Friday, March 25, 2011

Empirical Evidence That Proves Conservatism is Destroying America ANS

Here is a list of facts about so-called Red States being in worse shape than Blue States.  I would be a bit cautious:  which is the cause and which is the effect?
Find it here:

Empirical Evidence That Proves Conservatism is Destroying America

by joelgp
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The empirical evidence below shows just how deeply republican states have damaged this great country.  Check it out and let me know what you think:
Conservatism is bad for middle-class income

10 poorest states with the lowest median household income

State Income
Montana $40,627
Tennessee $40,315
Kentucky $39,372
Louisiana $39,337
Alabama $38,783
Oklahoma $38,770
Arkansas $36,599
West Virginia $35,059
Mississippi $34,473

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Conservatism is bad for your health:

States with worst health-care systems:

39 Texas
40 Arkansas
41 Kentucky
42 West Virginia
43 Georgia
44 Tennessee
45 Nevada
46 South Carolina
47 Louisiana
48 Alabama
49 Oklahoma
50 Mississippi

Republicans don't care about improving the lives of average Americans.

Conservatism is bad for your marriages.

States with the highest divorce rates:

1. Nevada
2. Arkansas
3. Wyoming
4. Idaho
5. West Virgina
6. Kentucky
7. Oklahoma
8. Alaska
9. Florida
10. Maine

Conservatism is bad for teenage pregnancy rates:

States ranked by rates of live births among women age 15-19 (births per thousand):

   1. Mississippi (71)
   2. Texas (69)
   3. Arizona (67)
   4. Arkansas (66)
   5. New Mexico (66)
   6. Georgia (63)
   7. Louisiana (62)
   8. Nevada (61)
   9. Alabama (61)
  10. Oklahoma (60
Conservatism is bad for education

States with the fewest college graduates:

1. Arkansas
2. West Virginia
3. Nevada
4. New Mexico
5. Oklahoma
6. Alaska
7. Arizona
8. Texas
9. Tennessee
10. Mississippi

Conservative presidents are bad for balancing the budget:

"Dwight Eisenhower was last Republican President to preside over a balanced budget. He had a balanced budget in 1956 and 1957.

Since then, there have been two presidents to preside over balanced budgets, LBJ in 1969 and Clinton in 1998 through 2001.

During the last 40 years there have been five budget surpluses, all five were under Democratic Presidents: 1969, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001.


Conservatism is bad for news information:
                TV outlet with the most ignorant viewers.

"Study: Fox News Viewers "Most Misinformed" Of All News Consumers

"Researchers at the University of Maryland have released a study of news viewers entitled, "Misinformation and the 2010 Election" (.pdf) and found news viewers often get the wrong idea on major stories, and–according to the study–Fox News viewers are the "most misinformed" of them all."


Progressives, it's crucial that we fight back "hard" over the next two years to keep these teacon nuts from totally destroying the middle-class.
"In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican."

H. L. Mencken

Originally posted to joelgp on Wed Mar 23, 2011 at 11:26 AM EDT.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Happens When the Fortunes of the Rich Are Severed from those of the Rest ANS

This is a pretty short article, but I've included the comments so far, just in case you want to read them.  the article is about the rich not needing the rest of us anymore.  Do they or not? and what does it mean for us?  The posting is from None So Blind, by Andy Schmookler.
Find it here:    

* What Happens When the Fortunes of the Rich Are Severed from those of the Rest: A Passage from Bill Moyers (with Commentary from Me)

The following passage is from Bill Moyer's article –in THE PROGRESSIVE magazine issue of February, 2011– "The Rule of the Rich."

It was called to my attention by MK Kellogg.

After this brief passage from Moyers comes a commentary from me.


Late in August, I clipped another story from The Wall Street Journal. Above an op-ed piece by Robert Frank the headline asked: "Do the Rich Need the Rest of America?" The author didn't seem ambivalent about the answer. He wrote that
as stocks have boomed, "the wealthy bounced back. And while the Main Street economy" [where the Connie Brasels and Natalie Fords and most Americans live] "was wracked by high unemployment and the real-estate crash, the wealthy­whose financial fates were more tied to capital markets than jobs and houses­picked themselves up, brushed themselves off, and started buying luxury goods

Citing the work of Michael Lind at the Economic Growth Program of the New America Foundation, the article went on to describe how the super-rich earn their fortunes with overseas labor, selling to overseas consumers and managing financial transactions that have little to do with the rest of America, "while relying entirely or almost entirely on immigrant servants at one of several homes
around the country."

So the answer to the question "Do the Rich Need the Rest of America?" is as stark as it is ominous: Many don't. As they form their own financial culture increasingly separated from the fate of everyone else, it is "hardly surprising," Frank and Lind
concluded, "that so many of them should be so hostile to paying taxes to
support the infrastructure and the social programs that help the majority
of the American people."


When something happens in a society as profound as the rise of this destructive power in America that I'm calling "the elephant in the room," the factors behind that development are sure to be many. But what Moyers points out here seems almost sure to be one of those causal factors.

When the fortunes of the rich in this nation depended on the capabilities of its human resources, the rich had an enlightened self-interest in maintaining the overall health and solidity of the surrounding society. But when the increasing globalization of the American corporate enterprise severs the tie between the enrichment of the super-rich from the well-being of the rest of America, that self-interested motivation falls away.

Add to this change in motivation two other developments –the increasing inequality between the super-rich and the rest of Americans, and the increasing ability of money to buy political power (Citizens United, etc.)– and the corrupt hijacking of the political system by the forces of greed becomes still more probable.

And finally, when all those factors –motive, means, and opportunity– are combined with what I believe to be a decline in the power of cultural morality (i.e. the inculcation by the culture, particularly that of the dominant class, of an ethic of caring for the public good, of a sense of responsibility that goes with privilege) and the criminal political power that has risen on the right becomes still more likely.

We have seen evidence of the crime all around. Moyers here provides us with one of the clues to its origins.


Please take a look at the previous posting, "* Not By Bread Alone, but Not Breadlessly Either" at

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8 Responses to "* What Happens When the Fortunes of the Rich Are Severed from those of the Rest: A Passage from Bill Moyers (with Commentary from Me)"

  1. mczilla Says:
  2. March 24th, 2011 at 11:02 am
  3. Well, you have to wonder. If "enlightened self-interest" was previously the motivation for maintaining a healthy national society, wouldn't that concern then extend itself to the international stage, given that the world at large is now their theatre of operations and source of their wealth? Since we see little evidence of this, apparently the old idea of Noblesse Oblige has been tossed aside in any context, and the picture grows ever more dark. Even if one is fabulously wealthy, where is all this supposed to go? Global feudalism, or even worse? This is the stuff Conspiracy Theories are made of. And they may be true.
  4. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:
  5. March 24th, 2011 at 11:09 am
  6. If the rich can prosper by using the workers educated in India and China, that doesn't require them to share their wealth to help sustain the foundation. Those other nations do the educating, and they can own a share of what those workforces can produce. Hence, perhaps, the assault on public education we now see from the Republicans: "We don't suffer if your kids are illiterate, we've got call centers in Mumbai."
  7. Gus Falconer Says:
  8. March 24th, 2011 at 1:39 pm
  9. I just don't "get it". If the Elephant is "the criminal political power that has risen on the right" and if the Obama administration's (so-called 'leftist") policies and actions are hardly different therefrom, then it would be reasonable for your opposition to assert that the Democratic Party Establishment is One With The Elephant… owned and operated by the same entirely UNdemocratic Economic System. Despite the fact that a majority of the electorate would, given the current economic circumstances, vote leftist, the political Establishment (which is owned by the Economic Establishment) systematically precludes virtually all but Duopoly candidates … thus no populist representation for a decidedly "left" populace and no chance for the People's interest to be served.
    The only way to elect people who will serve the People's interest is to awaken the masses to the predatory nature of the ECONOMIC SYSTEM (Elite Banksters & their Corporate Establishment) that has purchased and corrupted our POLITICAL SYSTEM. Anyone who couldn't convince a majority of voters in his/her district of this now self-evident fact shouldn't be seeking a leadership role in politics. It is obviously the only viable alternative to "more of the same" and should be an relatively easy sale. So enlightened, we the People could then be lead to set aside the emotional issues that have been used to divide and disempower us in order to oust the Duopoly.
    The economic reality is that our country sorely needs fiscal conservatism NOW… that's why I expect Ron Paul to be a major factor in 2012… but the social reality dictates an equally compelling need for social progressivism NOW… a "New Deal". The only way both of these objectives can be simultaneously accomplished without huge tax increases is to severely cut back on our counterproductive Defense [sic] budget which only the Elephant (the ruling Establishment) favors. Unless we on nonesoblind were ourselves simply blinded by bullshit and jive, there remains the possibility that Obama would support such a movement in his reelection bid.
    Please read Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Wake Up! …" article published today at
    Without such a nation-wide movement, the Duopolistic Status Quo Elephant will simply consolidate it's supreme power and will increasingly impose their fascist police state on a global scale.
  10. David R Says:
  11. March 24th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
  12. Have you never heard of the feudal system ? Looks like the evolutionary process is overtaking the 'enlightenment'.
    Why and how could it have been otherwise ?
    Looks like natural progression, to me. …………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    Time to write a letter to the editor . . or maybe call your congressman, no ? Ho ! ho ! ……………………………………………………………………………………………………..
  13. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:
  14. March 24th, 2011 at 2:50 pm
      Looks like natural progression, to me.

