ALEC calls for penalties on ‘freerider’ homeowners in assault on clean energy

From The Guardian UK:

Documents reveal conservative group’s anti-green agenda
• Strategy to charge people who install their own solar panels
• Environmentalists accuse Alec of protecting utility firms’ profitsALEC facing funding crisis after exodus of big donors

in Washington and in New York, Wednesday 4 December 2013

An alliance of corporations and conservative activists is mobilising to penalise homeowners who install their own solar panels – casting them as “freeriders” – in a sweeping new offensive against renewable energy, the Guardian has learned.

Over the coming year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) will promote legislation with goals ranging from penalising individual homeowners and weakening state clean energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency, which is Barack Obama’s main channel for climate action.

Details of Alec’s strategy to block clean energy development at every stage – from the individual rooftop to the White House – are revealed as the group gathers for its policy summit in Washington this week.

About 800 state legislators and business leaders are due to attend the three-day event, which begins on Wednesday with appearances by the Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson and the Republican budget guru and fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan.

Other Alec speakers will be a leading figure behind the recent government shutdown, US senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and the governors of Indiana and Wyoming, Mike Pence and Matt Mead.

For 2014, Alec plans to promote a suite of model bills and resolutions aimed at blocking Barack Obama from cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and state governments from promoting the expansion of wind and solar power through regulations known as Renewable Portfolio Standards.

Documents obtained by the Guardian show the core elements of its strategy began to take shape at the previous board meeting in Chicago in August, with meetings of its energy, environment and agriculture subcommittees.

Further details of Alec’s strategy were provided by John Eick, the legislative analyst for Alec’s energy, environment and agriculture program.

Eick told the Guardian the group would be looking closely in the coming year at how individual homeowners with solar panels are compensated for feeding surplus electricity back into the grid.

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Ohio mom accuses other parents of bullying her transgender daughter

From Raw Story:

By Travis Gettys
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A central Ohio woman says other parents are using social media to harass her and her transgender child.

Emily LeVan said she legally changed her daughter’s name last week from Keaten to Keat to reflect her identification with the female gender and announced the move on Facebook.

“I was celebrating it because it was a big step for us, and a couple of people took it upon themselves to berate me for it,” LeVan said.

LeVan said parents of some of Keat’s classmates at Highland Elementary School in Morrow County wrote negative or derogatory messages about her daughter.

“I am terribly ticked that the parents are allowed to send their boy to school as a girl and put him in this embarrassing situation,” wrote one parent, and another called her actions child abuse.

The transgender girl said she was teased by other children as she started her transition last year, saying that she was a boy the year before.

“I said, ‘I was a girl, and it’s none of your business,’” said 9-year-old Keat.

School officials said they addressed the harassment immediately and have a zero tolerance policy for that type of behavior.

“It’s disgusting,” said Highland Local Schools District Superintendent Bill Dodds. “We don’t accept it, and we won’t accept it.”

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Transgender People Aren’t As Valuable As ‘Higher End’ People, Argues Attorney

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Corporations…pay a living wage or get the death penalty!

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Are the Bankers Now Setting Up the Crash of 2016?

From Alternet:

Conservative lawmakers overreact to progressive American changes—pushing the economy toward another crash.

By Thom Hartmann
December 3, 2013

This article was first published on Truthoutand any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthoutas the original site of publication.

As the great Yogi Berra once said, “it’s déjà vu all over again.”

Right now, millions of Americans are still struggling to recover from the 2008 financial collapse.

That collapse was fueled by the housing crisis, when Wall Street banksters were running around betting on risky mortgage-backed securities that they could sell to investors and make billions from.

They were able to do that because the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act had blown up rational banking regulations, and, as a result, we saw things like the so-called mortgage “liar loans”.

Banksters were able to turn billions of dollars in risky mortgages into trillions of dollars in derivatives.

And then everything went to hell.

Fast forward to today, and because of Dodd-Frank there are no more “liar loans.”

Banksters can’t run the same scam as they did during the housing crisis.

So, they’ve found a new way to come up with real-estate-backed securities that can be turned into derivatives, worth billions in profits.

How? They’ve become landlords.

As Marilyn Volan points out over at TomDispatch, in the past year and a half, banksters in Wall Street hedge funds, big banks and private equity firms have purchased hundreds of thousands of mostly-foreclosed houses across the country.

