Seems a decade of congressional repugs shitting on formerly untouchable groups like military troops and 9/11 first responders has emboldened state-level repugs to shit on their own respected public servants.
Forcing prison inmates to work as unpaid laborers is not a new practice, but GOP-controlled states are increasing taking the idea to extremes as they face budget shortfalls and refuse to raise taxes. Under Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) anti-collective bargaining law, at least one Wisconsin county replaced some union workers with prison labor. Inmates are not paid for their work, but may receive time off of their sentences.
Now Camden County in Georgia is considering tasking prisoners to take on one of the most dangerous jobs there is: fighting fires. Using prisoners as firefighters is a cost-cutting measure that's expected to save the county a bundle:A select group of inmates may be exchanging their prison jumpsuits for firefighting gear in Camden County.
The inmates-to-firefighters program is one of several money-saving options the Board of County Commissioners is looking into to stop residents' fire insurance costs from more than doubling. [...] The inmate firefighter program would be the most cost-effective choice, saving the county more than $500,000 a year by some estimates. But that option is already controversial, drawing criticism from the firefighters who would have to work alongside - and supervise - the prisoners.
The Camden program would put two inmates in each of three existing firehouses, and they would respond to all emergencies - including residential - alongside traditional firefighters. The inmates would have no guard, but would be monitored by a surveillance system and by the traditional firefighters, who would undergo training to guard the inmates.
The inmates would not be paid for their work, but upon release they would be eligible to work as firefighters five years after their conviction dates instead of the normal 10.
Naturally, many are questioning the wisdom of asking prisoners to put their own lives at risk in a dangerous job they don't necessarily want to do. Not only would the program jeopardize inmates' safety, but their potential lack of enthusiasm and training could jeopardize the lives of fire victims they are supposed to be saving. Firefighter Stuart Sullivan told the Florida Times-Union that firefighters choose the profession because they have a passion for serving the public and helping people, while the inmates would only be there as an alternate way to serve their sentences.
Many firefighters are speaking out against the idea, and don't relish the additional responsibility of having to guard and worry about inmates as they are trying to put out fires and save lives. This distraction could be another life-threatening consequence of the measure. The program also runs the risk of inmates escaping - all in all a very dangerous proposition for public safety just to save money.
But the real genius here is that the plan does not just eliminate good government jobs for firefighters, it greatly increases the chance that firefighters who still have jobs will die on the job.
Why just eliminate jobs for public employees when you can eliminate the public employees themselves?
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The issue of the Democratic Party trying to co-opt the growing “Occupy” movement has become a topic of establishment media conversation. It is being discussed through the lens of whether this movement will do for Democrats what the Tea Party[...]
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Two new national polls out today confirm that the top tier of the Republican primary is made up of just Mitt Romney and Herman Cain. The same polls also show Rick Perry continues to fall even farther behind in the race.[...]
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Not long ago most Americans thought Mormons were an odd band of people who all lived in Salt Lake[...]
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Sen. Schumer, Dems messagemeister in the Senate, releases memo putting the blame for the halting recovery on the Tea Party, says Dems will beat the message until the cows come home or the votes are counted, whichever comes first. [...]
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FBI arrests suspect in Scarlett Johansson nude photo hacking case. [...]
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Who would have guessed that prayer, rather than math and wise decisions, wouldn't work?
If all the brightest minds in Harrisburg?s government can?t solve the city?s financial problems, maybe God can.Now that Harrisburg has filed for bankruptcy, the question is whether this is the beginning of a trend or an isolated event. Meredith Whitney believes this could be the first of possibly hundreds, though others are less convinced.
That seems to be the thinking in Pennsylvania?s capital city, where Mayor Linda Thompson and a host of other religious leaders are about to embark on a three-day fast and prayer campaign to cure the city?s daunting money woes.
Pennsylvania's capital has authorized a bankruptcy filing, making the city the nation's highest-profile municipality to acknowledge that it can no longer handle its burdensome debt.
Harrisburg's city council authorized the measure Tuesday after the government spent the past year and a half trying to find a solution to its $300 million debt crisis.
Harrisburg has become something of a national poster child for government debt run amok. Banking analyst Meredith Whitney has cited the city as an example of why perhaps a hundred or more municipalities across the country would default on their debts, causing hundreds of billions in damages.
Whitney's forecast has yet to materialize as municipal bonds actually have done quite well this year, and her call is receiving increased criticism in the financial community.
This is just a heads up-- I'm allowed to give a heads-up-- about some important action for American patriots this weekend targeting, peacefully, of course, banksters-- related to the march on the homes of NYC plutocrats. You can count on some details here at DWT later this week... gotta wait for the 99% to give the final finger wiggle, but think "OccupyTheBoardRoom." And remember, we're an unprecedented coalition of labor, community, and netroots groups coming together to voice our legitimate anger at the 1%. And, oh, boy, are we gonna have some fun with the plutocrats! I call dibs on fascist greedball Paul Singer, although I expect many people will... for obvious reasons. Intrepid reporter Lee Fang explains:
The campaign the marginalize and destroy the growing 99 Percent Movement is in full swing, with many in the media attempting to smear the people participating in the ?occupation? protests across the country. However, several of the so-called journalists deriding, and in some cases sabotaging the movement, have paychecks thanks to a billionaire whose business practices have been scorned as among the worst of the financial elite.