    I am not sure what is gained by labeling this increasing concentration of power and wealth a "natural progression." Yes, I would agree that there's always a tendency in any system for things to slide downhill into corruption. But that's just like there's a tendency in any household for things to get dirty and disordered. That's what happens if nobody works to prevent it.
    But just as it's natural for things to slide downhill, so is it natural for people to work to combat the entropic process.
    Note, David R., that this movement toward "the feudal system," as you call it, is not taking place in the advanced democratic societies of Europe, which, unlike America, actually had a feudal system in its past.
    Shall we consider the resistance of those European societies toward increasing inequalities of power and wealth somehow unnatural? Was the movement in the United States, for the half century between the 1920s and the 1970s, toward greater equality of power and wealth "unnatural"?
    I don't think so.
  15. David R Says:
  16. March 24th, 2011 at 3:51 pm
  17. Well, I must say there you have food for thought there, Andy. A real comparison-all aspects considered- Western Europe and America today how we have arrived at this currnet state or social and economic state and what the trends portend or indicate might be interesting if all questions indicated could be answered.
  18. Gus Falconer Says:
  19. March 24th, 2011 at 4:03 pm
  20. Methinks only an authoritarian or an authoritarian follower would imply that a People's Resistance to tyranny is futile even before martial law is imposed… Yes, I see it as a race between accelerating spiritual enlightenment of the heretofore subservient masses versus the Global Capitalist's End Game. My personal experience is that Believers are rapidly, if belatedly, awakening to the reality that their authorities work for a higher authority (Mammon) that couldn't care less about them if and when they too lose their job, pension, home or health. Ho, Ho, Ho!
  21. David R Says:
  22. March 24th, 2011 at 5:31 pm
  23. Re Resistance: I like the expression spoken by The Apostle Paul those many years ago :" So fight I NOT as one that beateth the air" I see and hear a lot of beating the air. The arena for the 'fight' appears:
    The people are using foreign made goods,
    living in cities where a minor power outage is a major disaster and
    their entire economy operating within a banking system controlling their currency and credit (and who and/or what gets the loan and who/or what gets the shaft,
    and a government subservient to global interests apparently loyal only to their own personal interests.
    Now ! There WAS a time when there WAS time and when Americans were producers, frugal, and responsive to and appreciative of WISDOM and TRUTH.

    I'm not sure now what avenue is open for effective resistance.
    I know HOW, with a loyal and truly superior Army and a Loyal Secret Service and absolute control of the drones theoretically a takeover at the top could be effected
    BUT with Capital being largely data in computers and shifted around the world at the press of buttons and beyond that even
    Money now being largely a myth with NO value redeemable except the willingness and faith of the seller to accept
    I am wondering just exacrly what the resistance might be . . .
    Refuse to buy at Walmart ? Invade your Congressman's office ? Picket the Pentagon with stop the war signs and symbols ? Have more town hall meetings ? Vote more new people into Congress that will turn out like the last batch ? Buy gold. Ho ! ho ! Build an altar and offer sacrifices to the Big Bang ?
    There WAS a time' yes there was.
  24. kim Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
  25. March 24th, 2011 at 11:03 pm
  26. David R ­ Yes. Exactly that. I have been advocating for a while ­ and sending out messages about ­ a three-part plan:
  27. 1)Take your money out of Wall St. Get rid of all stocks. Take your money out of big national banks and put it into local credit unions.
  28. 2)Support local business: buy local, buy at small businesses whenever possible, support worker-owned cooperatives.
  29. 3) Elect really Progressive candidates to office, especially local offices.
  30. The goal of the program is to return the wealth of America to the working people who produce it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Conservatism Is Our Enemy ANS

This article is from 2004, but it's an interesting idea.  Is it best to consider Conservatives the "enemy"?  or is it just the Conservative ideology itself, not the people? Should we see it in war terms at all?  Read this in light of the article about the Elephant in the Room I sent out yesterday. 
Find it here: 
(I want to reiterate that I don't think Kerry lost the election: there are people in jail for hiding enough votes in Ohio that would have declared Kerry the winner if they had been counted.)

Conservatism Is Our Enemy

by Chris Bowers, Mon Nov 08, 2004 at 11:18:51 AM EST
In all of my post-election analysis, when all of the tactical ideas are put aside, I keep coming back to a single, basic idea: conservatives are the enemy, and conservatism as an ideology is our main roadblock to electoral success.

We have long since left the era when the two parties could accurately be considered regional and ethnic coalitions rather than ideological coalitions. There are no longer any more conservative Democrats than there are liberal Republicans. A few of each kind manage to hang on, but the ideological vote in this election was clear:

              Bush  Kerry  Margin Conservative  84    15   69 Liberal       13    85   72 
For that matter, the ideological vote was also clear in 2000:
              Bush   Gore   Margin Conservative  81     17      64 Liberal       13     80      67 
In both cases, the overwhelming majority of liberals voted for the Democrat, while the overwhelming majority of conservatives voted for the Republican. The 2000 and 2004 margins are almost identical, with the reduction of third-party votes accounting for almost the entire difference between the two elections. Liberals and conservatives are very nearly block voting groups, and they are mirror opposites of one another.

The main reason Kerry lost was because in this election, 34% of the electorate self-identified as conservative, while 21% of the electorate self-identified as liberal. In 2000, 29% of the electorate self-identified as conservative and 20% self-identified as liberal. Gore and Kerry had almost identical margins of +8 and +9 among self-identifying moderates, but Gore did 3.59% better in the popular vote. Apart from electoral tactics, apart from vote counting, apart from making harsher ad buys, the primary cause for Kerry's defeat and for our defeats in Congress wes that the conservative advantage over liberals in the electorate increased from +9 to +13. In this situation, it should also be no surprise that the Democratic advantage in Party self-identification dropped from +4 to zero. It should also be no surprise that our margin in the popular vote slipped by roughly four points. Conservatism gained four points, and that meant that we lost four points.

The parties are now ideological coalitions, and our ideology is smaller. In fact, as the growing gap from 2000 to 2004 shows, the situation is becoming worse. Whatever other tactics and strategies we engage in, these tactics must be coupled with what is our only long-term path toward national electoral improvement: closing, and one day eliminating, the national self-identification gap between liberals and conservatives. Our ground game in 2004 was amazing. We lost the election from 2001-2003, as conservatism grew at a faster rate than liberalism.

This is why I have begun a campaign to tarnish conservatism itself. For me, this is not difficult. I have never considered myself a conservative anything, and I despise pretty much everything conservative (the exceptions are my conservative relatives who I love deeply). However, when I think back at Howard Dean's campaign, and how all along we Deaniacs kept ramming home the idea of being fiscally conservative as a positive--arrgggghhh!!! What were we thinking? We helped reinforce the national frame where being conservative is good, and thereby helped grow conservatism itself. By helping to grow conservatism, we helped the national decline of Democrats. What we should have been pointing out is that Dean was fiscally responsible, whereas conservatives quite clearly are fiscally childish and irresponsible. Dean was not a fiscal conservative--fiscal conservatives run up enormous debts and deficits!

