This week, defense and aircraft manufacturing giant Boeing announced that it will be closing the Boeing Defense, Space & Security facility in Wichita by the end of 2013, which “means the loss of 2,100 well-paying jobs at its Kansas facility, which was once considered the centerpiece of Wichita’s claim as the air capital of the world.” Boeing will instead be performing the operations that were scheduled for Wichita in San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
Boeing’s decision — which it blames on possible defense cuts that may take place in the future — is devastating to Wichita community, which also includes more than four hundred Boeing suppliers. Local news station Fox 4 covered the closure in a video report. Watch it:
The announcement is particularly shocking given the fact that Boeing had repeatedly promised to keep jobs in Kansas and add many more if it were able to land a $35 billion contract for an aerial tanker. Kansas lawmakers went to bat for the company in early 2011, with Sen. Pat Roberts (R) even calling on “everybody who?s out there tweeting, chirping and Facebooking” to push for the Air Force to grant the tanker contract to Boeing rather than European rival EADS.
The Air Force initially handed the contract to EADS, but reneged after loud protests from Kansas lawmakers. Boeing then went on to promise as many as 7,500 jobs and “an overall economic impact of $390 million” if it were to receive the contract. “Boeing?s chairman sat in my office 22 months ago during that battle and promised me, then-Senator Brownback and Congressman (Todd) Tiahrt that if we won the fight to get the tanker contract back, Boeing would stay in Wichita,” recalled Roberts.
Not only did Kansas lawmakers in Congress heavily lobby on behalf of Boeing to get the contract over its European rival, but state lawmakers also laid out a wide set of incentives “in the form of tax breaks, research dollars, workforce training” and other gifts. In 2007 alone, the legislature gave Boeing $2,175,355 for the IMPACT — Investments in Major Products and Comprehensive Training — program, to train new employees. The company has also benefited from a machinery and equipment property tax exemption, the repeal of the corporation franchise tax, and other benefits.
“Boeing is the poster child for corporate tax incentives. This company has benefited from property tax incentives, sales tax exemptions, infrastructure investments and other tax breaks at every level of government. These incentives were provided in an effort to retain and create thousands of Kansas jobs,” said Wichita Rep. Jim Ward (D) in response to Boeing’s move. “We will be less trusting in the future of corporate promises.” Indeed, the company’s ruthless behavior — promising jobs if the state granted it special treatment and then fleeing for lower costs elsewhere — is a cautionary tale not just to Kansas but every legislature in the country.
For most of the last year, House and Senate Republicans have pushed an increasingly more and more embarrassing string of claims that a series of botched gun stings that began during the Bush Administration somehow show that Attorney General Eric Holder should resign. To explain away the fact that these operations began under George W. Bush, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has claimed that the Bush era operations were somehow different because they were done in coordination with the Mexican government. Newly released documents, however, show that Issa’s claim simply is not true.
Last night on Fox News, Rep. Allen West (R-FL) joined in on the right wing’s trumped up hysteria over the U.S. military’s new global strategic guidance President Obama announced yesterday. West claimed that the president “probably” didn’t consult the military to formulate the new strategy:
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think that the president — I assume, maybe I’m wrong, but were military leaders not part of the new plan or strategy going forward? Are you hearing from people at the Pentagon, former colleagues they were ignored in the discussion on which direction to take the military?
WEST: I can tell you that is probably the case. I have heard some rumination to that effect. And also when the president stands up and says this is the guidance I gave. The guidance he gave was not oriented towards how we have a strategy to contend with threats across the world. It was more so based on a budget analysis.
This claim is not true. During the announcement yesterday, Obama thanked “the service secretaries and chiefs, the combatant commanders and so many defense leaders — military and civilian, active, Guard and Reserve — for their contributions” to the new strategic guidance. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that DOD’s “senior military and civilian leadership” provided recommendations. And Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, the nation’s top military officer, said the same:
DEMPSEY: This strategy also benefited from an exceptional amount of attention by our senior military and civilian leadership. On multiple occasions, we held all-day and multi-day discussions with service chiefs and combatant commanders. The service chiefs, who are charged with developing the force for the strategy, were heard early and often. The combatant commanders, charged with executing the strategy, all weighed in time and time again. And we were all afforded extraordinary access to both the president and the secretary of defense.
And not only did military leaders contribute to the new strategy, but as Dempsey noted, there’s “real buy-in” from the top brass.
