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Overseas demand of U.S. goods brightens job market

Jobs are out there. Just not enough of them.

It’s true: America’s bleak economic landscape includes pockets of prosperity. Factories are expanding in the Sacramento area, the Rust Belt and elsewhere. The tech sector is humming, from Silicon Valley to North Carolina.

Las Vegas casinos are hiring again. High energy prices are creating work in such obvious places as Oklahoma and Texas, as well as the hinterlands of North Dakota, an oil-rich state that boasts the nation’s lowest unemployment rate. Health care remains fairly strong nearly everywhere.

Even if the U.S. economy is sputtering, companies are benefiting from a growing worldwide demand for their products and services.

That explains why Mori Seiki, a Japanese machine-tools manufacturer, soon will pour the foundation for a 150-employee factory in Davis, Calif., west of Sacramento.

“People have to have automobiles and planes and medical equipment,” said Adam Hansel, a Mori Seiki executive in Davis. “They need machines like ours.”

Make no mistake, though: In many places, even the birth of a factory can be lost in waves of news about a faltering recovery and a 9.1 percent national unemployment rate.

Generally, the job market is brighter in communities that avoided excesses of the housing bubble. The unemployment rate in Oklahoma City, where there wasn’t much of a housing boom, is 5.7 percent — the lowest among large U.S. metro areas. […]

The revival in some U.S. factories is less about the American economy and more about the global environment. The cheap dollar makes U.S.-made goods a bargain overseas, and growing Asian economies fuel demand.

Result: Shipments from California’s ports have returned to prerecession levels.

That’s helping create jobs in some of the unlikeliest places — including Midwestern factory towns long written off.

“The Rust Belt-y kinds of places aren’t doing too badly these days,” said Steve Cochrane, who tracks regional economies for the Moody’s Analytics consulting firm. “Peoria, Illinois; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Fort Wayne, Indiana — these are very diversified manufacturing centers.”

U.S. factories have added nearly 290,000 jobs since late 2009. Yet, that’s only a sliver of the 2 million-plus factory jobs lost in the recession.

Often, pain and progress go side by side. That’s especially true in places still feeling the effects of the housing crash.

Las Vegas crashed about as badly as anywhere. Casinos found themselves drowning in debt, and the construction market fell apart.

Tourists have returned lately, and casino employment is up 2.5 percent from a year ago.


NYT: Economic Adviser Pick Is Known as Labor Expert

 In tapping Alan B. Krueger on Monday to lead the Council of Economic Advisers, President Obama has picked an economist well known for his studies of labor markets just as the president is about to announce a renewed push for job creation policies as early as next week.

Among the stimulus policies Mr. Obama is considering is a temporary tax credit for employers adding to their work force, an idea that Mr. Krueger championed in his earlier stint in the administration. Mr. Krueger was an assistant secretary and chief economist at the Treasury Department for 17 months, before he returned to teaching at Princeton in 2010.

A more modest version of the hiring credit became law, but Congressional Republicans blocked its extension last year.

Mr. Krueger, if confirmed by the Senate, will find Republicans a force to be reckoned with against the sorts of ideas he is associated with, including a higher minimum wage. Republicans have taken control of the House since he left Washington, and party leaders say they will oppose further stimulus measures. Their focus is on spending cuts, despite widespread calls from economists, including the chairman of Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke, for a more expansive fiscal policy in a period of weak economic growth and stubbornly high unemployment. […]

The choice of Mr. Krueger more broadly reflects Mr. Obama’s desire to strike a balance between job creation and deficit reduction after months in which Congressional Republicans successfully forced action only on spending cuts. Mr. Krueger, who first joined the administration amid the recession, helped design other early stimulus proposals, including the “cash for clunkers” rebate for new-car purchasers, the Build America Bonds program to finance infrastructure projects and a credit fund for small businesses. […]

The ability to win confirmation in the Senate was a consideration; Mr. Krueger was confirmed for his prior post with the Treasury. But the chairmanship of the Council of Economic Advisers is a higher position, and Republicans have become more aggressive about blocking nominees to demonstrate their opposition to White House policies generally. Mr. Obama’s pick for the commerce secretary, John E. Bryson, remains in limbo three months after his nomination. […]

It also reflects Mr. Obama wish for a collegial economic team after the fractiousness in his first two years, which were marked by tension especially between Mr. Summers and the former White House budget director, Peter R. Orszag. Then, Mr. Summers questioned the likely effectiveness and cost of the job credit proposal associated with Mr. Krueger, administration officials say.

Conservative economists also applauded the choice, including the top economic advisers under Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush — Martin Feldstein and Gregory Mankiw, respectively. “Congratulations, Alan. An excellent choice by President Obama,” Mr. Mankiw wrote on his blog.

The cooler reception came from some on the left, who said the moment called for a big-picture macroeconomist who would push for more ambitious initiatives to reduce unemployment. “The kind of action he’s an aggressive and creative thinker about is relatively small bore, supply-side changes rather than big-picture efforts to fill the gap,” Matthew Yglesias, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, wrote in a blog.

The Council of Economic Advisers generally provides presidents with research to justify or counter economic proposals. Its influence, and that of its chairman, has varied with administrations. Mr. Obama has been more inclusive in providing a seat at his White House table, even though Christina D. Romer, his first appointee, often had to protest to the men around Mr. Obama to maintain her place.

Mr. Krueger is best known for his studies testing widely held economic assumptions about the labor market, like a study with the economist David Card about the impact on jobs of a higher minimum wage.

Economists widely assumed that raising the minimum wage meant more money for some workers but fewer jobs for others as employers cut payrolls to cut costs. Mr. Krueger and Mr. Card studied 400 fast-food restaurants in two states after New Jersey raised its minimum wage during a recession to a level significantly higher than neighboring Pennsylvania.

New Jersey restaurants added workers, while those in Pennsylvania cut jobs. The economists concluded that such businesses routinely operate with vacancies for lack of workers willing to work at the low wages; if the minimum wage goes up, more people apply for jobs.


Thom Hartmann Explains What the Koch Monsters are Up To


States ignore climate change at their own (and our) risk (Some governors prefer to just pray for rain)

L.A. Times:

[…] In his book, “Fed Up!,” Texas governor and presidential aspirant Rick Perry derided global warming as a “phony mess,” a sentiment he has expanded on in recent campaign appearances. Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, has gone on record as doubting that humans influence climate, and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma dismissed research on climate change as a waste of time. Her solution to the extraordinary drought: Pray for rain (an approach also endorsed by Perry).

Although they may dismiss climate change, a changing climate imposes costs on their states and the rest of us as well.