For a long time I have not considered myself a liberal, because my academic mind despises the historical connection that word has to laissez-faire regulatory, economic, and trade policies. What was I thinking? I know just as well from my studies on language that usage determines grammar, and those historical denotations have little substance in contemporary usage. I should have happily identified myself as a liberal, as part of a larger effort to increase liberalism in this country.

Well, starting today, those days are over. I am a liberal and proud of it. Also, I know my enemy: conservatism. The fight begins now.

Tags: Ideology (all tags)

What's it take to be a millionaire? $7.5 million ANS

Here is a short article about how out of touch rich people are.  They just don't know what is going on in the world.  Maybe they should be forced to live poor for a while to see what it's like?  Not a serious suggestion, but how do we get them to realize what life is like for those who are not rich?
Find it here:   

What's it take to be a millionaire? $7.5 million

Four out of 10 U.S. millionaires say they don't feel rich

By Helen Kearney
Reuters []
updated 3/14/2011 11:56:24 AM ET 2011-03-14T15:56:24

A million dollars ain't what it used to be.

More than four out of ten American millionaires say they do not feel rich. Indeed many would need to have at least $7.5 million in order to feel they were truly rich, according to a Fidelity Investments survey.

Some 42 percent of the more than 1,000 millionaires surveyed by Fidelity said they did not feel wealthy. Respondents had at least $1 million in investable assets, excluding any real estate or retirement accounts.

"Every person in the survey is wealthy," said Sanjiv Mirchandani, president of National Financial, a unit of Fidelity. "But they are still worried about outliving their assets."

The average age of respondents was 56 years old with a mean of $3.5 million of investable assets. The threshold for "rich" rose with age.

"They compare themselves to their peer group ... and they are also thinking about the long period they will have in retirement and want more assets" to fund their lifestyle, said Michael Durbin, president of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services.

Still, millionaires are slightly more optimistic now than they were in 2009, when 46 percent did not feel wealthy.

Respondents were also more optimistic about the U.S. economy. While they thought the current U.S. economy remained very weak, they think it will improve by the end of this year.

Fidelity noted the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans hold more than 55 percent of the nation's wealth.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Most Aggressive Defense Of Teachers You'll Hear This Year ANS

This one is going viral -- see it now! it's a video. Fairly short.
Find it



For those of you who keep thinking, "Why isn't the Democratic Party standing up to the Republicans?  Why are they just rolling over?  Why isn't Cheney in jail?" etc.  Here is someone who is prepared to call out "the elephant in the room" and he is running for office (Congress) in Virginia.  We have seen his writings before here at Access News Service: Andrew Bard Schmookler of None So Blind.  This is the text of a speech he made for his candidacy. 
Recently, Andy posted a piece asking us to try to make this idea "go viral", and so I am sending it on to you all, with the wish that you send it on in turn. Andy said, "As I've indicated in recent postings, it is my hope that the "Let's Talk About THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM!" idea/strategy can go viral. The hope is that enough people can come together to raise their voices to change the dangerous political dynamic in the country. The hope is that a movement can arise that will pressure the Democrats and the media to stop ignoring the unprecedentedly destructive force that has arisen on the political right. The hope is that if this "elephant in the room" can be exposed in the eyes of the American people, it's power can be drained away. "
Find it here:  


In the several days after I saw what my campaign should be, I wrote up a speech to articulate my message. This is the text of that speech.

It is directed to the Democrats of my District in Virginia. It is they who will choose a candidate, and it is with the activist Democrats of the various committees of the currently 17 counties and 4 cities that comprise the District that I will be meeting in the weeks and months ahead.

I wrote this text in time to meet with the Democrats of my own home county, Shenandoah County. For that occasion, I actually delivered the speech from the text. Henceforth, I will not do that. Instead, I will speak without text or notes, but rather improvisationally: I believe it is more important to bring an immediate human connection into the act of communication than to say precisely the right words.

But when I speak to any of these groups (for the first time), the ideas in this text will be the essence of what I want to convey.



I am here to issue a call to battle.

At one level, I am asking the Democrats of the Sixth District to put me in the arena against the Republican Party's local foot soldier, Bob Goodlatte. The campaign I intend to run, I now believe actually has some chance to defeat Goodlatte, even here in the conservative Shenandoah Valley.

But the battle I want to call you to has purpose beyond that. Win or lose on Election Day, this nomination can have a valuable political impact­not only here in the Valley, but also beyond. Together, we can send this battle call out into the broader land.

For there is a battle that America desperately needs for us Democrats to fight. America needs us to fight harder and, even more important, to fight on the right battlefield.

For this battle, I am armed with one powerful weapon. That weapon is a truth­an important truth but one that is also, to the great harm of our beloved country, being ignored.

So I ask you to rally with me under my banner. That banner's not only my battle call, but it also contains my battle plan and it unsheaths that weapon.

And here's what this banner says: Let's Talk about the Elephant in the Room.



You are probably familiar with the idea of "the elephant in the room." It refers to a situation where a group faces some big problem but the people pretend it's not there. It's the one thing that the people most need to confront together, but no one will talk about it.

So in what way is there an elephant in the room of our American nation?

It's that something unprecedented –something unprecedentedly dangerous and destructive­has arisen in the American polity, but we as a nation act as if these are normal times in American politics.

Let me get more specific.

A force has arisen on the political right in America –today's Republican Party and its allies­that is unlike anything ever seen before at center stage of this nation's political arena.

Never in American history has there been a presidency so lawless, and so consistently dishonest, as the one the Republicans gave us from 2001-09.

Never in American history –as in these last two years, with these Republicans– has there been an opposition party so indifferent to solving the nation's problems. Making the president fail was their sole priority, even though it was a time of national crisis and the president's failure would necessarily imply great damage to the country.

Never before has a major American political party relied so thoroughly on lies and deceptions­from the lies that led the nation into war in Iraq to the lies about death panels and the lies of the birthers. Not to mention the con job from Goodlatte and company that they're looking out for the good of average Americans.

Never before has one of America's major parties worked so consistently by pitting groups of Americans against each other­whether it is the Republicans' always focusing on divisive issues (like gay rights and abortion), and never seeking issues that could unite us around the values we share; or their fomenting fear toward people who are different, like Muslims or Hispanic immigrants; or their demonizing American liberalism and every other component of American civilization that might challenge their dominance.

Never, at least in my lifetime, has a major political party been so hell-bent on taking power from the weak to give to the mighty, and wealth from the poor to give to the already very rich.

Never has this nation seen one of its two major parties so utterly bankrupt of any positive vision, so devoid of any concept of how to make a better America. Instead, their consistent dedication is to blocking the efforts that others make to provide solutions to the nation's problems (even when the ideas used to be their own) and to dismantling what America has already achieved to make a more whole society (like gutting the Clean Air Act, abolishing the EPA, and assaulting Social Security).

Never has a major political party been so insistent on making everything into a war, so uninterested in cooperation, so contemptuous of the idea of compromise.
The list could go on. But the emerging pattern should already be clear and it is most disturbing.

This is the elephant in the room: The unprecedentedly destructive thing the Republican Party has become.

This is not the Republican Party of Eisenhower, that decent man; nor of Barry Goldwater, with his integrity; nor of Ronald Reagan, amiable and positive, and delighted to find common cause with an old enemy, from that "evil empire," and to beat some old swords into ploughshares.

This is not even a conservative party, because conservatism is principled. Calling itself conservative is just one of its lies­a lie I'd be glad to expose for the benefit of true conservatives in this District.

This dark force degrading our politics is the thing that must be talked about because it has proved so unrelentingly damaging to the country. It's not just that it is ugly. It is dragging this country down into something much worse than she was, something that falls far short of what she might be.

When the Bush presidency ended in early 2009, can you think of a single aspect of our American civilization that is touched by politics that was not in worse shape than it was when Bush took office? I cannot.