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How Inequality Became as American as Apple Pie

From The Nation:

Jessica Weisberg
on December 9, 2013

Last week, five days after Black Friday’s Walmart strike and the day before a nationwide fast-food workers strike, President Obama delivered a speech at the Center for American Progress about economic disparity and low wages. The president didn’t mention the strikers, but his talking points weren’t so different from their rallying cries—he called for a higher minimum wage and supported the right to organize. His speech was too sweeping, too ambitious to focus on the week’s news. He spoke about Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, education and the tax code; he provided statistic after statistic about the severity of inequality in the United States. The thread that tied all these points together was “economic mobility.” (“President Speaks on Economic Mobility,” the banner of the White House website read.) The president may have been speaking to a room full of liberals, but his focus on mobility rather than inequality seemed especially marketed to conservatives. It was Obama at his campaign finest, recasting himself as the great uniter between the two parties. “The idea that so many children are born into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth is heartbreaking enough,” the president said, “But the idea that a child may never be able to escape that poverty because she lacks a decent education or healt care, or a community that views her future as their own, that should offend all of us and it should compel us to action.” Poverty, in other words, is a sad but inevitable consequence of a competitive economy—it’s “heartbreaking,” but so it goes—while mobility is essential to the American mission. Children, we can all agree, should at least be given the bootstraps by which they can pull themselves up.

The word “inequality” makes conservatives uncomfortable, as if it invokes class struggle, the 99 percent versus the 1. They much prefer “mobility,” which connotes a purely aspirational relationship to wealth and the wealthy. As Representative Paul Ryan writes on the Budget Committee’s website, “The question for policymakers is not how best to redistribute a shrinking economic pie. The focus ought to be on increasing living standards, expanding the pie of economic opportunity, and promoting upward mobility for all.” (Italics his) “Our job here is not to divide the American people,” Speaker John Boehner has said. “It’s to help every American have a fair shot at the American dream.”

The day of the president’s speech, Pew released a study, “Mobility and the Metropolis,” comparing rates of social mobility in different cities. New York City fared terribly, with a social mobility rate below that of Chicago, Los Angeles and even Newark. New York was also found to be the most economically segregated of the thirty-four cities studied (a dynamic illustrated by this map). The authors of the study argue that geographically concentrated poverty is more likely to reproduce itself and that heightened segregation is preventing upward mobility for most urban residents.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has promised to reverse economic segregation by requiring developers to create below-market housing. When de Blasio talks about mandatory inclusionary zoning, or any of the tenets of his “tale of two cities” campaign, he talks about poverty reduction rather than “mobility” and it’s this minor rhetorical difference that renders Obama a friend and de Blasio a foe in the eyes of some conservatives. In his speech last week, President Obama expressed his support for early childhood education. “I’ve also embraced an idea that I know all of you at the Center for American Progress have championed—and, by the way, Republican governors in a couple of states have championed—and that’s making high-quality preschool available to every child in America,” he said. De Blasio has promised to create an early childhood education program and to fund it by raising the income tax on families making more than $500,000 by one half of one percent. In President Obama’s telling, such programs have bipartisan appeal, but de Blasio is said to be driving wealthy New Yorkers to leave the city. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently invited the wealthiest New Yorkers to move south and evade de Blasio’s tax hikes; Tom Foley, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Connecticut, invited them north.

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The Facts Are In: Austerity Politics Doesn’t Work

From Yes Magazine:

From England’s double-dip recession to Portugal’s spiking unemployment, there is now conclusive evidence of the complete failure of austerity.

Dec 03, 2013

The idea that rational thinking should govern political decision making in America dates back to our very founding. “Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams said, “and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Oh, John Adams, where are you when we need you? Facts have been buried in a political era in which partisan ideology overrides reason. And while the Republican Party has embraced fact-free governance as its personal brand, Democrats are not entirely innocent either.

Take the case of “austerity politics.” Persistent, despite the facts. There is now conclusive evidence, both practical and theoretical, of the complete failure of austerity politics.

First was the United Kingdom, the practical test case for austerity. In 2010, faced with a recession similar to those gripping most other industrialized nations, Britain’s conservative government instituted a series of austerity measures to dramatically cut spending and taxes. Parts of the U.K. government were slashed by upwards of 30 percent.

The result? Utter and unquestionable failure. The deficit remained high while the country suffered through a double-dip recession. Austerity shaved 6 percent from the country’s GDP over the last three years. Major credit agencies downgraded Britain’s AAA rating for the first time in generations. The Fitch ratings agency blamed weak growth performance, “partly due to … public sector deleveraging.”

In other words: austerity. The International Monetary Fund has been pressuring the United Kingdom to back off austerity for its own good and the good of the global economy—which is funny because it was the International Monetary Fund that pressed for austerity measures in the first place.

Take another example, Portugal—which was forced to slash spending drastically in order to qualify for an IMF and EU bailout. The result? The Portuguese economy worsened, with the nation’s debt-to-GDP ratio going up not because its deficit increased but because the economy contracted. The nation’s already-painful 13 percent unemployment rate grew to more than 16 percent. And there are similar examples of austerity’s failures from Ireland to Italy to Spain.

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