Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Republican agenda is an effort to destroy the architecture of social justice and corporate responsibility in America

The Republican agenda is an effort to destroy the architecture of social justice and corporate responsibility in America

That's one of the two great dangers now — for the nation and the president. The other danger, moving like an ideological freight train through the House of Representatives and across state governments and the judiciary, is the erosion or repeal of the New Deal itself. This is the aim of a Republican party now far to the right of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon — and even the surprisingly pragmatic Ronald Reagan.

The GOP offered Americans a scapegoat in the recent campaign: A government doing big things in the face of a grave challenge was turned into the Big Bad Government. The very government that was preventing catastrophe was portrayed as causing it. It was an appeal to a forgotten Hooverism — to the discredited but widely received notion that cutting spending is the straightest path back to prosperity. Voters wouldn’t have bought that message if economic progress had been clearer and swifter; in 1984, they hardly cared about Walter Mondale's calls to reduce the deficit when it was morning in Ronald Reagan’s America. And the majority of voters who shifted toward Republicans last November didn't necessarily embrace their argument, but apparently concluded that there was nothing wrong with giving them their chance; in a divided government, the parties might be forced to work together.

The wintry weeks of December did see a brief season of bipartisan compromise. But now the GOP, in the House and in newly captured state capitals, is marching relentlessly to the far right. That course won’t advance the economy. But concern for jobs is the pretext and not the purpose of a Republican program that reflects an instinct which long lay mostly dormant in the recesses of conservative aspiration — to roll back the consensus that has prevailed since the 1930s and to remake the future in the image of a laissez-faire past.

In the House of Representatives, where John Boehner is less speaker than servitor of the Tea Party, the GOP has passed a budget resolution that begins the rollback. It slashes education; unemploys teachers, police, and potentially millions of others; and shreds the fabric of the safety social net, taking the most from those who have the least. The measure attempts to undo basic environmental, consumer, and financial regulation by defunding the regulators. Next on the chopping block, if Republican House budget guru Paul Ryan has his way, will be Medicare and Social Security, the heart of the New Deal legacy.

As economics, the reactionary spasm makes no sense. The evidence is already there. After two years of Obamanomics, forecasts for U.S. growth are being revised upward. At the same time, in the wake of sudden and sharp retrenchment in Britain, what's rising is unemployment; growth is falling and house prices are predicted to plummet again. But as ideology, the Republican policy makes perfect sense — and presents a perfect opportunity for the true believers who were vanquished during the New Deal and decades afterwards. They lied about health reform — from nonexistent "death panels" to nonexistent cuts in Medicare benefits for the elderly. The Republicans opposed the bill and now propose to defund it. But what the House just passed goes far beyond that: It's a draconian down payment on dismembering the architecture of social justice and corporate responsibility in America.

That's why the GOP doesn’t care if the numbers actually add up. That’s why Boehner, asked about the jobs that would be lost because of his party’s program, could blithely reply: "So be it." (There’s also the obvious calculation that the Republicans' budget proposal, if enacted, could damage the economy enough to pave their road to the White House in 2012.)

On another front, Republican governors have opened their own assault on the New Deal. In Wisconsin, the budget would have been in balance except for hastily enacted special interest giveaways and tax cuts. Citing the deficit he had just created, newly elected Gov. Scott Walker launched a furious drive to smash unions — to deprive public employees of collective bargaining rights, which had nothing to do with fiscal pressures, since the unions have already agreed to givebacks on pension and health care benefits to help close the budget gap in future years. Similar efforts are underway in Ohio and Indiana.

States are in trouble and do have to make cuts or, as Jerry Brown has dared to suggest in California, raise some taxes. But going after the very existence of unions, by today one of the less robust legacies of the New Deal, is no answer to fiscal problems nor was it any apparent part of the new governors' campaigns across the Midwest. Once in power, they have seized the chance to wreak their ideological will.

On a third front — on the federal bench — Republican judges, in the dark spirit of Bush v. Gore, have taken to declaring health reform unconstitutional. And here, too, the cause they have in mind is bigger than the case before them. If upheld, their rulings could threaten the entire regime of national regulation, and a generation of civil-rights legislation, by returning to the narrow, pre-New Deal reading of the federal power over interstate commerce — a reading under which an earlier Supreme Court struck down a law prohibiting child labor.

Republican strategy has been played out as a shell game, in which crocodile tears about jobs have been traded for jeremiads about deficits — and not incidentally, a tea-fueled attack on women's rights, Planned Parenthood, scientific research, and equality for gays and lesbians.

Just weeks ago, in the State of the Union message, the president bent the narrative in a different direction — toward the kind of optimistic message that usually carries the day in American politics. But it’s not enough simply to repeat the mantra "to win the future;" it’s essential to vivify the summons, to show people in concrete terms what can be gained — and now, because of the Republican budget, what could be lost.

Instead the dialogue is drifting back toward GOP ground. Without making an explicit case for phasing in deficit reduction, the Obama budget, too, proclaims cuts, just fewer of them — for example, a 50 percent cut in home-heating assistance for families that can't otherwise afford to stay warm in the winter. This is unconscionable on the merits and unconvincing politically. If the question is "who’s tougher on the deficit?" the answer isn’t Obama and the Democrats; the Republicans who dug us deep into deficits with the Bush tax cut and a concocted war will now go to any length and cut any program, unless it cossets the comfortable. The GOP is not only willing, but enthusiastic about waging and winning this bidding war.

So the president has to cast the choice in larger terms, and his message has to break through. The Senate can and will refuse to pass the House’s budget measure; Obama has and would use his veto pen. Then the process may break down — and within a matter of days, when the federal government’s current spending authority runs out. Democrats may assume that Republicans will be blamed for a government shutdown as they were in 1995. But Bill Clinton and his party went into that showdown backed by a powerful narrative: The GOP was insisting on $250 billion in top-end tax cuts financed by $270 billion in Medicare cuts. If a showdown comes again, this president will command the nation's attention and the case he makes will probably determine not only America's decision in the next election, but America’s direction for the next generation.

One possibility — still — is a new progressive era, ratified in 2012 as the economy rises. The other is a regressive era of retreat from economic and social justice, with the subversion or undoing of decades of achievement from Medicare and civil rights to financial and health reform, all the latter day progeny of the transformation of this country in the 1930s. And as they are already proving, the GOP reactionaries yearn for even more — to upend most of the New Deal itself.

The Republicans may again make the mistake of overplaying their hand. But the stakes couldn’t be higher — and more than ever, the president faces "the fierce urgency of now."

For fifty years Republicans, more aptly The Right-Wing Party, has campaigned on small government and at every opportunity - including now, have seized the opportunity to increase the power of government and corporations while decreasing the power of the people. The 2008 elections were said to be a reaction to the over-reach and zealotry of the far Right. Now that they are back in power in the House of Representatives and some more state legislatures, having learned nothing from their past mistakes they are using the power of big government to do the bidding of corrupt corporate interests like the Koch brothers.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Hosni Mubarak Walker May Have Committed Three Felonies. Impeach Walker Now.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Hosni Mubarak Walker May Have Committed Three Felonies

Much of the attention to the “prank” call that the governor took from a blogger who identified himself as billionaire David Koch has focused on the bizarre, at times comic, character of the discussion between a blogger posing as a powerful political player on the right and a governor whose budget repair bill has sparked mass demonstrations in Wisconsin communities and a national outcry. But the state’s former chief law-enforcement officer described the governor’s statements as “deeply troubling” and suggested that they would require inquiry and investigation by watchdog agencies.

“There clearly are potential ethics violations, and there are potential election law violations and there are a lot of what look to me like labor law violations,” said Peg Lautenschlager, a Democrat who served as Wisconsin’s attorney general after serving for many years as a U.S. attorney. “I think that the ethics violations are something the (state) Government Accountability Board should look into because they are considerable. He is on tape talking with someone who he thinks is the funder of an independent political action committee to purchase advertising to benefit Republican legislators who are nervous about taking votes on legislation he sees as critical to his political success.”