Looking back at the just-concluded 111th Congress, can you think of a single issue on which the outcome was not worse than it would have been were it not for the conduct of the Republican Party? I cannot.

Can you think of a single constructive thing this new Republican House has even tried to accomplish? I cannot.

As a result of all this damage, the signs of American decline are proliferating:

** No more is America a world leader in providing opportunities for its people to move up the economic scale.

** No more is America a leader in providing health care to its people, or in educating its young.

** No more is America a land with a thriving middle class­not now, when our politics have helped the richest one percent triple its share of our national wealth while the bottom 90 percent has been losing ground.

This list, too, could be extended.

Suffice it to say that in these and countless other ways the America we love is paying an enormous price for this elephant in the room.

Good government –wise government, foresightful, just, and caring government­is essential for a society like ours to navigate its way successfully into the future. But this force on the right has shown a determination to prevent good government.

Not only does it make war on government itself. It also labors continuously to turn our government "by the people and for the people" into a government by the dollar and for the dollar.

And at every turn it throws a stick into the spokes, preventing our democratic discourse from functioning as our Founders intended. Can you think of a single public issue on which our political system has been able to conduct an honest and constructive discussion since this dark force rose to power a decade ago? I cannot.

So we as a nation are like a boat on the rapids without a functional rudder. The boat is getting battered on the rocks of our unmet challenges, and our confidence in our being able to get through these rapids intact is justifiably weakened. Americans sense this: things are heading, they say, in the wrong direction.
And at the center of all this is that elephant in the room. That thing that we must talk about but do not.

These are the stakes in this battle. If this force is allowed to continue to wreak this havoc, the future for us Americans will continue to dim. It is only if this force is talked about –only if it is exposed so that it is discredited in the eyes of the American people­can we regain that proud and hopeful birthright we were given as Americans.



This elephant in the room is thus at the center of our nation's difficulties, because it prevents us from meeting effectively any of our other challenges.

But recall: the idea of the elephant in the room identifies two problems. There is the elephant, but there's also the fact that we're not talking about it.

So why has America not been talking about this elephant in our national room?

There are different answers for different groups of people.

One group is of people who have bought the lie and have aligned themselves with this force. Mistaking it for something good, they simply do not see this elephant.
There are a lot of these people in our District. From talking politics with my Shenandoah Valley radio audience these past eighteen years, I know that this group includes true believers who will not be swayed. But there are also many who just lean the way their neighbors do. My hope is that by showing them the pattern, I can at least make them a bit more wary of the con-artists they've supported. And maybe, just maybe, I can open the eyes of enough of them to actually take Goodlatte's seat away from him and today's Republican Party.

Another group consists of people who oppose the Republicans but don't recognize how dangerously abnormal that party has become. They notice many bits and pieces of the elephant, with distaste, but it remains to put these pieces together so that the whole menacing beast, now looming over the nation, becomes visible to them.

It is the third group, however, that most concerns me: people who do see this beast, and recognize the war being waged against everything decent and honest and good in America but, for whatever reason, shy away from confronting it.

It is here that we come to the point where the picture requires us to go beyond purely partisan loyalty. Loyalty to America requires that we recognize that our national Democratic leadership has failed to wage the one battle that America has most needed for it to fight.

The sad fact is that both sides of America's political divide have revealed defects.
Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats have had their hearts in the right place.
On virtually every issue where the two parties have conflicted in recent years, it is the Democrats who have been right.

But in the arena of power, especially in dark times like this, there is another important aspect of having a good heart, besides its being "in the right place." When the other side has declared itself your implacable enemy, and is attacking you from every side and laying waste everything you hold sacred, you also have to be lion-hearted for the battle.

But, to the great frustration of millions who have looked to our Democratic leaders to be our champions in this struggle, our leaders have avoided confrontation.

In the face of the most lawless president in the history of the Republic –as even the very conservative jurist Bruce Fein described the Bush presidency, after having voted for him twice­the Democrats in the Congress were timid, and could not rally themselves even to vote for censure. In spite of a solemn oath to defend and protect the Constitution, our leaders shrank from confronting the law-breakers in the White House as our Founders would have wanted them to do.

Then came President Obama, whom I supported with deeper enthusiasm than any politician in my lifetime, and whom I continue to support.

When the Republicans set out to demonize him with their base, using their usual fear-mongering lies and calumnies, our president did not contest it, did not call them out. He did not make the lying the national issue it needs to be.

When the Republicans, reduced to a rump minority in the Senate, abused the filibuster rule in order to nullify the power the American people had chosen to give to the Democrats, our leaders did not make that abuse –that assault on the principles of our democracy­the scandal it deserved to be.

This list, too –of battles unfought­could be lengthened.

One side picks fights needlessly. The other side shrinks from the one most necessary fight.

Because our Democratic leaders made the Republicans pay no political price for their ill-gotten gains, the power –so recently gained and so hard won by the efforts of millions of us­flowed back to that party that damages everything it touches.

The evidence abounds: confronting this destructive force is job one. It is job one because failing to do it makes every other job so much harder. That's why health care reform became so messy. That's why hundreds of good bills passed by the House just died in the Senate.

That's why it is so important for us Democrats now to rally under that banner: it is by helping America confront this truth that we can overthrow the outrageous Reign of the Lie.

By making the elephant in the room THE ISSUE for discussion, by forcing the Republicans to pay a political price for their lies and abuses, we Democrats can force them either to lose power or change their ways.

That brings us to the fourth group: those who see the elephant and are prepared to fight it by exposing it for what it is. These are the lion-hearted.

My passion requires me to be in that group. I hope you feel the same.

It has been terribly painful for me these years to behold what has been happening in my country. I bet it's been that way for many of you.

I grieved the loss of my parents –fine, loving people. But the grief I have felt these years about this ongoing degradation of my country has been still harder to bear.

That's why I'm ready to fight. I hope you'll help me get the chance.

I have known fear about the wider world before­fear of a nuclear holocaust, fear of our degrading the earth's living systems. But never have I felt so searing a fear as I've experienced watching this force working so relentlessly, and so successfully, to enshrine raw power as a god that destroys all other values.

That's why I'm ready to fight. I hope you will support me.

I have felt anger before­seeing civil rights workers hosed and beaten, seeing my generation sent off to an ill-conceived and brutal war. But never have I had to live with such frustrated rage as over these years when average American families are being robbed of their birthright of opportunity and dignity by a force fueled by insatiable greed and the lust for power.

That's why I'm ready to fight. I hope you will stand with me.

I would like for us to take this fight to the Sixth District, and I want us to raise our voices to the country beyond so our leaders can hear this call to battle. Let's expose this elephant for what it is and drive it out of our room.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 9th, 2011 at 8:43 pmand is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What if we're not broke? ANS

This is about the economy: we aren't broke, some of us are broke. 
Find it here:
--Kim  > Print Edition  > Editorial Pages
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E.J. Dionne Jr.

What if we're not broke?

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R)  
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 10: U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R) listens to a reporter's question during a news conference with Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) (L) at the U.S. Capitol, March 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. Boehner was set to discuss rising gasoline prices in the wake of unrest in the Middle East. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images) (Jonathan Ernst)
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E.J. Dionne Jr.
Monday, March 14, 2011

"We're broke."

You can practically break a search engine if you start looking around the Internet for those words. They're used repeatedly with reference to our local, state and federal governments, almost always to make a case for slashing programs - and, lately, to go after public-employee unions. The phrase is designed to create a sense of crisis that justifies rapid and radical actions before citizens have a chance to debate the consequences.

Just one problem: We're not broke. Yes, nearly all levels of government face fiscal problems because of the economic downturn. But there is no crisis. There are many different paths open to fixing public budgets. And we will come up with wiser and more sustainable solutions if we approach fiscal problems calmly, realizing that we're still a very rich country and that the wealthiest among us are doing exceptionally well.

Consider two of the most prominent we're-brokers, House Speaker John Boehner and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

"We're broke, broke going on bankrupt," Boehner said in a Feb. 28 Nashville speech. For Boehner, this "fact" justifies the $61 billion in domestic spending cuts House Republicans passed (cuts that would have a negligible impact on the long-term deficit). Boehner's GOP colleagues want reductions in Head Start, student loans and scores of other programs voters like, and the only way to sell them is to cry catastrophe.