As the New York Times has documented, Paul Singer, a Republican activist and hedge fund manager worth over $900 million, has emerged as one of the most important power brokers within the GOP. Now, it appears that the reporters financed by Singer are at the forefront of efforts to tarnish the reputation of 99 Percent Movement demonstrators.
...As Singer-funded journalists make their best effort to diminish the Occupy Wall Street protesters as confused idiots unable to articulate a clear goal, it so happens that these journalists are funded by a man who epitomizes the crony capitalist behavior of the greedy one percent.
Singer, manager of a $17 billion hedge fund, earned the moniker ?vulture capitalist? for buying the debt of Third World countries for pennies on the dollar, then using his political and legal connections to extract massive judgements to force collection-- even from nations suffering from starvation and violent conflicts. Singer and his partners have used such tactics in Panama, Ecuador, Poland, Cote d?Ivoire, Turkmenistan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to squeezing impoverished countries with sovereign debt schemes, Singer speculates in the oil markets, a practice which can lead to gasoline price hikes here in the United States. The revelation that Singer engages in oil speculation, and also funds Republican lawmakers opposed to oil speculation regulations, was exposed by ThinkProgress using leaked government documents.
Singer?s political philanthropy is tied to his business interests. As Greg Palast has reported, Singer purchased near-bankrupt asbestos companies before his allies in Congress changed an asbestoas-liability law to make his investment incredibly profitable (at the expense, critics allege, of sickened workers). More recently, Singer has forged close financial ties to Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), a little-known lawmaker at the forefront of efforts to repeal Dodd-Frank financial regulations on hedge funds like Elliott Associates, Singer?s firm.
The rise of Singer?s political profile can be traced to his work as a top donor to pro-Bush character-assasination groups like the ?Swift Boat Veterans.? In recent years, he has quietly worked with the right-wing billionaire industrialist Koch brothers and Republican strategist Karl Rove to finance a fleet of anti-Obama organizations, including the shady attack ad nonprofit, ?Crossroads GPS.? Singer also led a controversial group of Republican moneymen in a bid to recruit Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) into the presidential race, but shifted to endorsing Mitt Romney. Singer and Romney are already close; Singer?s hedge fund actually manages at least $1 million of the former governor?s personal investments.
Singer?s influence even extends to the Supreme Court. As ThinkProgress reported, Singer hosted Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to speak at his $5,000-$25,000 a plate dinners.
Consider first how Republican politicians have portrayed the modest-sized if growing demonstrations, which have involved some confrontations with the police-- confrontations that seem to have involved a lot of police overreaction-- but nothing one could call a riot. And there has in fact been nothing so far to match the behavior of Tea Party crowds in the summer of 2009.
Nonetheless, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, has denounced ?mobs? and ?the pitting of Americans against Americans.? The G.O.P. presidential candidates have weighed in, with Mitt Romney accusing the protesters of waging ?class warfare,? while Herman Cain calls them ?anti-American.? My favorite, however, is Senator Rand Paul, who for some reason worries that the protesters will start seizing iPads, because they believe rich people don?t deserve to have them.
Michael Bloomberg, New York?s mayor and a financial-industry titan in his own right, was a bit more moderate, but still accused the protesters of trying to ?take the jobs away from people working in this city,? a statement that bears no resemblance to the movement?s actual goals.
And if you were listening to talking heads on CNBC, you learned that the protesters ?let their freak flags fly,? and are ?aligned with Lenin.?
The way to understand all of this is to realize that it?s part of a broader syndrome, in which wealthy Americans who benefit hugely from a system rigged in their favor react with hysteria to anyone who points out just how rigged the system is.
Last year, you may recall, a number of financial-industry barons went wild over very mild criticism from President Obama. They denounced Mr. Obama as being almost a socialist for endorsing the so-called Volcker rule, which would simply prohibit banks backed by federal guarantees from engaging in risky speculation. And as for their reaction to proposals to close a loophole that lets some of them pay remarkably low taxes-- well, Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of the Blackstone Group, compared it to Hitler?s invasion of Poland.
And then there?s the campaign of character assassination against Elizabeth Warren, the financial reformer now running for the Senate in Massachusetts. Not long ago a YouTube video of Ms. Warren making an eloquent, down-to-earth case for taxes on the rich went viral. Nothing about what she said was radical-- it was no more than a modern riff on Oliver Wendell Holmes?s famous dictum that ?Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.?
But listening to the reliable defenders of the wealthy, you?d think that Ms. Warren was the second coming of Leon Trotsky. George Will declared that she has a ?collectivist agenda,? that she believes that ?individualism is a chimera.? And Rush Limbaugh called her ?a parasite who hates her host. Willing to destroy the host while she sucks the life out of it.?
