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Why and how we fight: April 4 day of action for workers

This video from UFCW brings us some of the indelible images of the past month’s inspiring uprising against Republican governors and legislatures trying to break unions and drive down working conditions for all of us.

But it isn’t a coda. It’s an invitation to a continuing fight.

On April 4, the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination while he was in Memphis supporting AFSCME sanitation workers, the UFCW, along with the AFL-CIO, SEIU, the NEA, and other groups, is sponsoring a day of action. There will be rallies in many locations, but it’s not just about rallies. Ideas for action include worksite leafleting or other actions, wearing solidarity gear like union t-shirts or Badger red armbands, holding house parties or discussions, reading from Dr. King’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech, delivered the night before he was killed.

It’s about finding a way to take action into your daily life, to know that as powerful as mass rallies are, they’re not the only way to show and to build worker strength. Look for an event or plan your own.



Help us reach 1,000,000 signatures.



Afghanistan and the arithmetic of austerity

First, the cost of war. The US is spending about $2bn a week in Afghanistan alone. That’s about $104bn a year – and that is not including Iraq. Compare that with the state budget shortfalls. According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities, “some 45 states and the District of Columbia are projecting budget shortfalls totalling $125bn for fiscal year 2012.”

The math is simple: the money should be poured back into the states, rather than into a state of war.


Democrats argue party failing to humanize cuts, losing message war

Dems botching budget fight: Rather than emphasize the human costs of proposed GOP cuts, they have allowed themselves get drawn into a numbers debate over how much is necessary to cut, a rhetorical frame that favors Republicans.


Rep. Peter DeFazio: People Will Die From GOP Cuts To NOAA, Disaster Response Programs

If you cut on detection of tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, severe weather events, weather buoys, satellite observation and weather patterns, those sorts of things, people will die. People will die from tornadoes in the Northwest, hurricanes or volcanic eruption or earthquakes. They are also cutting on preparedness funds that go down to the local organization down to the cities and counties, down to the first responders who need equipment.

The three-week continuing resolution, passed Tuesday by the House, includes cuts to NOAA, FEMA, the US Geological Service.



AT&T to Buy T-Mobile USA for $39 Billion

The transaction, which requires approval from regulators, is expected to be heavily scrutinized in Washington. The deal would leave only three major cellular carriers in the nation: AT&T, Verizon and a much smaller Sprint, which may now be forced to find a merger partner.

Already, some critics say the deal will result in higher prices for consumers. T-Mobile had offered some of the lowest rates in the county. While AT&T is expected to honor current T-Mobile contracts, it is likely that once those contracts expire, T-Mobile customers would be expected to pay AT&T’s higher rates.


The combined company is expected to shutter retail outlets in areas where they overlap as well eliminate overlapping back office, technical and call center staff. Marketing costs could also be cut. Cellular carriers have been one of the biggest advertising spenders in the nation.



Fuzzy Privatization Math

On May 31, 2010, Governor Chris Christie’s New Jersey Privatization Task Force reported that more than $210 million would be saved by privatizing work that had traditionally been performed by government workers. The report even set out specific figures for some of the cost savings it identified, while others said savings were ‘TBD’ – ‘To Be Decided’. Who crunched the numbers to show that private contractors would do a better job or at least the same job for less money than public employees? The Privatization Task Force Report says that no one did.


The “Hood Robin” Economy

Ezra Klein:

Has the economy gone Hood Robin, with median wages stagnating because the folks at the tippy-top are channeling more and more of the economy’s gains into their own bank accounts? Or have the rich and famous moved into their own economy, and whatever is going on with median incomes is a different problem that will require different solutions?

Economists have not had an easy time parsing this out. The problem, they say, is that it’s very difficult to pinpoint a mechanism that can explain much of this. In fact, pick your explanation, and an economist can tell you a story for why it’s not true. They just can’t point you toward the one that is true.

We know, for instance, that taxes on the rich have fallen dramatically in recent decades. But the data on inequality are pre-tax. That is to say, they’re showing changes in who gets paid what, not who gets left with how much.


Hacker and Pierson have a theory of where the economists went awry: Economists might understand markets, they say, but they don’t understand politics. In markets, when big things change, it’s usually because something has happened. But in politics, big changes can be the result of something not happening. The rise of inequality, in Hacker and Pierson’s view, is the result of “systematic, prolonged failures of government to respond to the shifting realities of a dynamic economy.” They call this theory, in which big things happen because lots of other things don’t happen, “drift,” and it’s at the center of their story.



This is getting embarrassing.

Six weeks ago, Politico reported that the new House Republican majority realized “they’re struggling with their economic message.” Last week, Roll Call found those same Republicans are still struggling, but have a plan that includes “inserting the word ‘jobs’ into talking points.”

Today we learn that Senate Republicans believe they might be able to put things right.

While Republicans keep up the drumbeat on budget cuts, Senate GOP leaders and freshmen agree: The party needs to better make their case to voters that reining in the national debt will create jobs.