Walker, of course, used the "we're broke" rationale to justify his attack on public-worker collective bargaining rights. Yet the state's supposedly "broke" status did not stop him from approving tax cuts before he began his war on unions and proposed all manner of budget cuts, including deep reductions in aid to public schools.

In both cases, the fiscal issues are just an excuse for ideologically driven policies to lower taxes on well-off people and business while reducing government programs. Yet only occasionally do journalists step back to ask: Are these guys telling the truth?

The admirable Web site examined Walker's claim in detail and concluded flatly it was "false."

$1.2 trillion for national security? ANS

This is about the cost of all that security theater we see. 
Find it here:  

March 1, 2011

$1.2 trillion for national security?

The figure in the new budget proposal nobody in power wants you to notice

By Christopher Hellman

  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates, left, and Joint Chiefs Chairman  
  • Defense Secretary Robert Gates, left, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen take part in a news conference at the Pentagon, Tuesday, March 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(CBS News) 

What if you went to a restaurant and found it rather pricey? Still, you ordered your meal and, when done, picked up the check only to discover that it was almost twice the menu price.

Welcome to the world of the real U.S. national security budget.  Normally, in media accounts, you hear about the Pentagon budget and the war-fighting supplementary funds passed by Congress for our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That already gets you into a startling price range -- close to $700 billion for 2012 -- but that's barely more than half of it.  If Americans were ever presented with the real bill for the total U.S. national security budget, it would actually add up to more than $1.2 trillion a year.

Take that in for a moment.  It's true; you won't find that figure in your daily newspaper or on your nightly newscast, but it's no misprint.  It may even be an underestimate.  In any case, it's the real thing when it comes to your tax dollars.  The simplest way to grasp just how Americans could pay such a staggering amount annually for "security" is to go through what we know about the U.S. national security budget, step by step, and add it all up.

So, here we go.  Buckle your seat belt: it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Fortunately for us, on February 14th the Obama administration officially released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget request.  Of course, it hasn't been passed by Congress -- even the 2011 budget hasn't made it through that august body yet -- but at least we have the most recent figures available for our calculations.

For 2012, the White House has requested $558 billion for the Pentagon's annual "base" budget, plus an additional $118 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  At $676 billion, that's already nothing to sneeze at, but it's just the barest of beginnings when it comes to what American taxpayers will actually spend on national security.  Think of it as the gigantic tip of a humongous iceberg.

To get closer to a real figure, it's necessary to start peeking at other parts of the federal budget where so many other pots of security spending are squirreled away.

Missing from the Pentagon's budget request, for example, is an additional $19.3 billion for nuclear-weapons-related activities like making sure our current stockpile of warheads will work as expected and cleaning up the waste created by seven decades of developing and producing them.  That money, however, officially falls in the province of the Department of Energy.  And then, don't forget an additional $7.8 billion that the Pentagon lumps into a "miscellaneous" category -- a kind of department of chump change -- that is included in neither its base budget nor those war-fighting funds.

So, even though we're barely started, we've already hit a total official FY 2012 Pentagon budget request of:

$703.1 billion dollars.

Not usually included in national security spending are hundreds of billions of dollars that American taxpayers are asked to spend to pay for past wars, and to support our current and future national security strategy.

For starters, that $117.8 billion war-funding request for the Department of Defense doesn't include certain actual "war-related fighting" costs.  Take, for instance, the counterterrorism activities of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. For the first time, just as with the Pentagon budget, the FY 2012 request divides what's called "International Affairs" in two: that is, into an annual "base" budget as well as funding for "Overseas Contingency Operations" related to Iraq and Afghanistan.  (In the Bush years, these used to be called the Global War on Terror.)  The State Department's contribution? $8.7 billion.  That brings the grand but very partial total so far to:

$711.8 billion.

The White House has also requested $71.6 billion for a post-2001 category called "homeland security" -- of which $18.1 billion is funded through the Department of Defense. The remaining $53.5 billion goes through various other federal accounts, including the Department of Homeland Security ($37 billion), the Department of Health and Human Services ($4.6 billion), and the Department of Justice ($4.6 billion). All of it is, however, national security funding which brings our total to:

$765.3 billion

The U.S. intelligence budget was technically classified prior to 2007, although at roughly $40 billion annually, it was considered one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington. Since then, as a result of recommendations by the 9/11 Commission, Congress has required that the government reveal the total amount spent on intelligence work related to the National Intelligence Program (NIP).

This work done by federal agencies like the CIA and the National Security Agency consists of keeping an eye on and trying to understand what other nations are doing and thinking, as well as a broad range of "covert operations" such as those being conducted in Pakistan. In this area, we won't have figures until FY 2012 ends. The latest NIP funding figure we do have is $53.1 billion for FY 2010.  There's little question that the FY 2012 figure will be higher, but let's be safe and stick with what we know.  (Keep in mind that the government spends plenty more on "intelligence."  Additional funds for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP), however, are already included in the Pentagon's 2012 base budget and war-fighting supplemental, though we don't know what they are. The FY 2010 funding for MIP, again the latest figure available, was $27 billion.)  In any case, add that $53.1 billion and we're at:

$818.4 billion.

Veterans programs are an important part of the national security budget with the projected funding figure for 2012 being $129.3 billion. Of this, $59 billion is for veterans' hospital and medical care, $70.3 billion for disability pensions and education programs. This category of national security funding has been growing rapidly in recent years because of the soaring medical-care needs of veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars. According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, by 2020 total funding for health-care services for veterans will have risen another 45%-75%.  In the meantime, for 2012 we've reached:

$947.7 billion.

If you include the part of the foreign affairs budget not directly related to U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other counterterrorism operations, you have an additional $18 billion in direct security spending.  Of this, $6.6 billion is for military aid to foreign countries, while almost $2 billion goes for "international peacekeeping" operations. A further $709 million has been designated for countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, combating terrorism, and clearing landmines planted in regional conflicts around the globe.  This leaves us at:

$965.7 billion

As with all federal retirees, U.S. military retirees and former civilian Department of Defense employees receive pension benefits from the government. The 2012 figure is $48.5 billion for military personnel, $20 billion for those civilian employees, which means we've now hit:

$1,034.2 billion. (Yes, that's $1.03 trillion!)

When the federal government lacks sufficient funds to pay all of its obligations, it borrows. Each year, it must pay the interest on this debt which, for FY 2012, is projected at $474.1 billion.  The National Priorities Project calculates that 39% of that, or $185 billion, comes from borrowing related to past Pentagon spending.

Add it all together and the grand total for the known national security budget of the United States is:

$1,219.2 billion  (That's more than $1.2 trillion.)

A country with a gross domestic product of $1.2 trillion would have the 15th largest economy in the world, ranking between Canada and Indonesia, and ahead of Australia, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia.  Still, don't for a second think that $1.2 trillion is the actual grand total for what the U.S. government spends on national security. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once famously spoke of the world's "known unknowns."  Explaining the phrase this way: "That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know." It's a concept that couldn't apply better to the budget he once oversaw.  When it comes to U.S. national security spending, there are some relevant numbers we know are out there, even if we simply can't calculate them.

To take one example, how much of NASA's proposed $18.7 billion budget falls under national security spending? We know that the agency works closely with the Pentagon. NASA satellite launches often occur from the Air Force's facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Air Force has its own satellite launch capability, but how much of that comes as a result of NASA technology and support?  In dollars terms, we just don't know.

Other "known unknowns" would include portions of the State Department budget. One assumes that at least some of its diplomatic initiatives promote our security interests. Similarly, we have no figure for the pensions of non-Pentagon federal retirees who worked on security issues for the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, or the Departments of Justice and Treasury. Nor do we have figures for the interest on moneys borrowed to fund veterans' benefits, among other national security-related matters. The bill for such known unknowns could easily run into the tens of billions of dollars annually, putting the full national security budget over the $1.3 trillion mark or even higher.

There's a simple principle here.  American taxpayers should know just what they are paying for.  In a restaurant, a customer would be outraged to receive a check almost twice as high as the menu promised.  We have no idea whether the same would be true in the world of national security spending, because Americans are never told what national security actually means at the cash register.

