income growth resulting from the massive increase in worker productivity over that period has been siphoned off by speculators like Rauner.

Rauner, who made $61 million in 2013 - or $29,000 per hour - is one of a small group of multi-millionaire speculators who would directly benefit enormously from lower state tax rates. Among them is his friend Ken Griffin, reputedly the wealthiest man in Illinois, who contributed $2.5 million to Rauner's campaign for Governor - and has also pitched in $10 million to a $20 million campaign war chest that Rauner plans to use to run opponents to members of the Legislature that oppose his policies.

Griffin and his soon-to-be former wife, Anne Dias Griffin, are involved in a high profile multi-million dollar divorce battle. He and Dias are fighting over the control of tens of millions of dollars.

One filing by Dias, quoted by CNBC, gives you a flavor:

Dias said she and their children have come to "enjoy a lifestyle reserved only for the very wealthy," including houses in Chicago, Aspen, Hawaii, Miami Beach and New York. They also have "unrestricted access" to two private jets "to travel to the aforementioned homes" as well as other destinations.

She said the family has a "large group of staff members assisting the family, including extensive household, security and family office employees," and their own company that employs staffers, called "Griffin Family Services."

Dias is asking a million dollars a month -- $12 million a year -- in child support. That's right, $12 million per year in child support - you can't make this stuff up.

Just by way of comparison, remember that a highway worker for the state of Illinois who makes an average income of $49,000 a year laying hot asphalt and filling pot holes, would take about 244 years to make $12 million. But Griffin's pal, Rauner, says he wants to cut the pay for such workers - claiming they make too much and should be paid something closer to the $39,000 a year he says they make in surrounding states.

None of this seems to bother Rauner one bit, since at the same time he and his friends get that big tax cut, Rauner's new state budget promises draconian cuts in services that benefit the middle class and the poor.

Rauner proposed six billion dollars in cuts for state spending on universities, health care, local governments and pensions for state employees.

Here are some high points:

  • Limiting eligibility for Department of Aging Community Care Programs.
  • Cutting health care benefits for homecare workers.
  • Slashing funding for the Department of Children and Family Services.
  • Eliminating all Department of Children and Family services for youths 18-21.
  • Cutting adult dental and podiatry services as well as kidney transplants for undocumented children.
  • Eliminating exemptions for drugs for severe mental illness from a state 4-prescription limit.
  • Reducing payments to facilities for children on ventilators, supportive living facilities and children with severe mental illness.
  • Cutting Medicaid spending by1.5 billion - including735 million in cuts to hospitals serving Medicaid patients.
  • Eliminating assistance to families with Hemophilia.
  • Freezing intakes on childcare for children over 6.
  • Increasing childcare copays for working parents.
  • $27.5 million in reductions to community substance abuse programs.
  • $82 million reduction to community mental health programs.
Eliminating State funding for specific organizations providing: - Services for people with disabilities - Services to children with autism - Services to homeless young people - Services to run away teenagers - Immigrant integration services - Advanced placement classes - After school programs - Agricultural education - Arts and foreign language programs - Parent mentoring - Safe Schools initiatives
  • Cuts to breast and cervical cancer programs.
  • And a 31.5% cut to higher education.
His plan would also move state employees - most of whom make middle class salaries or less - into pension plans with lower benefits.

Rauner claims that his proposal is a "turnaround budget." "Like a family, we must come together to address the reality we face. Families know that every member can't get everything they want," he said. Unless, of course, you are Bruce Rauner or one of his mega-wealthy friends.

Seems that the state can't afford more childcare for working parents, but it can afford huge tax cuts for the very rich. After all, Ken Griffin needs to make that million dollar a month "child care" payment.

The fact is, of course, that Illinois - like most other states - are not in the midst of dramatic declines in economic performance that would require this kind of "belt tightening." In fact, Illinois, like most of America, is wealthier today per person, than at any other time in its history.

The problem is that the wealthy have rigged the economic rules of the game to allow people like Bruce Rauner and the millionaires who got him elected to siphon off most of the wealth for themselves and leave middle income incomes flat.

