April 5, 2011
When the labour department announced that the US economy had created 216,000 jobs in March, it set off a round of celebrations throughout Washington policy circles. The word in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other major news outlets was that the economy was back on course; we were on the right path.
Those who know arithmetic were a bit more sceptical. If the economy sustained March’s rate of job growth, it will be more than seven years before we get back to normal rates of unemployment. Furthermore, some of this growth likely reflected a bounceback from weaker growth the prior two months. The average rate of job growth over the last three months has been just 160,000. At that pace, we won’t get back to normal rates of unemployment until after 2022.
That’s a long time to make ordinary workers suffer because the folks who run the economy are not very good at their job.
In addition to the job growth numbers, the March data also showed that the unemployment rate slipped down by another 0.1 percentage point. It now stands at 8.8%, almost a full percentage point below its year ago level of 9.7%. This, too, was treated as cause for celebration. While that may sound like progress, a more careful look at the data makes this number less impressive. The percentage of the population that is employed has actually fallen by 0.1 percentage point over the last year.
In order to be counted as unemployed, you have to say that you are looking for work. The unemployment rate did not fall because the unemployed had found jobs; rather, the unemployment rate fell because people have given up looking for work. Only in Washington would this be hailed as good news.
Remarkably, as the mixed basket of economic news in the March employment report was being celebrated, a major piece of unambiguously bad news was almost completely ignored. The commerce department released data on construction spending for February (pdf).
by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
On Friday, the government is heading for a shut down. This is something that House Speaker John Boehner and the Tea Party are revving up to do because, well, they hate having a government of any kind. They are doing what they can to lay the blame for this debacle on President Barack Obama, but let us face reality here. They want to cut government off at the knees, and know that if Obama caves yet again to a small continuing resolution, then they are going to be able to dismantle the government one piece at a time. The Republicans say that this is about reducing spending when everyone knows that this is not the truth. After all, Speaker Boehner has no qualms about wasting taxpayer money on fripperies like, oh, defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
In fact, it is his defense of that law which has the sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, asking for a briefing on just how he plans to defend it. Boehner on 9 March decided to set up a stacked and pointless Bipartisan Legal Advisory Committee to hold a party line vote which called on the House counsel to defend DOMA in court. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has asked for information regarding the defense, but this letter which was penned by Reps Jerrold Nadler, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis, David Cicilline and John Conyers asks for an update on what is going to be done or has been done, and asks that he ‘brief all interested Members’ on the decisions.
They ask in the letter:
Among other things, we are interested in a status report on who will be representing the House, estimates regarding the cost and length of proposed litigation efforts, the anticipated role of the House in litigation (i.e., intervenor or amicus curiae), and your assessment regarding the likelihood of success on the merits. If you or House General Counsel already have arranged for representation by outside counsel, we would welcome and appreciate their participation in this briefing.
The deadline for filing is rapidly approaching. The House council must have it in by 18 April. Of course, right now, John Boehner is trying to maneuver around a more problematic deadline specifically the 8 April shutdown of the government. A government shutdown could result in Boehner’s little plan going all to hell. While the courts will have to remain in session, it is unclear if the House council or his staff would continue to be paid or even allowed to work. In fact, it would prevent the House from hiring anyone outside the government to defend DOMA, but the trial would still have to go ahead as scheduled.
From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/opinion/03sun1.html?_r=4
Published: April 2, 2011
Later this year, the State Department will decide whether to approve construction of a 1,700-mile oil pipeline from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast called Keystone XL. The underground 36-inch pipeline, built by TransCanada, would link the tar sands fields of northern Alberta to Texas refineries and begin operating in 2013. The department should say no.
State is involved because the pipeline would cross an international boundary. Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton first said she was “inclined” to support it, but has lately sounded more neutral. An environmental assessment carried out by her department last year was sharply criticized by the Environmental Protection Agency for understating the project’s many risks. The department has since undertaken another environmental review that will soon be released for public comment. It needs to be thorough and impartial.
Advocates of the Keystone XL, which include the Canadian government, the oil industry and its allies in Congress, argue that a steady supply of oil from a friendly neighbor is the answer to rising oil prices and turmoil in the Middle East. But the Energy Department says the pipeline would have a minimal effect on prices, and there is already sufficient pipeline capacity to double United States imports from Canada.