In Texas, the unremitting heat has been straining the capacity of the electric grid, killing crops and livestock, and threatening water supplies. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the grid’s governing body, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, bases its forecasts on the average demand over the previous 10 years. In a world without the threat of global warming, this is an entirely reasonable approach. But what if climate change makes the past an unreliable guide to the future? Then Texas is left with the present situation, in which the grid operator is forced to procure power in a tight market where wholesale prices have skyrocketed to 60 times normal. […]

The floods in Australia also contributed to a rise in steel prices in 2010 by closing Brisbane’s port and interrupting the shipment of iron ore. The Mississippi floods this spring affected the delivery by barge of materials ranging from grain to such basic manufacturing chemicals as caustic soda and cumene. This year may surpass the 2008 record of $9-billion-plus weather-related disasters, and it probably will be the costliest in U.S. history in terms of tornado damage. Add it all up — well, you can’t because, as in the case of the Mississippi floods, it’s hard to pry apart weather-related damage from the compounding effect of dunderheaded human actions such as walling off the river from its natural flood plain.

Politicians who dismiss the risk of climate change like to talk about the uncertainties of the science. And, at least in one sense, they’re right. It’s impossible to assert that global warming contributed X amount of damage to this year’s floods, much less finger climate change as a precise component of the extraordinary violence of this spring’s tornadoes. The best climate science can say is that a warming globe provides a nurturing context for more intense storms and weather extremes. Scientists can offer only scenarios, rather than a script, as to how that will play out. […]

Though there have yet to be political costs to adopting an anti-scientific posture on the threat of climate change, the real economic costs of mispricing this risk have caught the attention of a good segment of the business community, from commodity traders to insurers. Reinsurers in particular (companies that insure the insurers against catastrophe) see risks on a global scale and have the data that allow them to sort out local effects from global trends. Insurers also are the best equipped to price those risks — when politicians let them.

For instance, increased hurricane risk in Florida caught the attention of insurers and reinsurers in the 1990s, even as people flocked to the coast to live. Responding to the perceived threat, insurers tried to raise rates, but a succession of Florida governors stymied these increases, causing many insurers to abandon the market and the state to form an insurance pool to provide protection for homeowners. Rick Scott, the new governor, remarked on the record that he does not believe in climate change, which means Florida’s taxpayers — and the rest of us, if a major disaster strikes — have joined him in making a bet that global warming is a myth.

In the states governed by climate-change deniers — and in the nation as a whole, where we are doing too little to address the threat of a warming globe — nature seems to be calling that bet.





Is the Soap Lobby Right That Antibacterials Are Safe?


Update: Read about the right-wing groups who argue that an EPA ban on anti-bacterials would bring us one step closer to a “nanny state” here.

By now, you’ve probably heard of triclosan, an anti-microbial agent present in all kinds of personal hygiene products, from soap to deodorant to toothpaste. The New York Times recently reported on the raging debate between public health advocates and the soap industry over the product’s safety.

If you’re waiting for the FDA to weigh in with a final verdict on triclosan, don’t hold your breath: The agency has been dragging its feet on the subject for 37 years. In 2010, it finally promised to release the results of its scientific review of triclosan by spring 2011. But spring came and went with no word, and as Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Mae Wu noted on herblog, the agency quietly extended its own deadline to winter 2012 on its website, without publicly announcing the delay. When I asked FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess about the silence on the delay, she told me, simply, “FDA doesn’t normally make public announcements on the status of its rule-makings.” So why’d you promise spring 2011 in the first place?

But far be it from the soap industry to sit idly by while the FDA deliberates. In April, the trade group American Cleaning Institute(ACI) launched Fight Germs Now, a site that claims to be “the official source on anti-bacterial hygiene products.” Fight Germs Now’s FAQ page assures consumers that despite the rumors they may have heard, triclosan and other anti-bacterial agents are safe, effective, and completely necessary in the fight against germs.

I was curious as to whether the ACI’s claims could withstand scientific scrutiny, so I checked in with Wu and her colleague Sarah Janssen, a senior scientist at the NRDC. They handily debunked a few of the major points that Fight Germs Now tries to make:

1. “Sometimes plain soap and water is not good enough.”

Actually, says Janssen, there’s plenty of evidence that triclosan is no more effective than soap and water: See this study and this review of several studies for starters. (The one exception is toothpaste; there’ssome evidence that triclosan helps fight gingivitis.) Fight Germs Now likes to tout a study from 2007 that found that people who washed their hands with triclosan carried less bacteria onto their food than those who used soap and water, but Janssen points out that before you buy this line, you might want to consider the fact that the study was performed by Henkel, makers of Dial anti-microbial soap.

2. “Triclosan does not accumulate in food chains because it is excreted by animals and man by their metabolism.”

While it’s true that we do excrete triclosan, that doesn’t mean it disappears from the environment. A 2008 study found that earthworms take up triclosan from the soil, showing that organisms “can be contaminated with these chemicals and raising concerns that this will make its way up the food chain,” Janssen says. More worrisome, a 2010study found that soy beans grown in greenhouses also absorb triclosan from the soil, which, considering the vast amounts of soy that we feed livestock, has major implications for our food supply.

3. “Credible scientific data indicates that triclosan does not disrupt hormonal activity.”

Au contraire, say Janssen and Wu. There’s mounting evidence that triclosan and its close relative triclocarban do interfere with our thyroid hormone and sex hormones in both females and males. This 2008 studyshowed that triclosan disrupted puberty in rats, and this one found that male rats’ sex organs got bigger when triclocarban was added to their food. Industry likes to claim that rats and people aren’t comparable, but “the hormone systems in lab animals are actually extremely similar to our hormone systems,” Janssen says.

4. “Insufficient evidence exists to demonstrate that the use of antiseptic drug products harms human health.”

A number of recent studies have shown that anti-bacterial products might be contributing to antibiotic resistance (here are a few to start with).  Then there’s the fact that triclosan is known to be completely ineffective against “gram negative” bacteria like pseudomonas and serratia, both of which cause major infections in hospitals. In fact, notes Janssen, a hospital outbreak of serratia was traced back to anti-bacterial soap dispensers.

For a good list of which products contain triclosan, check out this fact sheet from Beyond Pesticides.


Goodbye COBRA Subsidies 

Bob Cesca:

Through no fault of their own, millions of Americans who are victims of the Great Recession won’t be able to afford healthcare — at least until 2014 when the full weight of the healthcare reform bill goes into effect. We can only assume too many of them will either get really sick or they’ll go bankrupt trying to pay for COBRA without the subsidy.

The federal subsidy that allows the unemployed to continue to receive coverage from their former employer’s health insurance plan is set to end next week.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, known as COBRA, allows laid-off workers to keep their former employer’s health insurance as long as they pay for it themselves. In 2009, the federal government provided a subsidy for COBRA that reduced the cost for the unemployed by 65 percent.

The average monthly cost of maintaining COBRA coverage without the subsidy is about $1,137 for a family policy and $410 for an individual, according to calculations from The Kaiser Family Foundation. With the subsidy, costs plummet to a more affordable $398 per month for a family and $144 for individuals.



Michele Bachmann gives away the GOP game on health care reform.