Christopher Hellman is communications liaison at the National Priorities Project in Northampton, Massachusetts. He was previously a military policy analyst for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, a Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Defense Information, and spent 10 years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer working on national security and foreign policy issues. This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
© 2011 CBS Interactive Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Crucial Information Gets Ignored: From the Book *Streetlights and Shadows* ANS

I thought this article about how groups affect the thinking of individuals was interesting.  There are several more in this series.  They are from "None So Blind" by Andy Schmookler.  Read the comments too, at least the first two. 
Find it here: 

Crucial Information Gets Ignored: From the Book *Streetlights and Shadows*

I'm reading the book STREETLIGHTS AND SHADOWS: SEARCHING FOR THE KEYS TO ADAPTIVE DECISION-MAKING by Gary Klein (M.I.T. Press, 2009). Here is something from that book.


In Chapter 9, Klein has described how the possession of information in the system generally was not sufficient to alert the system to impending disaster. The three cases he describes are 1) the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 2) the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and 3) the collapse of the house of cards known as Enron.

He then goes on to describe this study:

"In 2006, Dave Snowden and I, working with Chew Lock Pin, Holly Baxter, and Cheryl Ann Teh, performed a study for the Singapore Armed Forces on the dynamics of weak signals [weak signals being, apparently, minor-seeming information that doesn't fit the previous overall pattern or the general expectation]…We set up 'garden path' scenarios in which the initial, obvious account of events was wrong and the weak signals started to dribble in. We ran seven groups of military and intelligence specialists in teams of four. Not a single team talked about the weak signals when there was still time to take early and preventive action.

"However, we had asked the participants to keep private diaries, and in every team at least one member noted the weak signals in his or her diary. Sometimes half the members of a team noted the weak signals in their diaries. In other words, each team had the potential to surface the weak signals. But not a single team talked about them. Somehow the climate of teamwork suppressed these cues. We need to find ways to encourage team members to voice suspicions and hunches without inviting ridicule or losing credibility."

This entry was posted on Sunday, February 13th, 2011 at 11:18 amand is filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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6 Responses to "Crucial Information Gets Ignored: From the Book *Streetlights and Shadows*"

  1. mczilla Says:
  2. February 13th, 2011 at 12:49 pm

  3. Don't mean to be facetious at all here, but doesn't the conclusion seem somehow inverted? I mean, these folks are supposed to be on the lookout for clues to approaching trouble, not dancing around each other's preconceptions. Groupthink is an old, self-reinforcing problem, and ridicule is seldom "invited". The final sentence might make more sense if it said "We need to find ways to encourage team members not to react with ridicule or hostile disbelief to those voicing suspicions".
  4. [Duane] Says:
  5. February 13th, 2011 at 9:10 pm

  6. The Social Psychology of Hatred:
      In a now classic study, Sherif (1937) placed subjects in a darkened room and asked them to estimate how far a dot of light moved across a screen. In fact the pinpoint of light was stationary. Under conditions such as these, an optical illusion known as the autokinetic effect makes it seem as if the light travels. Subjects were thus placed in a situation in which reality was ambiguous and in which they were asked to provide information about something that was indeterminate. Results showed that when subjects completed the task in groups, they frequently demonstrated the emergence of a social norm in terms of their belief about the movement of the light: After several trials the subjects would tend to conform and each subject in the group would provide a similar estimate. In other words, in this situation in which reality was ambiguous, subjects looked to each other for information about what was happening and developed a socially constructed reality regarding their belief about how far the dot of light was moving. Sherif believed that slogans and propaganda produce a similar mental process on a national or cultural level through the creation of cultural assumptions or interpretations of reality regarding international politics and relations with nations considered to be enemies.

    When empire works, what need we learn how to be humane?
  7. Pat Says:
  8. February 13th, 2011 at 10:13 pm
  9. Are we experiencing the same phenomenon now with the situation in Egypt? Mubarak is gone, and the people and the media are telling us "the Egyptian People are now free." Who has been in charge in Egypt for the last 40 or so years: The military. Who is in charge now in Egypt? The military.
  10. According to Fareed Zakaria on GPS, the United States spends $1.5 Million
  11. A DAY on the Egyptian Military. What information are we not paying attention to? Who is buying the propaganda?
  12. Marti Says:
  13. February 14th, 2011 at 10:51 am
  14. After reading this blog for over a year from Albuquerque, this made me finally decide to jump in. This is exactly what happened with the Deepwater Horizon. A whole chain of bad "little" decisions were made, with each decision-maker thinking his/her "little" decision wouldn't be that significant. As the results of all the bad "little" decisions began to create "signals" of increasing trouble, the "groupthink," complete with people being afraid to create trouble, i.e. stop the process, made it impossible to intervene before it was, alas, too late.
    And we have many complex systems in the Gulf of Mexico (actually globally) that are just as vulnerable, and some are way bigger than the Deepwater Horizon/Macondo Well.
  15. Katrin Says:
  16. February 14th, 2011 at 12:03 pm
  17. Oh, Andy, would you mind adding on some more text from the book? This is really interesting. i.e. would you give one or preferably more than one more example for 'weak link' ?
    a) as it was perhaps 'picked up' (if not in these groups)…or should have been noticed

    b) missed, and why,

    c) an example of a diary entry, and how this should/could have been used.
    When I was reading this entry, I was reminded of how the FBI is most often portrayed, especially in movies, as missing all the 'weak links', and only focusing on the obvious,immediate, and learned, or taught during training.

    Consequestly, the well dressed, tall, and 'arrogant losers' always lacked the creativity, (if maybe not team work) to solve the case?
  18. Andrew Bard Schmookler Says:
  19. February 14th, 2011 at 12:22 pm
  20. There will be more entries from this book, but I don't think they'll be about precisely the same kind of issue (failing to attend to critical information).

Fwd: Judge blocks contentious Wisconsin union law ANS

Just in case you hadn't heard about this:  the illegal way the law was passed in Wisconsin actually came to the notice of someone with some concern about legality. 
One of our readers sent this to me, so I pass it on to you....

Judge blocks contentious Wisconsin union law


Judge Maryann Sumi listens to arguments during a hearing Friday, March 18, 2011 in Dane Co...

Fri Mar 18, 2:22 PM EDT

A Wisconsin judge issued a temporary restraining order Friday blocking the state's new and contentious collective bargaining law from taking effect, raising the possibility that the Legislature may have to vote again to pass the bill.

Lawmakers had passed Gov. Scott Walker's measure last week, breaking a three-week stalemate caused by 14 Senate Democrats fleeing to Illinois. Demonstrations against the measure, which would strip most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights, grew as large as 85,000 people.

Dane County District Judge Maryann Sumi granted the order in response to a lawsuit filed by the local Democratic district attorney alleging that Republican lawmakers violated the state's open meetings law by hastily convening a special committee before the Senate passed the bill.

Sumi said her ruling would not prevent the Legislature from reconvening the committee with proper notice and passing the bill again.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie would not comment on whether the governor would push to call the Legislature back to pass the bill again, either in its current form or with any changes.

In addition to restricting the bargaining rights, the law would require most public workers in the state to contribute more to their pension and health care costs, changes that will amount on average to an 8 percent pay cut. Werwie said Walker was confident the bill would become law in the near future.

"This legislation is still working through the legal process," Werwie said.

A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal fight. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Even if the Legislature is forced to come back and take up the bill again, at least one Senate Democrat will be there. Sen. Tim Cullen said he would not leave the state again.

"I think that does great damage to the institution," Cullen said. "I have no regrets about doing it once, but that was in extraordinary times to try to slow the bill down."

The Senate couldn't pass the bill in its original form without at least one Democrat to meet a 20-member quorum requirement for measures that spend money. With the Democrats in Illinois and refusing to return after three weeks away, Republicans convened a special committee last Wednesday to remove the spending items. The bill then passed with no Democrats present.

That move is being challenged in another lawsuit brought by Democratic Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, who argues the bill as passed still should have required the 20-member quorum. The same judge that issued the temporary restraining order was taking testimony Friday in that case, but has said she would not issue a ruling on Friday.

