So it's good to be back in front of all of you. It's always an honor to be with folks who get up every day and work real jobs -- (laughter) -- and every day fight for America's workers. You represent the latest in a long, proud line of men and women who built this country from the bottom up. That's who you are. (Applause.) It was workers like you who led us westward. It was workers like you who pushed us skyward. It was your predecessors who put down the hard hats and helped us defeat fascism. And when that was done, you kept on building --highways that we drive on, and the houses we live in, and the schools where our children learn. And you established the foundation of what it means to be a proud American.
And along the way, unions like yours made sure that everybody had a fair shake, everybody had a fair shot. You helped build the greatest middle class that we've ever seen. You believed that prosperity shouldn?t be reserved just for a privileged few; it should extend all the way from the boardroom all the way down to the factory floor. That's what you believe. (Applause.)
Time and again, you stood up for the idea that hard work should pay off; responsibility should be rewarded. When folks do the right thing, they should be able to make it here in America. And because you did, America became home of the greatest middle class the world has ever known. You helped make that possible -- not just through your organizing but how you lived; looking after your families, looking out for your communities. You?re what America is about.
And so sometimes when I listen to the political debates, it seems as if people have forgotten American progress has always been driven by American workers. And that?s especially important to remember today.
I don?t have to tell you we?ve got bridges and roads all over this country in desperate need of repair. Our highways are clogged with traffic. Our railroads are no longer the fastest in the world. Our skies are congested, our airports are the busiest on the planet. All of this costs families and businesses billions of dollars a year. That drags down our entire economy.
And the worst part of it is that we could be doing something about it. I think about what my grandparents? generation built: the Hoover Dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Interstate Highway System. That's what we do. We build. There was a time where we would never accept the notion that some other country has better roads than us, and some other country has better airports than us. I don't know about you, but I?m chauvinistic. I want America to have the best stuff. I want us to be doing the building, not somebody else. (Applause.) We should be having -- (applause) -- people should be visiting us from all over the world. They should be visiting us from all over the world and marveling at what at what we?ve done.
That kind of unbridled, can-do spirit -- that?s what made America an economic superpower. And now, it?s up to us to continue that tradition, to give our businesses access to the best roads and airports and high-speed rail and Internet networks. It?s up to us to make sure our kids are learning in state-of-the-art schools. It?s our turn to do big things. It is our turn to do big things.
But here?s the thing -- as a share of the economy, Europe invests more than twice what we do in infrastructure; China about four times as much. Are we going to sit back and let other countries build the newest airports and the fastest railroads and the most modern schools, at a time when we?ve got private construction companies all over the world -- or all over the country -- and millions of workers who are ready and willing to do that work right here in the United States of America?
American workers built this country, and now we need American workers to rebuild this country. That?s what we need. (Applause.) It is time we take some of the money that we spend on wars, use half of it to pay down our debt, and then use the rest of it to do some nation-building right here at home. (Applause.) There is work to be done. There are workers ready to do it, and you guys can help lead the way.
He also took on Republicans for assaulting the rights of working families:
And what makes it worse -- it would be bad enough if they just had these set of bad ideas, but they?ve also set their sights on dismantling unions like yours. I mean, if you ask them, what?s their big economic plan in addition to tax cuts for rich folks, it?s dismantling your unions. After all you?ve done to build and protect the middle class, they make the argument you?re responsible for the problems facing the middle class. Somehow, that makes sense to them.
That?s not what I believe. I believe our economy is stronger when workers are getting paid good wages and good benefits. That?s what I believe. (Applause.) That?s what I believe. I believe the economy is stronger when collective bargaining rights are protected. I believe all of us are better off when we?ve got broad-based prosperity that grows outwards from a strong middle class. I believe when folks try and take collective bargaining rights away by passing so-called ?right to work? laws that might also be called ?right to work for less,? laws -- (applause) -- that?s not about economics, that?s about politics. That?s about politics.
Mitt Romney spoke out about the resignation of ex-foreign policy adviser Richard Grenell during an appearance on Fox News this morning. In doing so, the former Massachusetts governor failed to condemn the homophobia that helped convince the openly-gay foreign policy expert to leave the campaign less than two weeks after he first joined it. “We wanted him to stay with our team, he is a very accomplished spokesperson,” Romney said, before himself dabbling in the kind of anti-gay rhetoric that suggests that gay people can change:
ROMNEY: We select people not based upon their ethnicity or their sexual preference or their gender. But upon their capability. He was a capable individual. We’re sorry to have him go and actually a whole series of the senior people on my team and my supporters called him and encouraged him to stay. But he expressed a desire to move on and I wish him the very best.