Gov. Chris Gregoire (D-WA) spoke out about her recent support for marriage equality this morning on MSNBC, reiterating that while the state “doesn’t have to tell any religion who they marry, but at the same time the state cannot be in the business of discriminating.” She described her evolution towards supporting same-sex marriage as “a journey for me” and “a journey for my state,” adding, “I feel better about this now than I have in seven years.” Gregoire will introduce a bill extending marriage to gays and lesbians next week and hopes to pass the measure in this legislative session. Watch it:
Conservative Catholics love Santorum (Bryan Snyder/Reuters)Dave Weigel:
Catholic Vote, Deal Hudson's group -- an outgrowth of the George W. Bush campaign's Catholic outreach -- has endorsed Santorum, with its current president admitting that it shoild have been done ages ago. Co-founder and spokesman Joshua Mercer tells me that the group's super PAC, the Catholic Vote Candidate Fund, will buy radio ads in New Hampshire (where it has 3000 members), and TV ads in South Carolina.
"He doesn't need to win New Hampshire, but he can keep up the momentum," says Mercer. "I think that now that he's proven he can win, you're going to see Catholics coalesce around him."
So the Catholic base likes Santorum? Well, Catholics are a sharply divided lot, so I'm not sure you will see "Catholics" as a group rallying around someone the likes of him; social conservative Catholics, perhaps. But it's interesting that it took all of, what, a day or two for CatholicVote to go from "should we support Santorum?" to "heck yes we're supporting Santorum!"
Honestly, all power to them. As ex-Catholic myself I find the brand of mean-spirited moralizing and demands for theocratic legislation that this particular splinter of the Catholic base insists on to be repugnant, but if they want to prop up literally the most extreme candidate in the race, which is a damn difficult thing to be be when you're competing against Ron Paul for the title, I say go for it. Spend that money. Put your cart behind that horse.
The advantage of the Republicans (and even serious pundits!) entertaining Santorum as the next plausible Not-Mitt has multiple advantages for nonconservatives. It pushes Romney ever-farther right, making him appear ever more insincere and, well, crooked. And it brings the most extreme elements of the conservative base squarely to the fore, where America can have a nice, good look at them.
Remember back when the "Tea Party" was supposed to be the rebranding of Republicanism?a brand new "grassroots" movement that was to reclaim conservatism from those nasty, nasty Bush-era politicians who actually tried the damn thing? It was all about taxes; now look where we are. The same internal schism in the Republican Party as always, with the Wall Street crowd carefully trying to calculate just how close to theocracy they have to edge before the far-right religious crowd will be satisfied. I can guarantee you that Mitt Romney does not really give a damn if abortion is legal or illegal, so long as he gets his tax breaks (evidence: his entire past career), but Rick Santorum? Nope, he's all about the moral dangers posed by the gays, and the atheists, and the slutty, slutty teenagers and the like. The godbotherers have found a true believer in that one.
Freezing pay for federal workers was not one of President Obama's good moves, either as policy or politics. Now, he's proposing to thaw the freeze a tiny bit, calling for a 0.5 percent pay increase for federal workers.
Despite the tininess of 0.5 percent, Republicans in Congress can be reliably expected to block the raise or try to trade it for another policy the president supports:
[American Federation of Government Employees President John] Gage said ?a real threat? remains that Republicans will successfully enact a pay freeze as part of the payroll tax negotiations. AFGE and other unions believe Republicans should focus on raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans instead of federal employees, the vast majority of whom are middle-class wage earners.
That sounds about right for Republicans: In exchange for a broad-based middle-class tax cut you'll be skewered for opposing, demand a sacrifice from a particular 2 million-person slice of the middle class that's already taken a big hit.
Plant closures like this have big ripples, as all the parts suppliers are wondering if they will find their orders coming to an end, and all the companies that sold things to the workers find their customers without jobs. Kansas social service[...]
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New polls in South Carolina give Mitt Romney a comfortable lead, with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in a battle for second.
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(Guttmacher Institute)As we've reported several times previously this year, 2011 broke records for legislation chipping away at reproductive freedom. Thanks to the Guttmacher Institute's year-end report, we now know that there was 50 percent more such legislation enacted in 2011 than in 2010, and 75 percent more than in 2009. That amounts to 135 provisions enacted in 36 states during 2011 relating to reproductive health or rights. These include 89 provisions restricting abortion, 50 more than in 2005, the previous record year for such legislation.
