I?mhappy to report that it wasn?t all poll taxes and medieval torture devices overat the Mississippi legislature this week. Earlier today, a bi-partisan House coalition managed to beat back ameasure that would completely destabilize the workers compensation program inMississippi. Here?s the release from theHouse Democratic Caucus:
Jackson, MS - This morning, abi-partisan coalition was successful in stopping a measure that would havestripped Mississippi workers of many of the protections they currently enjoyunder Mississippi?s workers compensation program. The bill, House Bill 555 sponsored by Rep.Mark Formby (R-Picayune), would removethe presumption that a person found dead on the job was injured at work, takeaway a worker?s right to select their own physician, and remove several of thecurrent presumptions that protect Mississippi workers injured on the job.
House Democratic CaucusLeader Rep. Bobby Moak (D-Bogue Chitto) said, ?This is a tremendous victory forMississippi workers but our work isn?t finished. Mississippians deserve to be treated withfairness and dignity when they are injured on the job and we are prepared tofight any measure that would threaten our workers.?
Banana Republic-- a Koch & a couple of Fanjuls... pure sleaze
This week the AFL-CIO issued an exceptionally strong-- and welcome-- statement on Citizens United. I wish the Democratic Party was as clear and straight-forward.
Two years ago, the Supreme Court seriously undermined our democracy when, continuing a trend of deregulatory campaign finance decisions, it ruled to allow unlimited independent campaign spending by business corporations and other groups.
The Citizens United ruling further tilted the playing field in favor of the 1% and against the 99%, whose voices are being drowned out by excessive spending and influence by corporations and the wealthy.
Since the Citizens United ruling came down, and particularly since the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement, there has been growing momentum in support of public policy solutions aimed at curbing excessive corporate influence and restoring greater balance in our political process. From federal and state initiatives to bring about greater transparency and disclosure of spending by corporate interests and wealthy donors, to proposals for a constitutional amendment restoring Congress? ability to regulate campaign spending, to calls for abolishing corporate "personhood," people from coast to coast have sounded the alarm about the need for reforms to rein in excessive corporate influence in our democracy.
The AFL-CIO supports the overturning of the Citizens United decision and calls for immediate action to end the dominance of our political system by corporations and the 1%. The AFL-CIO has long advocated for measures to bring about greater fairness, openness and participation in elections-- reforms that enfranchise voters and ensure that wealth does not wield disproportionate influence. We support public financing of campaigns, limitations on individual contributions to candidates and parties and public disclosure of political expenditures. We also support measures to enable citizens to vote more easily, and we oppose voter identification and similar measures that are aimed at seizing partisan advantage through disenfranchisement. And, we oppose misleadingly labeled ?paycheck protection? measures that would exacerbate inequality by hampering union political activity while leaving corporate and rich individuals? political spending unimpeded.
The Citizens United ruling has opened the floodgates to massive spending by corporations and even more so by wealthy donors. They are pouring money into our electoral system and threaten to drown out the voices of hard-working Americans. Common-sense restrictions on their spending are needed, along with robust disclosure of their contributions and expenditures-- including their contributions to organizations engaged in electoral activity.
The AFL-CIO also supports reforms aimed at restoring business corporations to their proper role as commercial institutions and limiting their influence in the political sphere. Business corporations are not people-- they are manmade creatures of law that exist to generate economic activity and create jobs and income in communities. The notion that they should enjoy the same rights and protections as natural persons is absurd and it is destructive to our democracy. At the same time, for more than a century, corporations have enjoyed certain constitutional protections, such as due process protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, which are consistent with basic American values. We support reforms, including changes to our tax laws and corporate laws, that address corporate dominance of our political system and that restore corporations to their proper role in our democracy.
Congress should pass and the Supreme Court should uphold the necessary reforms to protect our democracy from the power of money. As long as Citizens United remains the law of the land, constitutional change may be the only option. Amending the U.S. Constitution should be a rare act, done with the greatest of care. To earn our support, any such amendment must be carefully and narrowly crafted to protect our democracy from the economic power of the 1%, while at the same time protecting the public?s right to organize politically through democratic organizations and movements.
Working people have a long and proud history of participating in our nation?s public life through our unions. Unions are by tradition and law democratic organizations, run on the basis of one member, one vote. In a union, dollars do not vote-- people do. Our unions bring us together in our union halls, our workplaces and our homes to discuss the issues facing our nation and to come together to make our voices heard in the political process. Unions are transparent organizations-- all of our spending, including our political spending, is disclosed in great detail to the general public and union members, as required by statute since 1959. Any campaign finance reform needs to recognize the fundamental distinction between the democratically governed communications among working people through unions and the unaccountable spending by corporations and the rich.
A 1998 Time magazine article by legendary reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele called the Fanjul?s ?the First Family of Corporate Welfare,? with more than $60 million in corporate subsidies benefiting their companies annually from the federal government.
