Nel's New Day

May 6, 2019

Back to the Swinging Doors of DDT’s Administration

People keep moving in an out of the administration:

Stephen Moore is the latest person to be fired before hired. Once a recommendation by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) alongside Herman Cain for the Federal Reserve Board, he lasted longer than Cain. DDT said that he had pulled his name, but two hours earlier Moore had claimed that DDT was “full speed ahead” and that Moore is “all in.” The same thing happened to Cain who was positive that he was the nominee until DDT’s tweet told a different story. For the past month, Moore complained about a “sleaze” campaign that cited his writings from years ago. Yet the day before DDT dumped him, he talked about higher wages for women than for the “breadwinner” causing the “family instability.” Moore has much more going against him currently than his lack of experience, ignorance, racism, and misogyny. His leadership of the Koch-backed ALEC proved his austerity and anti-labor positions promoting income inequality, stagnant incomes, and suppressed wages.Ten years ago, Moore said, “I’m not even a big believer in democracy.”

Like Nixon, DDT is trying to politicize the Federal Reserve Board to lower interest rates and get re-elected. Nixon got his wish in a booming economy, but his scheme led to double-digit inflation.

Oil lobbyist David Bernhardt lasted four days without being investigated after he was confirmed as Interior Department Secretary from Senate Republicans. This coming week, both his investigator and the agency’s top lawyer face Senate confirmation hearings for their posts. The lawyer, who formerly advised the Koch brothers, advised both Bernhardt and his predecessor, Ryan Zinke, regarding legal and ethical issues as well as serving as chief public records officer. This connection erases any separation between politics and Freedom of Information in an agency that works hard to hide their actions. The lawyer said his “job is to protect the Secretary.”

Bernhardt is being investigating for involvement in policies affecting former clients. The Department admitted that Bernhardt’s staff deliberately failed to record his controversial meetings with representatives of fossil fuel, timber and water interests on his public calendar by citing “internal protocol.” They also confirmed he used a personal itinerary overwritten by his scheduling staff after denying that it happened for several months. Many entries were simply described as “internal” or “external.” An agency officer told Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chair of the Oversight Committee, that Bernhardt’s calendar was “deleted at the end of the day.” These practices also violate federal record laws. Later a Department spokeswoman said these practices didn’t exist.

The investigation in the Interior Department includes a total of six of DDT’s appointees who may have conflicts of interest by engaging with former employers or clients about the business of the Department. These include Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Doug Domenech, White House liaison Lori Mashburn, three top staffers at the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, and the department’s former energy policy adviser. The Assistant Secretary kept interacting with his former employer, a conservative think tank, after he joined the Interior Department to discuss pending lawsuits that were settled in his former employer’s interests. Another investigation concerned a former lobbyist for the NRA who participated in issues about his former clients after he joined the Department. He also got recreational shooting opened up in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Mark Morgan is DDT’s pick for the head of ICE. He supports DDT’s wall on the southern border and denied that children were held in “cages.” Earlier this year, DDT has named Ronald Vitiello for the position but dropped him, saying that “we’re going in a tougher direction.” Matthew Albence, currently acting ICE director, had said that immigration detention is like “summer camp.” A former senior official said, “Matt never met an undocumented immigrant that he wouldn’t deport.”

Morgan is a good match for Kevin McAleenan, new acting DHS secretary, who promoted family separation to “protect families and children,” even separating legal asylum seekers at legal ports of entry. Last December, McAleenan broke the law by failing to notify Congress with 24 hours of the deaths of two children. Then he forced migrant families to sleep underneath an El Paso bridge in dangerous, unhealthy conditions. McAleenan was in charge of firing tear gas at asylum-seekers. His agents were also well known for ethnic profiling, illegal searches, seizure of religious items, and sometimes, murder and rape.

Julie Kirchner, former leader for the anti-immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform, is DDT’s consideration to head U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if DDT fires Francis Cissna in Stephen Miller’s purge of the federal government. Founded by a white supremacist, FAIR has been labeled a hate group. Currently Kirchner investigates individuals’ complaints against maladministration, especially that of public authorities for USCIS. If confirmed for the head of the agency, she would control the adjudication of applications for asylum, green cards, citizenship, and renewals for protective programs like DACA and TPS.

Patrick Shanahan remains acting as Secretary of Defense as more and more bad news comes from and about his former employer and friend, Boeing. The latest is Boeing’s admission that warning lights were “optional” on the 737 Max commercial jetliners that killed hundreds of people in the last few months. Earlier Boeing tried to blame pilots for their lack of performance. Now the company claims that the lights had no impact on the planes’ safety. Only 20 percent of ordered planes had this upgrade to activate the warning sensor. Neither pilots nor the FAA safety inspectors and supervisors were told about the lack of this safety feature. DDT has suggested that Boeing can solve all its problems with the 737 Max 8 jets by renaming them.

Less than two weeks ago, an internal investigation cleared Shanahan of conflicts of interest although Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson expressed three concerns: his decision to accept the problematic KC-46 tanker, his meeting with Space X CEO Elon Musk, and possible inappropriate sharing of classified information from Boeing programs. Shanahan also incessantly praised the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Internal documents about the Dreamliner production as well as interviews with employees show the same kind of shoddy work on the 737 Max. A quality manager who pointed out problems was moved to other parts of the South Carolina plant where Boeing moved manufacturing despite a lack of comparable work force to that in the Seattle area. As a “right-to-work” state, South Carolina employees can be paid less than in Washington, and the state gave Boeing $1 billion. Fortunately, the Dreamliner has not had a crash yet although it was grounded for a time because of overheating batteries.

Last week, a Boeing 737 slid off a Florida runway into the St. Johns River.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is one of the subjects named by Sears in a lawsuit against its former CEO Edward Lampert, claiming that Mnuchin was part of the board members who helped Lampert and his hedge fund strip Sears of over $2 billion. Lampert and Mnuchin were roommates at Yale University and worked together at Goldman Sachs.

Jared Kushner has done his daddy-in-law proud with his extremely rare public appearance at the Times 100 Summit. He downplayed the Russian election interference from the Mueller report as “a couple of Facebook ads.” Kushner missed the part about the “expansive and expensive” Russian attack, as described by Steve Benen, including “public events, advertising, rallies, p.r. stunts, outreach to domestic allies, and an aggressive social-media component [that] reached as many as 126 million people.”

John Kelly, once DHS Secretary before becoming DDT’s chief of staff, has found a way to make money off his attitudes about immigrants and still avoid DDT. Kelly is now a board member of Caliburn International, the company owning the biggest detention centers for unaccompanied migrant youth. Caliburn received $222 million from taxpayers for a year, but their centers’ capacity has increased from 1,250 beds to 3,200 beds in just one detention center.

Scott Walker, loser as presidential candidate and Wisconsin’s most recent gubernatorial race, found a new job: he’s honorary chair of The Center for State-led National Debt Solutions—aka pusher for a constitutional balanced budget amendment. Ostensibly a Republican, Walker seems to be on the opposite side of congressional Republicans who are driving the national debt sky high. In every date, including Wisconsin, the infrastructure is collapsing while wealthy individuals and corporations received massive tax cuts.

Before he left Wisconsin, Walker put the state’s taxpayers on the hook for $4.1 billion to employ 13,000 people at Foxconn’s manufacturing plant. The deal was announced with DDT; a photo may show the only work DDT has done. Foxconn backed out of the manufacturing plant, and the number of employees dropped to 1,000 workers—about $4 million for each job. Manufacturing the product in China will “be more profitable” for Foxconn, according to one of its officials. Last year, the company hired 178 people, 82 fewer than needed for its first $10 million tax cut. On the campaign trail a week ago, DDT asked Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, to be more “optimistic and hopeful” about Foxconn. Without re-negotiation, which Foxconn hasn’t supported, Wisconsin taxpayers are totally screwed.

Thanks to Walker and his Republicans, almost 15 percent of Wisconsin’s dairy farms aren’t milking or have disappeared. Despite oversupply, Walker tried to beat California in milk production and dropped milk prices by over 25 percent. Other losses included less immigrant farm labor and DDT’s trade war.

[Note: Those who wish to read more about the news above and/or factcheck the material may wish to use the links.]

 

 

May 14, 2016

How Far Will the GOP Go?