The bottom line: The foes of reproductive freedom never rest. Supporters can't afford to either.
The abortion restrictions fell into six categories: bans, waiting periods, ultrasound requirements, insurance coverage, new clinic regulations specifically designed to close down abortion providers, and limiting medication abortions.
In addition, states restricted funding for family planning, especially Planned Parenthood, a specific target of anti-choice activists. This included cutting funding even for clinics that do not provide abortions. There was at least some good news on this score: Only half the 18 states with a line item in their state budgets for family planning wound up making cuts despite both economic and unprecedented political pressure to do so.
After years of moving toward more comprehensive sex education, the only legislation enacted in this arena in 2011 enhanced abstinence-only education. Mississippi added provisions to its already-mandated abstinence education that restrict school districts from expanding their curricula to include other material, such as contraception. Getting permission to do so will now require a district to get specific permission from the state department of education.
Despite the new restrictions, there were some victories. These 135 provisions were only a fraction of more than 1,100 introduced. A few of the important setbacks for the anti-choice forces were several relating to "personhood":
? Mississippians rejected a constitutional amendment that might have curtailed women's access to birth control and abortion services by defining a legal person as a ?human being from the moment of fertilization.?
? In Montana, the House passed, but the Senate defeated, legislation putting an initiative on the ballot that would amend the state constitution to define a ?person? to include ?all members of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development, including the stage of fertilization or conception.?
? In North Dakota, the House passed but the Senate defeated a bill to ban abortion by defining a human being as an ?an individual member of the species Homo sapiens at every stage of development.?
? In Oklahoma, the House approved legisation to ban abortion by defining a ?person? as i ?a human being at all stages of human development of life, including the state of fertilization or conception.? But the Senate did not take action before the legislature adjourned.
? In South Dakota, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit blocked some provisions in a 2005 abortion counseling law and upheld one. The court struck down a provision requiring that a woman seeking an abortion be informed in counseling that the procedure increases the risk of suicide and thoughts of suicide because the claim is not supported by scientific evidence and means a provider must participate in ?untruthful and misleading speech.? The requirement that the woman be told that the fetus is a ?whole, separate, unique, living human being? was upheld and was not considered a violation of free speech protections because the provider is not required to repeat the exact words in the law.
Among major restrictions added by various states this year:
? Five states (Kansas, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas) mandated pre-abortion counseling and waiting periods. South Dakota's law, pending a legal challenge, requires a 72-hour waiting period during which the woman must visit one of those anti-abortion "crisis pregnancy centers" that provide inaccurate and ideologically tainted "information." She must also obtain counseling in person from the physician who will perform the procedure. Those are major obstacles in South Dakota, which has a single abortion clinic in Sioux Falls that is staffed once a week by physicians who fly in from Minnesota. That means an out-of-town woman would have to hang around for more than a week to obtain a procedure guaranteed to her by the U.S. Supreme Court.
? Alaska, Iowa and Maryland enacted laws restricting Medicaid abortions for low-income women to cases of life endangerment, rape or incest, and, in Maryland, for fetal impairment.
? Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and Idaho enacted laws prohibiting abortion after 20 weeks of gestation based on the claim of "fetal pain." Nebraska adopted a similar law in 2010. Pro-choice advocates argue that these laws violate the Supreme Court's rulings that forbid states from placing undue burdens on women seeking abortions.
? Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia enacted laws restricting abortion coverage under all private health insurance plans, including those that will be part of health exchanges. Twelve states now restrict private insurance coverage of abortion, and nine others restrict only coverage through health exchanges.
? Mandatory "counseling" of women seeking abortions was enacted or expanded in Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana and North Dakota. In Indiana, the counseling must include the statement that ?human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm." In Kansas, the counseling must include a written statement that an abortion ?will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.?
? Kansas, Arizona, North Dakota, Nebraska and Tennessee banned telemedicine for the provision of medication abortion. This procedure allows women to go to an abortion provider and receive counseling via videoconference from a physician in another location who then authorizes on-site staff to dispense the medication. Given the dwindling number of abortion providers nationwide, and particularly in underserved rural areas and small towns, telemedicine can bring medical services to people for whom they would otherwise be inaccessible.
It’s as if Democratic and Republican partisans think our country is made of feathers. What?s most important has been left largely unexamined: if one of these candidates actually becomes president and advances his or her policies, what would be the[...]
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