What?s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street?s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They?re not John Galt; they?re not even Steve Jobs. They?re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.
Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees ? basically, they?re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.
This special treatment can?t bear close scrutiny-- and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.
So who?s really being un-American here? Not the protesters, who are simply trying to get their voices heard. No, the real extremists here are America?s oligarchs, who want to suppress any criticism of the sources of their wealth.
The allegations in civil lawsuits by private mortgage investors and insurance companies, if true, appears pretty clearly to be of criminal conduct. I've struggled with the issue of politics and criminal prosecutions. I think calls for "perp walks" can sound like an appeal to mob rule, but not prosecuting powerful people in the face of clear evidence of criminal conduct is a real problem for democracy. I think some may have discouraged prosecutions because they feared for our fragile banking system, but I fear for our fragile democracy if people believe that the powerful are immune. I think the lack of criminal prosecutions or even aggressive civil lawsuits has offended the sense of justice of many Americans, including me. [emphasis is from DWT]
That little gem appears on Page 131 of GAO Report No. GAO-11-696. A report issued two months ago. A report that somehow seems to have eluded the attention of virtually every network, every major newspaper, and every news show.
How much is $16 trillion? That is an amount equal to more than $50,000 for every man, woman and child in America. That?s more than every penny that every American earns in a year. That?s an amount equal to almost a third of our national net worth -- the value of every home, car, personal belonging, business, bank account, stock, bond, piece of land, book, tree, chandelier, and everything else anyone owns in America. That?s an amount greater than our entire national debt, accumulated over the course of two centuries.
A $16 trillion stack of dollar bills would reach all the way to the Moon. And back. Twice.
That?s enough to pay for Saturday mail delivery. For the next 5,000 years.
All of that money went from you and me to the banks. And we got nothing. Not even a toaster.
I have been patiently waiting to see whether this disclosure would provoke some kind of reaction. Answer: nope. Everyone seems much more interested in discussing whether or not they like the cut of Perry?s jib.
Whatever a jib may be... The Government gave $16 trillion to the banks. And nobody else is talking about it.
Think about it. Think about what that means.
It's just outrageous. Last week, Bank of America announced it will start charging its customers $5 a month just to access their own money with a debit card.
If you're a Bank of America customer who doesn't appreciate being gouged with excessive fees, you should show Bank of America what a competitive marketplace looks like and find a bank or credit union that values their customers.
We can't let B of A get away with this-- and we've got to speak out, loud and clear, to show other banks that it is unacceptable to pad already excessive profits on the backs of hard-working Americans.
I see this ending up one of two ways:
Outcome #1: Bank of America gets an earful from so many customers and potential customers-- like you-- that it decides against making monthly fees the new "normal" for American debit card users.
Outcome #2: Too few folks notice and speak up about the new fees, sending a message to other big banks that they can charge this monthly fee to their debit card customers, too.
Outcome #2 is completely unacceptable-- but I need you to speak out to make sure it doesn't happen.
In 2007, we sent thousands of emails to convince BP's CEO to give up his company's plan to dump more toxic chemicals into Lake Michigan. The DickDurbin.com community has proven that we can take on some of the biggest special interests around.
Now let's put that same kind of pressure on Bank of America's CEO to make sure he knows these new debit card fees are simply unacceptable-- and to make sure every single bank gets the message.
Once Is This It finally landed in America (its release here had to be delayed so the band could replace the blistering?and not exactly flattering??New York City Cops? after 9/11), the response was immediate and seismic. There were plenty of rave reviews, naturally, as critics marveled at the young band?s astonishing confidence and the record?s clockwork efficiency. But more amazing by far was the great rumbling tremor that Is This It sent through the music industry itself, a change so desperately needed that the Strokes should be considered humanitarians. At the time, remember, bands such as (brace yourself) Limp Bizkit, Staind, Slipknot, and Linkin Park?along with a heavy dose of Creed?absolutely dominated the rock charts. With one sweep of their Chuck Taylors, the Strokes kicked the nu-metal blight to the curb, clearing the way for other garage-influenced bands like the White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and spawning many imitators, among them Kings of Leon, Franz Ferdinand, and the Killers.
Not only are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs a better band than the Strikes, their debut EP was released on July 9, 2001 several months before “Is This It”‘s UK release and, obviously, months before the Strokes’ 9/11-induced chickenout over “New York City Cops.”
What’s more, the general effort to use chronology as a stand-in for quality doesn’t make much sense. There’s no reason to think the first hip-hop album was the best hip-hop album. And it’s particularly nonsensical when you’re talking about a deliberately backward-looking, referential sound. You give innovator points to genuine innovators, not to people who may or may not have hopped on a garage-throwback trend slightly before someone else.
What’s more, while “garage-influenced” may be an adequately reductive account of the Strokes, I defy you to explain why it’s a good account of, say, “Heads Will Roll”:
The big problem with the article, though, is that it doesn’t even attempt to compare “Is This It” to anything. You get no context, no sense of what other albums the author considers worthy contenders.