Over the past week, Republican White House hopeful Michele Bachmann unleashed a tidal wave of campaign promises aimed at washing away the American social contract. After pledging to get gas under $2 a gallon, Bachmann announced she would make the U.S. the “king daddy dog” of energy by shutting down the EPA. And while Rep. Bachmann suggested she’d reduce the minimum wage, she promised that President Bachmann “would turn things around within one economic quarter, in part by cutting corporate taxes and eliminating capital gains and inheritance taxes.”

But Bachmann’s most telling moment was her warning that failure to repeal the 2010 health care reform lawwould mean conservatives couldn’t “ever again…elect as president a Republican.” With that, Michele Bachmann became just the latest Republican to admit her party isn’t afraid that health care reform will fail, but that it will succeed.

This week, Bachmann announced “We plan to unveil a formal health care plan in the coming weeks and boasted that she was “the tip of the spear fighting against the implementation of ObamaCare in the United States Congress,” As CNN reported, Bachmann explained why at a campaign event in South Carolina (around the 1:41:00 mark in the video):


Bachmann stressed the need to repeal President Obama’s health care reform law, or so-called Obamacare, before it “metastasizes” like a cancer and “we will not be able to get rid of it.” “You can’t put socialized medicine into a country and think that ever again you can elect a Republican as president – or a conservative or even a tea partier as president – and think that somehow we’re going to get back to limited government,” Bachmann said. “It won’t happen because socialized medicine is the definition of big government.”

Put another way, Michele Bachmann isn’t really concerned about a “government takeover of health care”, “rationing”, “the doctor-patient relationship” or mythical “death panels,” but that an American public grateful for access to health care could provide Democrats with an enduring majority.

As the battle over health care heated up in 2009, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch revealed the same motivation behind his “holy war” to stop President Obama and Congressional Democrats. Hatch, who in 1993 co-sponsored legislation featuring an individual health insurance mandate similar to that included in the Affordable Care Act he now opposes, told CNS in November 2009 why he launched his jihad against Democrats trying to provide coverage for millions of Americans:

HATCH: That’s their goal. Move people into government that way. Do it in increments. They’ve actually said it. They’ve said it out loud.

Q: This is a step-by-step approach —

HATCH: A step-by-step approach to socialized medicine. And if they get there, of course, you’re going to have a very rough time having a two-party system in this country, because almost everybody’s going to say, “All we ever were, all we ever are, all we ever hope to be depends on the Democratic Party.”

Q: They’ll have reduced the American people to dependency on the federal government.

HATCH: Yeah, you got that right. That’s their goal. That’s what keeps Democrats in power.

What Hatch in his ham-handed way was saying in public, Bill Kristol for decades was telling Republicans in private.

It was, after all, the former Quayle chief of staff turned GOP strategist who mobilized total Republican opposition to the Clinton health care initiatives of 1993 and 1994.

In December 1993, Kristol galvanized Congressional Republicans with a private memo titled, “Defeating President Clinton’s Health Care Proposal.” As the American Prospect recalled, Kristol’s war plan:

Darkly warned that a Democratic victory would save Clinton’s political career, revive the politics of the welfare state, and ensure Democratic majorities far into the future. “Any Republican urge to negotiate a ‘least bad’ compromise with the Democrats, and thereby gain momentary public credit for helping the president ‘do something’ about health care, should be resisted,” wrote Kristol. Republican pollster Bill McInturff advised Congressional Republicans that success in the 1994 midterm elections required “not having health care pass.”

Kristol warned his GOP allies that a Clinton victory on health care would earn the thanks of a grateful American public and guarantee Democratic majorities for the foreseeable future. “The Clinton proposal is also a serious political threat to the Republican Party,” Kristol wrote in his infamous December 3, 1993 memo, adding:

“Its passage in the short run will do nothing to hurt (and everything to help) Democratic electoral prospects in 1996. But the long-term political effects of a successful Clinton health care bill will be even worse–much worse. It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for “security” on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government.”

And that, for Kristol, meant it had to be stopped at all costs:

“The first step in that process must be the unqualified political defeat of the Clinton health care proposal. Its rejection by Congress and the public would be a monumental setback for the president; and an incontestable pice of evidence that Democratic welfare-state liberalism remains firmly in retreat.”



As for Republicans, they consistently made their priorities clear. The health of the GOP trumps the health of the American people. The third pillar of the Democratic social contract – Social Security, Medicare, and universal health care – simply had to be stopped. For Republicans, the collapse of the U.S. health care system – the 50 million uninsured, 25 million more uninsured, millions of medical bankruptcies, near-monopolies in most insurance markets, double-digit cost increases and self-rationing of care, all of it worst in the states they represent – is a small price to pay for preventing a lasting Democratic majority.

For her part, Michele Bachmann isn’t taking any chances. As she told her audience in South Carolina:

“I have wept in Washington, D.C. watching what’s happening to our country. This is real…

I think it’s a last chance election if you ask me. So think about it very carefully. We need a miracle right now. I’m a praying woman, a believing woman, and I believe we need a miracle but I also believe that there’s a God big enough to give us that miracle.”



ACLU jumps into court battle over new elections law (h/t bito)

Florida Independent:

The American Civil Liberties Union and Project Vote announced today that they are intervening in Florida’s effort to win federal approval for its controversial changes to state election laws.

Most of the provisions of House Bill 1355 have already been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, but the Florida Department of State withdrew the four most controversial provisions — the ones cited by groups challenging the law — from Justice Department consideration, and opted to have them heard by the court instead. Under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, Florida has to prove to the federal government that the changes will not have a discriminatory effect on voting.

Among those signing onto the ACLU’s complaint is Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, who was a vocal critic of the changes during the past legislative session. He attached this statement to the ACLU’s announcement:

The new voting legislation passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor is a thinly veiled effort to deny legitimate voters their right to vote. Restrictions to early voting, requiring more voters to vote by provisional ballots, and shutting down 3rd party voter registration drives will have a retrogressive impact on all of Florida’s voters without providing any benefit whatsoever – including reducing fraudulent voting.

The ACLU is separately challenging the implementation of the law for provisions that have not yet been cleared by the federal government. A ruling has not yet come down in that case.

The ACLU’s announcement, including associated statements and court documents, can be found here

Federal appeals court suggests GOP ban on video cameras at town halls was unconstitutional 


Last week, Rep. Steven Chabot (R-OH) banned ordinary citizens from bringing cameras into a town hall meeting — even having police confiscate cameras from citizens who dared to violate this rule. Bizarrely, Chabot still allowed reporters to bring in cameras and record the event.

Coincidentally, just four days after Chabot took this extraordinary measure to prevent embarrassing clips of him from appearing on YouTube, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit handed down an opinion saying citizens have a right to film police engaged in their official duties. The court’s reasoning, however, has very clear implications for Chabot’s camera ban:

Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting “the free discussion of governmental affairs.” Moreover, as the Court has noted, “[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because ‘[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.’” […]

The First Amendment right to gather news is, as the Court has often noted, not one that inures solely to the benefit of the news media; rather, the public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press. […] The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.

