Is Anti-Gay Group “Focus on the Family” Dying as Donations Drop? A Look Back at 7 of Their Strangest and Most Appalling Moves

From Alternet:

As donations fall and jobs are cut, are Focus on the Family’s days of using gay rights as a wedge issue finished?

By Sarah Seltzer
September 19, 2011

When George W. Bush defeated John Kerry for the presidency in 2004, pundits claimed that the wedge issue of gay marriage–up for popular vote in many a state that went “red”–had been a deciding factor, the boogeyman reason many middle American types couldn’t commit to a Democrat.

At the time, gay marriage felt like a third rail, and a hopeless one. Prominent right-wing groups like Focus on the Family and its allies seemed successful in their efforts to “otherize” LGBTQ Americans and use bigotry and fear to prevent progress.

Fast-forward to today and the situation has become almost the opposite. Affable, non-confrontational Jay Leno is (affably) hounding Michele Bachmann for her opposition to gay rights, “dont’ ask don’t tell” is due to expire tomorrow with nary a credible protest, and the GOP field is avoiding discussing gay rights in debates.

In this climate, Focus on the Family is experiencing a record plummet in donations–by $15 million dollars–which has led it to yet another round of layoffs (it let 202 people go in 2008) with its leader admitting a diminishing influence on acceptance of gays.

From the Denver Post:

Conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family announced today it is eliminating 49 jobs in the latest of several rounds of layoffs in response to ongoing economic pressures.

The family-counseling center in Colorado Springs had a $105 million budget this fiscal year ending Sept. 30, but officials project it will receive donations of only $90 million to $95 million.

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A Good Fight

From Robert Reich:

By Robert Reich:
September 19, 2011

So the really big fight — perhaps the defining battle of 2012 — won’t be over Medicare. It won’t even be over Obama’s jobs program.

It will be over whether the rich should pay more taxes.

The President has vowed to veto any plan to tame the debt that doesn’t increase taxes on the rich. The Republicans have vowed to oppose any tax increases on the rich.

It’s a good fight to have.

In a Rose Garden ceremony this morning, Obama proposed new taxes on the wealthy — including a special new tax for millionaires, the closing of loopholes and deductions for people making more than $250,000 a year, and an end to the portion of the Bush tax cut going to higher incomes.

Republicans accuse the President of instigating “class warfare.” But it’s not warfare to demand the rich pay their fair share of taxes to bring down America’s long-term debt.

After all, the richest 1 percent of Americans now takes home more than 20 percent of total income. That’s the highest share going to the top 1 percent in almost 90 years.

And they now pay at the lowest tax rates in half a century — half the rate they paid on ordinary income prior to 1981.

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The truth about ‘class war’ in America

From The Guardian UK:

Republicans claim, in Orwellian fashion, that Obama’s millionaire tax is ‘class war’. The reality is that the super-rich won the war,
Monday 19 September 2011

Republicans and conservatives always fight back against proposals to raise taxes on corporations and rich individuals by making two basic claims. First, such proposals amount to un-American “class warfare”, pitting the working class against corporations and the rich. Second, such proposals would take money for the government that would otherwise have been invested in production and thus created jobs.

Neither logic nor evidence supports either claim. The charge of class war is particularly obtuse. Consider simply these two facts. First, at the end of the second world war, for every dollar Washington raised in taxes on individuals, it raised $1.50 in taxes on business profits. Today, that ratio is very different: for every dollar Washington gets in taxes on individuals, it takes 25 cents in taxes on business. In short, the last half century has seen a massive shift of the burden of federal taxation off business and onto individuals.

Second, across those 50 years, the actual shift that occurred was the opposite of the much more modest reversal proposed this week by President Obama; over the same period, the federal income tax rate on the richest individuals fell from 91% to the current 35%. Yet, Republicans and conservatives use the term “class war” for what Obama proposes – and never for what the last five decades have accomplished in shifting the tax burden from the rich and corporations to the working class.