Republicans are going crazy after “the people” spoke and chose a candidate that they—and the majority of people in the United States—consider unsuitable. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) met with other GOP legislators and presumptive GOP heir Donald Trump to lay down the law. Trump appeared to back down on all the backing down that he had done during the past week, and Ryan, who foolishly believes that he can control a loose cannon, found him “warm and generous”—although not enough to endorse him. Other Republicans are going off on their own crazy ways.

Ryan’s governor, Scott Walker, blames the state’s deferment of $101 million in debt on President Obama, costing taxpayers at least $2.3 million in just interest plus tens of millions more. Wisconsin has the money, but Walker put it into the general fund for any shortfalls. The president’s economy has added jobs every month for six years, but Walker’s failed policies badly hurt Wisconsin. Yet Walker’s rainy day fund has $280 million thanks to the president’s gains in the stock and job market. His reason for looking poor is to make future budget cuts to use the Koch brothers’ “starve the beast” government strategy.

Some of the GOP craziness is ongoing. The Platform Committee of the Texas GOP is voting next Wednesday on an “independence” resolution. Then Gov. Rick Perry hinted that Texas might separate itself from the “United States,” but this vote will be the first action in its 171-year history about a decision to make the “state” an independent nation. With ten county chapters supporting the resolution, the Texas Nationalist Movement seems to be moving toward the political main stream from a fringe group.

In the GOP’s effort to “Benghazi” Hillary Clinton, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is working with Fox host Adam Housley to find the fake witnesses swearing that military assets could have saved the lives of four people at the diplomatic compound almost four years ago. Fox has no evidence, but Gowdy wants these non-existent people for his committee. Housley is known for finding Dylan Davies who claimed that he scaled the wall on the night of the attack and engaged combat with the terrorists—before Davies admitted he lied.

Randy BarnettRandy Barnett is blaming John Robert for Donald Trump’s popularity because of Robert’s vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. He claims:

“Roberts increased cynicism and anger at play-by-the-rules conservatives and decreased respect for institutions across the board.”

Barnett’s article in highly conservative The Federalist is based on the premises that John Roberts knows that the health care law violates the constitution but he pretends that it doesn’t because of his belief that courts should not overturn law passed by majorities. The argument overlooks Roberts’ deciding votes that gutted the Voting Rights Act, campaign finance law, and gun control legislation—and other decisions. Somehow, however, Barnett has convinced himself that the Trump supporters vote for the businessman because of a judicial review. This man who teaches lawyers at Georgetown University has even crazier ideas—so far right that the John Birch society doesn’t agree with them.

A recent GOP fit (they have so many!) comes from a report claiming that Facebook suppresses conservative articles in its Trending Topics feed. There is no support for the allegations from former Facebook workers, and Republicans have never expressed any concern that “fair and unbalanced” Fox is anything but. The RN accuses Facebook of “censoring” the right and using its power “to silence view points and stories that don’t fit someone else’s agenda.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has declared that he “wants to haul Facebook employees before Congress.” He wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with the demand that Trending Topics employees brief the Commerce Committee by May 24.

Despite all the vacation days and the health crisis of the Zika virus moving through the southern states, GOP finds that “Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest.” Even if someone could find support for allegations, the question begs congressional oversight for a private social-media company. Thune now worries about Facebook’s integrity whereas his opposition to net neutrality declaimed that any political interference in Internet operation is unacceptable. In 2007, during a fight against the “Fairness Doctrine,” Thune argued:

“I know the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear government officials offering to regulate the news media and talk radio to ensure fairness. I think most Americans have the same reaction. Giving power to a few to regulate fairness in the media is a recipe for disaster on the scale that George Orwell so aptly envisioned.”

In avoiding a consideration of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Republican congressional members decided that the last elected year of the president’s four terms is a “lame-duck session,” but they are considering a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the real “lame-duck session” between the general election and the changing of the guard at the end of December. Only three trade-related bills have been voted on in a lame duck: 1974, 1994, and 2006.

TPP is a really bad idea: extending drug company monopolies over their products, undermining environmental and labor regulations, allowing corporations to send more jobs oversea, voiding U.S. consumer laws with unelected international tribunals, etc.  Republican legislators who lose in November can vote for the TPP before they leave Congress and then take jobs for giant corporations grateful for their vote.

Publicity about the North Carolina “bathroom law” keeping trans people out of the appropriate facilities just hasn’t stopped. The Department of Justice has ordered the state to rescind the law to keep its federal funding, and North Carolina is suing the DOJ for its order. At the same time, all 10 GOP House members gave the Department of Education until yesterday to promise—provide the state with “immediate assurances”—that the North Carolina won’t suffer monetary penalty for violating federal civil rights. GOP state leaders, who complain about being “bullied” by the federal government are telling lobbyists that their employing corporations that they can expect retribution for speaking out against HB2, the potty law.

Gov. Pat McCrory wants to overturn the Civil Right Act of 1964 to make segregation legal again so that the state can “make special circumstances for those individuals [transgender students].” He also claimed that the “far left … brought this [agenda] up.”

Middle Age RiotThe latest lawsuit against the federal government, filed by “North Carolinians for Privacy,” is identical to a suit in Illinois from the Alliance Defending Freedom. It begins with the falsehood that DOE’s guidance “forbids educational institutions from maintaining sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms” and moves on to the argument that gender identity is not a component of sex. The lawsuit’s main claim is that the DOJ “unmistakable ultimatum” to either prohibit sex-specific restrooms or lose federal funding endangers all the students’ access to education. Another premise in the lawsuit is accusing the DOJ of violating the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) because the agency discriminates on the basis of gender identity against non-transgender people because it allows “some, but not all, biological males the right of entry and use of female restrooms and locker rooms.” The suit claims that North Carolina’s HB2 “treats all persons the same, regardless of their gender identity.”

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has dived into the bathroom controversy by describing it as the “biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools.” About potentially losing $5 billion of federal funding for Texas education, he added, “Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver.” The analogy indicates that either he or Texas—or both—should be compared to Jesus who was betrayed by Judas for “30 pieces of silver.” Answering Patrick’s comments, including the one about no longer giving poor students free lunches, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “I think this does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to elected statewide office. No one should be discriminated against because of who they are.” Texas cut school funding 25 percent in the ten years following 2002 and ranks 38th in the nation in per K-12 student funding.

The U.S. disdain for the Republican party is at its highest level since 1992; 62 percent look at it unfavorably whereas only 33 percent view it with favor. The positive perception fell four points in the past six months. Only 68 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of their party, an 11-point drop from October. Independents prefer the Democrats to Republicans, 37 to 28 percent. The majorities of minorities oppose the GOP: women, 62 percent; blacks, 79 percent; and Hispanics, 61 percent. Among whites, 37 percent view both parties favorably while 59 percent have an unfavorable view of Democrats and 58 percent—only one percent less—have the same view of Republicans.

Update: Wisconsin’s debt deferment was erroneously listed as $101. It is $101 million.

 

July 31, 2015

Travesties in Friday News Dump

The last day of the traditional work day is known in the media as “Trash Day,” according to the classic TV series “West Wing” description of the Friday news dump. The tactic is to “dump” bad news or documents on that day so that media scrutiny would be minimized. Here are some of the Friday dump day travesties:

 

Black Women’s Equal Pay Day was last Tuesday: July 28, 2015, is the day when black women caught up with the salary that white men made in 2015. In other words, black women had to work 575 days to match the pay that men made in 365 days. Black women make 64 percent of white men, but Native American women salaries are far worse—at 59 percent of white men’s salaries.

What Voting Problems?! A Wichita State University mathematician asked for Kansas voting machines to be audited because of suspicious patterns in electronic returns, but government officials don’t want anyone to know about its problems. When Beth Clarkson, chief statistician for WSU’s National Institution for Aviation Research, made calculations after last November’s election, she found a “statistically significant” pattern in which the percentage of GOP votes increase according to how big the precinct is, even where other demographics don’t agree. She said that this anomaly happens across the country. Forced to file a lawsuit against state Secretary of State Chris Kobach for documentation, she still hasn’t been able to get the information.