Lautenschlager, a former legislator who has known Walker for many years and who has worked with many of the unions involved in the current dispute, says: “One of the things I find most problematic in all of this is the governor’s casual talk about using outside troublemakers to stir up trouble on the streets, and the fact that he only dismissed the idea because it might cause a political problem for him.”

On the tape, Walker is asked about “planting some troublemakers” to incite the crowds at what have been peaceful protests.

“(We) thought about that,” replied the governor, who added: “My only fear would be is if there was a ruckus caused is that that would scare the public into thinking maybe the governor has gotta settle to avoid all these problems.”

“I think there’s a serious issue there,” Lautenschlager explained. “That’s a public safety issue. And I think that is really troublesome: a governor with an obligation to maintain public safety says he’s going to plant people to make trouble. That screams out to me. For a governor even to consider a strategy that could unnecessarily threaten the safety of peaceful demonstrators — which the governor acknowledged he did — is something that simply amazes me.”

Lautenschlager reviewed the tape of the phone call and the transcript at the request of The Capital Times. She noted a pattern of instances where the governor seemed to put his personal political agenda ahead of his duties as the state’s chief executive.

Lautenschlager noted, in particular, the governor’s reference to displaying a photo of former President Ronald Reagan at the dinner where he explained plans for his budget repair bill — which seeks to strip state, county and municipal employees of their collective bargaining rights, restructure state government in a manner that dramatically extends the power of the governor, undermine the BadgerCare and SeniorCare programs, and sell off publicly owned power plants to private firms like Koch Industries.

“He essentially parallels what he’s going to do to organized labor with what Ronald Reagan did to the air traffic controllers,” said Lautenschlager, referencing the former president’s firing of striking controllers in 1981. “By doing that at this time, when the contracts for state employees are still in effect, it looks as if he’s signaling a willingness to commit an unfair labor practice violation by refusing to negotiate.”

Lautenschlager noted a body of labor law that prevents employers from using threats of layoffs as a negotiating tactic with unionized workers.
Regarding another part of the conversation, where the caller posing as David Koch promises to bring the governor to California as a reward when and if the budget repair bill passes, the former attorney general noted the tenor of the conversation.

“Scott: Once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time,” says the caller identified as David Koch.

Walker replies: “All right, that would be outstanding.”

“When an elected official in Wisconsin is offered a trip somewhere to have a good time, and he responds by saying ‘that would be outstanding,' ” said Lautenchlager, “it certainly sounds like something ethics investigators should look into.”
Because of Wisconsin election law Walker cannot be recalled until November of 2011. That does not mean he cannot be symbolically recalled. A United Wisconsin to recall Scott Walker. Sign the petition to show support, not just for unions, but for the middle-class whose rights are being eroded step by step, all as corporate power increases.One thing that can be done now is impeach Walker.

Are Public Employee Unions To Blame For States’ Budget Crises? Of course not. Republicans are using unions as a scapegoat to distract people from the fact it was conservative Republicans who drove the country and Wisconsin, off the economic cliff.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wisconsin Governor Walker Has a History of Bizarre Union Hatred and Has Made Taxpayers Pay The Bill

Wisconsin Governor Walker Has a History of Bizarre Union Hatred and Has Made Taxpayers Pay The Bill

BuzzFlash has been writing a series of articles exposing the Manchurian candidate that Scott Walker is, a man who costs taxpayers more than he saves, and whose goal is to be the errand master for his rich funders for crushing unions and privatizing public property in fire sales.

Kudos to Rachel Maddow for uncovering just one in many of Walker's wasteful stunts that left the taxpayers paying the bill.  In essence, Maddow charges that Walker -- the then executive of the Milwaukee County Board -- did what he is doing now: claiming a fiscal emergency and taking action detrimental to people who pick up the tab; that is you and me.

It involves an unsavory private security company, Wachkenhut, that Greg Palast has exposed as an infamous union busting, low wage, low quality favorite of Republican privatizers (not to mention some Democrats too).  Despite being prohibited by the Milwaukee County Board from firing public security staff employees, Walker unilaterally abolished a union contract and terminated the employment of security guards for the Milwaukee County Court House and two other buildings.

Walker replaced the guards with non-union Wackenhut, a division based in the UK. Walker claimed that there was a fiscal emergency and so he could do what he pleased.  But, as Maddow reported, last month an arbitrator ruled that the county did not have a sufficient fiscal crisis at the time that would have allowed Walker to bypass the county board and cancel a union contract.

What should be more alarming to people who voted for Walker because they thought that he would save them money (which would never happen anyway, because whatever he "cuts" is going to show up in a rise in local or county flat taxes), but he overestimated the "savings" of busting the union by more than $300,000.

As Maddow notes, that's not all of the Walker damage to the taxpayer. The arbitrator ruled that the union security guards must be rehired and be paid a half a million dollars in lost wages, financed, of course, with taxpayer money. That's on top of the money already paid out to Wackenhut.

And who supervised the Wackenhut non-union employees? A man with a criminal record, who had done jail time, was appointed the security chief for Walker's replacement guards.

Those Wisconsinites who are concerned about how their taxpayer dollars are being misspent -- and their security endangered -- by Scott Walker better join the general uprising for democracy, because this is only one example of the privatized world of corporate sham artists, profiteers, and criminal supervisors, according to Maddow, that Walker has prepared for the people of Wisconsin.
 Walker's first thought in addressing any issue is not what is best in the democratic tradition of American government. Walker's first thought is how to achieve his bizarre, completely unjustified agenda. If he has to raliroad over working familes, children and public servants to achieve his ends, then so be it.

And this kind of behavior has become routine from conservative zealots, Tea Party plan to impersonate union protesters: “Even if it becomes known that we are plants the quotes & pictures will linger as defacto truth.” 

Did Bill O'Reilly Lie About Dr. Tiller's Records On National TV?

Despite his relentless pursuit of Dr. George Tiller, former Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline, never got a conviction - something Bill O'Reilly, who also relentlessly vilifed Tiller, has trouble understanding. Kline is now being investigated by the Kansas Board for Discipline of Attorneys as a result of an ethics complaint which alleges that, during his investigation of Tiller, he "lied to the Kansas Supreme Court, misled a Johnson County grand jury investigating an abortion provider and discussed an ongoing case on “The O’Reilly Factor,” a conservative TV show." During the show in question, O'Reilly asked Kline if Dr. Tiller considered depression a reason for performing late term abortions. This was an allegation that Bill O'Reilly continually advanced even after the doctor was murdered and while O'Reilly was receiving his "Courage Award," from the hate group "Family Research Council" which provided this award for Bill's "coverage" of the Tiller case that added to the climate of hate which resulted in the good Doctor's murder.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What Wisconsin Gov. Hosni Mubarak Walker Won’t Tell You

What Wisconsin Gov. Hosni Mubarak Walker Won’t Tell You

There is a kernel of truth in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s claim of a “budget shortfall” of $137 million. But Walker, a Republican, failed to tell the state that less than two weeks into his term as governor, he, with his swollen Republican majorities in the Wisconsin Legislature, pushed through $117 million in tax breaks for business allies of the GOP. There is your crisis.

The state Legislature’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau—Wisconsin’s equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office and a refuge for professional expertise and nonpartisanship—warned Walker and the Legislature that the measure would create a budget gap. There is your shortfall—and not one resulting from established public employee benefits. Before the tax giveaways, the fiscal agency predicted a surplus for the state.

Now the governor has offered a proposal simple and clear in its intent, and patently dishonest. Walker wants state workers to contribute to their pension fund and is calling for an increase in their payments for medical insurance. Make no mistake: The governor’s “budget repair bill” has little to do with a budget shortfall and everything to do with breaking unions, starting with public employees and then perhaps moving on to others as well.