The environmental risks, for both countries, are enormous. The first step in the process is to strip-mine huge chunks of Alberta’s boreal forest. The oil, a tar-like substance called bitumen, is then extracted with steam or hot water, which in turn is produced by burning natural gas. The E.P.A. estimates that the greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil — even without counting the destruction of forests that sequester carbon — are 82 percent greater than those produced by conventional crude oil.
The project poses a major threat to water supplies on both sides of the border. Turning two tons of tar sand into a barrel of oil requires four times as much water as producing a barrel of conventional oil. Operations in Alberta have already created 65 square miles of toxic holding ponds, which kill migrating birds and pollute downstream watersheds, a serious matter for native communities.
Continue reading at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/03/opinion/03sun1.html?_r=4
March 30th, 2011
Lawsuit Filed To Protect Themselves from Unfair Patent Enforcement on Genetically Modified Seed
Action Would Prohibit Biotechnology Giant from Suing Organic Farmers and Seed Growers If Innocently Contaminated by Roundup Ready Genes
NEW York: On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today against Monsanto Company challenging the chemical giant’s patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed.
Monsanto has sued farmers in the United States and Canada, in the past, when their patented genetic material has inadvertently contaminated their crops.
A copy of the lawsuit can be found at:
The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.
“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed or pollen should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”
Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed can contaminate and destroy organic seed for the same crop. For example, soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola, organic canola became virtually impossible to grow as a result of contamination.
By Sahil Kapur
Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
WASHINGTON – The White House threatened Tuesday to veto a Republican-led measure that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating certain forms of pollution.
“The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 910, which would halt the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) common-sense steps under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to protect Americans from harmful air pollution,” the White House said in a statement. “H.R. 910 would also increase the Nation’s dependence on oil and other fossil fuels as well as contradict the scientific consensus on climate change.”
“If the President is presented with this legislation, which would seriously roll back the CAA authority, harm Americans’ health by taking away our ability to decrease carbon pollution, and undercut fuel efficiency standards that will save Americans money at the pump while decreasing our dependence on oil, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”
The bill, named “The Energy Tax Prevention Act Of 2011” and sponsored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), is poised for a vote on the House floor Wednesday. It was approved by the committee last month.
“The very last thing the federal government should do is make matters worse by intentionally driving up the cost of energy,” Upton said in a statement. “Yet that is exactly what’s in store if the EPA moves forward with its plans to regulate and penalize carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act.”
So Yesterday Obama kicked off his 2012 election campaign with an ad that is so apathetic it is almost as though he has already capitulated as he usually does.
I voted for him. He wasn’t my choice. I would have preferred someone tougher and stronger like Hillary but too many pod people, the children of “i” and Nintendo liked him because he was smooth and slick.
We used to say you can’t trust anyone over thirty. I’ve come to think you can’t trust anyone who came of age since Reagan. Especially not someone who thought Reagan was essential because he corrected the excesses of freedom and exuberance of the 1960s and 70s.
Now I know Obama’s true believers will tell me he has done all these wonderful things but to me he is just another neo-con/neo-lib puppet of Wall Street.
He sure as hell has done a shitty job of representing my interests.
I’m tired of voting for the lesser of two evils. I’m almost cynical enough to buy the heightening the contradictions argument that would cause me to say fuck it and stay home then join the riots in the street.
Maybe if the Tea Baggers and Kochsuckers won we would have a revolution. They come to power, end Social Security and Medicare in a country that is armed to the teeth. Come the revolution and you might just see kamikaze grannies on electric scooters with AK47s and AR15s. Lesbians with grenades and Molotovs. Real “Ticked off (Don’t call me a tranny) TS/TG People with Knives”.
Workers with torches and pitchforks, the heads of Wall Street thieves on the ends of pikes.
But, I learned a bitter lesson in 1968 and maybe revolution is really only a fantasy but fuck I sure would like some one who cared more about the people of Main Street than the people of Wall Street.
From Truth-Out: http://www.truth-out.org/nowhere-man
by: William Rivers Pitt, Truthout
Tuesday 5 April 2011
So, yeah, Obama is in. The President of the United States officially threw his hat into the 2012 election ring on Monday morning, and the nation reacted with a resounding, “Oh.”
What a mess.
It wasn’t even two and a half years ago. Can you believe it? Two and a half years ago, there was a detonation of optimism that echoed across the country once the returns were in on that November night. People took to the streets here in Boston, literally banging pots and pans together as they danced and shouted in celebration. The scene was repeated in city after city and town after town, and even the “mainstream” media gushed from election night to Inauguration Day about the spectacular moment in American history we were all witnessing together.