The tax structure imposed by Washington on the US over the last half-century has seen a massive double shift of the burden of taxation: from corporations to individuals and from the richest individuals to everyone else. If the national debate wants seriously to use a term like “class war” to describe Washington’s tax policies, then the reality is that the class war’s winners have been corporations and the rich. Its losers – the rest of us – now want to reduce our losses modestly by small increases in taxes on the super-rich (but not, or not yet, on corporations).

To refer to this effort as if it had suddenly introduced class war into US politics is either dishonest or based on ignorance of what federal tax policies have actually been. Or perhaps, for conservatives, it is a convenient mixture of both.

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Thom Hartmann: Why the news from NPR to the networks doesn’t tell the truth

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State of Georgia Set to Murder Troy Davis

According to Nazi Supreme Court Injustice Scalia it isn’t unconstitutional for the state to murder innocent people who were in all likelihood wrongly convicted.

If one is going to have capital punishment then one should limit it to cases where the alleged murderer is caught in the act or found disposing of the body.

It should never be used in cases where there is extremely high levels of doubt as there is in the case of Troy Davis.

It goes without saying that racism and classism often play a major role in who receives the death penalty for murder and who does not.  When was the last time a rich white man was executed even when he obviously had committed the murder?

We do execute poor white people but not at the rater we execute poor people of color.  I actually I shouldn’t really use “people” in that sentence as most of those who are executed are men, although when women are executed the same generalities regarding race and class apply.

From The Guardian UK:

Troy Davis execution: Georgia pardons board denies plea for clemency

Georgia man who insists he was wrongly convicted of killing a police officer in 1989 set to be executed on Wednesday,
Tuesday 20 September 2011

One of the most hotly contested death row cases in recent years looks set to go ahead with the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia on Wednesday.

Davis lost his final bid for clemency despite overwhelming evidence indicating that his conviction for murder is unreliable.

He will be put on a gurney at the state prison in Jackson and administered a cocktail of lethal drugs at 7pm local time on Wednesday, barring a last-minute intervention by the US supreme court which few observers expect to take place.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, which alone has power within the state to commute Davis’s death sentence, denied to grant him clemency having heard three hours of testimony on Monday casting deep doubts on his conviction.

Davis, 42, was put on death row 20 years ago for the 1989 murder of a police officer, Mark MacPhail, in Savannah following a fight with a homeless man over a bottle of beer. Since then seven out of the nine key witnesses who implicated him have recanted their evidence, several saying they were cajoled by police into giving false eye-witness statements.

Another 10 have come forward to point the finger at a separate man present at the scene of the murder, Sylvester Coles.

Meanwhile, no forensic or DNA evidence linking Davis to the shooting has ever been found, and nor has the murder weapon.

The denial of clemency by the parole board prompted an outpouring of anger and despair from hundreds of Twitter users and several celebrity supporters of Davis’s campaign. The prisoner’s lawyer, Brian Kammer, said he was “shocked and disappointed at the failure of our justice system at all levels to correct a miscarriage of justice”.

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Inside the Trillion-Dollar Underground Economy Keeping Many Americans (Barely) Afloat in Desperate Times

From Alternet:

The underground economy isn’t just drugs and sex work–and it touches all of our lives.

By Sarah Jaffe
September 16, 2011

The United States continues to suffer from mass unemployment. People have had to adjust their lifestyles to the new reality—fewer jobs, lower wages, mortgages to pay that are now more than their homes are worth. Millions have dropped out of the job hunt and are trying to find other ways to sustain their families.

That’s where the underground economy comes in. Also called the shadow or informal economy, it’s not just illegal activity like selling drugs or doing sex work. It’s all sorts of work that doesn’t get regulated by the government or reported to the IRS, and it’s a far bigger part of the economy than most of us are aware—in 2009, economics professor Friedrich Schneider estimated that it was nearly 8 percent of the US GDP, somewhere around $1 trillion. (That makes the shadow GDP bigger than the entire GDP of Turkey or Austria.) Schneider doesn’t include illegal activities in his count– he studies legal production of goods and services that are outside of tax and labor laws. And that shadow economy is growing as regular jobs continue to be hard to come by—Schneider estimated 5 percent in ’09 alone.