During his run for governor, Walker had substantial financial support from the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists who have funded various anti-Obama, anti-science, and anti-national government movements. In short, they are opposed to anyone and anything that might diminish their exorbitant profits. And for the Kochs, destroying labor unions is in the top tier of their to-get-rid-of list.

Walker’s own hostility to labor unions is a touchstone of his prior political experience. He is out to realize his every long-held political fantasy, with the help of such allies as the National Association of Manufacturers; Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce; and the Chamber of Commerce. Ever since the 1930s, when national law recognized the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, that gain has been under assault from right-wing ideologues and much of the business community.

Public employees in Wisconsin, as elsewhere, do not have a recognized “right to strike.” But they have a right to a union, with the power to negotiate wages and the conditions of work. That is Walker’s real target, and after he deals with it perhaps he can move to make Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state, devoid of any protections for labor unions, just like Mississippi. Now we can understand Walker’s mantra: “Wisconsin is open for business.” What a “popular,” appealing position! Everyone likes to complain about bureaucrats and teachers—lazy, incompetent and, withal, overpaid. Never mind that studies portray a public work force earning 8 to 15 percent less than similarly situated private sector employees, with the spread even wider among more educated workers.

The governor and his allies like to frame their goal as one that would destroy the special privileges of public employees—as if a Cadillac class of public workers exists in the state. In truth, many public employees secured increased benefits in the 1970s, a time which saw the notion of a “budget crunch” come into play, and the state bargained its way out of salary increases (incidentally, during a time of rising inflation) in exchange for increased employee benefits.

The “February Thaw” brought out an estimated 50,000 or more public employees, teachers, ordinary citizens and students to demonstrate against Walker’s budget repair bill. Montesquieu, the 18th century French political philosopher, wrote about the impact of environment on human and societal behavior. Cold, icy climates, he said, generally dampened human passions, thus lessening chances of “public disorder.” Walker should have offered his legislation during the first three weeks of January, when temperatures hovered just above zero.

Confronting the protests, Walker has framed the issue in stark, simple terms. It is, he said, a battle between “protesters” and “taxpayers.” That followed the obligatory remarks about outside agitators—shades of Mississippi governors in the 1960s. Indeed, the media obliged him by making the increasingly marginalized Jesse Jackson the centerpiece of the protests, thus seeming to confirm Walker’s contention about outside agitators.

After three days of protests, the largest union offered to concede the pension and health insurance payments in exchange for continued recognition of the right to negotiate wage and working conditions. The governor bluntly replied that the time for negotiations had passed, but the truth is that at no time did he offer any negotiation on these matters. If your ideological baggage has no room for workers’ rights, then you will rule by dictate and fiat. Walker’s baggage overflows with hostility for workers.

Walker insists that the budget shortfall requires that state workers, like everyone else in society, must carry their fair share of the burden. But the governor is causing pain to no one else to remedy the situation. Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder offered a $45 billion cost-cutting budget, but he said he would take only $1 in salary as part of the “shared sacrifice.” Meanwhile, Snyder, unlike Walker, has begun negotiations with public employees unions to increase workers’ shares of pension and health care costs.

Wisconsin state revenues are down as statewide unemployment largely reflects the national picture. Furthermore, there is justifiable despair among the unemployed that their jobs may never return. And if they are over 50, there is only a small chance that they ever will have any job comparable to those they held prior to 2007. Little do they understand that companies continue to enjoy swollen revenues, income that inflates the profit side of their ledgers as they reap benefits from “restructuring”—today’s fashionable euphemism for dropping jobs and employees. The business community now sits on the sidelines, hoarding capital, and workers have little work.

The governor claims he has traveled around the state talking to factory workers and others who say they support him because they must spend 25 to 50 percent of their income on health insurance. Well, if that is the case, and such folks are his supporters, perhaps it is time for Walker to rise to their defense and rein in the gouging health insurers.

Budgets are a mysterious maze. Legislators—let alone a citizenry dependent on a largely incompetent, ill-informed media—rarely know the intricacies of a budget and how it may cause a seismic change in public policy. (For one legislator’s passionate complaint about being kept in ignorance, see this; for examples of the Republicans’ tactics illustrating their belief that democracy is fine for Egypt but another matter for this country, see this.)

Walker himself precipitated the “budget crisis,” necessitating a “repair bill” that gave him and his allies what they really wanted. The governor pursues an agenda backed by the tea party’s financial angels. Public employees and other workers down the line will pay the freight for such folly. The governor lies.

Stanley Kutler is the author of The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon, Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes, The American Inquisition: Cold War Political Trials, and numerous other books and articles. . He taught constitutional and legal history for 35 years at the University of Wisconsin.

The issue is down to one item and only one item - Walker wants to do away with bargaining rights. That has nothing to do with taxes or budgets. is Walker so weak that he feels he cannot stand up to some talk over coffee in an air-conditioned conference room three years from now. Walker and the fringe right-wing conservatives in the legislature cannot win this debate based on the actual bottom line. They have to lie about budget crises. You know, the national recession caused by spend and borrow Republican policies, a three trillion dollar war they put on the national credit card and letting Wall St hustlers run wild. Now we're in a bind and Walker and his ideological comrades want the middle-class to pay for the screw-ups of the people who Walker acts as a puppet for. Walker is the best governor money and common hatred of the working class, campaign contributions from seedy special interests can buy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) A Proud Member of The Anti-Life Conservative Governor's Club

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) A Proud Member of The Anti-Life Conservative Governor's Club

Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) and the GOP-controlled state House have turned a blind eye to the plight of 98 Arizona patients in desperate need of organ transplants. Since Brewer enacted painful cuts to the state’s Medicaid program in October, two Arizonans unable to pay for the transplants they needed passed away. After months of appeals and protests, it appears Brewer has finally agreed to set aside a $151 million “uncompensated-care pool to pay health-care providers for ‘life-saving’ procedures, including transplants.”

However, state House Republicans remain vigilant in their anti-human life campaign. They are refusing to let measures to restore funding for organ transplants advance because, as the state House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jon Kavanagh (R) explained, “not enough lives would be saved to warrant restoring millions in budget cuts” for the transplants.

But as Brewer and the GOP-led legislature waffle over the value of human lives, two more people — including 23-year-old leukemia patient Courtney Parham — join the 98 others standing before the Brewer death panel. Because the state has so far refused to pay for her transplant, Courtney’s family “must raise somewhere between $400-$800 thousand dollars for a transplant, or their daughter will die.” KGUN 9 in Tucson reports:

    But, one thing that didn’t come back was the insurance. The company dropped Courtney because she was too sick to be a full-time student, which forced her on to the Arizona Healthcare Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS. And, then Governor Brewer dropped more bad news; no more transplants for patients like Courtney, all to help balance the budget. The Straw-Parham family told KGUN9 they must raise somewhere between $400-$800 thousand dollars for a transplant, or their daughter will die.

    “Would she [Gov. Brewer] put her own children’s lives up to balance her budget? I don’t think so!” said Straw angrily.

    “My mother isn’t looking at me like a dollar sign. But, in this situation, she sort of has to look at me like a dollar sign,” said Courtney.

Like all states, Arizona is facing hard financial times, but this is a question of priorities. While Courtney’s life is on the line, Brewer eagerly signed tax cuts for businesses into law last week — cuts that will cost Arizona $538 million by 2018. Yet the governor has dragged her feet in offering the mere $1.36 million needed to save Courtney and her cohort’s lives, and she has consistently ignored 26 possible funding solutions from a member of her own party.

For Brewer, the fact that Courtney’s plight is forced to take a backseat to business tax cuts is “sad but necessary.”