Walker Rides High on Hypocrisy. In an op-ed for the Des Moines Register, presidential candidate and Wisconsin’s GOP governor, Scott Walker, wrote, “You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.” His reference was to how Hillary Clinton spent time in meetings with union bosses, who he calls “big-labor special interests,” as she will “shun everyday” people. Walker is headed to a luxury hotel in Southern California with other GOP presidential candidates—Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio—to attend the Koch brothers annual summer conference for Freedom Partners with 450 of the wealthiest donors on the far-right.

An Environmental Award for Rick Scott Is a Joke. The governor has  one of the worst environmental records in the history of Florida—and that’s saying something—and banned state employees from saying “climate change.” He decimated funding for important departments and projects while appointing developers and land use lawyers to their boards. They gave employees bonuses for speeding up permit approval and suspended Connie Bersok who refused to violate state law by approving development in the state’s wetlands. Chair of the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida giving Scott an award for his “conservation work” is Rodney Barreto—wealthy businessman, lobbyist, chair of the South Florida Super Bowl Committee, and Jeb Bush appointee.

McConnell Shows Game Plan for 2017: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) plans to use reconciliation to bypass the 60 votes necessary to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The purpose of reconciliation is reducing the deficit, and repealing the ACA would increase the deficit. The far-right Heritage Action group suggests replacing an official score of a repeal with a GOP invented score.

GOP Women Posted Graphic Illustration of Lynching on Facebook. The official Facebook page of the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women briefly showed an image of a lynched black man until complaints led to its withdrawal. The text read, “The KKK was formed by the Democrats to keep control over black Americans. The Democrats of today just traded ropes for welfare.” In 2013, over 40 percent of food stamp recipients were white. The number of food stamp beneficiaries who are black has declined every year from 2001 through 2010; in 2013, only one-fourth of the recipients were black. Even if more beneficiaries were black, there is no excuse for using either the illustration or the text.

Pro-Israel, Anti-Iran Agreement Organization Pays to Take Democrat Senators to Israel on a Propaganda Tour: Lobby group AIPAC led the United States into a war with Iraq, and now it wants the United States to start a war with Iran. That’s why they are sending 40 members of Congress, several of them Democrats, to Israel this coming month to listen to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explain why they should vote with him instead of the President of the United States. Legislators prefer to meet with Netanyahu rather than their own constituents. AIPAC is spending at least $50 million to persuade people to vote against the Iran agreement.

Super PAC Carly for America Is Coordinating with Presidential Candidate Carly Fiorina: The Supreme Court ruling allowing almost unlimited money in donations to political candidates through super PACS also mandated no communication between the organizations and the individual campaign efforts of political candidates. Yet the super PAC for Fiorina, confusingly called “Carly for America,” has invited its supporters to join a conference call with the candidate Carly Fiorina while including the necessary legal notice that Carly for America “is an independent expenditure committee and not authorized or coordinated with any federal candidate or candidate’s committee.” The super PAC also performs candidate campaign functions such as managing rapid response to press questions, rolling out endorsements of the candidate, funding grassroots organizing, and organizing advance work for Fiorina’s appearances. Fiorina isn’t alone in crossing the line: presidential candidate and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivered his anti-Donald Trump speech at a July 22 event hosted by his super PAC, Opportunity and Freedom PAC.

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) Lecture Nuclear Physicist on Nuclear Weapons. Last week, Cruz and Johnson accused Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz of knowing less that they did about Iran’s possible nuclear weapons and the threat of an imaginary Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) weapon to take out the nation’s electronic grid. First, the senators accused Moniz of not knowing what an EMP was because he had said he did not know the 2008 Congressional report recommendations. Cruz claimed to be “stunned” at what he considered Moniz’s ignorance about the subject. Then he refused to allow the nuclear physicist, longtime MIT professor, and holder of a PhD in theoretical physics from Stanford to answer a question before accusing him of “refusing to answer the question.” Far-right articles claim that the EMP could easily leave “9 out of 10 Americans dead,”but the Federation of American Scientists stated that this would require a “large device” detonated about 300 miles above Wichita at the altitude of the International Space Station.

Alabama’s governor, Robert Bentley, Appointed Matthew Brown to the State Department of Education: The new appointee is a fundamentalist Christian who hates the public school system and has sworn that his children will never attend public school. Bentley said, “Matthew brings a unique perspective to the position.” His perspective is to starve the public education system through vouchers and charter schools, which Bentley strongly supports through taking $30 million from public schools.

Medicare Turned 50 Yesterday: That’s the good news. The travesty is the GOP attempts to eliminate health care for the elderly and disabled. Presidential candidate Jeb Bush is leading the charge to”figure out a way to phase out this program for [younger people] and move to a new system that allows them to have something.” Backlash led a Bush spokesman to say that Bush wanted only modest reforms. Conservatives say they want to shift the current “defined benefit” program providing specific protections and levels of financial security to a “defined contribution” that distributes money according to a pre-determined formula and require seniors to shop for coverage. What they really want is to end Medicare’s guaranteed health care.

Cruz Tells Code Pink That “Truth Matters” Before He Lies: After pointing out the importance of truth, Cruz said that both Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei and President Rouhani “explicitly said they are developing nuclear weapons. There is no doubt about it.” Code Pink’s co-founder Medea Benjamin said, “That is absolutely false.” Benjamin speaks the truth, but Cruz told Benjamin not to interrupt him. Conservatives failed to report the statements but said that Cruz “crushed” Code Pink. [Insight into Cruz: one of his favorite superheroes is Rorschach, the mentally unstable killer in Alan Moore’s Watchman who lives by his own moral code and exacts severe—maybe psychotic—punishment for anyone who violates it.]

pigs flyTexas Displays Judicial ActivismAfter anti-LGBT activists couldn’t get the 17,000 signatures required to put Houston’s anti-discrimination measures to a vote, the Texas Supreme Court suspended the ordinance, ruling that it either be repealed or put before voters. The court couldn’t do this legally, but it made the ruling. Do conservatives find this judicial activism—which they profess to hate? Will they object? Do pigs fly?

Congress Passes Short-term Highway Funding Bill: The Senate has passed a funding bill to continue the Highway Trust Fund for six years but pays for only three, providing $45 billion spread out for the six years over the gasoline tax. They not only refused to increase the gas tax to levels of 20 years ago but also could not work anything out with the House, that passed only a three-month extension of the funding. The Senate made a bipartisan refusal with 18 Democrats and 15 Republicans voting against it. Great comment from Oregon’s senior senator, Ron Wyden:

“I said to a friend this morning with apologies to the elephants: When the elephants lock tusks, it’s never dull.”

States cannot possibly plan for major transportation projects and prolong maintenance on dangerously damaged roads and bridges with short-term fixes, and this is the 34th “fix” since 2009—an average of five each year. After the recess, the two congressional chambers will have to tackle the problem again. And the Iran deal. And the appropriations bill. And Planned Parenthood. And anything else that has nothing to do with jobs. And the infrastructure suffers because Congress hands out the money in dribbles and drabs.

 

July 15, 2015

July 14, 2015

Walker Sets Out to Destroy the U.S., Part II

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 7:49 PM
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Past actions put Walker in tune with the Old South: tax cuts for the wealthy, health care rejection, concealed permits for guns, drug-testing for welfare recipients, and an “open for business” sign for corporations. He signed a 20-week ban on abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, despite his campaign claim that abortion should be a decision between a “woman and her doctor.” Immediately after the killing in Charleston (SC), Walker signed two bills into law that eliminated the state’s 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases  and allowed retired or off-duty law enforcement officials to carry concealed firearms into public schools. Walker banned guns at his candidacy announcement.

Nicknames for the once proudly progressive state of Wisconsin are “Wis-issippi” and the “laboratory for oligarchs.” These are some reasons:

All-out war on workers with neither jobs nor higher wages: In 2010 he began “Act 10” to abolish almost all collective bargaining rights of public employees to union representation and drive down the take-home pay of public employees by over 10 percent. He rescinded his promise to labor leaders and the public by weakening the already-limited bargaining power of private-sector unions with the Southern-style “right-to-work” law. In a long interview with Fox network’s Sean Hannity after his announcement, Walker called the minimum wage a “lame idea” while calling on the next president to connect with the working class.