Chabot might take some small comfort in the fact that he does not reside in the First Circuit — Ohio is part of the much more conservative Sixth Circuit — but Chabot should not expect the right-leaning judges on his home circuit court to bail him out. As the First Circuit notes, at least three other appeals courts and numerous trial courts agree with their holding that government officials cannot simply ban cameras.

Moreover, Chabot’s case is weakened by his entirely arbitrary rule that only media may bring in cameras. While it is possible to imagine official government actions where no cameras should be present — a meeting of top-level national security officials, for example — Chabot’s willingness to allow some people to bring cameras and not others gives the lie to his already-weak claim that there is a legitimate reason to keep his town hall secret.




Secret files: US officials aided Gaddafi

Al Jazeera:

Al Jazeera news producer Jamal Elshayyal recently gained access to the Tripoli headquarter of Libya’s intelligence agency. Among the documents scattered throughout the demolished building were secret files indicating that influential Americans advised Muammar Gaddafi since the beginning of the Libyan uprising. Here is his account of the discovery:

[…]Communication with US officials

I managed to smuggle away some documents, among them some that indicate the Gaddafi regime, despite its constant anti-American rhetoric – maintained direct communications with influential figures in the US.

I found what appeared to be the minutes of a meeting between senior Libyan officials – Abubakr Alzleitny and Mohammed Ahmed Ismail – and David Welch, former assistant secretary of state under George W Bush. Welch was the man who brokered the deal to restore diplomatic relations between the US and Libya in 2008.

Welch now works for Bechtel, a multinational American company with billion-dollar construction deals across the Middle East. The documents record that, on August 2, 2011, David Welch met with Gaddafi’s officials at the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo, just a few blocks from the US embassy.

During that meeting Welch advised Gaddafi’s team on how to win the propaganda war, suggesting several “confidence-building measures”, according to the documents. The documents appear to indicate that an influential US political personality was advising Gaddafi on how to beat the US and NATO.

Minutes of this meeting record his advice on how to undermine Libya’s rebel movement, with the potential assistance of foreign intelligence agencies, including Israel.

The documents read: “Any information related to al-Qaeda or other terrorist extremist organisations should be found and given to the American administration but only via the intelligence agencies of either Israel, Egypt, Morroco, or Jordan… America will listen to them… It’s better to receive this information as if it originated from those countries…”.

The papers also document Welch advising the Gaddafi’s regime to take advantage of the current unrest in Syria. The documents held this passage: “The importance of taking advantage of the Syrian situation particularly regarding the double-standard policy adopted by Washington… the Syrians were never your friends and you would loose nothing from exploiting the situation there in order to embarrass the West.”

‘Encouragement to Gaddafi’

Despite this apparent encouragement to Gaddafi to pursue a propaganda campaign at the expense of Syria, the documents claim Welch attacked Qatar, describing Doha’s actions as “cynical” and an attempt to divert attention from the unrest in Bahrain.

The documents allege that Welch went on to propose the following solution to the crisis which he said many would support in the US administration: “[Gaddafi] should step aside” but “not necessarily relinquish all his powers”.

This advice is a clear contradiction of public demands from the White House that Gaddafi must be removed.

According to the document, as the meeting closed, Welch promised: “To convey everything to the American administration, the congress and other influential figures.”

It appears Welch was not the only prominent American giving help to Gaddafi as NATO and the rebel army were locked in battle with his regime.

On the floor of the intelligence chief’s office lay an envelope addressed to Gaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam. Inside, I found what appears to be a summary of a conversation between US congressman Denis Kucinich, who publicly opposed US policy on Libya, and an intermediary for the Libyan leader’s son.

It details a request by the congressman for information he needed to lobby US lawmakers to suspend their support for the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) and to put an end to NATO airstrikes.

According to the document, Kucinich wanted evidence of corruption within the NTC and, like Welch, any possible links within rebel ranks to al-Qaeda. […]

A spokesperson for the US state department said that David Welch is “a private citizen” who was on a “private trip” and that he did not carry “any messages from the US government”. Welch has not responded to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment.

Dennis Kucinich issued a statement to the Atlantic Wire stating: “Al Jazeera found a document written by a Libyan bureaucrat to other Libyan bureaucrats. All it proves is that the Libyans were reading the Washington Post… I can’t help what the Libyans put in their files… Any implication I was doing anything other than trying to bring an end to an unauthorised war is fiction.”


Original documents here.








Wired: The Yearly Bill for The Pentagon’s No-Bid Contracts: $140 Billion


Star Telegram: Perry became a millionaire while serving in office

Bachmann sees Irene as divine message on spending

Steve Benen:

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann campaigned in Florida yesterday, attending services at a Baptist megachurch near Tampa. Afterwards, the right-wing lawmaker offered a rather unique perspective on the weekend’s weather developments. (via Jay Bookman)

She hailed the tea party as being common-sense Americans who understand government shouldn’t spend more than it takes in, know they’re taxed enough already and want government to abide by the Constitution.

“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.”

I realize there are conservatives in evangelical circles with whom this message will resonate, but under sensible political norms, this should probably be a career-killer for a national political figure.

Consider exactly what she’s saying here. A major storm swept through the East coast over the weekend, causing at least 20 deaths across eight states. Michele Bachmann, a member of Congress and a leading presidential candidate, believes the hurricane was a message from God? And that the deadly storm has something to do with Bachmann’s opposition to federal spending? And that God is somehow aligned with Tea Partiers’ agenda?

This is just madness. Chris Wallace may be concerned that Bachmann is a “flake,” but anyone who thinks the federal budget prompted God to send a hurricane that killed 20 Americans has issues that far exceed flakiness.

If the megachurch’s pastor had said the same thing, I’d think he was a nut. But the standards for Bachmann are much higher, since she’s an elected federal official who’s inexplicably seeking the presidency.

If Bachmann is very lucky, her remarks will go largely unnoticed by the national media because the focus remains on the hurricane and its aftermath. But if reporters pick up on this, Bachmann’s reported remarks should effectively ruin her political ambitions.

Update: Bachmann’s campaign now claims she was kidding.




President Obama’s Bills Passed

This page will be devoted to making our members and visitors aware of just what bills Obama is signing into law.  This is no doubt a hard working administration.  According to, Obama has kept his promise by passing legislation 122 times, thus far.  We hope you will find this information useful for yourself and as talking points.

This infomation is retrieved from the website  Scroll down and you will see the bills listed, but, if you want more information about each bill you will have to visit where each bill is explained in its entirety.  Once you are on the politifact website go to “Promises Kept”  and each promise kept will be listed for your review.  The bills are also listed by subject.   Another excellent website to visit is

Also, listed on the politifact website are the promises not kept, the ones that are in the works or are stalled and the ones President Obama had to compromise on.