Brewer's anti-family and anti-life ideology puts her in the same league as Ohio's Republican governor John Kasich, New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie and Wisconsin's Republican governor Scott Walker and his GOP legislature. The Republican Strategy  

The Assault on Public Employees

The second part of the Republican strategy is being played out on the state level where public employees are being blamed for state budget crises. Unions didn't cause these budget crises -- state revenues dropped because of the Great Recession -- but Republicans view them as opportunities to gut public employee unions, starting with teachers.

Wisconsin's Republican governor Scott Walker and his GOP legislature are seeking to end almost all union rights for teachers. Ohio's Republican governor John Kasich is pushing a similar plan in Ohio through a Republican-dominated legislature. New Jersey's Republican governor Chris Christie is attempting the same, telling a conservative conference Wednesday, "I'm attacking the leadership of the union because they're greedy, and they're selfish and they're self-interested."

The demonizing of public employees is not only based on the lie that they've caused these budget crises, but it's also premised on a second lie: that public employees earn more than private-sector workers. They don't, when you take account of their education. In fact over the last fifteen years the pay of public-sector workers, including teachers, has dropped relative to private-sector employees with the same level of education -- even including health and retirement benefits. Moreover, most public employees don't have generous pensions. After a career with annual pay averaging less than $45,000, the typical newly-retired public employee receives a pension of $19,000 a year.

Bargaining rights for public employees haven't caused state deficits to explode. Some states that deny their employees bargaining rights, such as Nevada, North Carolina, and Arizona, are running big deficits of over 30 percent of spending. Many states that give employees bargaining rights -- Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Montana -- have small deficits of less than 10 percent.

Republicans would rather go after teachers and other public employees than have us look at the pay of Wall Street traders, private-equity managers, and heads of hedge funds -- many of whom wouldn't have their jobs today were it not for the giant taxpayer-supported bailout, and most of whose lending and investing practices were the proximate cause of the Great Depression to begin with.

Last year, America's top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains -- at 15 percent -- due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.

If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers. Who is more valuable to our society -- thirteen hedge-fund managers or 300,000 teachers? Let's make the question even simpler. Who is more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?

The Distortion of the Constitution

The third part of the Republican strategy is being played out in the Supreme Court. It has politicized the Court more than at any time in recent memory.

Last year a majority of the justices determined that corporations have a right under the First Amendment to provide unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission is among the most patently political and legally grotesque decisions of our highest court -- ranking right up there with Bush vs. Gore and Dred Scott.

Among those who voted in the affirmative were Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Both have become active strategists in the Republican party.

A month ago, for example, Antonin Scalia met in a closed-door session with Michele Bachmann's Tea Party caucus -- something no justice concerned about maintaining the appearance of impartiality would ever have done.

Both Thomas and Scalia have participated in political retreats organized and hosted by multi-billionaire financier Charles Koch, a major contributor to the Tea Party and other conservative organizations, and a crusader for ending all limits on money in politics. (Not incidentally, Thomas's wife is the founder of Liberty Central, a Tea Party organization that has been receiving unlimited corporate contributions due to the Citizens United decision. On his obligatory financial disclosure filings, Thomas has repeatedly failed to list her sources of income over the last twenty years, nor even to include his own four-day retreats courtesy of Charles Koch.)

Some time this year or next, the Supreme Court will be asked to consider whether the nation's new health care law is constitutional. Watch your wallets.

Freedom of speech, freedom to petition and freedom to protest are all guaranteed rights in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. Rights these governors have decided to treat with contempt. How very American of them.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Conservative Republican Gov. Scott Walker Trying His Best to Turn Wisconsin Into an Antebellum Plantation

Conservative Republican Gov. Scott Walker Trying His Best to Turn Wisconsin Into an Antebellum Plantation

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker proposed last week to suddenly erase 50 years of collective-bargaining rights for Wisconsin's public workers within a week, to be backed up by calling up the National Guard (Walker spokesmen later clarified that the Guard's role would be limited to replacing prison guards).

Walker's plan drew a crowd of 30,000 to 50,000 public workers and their supporters Wednesday at the State Capitol in Madison, united in their opposition to Republican plans to almost entirely take away their rights to union representation.

Yet Walker's hard-line stance has been applauded by Marquette Law Prof. Rick Esenberg  ("Union model doesn't work for public jobs," (Journal Sentinel 2/15/11 at ) who praises Gov. Walker's attempt to deny the fundamental democratic right to form authentic unions to public workers.

Esenberg's argument regrettably reflects the Right's increasing contempt for basic pillars of democracy, human rights, and a vision of broadly shared prosperity for America.

Esenberg can conceive of union representation for workers only as a barrier to maximum cost savings for management without regard to human rights or social costs:

"In the context of public employment, elected officials are management. Taxpayers are shareholders. Imagine how the shareholders of General Electric would feel about a CEO who promised to fight for unionization of the company and higher compensation for its employees."

First, this imaginary GE CEO would merely be complying with US labor law. The CEO would be observing a universally respected international standard human rights by acknowledging workers' democratic right to unionize, a value in virtually all democracies except the US. Would law professor Esenberg instead prefer that the GE CEO defy the law and deny workers their rights?

Further, contrary to Esenberg's claims, the shrinkage of union membership in America is not a matter of worker choice, but rather the systematic denial of choice by US employers over the last several decades.

As Business Week (5/23/94) accurately reported, "US industry has conducted one of the most successful antiunion wars ever, illegally firing thousands of workers for exercising their right to organize." Moreover, the wave of "offshoring" jobs to low-wage, high-repression nations like Mexico and China has both directly caused the loss of millions of union jobs and provided management with leverage to drive down wages through the threat of relocation at remaining plants in the US.

Second, enlightened corporate leaders since Henry Ford have recognized that paying their own workers decent wages is a strategically-sound business strategy to build up the US domestic market. Family-supporting wages increase the total buying power of the working class and thus raise product sales and profits. In contrast, the cuts in pay and benefits which Gov. Walker seeks to unilaterally impose would deprive Wisconsin businesses of between $900 million and $1.2 billion in spending by public employees, according to a Institute for Wisconsin's Future study.

Instead of injecting a stimulus into Wisconsin's still-suffering economy, Walker's package of destroyed labor rights and pay cuts would seriously drain the state of economic vitality. But the Walker approach does have its advantages for favored constituencies.

Namely, the Walker approach shields Wisconsin's large corporations--about 60% of whom paid no corporate income taxes in recent years--and Wisconsin's richest 1%--who haul in about 24% of all income--from tax increases that would demonstrate their commitment to share in the vast sacrifices the recession has imposed on less-fortunate citizens of the state. Further, Walker has been expanding corporate tax breaks while proclaiming that the budget deficit is the state's chief problem.

In sharp contrast to Walker, a more visionary and humane view of how the economy can serve all citizens comes, ironically, from the late British billionaire Sir James Goldsmith:

"In the great days of the USA, Henry Ford stated that he wanted to pay high wages to his employees so that they could become his customers and buy his cars. Today we are proud of the fact that we pay low wages.
"We have forgotten that the economy is a tool to serve the needs of society, reverse. The ultimate purpose of the economy is to create prosperity ... and not the reverse. The ultimate purpose of the economy is to create prosperity with stability."

Funny how Europe - who conservatives frequently deride - is weathering the world wide recession better than the USA. Europe unions and social safety net are much stronger than Americas'. Germany has national health care programs and their cars - Mercedes, BMW and Porsche - while expensive are best sellers in America. Japan has unions and health care for everyone and they rule the electronics industry. Conservatives and many American businesses would seem determined to never have the humility to examine if their business model - or that their entire concept of what business is about is just plain corrupt.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pro-life Means Making Murder Legal. The Right's Orwellian War on Women and Morality

Pro-life Means Making Murder Legal. The Right's Orwellian War on Women and Morality
A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.
"The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers."

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.