Soon after Walker signed the “right-to-work” law (that he said he wouldn’t) while campaigning, a major road building and mining company, Hoffman Construction, moved to Minnesota because of the legislation. Hoffman said the new law would cost him money and Minnesota’s increase in transportation funding is a better deal for him.

Walker’s repeal of the 80-year wage law keeping taxpayer money with local construction workers will also destroy jobs in Wisconsin as well as the quality of public projects. It will also cost the state more because of the repairs for work by contractors who underbid and then can’t deliver on their promises. Lost income to workers also cuts taxes to the state.

In the public sector, the projected 13,000 layoff for 2015 will equal the number for 2012 (6,511) and 2014 (6.186). The high for Walker’s administration was 9,000 in 2011, his first year of office.

Destruction of Wisconsin’s prized public education system:  Long ranked as among the best in the nation and the foundation of a democratic society, Wisconsin’s public education has been decimated. Loss of funding and low standards for privatized voucher schools were excerbated by a “hostile takeover” of powers of the elected Milwaukee Public School Board when Walker transferred control to a county executive. Walker also attempted to change the century-long university mission of “search for truth” to “providing state workforce needs.” Walker’s removal of tenure in the university system has caused reputable faculty to flee the state and warded off promising new professors.

Less accountability and transparency:  Even the far-right attorney general denounced Walker’s tactics of secretive late night GOP legislator meetings resulting in controversial features of the budget. Walker has always insisted on secrecy for his records.

Humiliating and harming the vulnerable: Attacks on environmental protection, punitive abortion rights with no regard for the woman’s health, exploiting the poor, and humiliating public assistance recipients are only a few of Walker’s modus operandi. Food stamps and unemployment insurance recipients are now forced to take drug testing despite the failure of these in other states and the unconstitutionality of the practice.

Part of Walker’s anti-abortion bill allows biological fathers to sue women who have abortions for “emotional distress” regardless of the men’s relationship with the women. On the other hand, women cannot sue over pay discrimination because Walker said it would “clog up the legal system.” Between 2009 and 2012, the Wisconsin Equal Pay Enforcement Act allowed women to seek damages for wage discrimination, but no woman ever sued an employer during that time. Sen. Glenn Grothman, now a U.S. representative, said the gender wage gap was reasonable because “money is more important for men.”

A college dropout, Walker has so little respect for education that he promoted a bill allowing high school dropouts to become licensed teachers with no further education. Any person hired as a teacher could get a license, giving 424 separate school districts control over the licensing process. Fortunately, it was removed during the budget process, but the bill came close to passing.

Walker’s environmental approach is as dismal as his economic one, reducing the role of science in policymaking and silencing discussion of climate change by state employees. His rollbacks in environmental protection include relaxing laws governing iron mining and building on wetlands, loosening restrictions on phosphorus pollution in waterways, restricting wind energy development, and attempting to end funding for a university renewable energy research program. His current budget eliminates 58 scientist positions and 60 percent of environmental educator positions at the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). In addition, he wanted to change the DNR citizen board that sets policy to an advisory position and proposed a 13-year freeze on the state’s popular land conservation fund. Public objections caused lawmakers to reject both these.

Two years ago, Walker signed a law for major political donor Gogetic Taconite to build a 4-mile-long open-pit mine in the Lake Superior watershed. Gogetic helped write the law that allows companies to dump mine waste into wetlands, streams, and lakes; doubles the land where a company can pollute; allows DNR to exempt companies from the law, including paying a recycling fee on waste rock; and strips citizens of the right to sue mining companies for illegal environmental damage. The new law states that significant adverse impacts on wetlands are necessary.

Seven years ago, Walker signed the Koch-backed “No Climate Tax Pledge” that opposes all climate legislature increasing government revenue. The utility commissioner he appointed in 2014 said that “the elimination of essentially every automobile would be offset by one volcano exploding.” Asked by a Boy Scout what he would do about climate change, Walker said he would leave his campsite cleaner than when he found it.

Former GOP state senator Dale Schultz, retiring after 32 years in the legislature, said, “I think what’s going on is appalling. As somebody who thinks that should be the first thing conservatives ought to be doing is protecting our environment, it’s embarrassing. I’m a pretty pro-business Republican. But a clean environment is essential to business. This is just wholly unacceptable.” He added, “Some days I look at Governor Walker and I just see a guy who’s afraid of the mob. He helped create it, he fosters it, but then he’s also fearful of it.”

Doctors will be encouraged, perhaps even required, to commit malpractice, if Walker gets his way. For almost two decades, Walker has introduced bills to make doctors immune from prosecution if they fail to tell women about health issues of the fetus. That bill failed, but he succeeded in passing a ban on partial birth abortions. In 1998, Walker introduced a bill that allowed doctors to deny patients services, such as contraception, if they didn’t personally agree with it. His ultrasound bill in 2013 caused the closure of several women’s clinics.

Mandatory useless ultrasounds for women who request abortions isn’t an oddity in the country after the conservatives made these required in a dozen state. Walker took a step farther to claim that ultrasounds are a “cool thing.”  He said, “Most people I talked to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time who’ll pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, we still have their first ultrasounds.” Most of the time, ultrasounds are useless and not recommended

After his foreign travel, Walker is positive that “radical Islamic terrorists” plan to attack the United States. He has no evidence and doesn’t say who threatens the U.S. or what military actions he would use to combat these attacks. He also has no access to intelligence briefings. His confidence in confronting ISIS comes confronting the protesters in Madison for several months, including the parade of tractors that rolled through the streets one week in opposition to the governor’s draconian measures against the Wisconsin people. “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” he declared. Asked if he were ready to be president, he answered in the affirmative, explaining that he is an Eagle Scout.

walker_priceWhile Walker wandered Capitol Hill pressing the flesh in a pre-declaration campaign move during May, his own super PAC was handing out formal invitations to tell donors what they would receive for different levels of funding.

$1,000,000: Executive Board Member – Bi-Annual Retreats (Summer 2015 & Date TBA),MEMBERS ONLY briefings, Weekly Email Updates, Bi-Monthly MEMBERS ONLY Conference Calls, Dedicated Staff Time, 2 Private Dinners with VIP Special Guest(s), Inclusion in all public/regional fundraising events, and Exclusive Executive Board Pin.

$500,000: Executive Committee Member – Bi-Annual Retreats (Summer 2015 & Date TBA),MEMBERS ONLY briefings, Weekly Email Updates, Bi-Monthly MEMBERS ONLY Conference Calls, Dedicated Staff Time, 1 Private Dinner with VIP Special Guest(s), Inclusion in all public/regional fundraising events, and Exclusive Executive Committee Pin.

$250,000: Platinum Membership – Bi-Annual Retreats (Summer 2015 & Date TBA), Weekly Email Updates, Monthly MEMBERS ONLY Conference Calls, Dedicated Staff Time, Inclusion in all public/regional fundraising events, and Exclusive Platinum  Board Pin.

Yes, Scott Walker is definitely for sale, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United is making it much easier.

July 13, 2015

Walker Sets Out to Destroy the U.S.

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 6:33 PM
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It’s official! After doing everything he could to destroy the former progressive state of Wisconsin, its governor has announced his candidacy so that he can annihilate the United States. Scott Walker’s presidential announcement is about a month late because he waited until he got the $72 billion biennial budget bill from the Wisconsin legislature—something he hoped would happen a month ago.

walker

In the latest YouGov.com poll, the top of the 15 declared candidates is unabashed racist Donald Trump. Walker will have to go a long way to out-trump Trump, but he’s worked hard to do this. Here are some of his outstanding efforts, starting with his most current budget that slashes $127 from K-12 education and $250 million from the University of Wisconsin System. In the past, Walker complained about including non-budget items in the bill, but he has recovered from this problem as these inclusions show:

  • Repeals tenure in the university system.
  • Advances school vouchers and the corporate privatization of Wisconsin public schools.
  • Eliminates a long-standing provision in state law requiring the minimum wage to be a true “living wage.” (At this time, the minimum wage is $7.25 that the governor’s office claims to be a “living wage.”)
  • Opens a giant loophole in the state law that mandates one rest day per week for many blue-collar workers.
  • Lowers wages for construction workers in the state by drastically reducing the scope of the state’s prevailing wage laws.
  • Allows payday lenders full reign to prey on low-wage workers by expanding their authority to sell additional financial products and services such as insurance and annuities while allowing them to give financial advice.
  • Weakens the state’s lead paint standard.
  • Prohibits any town or county from demanding more insurance from pipeline companies to cover possible spills.
  • Includes public policy provisions without public hearings or public input.