Jobs strategy has been the subject of closed-door GOP meetings and strategy sessions…. As a reminder to talk up the connection between spending cuts and jobs creation back home during next week’s recess, the Senate Republican Conference distributed a series of talking points on pocket-sized cards to the 47 GOP senators. […]

When asked if the GOP needs to be talking more about jobs rather than purely cutting spending, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) replied Thursday: “Absolutely.”

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that going forward, the party’s priority list would be “No. 1 jobs, No. 2 debt.”

That’s nice, I suppose, but that pesky reality keeps getting in the way. Every Republican in both the House and Senate is on record supporting brutal budget cuts, all in the name of deficit reduction. There’s a lengthy list of experts, including Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and researchers at Goldman Sachs, that concluded the GOP plan would cost the economy hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The answer isn’t new talking points. The answer is a new policy — preferably one that doesn’t make unemployment worse on purpose.

In fairness, the article also notes that freshman Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), perhaps best known for his fiscal recklessness as Bush’s budget director, has been tasked with coming up with an actual policy related to job creation for his caucus. There’s no formal plan to critique just yet, but the blueprint apparently includes tax cuts, medical malpractice reform, and more offshore drilling.

Some people just never learn.



Most Public Schools May Miss Targets, Education Secretary Says

More than 80,000 of the nation’s 100,000 public schools could be labeled as failing under No Child Left Behind, the main federal law on public education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress on Wednesday.

Mr. Duncan said the estimate, based on an analysis of testing trends and the workings of the law’s pass-fail school rating system, was the latest evidence of the law’s shortcomings and the need to overhaul it.

Even many of the nation’s best-run schools are likely to fall short of the law’s rapidly rising standardized testing targets, Mr. Duncan said.

“This law is fundamentally broken, and we need to fix it this year,” he told the House education committee.


California, for example, had only 14 percent of students proficient in reading in 2002, but it promised to raise that level in every school by a few points each year. The state vowed to have 35 percent of students proficient by 2008, 57 percent by 2010 and 100 percent by 2014.

But like most other states, California has had trouble keeping up. By 2009, 39 percent of the state’s elementary schools had missed the targets; last year, 60 percent of California’s elementary schools fell short.

If students in any ethnic group miss the targets, the entire school is put on probation. Schools that miss targets two years in a row are labeled “needing improvement,” and face escalating sanctions that can include staff changes or shutdowns.




Senate Democrats defend EPA

Reid and other top Senate Democrats who oppose the amendment are looking for ways to kill it. And they may have a tougher time than they expected, given the momentum after the Energy and Commerce vote and anti-EPA sentiment among moderate Senate Democrats.

Option 1: Get the votes to defeat it

Majority Whip Dick Durbin told POLITICO that he’s expecting a vote early Wednesday. Durbin didn’t say how many Democrats would defect to vote in favor of the amendment, but he thinks it will fall short of the 13 needed to get to 60.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer “felt that she could defeat McConnell directly,” Durbin said. “I don’t know if that changed late this afternoon, but that’s what she felt at lunch.”

But Republicans think they’ve got a chance.


According to POLITICO’s whip count,17 Democratic votes are in play when it comes to legislation to block or delay EPA’s climate rules.

Option 2: Use Rockefeller’s alternative to lure away Dems

In order to siphon off Democratic votes, leadership could offer a vote on a plan from Sen. John Rockefeller to impose a two-year delay on EPA climate rules for stationary sources.

Just before a vote on another GOP effort to nullify EPA climate rules last summer, Democratic leadership drew moderate senators away by promising a vote on a two-year timeout from Rockefeller.

But that vote never happened, and the West Virginia Democrat offered his measure Tuesday night as an amendment to the small-business package as an alternative to the McConnell-Inhofe effort.

Rockefeller called the McConnell language an “emasculation of EPA forever.”


Option 3: Don’t hold the vote

Adding the controversial rider won’t help the bill’s chances of making it through the chamber and could prompt White House opposition.

The amendment drew immediate pushback from the White House, where top officials have insisted President Barack Obama would veto a stand-alone bill to block EPA climate regulations.

“This amendment rolls back the Clean Air Act and harms Americans’ health by taking away our ability to decrease air pollution,” said White House spokesman Clark Stevens. “Instead of holding big polluters accountable, this amendment overrules public health experts and scientists. Finally, at a time when America’s families are struggling with the cost of gasoline, the amendment would undercut fuel efficiency standards that will save Americans money at the pump while also decreasing our reliance on foreign oil.”



Tai Chi Eases Depression in Elderly

The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi appears to relieve symptoms of depression in older people, a new study shows.

The findings, published this month in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, are the latest to suggest that the slow movement, breathing and meditation of tai chi results in meaningful benefits to patients with chronic health problems. Other recent studies have shown that practicing tai chi may provide benefits for patients with arthritis and fibromyalgia. But the newest research is important because depression is notoriously difficult to treat in older people, many of whom are already coping with other health problems and are less likely to respond to drug treatment.


After 10 weeks of tai chi, 94 percent of depressed older adults showed marked improvement on depression scales, compared with 77 percent in the health education group. And 65 percent of the people in the tai chi group experienced remission, compared with 51 percent in the education group.