Jensen did not return calls to his home or his office requesting comment on the bill, which is cosponsored by 22 other state representatives and four state senators.

"The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers," says Vicki Saporta, the president of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers. Since 1993, eight doctors have been assassinated at the hands of anti-abortion extremists, and another 17 have been the victims of murder attempts. Some of the perpetrators of those crimes have tried to use the justifiable homicide defense at their trials. "This is not an abstract bill," Saporta says. The measure could have major implications if a "misguided extremist invokes this 'self-defense' statute to justify the murder of a doctor, nurse or volunteer," the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families warned in a message to supporters last week.

The original version of the bill did not include the language regarding the "unborn child"; it was pitched as a simple clarification of South Dakota's justifiable homicide law. Last week, however, the bill was "hoghoused"—a term used in South Dakota for heavily amending legislation in committee—in a little-noticed hearing. A parade of right-wing groups—the Family Heritage Alliance, Concerned Women for America, the South Dakota branch of Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, and a political action committee called Family Matters in South Dakota—all testified in favor of the amended version of the law.

Jensen, the bill's sponsor, has said that he simply intends to bring "consistency" to South Dakota's criminal code, which already allows prosecutors to charge people with manslaughter or murder for crimes that result in the death of fetuses. But there's a difference between counting the murder of a pregnant woman as two crimes—which is permissible under law in many states—and making the protection of a fetus an affirmative defense against a murder charge.

"They always intended this to be a fetal personhood bill, they just tried to cloak it as a self-defense bill," says Kristin Aschenbrenner, a lobbyist for South Dakota Advocacy Network for Women. "They're still trying to cloak it, but they amended it right away, making their intent clear." The major change to the legislation also caught abortion rights advocates off guard. "None of us really felt like we were prepared," she says.

Sara Rosenbaum, a law professor at George Washington University who frequently testifies before Congress about abortion legislation, says the bill is legally dubious. "It takes my breath away," she says in an email to Mother Jones. "Constitutionally, a state cannot make it a crime to perform a constitutionally lawful act."
 Think of all the fun of the entire country turning into a dystopia of frontier shoot from the hip justice. Ammericans who think government should stay out of women's uterus could also use the same justifiable homicide mentality to start shooting people who they feel are a threat to their lives. One assumes the last person alive in America gets to have the last word on the matter. This latest upside down assault on morality and women is further proof there is no pro-life movement, there is only a movement of right-wingers who have nothing but contempt for human life, but have a cult-like adoration of a clump of cells.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How Red States Treat Their Children - Children in Extreme Poverty

How Red States Treat Their Children - Children in Extreme Poverty

A just-released report from the Southern Education Foundation — "The Worst of Times: Children in Extreme Poverty in the South and Nation" — finds that more than 5.7 million children lived in extreme poverty in the United States in 2008 — surviving on less than seven or eight dollars per day. Almost one in every twelve children was in a household with an income below 50 percent of federal poverty line.1 These children belonged to households in every state of the Union, but they were largely concentrated in the fifteen states of the U.S. South. More than 2.4 million extremely poor children — 42 percent of the nation's total — lived in the South.

Ten of the eleven states in the nation where at least one in every ten children are in extreme poverty were in the South.2 Mississippi had the largest proportion — 14 percent. Louisiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama followed at 11 to 12 percent. Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas had one child in every ten in extreme poverty. New Mexico with 11 percent was the only non-Southern state with the nation's highest rates of extreme child poverty.

The recent recession has expanded the number of extremely poor children by an estimated 26 percent — adding as many as 1 ½ million children in extreme poverty since 2008. During the last two years, the western states have had the largest rise of extremely poor children, although every section of the nation has had a substantial increase.

The rise of hardship and extreme poverty for children, especially in the southern and western states, will probably continue beyond the first half of 2010. From June 2009 through March 2010, the number of jobless workers continued to grow in the South and the West. The number of mortgage foreclosures between November 2009 and January 2010 continued to rise in western and southern states. Nine states in the South and four in the West had bank card delinquency rates above the national average during the last three months of 2009. Seven southern states and five western states had delinquency rates for automobile loans of one percent of more — substantially above the national average of .81 percent — in the last quarter of 2009.

During the same period, 10 percent or more of the student loans for higher education were at least sixty days delinquent in most counties in the United States.
While most of the soul crushing poverty of the 1950s has been alleviated, it seems to be making a comeback. Even the basic safety net for health care for the poor, Medicaid, is being slashed in many states, most of that in the south and west, but Republican governors in Wisconsin and New Jersey have plans to catch up with their southern compatriots.

How's that civility thing working out? Breitbart: Code Pink Protestors Used To Be 'Kind Of Slutty,' Now They're 'Long In The Tooth'

In his rambling CPAC speech today, Andrew Breitbart described how he has enjoyed going to progressive rallies and peppering the protesters with questions. But, he said, the women of the anti-war group Code Pink are "tedious at this point" because they used to be "kinda slutty lefties," but "they're getting long in the tooth."

"I don't know why I decided to make my career trying to destroy the institutional left. I thought that would be a fun thing to do," he said at the opening of his remarks. He described how he's found that the people in protests "are not individuals. They've been community organized."

"They're not Americans," Breitbart said later. "They're animals."
This is the same Brietbart who was a mentor of convicted criminal James O'Keefe and who posted the doctored video of ACORN and recently, the highly edited Planned Parenthood video. Andrew cannot seem to win based on honest tactics or an honest debate. Maybe what he means by "fun" is acting with all the integrity of a cockroach.

Friday, February 11, 2011

American History Only a Conservative Republican Could Believe

American History Only a Conservative Republican Could Believe

10. The Robber Barons weren't robbers -- they were capitalist heroes.

The overarching task of the conservative historian is to rehabilitate the image of capitalism, even at its most red-toothed and -clawed. Not a hard job, as both our history and culture ceaselessly celebrate the innovative dynamism of American business.

But one of the rare areas in which history teachers are allowed to criticize unfettered capitalism is the Gilded Age of the "robber barons" -- Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Fisk, et al. These men, many of whom first rose to prominence through unseemly wartime speculation, built enormous fortunes on the exceedingly generous terms of the times, which included bribery, monopolies, and stock manipulation, perverting the alleged power of the free market on their own behalf. They were kind of like the Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers of their day -- except they never got caught.

Most of us still look on this as a shameful thing. But historians of the conservative-libertarian persuasion such as Thomas E. Woods, Lawrence W. Reed, and Thomas J. DiLorenzo (better known now as a neo-Confederate) look at the robber barons' dirty records and ask: So what? J.P. Morgan built a nice library!

They tend to skirt the smelly stuff, and talk instead about how Carnegie's machinations drove down the price of steel -- surely you're not against low prices? And if Jay Gould and Cornelius Vanderbilt paid off legislators to acquire land for their railroads, the railroads got built, and that's what counts.

Why do they so eagerly defend the robber barons even at their worst? Maybe because, as economist Brad DeLong has noted, the grotesque inequity in American wealth that characterized their era has only one equivalent in U.S. history -- that of our own time. And if one's business is excusing the perfidy and criminality of today's speculators and swindlers, it is helpful to make heroes of the speculators and swindlers who are their models.

9. Sputnik bankrupted the Soviet Union.

This one comes from the top of the conservative food chain: Sarah Palin. In her Fox News rebuttal to President Obama's recent State of the Union, Palin said that the Russians' "victory in that race to space... incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union."

It has been pointed out that Palin's version of history is confused on many points. But don't tell that to conservatives. Among them, Palin's charisma is so overweening that her bizarre POV is yet defended -- in some cases, on the grounds that her "larger and more important point about history" was misunderstood (which then mutated into "Palin was right"), and in others just because, as a poster at Lucianne Goldberg's site put it, "The left will have puppies because of it."