The Young Women’s Empowerment Project [PDF] describes the “street economy” as “… any way that girls make cash money without paying taxes or having to show identification. Sometimes this means the sex trade. But other times it means braiding hair, babysitting, selling CDs/DVDs, drugs or other skills like sewing and laundry.”

D.A. Barber explained:

“This underground economy goes beyond the homeless collecting aluminum cans or clogging day labor halls. It includes the working poor getting cash for all forms of recycling: giving plasma, selling homemade tamales outside shopping plazas, holding yard sales, doing under-the-table work for friends and family, selling stuff at pawnshops, CD, book and used clothing stores, and even getting tips from restaurants and bars–to name a few.”

That means nearly all of us have participated in some way in the underground economy.

Yet little is known or discussed about this area of our lives, even though it touches many of us as we try to make ends meet.

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Obama: Rich must pay fair share of deficit cuts

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, September 19th, 2011

An impassioned President Barack Obama set up an acerbic and personal clash with Republicans Monday, demanding $1.5 trillion in new taxes on the rich in a plan aimed at slashing the deficit.

“This is not class warfare, it is math,” Obama declared, arguing that without tax increases on those who could afford it, the budget gap, which is casting a shadow over future generations of Americans, could never be closed.

“All I’m saying is that those who have done well, including me, should pay their fair share in taxes,” Obama said in a speech that effectively staked out the ground on which the 2012 presidential election will likely be fought.

A fiery, populist Obama laid out a plan which few experts believe has any chance of passing Congress, but which will make clear the battle lines between the White House and Republicans on the lumbering economy.

“We can’t just cut our way out of this hole,” Obama, said in in the White House Rose Garden, laying out his plans to cut $3.0 trillion from the deficit with a mixture of spending cuts and tax hikes.

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Obama pushes for $3.6trn deficit cut

From The Guardian UK:

Stage set for new showdown with Republicans as US president targets the rich for $1.5trn of tax increases

Dominic Rushe in New York, Monday 19 September 2011

Barack Obama is expected to unveil plans to reduce the massive US deficit by about $3.6trn over the next decade.

The plan looks set to spark yet more confrontation with his Republican critics. Roughly half of the savings would come from tax increases, according to people briefed on the proposals. The Republican opposition is staunchly against tax hikes.

Obama will unveil the new proposals on Monday at the White House. They will be submitted to a congressional “super-committee” that was created in August to draw up a deficit-reduction plan.

The president is also expected to propose nearly $250bn in cuts to spending on Medicare, the federal health care program that primarily benefits the elderly; $330bn in cuts to other mandatory benefit programs; and underline savings of $1trn from the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to initial reports there would be no changes in social security and no increase in the Medicare eligibility age, which the president had considered this summer.

Obama’s plans would include roughly $1.5trn in tax increases aimed mainly at wealthy Americans and corporations, people familiar with the proposal said. The president is set to unveil a “Buffett tax” aimed at those earning $1m or more a year and named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a persistent critic of low tax rates for the rich.

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The Keystone Pipeline: Too Dirty for George W. Bush?

From Common Dreams:

by Brendan Smith and Jeremy Brecher
Published on Monday, September 19, 2011 by

The Keystone XL pipeline, recently approved by the US State Department and awaiting President Obama’s declaration that it is in the “national interest,” will carry oil that is too dirty for the US government to buy — under legislation signed by George W. Bush!

In 2007, President Bush signed into law Section 526 of the Energy Independence and National Security Act of 2007. It prohibits the US government, which is the largest single fuel purchaser in the U.S., from using taxpayer dollars to purchase fuels that have a higher carbon footprint than conventional oil.