But most disturbing are reports about the Fanjul?s Dominican Republic operations. In January, the Palm Beach Post reported that Wikileaks documents revealed the Fanjuls and their companies ?muscled? lawmakers to kill the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which might have increased competition. A lawyer for the family dismissed any allegations of illegal or inappropriate lobbying as ?chatty gossip.?
Big Sugar, a 2005 CBC documentary raised an even bigger concern. According to their investigation, workers for the Fanjul-owned Central Romano plantation work 12-hour days to earn just $2 a day. The workers go hungry in conditions that have been compared to slave labor. In a 2001 Vanity Fair article, attorney Edward Tuddenham called the treatment of sugar cane pickers under the Fanjul?s ?modern-day slavery.? Their treatment of workers and the Florida everglades has been heavily questioned. Pepe Fanjul and his brother denied being barons, denied harming the everglades, and denied receiving subsidies in a 1997 New York Times letter to the editor. And in the CBC documentary, he said Centro Romano is the ?most progressive employer in the Dominican Republic.?
Fanjul also made news in 2010 when the New York Post reported that his executive assistant is the ex-wife of former KKK leader David Duke and current wife of the former KKK grand wizard who runs a white-supremacist website. A company spokesman told the paper ?While we may not agree with someone?s politics, we wouldn?t terminate them for that.?
Florida Sugar Company did not respond to an email requesting comment for this story.
When he kicked off his re-election campaign, Brown boasted, ?Once again I won?t have the political establishment behind me ? not the one on Beacon Hill, and certainly not the one on Capitol Hill.? Now we see it is the Florida GOP establishment he has in his pocket. But even with more than $750,000 in political contributions over the years, mostly to Republicans, one still has to wonder why Brown would risk aligning himself with a figure like Fanjul.
We asked earlier, "How many shooters were involved in the Afghan killings?" Afghan lawmakers are asking the same question, and have settled on an answer ? as many as twenty.
The Kabul-based Pajhwok Afghan News agency ? Afghanistan's largest independent news service ? is reporting on an Afghan parliamentary probe into the murder of 16 civilians by one or more U.S. soldiers over the weekend. According to the report (h/t Steve Hynd via Twitter; my emphasis and reparagraphing):
A parliamentary probe team on Thursday said up to 20 American troops were involved in Sunday?s killing of 16 civilians in southern Kandahar province.A stunning development, if true. The U.S. military is holding to the "lone gunman" theory, and has flown the soldier who has reportedly confessed out of the country. Some of the lawmakers wanted the perpetrator(s) tried in Afghanistan.
The probing delegation includes lawmakers [eight MPs listed]. ... The team spent two days in the province, interviewing the bereaved families, tribal elders, survivors and collecting evidences at the site in Panjwai district. Hamizai Lali told Pajhwok Afghan News their investigation showed there were 15 to 20 American soldiers, who executed the brutal killings.
?We closely examined the site of the incident, talked to the families who lost their beloved ones, the injured people and tribal elders,? he said. He added the attack lasted one hour involving two groups of American soldiers in the middle of the night on Sunday.
?The villages are one and a half kilometre from the American military base. We are convinced that one soldier cannot kill so many people in two villages within one hour at the same time, and the 16 civilians, most of them children and women, have been killed by the two groups.?
The lawmaker said the Wolesi Jirga would not sit silent until the killers were prosecuted in Afghanistan. "If the international community does not play its role in punishing the perpetrators, the Wolesi Jirga would declare foreign troops as occupying forces, like the Russians," Lali warned.The Wolesi Jirga is the lower house of the Afghan parliament. Declaring U.S. troops an occupying force would have an effect. Lali, by the way, is Chairman of the Parliamentary National Security and Internal Affairs Commission. Not nobody.
In an attempt to attract Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler to speak at their national convention, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has endorsed Poehler's character on the show, Leslie Knope, in her race for city council on the show. While the announcement, which is accompanied by several web videos and a Tumblr site, is designed to attract Poehler's attention, it also does a good job of raising media awareness about the plight of government workers. Numerous websites ? including Vulture.com, Mediaite and Hollywood Reporter ? that would normally not cover labor issues or an organization have covered the story.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents 250,000 parks and recreation workers nationwide, today endorsed the candidacy of Leslie Knope for city council in Pawnee, Ind., in a blatant attempt to draft Amy Poehler to speak at the public employee union?s biennial convention in June. AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee had this to say about the endorsement:
?We proudly endorse Leslie Knope for Pawnee City Council. Knope?s public service and her passion for making our communities safer, healthier and stronger make her the right person for the job.?