Among his 104 line-item vetoes to the budget, Walker axed more than $1 million in grants for environmental groups, a tourism plan, overhaul to long-term care programs such as Family Care, and tax exemption for construction to municipalities and nonprofit groups. He vetoed speeding up the termination of a long-running state program for assistance in cleaning up leaking underground fuel storage tanks. Another veto killed a requirement that half the money for the state from selling public land be set aside for future land purchases because Walker wants all the money to go to paying off debts. His removal of a provision limiting mandated drug tests to applicants with “reasonable suspicion” makes the state ripe for a lawsuit based on the law’s unconstitutionality.

The budget leaves a deficit of $490 million, and his promise to increase jobs in the state and pushing through a “right-to-work,” anti-union law has ranked Wisconsin 42nd in wage growth, the lowest in the Midwest. The budget has only two victories: removing the open records law and preserving the governance structure of the state’s retirement system oversight board may preserve it as one of the best-funded and best-managed pension systems in the nation.

Earlier this year, Walker skipped more than $100 million in debt payments to balance the books with a $283 million deficit. Fortunately for the governor, delaying the payment didn’t require legislative approval. His action increases debt-service bills by $545,000 next year and $18.7 million the year after that.

One way Walker attempted to save money, at least for the short-term, was to cut food stamp benefits. One 65-year-old woman saw  her monthly benefits go from $120 to $16 without any notification. She found the reduction came from her lack of documenting her heating costs with a utility bill. When Congress changed the way that states factor utility costs for food stamp eligibility, most states took action to prevent cutting benefits. Wisconsin didn’t, and 255,000 families, mostly seniors and people with disabilities, lost much of their benefits.

Food stamps were an obsession of the Wisconsin legislature last May as they concentrated on what to eliminate from the diets of poor people. At the top were lobster, shell-fish, and shrimp, but the list didn’t stop there. Willing to spend several million dollars for implementation of their micromanaging food stamp purchases, the “food police” tried to ban red and yellow potatoes, nuts, trail mix, herbs and seasonings, jarred spaghetti sauce, soups, salsa, ketchup, sauerkraut, pickles, dried beans sold in bulk, white or albacore tuna (permitting “light tuna”), and canned beans, except for green, wax or yellow. In Wisconsin, the land of cheese, the program eliminated types of cheese—no large blocks, no shredded, and no sharp. The legislature wasted their time because the plan couldn’t go into effect without a federal waiver.

Walker’s failure to gut the open records law by concealing special interests influencing legislature and other public records was a blow to the governor. The move came from a lawsuit after the governor withheld “search for truth” and the “Wisconsin Idea” from the university’s mission. Walker would also like to hide the fact that his creation, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, handed out more than $124 million to Wisconsin business without any formal staff review. The documents on these gifts, under Walker’s oversight, were made public in late June. These 27 awards, expected to create over 6,100 jobs, caused only 2,100 additional positions. Major Wisconsin newspapers published nothing about this fraud.

Walker is also facing an investigation into whether his 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with nonprofit groups. According to the Center for Media & Democracy’s PRWatch, “Prosecutors gathered evidence of Walker secretly raising millions of dollars for the supposedly ‘independent’ nonprofit Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG), with the express purpose of bypassing campaign finance disclosure laws.” The same prosecutor is investigating whether one or two of the supreme court justices are implicated in the same kind of scheme because two groups suspected of coordinating with Walker’s campaign also spent $10 million to elect the four-justice conservative majority. Walker accused the investigation of being a “witch hunt,” but the prosecutor, a Republican who had voted for Walker, assured him it was not.

Republican prosecutors gathered evidence of Walker bypassing campaign finance disclosure laws by secretly raising millions of dollars for the supposedly “independent” nonprofit WiCFG. The group spent at least $9.1 million during the recall elections and funneled at least $10 million more to other politically-active groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WM&C) while reporting to the IRS that it spent $0.  A John Doe investigation already led to convictions of six of Walker’s former aides on charges of illegal coordination, embezzlement, and corruption as well as secretly working on his campaign while they were on the clock as state employees. (More information here.)

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin may be right about the government has only two branches—omitting the court system—because of the election of judges. Thanks to a vote by the people of Wisconsin (aka the “legislature”), the state Supreme Court’s chief justice is now elected by the court instead of being the longest-serving justice, changed after 150 years. And thanks to the conservative machinations of Walker’s regime, the conservatives are in the court’s majority. Since then, newly elected conservative (and misnamed) Chief Justice Patience Roggensack has ignored the agreed-upon calendar. When some justices were not available for Roggensack’s revisions, she told them they could email her “their votes” so that they didn’t appear to have “withdrawn” from the cases she had scheduled at her special meeting. No discussion was necessary because the four right-wing justices are in the majority. Roggensack was also elected through an email vote.

Luckily for Walker, Roggensack has already decided not to have a hearing on the investigation into Walker and the two justices. The four conservative justices also won’t recuse themselves from deciding whether the John Doe investigation should be shut down even if two parties to the case are involved. The WiCFG and WM&C spent $7.6 million to help elect these four justices, providing 76 percent of the support for David Prosser, 69 percent of support for Justice Michael Gableman, 59 percent of the spending for Justice Annette Ziegler, and 48 percent for Roggensack. If they kill the Doe, justice will definitely be on sale in Wisconsin.

In his for governor last fall, Walker promised that he would serve out a four-year term if he were elected. “You have to be crazy to want to be president,” he said while claiming that he could wait 20 years and be only the same age as Hillary Clinton during her current presidential campaign. Immediately after telling his Wisconsin constituency that he “was going to do the best job I can over the next four years,” he started traveling throughout the United States and the globe, abandoning the legislature to its budget fights.

Of the four trips taken within five months of his inauguration, three were paid by taxpayers. The GOP Jewish Coalition paid for the fourth visit to Israel. Just Britain cost his constituents $138,200, and he was ridiculed for refusing to answer if he believes in the scientific theory of evolution. Since then Walker tried to keep reporters from following him, and his itinerary in Canada was kept secret. He failed to attend a news conference that focused on climate change and the health of the Great Lakes. (For the geographically-challenged, Wisconsin borders Lake Superior and Lake Michigan.)

Walker has done so much damage to Wisconsin that this is only Part I. The next two days will describe more about Wisconsin’s downhill spiral, thanks to Gov. Scott Walker, now GOP presidential candidate.

April 25, 2015

Presidential Campaign Updates

Three declared GOP presidential candidates and almost 20 others are jostling each other with insults and geometrically increasing extremist positions to make them stand out from the crowded field. Most of their speech time is spent condemning Hillary Clinton, the top Democratic candidate at this time, but this is what they have to say in their spare time. Just a peek at how they would act if they were elected President of the United States:

Ted Cruz: “Obama is a … socialist.” Conservatives think the word socialist—actually meaning public ownership of the means of production—is a term for “stuff Republicans don’t like.”  To Cruz, however, it must mean all-time high corporate profits and stock market with the big drop in unemployment based on private-sector jobs. Cruz’s complaint that “the top 1 percent in this country … earn a higher share of our national income than any time since 1928” must mean “an unmitigated socialist.”

Cruz has openly attacked his two declared opponents, Paul and Rubio, for not supporting the Second Amendment. As a blogger wrote, “Let the cannibalism begin.”

Last Wednesday, two wealthy gay business hoteliers, Mati Weiderpass and Ian Reisner, arranged a fundraising dinner; Thursday Cruz rolled out his plan to make marriage equality illegal. The first proposed bill is pretty standard for a Republican: amend the U.S. Constitution to prevent same-sex marriage in any state that doesn’t want it. The second bill, however, is bizarre. It would ban any federal court from issuing a ruling related to marriage equality until the constitutional amendment passed. No mention was made of these proposed bills the night before, but Cruz did say, “If one of my daughters was gay, I would love them just as much.” Reisner and Weiderpass both disavowed Cruz’s position, but they’re taking a lot of heat about the event from their customers.