One of those rigged rules is found in the Illinois State Constitution. It would make sense to get much of the money needed to finance public services from those who have benefited most from the state's economy - rather than those whose incomes have been flat. You'd do that with higher income tax rates on millionaires and billionaires than the one charged for ordinary working people.

But when the state constitution was rewritten in the 1970's, the wealthy organized to insert a provision preventing State Government from having progressive income tax rates. They wanted to keep their own share of taxes low, and to shrink state revenue in general by requiring that if tax rates go up for them, they have to go up for ordinary people as well.

That problem needs to be fixed with a Constitutional amendment that allows a progressive income tax - which of course Rauner adamantly opposes. But in the meantime it would still be possible to raise desperately-needed revenue in ways that mainly target the wealthy taxpayers by providing substantial personal exemptions in any new tax aimed at replacing the state's temporary income tax surcharge that expired last year.

Rauner, of course, opposes any new state taxes and if you want to know why, just ask the mega-wealthy donors who financed his $63.9 million campaign to occupy the Governor's mansion.

Through his new state budget, Rauner intends to continue his life's work excavating the pockets of the poor and middle class in order to benefit himself and his wealthy associates. That's why Rauner serves as the personal embodiment - the poster boy -- for Wall Street's War on the Middle Class.

Bruce Rauner may think that he is auditioning for a spot on the 2016 GOP ticket or a cabinet post in a Bush, Walker or Christie administration.

In fact he could easily become the national symbol of the trickle down economic theory that has failed to produce benefits for everyday Americans and is at the core of the economic philosophy of every one of the 2016 Republican Presidential aspirants and their billionaire backers.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.


One in three Germans say capitalism to blame for poverty, hunger


(Reuters) - Nearly a third of Germans believe that capitalism is the cause of poverty and hunger and a majority think true democracy is not possible under that economic system, according to a survey published on Tuesday by the Emnid polling institute for Berlin's Free University.

The poll of 1,400 people found that 59 percent of Germans in the formerly communist east consider communist and socialist ideals a good idea for society. In western Germany, 37 percent said they considered communist and socialist ideals to be good.

The radical Left party in Germany remains strong in the formerly communist East, a quarter century after the Berlin Wall fell, paving the way for German unification in 1990.

The survey found that more than 60 percent of Germans believe there is no genuine democracy in their country because industry has too much political influence and that the voice of the voters plays only a subordinate role.


screw the Constitution,right? Poll: 57% Of GOPers Support Making Christianity The National Religion


A majority of Republicans nationally support establishing Christianity as the national religion, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday.

The poll by the Democratic-leaning firm found that 57 percent of Republicans "support establishing Christianity as the national religion" while 30 percent are opposed. Another 13 percent said they were not sure.

It almost goes without saying that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits establishing of a national religion.

The poll was conducted among 316 Republicans from Feb. 20-22. The margin of error was plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.

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.@govwalker Gov Walker's security detail got raises but 300 unionized police are still waiting for theirs


"MADISON (WKOW) -- The office of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told 27 News Monday morning the office has yet to review the process by which members of Governor Walker's personal security detail, 10 state troopers, received a $4/hour raise last week.

27 News Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann broke the news about the raise last week, noting more than 300 unionized state troopers are still waiting on raises their union negotiated last year.

Stay tuned to 27 News and for updates on this 27 News investigation.


MADISON (WKOW) -- As more than 300 unionized state troopers wait for their first pay raise in six years, ten Wisconsin State Patrol supervisors got a $4 per hour raise this week and they all have one thing in common - they serve on Governor Scott Walker's (R-Wisconsin) personal security detail

Those officers make up what is called the Dignitary Protection Unit (DPU).

The DPU's main job is to provide security for Gov. Walker - 24 hours a day, seven days a week - no matter where he goes. That includes trips like the one the Governor made this week to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in suburban Washington, D.C.

The State Patrol is a division of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT), which put the raise into effect on February 22.

Over the course of a calendar year the raise will cost DOT an extra $83,200.  DOT officials estimate they are facing a budget shortfall of $680 million heading into the 2015-17 biennium.

The raise also comes on the heels of legislative leaders announcing they would not approve an average 17 percent raise for the 300-plus state troopers who are represented by the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association (WLEA).