The tai chi group also showed marked improvement in measures of physical function, cognitive tests and blood tests measuring levels of inflammation.

“Altogether the effects were pretty dramatic,’’ said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, lead author and professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A. “If a psychiatrist were to add exercise like tai chi, which is very nondemanding and easy to access, that would be a very beneficial thing instead of adding another drug.”




So much for that ‘replace’ thing

Pre-existing Condition? Now, a Health Policy May Not Be Impossible

Plenty of people with pre-existing conditions like Mr. Garner are struggling to find affordable insurance. These plans offer a real alternative, but consumers are only now becoming aware of them. Plus, there are some tough restrictions. Here is what you need to know:






Immigrant Detentions Draw International Fire

Immigration enforcement in the United States is plagued by unjust treatment of detainees, including inadequate access to lawyers and insufficient medical care, and by the excessive use of prison-style detention, the human rights arm of the Organization of American States said Thursday. The group, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, issued those findings in a report that also took aim at a federal program that allows county and state law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws. The report said the government had failed to ensure that local police were not singling out people by race or detaining illegal immigrants on the pretext of investigating crimes.


Arizona, Bowing to Business, Softens Stand on Immigration

In an abrupt change of course, Arizona lawmakers rejected new anti-immigration measures on Thursday, in what was widely seen as capitulation to pressure from business executives and an admission that the state’s tough stance had resulted in a chilling of the normally robust tourism and convention industry.


Opponents of the five bills said that the state’s image had been hit hard, and that it did not make sense to pass new measures while the state had already put itself so far out in front of other states and the federal government on the issue — at a cost to tourism and other industries.

They said that previous immigration bills were still being reviewed by the courts, and that it was not smart to pass new legislation that plainly conflicted with the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.


So far, Arizona-style anti-immigration bills have not lived up to their advance billing in other states, which despite strengthened Republican legislative majorities have failed to pass any identical bills. Similar proposals are still advancing in some states, but they, too, have encountered strong business opposition.



F.D.I.C. Sues Ex-Chief of Big Bank That Failed

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation sued the former chief executive of Washington Mutual and two of his top lieutenants, accusing them of reckless lending before the 2008 collapse of what was the nation’s largest savings bank.

The civil lawsuit, seeking to recover $900 million, is the first against a major bank chief executive by the regulator and follows escalating public pressure to hold bankers accountable for actions leading up to the financial crisis.

Kerry K. Killinger, Washington Mutual’s longtime chief executive, led the bank on a “lending spree” knowing that the housing market was in a bubble and failed to put in place the proper risk management systems and internal controls, according to a complaint filed on Thursday in federal court in Seattle.



No Coverage Zone: Media Ignores Brutal Crackdowns By US Allies Bahrain And Yemen

A ThinkProgress analysis of press coverage by the three major U.S. cable news networks — CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News — from March 14 to March 18 finds that Bahrain received only slightly more than ten percent as many mentions as Libya and that Yemen received only six percent as many mentions as Libya:

Libya: Libya was mentioned 9,524 times by the major cable news networks.

Bahrain: Bahrain was mentioned 1,587 times by the major cable news networks.

Yemen: Yemen was only mentioned 599 times by the major cable news networks.

The lack of coverage of the situation in Bahrain and Yemen isn’t disturbing just because the atrocities being committed there merit coverage. It’s especially alarming because, unlike Libya, both are close U.S. allies and recipients of major U.S. military and economic assistance — meaning that the U.S. actually bears a responsibility to make sure its assistance is not being used in ways that are contrary to American values.

One network that has been paying close attention to the revolts in Bahrain and Yemen is Al Jazeera English.



Serious Journalism

Yglesias says “people in the ‘writing about important things’ business need to roll up our sleeves and try harder to make our output compelling to people”:

“In the print world, I think people got too complacent about the idea of reporting out a worthy story, plopping it on page A3, and forgetting about it. Was anyone actually reading that story? It’s not clear to me that they were. On the web if you want people to read worthy journalism it’s made clear that this is actually a two-step process. First you have to produce the worthy content, and then you have to get someone to read the worthy content.”

Ezra Klein counters:

“Stories about payment fraud in Medicare will never dominate “most popular” lists. But so long as they’re in a publication that regulators and hospitals fear, they can have an impact — even if the vast majority of the paper’s readers never notice them.”


Fox Nation: “We Won Wisconsin, Now Keep Fighting”

On March 17, Fox Nation linked to a Freedom Works ad which declared “we won in Wisconsin,” and encouraged that Americans “keep fighting.” From Fox Nation:

More (video)>>>

With New York Times’ New Paywall, Will Readers Still Flock to Site?

Former newspaper publisher Martin Langeveld, now of Circ Labs, countered:

This is a very porous paywall. It is as if the Red Sox sold season tickets for top dollar, but let in hordes of spectators for free — not only through a few loose planks on the outfield wall, but through many advertised, clearly marked free admission entrances.

The Times’ website is the most-read newspaper site in the world with more than 30 million users or readers monthly.