In the House, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is introducing a bill to keep judges from hearing or deciding “any question pertaining to the interpretation of, or the validity under the Constitution of, any type of marriage.” Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) has countered with a bill to restrain King from introducing bills and made a statement about King’s long record of outrageous racist and other inflammatory remarks–ending “anchor babies” and describing undocumented immigrants as having “calves the size of cantaloupes” because they were smuggling drugs.”

Cruz may have found his billionaire supporter in Wall Street hedge-fund magnate  Robert Mercer who made his fortune using computer patterns to outsmart the stock market.  Oregonians remember Mercer as the man who bankrolled Art Robinson’s attempt to unseat Rep. Peter DeFazio. Robinson, known for his opposition to scientific viewpoints about evolution, AIDS, and nuclear waste, is now collecting urine samples from people across southeastern Oregon in an experiment about curing cancer.

With the highest percentage of missing votes in the Senate—10.4 percent—Cruz also skipped the vote on Loretta Lynch for Attorney General for a fundraiser in Texas. He also missed the vote on the Keystone Pipeline while fundraising in California. (Rubio is second in missed votes with 8.2 percent.)

Rand Paul: Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are President Obama’s “lapdogs,” said Paul in response to the two war hawks accusing Paul of naivete. from the two war hawks. McCain and Graham are actually contemptuous of the president’s foreign policy because he won’t attack more nations and start more wars: the president is more like Paul until as Paul advocates a huge increase in defense spending and more strikes against ISIL.

Paul is over 50 years old, but he still struts around in his shades trying to look “cool” with his shades. The inclusion of “Rand branded Raybans” in his campaign store, however breaks the law just as Paul’s plagiarism may have. The glasses are gone after a Rayban made a formal request that Paul remove the glasses from the store and “cease any further use of our trademarks.”

Paul’s revelation that he had found a Hillary Clinton scandal so terrible that her campaign would be wrecked fizzled after Peter Schweizer admitted that he had no proof for his allegations in his book, Clinton Cash. Now Paul is begging for information about Clinton scandals on his website and through Twitter.

Paul wants to terminate programs for the elderly such as Meals on Wheels and let old people depend on the “nobility of charity.” He also wants to destroy more federal agencies than Rick Perry did, eliminating all federal funding for education—even school lunches. Privatizing Medicare and Social Security also fits into his agenda.

Paul wrote the piece lauding the Koch brothers on Times’ 100 most influential list, praising their “generous philanthropic efforts” and their consistent lobbying “against special-interest politics.” The brothers developed the pledge “No Climate Tax” to combat climate change, signed by over 450 federal and state politicians including Rand Paul. Thirty-six of 48 Koch Industries lobbyists in 2013-2014 had held government jobs in the past. Here’s a partial list of the special-interest groups that receive millions from the Koch brothers. And they plan to donate almost $1 billion to elect a GOP president in 2016.

Marco Rubio: The $85 billion bailout of GM and Chrysler was not the “right way” for the federal government, but “our auto industry is important.” The bailout actually saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the industry bounced back. It was an effective action, but Rubio still thinks that the successful policy wasn’t “the right way to handle it.” Everyone can agree and disagree with Rubio’s statements because he takes both sides with the same breath.

A few other self-avowed “undeclareds”:

Mike Huckabee: “I might suggest to parents, I’d wait a couple of years until we get a new commander-in-chief that will once again believe ‘one nation under god’ and believe that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing this country, but defending this country.” In other words, Huckabee is telling young people to not join the military in an attempt to weaken security for the United States.

Huckabee claims that the backlash to Indiana’s law permitting discrimination is proof that liberals hate all Christians. He also says that the upcoming Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality will be moot because “one branch of government does not overrule the other two.”

Bobby Jindal: Despite watching the debacles in other states attempting to legalize discriminatory “religious freedom” laws, Jindal wants one of his own. IBM has asked Jindal to change his position because the law creates a “hostile environment” in the state that is already in dire financial straits. Jindal refused and thinks he can solve his fiscal problems with an 82-percent cut for higher education. Louisiana is already in the top ten least educated states in the country and almost last in the annual education report card issued by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. College professors get about $16,000 less than the national average salary. Jindal explains his low approval rate—27 percent—by saying that it’s dropped by 15 to 20 points because he cut spending and took on the teacher unions. That was his campaign platform in a deep red state; he did exactly what he told the voters he would do.

Rick Santorum:  As president, the former senator would force children to read the Bible, force pregnant rape victims to give birth, stop birth control, and keep mothers at home. He thinks that people misunderstood the Crusades, Palestinians don’t exist, and President Obama wants a secular theocracy. It’s an oxymoron: theocracy is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god, and  secular is not subject to or bound by religious rule.

Scott Walker: Wisconsin’s current governor is such a disaster that his actions require several books to explain, but, using Wisconsin as a model, the U.S. would get higher employment and deficits if Walker were president. From January 2011 to January 2015, Wisconsin was 35th in job growth, compared to a national average of 8.21 percent. (Other governors considering the White House have the same problem: Jindal’s Louisiana is 32nd, and Chris Christie’s New Jersey is 40th.) Walker, with a two-year deficit as high as $2 billion, has cut $300 million for higher education on top billions in previous education cuts. Without a college diploma, he may consider education to be superfluous. In his home state, his disapproval rate is 56 percent.

After the New York Times published an article accusing Hillary Clinton of exchanging favors for donations to the Clinton Foundation, Mitt Romney’s commented, “It looks like bribery.” He missed the facts. As Secretary of State, Clinton had nothing to do with the review of the Uranium One deal, and nine separate U.S. agencies, including departments of Treasury, Justice and Commerce, were part of the process. The donation to the Clinton Foundation occurred in early 2008, a year before Clinton became Secretary of State. As NBC news wrote, “[U]pon reflection, that Times article doesn’t hold up that well 24 hours after its publication.” All the discussion was on “perception” or “narratives.”

Deficits, high unemployment, lack of personal freedom, poor education, corruption, illegal activities, lying, bigotry, war—which one do you pick for president?

April 20, 2015

Wisconsin Senator an Example of Uncaring Rich

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who used $8.8 million of his own money to get elected in 2010, was then the tenth wealthiest congressional member with almost $50 million, up from almost $20 million the previous year. By now, he’s gone down to thirtieth wealthiest in Congress but remains in about the top 5 percent within a group of very wealthy people.

One could call Johnson a “self-made” man because his wealth comes from his marriage to University of Minnesota sweetheart, Jane Curler. Her father, Howard Curler, started a company in 1958 with Robert Woods that developed innovative packaging—shrink-wrapped cheese and meat packaging, films for coffee and other products, etc. Almost 40 years ago, Curler created a business, PACUR, for son Patrick that sold its products exclusively to Dad. Son-in-law Ron Johnson joined the company in 1979.

Johnson’s wealth, and the way that he procured it, is not the problem, however. It’s his indifference to the other 95 percent of the people in the United States who haven’t found a wealthy spouse to give them the same opportunities. Recently he agreed with radio host Jay Weber in criticizing the use of “sad sack stories about who’s dying from what and why they can’t get their coverage” to promote “Obamacare.”

For the second time, Johnson has lost a lawsuit to stop congressional members and their staff from getting health insurance subsidies by arguing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required them to get insurance on their own. In the first judgment against Johnson, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled that Johnson and his aide, Brooke Ericson, lacked standing to bring the suit because they had not been injured under an equal protection theory. Griesbach wrote, “The Constitution wisely cabins judicial authority by forbidding judges from deciding disputes unless the plaintiff is actually injured in some concrete, discernible way.” The George W. Bush-appointed judge added:

“The nation’s system of government doesn’t allow every controversy to play out in court. There is nothing in the Constitution stipulating that all wrongs must have remedies, much less that the remedy must lie in federal court. In fact, given the Constitution’s parsimonious grant of judicial authority, just the opposite is true.”

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals concurred with Griesbach after Johnson appealed the decision. “Respectfully, we do not see how Senator Johnson’s reputation could be sullied or his electability diminished by being offered, against his will, a benefit that he then decided to refuse,” Judge Joel Flaum, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the panel. The other two judges were appointed for Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton.