Retired Lt. Gen. David Fridovich, former deputy commander of Special Operations Command, told The Jerusalem Post this week that an attack on Iran over its nuclear program could be “counterproductive.” ?What?s really gained by doing an overt strike? And the answer is, it?s never good. The outcomes are just not good,? he said, adding, ?Does anybody really want to run Iran next? And the answer is no. And you have to think through that before you start phase one.” (HT: Huffington Post)
Deutsche Bank AG sued to seize Lynn Szymoniak’s Palm Beach Gardens, Florida home in July 2008, setting in motion a foreclosure process that still hasn’t ended. But when the bank couldn’t prove it owned her home, claimed it had lost her mortgage note, then admitted that it acquired her mortgage three months after it originally sued, Szymoniak began investigating the bank’s paperwork.
Szymoniak, an insurance fraud investigator, not only found out that the paperwork to her mortgage was fraudulent, she uncovered thousands of other fraudulent bank documents that had been processed using robo-signers. In 2010, she filed multiple whistleblower claims against banks in federal court, and now she’ll pocket $18 million for her work, Bloomberg reports:
Szymoniak, 63, is among six whistle-blowers who will pocket $46.5 million as part of a $25 billion national foreclosure settlement that state and federal officials reached in February with five banks, including Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Fraudulent foreclosures have reached near-pandemic levels since the collapse of the housing market. At banks like Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America, fraudulent practices like robo-signing were approved by upper-level management, and employees with no banking experience were given vice-president level titles so they could sign foreclosure documents (one Wells Fargo “Vice President” came to the bank from a pizza restaurant). When the practice was originally uncovered, banks were enveloped in scandal — and kept robo-signing anyway.
Szymoniak’s case still isn’t resolved. Deutsche Bank is proceeding with foreclosure action against her home, and she told Bloomberg that she isn’t sure what she’ll do with the money. But unlike many victims of the foreclosure crisis, Szymoniak was a homeowner who was capable of fighting back. ?When they did this to her, they picked the wrong person at the wrong time in the wrong place,? Richard Harpootlian, Szymoniak?s attorney, told Bloomberg. ?They stuck their hand into the beehive.?
President Barack Obama yesterday characterized clean energy cynics in the GOP presidential field as would-be members of the Flat Earth Society. Birther and Romney-endorser Donald Trump cast himself with the Flat Earth candidates yesterday, with his latest tirade against clean energy.
Trump told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto:
Wind is destroying the environment in many, many places. People are going crazy over the horrible, noisy, disgusting windmills. And they are horrible and a horrible intrusion, ruining communities, and solar is weak and has not been effective and is very, very expensive.
Trump’s position on wind energy being “disgusting” more likely has to do with his battle in Scotland to prevent wind turbines from obstructing the view on his planned golf resort. Trump is bankrolling the fight against the renewable energy and has already clashed with leaders there, who have called his tactics “bullying.”
Romney — who is Trump’s pick as the Republican nominee — also positions himself against wind energy development, sometimes with the (poor) joke that “you can’t drive a car with a windmill on it.”
A middle school teacher who read to his students from Ender’s Game is on “administrative leave” because a parent complained to the school that Orson Scott Card’s classic novel is “pornographic.” The parent also went to the local police, who have not yet pressed criminal charges against the teacher, according to the Aiken, SC Standard.
Children’s advocacy group Commonsensemedia.org has recommended Ender’s Game for children aged 12 and up ? and the child whose mother complained to the school and to the police was aged 14. But at the same time, the school has a policy requiring teachers to “preview” any supplemental material they present in class, so school officials can check for offensive ideas or themes, and the unnamed teacher did not do that in this case.
There is just no plausible way that any of the material in Ender’s Game could be considered pornographic, though I can see why a teacher might want to hold off on Speaker for the Dead, which has both longer discussions of human sexuality and an incest subplot. An attack on a child in the showers is violent and upsetting, but it’s not remotely sexual.
But more to the point, it’s worrisome that a teacher could be suspended for exercising discretion in trying to enrich his class. The key point here, I think, is whether he would have been suspended had he gone through the required preview process and a parent complained afterwards. A review process isn’t an utterly unreasonable thing to ask, but I’d hate to think the school might have still thrown him under the bus after approving his decision.
Schools have an obligation to make sure their students aren’t exposed to inappropriate material prematurely. But they also have a responsibility to steer a course that moderates between parents who want their children exposed to nothing and parents who aren’t paying any attention at all. The classroom is an interim step between the closed environment of the home and the wide-open, unprotected real world. By the standards of that world, Ender’s Game isn’t anything close to pornography, and it’s perfectly appropriate reading for 14-year-olds.
My problem with Flickr was that I switched to an iPad and didn't know(!) I needed a special app to download.
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Aside from this unforgetable picture, it is astounding to me that the thing McCain will be most tied to in the country's memory is his introducing us to Ms Palin. Part of why that is so important is that it revealed the number of folks who can be genuinely fooled and suduced. Heckava Job, McC.
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