In a nutshell, subscribers to the print edition will have full access to the Times’ website and its digital content without paying anything additional. But for millions who access the site without subscribing to the traditional paper, they could have to pay $15 or $20 a month depending on which mobile devices they want to use to connect. In some cases, it could even be $35 a month.

But many users may simply opt to access the Times in a more limited way.

Digital readers would be able to browse and access the front page and most sections — to a point. The company will let users view about 20 articles a month without paying. Moreover, if users access a Times story through a search engine such as Google or social media such as Facebook or Twitter, they likely could view it even beyond the 20 free articles. The company provided a full explanation through a question-and-answer piece here.



Leaked photos show U.S. soldiers posing with corpse

The German news organization Der Spiegel has published photographs showing two U.S. soldiers posing with an Afghan corpse.

Army investigators looking into the deaths of three Afghan civilians last year seized several gruesome photographs kept by troops as war trophies. Five soldiers based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle have been charged with murder.

In one photograph published Sunday, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska, grins as he lifts the head of a corpse by the hair. In another, Pvt. 1st Class Andrew Holmes of Boise, Idaho, poses with the same corpse.

A third shows two apparently dead men propped against a small pillar.

The Army says the photos depict “actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army.”


US Special Forces’ Operations in Central Asia Keeping Islamic Militants in Check

H/T Jeremy Scahill:

US Special Operations Forces have permission to enter Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on a “case-by-case” basis when conducting counter-terrorism operations.

Other sources tell that US Special Forces occasionally cross borders in “hot pursuit” of armed militant groups on the run from Afghanistan. US Special Forces do not maintain a permanent presence in any Central Asian country, but they have the ability to carry out extended missions in the region, a US military source said.

“Periodically we will have military-to-military cooperative events with our Central Asian partners. Any entry into these countries of US Special Forces would be with the permission of the host nation and conducted on a case-by-case basis,” said LTC Michael T. Lawhorn, Chief of Media Relations at US Central Command.

Last September, US Special Forces provided crucial tactical support in helping Tajik government troops repel an attempted Islamic militant incursion, a well-placed source told



Someone is now bankrolling a lawsuit to undermine the longstanding ban on political contributions by non-U.S. citizen

When President Obama warned that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision “will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our election,” conservatives began damage control literally before the President could even finish his sentence. Justice Sam Alito infamously mouthed the words “not true” while Obama was speaking. Of course, we subsequently learned the Chamber of Commerce was raising money from foreign corporations and then placed this money in the same account which funds their political attack ads.

Someone is now bankrolling a lawsuit to undermine the longstanding ban on political contributions by non-U.S. citizens:

[A] suit challenging the foreign contribution ban is being brought on behalf of a Canadian who wants to support President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and a dual Israeli-Canadian citizen who wants to contribute to Obama’s opponent and also to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), to help prevent a “government-takeover of the health-care system in the United States,” according to the suit. It says both plaintiffs are legally authorized to live and work in the United States, but are not permanent residents.



“When the World Is Turned Upside Down and Protest Is Privatized”

Polls are like confirming statistics, unimpeachable truths, relentless rationality, incontrovertible facts and words that “make this crystal clear”: the Big Endians have them and the Little Endians have them, to bring Jonathan Swift’s cynicism into play. Actually, polls not only reveal opinions, but are subject to opinions. My opinion, for instance, is that all Rupert Murdoch affiliated enterprises – and there are too many for anti-trust apparently to deal with – reveal Murdoch’s opinions. A majority of Americans must like them because more Americans get their opinions from Fox than any other source, a reliable source where “the truth will out.”

We live now in a country which is perceived, according to a decreasing (increasing?) number, as having turned upside down. A plutocracy has emerged from previous aspirations toward egalitarian democracy; a “trickle down” economics in which tax burdens are transferred from rich to poor persists even though it has only continued to redistribute the wealth to the wealthy; a tax rebate to the wealthy, which increases the national debt, is insisted upon by those who seeks massive cuts in government spending in order to decrease the national debt; a monumental collapse of the economy resulting from the reckless finagling of financial institutions results in an “austerity” campaign against the working class and the middle class; the largest wealth gap among all industrialized nations is defined as a war between taxpayers and public employees; a privatized energy industry has silenced a major threat to its profits – global warming; programs which have greatly benefited the majority of Americans – Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – face a continuous attack by the wealthy and a capitulating response by its defenders …

You could continue this sort of cataloguing, but only, of course, if you yourself haven’t been turned upside down. Then, everything looks all right. The point is that, when the world turns upside down, it takes reason along with it.


We are far in our imaginations from seeing ourselves in a similar position as a global underclass, although there is no economic reality that would now prevent a total (if not total already) collapse of the American middle class into that downtrodden position. The middle class is threatened, at various times and to various degrees, with a repeal of a Obama’s limited measure to provide health care, with an reduction of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and perhaps a privatization or elimination of all three; an elimination of minimum wage and unemployment benefits; a further reduction of any “safety net”; a call for “work not welfare” at a time of double-digit unemployment; an elimination of pensions, collective bargaining, and any form of job security or retirement security.