Palin's ahistoricism has since metastasized among her following into an indictment of America's entry into the space race, which National Review's Jonah Goldberg described as "the government tells the people what to do, and it relies on a handful of experts to get it done according to government specifications."

(It should be noted that Sputnik revisionism didn't start with Palin; John Bircher Cleon Skousen claimed in the '50s that the USSR built Sputnik with plans stolen from the United States. It kind of figures Palin would follow in that tradition.)

8. Galileo was a conservative.

You may recall how conservatives made lifelong socialist George Orwell into a neocon icon. Now they're trying to do the same thing with Galileo.

You may think Galileo's an odd choice, because he's history's most famous scientific dissident, having been forced by the Catholic Church to deny his heretical finding that the earth revolved around the sun. But it's not his devotion to truth that makes him attractive to conservatives -- it's his persecution. As they feel themselves persecuted by a liberal conspiracy, conservatives will easily adopt as their avatar any historical figure who suffered and was later shown to be right, regardless of the relevance of his cause to theirs. If you've seen The Passion of the Christ, you know how it works.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, for reasons that should be obvious, has long portrayed Galileo's ordeal as not so bad; why, the Pope didn't even torture him, he just threatened to, and anyway the Church was only reasonably trying to "prohibit the circulation of writings which were judged harmful."

Scholarly apologists such as Jonathan Weyer and Paul Feyerabend have amplified the theme, but their heady thoughts were brought crashing to earth by National Review's Jonah Goldberg, who in 1999 attacked the "ancient, pro-enlightenment, zealot spin" on Galileo with easy-reading versions of the Catholic argument. (Dinesh D'Souza provided similar arguments at a slightly higher reading level.)

Galileo may have been prosecuted by the Church, said Goldberg, but he was persecuted by "jealous fellow-scientists," one of whom he compared to James Carville. Actually, Goldberg said, the Church loved Galileo. Admittedly they did try him, but that was "very complicated" -- the upshot being that "one need not look much further than then-Senator Al Gore's treatment of dissenters on global warming to see how modern inquisitions work."

Thus continued the rehabilitation of Galileo -- no longer the enemy of the Church, but the patron saint of global warming denialists. In 2001 the American Spectator called skeptic Lloyd Keigwin "The Galileo of Global Warming" and claimed he made a giant contribution to discrediting a movement that would impose a deadly energy clamp on the world economy...." More recently the "ClimateGate" scandal prompted a new wave of Galileo reclamation, with Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal lamenting, "The East Anglians' mistreatment of scientists who challenged global warming's claims... evokes the attempt to silence Galileo."

Scan the blogs, and you'll see plenty more of this stuff (e.g. "The Great Global Warming Inquisition"). Next stop: J. Robert Oppenheimer -- Victim of a Liberal Conspiracy.

7. The Founding Fathers really tried to end slavery.

Even in the exceedingly forgiving musical 1776, the Founding Fathers are shown willing to table the issue of slavery in order to win a consensus for the Declaration of Independence. (It also shows Jefferson "resolved to release my slaves," which he never did.)

That's not patriotic enough for Tea Party princess Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who told a sympathetic audience that "the very founders that wrote those documents [the Declaration and Constitution] worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States." The one "founder" Bachmann cited was John Quincy Adams, who was actually the son of the founder John Adams.

Her bizarre assertion got negative press, and the inevitable right-wing defenses from Glenn Beck, Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism, and others.

That's no shock; Bachmann's theme was right in line with a traditional conservative method of reconciling their fairy-tale vision of American history with the founders' self-evident hypocrisy. Fundamentalists, for example, frequently cite the founders' verbal objections to the practice as the inspiration for abolitionism.

The basic idea seems to be that because the Founders were embarrassed by slavery, that meant they were in some secret way fighting against it. Author Paul Gottfried, for example, has argued that "Presbyterian theologians spilled rivulets of ink doing what Cicero and Pliny never felt obliged to do, showing how in their society slavery was being elevated to solicitous education for a backward people. The fact that such arguments had to be provided... underscores the perceived need to humanize a 'peculiar institution.'" So, like very young children in permissive households, the founders' dim awareness of guilt excuses them from blame.

It's hard for most of us to imagine that men who, shortly after the Revolution, countenanced the military suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion would have endorsed John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, or that George Washington, who tried to solve his dental challenges by having implanting in his gums teeth extracted from his slaves, was a precocious abolitionist. But when you hang out with people in tricorner hats and knee-breeches who think the Founders were guys just like themselves, it's a little easier to suspend disbelief.

6. Teddy Roosevelt was a socialist.

Theodore Roosevelt was a naval theorist and war aficionado, a lawman in both the Dakota Territory and New York City, and a cheerful imperialist. You'd think conservatives would appreciate him better. But Glenn Beck has helped turn that around, lambasting TR at last year's CPAC and denouncing his words as "a socialist utopia" which "we need to address ... as if it is a cancer."

In an essay at Beck's site, R.J. Pestritto, a professor at the conservative Hillsdale College, said that while "the progressives were elitists; they looked down their noses at the socialists, considering them a kind of rabble," nonetheless "the progressive conception of government closely coincided with the socialist conception." Pestritto was given room to defend his and Beck's views in the Wall Street Journal. And the Ashbrook Center's Ken Thomas concluded that Roosevelt "pushed centralization of power far further than circumstances justified."

Now even when conservatives defend Roosevelt, they qualify their enthusiasm, saying while he went wrong with his statism, he did do some good things, like subjugate foreigners and so forth.

You might wonder why conservatives have chosen to start picking on the guy from Mt. Rushmore. One explanation may be that they were sick of hearing liberals say, oh, if progressive taxation is socialist, then what about TR, was he a socialist too? Now, instead of sputtering, they can just say yes.

There are 5 more examples of Conservative historical spin and outright fabrication of U.S. history at the link. The prupose of this never ending spin is to justify whatever conservatives would like to twist our democratic republic into next. Want a society based on social-Darwinism? That is Ok because look what great things the Robber barons did with cheap labor and no labor laws. Want low taxes or no taxes - the economic component which made the middle-class possible through better public education, public universities, science research funding and medical research sponsored by tax funds - that is Ok too because taxes always "statism" ( another word conservatives have adopted to damn anything they disagree with and do not know what it means). Want to open a McDonalds in the middle of the Grand Canyon - hey you should be able to do that and anyone who opposes the idea is a commie who believes in communal land ownership.

After A Months-Long Investigation Of Pigford, Breitbart Has No Idea What Pigford Is About

Andrew Breitbart has claimed to have spent months investigating possible fraud in the Pigford litigation, a discrimination case brought by black farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Yet, despite repeatedly making wild allegations of nefarious activities surrounding Pigford, the Obama administration, Breitbart victim Shirley Sherrod and others, Breitbart made clear today that he has no clue about the Pigford litigation.

In a press conference at CPAC today on Pigford, Breitbart attempted to describe the Pigford litigation. He said:

    BREITBART: What we were able to find out from Pigford is that it's majority fraud. What we were able to find out with Pigford is that the class action attorney, the lead class counsel, Al Pires used the black farmers in order to create this lawsuit. They were basically a Trojan Horse. And at the last second, without consulting with the black farmers, he created a two-track system. Track A was for attempted-to-farmers. Track B, if you dared take that, if you were an actual black farmer, the chances were that you would lose.

Breitbart's description of Track A and Track B is just plain wrong. The consent decree that settled in the case in 1999 requires claimants to show, among other things that they "farmed, or attempted to farm, between January 1, 1981 and December 31, 1996." It then gives the claimants the option of choosing "Track A" and "Track B."

Track A was for claimants who did not think they could (or did not want to risk trying) to prove they were discriminated against by the Agriculture Department through the traditional standard of proof  -- which requires showing that it was more likely than not that discrimination occurred. It was not restricted to those who only attempted to farm. If they produced substantial evidence of their claim that they farmed or attempted to farm, were discriminated against, and complained of the discrimination, they could get $50,000. As the consent decree makes clear, Track A is open to both people who farmed and people who attempted to farm.