Hindsight, however, tells us today that much of that optimism was wildly misplaced. The long shadow of George W. Bush still hung low and dark over the land, as it does even now. That was part of it, of course, part of the sense of expiation and purgation so many felt once the deal went down; on that November night, the national nightmare of Mr. Bush’s presidency was writing its final pages, and then came January, and he was gone. Despite all the failures and disappointments that have since come, those were two very good days.
He and his fellow Democrats all but folded on health care, leaving us with less than half a loaf. He backtracked on Guantanamo, and doubled down on Afghanistan. He promised to erase Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, and broke his oath shamelessly, to his party’s great lament in 2010. Wall Street stands unmolested at the center of his counsel, while Main Street withers on the vine. He is flipping missiles into Libya while flipping off the American people by racing to “compromise” with brigands and thieves on the matter of how many billions to cut. He has, to be sure, had his share of victories, but in so many critical ways, he has been the Nowhere Man, the absence of what was so seemingly present when he was elevated to his current station.
What galls the most, what infuriates and confounds, is the brazen clarity of the situation at hand. Mr. Obama has not been losing policy arguments to reasonable people. He has been losing policy arguments to people who are, in many instances, absolutely and unabashedly barking mad. He is losing policy arguments to people who sought elected office in government in order to denude and destroy that very government. Listen to them talk and the matter is plain: they got the job to destroy the job, and are so blinded by the fervor of their political catechism that they cannot be reasoned with under any circumstances. They are destroyers and usurpers, but Mr. Obama has time and again bared his neck to them, and we have all suffered with their sundry victories, and his sundry defeats.
Complete article at: http://www.truth-out.org/nowhere-man
From Ted Rall’s Blog: http://www.rall.com/rallblog/2011/04/05/syndicated-column-fool-us-twice
Can Obama Get Reelected?
Usually I don’t care about political horseraces. Yet I am fascinated by Obama’s reelection bid. Never mind what’s good for the country. I’m dying to hear him make his case for another four years.
I don’t pretend to be able to predict the future. But I have a rich imagination—and I still can’t begin to guess how the president can convince a majority of voters to choose him over the Republican nominee whether he be Mitt Romney or she be Michele Bachmann.
Obama is good with words. But what can he possibly say for himself after this first fiddling-while-Rome-burns term?
The president only has one major accomplishment to his credit: healthcare reform. However—assuming Republicans don’t repeal it—it doesn’t go into effect until 2014. Which, from Obama’s standpoint, actually helps him. After people find out how it transforms the First World’s worst healthcare system into something even crappier and more expensive, they’ll be burning him in effigy.
“Socialized” (if only!) healthcare has driven away the Reagan Democrat swing voters who formed half of Obama’s margin of victory in 2008. Unless the GOP nominates some total loon (hi Michele) or past-due retread (what up Newt) these ideological reeds in the wind will blow Republican.
The other major component of the Obama coalition, young and reenergized older liberals, see ObamaCare as a right-wing sellout to corporations. Nothing less than single-payer would have satisfied them. On other issues it seems that Obama has missed few opportunities to alienate the Democrats’ liberal base.
“The combination of Afghanistan and Libya could bring a bitter end to the romance between Democratic liberals and Obama,” Steve Chapman writes in Reason magazine. “Many of them were already disappointed with him for extending the Bush tax cuts, bailing out Wall Street, omitting a public option from the healthcare overhaul, offering to freeze domestic discretionary spending, and generally declining to go after Republicans hammer and tong.”
Chapman predicts a strong primary challenge to Obama’s left flank—someone like Russ Feingold.
Continue reading at: http://www.rall.com/rallblog/2011/04/05/syndicated-column-fool-us-twice
By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, April 4th, 2011
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled Monday against a challenge to tax aid to religious schools in Arizona.
In the 5 to 4 decision [PDF], the court ruled that taxpayers cannot challenge government scholarship programs that direct money to religious activities. The Supreme Court said the taxpayers who challenged the program lacked standing to bring the case.
“This misguided ruling betrays the public school system by directing tax dollars to religious schools,” Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said. “The court, with the full support of the Obama administration, has slammed the courthouse door in the face of Americans who don’t want their tax dollars to subsidize religion.”