Because we are in an upside down world, but imagine ourselves in the ways a plutocracy has created for us, none of these actualities move us toward the sort of revolt that is breaking out in the Arab world.



House GOP slam CFPB, Elizabeth Warren

Do Republicans really hate consumers? Apparently, if the reception Elizabeth Warren had at yesterday’s House Financial Services Committee oversight hearing on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is any guide.


Lobbyists flock to Capitol Hill jobs

Ethics rules sharply limit the activities of former lobbyists who join the executive branch and former lawmakers who move to lobbying firms. But experts say there are no limits on lawmakers hiring K street employees and letting them write legislation in sync with the policies they advocated for hire.

New tallies indicate that nearly half of the roughly 150 former lobbyists working in top policy jobs for members of Congress or House committees have been hired in the past few months. And many are working on legislative issues of interest to their former employers.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, for example, which led other House panels by hiring six lobbyists this year, is drafting legislation sought by oil and energy firms. At least four staffers on the committee payroll worked for those industries last year.



With U.S. Nuclear Plants Under Scrutiny, Too, a Report Raises Safety Concerns

On Thursday, the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental and nuclear watchdog group based in Cambridge, Mass., accused the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission in a report of allowing companies that operate plants to ignore, or delay repairs to, leaky pipes, electrical malfunctions and other problems that could escalate into something more serious.


The report echoes more general concerns raised on Wednesday in Congressional hearings, when the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko, fielded questions from lawmakers about the age of the nation’s nuclear plants and whether safety and oversight procedures needed to be revisited.

David McIntyre, a spokesman for the commission, said the fact that the organization had reports of problems to scrutinize suggested that the regulatory system was working.

“We have resident inspectors stationed full time at each plant,” Mr. McIntyre said, “and if they say our inspectors are catching these things then that says they’re doing their job.”

The report by the Union of Concerned Scientists examined 14 instances in 2010 in which significant problems at nuclear power facilities set off special inspections by federal regulators — incidents characterized by the regulators as “near misses.” Reports on such incidents are made available publicly by the regulatory commission.

Twelve of the events involved lingering safety problems, among them leaky roofs and floods near safety equipment, faulty pumps, rusty pipes, fires and inadvertent shutdowns. Two others involved compromises in plant security, though details on those were not made public.





Walker Ally On Wisconsin Supreme Court Calls State’s First Female Justice A ‘Bitch’

Newly released emails reveal that Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, a close Republican ally of anti-worker Gov. Scott Walker (R), erupted in rage at his colleague Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson during a contentious discussion early last year:

As the deeply divided state Supreme Court wrestled over whether to force one member off criminal cases last year, Justice David Prosser exploded at Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson behind closed doors, calling her a “bitch” and threatening to “destroy” her. […]

“In the context of this, I said, ‘You are a total bitch,’ ” Prosser said.

“I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely warranted. … They (Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley) are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements. This is bullying and abuse of very, very long standing.”

In additional to being Chief Justice, Abrahamson is the first woman to sit on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Prior to joining the court, Prosser was the Republican Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly. His reelection campaign recently promised that he would “protect[] the conservative judicial majority and act[] as a common sense complement” to Gov. Walker if he is reelected.


Ohio Governor Gets 3,000 Boos

Ohio Governor John Kasich delivered his ‘State of the State’ speech March 8 with all the pomp expected of a new governor setting his agenda. But 3,000 union members and allies – led by 2,000 firefighters along with teachers, state workers, electrical workers, steelworkers, and many others – had just finished rallying outside the Columbus statehouse damning Senate Bill 5, the governor’s proposal to gut public employee unions.



GOP Bill Would Force IRS to Conduct Abortion Audits

Under a GOP-backed bill expected to sail through the House of Representatives, the Internal Revenue Service would be forced to police how Americans have paid for their abortions. To ensure that taxpayers complied with the law, IRS agents would have to investigate whether certain terminated pregnancies were the result of rape or incest. And one tax expert says that the measure could even lead to questions on tax forms: Have you had an abortion? Did you keep your receipt?

In testimony to a House taxation subcommittee on Wednesday, Thomas Barthold, the chief of staff of the nonpartisan Joint Tax Committee, confirmed that one consequence of the Republicans’ “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” would be to turn IRS agents into abortion cops—that is, during an audit, they’d have to detemine, from evidence provided by the taxpayer, whether any tax benefit had been inappropriately used to pay for an abortion.



Support for Gay Marriage Reaches a Milestone

More than half of Americans say it should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry, a first in nearly a decade of polls by ABC News and The Washington Post.

This milestone result caps a dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes. From a low of 32 percent in a 2004 survey of registered voters, support for gay marriage has grown to 53 percent today. Forty-four percent are opposed, down 18 points from that 2004 survey.

The issue remains divisive; as many adults “strongly” oppose gay marriage as strongly support it, and opposition rises to more than 2-1 among Republicans and conservatives and 3-1 among evangelical white Protestants, a core conservative group. But opposition to gay marriage has weakened in these groups from its levels a few years ago, and support has grown sharply among others – notably, among Catholics, political moderates, people in their 30s and 40s and men.