Romney’s remarks represent the campaign’s failure to actively take on the social conservative wing of the Republican party on equality issues. Rather than publicly defend Grenell from groups who labeled him a “homosexual activist,” the candidate instead chose to muzzle his foreign policy spokesperson, asking him to remain silent on a recent conference call.
As one Republican told the New York Times, ?It?s not that the campaign cared whether Ric Grenell was gay. They believed this was a nonissue. But they didn?t want to confront the religious right.? Romney’s response to Grenell’s resignation demonstrates that he himself also fears alienating these extreme elements.
During an appearance on MSNBC, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom claimed that the former Massachusetts governor has spoken out against voices of “intolerance”:
– China said on Friday that blind dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is currently being kept in a Beijing hospital, could apply to study abroad, suggesting a possible resolution to the diplomatic crisis that has tested relations between Beijing and Washington.
– A senior Russian general this week threatened pre-emptive attacks on missile defense sites in Poland at other locations in Eastern Europe.
– The White House condemned the violent crackdown on a Syrian student protest yesterday and said a new international approach may be needed if a U.N. and Arab League-backed pace plan fails.
– Iran said on Friday it will never suspend its uranium enrichment program and sees no reason to close the Fordow underground site nuclear site.
– USA Today reports: Since 2006, about 140 European lives have been saved because organs ? hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys and pancreases ? were harvested from 36 U.S. servicemembers determined to be brain dead from wounds suffered in Iraq or Afghanistan.
– The Department of Veterans Affairs is studying the use of transcendental meditation to treat post-traumatic stress for returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
– As France’s Marine Le Pen enjoys her success from the first round of voting in the French presidential elections, anti-immigrant, nationalist, and, anti-Muslim far-right political political parties are enjoying new popularity in Greece, the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria and Denmark.
– Two Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners appeared before Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday to plead for their release from what is known as “administrative detention” — incarceration without formal charges — giving new public attention to the 1,500 Palestinian prisoners who are going without food to protest Israeli prison conditions.
China’s Foreign Ministry announced today that dissident Chen Guangcheng can leave China for study abroad. Chen has a fellowship at an American university, and a State Department spokeswoman said the agreement will also allow Chen’s wife and two children to leave with him.
President Obama reaffirmed his support for the DREAM Act and blamed Republicans for failing to pass legislation that would grant a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant students. “‘No’ is not an option. I want to sign the DREAM Act into law,” Obama said at the White House’s Cinco de Mayo reception.
For some Democrats, race is still an issue in the presidential election. The New York Times reports from a small town in Ohio that voters are weary of Obama because of his race, even after nearly four years in office.
A U.S. Justice Department official warned Alabama’s education department that the state’s harsh immigration law has already had “lasting” negative impact on Hispanic students. The law has “diminished access to and quality of education for many of Alabama’s Hispanic children, resulted in missed school days, chilled or prevented the participation of parents in their children’s education, and transformed the climates of some schools into less safe and welcoming spaces for Hispanic children,” they said.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who claims responsibility for the September 11 attacks, will be arraigned at Guantanamo Bay tomorrow. His testimony may include his first-person accounts of the harsh interrogation tactics the CIA used against him, details that some in the government want to prevent from being aired publicly.
Good news from Illinois, as Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) has been released from rehab and will continue to recuperate after suffering a major stroke in January.
Tragic details have emerged about the shooting rampage carried out by a well-known white supremacist in Arizona this week that left five dead, including shooter J.T. Ready. Ready had a long history of domestic abuse, and police said his girlfriend called the police just minutes before Ready shot her and her children.
And finally: When Ellen DeGeneres asked Bill Clinton, ?What?s the one thing you miss everyday that you wish you could do, that you can?t because of who you are?” Clinton replied, ?Drive.? “I mean, if I wanted to give up Secret Service protection for life, I could [drive],? Clinton explained. “That’s why whenever I play golf, I always make them let me drive the golf cart.”
??A report released yesterday by consulting firm Headwaters Economics continues to shed light on the economic importance of protected public lands to local economies in the American West.
It finds that there were nearly four times as many jobs created in non-metro counties with protected public lands compared to those without. This data contradicts the ideological rhetoric of many Republicans seeking to throw open more federal acres to mining and drilling.
As the report states, over 40 years:
Western non-metro counties with more than 30% of lands federally protected increased jobs by 344%.
The chart below shows that from 1970 to 2009 (the most recent data available), the more protected public lands (national parks, national monuments, wilderness areas, etc.) that were in a rural county, the more jobs created. This compares to only an 80% increase for counties with no protected federally-managed places at all.