Arizona allowed residents to send up to $500 to a scholarship organization rather than pay that money to the state in taxes. Nearly 92 percent of the funds collected have gone for tuition at religious schools.
The Obama administration argued in favor of the program and the Solicitor General’s Office at the U.S. Department of Justice requested and was granted 10 minutes to argue in favor of the plan.
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Kagan wrote that “tax breaks are means of accomplishing the same government objective – to provide financial support to select individuals or organizations.”
“Appropriations and tax subsidies are readily interchangeable,” Kagan said. “What is a cash grant today can be a tax break tomorrow.”
I have never understood why anyone would consider the propaganda arm of the bizarre cult, “The Unification Church” founded by the strangely disturbed Sun Myung Moon, to be a legitimate news paper. The waste of trees known as The Washington Times has come out with an editorial (If you would consider the shit hurling of caged monkeys on drugs to be an editorial) denouncing efforts by TS/TG people in New York to make the changing of birth certificates to reflect a lived reality easier.
Of course this places the Moonie Cult in good company with other Taliban Christo-Fascist cults like the Catholic Church.
When will people wake up to the reality of there not being any god, or at least any god that is reflected in the religions of any of these cults that push accepting oppression in this life because maybe there will be a better life after you die bullshit.
Religion is one of the main pillars of oppression.
This is why atheists and anarchists alike proclaim, “No Gods, No Masters.”
Why any LGBT/T person embrace such life denying bullshit is beyond me. It is like believing in Santa Claus after the age 5 or so.
From The Washington Times: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/apr/4/the-latest-birth-certificate-scandal/
Monday, April 4, 2011
Individuals who claim they’re “transgender” are suing the New York City Health Department over what they say is discrimination. These people are upset because the city won’t change the sex listed on their birth certificates unless they’ve had elaborate surgery to refashion their private parts and received subsequent psychiatric evaluations attesting to the permanence of their supposed “transition” to the opposite gender.
The claimants want the bureaucracy to make it easier to change the sex that was recorded at birth, noting that parents fixing mistakes (typos) in listing a child’s sex only have to provide a letter from the birth hospital. “Knowing that it was a mistake in the first place, and having that fixed, is pretty important to me,” said Joann Prinzivalli, who was born Paul yet lives as a woman.
Calling the accurate sex recorded at a birth “a mistake” is the misleading yet predictable result of a creeping activist agenda quietly transforming the country. There is disagreement in confused medical circles on whether believing oneself to be the gender opposite to that indicated by one’s physical characteristics and sex chromosomes is a medical condition or a psychiatric disorder. The American Medical Association supports treatment that includes radical surgery. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies it as an identity disorder, though the shrinks are under pressure to change that in the next edition.
Continue reading at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/apr/4/the-latest-birth-certificate-scandal/
And now from the wonderful folks who brought us the Inquisition, Crusades and numerous instances of Genocide
And because we would rather talk about something other than our misogyny and the pesky little issue of out priests engaging in pedophilia at a rate that puts NAMBLA to shame
From Catholics On Line: http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=40816
By Deacon Keith Fournier
The “Gender Identity Movement” is dangerous. It is a part of a broader Cultural Revolution which substitutes an entirely different view of the dignity of the human person, human freedom, human flourishing, human sexuality, marriage and the family and the moral basis of a free society than that which formed Western Civilization.
Anyone who maintains that there is no reference to the rejection of homosexual practices in the Bible has to remove this entire chapter and many other biblical references. They must also get rid of early Church documents which uniformly condemn homosexual practices. Paul refers to these behaviors as resulting from “degrading passions”. He details what happened as a result, “their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.” (Romans 1:26, 27)
One sign of the decline of western civilization is not only the reemergence of such “degrading passions” and the behaviors which result, but a cultural revolution which now demands that these behaviors be recognized in the positive law and people engaging in them be given an equal legal status to marriage if they so request. Further, that the sexual acts involved in these behaviors, and the lifestyles chosen as a result, be called a civil right which the rest of society is compelled to accept and accommodate. One of the many fronts in this Cultural Revolution is called “transgender activism”
In this whole mix we also face the growing activism being undertaken by people who undergo what are euphemistically referred to as “Sex Change” or “Gender Reassignment” surgeries. Though those who actually suffer from “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID) deserve empathy, the facts remain; no such surgery can accomplish a change of gender or sexual identity. In effect, they just mutilate the body and destroy the bodily integrity of the person. Every single human cell contains chromosomes which identify whether we are male or female. That cannot be changed. It is a given. In fact, it is a gift.