513 Bills here.

Rick Perry: The (tea party) frontrunner

Chris Cillizza

For much of the last two years, we’ve debated how much power self-professed tea party supporters would have over the 2012 presidential nomination fight.

Yes, they shocked the world by nominating their preferred Senate candidates in places like Delaware, Nevada, Colorado and Alaska in 2010 but a Senate primary isn’t the same thing as a presidential primary; the money, scrutiny and electorate are all bigger.

But, new data from Gallup suggests that the tea party retains considerable power within the GOP and its backing of Texas Gov. Rick Perry has installed him as the frontrunner in the fight for the nomination.

Roughly six in ten Republicans and Republican-leaning independents identify themselves as tea party supporters and among that group Perry takes 35 percent of the vote — well ahead of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (14 percent) and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (14 percent.)

Among those who describe their support for the tea party as “strong” Perry has an even wider 30 point lead over Bachmann with no other candidate rating above single digits.

Those numbers represent a marked change from Gallup’s July national survey in which Romney was the preferred tea party choice (29 percent) and Bachmann running a close second (23 percent).

Perry has, at least for the moment, coalesced the various elements of tea party support behind his candidacy — providing himself with a support base that has propelled him to the top of the field.

While his growing support among tea party supporters is a critical piece of Perry’s path to the nomination, it’s the fact that he is also running relatively strongly among non-tea party backers that may well hold the key to his chances.

Among those who don’t describe themselves as a tea party supporters, Romney takes 23 percent to Perry’s 20 percent. Texas Rep. Ron Paul, interestingly, places third with 16 percent.

As we have written before in this space, there are three lanes in which to run in this race: the establishment lane, the tea party/economic lane and the tea party/social lane.

Romney is clearly the leader in the establishment lane and Bachmann is out ahead in the tea party/social lane. (That could change if former Alaska governor Sarah Palin ultimately decides to run, of course.)

Perry is now occupying the tea party/economic lane — the lane that is likely to produce the next nominee since it will be filled by a candidate not considered anathema to either the establishment or the tea party/social wings of the party.

If Perry can hold on to his support from economic-focused tea parties then, he doesn’t need to beat Romney among the establishment — he just needs to stay within shouting distance and be a credible alternative if the tea party makes clear that the former Massachusetts governor is not a viable choice for them.

The Gallup poll suggests that Perry is doing just that at the moment. If he can continue to hold his lane, he will likely wind up as the nominee.

Is Rick Perry dumb?


[…] After Perry left the state House in 1990 and became agricultural commissioner and then lieutenant governor, he still looked to his former classmate for intellectual guidance.

“Ric Williamson laid out the matrix for how Rick should think about policy and issues,” said a Texas source who has known Perry and watched him for the past 15 years.

Combined with strategy advice from Karl Rove, his first top political adviser, and then Dave Carney, his current guru, Perry has been well-served over the years — as he’s acknowledged.

“If Karl Rove hadn’t been my consultant, I would not have been agriculture commissioner today,” Perry told the Dallas Morning News in 1994, adding: “My brain is like a chicken pot pie. His is like a refrigerator that is all very organized — pickles here, salad there.”

Perry has such total trust in Carney that he let the veteran political consultant bring in a group of academics to run experiments in his 2006 reelection about what does and doesn’t work in modern campaigns.

Well before his ascent to power, though, the Texan was learning the value of taking and rigorously following instruction.

Trained as an Air Force pilot right out of A&M, Perry was “taught to trust your information,” Johnson said.

And associates say the same lessons that Perry learned when he was flying C-130s apply now.

“Pilots execute flight plans,” Miller said. “They have a plan, they fly a certain pattern and that’s the way he’s always operated — he has a flight plan for what he’s trying to do and he executes.”

Mike Baselice, Perry’s longtime pollster, said his client is of the Ronald Reagan school of management: “Trust people and manage well.”

“His job is to go meet voters,” Baselice said. “We’ll figure out the details of the messaging.”

5 More Pages :


VIDEO: Rick Perry flip flops on Medicare, falsely claims he “never said it was unconstitutional”


When Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) released his book Fed Up! in late 2010, one of his main critiques was that, over the past 50 years, the federal government has misconstrued the Constitution to establish “the massive programs of Medicare and Medicaid.” Now that he’s running for president, Perry is trying to sing a different tune on Medicare.

In an interview with the Daily Beast’s Andrew Romano, Perry explained why he thinks Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional:

I don’t think our founding fathers when they were putting the term “general welfare” in there were thinking about a federally operated program of pensions nor a federally operated program of health care. What they clearly said was that those were issues that the states need to address. Not the federal government. I stand very clear on that.

Yesterday, at a Polk County GOP fundraiser, the Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs asked Perry to further explain why he believes Medicare is unconstitutional. In a moment of amnesia, the Texas governor declared, “I never said it was unconstitutional.” Perry went on to state, “[t]hose that have said that I said [Medicare and Social Security are] unconstitutional, I’m going to have them read the book.”

JACOBS: You talked about Social Security, can you clarify why you think Medicare is unconstitutional?

PERRY: I never said it was unconstitutional.

JACOBS: Okay, so clarify your position on Medicare.

PERRY: I look at Medicare just like I look at Social Security. They’re programs that aren’t working and we ought to have a national conversation about it.Those that have said that I said they’re unconstitutional, I’m going to have them read the book. That’s not what I said. I said that we need to have a conversation, how are we going to have programs that actually work.

In Fed Up!, Perry explains on page 51 how Medicare is a misreading of the Commerce Clause. On page 48, he calls Social Security “by far the best example” of a program that “violently toss[es] aside any respect for our founding principles.” And on page 50, he says that we have Social Security “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.”

For Perry to claim that he “never said” Medicare and Social Security are unconstitutional is either a blatant flip-flop or a significant case of amnesia. In either case, with statements like these, one has to ask: has Rick Perry read his own book?



The Return of Congress And Jobs

Bob Cesca:

Unfortunately, congress is scheduled to return to work next week, and as we all know issue number one in the minds of voters is jobs. However President Obama and the Republicans both have their own idea of how to create jobs.

One involves actually putting people to work. The other involves doing the same old tired shit that’s already been done the last 30 years.

(Reuters) – President Barack Obama said Monday he would unveil proposals next week aimed at spurring job growth in part through infrastructure improvements.

Obama made the comment as he announced he had picked Princeton economist Alan Krueger as the new chief of the Council of Economic Advisers.

He said next week he would lay out a series of steps that the U.S. Congress can take immediately to put more money in the pockets of middle class families and put construction crews to work.

Meanwhile, House Majority Shitkicker Eric Cantor has his own plans forobstruction jobs.

When Congress returns from recess, House Republicans will begin a continuous assault on a series of health, environmental and labor regulations, which they say are hampering job creation. And they’ll twin it with two tax cuts for both large and small businesses. One of those cuts will actually be aimed at preventing a scheduled tax increase — but it’s not the payroll tax cut President Obama has asked Congress to extend.