“Nerve”: Why is America so anxious?

We’re a nation of worrywarts, even in good times. But what causes us so much stress and fear? An expert explains

Is the United States more prone to higher levels of anxiety than other nations?

Put simply, we are. Perhaps the most puzzling statistics are the ones that reveal that we’re significantly more anxious than countries in the developing world, many of which report only a fraction of the diagnosable cases of anxiety that we do. One of the reasons for this is that the people in many of these third-world nations are more accustomed to dealing with uncertainty and unpredictability. I talk about this a fair amount in the book, but lack of control is really the archenemy of anxiety. It’s its biggest trigger.

That explains the disparity in anxiety levels between the United States and the developing world, but why are we more anxious than, say, your average European nation?

It’s hard to pinpoint an answer, but I think Americans have become extremely vulnerable to the pressures of the 21st century. For the past 50 years, we’ve been getting progressively more anxious in good economic times and bad, so we can’t even blame it on the recession. As I was conducting research for the book, psychologists pointed to three basic reasons why our psychic state is deteriorating. The first is a simple matter of social disconnection. As we spend more time with our electronic devices than we do with our neighbors, we lose our physical sense of community. Social isolation flies in the face of our evolutionary history. The second major cause is the information overload that we’re experiencing with the Internet and the 24-hour media cycle. We’re all aware of it, but I’m not sure we realize how big an impact it’s having on our brains. The third explanation can be attributed to what one psychologist refers to as a culture of “feel goodism” — the idea that we shouldn’t ever have to be upset and that all our negative emotions can be neutralized with a pill. This to me feels like a distinctly American phenomenon.




“If we don’t change our direction we’re likely to end up

where we’re headed.”

~~Chinese Proverb

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Rep. Peter DeFazio: People Will Die From GOP Cuts To NOAA, Disaster Response Programs
In an interview yesterday with ThinkProgress, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) said that “people will die” from Republican cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s tsunami tracking system and other disaster response agencies.

Great, Republicant’s. Wreck as much damage as you can, and then when something happens, blame Dems. Why anybody votes for Republicans is simply beyond me.

Buddy McCue

Because they don’t know any better?


Buddy, that must be the reason. But what ELSE do they need until they understand? It should be fairly obvious by now where Republican policies lead to, or so I thought.

Buddy McCue

Truth – Down here where I am, people tend to vote Republican because they have a steady diet of rightwing media.

They don’t vote for Republicans because they’re stupid necessarily; it really is because they don’t know any better.

I work with an ex-Marine who is extremely intelligent. He has the know-how to take a helicopter apart and put it back together. He’s easily one of the best metal fabricators I’ve ever met, and he’s sharp as a tack.

But he listens to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and others like them, and is completely misinformed because of it.

There is a big difference between ignorance and stupidity.


Buddy, but why do you think they listen to these hateful people? And is there any chance to influence them? (And if so, how?)

Buddy McCue


For the same reason why most people who come from Blue states vote for Democrats.

The same reason why people from Catholic areas tend to be Catholic, and the same reason why people who come from Baptist areas tend to be Baptist.

Most people go with the flow. Most people look around them and see what others are doing and saying, and they do and say the same thing.

If this were not the case, there would be no such thing as demographics. There would be no such thing as trends or fads or typical regional differences. You wouldn’t be able to draw maps and paint large areas one color or another.

Most people just want to be “normal,” and not stand out from the crowd.


@Truth, that is a great question. WHY do idiots with NO education, NO credentials, such as Limbaugh and Beck, have an audience?

I don’t get it. THEY are ugly people, through and through. When I say ugly (I don’t just mean their physical appearance…although BOTH men ARE physically repulsive creatures and then when they open their mouths…oh my goodness…they delve into grotesque creatures). I don’t understand appeal of such ugliness.


Buddy, I found the answer you came up with very disturbing. Group think is a problem and should not be an excuse for social behavior.

I think those who tend to just follow the crowd are THE reason we have so many problems in this world.

Mob mentality doesn’t accomplish anything. So the question then becomes, if it truly is an issue of group think dynamics..then how do we try and fix that?

However, I don’t know if I agree that it’s just group think. I think that MAY be part of it, but it’s not the totality of it. I think those who are ignorant and who have less life experience, less education and more indoctrination into a belief are more susceptible to group think and thus are easily manipulated by group dynamics.

Now I am not suggesting education or formal education, in and of itself is the only factor. Although I do think it is a variable to be considered.

Less than 24% of ALL AMERICANS have a Bachelors degree or higher. NOW add in to that not all degree programs or colleges are created equal. Neither are all elementary or high school programs of the same caliber.

In addition, let’s look at the bell curves, whether we as a society like to admit it or not, not all people are capable of critical thinking or abstract thought, and no amount of education is going to change the ABILITY of those who aren’t able to BE able.

I always like to equate intellectual ability with athletic ability or artistic ability. NOT everyone is physically ABLE to be an athlete. NOR does everyone have the ability to be an artist. AS a society, we accept and acknowledge that athletics and artistic ability are TALENTS…yet we are unwilling to acknowledge and accept that intellect is a talent as well and not all people possess the ability to be great thinkers or leaders. As such they will be followers.