This little-known law is significant because Congress crafted it, in part, with the explicit intent to block the US from buying Canadian tar sands oil — considered the dirtiest oil on the planet. With President Obama currently debating whether to authorize the construction of the Keystone Pipeline — which will funnel tar sands oil from Alberta into the the US — and more than 1000 activists arrested in front of the White House last month in protest the pipeline, the issue has moved to the front and center of the climate debate in recent weeks.

According to Congressman Henry Waxman, Chair of the House Energy Committee, the US purchase of tar sands oil would clearly violate Section 526. As he wrote in a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee in 2008, the law “applies to fuels derived from unconventional petroleum sources such as tar sands which produce significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions then are produced by comparable fuel from conventional sources.”

Meanwhile the Canadian government has been working behind the scenes to strike Section 526 from the books to clear the way for tar sands extraction. Using Freedom of Information requests, the Pembina Institute and Climate Action Network Canadian, uncovered a 2008 strategy memo by Canadian Embassy official Hélène Viau, which urged US oil lobbyists to send letters to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of State to show “concerns with regard to section 526 and argue that oil sands products should not be targeted by this provision,” and to develop “a comprehensive oil sands advocacy strategy to focus on outreach to allies, influencers, legislators, etc.”

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Occupy Wall Street Protests

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Wall Street protesters: over-educated, under-employed and angry

From The Guardian UK:

Inspired by Tahrir Square, those who gathered in lower Manhattan are keen to mount a more permanent protest at corporate influence in US politics

Posted by in New York
Monday 19 September 2011

In the heart of New York’s financial district, the marble and concrete floor of lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park was strewn with untidy clumps of people, gathered in small groups amid a jumble of sleeping bags, mattresses and home-made banners, protesting against the banks and institutions that towered over them.

Some sat in circles, talking earnestly, others hugged, while at one side of the park, a small gaggle of “facilitators” took it in turns to address the crowd in chants. Mostly under 30, they are the self-proclaimed “over-educated and under-employed”, protesters left over from the 5,000-strong demonstration to “Occupy Wall Street” that took place on Saturday. On the third day of the protest, a hard core, including students, artists, performers and writers who have since slept out in the park, said they planned to occupy the square for the forseeable future.

One student, who gave name as Romeo C, said he was typical of the #occupywallst protesters. Romeo, 26, said: “We have a president who tells us to do the right thing, to go to school, to get a better life, but I’m not getting a better life. I am a new college graduate and I have $50,000 of college debt built up while studying business management at Berkley University. I can’t find a job to play it off.”

“Look around us, Chase, City group, Goldman Sacks – they got us in this position in the first place. The banks get a bailout but what about us? Where’s our bailout?”

“A lot of my friends are here. We have good degrees, we have worked hard, but now what?

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Irish reports ‘core’ to abuse claim against Vatican

From The Irish Times:

Genevieve Carbery
Monday, September 19, 2011

IRELAND’S REPORTS on clerical sex abuse form “a core part” of a complaint lodged against Pope Benedict XVI by two US advocacy groups at the International Criminal Court in the Hague last week.

Members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap) and the Center for Constitutional Rights visited Ireland at the weekend following their submission, which contains Irish reports, including the Cloyne report, and observations about the Vatican made by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in his Dáil speech in July.

“Ireland really led the way in helping us have an understanding of how this works and identifying all the practices that are used in different dioceses around the world that have continued and enabled the sexual violence,” said Pamela Spees, human rights lawyer with the centre.

The groups lodged a 20,000-page dossier which is an attempt to hold the Holy See and the pope legally responsible for widespread abuse by priests in various countries. It is calling on the court to investigate the Vatican for “crimes against humanity.”

Investigations from Ireland are being combined with those from Canada, Germany the US and elsewhere.

“When you look at it all together, it really does set out very clearly that everyone is conforming to policy. There is a lot for them to look at and we hope they look at it carefully,” Ms Spees said.

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