Johnson is frustrated because the judge failed “to address the important constitutional issues at hand” although addressing from these plaintiffs would be unconstitutional. After two failures in the courts, Johnson is reviewing the decision before deciding whether to drop the matter, ask the full appeals court to review the decision, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) called the lawsuit “an unfortunate political stunt” that would cause top congressional staff to quit if Johnson won.

Three years ago, Johnson tried to convince voters of the ACA’s evils by claiming that his daughter’s heart surgery would not have been possible with ACA as the law. He claimed that he ran for the Senate to replace the “healthcare freedom” prior to the ACA. Dr. John Foker disagreed with Johnson’s story. On the other hand, the man who saved the life of Johnson’s daughter is “generally supportive” of the ACA but thinks it doesn’t go far enough. He said, “Unfortunately it was written by the insurance and drug companies, so not so great.” In addition, the surgery was performed at a government-funded medical institution and was developed under the socialized healthcare systems in Brazil and France.

After a GOP president lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and insisted on a multi-trillion-dollar war, Johnson wants to privatize medical care for veterans and run the VA at a profit. This was after he accused President Obama of not keeping enough troops in Iraq. With the Republicans in control of Congress, Johnson’s plan is moving toward fruition after Concerned Veterans for America, funded by the Koch brothers, released a report supporting privatization. Veterans would have a private insurance option, and one-fifth of future veterans might not be eligible for care under tougher enrollment standards. Real veterans’ groups oppose the plan, and this clip from the The Rachel Maddow Show discusses why privatization would be a disaster.

Health insurance isn’t the only thing that Johnson wants to take from people; he wants to force single women to marry. The new chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said that a single woman who wants to “increase her take-home pay” instead of having yet “another child out of wedlock” to increase her welfare windfall should instead “find someone to support her.” He may be projecting his personal experience on the poor.

The idea that women have more children to get more government benefits has been debunked by both Politifact and Washington Post because food stamps, health care and other government assistance don’t come close to covering all the expenses that come with having a child. Johnson also ignores the fact that almost half the children in the current generation will spend at least part of their childhood in single-parent household, most of them headed by women and most not receiving “welfare.”

A recent study shows that almost as many poor or near-poor children are in two-parent families as in single-parents ones. In addition, countries such as Iceland, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Britain all have higher nonmarital birth rates than does the United States, yet they all have far lower rates of child poverty. As author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich has argued, poverty is not a lack of character, it is a lack of money. The number of “traditional families” idealized by well-funded organizations and Christian ministries is rapidly shrinking although it dominates the U.S. imagination. Johnson and his fellow Republicans are contributing to the number of “poor single women” through their support of rising economic inequality, diminishing numbers of blue-collar jobs, lowered wages, and unbelievably high levels of incarceration in poor communities.

Dozens of studies with thousands of participants throughout the United States show that people’s feelings of compassion and empathy go down as their level of wealth increases. At the same time, higher levels of wealth lead to feelings of entitlement, deservingness, and self-interest, according to Paul Piff, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. Some of these studies are described here. One reason may be that wealth provides the luxury of less dependence on others, thus desensitizing a sense of empathy.

UC-Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner has found that this deficit physically appeared through the vagus nerve which is activated by caring. Images of suffering produced a vagus nerve response in lower-class people that didn’t appear in upper-class individuals. These are the people increasingly making decisions for society as over half the members of Congress are millionaires.

Conservatives who get very riled about these studies could look at the Republicans in Congress. Ron Johnson is just an example of conservative members who take from the poor and give to the rich.

Johnson, the senator who sued to stop ACA for congressional staff and sneered at the “sad sack” stories, is the same person who is afraid of backlash against the GOP if the Supreme Court gives the GOP what they asked for in stripping health care subsidies for millions of people in the United States. The biggest election disaster for the GOP would be in the red states where conservatives can’t—or won’t—set up state-run insurance exchanges if the Supreme Court refuses to recognize the federal exchange for those who live in poverty.

Also in Wisconsin, state representatives Jesse Kremer and Steve Nuss want food stamp recipients to show ID to eliminate the non-existent waste and fraud, forcing them to identify themselves as a lower class. The elderly can forget about asking someone to get groceries for them. Kremer also wants special government-run food pantries for people with food stamps.

The best Wisconsin story from the week: Gov.Scott Walker explained that the U.S. role in the world is “what makes us arguably the greatest nation in history.” This from the party and the person who questions President Obama’s “love for his country.”

March 11, 2015

Walker Supports ‘Takers’ in Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker has created a new category of “takers” in his state of Wisconsin. Opposed to people getting something for free, he has signed the misnamed “right to work” law that allows people not to join the unions at their places of employment. To some people, this is “freedom,” but unions are not free to protect and negotiate for only their members. They must do this for all workers in places that unions cover. That means employees who don’t join unions but still benefit from the hard work of the organization are actually taking something free from the people who do pay for these services.

The law makes Wisconsin the 25th “right-to-work state” and the first state since Michigan and Indiana in 2012. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provided wording, also used by Wisconsin, for this bill and those being pushed through legislatures in other states. The takers of Wisconsin are funded by ALEC backers such as the Koch brothers, the Coors family, and Exxon Mobile. This law follows Walker’s stripping collective-bargaining rights from many state workers in Wisconsin.

Although the ALEC-worded RTW bill may succeed in Missouri, it has run into problems in Montana, Colorado, West Virginia, New Mexico, Kentucky, and New Hampshire—at least for now. Michigan has introduced a RTW extension for police, fire, and public safety unions. Kentucky is passing RTW on the local level, and billionaire GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner has issued an executive order for RTW in Illinois public unions. On the federal level, Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a “National Right-to-Work Act,” and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced its companion act in the House.

Walker said, “This [law] sends a powerful message across the country and across the world.” His message is his move to the right as he prepares for a presidential campaign. His email message immediately after he signed the bill is that he wanted money for his campaign when he asked for donations of $10, $100 and $1,000.

Walker consistently reneges on his statements. Until a few weeks ago, he denied that he would make Wisconsin a RTW state and claimed throughout his reelection campaign, “Private-sector unions are my partner in economic development.” Before his 2010 election, he told newspapers that he would negotiate with public sector unions; his anti-collective bargaining bill was introduced immediately after he took office in 2011. Two years ago, he was in favor of giving undocumented workers a chance at citizenship if they obeyed the law. Now he reversed that opinion to join another possible presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

The governor’s position on abortion has also reversed. Before last fall’s election, he told voters, “I support legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options.” He claimed he supported a bill that “leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor.” Now he plans to sign a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks in constitutional violation of Roe v.Wade and removing the decision from a woman and her doctor.

Wooing Iowa, he switched his opposition to mandating ethanol and other renewable fuels. Now he wants to continue the Renewable Fuel Standard. Iowans might want to use caution in believing him. Walker will no doubt flip his promises for any personal gain.

ALEC has been helped by the 60-year-old National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), led by fundamentalist Christian Greg Mourad, that also receives huge donations from the Koch brothers. The organization was co-founded by right-winger Fred A. Hartley, who co-sponsored the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act restricting unions and also co-founded the John Birch Society. The NRTWC has been behind the skyrocketing income inequality in the United States. CEOs who earned 20 times a worker’s pay 50 years ago, now receive at least 300 times the worker’s pay. Between 1973 and 2014, public-sector union membership dropped by 78 percent. Unionization and minimum wages helped equalize the distribution of wages. That’s why the Koch brothers are determined to get rid of both.

In a comparison of the share of income going to the middle 60 percent of population, the workers in the ten states with the lowest rates of union membership brought home 46.8 percent of total income, and the ten states with the highest rates of union membership brought home 47.4 percent of total income. It may sound like a small percentage, but the difference is equivalent to billions of dollars.

Abdur Chowdhury, professor of economics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, explained why Walker’s legislation could annually cost Wisconsin $4.5 billion in lost income and revenue: “If our income goes down, we spend less money on groceries.” Walker also loses money for his state: less income means less tax revenue, at least $234 million. The state won’t get this back from the wealthy and corporations because of the massive tax cuts that Walker gave them.

Despite claims from ALEC “economists” that RTW laws boost per capita personal income, average wages for all occupations in RTW states were about $4 an hour lower compared to non-RTW states in 2013. In RTW states, workers have $5,971 lower wages and fewer employers offering pension benefits or health care. Employers looking for skilled workers or a well-developed infrastructure will most likely not go to RTW states because these are less likely to have these advantages. That’s a reason that 400 businesses formed a coalition to oppose the law.