So just because someone went to a school, doesn’t in and of itself make that person educated or intelligent. Same as if a person played a sport doesn’t necessarily make them an athlete.

So just looking at the statistic…with so few of the American populace even having any formal education beyond high school, and with so many NOT possessing the ability to really think, is it any wonder that so many are so easily manipulated?

The intelligent and those with knowledge have ALWAYS been able to take advantage of those who have less knowledge. Just as the strong (if they wish) have the ability to take advantage of the weak. The difference in my mind is IF they (the knowledgeable, the intelligent or the strong and powerful) chose to WANT to take advantage of those who are lessor in their abilities.

We need more responsible LEADERS and those who aren’t swayed by selfishness and power hungry motives.

Which is what I think is going on. The strong, the powerful, and the manipulative are PURPOSELY trying to manipulate and indoctrinate those who are weaker and are succeeding very well at their agenda.

Buddy McCue

Abby – Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

But you should know that I have no formal education beyond High School either, except for what I’ve managed to teach myself.

Sometimes it’s said that “stupidity is a pre-existing condition.” That may be so, but it’s important to remember that it is NOT an untreatable condition.

I managed to get at least one person in the shop where I work to vote for Obama. When I first met him, he was a white supremacist, but I slowly changed his mind about that over a period of a few years. It IS possible to change minds.

On a larger scale, what is to be done about mass ignorance? I regret to say that I have no answer.


@Buddy….and that was why I mentioned that education in and of itself isn’t the only factor that determines intellect.

I know many people who I have great respect for (like you) who don’t have a formal education and ARE very very intelligent and able to think on many levels.. Hence, why I brought up the ability factor and made the argument that the ability for critical and abstract thinking may be innate.

But unfortunately, it’s hard to gauge innate talent or ability. As such as a society, we use educational credentials as a gauge. Is it always accurate? HELL no! Is it the best measure? Probably not. Unfortunately, we don’t have much else to use as a guide. I wish there was a better system. As I think that is partly why the likes of Sarah Palin and Beck, Limbaugh, etc. are able to gain such a wide audience. As they use the ‘elite and educated’ meme as a way to gain traction with the masses, who are not ‘elite’ or educated.

As you said in your earlier post, there are those who relate to that kind of message and it works.

I hope I did not offend!

I find it fascinating that you were able to turn someone around in their thinking. THAT is a great talent. The ability to influence opinion.

I’ve only been moderately successful myself in that endeavor.

Btw, when I said I found your conclusion disturbing, it was because I partly agreed with you…it IS very disturbing that group think is so persuasive.

Buddy McCue

Abdy – No, you did not offend. I have great respect for you too, you know.

And when you say that the persuasive aspects of group think are disturbing, I am in full agreement.

From my perspective, I find that higher education is meaning less and less. I read somewhere that only about 31% of college graduates today possess the literacy skill that is required to read an entire book and comprehend its meaning.

I don’t find this surprising. Because social mobility has stagnated to the degree that it has, a college degree is becoming more and more of a badge of status, and little else. (Present company excluded of course! Now I hope that I have not offended you!)

I realize that this perception of mine is somewhat skewed, because my work has always been in the graphic arts. I’ve known plenty of people with art degrees who don’t seem to have much of any education at all. As far as I can tell, when someone who comes from one of the “better families” isn’t good at anything in particular, that person is considered the “creative one,” and is sent to art school, and winds up in a position to hire people like me.

(And I sincerely hope that no one I’ve worked for reads this!)

I suspect that few people would be likely to believe that 31% figure I quoted, so I looked it up. Apparently, I had read that finding here:


Buddy, thanks for that link. I actually have been looking for just such an article.

I couldn’t agree more that higher education has gone down hill within the last generation. I’m often amazed at how so many managed to complete a degree program, without learning ANYTHING. Mind boggling! AND don’t even get me started on the lack of reading comprehension these days! Oh my oh my. Ideas such as nuance, syntax, subjective vs objective concepts and context seem to have gone the way of the Edsel! WHAT the heck is going on!

So many people, not just students, CAN’T really understand what they are reading. It’s mind boggling! I’m back in school, and some of my fellow students (Who are full fledged adults) are shockingly lacking in reading comprehension skills.

I think that may have something to do with higher education having become big business. Between the Colleges and Universities having to keep their enrollment up AND the student loan business. Coupled with the reason so many make the trek into academia having less to do with their desire to seek out a real vocation and a higher level of consciousness and insight,than to find a good paying job. I think all combines to ruining the concept.

I tend to find, those are artistic and possess an artistic mind, seem to be able to naturally think more abstractly and complexly than those who don’t possess such traits. At least that has been my experience. 🙂

Buddy McCue

Abby – The connection between big business and higher education does explain much, it seems to me.

Big business is where the prestige is in today’s culture.

Consider the derivatives market on Wall Street. The people who dreamed up those exotic financial instruments were educated in higher math. The concept of derivatives comes from differential calculus. Such things do not fall out of the sky; someone had to invent them.