Track B was for people who thought they could prove their discrimination claim through the traditional standard of proof.

Only 170 people chose Track B in the initial Pigford litigation. This is not surprising, since the decision by the Reagan administration to essentially dismantle its USDA anti-discrimination office but still tell black farmers to file discrimination claims with that office made it very difficult for claimants to prove their case by traditional means. Indeed, according to the judge in the case, in some cases, the remaining staffers in the USDA's civil rights office "simply threw discrimination complaints in the trash without ever responding to or investigating them. In other cases, even if there was a finding of discrimination, the farmer never received any relief."

But proving a Track B case isn't impossible. Indeed, as Breitbart notes in his Pigford report, Sherrod, her husband, and their farming company were able to win a Track B claim.

If Breitbart doesn't even know the basic facts about Pigford after months of investigation, it's awfully tough to believe his conspiracy theories about what the case means.
Breitbart continues to be to journalism what brown stains are to old public toilets.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Republicans Back Tax Increases for Business To Interfere With Private Health Decisions

Republicans Back Tax Increases for Business To Interfere With Private Health Decisions

Republicans, says Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) are trying to limit "private choices by private individuals and businesses in the private insurance market." By their logic, he said, "the tax exemption for the Catholic church is the establishment of religion and ought to be forbidden by law."

Ultimately, the impact of tax like the one in the Republican legislation would likely be to phase out abortion coverage in the private insurance market. This would upend the long-standing bipartisan consensus, which does not enshrine the idea that the government should exert pressure on private entities to deny medical services they don't like. And -- speaking of bipartisan consensus -- it would run directly counter to the politically expedient conclusion by both parties that people should be able to keep the health care they already have.

"The Republicans in the House are proposing tax hikes because they don't like a health plan a private-sector business chooses," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). "What they want to do is essentially make abortion unavailable."

She sees the Senate as a backstop to preventing these measures from becoming law.

"I think we have 41 votes to stop it," Boxer said. "We have to be on our guard that these provisions are not slipped into a must-pass bill."

GOP allies in the business community are silent on the idea. The Chamber of Commerce declined a request for comment, despite the fact that the legislation would impact nearly all of their members.

But Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) thinks the curious timing suggests this is all about the health care law -- that prior to its passage, the same tax incentives existed, and yet this issue wasn't on the GOP agenda.

"Before the health care reform, when your company bought health insurance for you and it was not considered income, and therefore you weren't taxed on it, and it did cover all reproductive services, you could make the exact same argument. So this is no change, right?" Franken asked rhetorically, before joking, "You don't have to agree with me, you're a journalist, but I think my logic is impeccable."

So Republicans are Marxists on personal decisions made by employers, employees and their doctors when it comes to what kind of health insurance they can use and what it can pay for.

Sarah Palin has tried to make the mass murders in Tucson all about her pain and suffering, Cops: We Haven't Heard Any Of The 'Threats' That Nixed Palin Event

Law enforcement in Colorado has not received reports of any of the "threats" that a nonprofit group cited as the reason for canceling a Sarah Palin appearance.

"We've had no problems," Glendale, Colorado Police Chief Victor Ross told The Denver Post. "We are not aware of any specific threats."

On Friday, The Sharon K Pacheco Foundation re-announced that Palin would keynote its Patriots & Warriors Gala on May 2 in Glendale -- and that ticket prices had been reduced by half. (Earlier reports stated that the event was announced Friday, but the Post reports that it was first announced on the group's Facebook page on Jan. 10.) The event was to serve as an awards banquet and a fundraiser for military families and children who have lost loved ones in combat. But on Saturday, the foundation abruptly canceled, blaming an "onslaught of negative feedback." In the Facebook post announcing the move, the group said that although no specific threats had been made, an "increase in negative rhetoric against the former Alaska governor" after the Tucson shooting "raises concern for her safety and the safety of others despite the call for civility in America."

"I really did not want the families that we honor, that have been through some traumatic experiences, to have to deal with people's ill intentions just as it relates to Sarah Palin," Foundation director Leo Pacheco told KCNC on Saturday.

In addition to the Glendale police, the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office, the Denver Police Department and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation also told the Post they hadn't received reports of any threats related to the Palin appearance. Meanwhile, the foundation's website has been shut down for "revision," and all comments have been deleted from its Facebook page. The posts announcing Palin's appearance, as well as the one announcing the cancellation, also appear to have been removed from the group's Facebook wall. (The cancellation post is available here.)

It would not be surprising to find out Palin supporters made a few anonymous threats to make Palin look like the poor victim.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Lessons Not Learned - American Business Still Shafting American Workers

Business Doesn't Need American Workers

Once again, the job numbers are dismal. In January, the U.S. economy created just 36,000 domestic jobs, far below the roughly 145,000 that economists had forecast. The unemployment rate fell, to 9 percent, but only because more and more discouraged workers are giving up and leaving the workforce.

The U.S. still has a jobs gap of about 14 million jobs, and that number is increasing as the labor force grows. Counting people who've given up, or who are working part time when they want full time jobs, the real unemployment number is around 17 percent. America now has about 25 million people either out of work or underemployed.

Meanwhile, corporate profits continue to set records. Profits in the third quarter of 2010 were 1.659 trillion, about 28 percent higher than a year before, and the highest year-to-year increase on record.

What's going on? Very simply, America's corporations no longer need America's workers.

As Harold Meyerson documents in a brilliant piece for The American Prospect, our most admired corporations -- GE, Apple, Hewlett Packard, Intel -- are creating ever more jobs overseas and relatively fewer at home. This has the double benefit of taking advantage of cheap labor abroad and disciplining workers to accept low wages at home. Along with the high unemployment rates have come declining earnings. Meyerson writes:

"In 2001, 32 percent of the income of the firms on Standard & Poor's index of the 500 largest publicly traded U.S. companies came from abroad. By 2008, that figure had grown to 48 percent."

This record contrasts dramatically with that of the right's favorite whipping boy -- Western Europe. Germany is gaining jobs at a rapid clip. Its industrialists are committed to producing at home, and just in case they get ideas of making outsourcing a way of life, they have strong unions who negotiate agreements on where production is located.

Germany's labor costs are the highest in the world, but Germany nonetheless runs the world's largest export surplus -- 7 percent of GDP -- while America runs chronic trade deficits.

Barring drastic policy changes, our jobless recovery is likely to continue. There are three parts to the problem.

First, while the economy is still in deep recession, both the administration and its Republican critics are already talking about steeper budget cuts. President Obama talks a good game about infrastructure spending, but it's hard to see where the funds will come from as deficit hawks in both parties prevail.

In Sunday's New York Times, Jacob Lew, the president's budget director, wrote a depressing (in both senses of the word) oped piece on the case for deeper budget cuts. In theory, massive infrastructure spending could create a lot of good jobs, but the Obama budget is likely to offer new spending at token levels to prove his good faith as a deficit-hawk, and the Republicans will likely deny him even that.

Then there is the problem that Meyerson nails. The Obama administration is not about to take issue with American companies that profit from locating ever more production abroad. The corporate elite is fiercely opposed to any limits on its freedom to relocate, and Obama is on a mission to make peace with big business. The administration continues to promote "free trade" deals on the premise that they will create jobs -- but more and more of those jobs get created offshore.

Both political parties are in denial about the plain fact that American industry is competing against an industrial system in China radically different from our own. If a company like GE wants to operate in China, the Beijing regime extracts conditions that violate the spirit if not the letter of the World Trade Organization.

Companies are made to take on Chinese partners, to transfer sensitive proprietary technology, and to shift their production and R&D to China. In exchange, they get government subsidies and docile workers. Eventually, much of their production is displaced by their Chinese partners, but in the meantime they make a lot of money.