In part, this trend occurred because land conservation creates a wide variety of jobs. In 2010, recreation and tourism spurred 388,000 jobs on Interior Department-managed lands and 224,000 in and around national forests. Echoing these facts, a group of 104 economists sent a letter to the president in November asking him to create jobs by protecting more special places for recreation.
This latest data contradicts the mantra of many western Republican lawmakers, who contend that protected public lands are ?locked up? by the government and have no value. For example, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands, has stated:
Contrary to claims by the administration and others, the designation of national monuments and wilderness are not a boon to local economies, but rather a detriment in most scenarios.
That is just plain wrong.
Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project.
Federal judicial clerkships are among the most coveted jobs young lawyers can obtain — if not the most coveted job. Law clerks spend a year as one of a judge’s closest aides, advising the judge on how to decide cases and often drafting opinions. Elite law firms pay signing bonuses as high as $60,000 to former clerks, even though these clerks are normally recent law school graduates with little legal experience outside of clerkship. One of the best predictors that a new lawyer is destined for a prominent career in their new profession is the fact that the lawyer scored a federal clerkship shortly after graduation.
According to new data by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, however, most judges are not extending this opportunity to minorities:
The decrease for African-American clerks between fiscal years 2006 and 2010 was most pronounced, with a decline from 3.5 percent of appellate level clerks in 2006 to 2.4 percent in 2010, the new report states. The number of Hispanic appellate level clerks dropped from 3.1 percent to 2 percent during the same period.
At the district court level, the percentage of African-American clerks declined from 3.5 percent to 3.2 percent, while Hispanic clerks remained steady at 3.3 percent.
This latest breakdown of law clerks by race shows African-Americans fill fewer of those spots now than they did in 2000.
Federal judges obviously wield enormous power. They have broad discretion to decide how many years a person will spend in prison. They can breathe life into essential protections for workers and consumers — or invent new ways to immunize corporations from the law. And they can shape how our Constitution itself is understood. Among other things, it is very unlikely that the frivolous constitutional argument against the Affordable Care Act would have picked up any steam if two federal district court judges had not handed down opinions legitimizing this view.
Yet a judge’s power to shape the legal profession by hiring law clerks should not be neglected as an exercise of power. When judges hire minority clerks, they welcome these lawyers into the highest eschelons of a profession that remains dominated by white attorneys. Nor is the impact of this power limited to racial diversity. When a federal judiciary that remains dominated by Republican appointees disproportionately doles out elite clerkships to conservative lawyers, it shifts the upper reaches of the legal profession rightward.
Bwahahahahaha...but when professional homophobe Bryan Fischer throws a tantrum over your gay foreign policy spokesman, it's man, er, homo overboard. Big #FAIL.[...]
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As far as April is concerned, the jobs report is disappointing; 115,000 new jobs, just enough to keep pace with population growth. Unemployment dropped to 8.1 percent, but labor force participation also declined, which means that joblessness is lower because fewer people are searching for jobs.
What?s interesting is that this runs counter to a host of other economic indicators, all of which point to a brighter picture. According to Gallup, for example, economic confidence is a four-year high, consumer spending has edged up, and small-business optimism has risen to its highest levels since the summer of 2008.
Why is job growth so sluggish when the economy is looking brighter in other regards? The answer might lie with the revisions contained within the jobs report. Remember, this number isn?t particularly accurate; for almost every month of the last three years, it has been revised (usually upwards) after the fact. This time isn?t any different; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 19,000 more jobs were created in February than they thought, bringing the total number to 259,000. Likewise, in March, 154,000 jobs were created?a revision of 34,000 fom the original report.
Indeed, the big picture is better than you might think; we?ve added 1.8 million private sector jobs in the last year and brought the unemployment rate down by a full percentage point. Job growth could be stronger?and the Federal Reserve, in particular, could do much more?but the United States is in recovery. The problem, simply put, is that it?s a weak one.
One last point?don?t get too caught up in the politics of this report. As Jonathan Bernstein recently wrote for the Washington Post:
It doesn?t matter who wins each individual news cycle over the economy. Instead, each economic report should be seen in the context of all the economic reports. And remember that economic data is subject to major revisions, often large enough to completely change the initial interpretation.
Voters aren?t paying attention to the minutae of each job report. Rather, they are using their own experience and media coverage to come to a conclusion about how the economy looks. And judging from President Obama?s rising approval ratings?according to Gallup?s tracking poll, he is in the high?40s/low?50s, Americans are likely more optimistic than we think.
Listen to Diane Gee with Michael Parenti live on WWL Radio Friday, May 4th at 6pm EDT! Listen live by clicking the link icon below:Tonight I have the honor of speaking to another of our generations brightest and best, the genius of Michael Parenti.A true[...]
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