In a memo to members, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) laid out a list of 10 rules, most of which have yet to be implemented, which they’ll seek to prevent week by week. These include regulations that would limit the amount of mercury and other toxins boiler and incinerator operators can burn into the atmosphere; that could make it easier for workers to unionize; and that assure that employer insurance policies exempted from new health care law — so-called “grandfathered” plans — meet the law’s basic requirements and aren’t gamed by employers to reduce workers’ existing benefits.

To recap:

President Obama’s plan — Put money in people’s pockets, remove obstacles standing in the way of new hires, and build infrastructure.

Republicans’ plan — Obstruct, deregulate, and continue the assault on healthcare reform.

Most of the reforms the Republicans plan to target haven’t even taken effect yet, but they will be billed as “job-killing.” Same shit, different day.

If you think congress’ current record low approval rating of 12 percent couldn’t possibly get any lower, think again. Eric Cantor and the Republicans are about to prove you wrong, and they will smile while doing so.

Centrist” Jon Huntsman Isn’t Really All That Moderate After All


[…] But in reality, Huntsman’s only a moderate when compared to the rest of the modern GOP.

Conservative on climate change

Take Huntsman’s environmental stance, for starters. Sure, Huntsman says climate change is a real thing while Rick Perry says it’s a get rich quick scheme for scientists, but Huntsman has made it very clear he intends to do nothing about what he thinks is something that exists.

That puts Huntsman to the right of 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who famously backed a cap-and-trade program on the trail.

Polling shows Americans are closer to Huntsman than they are to people like Perry (though Republicans aren’t) so if it makes you moderate to take a position most in the public take, he’s certainly more moderate. But Huntsman is certainly not a closet Democrat on that issue, thought he’s also certainly not trying to turn himself into a closet climate change skeptic like Mitt Romney seems to be.

Conservative on economics

There’s really nothing moderate whatsoever about Huntsman’s fiscal message. Again, it’s only because of how radical the party around him has become that the way Huntsman is running comes off as centrist.

For example, Huntsman was able to forge a middle path back when he came out in support of raising the debt ceiling while many of his opponents didn’t. Huntsman backed Speaker John Boehner’s very conservative, Balanced Budget Amendment-requiring debt ceiling deal, which was well to the right of just about everyone’s plan except the Tea Party.

He also said he wouldn’t support even the most pro-Republican compromise position on a deficit reduction plan. And though Huntsman is out in public talking about “shared sacrifice” for the rich, he’s a big, big fan of budget plan crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). That bill caused consternation even within Republican ranks, and polls show Americans really couldn’t be more against it.

So, Huntsman’s certainly staked out a position on the economy — but it’s to the right of most people.
Conservative on gay rights

The civil unions thing was Huntsman’s original moderate bona fide, because it really does put him to the far left of his opponents running for president who are not at all interested in talking about gay rights at all, much less expanding marriage.

But again, Huntsman’s not that moderate on this issue — he’s to the right of the majority of Americans, who have told pollsters they favor gay marriage rights. Of course unless and until President Obama “evolves” his from support for civil unions to supporting gay marriage, the voters won’t get any presidential candidate who stands with them on gay marriage.

Moderate on the wars?

Maybe the only place where Huntsman is clearly a moderate — or even a liberal — is foreign policy. Since he announced his presidential candidacy, Huntsman has strongly supported bringing American troops out of Afghanistan more quickly than Obama has ordered. Mitt Romney’s said something similar, but on this front Huntsman has put himself on the left of his fellow presidential candidates, save Ron Paul.

GOP Congressmen Put Constituents Who Asked Tough Questions On A ‘Watch List’ 


[…] Rep. Webster’s Winter Garden, Florida district office gave out a “Watch List” of six Floridians who had asked questions at Webster’s previous town halls. The list, with the header “For the Media,” included names, photographs, and questions that members of the media should ask them.

The Watch List itself doesn’t contain any information on who wrote it or where it comes from.The memos surfaced in Arkansas in connection to the office of Rep. Tim Griffin, and were traced back to Rep. Webster’s office.

With black and white photos that resemble police surveillance, some of them pulled from the individuals’ Facebook profiles, the memo is clearly meant to intimidate these six people and anyone else who might stand up and ask a question of their elected representative. At a Griffin town hall, staffers were handing out the Watch List to attendees, calling it their “homework.” Griffin staffers were also spotted taking photos and shooting video of attendees, creating an extra layer of intimidation.

The most detailed accounts yet of the Wisconsin Supreme Court “choking” incident, from just-released police reports. 



CNN: Rick Perry builds double-digit lead over 2012 rivals

Americans’ views of the federal govt at an all-time low. In a first, they dislike the feds even more than oil & gas 

Kaiser poll: Uninsured don’t understand how health care reform is designed to help them buy insurance: 

War of Independents 

by digby

There’s been a lot of chatter today (aside from the hurricane) about the new Pew poll’s finding that large numbers of Americans don’t want compromise at all costs after all. Indeed, more and more of them say they want the President to confront the Republicans.

But Greg Sargent homes in the really important part of this: 

The poll finds that there’s been a six point rise, up to a plurality of 36 percent, among overall independents who want to see Obama stand up to the GOP. Only 21 percent of indys say he should go along with Republicans more often, and 27 percent say he has the balance right.

But more crucially, the poll breaks down Dem-leaning and GOP-leaning independents — and it finds that 51 percent of Dem-leaning independents want him to more aggressively confront the GOP.

Dem-leaning independents are the ones it’s crucial Obama not lose. As Alan Abramowitz noted the other day, there’s a myth out there that holds that independents are a bloc of free-floating, wholly independent voters. Rather, they mostly lean towards one party or the other.

And the Dem-leaning independents want Obama to fight the GOP harder, rather than be too compromising with Republicans. That’s the way to hang on to them.


That sounds right. Republicans have shown themselves to be willing to take the country over the cliff and a fair number of people are catching on. And as Greg points out the President is never going to appeal to GOP leaning Independents — it’s the Democratic leaners who are in danger of defecting. And they’re just as fed up with this appeasement as the rest of us.

Independents Finally Getting Fed Up

Take a look at the circled parts of the table: the entire middle of the political spectrum — liberal Republicans, independents, and conservative Democrats — is speaking pretty loudly here. They want Obama to fight back harder against the shouters in the tea party wing of the GOP.

As Chait points out, Obama is walking a tightrope: if he does get more confrontational, he risks losing ground in the areas where he’s still viewed positively (trustworthy, well-informed, cares about people, etc.). But he better figure out how to walk it. His entire electoral strategy is based on winning the middle, and the middle is getting fed up.






Nearly half of Ohioans disapprove of Boehner’s job performance as speaker, while only a third approve: 


Big labor brawl brewing: Unions getting ready for showdown over FAA 

The Political Carnival:

Hey kids! Get ready! Get set! Because it’s about to be union crushing time in GOP Land!