In the past two decades, company after company concluded that the U.S. government didn't really care if we lost our manufacturing base. The Chinese government was making them an offer they couldn't refuse, so one by one they made a separate peace with Beijing.

Glenn Beck, Fox News, Limbaugh and the right-wing pundits can all scream their socialist Muslim birth certificate conspiracy theories all day. Its all smoke and mirrors to distract from the real problem. American business is killing the American middle-class and the Republican party is dedicated to helping them do it. Obama and Democrats think the road to success is compromise, but they are only compromising away more jobs.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Let's Celebrate the Real Reagan Legacy. A Legacy of Lies and Debt.

The chart shows percent national debt as a percent of gross national product. More here, The Triple Legacy of Ronald Reagan

The numbers tell the story. As predicted, Reagan's massive $749 billion supply-side tax cuts in 1981 quickly produced even more massive annual budget deficits. Combined with his rapid increase in defense spending, Reagan delivered not the balanced budgets he promised, but record-settings deficits. Even his OMB alchemist David Stockman could not obscure the disaster with his famous "rosy scenarios."

Forced to raise taxes twice to avert financial catastrophe (a fact conveniently forgotten in the conservative hagiography of Reagan manufactured by the GOP's 2008 ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin), the Gipper nonetheless presided over a tripling of the American national debt. By the time he left office in 1989, Ronald Reagan more than equaled the entire debt burden produced by the previous 200 years of American history.

Republicans have had several chances over the past sixty years to balance the budget and each time have failed. They could say that Democrats are to blame. That would mean Republicans admit they are the party of both wild spending sprees and fiscal impotence.

Laura Ingraham Touts Fiction As Fact In Attacking Planned Parenthood With Lila Rose’s Hoax Video
On The O’Reilly Factor last night (2/4/11), guest host Laura Ingraham touted the latest Planned Parenthood sting tapes from Lila Rose’s group Live Action. You may recall that Rose is a pal of the completely discredited and thoroughly disreputable James O’Keefe. Rose's latest attacks on Planned Parenthood (a phony pimp tries to get help with his underage sex ring) are more than a little reminiscent of the debunked ACORN tapes. We’ve even got suspicious editing and Andrew “Shirley Sherrod” Breitbart involved. But while the Planned Parenthood hoax – like the ACORN stings – involved no actual sex trafficking, Ingraham acted as though Rose and Live Action had just uncovered the real thing. Ingraham even gushed that she thought they deserved a Pulitzer for their work.
Last I heard the truth was a value. Since Republicans cannot seem to handle or tell the truth it speaks volumes about their supposed values.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Media is Liberal? Only if Your're Blind as a Bat and Dumb as a Rock.

Fox's Obama "socialism" smear comes straight from the top

In an interview, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes referred to President Obama's policies as "socialism." Ailes' opinion is shared by his Fox News employees, who regularly characterize President Obama and his administration as "socialist."
Ailes smears Obama's "socialism"

Ailes: Obama was "told by the French and the Germans that his socialism was too far left." From Howard Kurtz' November 17 Daily Beast article:

    "The president has not been very successful," the Fox News chairman says in a lengthy interview. "He just got kicked from Mumbai to South Korea, and he came home and attacked Republicans for it. He had to be told by the French and the Germans that his socialism was too far left for them to deal with."

    The 70-year-old Ailes, dressed in a lavender shirt and tie, goes on in this vein, saying the network isn't singling out Obama for criticism but that its style "tends to be more direct" in challenging presidents. Then he offers this observation about Obama:

    "He just has a different belief system than most Americans."

    That seems a rather loaded phrase--different belief system--even if you strongly disagree with most of Obama's policies. It fits the view of those who are trying to paint the president as being outside the mainstream. But from the big second-floor office at Fox's Midtown Manhattan headquarters, it's the rest of the media that are using a distorted lens.

Gibbs responds: Ailes comments not "surprising" given Fox's programming

Gibbs: "if you watch most of the programming on that channel, I don't think you would find" Ailes' comments "surprising." Politico reported later on November 17:

    Fox News chairman Roger Ailes's criticisms of President Obama aren't "surprising" and are similar to the views expressed on the channel, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.

    "I think if you watch most of the programming on that channel, I don't think you would find many of those comments surprising," Gibbs told reporters at the White House.

Fox News regularly attacks Obama and his administration as "socialist"

All of the following examples (accessed via Nexis) are from the last three months alone.

O'Reilly: Democrats push "quasi-socialistic agenda." On the November 5 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly said: "[I]f the far left elements continue to control the Democratic Party, the president doomed. Most Americans reject the quasi-socialistic agenda they put out, but people like Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank will never admit that and so tension remains inside the Democratic Party."

Hannity: Obama has done "so much damage with his failed socialist policies" On the October 26 edition of Hannity, Sean Hannity said: "I remember when I interviewed Rush [Limbaugh] at the beginning of the Obama presidency and he said I want him to fail. It made all that news. You know what, I don't want his policies to succeed. I want him out of -- I want him to be a one term president because he's doing so much damage with his failed socialist policies."

Hannity hosted Kurtz to discuss his Obama socialism smear book. On the October 18 edition of his Fox News program, Hannity hosted Stanley Kurtz to discuss Kurtz's book, Radical in Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism. Hannity opened the interview by saying, "Now it is interesting because when conservatives such as myself and others pointed out that we felt Barack Obama had radical ties and socialist, radical views, we were laughed at, made fun of." Hannity then asked Kurtz, "Were we right?" Kurtz replied, "When I started researching Barack Obama's history after two years probing the archives, I realized that you and all the people who said he was socialist were absolutely right," adding, "Really the book that I've written vindicates what you have been saying for the last three years."

Beck: Obama "has aligned himself with these radical socialists." On the September 29 edition of his Fox News show, Beck said, "The president has aligned himself with these radical socialists. Fact. They're radical Marxist. They're militant communists. Fact." He later added, "[T]he fact is, you cannot be with radical socialist, communists and be also, you know, mom and Chevrolet and apple pie and baseball, you -- you can't. It's one or the other. That's the fact."

Beck: Obama was "left of the socialists" in the Senate. On his September 28 Fox News show, Beck said there was "strong evidence" during the 2008 election that Obama was "a socialist," adding that Obama was the "most liberal senator in 2007... past the socialist, left of the socialists. That's pretty good hint that this guy is a radical." Beck later addressed Obama: "So, what is it? Are you a socialist or not? Will you denounce socialism as a failure that it is -- or not?"

Beck directs audience to his website to "see the top 20 examples of Obama socialist ties." On the September 20 edition of his Fox News show, Beck said, "I need you to see the top 20 examples of Obama socialist ties. Go to and see it there."

Morris: Obama is "proposing socialist-style programs in the United States." On the September 17 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, political analyst Dick Morris explained high favorability ratings for Obama in Europe by saying, "They want to preserve those benefits. And as long as the United States is a free-wheeling capitalist, free-market economy, they can't, because the capital will leave Europe and go to America. So when Obama proposing socialist-style programs in the United States, they're happy because it means they can get away with them in their own country."

Varney calls Obama's economic polices "socialism" and "un-American." On the September 3 edition of Hannity, Stuart Varney claimed that "[w]e've had an 18-month experiment with American socialism" and that "we do not like it, we want to reverse it." He also claimed that the economic policies enacted in the past 18 months were "un-American."

Of course modern conservatives think Obama is a socialists since their politics are inspired by proto-fascism. Not even socialists think Obama is a socialist. In fact they think he is a "corporatist" Democrat. This time it turns out socialists are closer to the mark than Republicans. American conservatives are natural Marxists; instead of the collective being the government, they want and largely have every American a wage slave to multi-national corporate collectivism. Corporations write most of our laws. That may sound a little wacky - just another net blogger on a rant, but it happens to be true.