Students who major in math are less likely to become engineers or physicists, and more likely to go into big business. That’s where the money is, and that’s where the respect is today.


I don’t understand the appeal of the GOP. I truly don’t get it. They are liars, manipulators and for the most part just gross. Their ideology and message is screwball to say the least, and for the most part very little of what they espouse actually works.

I don’t get it.

Buddy McCue

Abby – I can explain some of it. I hear a lot of talk radio from day to day, and I feel as though I can understand some of what’s going on.

A lot of it is pure hierarchy. It’s the philosophy of “kiss up and kick down.” A conservative believes that billionaires have generally EARNED what they have. They believe that homeless people similarly deserve their fate. They want and need to believe this.

(This kind of thinking comforts many people. Even people who are not religious will often believe in “karma,” that people usually get what they deserve. Never mind the evidence: evil often flourishes and the good often die young.)

Back to the talk radio. The “kiss up / kick down” thinking is reinforced by pure bullying. If you listen to Rush, you’ll see that immediately. His language is that of a bully.

On a playground, when a bully acts against his victim, bystanders have two choices: they can stand with the victim, and thus be at risk themselves, or they can stand behind the bully, and feel safe.

The talk radio listener is trained to feel as though he is in exactly that situation. He is manipulated to see society as “winners and losers.” Either support the winners or stand with the losers.

It’s a kind of brainwashing, it seems to me. Yes, it’s ugly. I do not hate the manipulated, but I confess that I do feel hatred for the manipulators. They have poisoned the minds of the people around me, and I will never forgive them for that.


Buddy, great analysis. Thanks for providing such a thorough comment.

That completely makes sense.


Abby, I regret that I was not around for that interesting exchange, but as I said to Buddy, it may be good, for now I am in a position just to listen, and I learnt a lot.


Buddy, those were all very valuable comments. I regret that I was away for so long, but I had to write an email. Anyhow, maybe it’s good that I now am just in a position to LISTEN what you said. Well done and thank you!

Buddy McCue

Thank you for listening to my rant.

I get frustrated sometimes.


Huh? What rant Buddy? You explained very well what’s going on – Abby and I were simply at a loss to understand. (as far as I can speak for her, anyway!) Your first hand experience and of course your way of handling matters was VERY enlightening to me. You’re not only an excellent painter, you’re also a good teacher.

Buddy McCue

Truth – I describe what I’ve said here as a rant because what I’ve said on this page insults nearly everyone I’ve ever known personally, right down to the core.

Down here, nearly everyone is a conservative. I can count the number of liberals I’ve known one one hand, and still have fingers left over.

It isn’t easy to disparage so many of the people who surround me. It was difficult for me to say these things at all.


I don’t know, Buddy, but maybe you should go to greener pastures and shift to Vermont….

To me what you said did not sound insulting to anyone, but then I also read today that Southerners are VERY polite and would take any soda (but which is called co-cola) that is put in front of them because they were too polite to decline it.

However, this one was shocking: “I read somewhere that only about 31% of college graduates today possess the literacy skill that is required to read an entire book and comprehend its meaning.” ——- O M G ! ! !

Buddy McCue

This is my home.

I know it seems crazy, but after visiting other places, I’ve always wanted to come back here.


Yes, that’s understandable too – and I believe everyone has his/her destiny.

KQµårk 死神

I haven’t seen any updates on the workers’ movements since Walker’s law has been stayed in court.

I guess the corporate MSM is has turned the page again on the left.


Oh no, not again: Dems loosing message war!!!! Arrrgghh!


“When you let the Republicans seem like these big budget cutters — when they go after the weakest, most vulnerable people, and you don’t call them on it — you’re giving them ground that they have no right to be walking on,” he said. “They are morally bankrupt on that, so why give it to them?”


Cher, as always, thanks for my morning cyber-paper.

Re: “That explains the disparity in anxiety levels between the United States and the developing world, but why are we more anxious than, say, your average European nation?”

A few thoughts.

(1) The Republicans are a fear-based party — and they are really, really good at messaging. It’s not as if they come out and say here is where we want to take the country, a new, more positive direction, but rather they promote a defensive, take-back-America message that (at the very least) breeds a climate of fear over the enemy within and without. Government is the enemy… Those ‘others’ are taking over… All is lost, so send money.

(2) Wifemate and I lived in Europe for three years and traveled a good deal while were there. The citizens we met were extremely well informed. If I had to charactize the attitude difference between Europeans and Americans, I would say that adversity was expected, but that it was not acceptable to use such adversity as a basis to run rough-shod over your neighbor.

(3) TV and media are a definite factor. Americans are fed “fast food” soundbite news reports (often developed by someone with a partisan angle) that don’t really dig beneath the surface to an issue’s complexities. We are constantly being told that this doesn’t work; this is broken; this is a danger.

In short, America is divided… and there are those who seek to widen and profit from these divides by promoting the fear, anger and hatred.


Bob, it’s so frustrating!

Americans are not just divided, but for the most part are just not interested nor willing to do anything to learn about the problems and thus try and fix them.