In a culture where “freedom” is redefined as a “right” to choose anything and liberty has degenerated into license, the “newspeak” of the age calls the instrumental use of the body of another “sexual freedom”. Sadly, the same spirit of the age fails to recognize the integral unity of the human person, body, soul and spirit, and has turned the human body into a machine with parts which can be interchanged.
Complete article at: http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=40816
April 4, 2011
In this guest column, Martin Luther King III, president and chief executive officer of The King Center, explains why his father would be on the front lines today supporting public employees.
Forty-three years ago my father, Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated while he was in Memphis, Tenn., supporting a strike of municipal sanitation workers. It was, in his eyes, more than a quest for a few more dollars in a paycheck. He saw the strike as part of the great struggle of his time—a struggle for democracy, for truth, for justice and for human dignity.
These are the same basic reasons that my father would be joining with millions of other Americans today in supporting public employees in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and other states, where collective bargaining is now under attack.
Martin Luther King Jr. would be marching for democracy: During the 2010 election campaigns in Wisconsin, the Republican candidate for governor did not honestly present his plan to effectively eliminate collective bargaining; he waited until after the election. As a result, the voters never had the chance to examine the plan in detail or to hear an open debate on the issue. When they entered the voting booth, the citizens could not know what they were voting for. When voters are deceived about the actual policies a candidate plans to enact, democracy is undermined just as surely as if they are physically prevented from casting their ballot.
The abuse of democracy was compounded when newly elected Gov. Scott Walker introduced massive corporate tax reductions that vastly increased the state deficit and then presented the increased deficits as the “emergency” which justified measures to permanently eviscerate unions. A candidate can openly advocate that corporations should not pay taxes or that unions should be abolished in all but name as a matter of basic social policy, but he cannot truthfully present the second measure as being caused by an emergency beyond his control when it is largely a direct result of his actions.
Martin Luther King Jr. would be marching for truth: The most famous public employee in Wisconsin today is a bus driver who earned $160,000, an example presented as the “smoking gun” proof of overgenerous union contracts. Yet the actual starting salary for bus drivers in Madison is $17 per hour and after 36 years, this driver was making $26 hourly. His “high” pay was the result of more than 2,000 hours of overtime on nights and weekends at time and a half. His straight-time salary was not even $50,000 a year.
To present this atypical case as proof of exorbitant union pay recalls memories of false stereotypes, such as the “welfare queens driving Cadillacs” of previous decades, a reprehensible distortion designed to whip up animosity toward both African Americans and social programs. The example of the $160,000 bus driver is a very similar distortion, though targeted more to build resentment against public employees and government spending.
Martin Luther King Jr. would be marching for justice: In the debate over the Bush tax cuts last fall, conservatives vehemently argued that it was grossly unfair to impose 1990’s era tax rates on people with incomes above $200,000 because such people were not really affluent. Yet today, bus drivers who make $50,000 and teachers who make even less are vilified as social parasites who are outrageously overpaid. Wall Street traders are said to be morally entitled to large six-figure bonuses because of the sanctity of their contracts, but the contracts of teachers and bus drivers are described as empty pieces of paper that should be voided at will. Behind this cynical double standard lies the condescending contempt of a privileged elite toward people who work hard and punch time clocks.
Martin Luther King Jr. would be marching for dignity: The fundamental purpose of unions has always been job security and protection from arbitrary firing, not simply larger paychecks. Before unions, workers would “shape up” before factory gates and beg to be chosen for a days’ labor.
In the past some state governments that were unable to offer wage increases in negotiations offered in their place long-term fringe benefits that later proved fiscally unsustainable. In recent years, municipal unions have again and again negotiated “give-backs” through collective bargaining that substantially reduce these benefits but preserve workers’ rights to representation and basic human dignity. In Wisconsin, the unions conceded to all of Gov. Scott Walker’s financial demands in the earliest days of the conflict, only to find that his covert agenda was not fiscal prudence but their complete evisceration.
On April 4, the anniversary of the assassination of my father, I’ll be joining the with thousands of Americans of all races in the nationwide “We Are One” demonstrations supporting America’s public employees, trade unions and working people in a common quest for jobs, justice and decency for all citizens. In this endeavor, we seek the support of all Americans of good will.