Why, it seems like only three weeks ago when Florida Republican Rep. John Mica was blamed for shutting down the FAA. Remember that? Millions of dollars were at stake and 74,000 people were furloughed or out of work because of Mica’s stunt, not to mention the airport-safety projects that were put off.

And remember what the airline did with all that uncollected taxpayer money: They pocketed it.  But all John Mica cared about were his own hurt feelings after having been politically pummeled:

I’ve had a brutal week, getting beat up by everybody,” Mica told me, minutes after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced adeal that would end the shutdown and avoid the cuts to regional air service that Mica wanted. […]

Senate Democrats, seizing on Mica’s admission that the bill was a “tool,” refused to deal. They let the shutdown happen and railed against Mica after lawmakers left for recess.

Now the FAA battle is about to flare up all over again, as Greg Sargent notes.  The GOP union-busters will try to make it harder to organize airline and railway workers, which is why the union most involved in this showdown, the Communication Workers of America, is taking a few preemptive steps to make sure they win this round. […]

The CWA will keep their eye on Mica, who is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and take a pro-active role in what is sure to be an ugly fight:

[T]he CWA campaign will include appearances by airline workers at airports around the country, where they will try to educate the public about the fight. The new push will also includepicketing in the districts of House Republicans who will bepressured to agree to a long-term FAA reauthorization without the union-busting provision.

But Democrats also matter in this fight, and this could be a major opportunity for them. […]

[W]hen this fight ramps up again, right when the Congressional debt “super-committee” talks get under way, the incentive will be strong for Dems to find a compromise. Labor, however, badly needs a high-profile win, and will be expecting Dems to hold firm… [A] strong stance by Congressional Dems in the looming FAA fight could help reinvigorate organize labor’s faith in the national Democratic Party in advance of 2012.


Two Chatbots Talk With Each Other, Awkward Hilarity Ensues

As many of you are likely aware, a chatbot is a computer program designed to emulate a human in a conversation. They have no other goal than to generate natural responses, and are sometimes used to attempt a Turing Test where a computer successfully tricks a human into thinking that it is a human as well. That’s all well and good, but some folks over at the Cornell Creative Machines Lab wondered what would happen when you let two computers designed to sound human talk with each other.

At first, the results seem nothing more than awkwardly funny. The two bots snipe at each other, throw out a few non sequiturs, and generally fumble their way through the conversation. Without the anchor of a human to talk to, the bots seem lost and adrift, desperately looking for something on which to cling. That’s when it got a little spooky for me since I realized that in thinking in those terms I was anthropomorphizing these talking AI programs. Furthermore, I noticed that I was assigning personalities to them: The “man” on the left seemed arrogant and smarmy, while the “woman” on the right seemed snippy and defensive. Maybe these chatbots are better than I thought.

Vampire-killing kit

Boing Boing:

A BB reader spotted this antique vampire-killing kit at an antiques show this weekend. You may purchase it from Best of France Antiques in Buckingham, Pennsylvania. Included are a pistol, a stake, garlic, holy water, mirror, bible, silver bullets, and crucifixes. It’s $9,000, which is quite a bargain if you are in need of such a kit.

Worth Reading

The Wrestler In Real Life

Ric Flair has been physically attacked by at least three of his four wives.

In a 2005 divorce case with Elizabeth Harrell — wife no. 2 — Flair’s lawyers detailed their accusations. “On more than one occasion,” they wrote, “Plaintiff (Beth) has assaulted the Defendant (Flair), striking him about the head and body in an effort to provoke him into a physical confrontation.”

In 2009, Flair filed a criminal complaint against Tiffany Vandemark — wife no. 3 — whom he accused of “hitting him in the face with a phone charger.”

And in 2010, Flair and his current wife, Jacqueline Beams, returned to their Charlotte, N.C., home after dinner at the Lodge Restaurant. There, for reasons never made explicit, Jacqueline punched him repeatedly in the face. She was arrested.

The story of Ric Flair was once about a college dropout who rose through the ranks of professional wrestling to become a legend. It was about his nickname, “The Nature Boy,” and his signature figure four leglock, both lifted from an older wrestler named Buddy Rogers. It was about his multiple championships, his bleach-blond hair, his fast-talking patter (by his own reckoning, Flair was a “stylin’, profilin’, limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’-n’-dealin’ son of a gun!”), and his signature, trademarked cry: “WOOO!”

Today the story is about a man known in the court system as Richard Morgan Fliehr, 62, born in 1949 and adopted by parents who raised him in Minnesota. That’s what he was called this past April, when a judge ejected Fliehr from his Charlotte home because he couldn’t pay his rent. That’s what he was called in May, when he faced an arrest order for an unpaid $35,000 loan. That’s what he’s called on the paychecks from Total Nonstop Action, a second-tier outfit where he’s still compelled to perform despite suffering from alcoholic cardiomyopathy, and where almost everything he earns goes toward old debts: lawyers, ex-wives, the IRS, former business partners, and anyone who made the mistake of lending him money.

Richard Fliehr declined to comment on the legal matters discussed in this story.

The Mecklenburg County courthouse in Charlotte contains thousands of pages documenting Fliehr’s legal adventures. There, it’s possible to unearth the gory specifics of a lifetime: how he passed out after attacking his son Reid in a fit of anger after the boy broke his drunken mother’s arm by pushing her out of an elevator; how he lost a fistfight with his daughter’s boyfriend; how he exposed his genitalia to airline attendants.1 One can also read how Fliehr allegedly flew into steroid-induced rages against his wife and children; how he suffered anxiety attacks and at least one nervous breakdown, how he broke his back in a 1975 plane crash; how he was mistreated by powerful bosses such as Eric Bischoff; how he bought millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry for the women in his life; how he was cited for letting a drunk 20-year-old woman drive his car in North Carolina; how he used the same NWA title belt as collateral for two different loans.

Taken together, the information produces a rough timeline that illustrates Fliehr’s self-destructive impulses. It includes excesses that Hollywood screenwriters wouldn’t have the audacity to invent, and yet it follows its own logic — one bad decision comes after another, each magnifying the damage of the one to follow.

1990: Fliehr’s poor decision-making expressed itself from the beginning of his professional career, but the consequences began to emerge after his 40th birthday.

He had a lifelong enemy in the IRS. Throughout the ’80s, he did not pay his taxes. Finally, the state of North Carolina issued its reckoning: a 1990 notice that he owed more than $62,000 in back taxes from 1982, ’83, and ’88. Fliehr presumably paid without consequence. He wouldn’t always be so fortunate.

In November 1990, Fliehr was caught traveling 95 mph in a 65 mph zone in Beckley, W.Va. He was forced to apply for a restricted license so he could drive from airports to his wrestling events. The superior court granted his request almost a full year later.

The same year, a woman named DeAnn Siden began to stalk Fliehr. Siden spent the next eight years following him from city to city, getting kicked out of wrestling venues, and eventually threatening his life. She claimed the two had an affair.