"At a time with such fiscal difficulties in the State of Wisconsin, I just can't support a raise that big," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told 27 News on February 17.

That raise for WLEA members was agreed to by the Walker administration in 2013, but needs final approval from the Joint Committee on Employment Relations (JCOER).  Speaker Vos chairs that committee.

Those unionized troopers, most of whom earn under $50,000 per year, haven't gotten a raise since 2009.

The ten members of the DPU all have the rank of sergeant or higher and earn an average of more than $70,000 per year.

The raise for DPU members also comes just two weeks after Governor Walker announced a freeze on all merit pay raises for state employees.

"The decision was made by the Department of Transportation.  I will refer your question on the raises, as well as staffing, to DOT," Gov. Walker Spokesperson Laurel Patrick told 27 News Friday.

DOT spokesperson Peg Schmitt told 27 News the DPU raise was awarded through a special supplemental pay provision called a "pilot add-on."

But according the state compensation plan developed by the Office of State Employment Relations (OSER), a "pilot add-on" raise cannot be approved by DOT.

"The OSER Director shall have the sole discretion to create pilot add-ons for specific classifications," reads the OSER state compensation plan. 

Greg Gracz, the OSER Director, was appointed by Gov. Walker."

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.@govwalker - Top GOP operative calls Scott Walker 'kind of a dumba--'

from :

Mark Salter, who was a top adviser on the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain (R), is not a fan of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R).

On Thursday, Salter went on Facebook and posted an article criticizing a comment Walker made about the Islamic State jihadist group (also known as ISIS or ISIL) at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Salter added a colorful comment.

"I want to like him but Scott Walker is kind of a dumb ass," Salter wrote.

During the 2008 race, Salter became known as an outspoken staffer who sent reporters colorful missives Politico dubbed "Saltergrams." He did not respond to a request for comment about his post from Business Insider. 

At CPAC, Walker pointed to his experience weathering massive protests against his administration when he was asked how he would handle ISIS if he were president. 

"We need a leader with that kind of confidence," Walker said. "If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world." 

Walker is a top Republican contender in the 2016 presidential election. In recent weeks he has gone from a relative dark horse to leading several polls

View Salter's Facebook post below:

Salter Facebook

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.@govwalker - Wisconsin Introduces Word-for-Word ALEC Right to Work Bill


Wisconsin Republicans have called a special session to take up a "right to work" measure attacking private sector unions--and the text of the bill, the Center for Media and Democracy has discovered, is taken word-for-word from American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation.

See the side-by-side of the Wisconsin legislation and the ALEC bill here.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a former ALEC state chairman, says that the legislature has the votes to enact the measure, which undermines collective bargaining by allowing workers to opt-out of paying the costs of union representation. Right to work laws are associated with lower wages for both union and non-union workers.

Fitzgerald has long supported right to work, and in the past hasn't been shy about describing the ALEC connection. In December 2010, after Republicans took control of the legislature, he was asked by Jeff Mayers of WisPolitics about making Wisconsin a right to work state.

Fitzgerald replied: "I just attended an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting and I was surprised about how much momentum there was in and around that discussion, nothing like I have seen before." See the video here.

Governor Scott Walker, an ALEC alumni, was thrust onto the national stage in 2011 when he and the Republican-controlled legislature destroyed collective bargaining rights for public-sector unions, prompting massive protests and an unsuccessful recall election. With Walker's sights set on the GOP presidential nomination, he has recently called right to work for private sector unions a "distraction," but has stated that he will sign the bill.

Walker's support for right-to-work is no surprise.

Walker worked to promote many ALEC bills during his time as a state legislator (1993-2002) and first co-sponsored a right to work bill as a freshman legislator (SB 459). Just days after Walker was first sworn-in as governor in January 2011, he spoke frankly about his plans to "divide and conquer" Wisconsin unions in conversation with billionaire GOP financier Diane Hendricks for a documentary which only became public more than a year later. Hendricks gave Walker $500,000 for his 2012 recall effort, and gave $1 million to the Republican Party of Wisconsin in 2014.