Opponents of the law were hopeful the judge's ruling temporarily blocking enactment of the law would lead to concessions.

"I would hope the Republicans would take this as an opportunity to sit down with Democrats and negotiate a proposal we could all get behind," said Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach.

The head of the state's largest teachers union said the Legislature should use this as a chance to listen to opponents of the measure, not vote to pass the same bill again.

"Wisconsin's educators call upon the Legislature to take this as a clear signal that Wisconsinites will not tolerate backroom deals and political power plays when it comes to our public schools and other valued services," said Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

Marty Beil, director of the state's largest public employee union, said in a statement, "We are gratified to see some of our so-called `leaders' finally held accountable for their illegal actions."

Assistant Attorney General Steve Means said the Justice Department planned to appeal the ruling. Since Sumi's order isn't final, the agency must secure permission from the state court of appeals before it can bring a case, Means said. Agency attorneys planned to make the request later Friday or perhaps early next week, Means said.

If the agency wins permission, it can pursue an appeal with the state appeals court or try to get the state Supreme Court to hear the case.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne filed the lawsuit this week alleging the open meetings law was violated because 24 hours' notice wasn't given for a meeting of the special legislative committee convened to amend the bill.

Justice Department attorneys argued that notice on a bulletin board posted about two hours before the committee meeting was to start last Wednesday was sufficient under rules of the Senate.

The judge said DOJ couldn't show the committee was exempt from the 24-hour notice requirement. She said Ozanne could ultimately win the case and ordered Secretary of State Doug La Follette to hold off on publishing the law — the last step before it can take effect. La Follette had plannedd to publish the law on March 25.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha said the ruling was a move in the right direction.

"I'm very pleased," Barca said. "As you know, I felt from the moment they called this that this would be a violation of open meetings law. This is an important first step in this regard."

The bill was part of Walker's solution for plugging a $137 million state budget shortfall. A part of the measure would require state workers to increase their health insurance and pension contributions to save the state $30 million by July 1. Other parts of Walker's original proposal to address the budget shortfall were removed before the bill passed last week. The Legislature planned to take those up later.


Associated Press writer Todd Richmond contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Fwd: electric cars ANS

this is from Baltimore, so the article is slanted toward local stuff, but it's also a really good overview of the state of what's going on with the practical side of getting an electric car. 
We hope our solar electric generator that we are inventing will be useful for charging electric cars.
Find it here:  

Jumpstarting the electric car

By GUS G. SENTEMENTES - The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE Electric wagons powered by heavy batteries quietly zipped through the streets of Baltimore, carrying beer, milk, fruit and other goods from wholesalers to shops and homes. Some delivery companies installed their own charging stations or used a downtown garage maintained by the local utility to charge their wagons overnight.

This experimental period in transportation wasn't during the gasoline price shocks of the early 1970s. Try 1911.

Electric vehicles would grow to account for about one-quarter of the automobiles in the United States by the 1920s, historians estimate. But the internal-combustion engine would soon outrun electric motors, steam and even horses. As gasoline-fueled cars improved, electric vehicles would be all but forgotten.

Now the nation may again stand at the beginning of a new era in electric vehicles.

A new generation of electric cars is hitting the streets, including the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf and the Ford Focus Electric, which debuts later this year. And over the next few years, 25 vehicle models that can be charged by plugging into a regular electrical outlet are expected to be on the market, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, a trade group.

The federal government is pumping more than $4 billion into supporting the electric vehicle industry, from the construction of factories for batteries and high-tech motors, to the rollout of charging stations across the country.

"We haven't seen anything like this in 100 years," said Bradley Berman, founder and editor of and, which track developments in the electric vehicle industry. "There's a real challenge to the internal-combustion gasoline engine."

Despite great technological strides and research dollars spent on electric as well as hydrogen fuel cell, hybrid and natural gas vehicles, none of them has come close to toppling the hegemony of the gasoline-powered engine. Some critics question the feasibility of the alternative-fuel vehicles, citing their high costs and dependence on energy sources that have their own negative environmental tradeoffs.

And auto manufacturers have modest goals for the electric cars going on the market, with sales targets in the tens of thousands of cars per year. Even with the success of the Toyota Prius, hybrids - whose electric motors and batteries are recharged and complemented by gasoline motors - represent less than 3 percent of the market.

Said Berman: "We're at the beginning of all this."

In the early 1900s, electric vehicles were on the streets of New York, Chicago, Boston and Baltimore, and they were, for a time, favored because they were cleaner and easier to operate than the gasoline engines of the time.

The Baltimore region's electricity grid was still in its infancy.

The first electric wagon debuted in Baltimore in 1900 and was built by the Schaum Automobile and Manufacturing Co. at its works in the city on Park Avenue. The wagon came with a 4.5-horsepower electric motor and an 80-volt battery, and could carry 1,200 pounds.

"The new wagon has been tested on cobblestones, Belgian blocks and asphalt and, it is stated, can move up any hill in the city faster than a horse-drawn vehicle. The speed on a level is 12 miles an hour," according to a Baltimore Sun article at the time.

The demise of those early electric vehicles began when Cadillac introduced the electric starter for gasoline-powered cars in 1912, automotive history experts say.

In subsequent years, the electric starter would eliminate the need for drivers to hand-crank their gasoline engines to life - a tedious and strenuous process. And gasoline motors soon outperformed electric motors in speed and distance.

It wasn't until the 1960s and 1970s - with the rise of the environmental movement and the first significant gasoline price hikes - that researchers began experimenting with electric vehicle technology again in any meaningful way. But the batteries were still heavy, large and unreliable, and the cars were still too expensive for automakers to produce.

That has changed in recent years, with heavy investment from the federal and state governments as well as auto companies. At the same time, battery life has vastly improved and can be more efficiently managed using onboard computer systems. And consumers can charge their electric vehicles at home.

In the mid-1990s, General Motors produced an electric car, the EV1, whose lead acid battery weighed 1,000 pounds. (The Chevrolet Volt uses a lithium ion battery weighing 400 pounds.) But the EV1 was pulled off the market because it was too costly to produce - to the dismay of passionate users who had leased the vehicle.

Now GM, which for decades produced gasoline-powered vehicles at its Broening Highway plant, plans to make electric motors at a White Marsh plant to be built with federal backing. And Maryland is one of the first retail launch markets for the Chevy Volt.

With current lithium ion battery technology, the Volt can travel about 40 miles before gasoline is needed to power the electric motor. The vehicle can be charged for about $1.50 a day or less. By comparison, the Nissan Leaf won't use any gasoline, and the Japanese automaker says it can go 100 miles on a single charge.

But for many consumers, electric vehicles are still too pricey. The Volt is selling for $41,000, the Nissan Leaf retails for about $33,000 before tax credits.

And some have questioned the extent of the environmental benefits of electric vehicles. In its annual rankings of "green" vehicles, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy rated the Volt 13th in environmental impact because it is heavy and incorporates a gasoline motor. A natural gas-powered Honda Civic and the all-electric Nissan Leaf came in first and second, respectively. Hybrids and highly efficient gasoline-powered cars rounded out the list.

In the future, auto manufacturers are likely to offer different electric vehicle options and combinations. Consumers can expect a broader range of cars and trucks that feature plug-in electricity options, fuel cells and hybrids that use variations of combustion engine, battery and electric technology.

And prices are expected to drop as manufacturing supply increases to meet consumer demand. Battery costs alone are expected to plummet 70 percent in two to three years. There had been only two manufacturers that produced electric vehicle batteries in the United States, but now the federal government is subsidizing up to 30 companies to make batteries.

"There has been robust investment in a whole range of technologies that are now converging," said Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association. "The question is: How rapidly can we stand up a supply chain and put electric vehicles on the market?"

The next big step involves outfitting cities, suburbs and even parking garages with convenient electricity stations for vehicle battery charging.

"The backbone is a solid, stable grid," said Larry Nitz, executive director of hybrid and electric power-train engineering at General Motors. "Getting electricity into people's garages is relatively easy."