During the time of the stalking, Fliehr had been married to his second wife, Elizabeth, for seven years. They would have two children, Ashley and Reid. His first marriage to Leslie Goodman lasted from 1971 to 1983 and produced two other children, David and Megan. […]

On January 3, DeAnn Siden phoned Fliehr and threatened to kill him and her own daughter if he didn’t meet with her. She later phoned Elizabeth multiple times, voicing threats such as, “You will be sorry, you bitch!” and “You bitch, you are not going to get away with this!” Over the next month, Fliehr and Elizabeth identified several of her calls coming from the McDonald’s restaurants where she worked.

After these calls and years of confrontations, Fliehr finally had his lawyers pursue criminal warrants for Siden’s arrest.

In response, Siden made the bizarre move to file a domestic violence complaint against Fliehr. In the complaint, she said he had threatened to kidnap her if she didn’t bring her daughter to visit from Houston, and “would tie me up, beat me up, and rearrange my face.” She contacted Fliehr and told him she would drop her suit if he dropped his. Instead, a judge issued an injunction preventing her from having any contact with the family.

That seemed to end the drama, at least as far as Fliehr was concerned. In 2003, Siden was arrested for stalking another wrestler, Kurt Angle, and threatening to kill his wife.

Bad Money: The Early Signs of Trouble

2000: A judgment against Fliehr showed $15,000 in back taxes, interest, and late penalties to the state of North Carolina from 1989.

Branch Banking and Trust (BB&T) received a default judgment in March for the more than $20,000 Fliehr and Elizabeth owed on a loan. Again, Fliehr chose not to make any plea or defense after the suit was filed. Matters would soon become more critical, and he could no longer afford to stay above the legal fray.


2004: The federal government issued a lien on Fliehr’s property and rights to property for $874,000 owed in back taxes from 1994, ’95, ’96, ’98, and ’99. A lien is a claim on property used to secure any tax debt. It stops short of a levy, which actually takes the property to pay the debt. This was the first of the really significant sums demanded by the government.

Ward Cagle, a Charlotte resident, sued Fliehr in July for breach of contract. Cagle had loaned Fliehr $40,000 in 2000, and Fliehr had agreed to pay the money back within 70 days. Nearly four years later, it was still unpaid. He did write Cagle a check in April 2001 for $44,000 (the loan plus interest), but it bounced. The men settled out of court, with Fliehr reportedly paying Cagle $10,000 and giving him a motorcycle.2

2005: Peter Wirth, a general contractor and part-owner of Testa & Wirth, put a lien on Fliehr’s home in Charlotte due to $107,000 Fliehr and Elizabeth owed for work done on their home. “I will be able to get a list of people who say the Fliehr’s [sic] do not pay their bills,” Wirth wrote. “I thought of them as true friends and keep doing work for them figuring we might straighten out at the end. … Mrs. Fliehr was well aware of the past due bills and smart enough to know all of the work she asked for would have to be paid for.”

Among the work Wirth’s company performed was the installation of a $9,000 cedar ceiling, a $5,000 circular staircase, and almost $4,000 in marble work. Wirth’s name would come up again before long.

Fliehr was also sued, again, by BB&T for repayment of $35,000 on a $400,000 loan they’d given him in 1998 to start “Flair with Wood,” a business that operated his Gold’s Gym in Hickory, N.C. “It seemed like it would be a home run in Hickory,” Fliehr later said. He went on to speak about his partners in the enterprise, saying, “They just robbed, stole, cheated, and left me holding the debt.” He told lawyers he couldn’t sue them because they lived in Dallas, Texas, and the DA and BB&T wouldn’t press charges. “They didn’t have to,” he said. “They had me.”

Fliehr eventually paid off the $35,000. He sold the Hickory club.

MLK Jr. memorial completed using unpaid Chinese laborers

[…] The foundation behind the memorial, which deserves tremendous praise for successfully pulling off the monumental project, controversially selected Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin — known for his bust of Mao Zedong — to be the lead sculptor on the project. Couldn’t the foundation have “chosen a black American, let alone an American,” critics ask?

More egregiously, despite promises from the organization to use local unionized labor for the project, the sculpture was completed using workers imported from China working for nothing but “national pride.” Last September, the foundation promised in a statement:

“[We] will employ skilled craft workers from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) to work with Master Lei Yixin, Sculptor of Record, to complete the assembly and installation,”

They eventually reneged on that vow, despite a plethora of unemployed skilled stonemasons in U.S. “Why do they need to come over to do the work when there are so many people here who can do it?” Scott Garvin, president of the Washington area union asked the Washington Post’s Michael Ruane. “It’s kind of a thumb in the eye,” he added. The local BAC chapter’s “membership has dropped in the past three years from 2,000 to 850 because of a decline in building projects.”

The fact that the Chinese workers were not being paid was only discovered when the BAC sent an investigator to determine if they were being exploited. While they were given room and board and hoped to be paid upon returning to China, using free labor to construct Kings monument seems to fly in the face of what he stood for. “It is a crime for people who live in this rich nation to receive starvation wages,” King told the Memphis workers.

The foundation has largely avoided commenting on the issue. And Harry Johnson, CEO of the MLK memorial foundation, “said there has been NO scandal, no drama in building” of the monument.

When confronted by the union over this fact, the foundation seemed to cynically use King’s principles as a shield, saying, “We strongly believe that we should not exclude anyone from working on this project simply because of their religious beliefs, social background or country of origin.”

A request for comment from the foundation was not immediately returned.

TAKE ACTION Tell Smithfield No More Gestation Crates 


An HSUS undercover investigator recently documented the suffering endured by female breeding pigs held in severely restrictive gestation crates on a factory farm operated by a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, in Waverly, Virginia. Gestation crates are exceptionally cruel and have been banned by the European Union, New Zealand and seven U.S. states. In 2007, Smithfield said it would phase out the use of gestation crates by 2017, yet in 2009 it said it could no longer meet its self-imposed and very lenient deadline.

Many of these highly intelligent and inquisitive pigs develop pressure sores and infections from crate-related injuries and from simply lying in the same position without relief. Out of sheer boredom, they engage in repetitive behaviors — such as bar biting and head swaying — sometimes injuring themselves in the process.

Please send C. Larry Pope, CEO of Smithfield, a message urging him to recommit to the company’s original promise and stop the use of these inhumane gestation crates on Smithfield’s factory farms by 2017.



“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”~~ Gloria Steinem

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I love all those wild promises made by “President Bachmann.” Perhaps she thinks she’s running for dictator. Or, has she only given passing thought to the actual process of governance in a democracy and that pesky little problem of Congress.


The health care atricle describes the GOPpoisition very well: they are very afraid that the ACA will succeed. The source of that fear: that they will lose power and will have a great deal of trouble regaining that power.
Power is the name of the game: the ability to reward your friends and punish your enemies.