.@rahmemanuel Rahm Snaps at Mental-Health Advocates: ‘You’re Gonna Respect Me!’


Chicago's mayor allegedly blew up when he was asked why he closed clinics. Looks like 'Rahmbo' is back.

They say old Rahm Emanuel came out last night—or maybe it was the real one hiding in plain sight all the time: a sneering, aggressive pol who went "nose-to-nose" with a mental-health advocate demanding, "You're gonna respect me!"

The alleged exchange took place off-camera between Chicago's mayor and Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle, a member of Mental Health Movement, a group that has been fighting the mayor over the closure of six mental health clinics across the city. Behind a door that separated the mayor from a roomful of constituents at a campaign stop in the Wicker Park neighborhood, Ginsberg-Jaeckle says, he got Rahmbo'd.

"This is the Real Rahm," Ginsberg-Jaeckle wrote on Facebook. "Calm and collected in public, raging angry and self-defensive behind closed doors."

But Emanuel's campaign, while not directly refuting the mayor's alleged call for respect, said the exchange was more cordial than Ginsberg-Jaeckle's version of events. The mayor's office has reached out Ginsberg-Jaeckle and Delgado to address their concerns, campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry said in a statement.

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The D-backs will be serving a Churro Dog, yes, a Churro Dog at Chase Field this season


Chase Field has created a dessert-style hot dog. It's called a Churro Dog and, well, feast your eyes below:

View image on Twitter

According to ESPN's Darren Rovell, the drool-inducing breakdown is as follows:

a warm cinnamon churro sitting inside a Long John chocolate-glazed donut, which is then topped with frozen yogurt, caramel and chocolate sauces.

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Google's fact-checking bots build vast knowledge bank


The search giant is automatically building Knowledge Vault, a massive database that could give us unprecedented access to the world's facts

GOOGLE is building the largest store of knowledge in human history – and it's doing so without any human help.

Instead, Knowledge Vault autonomously gathers and merges information from across the web into a single base of facts about the world, and the people and objects in it.

The breadth and accuracy of this gathered knowledge is already becoming the foundation of systems that allow robots and smartphones to understand what people ask them. It promises to let Google answer questions like an oracle rather than a search engine, and even to turn a new lens on human history.

Knowledge Vault is a type of "knowledge base" – a system that stores information so that machines as well as people can read it. Where a database deals with numbers, a knowledge base deals with facts. When you type "Where was Madonna born" into Google, for example, the place given is pulled from Google's existing knowledge base.

This existing base, called Knowledge Graph, relies on crowdsourcing to expand its information. But the firm noticed that growth was stalling; humans could only take it so far.

So Google decided it needed to automate the process. It started building the Vault by using an algorithm to automatically pull in information from all over the web, using machine learning to turn the raw data into usable pieces of knowledge.

Knowledge Vault has pulled in 1.6 billion facts to date. Of these, 271 million are rated as "confident facts", to which Google's model ascribes a more than 90 per cent chance of being true. It does this by cross-referencing new facts with what it already knows.

"It's a hugely impressive thing that they are pulling off," says Fabian Suchanek, a data scientist at Télécom ParisTech in France.

Google's Knowledge Graph is currently bigger than the Knowledge Vault, but it only includes manually integrated sources such as the CIA Factbook.

Knowledge Vault offers Google fast, automatic expansion of its knowledge – and it's only going to get bigger. As well as the ability to analyse text on a webpage for facts to feed its knowledge base, Google can also peer under the surface of the web, hunting for hidden sources of data such as the figures that feed Amazon product pages, for example.

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35 Viral News Stories From 2014 That Were Actually Totally Untrue


2. You cannot charge your iPhone 6 by putting it in the microwave because that will actually destroy your iPhone and your microwave.

You cannot charge your iPhone 6 by putting it in the microwave because that will actually destroy your iPhone and your microwave.

4. Pumpkin spice-flavoured condoms were not a thing.

Pumpkin spice-flavoured condoms were not a thing.

6. That "Drunk Girl in Public" video was a hoax.


7. Emma Watson's nude photos were never going to leak online.

Emma Watson's nude photos were never going to leak online.
Andres Stapff / Reuters

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