The U.S. Department of Energy has made millions of dollars in subsidies available to electric-charger manufacturers and companies that want to install charging stations and distribute high-speed chargers across the country for consumers to use with electric vehicles.

So far only a handful exist in Maryland, and the District of Columbia has about a dozen public charging stations. As the infrastructure is built out, industry experts say, energy costs for powering the vehicles will drop.

BGE is starting to roll out "smart meter" technology, which will enable homeowners and BGE to better use technology to track and calibrate electricity usage at people's homes - and company officials say those meters could help customers track electric-vehicle energy needs as well. Officials also are considering special rates for charging cars.

The company has its own electric and hybrid vehicles that it is testing for fleet use and to better understand how the cars use electricity. BGE officials also say they have been coordinating with electric-charger manufacturers.

John Murach, BGE's director of electric vehicle planning, said the company expects consumers to adopt electric vehicles quickly in the coming years, and company officials believe the utility has the capacity in its electric grid to support the increased demand.

"There is significant capacity in the off-peak hours that would support full deployment of electric vehicles," Murach said.

Maryland ranks 10th among states with the highest deployment of gasoline-electric hybrids among consumers, according to the Center for Automotive Research. More than 20,000 hybrid vehicles were on the road in Maryland at the end of 2009, according to the center's most recent data.

By next year, the center estimates, nearly 2,000 electric vehicles will be on the road in Maryland. And by 2015, that number could grow to 12,000 - out of millions of vehicles on the road nationwide. Like a century ago, however, some industry observers believe the first widespread adoption of electric vehicles will take root among commercial - not consumer - markets.

Bryan Hansel, chief executive of Smith Electric Vehicles in Kansas City, Mo., said he opened a U.S. branch of the United Kingdom-based company two years ago and this year acquired its European assets. Hundreds of its zero-emission electric trucks are on the road. One of its biggest customers is Frito-Lay, which uses the Smith trucks to deliver chips and other food products.

Hansel figures that the medium-duty electric trucks his company makes in the United States could grow to account for half of that truck market in 10 years. His company won a $32 million grant last year from the Department of Energy to build a 510-vehicle demonstration fleet for commercial customers.

"We really feel that the market is at a tipping point," Hansel said.

GM's new plant to be built in White Marsh, next to its Allison Transmission plant, will produce electric motors for models that have yet to be unveiled, Nitz said. The plant will add about 100 jobs, a modest turnaround for GM's presence in the Baltimore area after years of contractions.

Thanks to significant advances in computing technology for automobiles over just the past decade, the automaker is able to use electric and gasoline motors together - and more efficiently. That feature is expected to appeal to consumers long accustomed to putting gas in the tank.

"Each one has its pros and cons," Nitz said. "But together, it's really a winning combination."

Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

Read more:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ronald Reagan on Unions ANS

I got this from Paul Dodenhoff:
These are the values inspiring those brave workers in Poland. The values that have inspired other dissidents under communist domination. They remind us that where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." ~~~Ronald Reagan

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dog Walker ANS

This is an opinion piece, but it contains some more information about the bill passed in Wisconsin that everyone is up in arms about.  This one is about dogs.  If you're a dog-lover, read it.  Warning: the article uses profanity, especially at the end. 
Find it here:

Dog Walker

...and keep dogging that cross-eyed cunt before he does any more damage. If California can recall a guy like Gray Davis and replace him with a flabby, egotistical, gap-toothed baboon like Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Wisconsin can 86 this clown.

What seems to be elided over by the always reliable mainstream media < /snark > is this little-known provision of the union-busting bill that was rammed through the state assembly with all the industry and gusto of a 12" dildo at a lesbian orgy:
SECTION 2704. 174.13 (2) of the statutes is amended to read:

174.13 (2) Any officer or pound which has custody of an unclaimed dog may release the dog to the University of Wisconsin System, the University of Wisconsin–­Madison, the Medical College of Wisconsin, Inc., or to any other educationa­l institutio­n of higher learning chartered under the laws of the state and accredited to the University of Wisconsin System or University of Wisconsin–­Madison, upon requisitio­n by the institutio­n. The requisitio­n shall be in writing, shall bear the signature of an authorized agent, and shall state that the dog is requisitio­ned for scientific or educationa­l purposes. If a requisitio­n is made for a greater number of dogs than is available at a given time, the officer or pound may supply those immediatel­y available and may withhold from other dispositio­n all unclaimed dogs coming into the officer's or pound's custody until the requisitio­n is fully discharged­, excluding impounded dogs as to which ownership is establishe­d within a reasonable period. A dog left by its owner for dispositio­n is not considered an unclaimed dog under this section. If operated by a county, city, village or town, the officer or pound is entitled to the payment of $1 for each dog requisitio­ned. An institutio­n making a requisitio­n shall provide for the transporta­tion of the dog."

No, this is not from The Onion or Andy Borowitz. This is how evil the Republican Party truly is. They want to use your puppies for scientific experimentation to benefit corporate R&D. The "scientific or educationa­l purposes"? That's vivisection, or performing surgery on a live subject. So if you let little Spot get loose in Appleton or Madison and the Animal Control Officer gets his hands on him, he could easily be sold to scientific research for a $1.

There must be a shitload of stray dogs in Wisconsin if this is seen as a source of much-needed revenue.

So, all the jokes we've been making about Republicans torturing puppies and kittens? They're literally coming true. And I don't know if it's some zombie virus in the air that affects only Republicans but we've seen more screaming assholes from that party coming out of the woodwork in the last year than at any time in human history. This is the Rumsfeldian worst of the worst, the bigots, the homophobes, the Islamophobes, the antiUnionists, the pro-corporate tools. Only they're now calling the shots. These lunatics are in the mainstream. Way to go, poor and middle class Republican voters. Be careful what you wish for because...

And speaking of pro-corporate tools, if you didn't catch Maddow the other night, she mentioned that Republicans, just seconds after their blitzkrieg tactic of dividing the bill and conquering those evil, bloated public unions (without even grazing any of the state budget issues), literally ran to a Republican fundraiser in Washington, DC that was held by a scumbag corporate lobbying firm named BGR that also buys votes for other scumbag consortiums made up of home lenders and companies seeking health care "reform." (Fun factoid: BGR was cofounded exactly 20 years ago by racist shitbag Haley Barbour, another Republican Governor and one who's still to this day drawing a steady income from BGR through a blind trust valued at almost $3.5 million.)

That's not to be confused with the $2500-a-plate fundraiser they had back in January the night before they took the House. God only knows why they're seeking bribes graft, kickbacks, payola campaign contributions since there's already a massive Act Blue campaign to recall these Kochsuckers like so many defective Toyotas.

As Maddow says, this power play that's greased by corporate and lobbyist payola has nothing to do with balancing Wisconsin's or any state's budget. If Walker was really sincere about that, he wouldn't have split the bill in half and passed the half that doesn't even address the budgetary shortfall. The state GOP gave massive amounts of cash to the wealthy in the form of tax rebates and cuts and now they have to put the money back.

It's redistribution of wealth, plain and simple.

Redistribution of wealth?

Remember when Republicans, Libertarians and their indentured online porch monkeys were screaming about redistribution of wealth when the black Socialist was running for president?

Apparently, wealth redistribution is Socialist only when it goes from rich to poor. It's only a good idea that's immune to criticism when it flows from poor to rich, which is what we're seeing in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey and every other state that's being run into the ground by a right wing corporate dildo governor.

Jesus Christ, you have to give the Republican Party credit for one thing: Just when you think these demented, vicious pricks have hit the bottom of the barrel in terms of human moral turpitude, they then grab a pickaxe, bust through the bottom and tunnel all the way to China. With the latter-day, post-Democracy Republican Party, there's always room to sink lower.

They're now literally, literally running away from the people they supposedly represent to GOP campaign fundraisers held by corporate lobbyists just moments after putting the shaft to working class people.

Now they're after our fucking puppies and are selling them to be torn apart alive for a buck.

And they're not even trying to hide it, anymore, because they found a way to shit on the people with impunity. Public opinion, in theory, no longer matters.

They have finally completed the transition from mere scum to actual, living, breathing caricatures.

posted by jurassicpork @ Friday, March 11, 2011   3 comments links to this post []