Oklahoma, the first state to pass a RTW law in 2001 for 25 years, was also the first state to do so in the post-NAFTA era of globalization. There has been no positive impact on employment in Oklahoma in the last 14 years. In addition, the number of companies relocating to the state and the number of manufacturing jobs both fell by a third in the first decade after the law was enacted.

Walker is not finished with trying to lower wages for workers. He’s trying to restrict the role of administrative law judges in workers comp disputes and take authority for the system away from the state Department of Workforce Development, a move that has been found unconstitutional in Florida. Also, Wisconsin is one of 32 states with a wage law to “prevent lowball bids from depressing wages,” something that Walker wants to repeal. The third reduction of wages would come from prohibiting “project labor agreements” that bars non-union contractors from working on publicly-funded projects.

Unions in Wisconsin are fighting Walker in creating his new category of takers. The Wisconsin state AFL-CIO with chapters from the International Association of Machinists, and United Steelworkers unions have filed a suit on the basis that the law “deprives the unions of their property without just compensation by prohibiting the unions from charging non-members who refuse to pay for representative services which unions continue to be obligated to provide.” In other words, Walker’s permission for employees to free-load off the unions is unconstitutional.

When Walker was elected, he promised a massive increase in jobs in his state. He failed. Since Walker became governor, job growth, GDP, and decline of unemployment have all lagged behind neighboring states and the nation as a whole. He may fail again with his new RTW law. Seven of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rates are RTW. After stopping RTW laws in 2012, Minnesota’s average weekly wage is $877.81, almost ten percent higher than its RTW neighbor Michigan that has a 6.3 percent unemployment rate compared to Minnesota’s 3.6 percent. Indiana, another RTW state, has an average weekly wage of $788.70 and a 5.8 percent unemployment state. Minnesota is one of the five fastest-growing states in the nation since 2012.

RTW Michigan also has a huge budget deficit and no industry coming into the state. Gov. Rick Snyder has had to lower the number of jobs that businesses need to create in order to receive massive tax credits. The worst is yet to come because workers are still operating on contracts made before the 2012 law, something that won’t happen in Wisconsin because the law goes into effect immediately.

Quality of life in RTW states is measurably worse with eight of the worst states in the nation having RTW laws, and eight of the best being non-RTW. RTW states have poorer life expectancy and infant mortality, higher homicide rates, worse pollution, lower voter turnout, less broadband access, lower educational levels, and poorer housing. The 24 RTW states have 34 percent higher rate of deaths on the job in the construction industry. During the 20th century, the middle class grew as unions grew; it began to shrink when unions were weakened through the so-called “right-to-work” laws.

Walker’s legacy will be the bodies that he leaves strewn along his path toward the White House.

March 2, 2015

Send in the Clowns to CPAC

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference last week started with speaker Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) saying that the GOP needs to support and elect “principled, positive, and proven” conservative candidates instead of rewarding “the guy who can shout “freedom” the loudest.  In other words, stop sending in the clowns. Nobody took his advice.

Some CPAC messages: waterboarding works, the Muslim Brotherhood controls one-third of all mosques in the U.S., and the nation is currently experiencing Islam’s “third great jihad.”

tomi lahrenSouth Dakota TV host Tomi Lahren, 22, explained that women like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren can be classified as male because they get attention through their words and wisdom. Then she said she wasn’t apologizing for being white and she’s rich because she grew up in South Dakota. She concluded, “Let’s look at the top three Democrats for 2016. You’ve got Hillary, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden? Old, rich, white, and if the pantsuit fits, male too?” She also doesn’t want the government near her body, so that would make her pro-choice if she thought about it. This may be a rising GOP star!

Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson said, “Bring your Bible to the Oval Office, and your woman, ’cause the hippies are coming to get you.” No one seems to know what he meant although the rest of the speech concerned the possibility of Republicans getting sexually transmitted diseases.

Heritage Foundation vice-president Jennifer Marshall said that the three legs of the conservative stool are marriage, small government and a stable economy because “the sexual revolution has made relationships between men and women much more challenging.” Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute followed up by saying that poverty can be erased “by having stable, two-parent households.” Poverty might be eradicated by just having “stable” households.

Donald Trump still questions the authenticity of President Obama’s birth certificate, and Rick Santorum gave a birtherism “joke”: “The president’s popularity is so bad around the world today that I heard this report from a source that the Kenyan government is actually developing proof that Barack Obama was born in America.” Both men were greeted with silence.

Trump also said he would be the best commander-in-chief because he has the best skills to negotiate with terrorists. Trying to follow the GOP mantra of non-negotiation, however, he said he would “hit [ISIL] really hard,” maybe with “some boots on the ground for a period of time until you get rid of the cancer.” Then he would put lots of sanctions on Iran despite Iran’s opposition to ISIL. As for the national debt, the man who has personally filed bankruptcy declared:

“I understand debt, I understand business better than anybody that’s ever run, in my opinion, for office. Nobody’s had the success, in a business sense that I’ve had. I know how to get rid of debt… and I would do it quickly.”

Governors don’t know enough about foreign affairs to be president, said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), trying to flaunt his personal knowledge. His strategy to defeat ISIL: defeat them “on the ground by a Sunni military force with air support from the United States.” Although a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he claims that the president doesn’t have a military strategy “because he doesn’t want to upset Iran.” ISIL and Iran are actually enemies, and Iran has already gone after ISIL targets. The president has already launched a military offensive against ISIL targets, as Rubio suggests. Rubio wants “a sustained air campaign,” increased  “efforts to equip and capacitate non-jihadists in Syria,” arming and supporting “forces in Iraq confronting it,” and work with “with nations in the region threatened by the Islamic State to participate in real efforts to defeat it”—everything that President Obama is already doing.

Triangulation in politics: exploiting public disapproval of both major parties by separating from both. Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) approach: GOP congressional leaders have sold out to Democrats on immigration, and people should support him because he’ll be farther right than all those Washington “politicians.” He wants everyone to stand up to the Republicans.

Sarah Palin inadvertently skewered leading GOP candidates for president when she said:

“It’s said that old men declare wars, and then they send the young ones to fight ‘em. So it’s the duty of he who sends them to actually make sure that we can win those wars. And it’s our duty to elect an honorable commander-in-chief who is willing to make the same sacrifices he sends others away to make.”

That lets out those who didn’t serve, some of whom actually dodged the draft: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and perhaps a few others.

The biggest reaction from the media, however, came from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s comparison of Wisconsin protesters and ISIL: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.” Non-violent Wisconsin protesters didn’t hold hostages, behead people, or burn them alive; they just marched, chanted, held signs, and sang. Walker, however, equates U.S. citizens peacefully exercising their constitutional rights with violent terrorists killing people and blowing up the infrastructure.

joan walker

Walker’s spokesperson tried to cover for him by saying that he wasn’t comparing the protesters to ISIL, but Walker made the situation worse when he said, “That’s the closest thing I have in terms of handling a difficult situation, not that there’s any parallel between the two.” In other words, he admitted he has no experience with terrorism. Even Jim Geraghty wrote in the highly conservative National Review that “Walker doesn’t quite understand the complexity of the challenge from ISIS and its allied groups.”

Walker's protesters These are some of Walker’s ISIL look-alikes in Wisconsin. More images are available here.

tractorISIS

Walker’s CPAC comment followed his claim a week earlier that “the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime” was then-President Ronald Reagan’s move to break up the union for the air traffic controllers by firing about 11,000 of them during a 1981 strike. He explained that this event proved to countries throughout the world that “we weren’t to be messed with.” Walker, 47, missed two wars in Iraq, START treaties, Nixon in China, ending the Vietnam War, the Camp David Accords, negotiation of the Northern Ireland peace process, Osama bin Laden’s death, the Iranian hostage crisis, wars in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iran/Contra, and much more.  Foes around the world also didn’t stop “messing” with the United States after 11,000 people lost their jobs. Walker’s naïve statements show his approach toward foreign affairs.

http://www.alternet.org/world/guess-what-scott-walker-and-isis-have-common   Walker and ISIL militants have something in common: their hatred for unions. Walker may also not know that Reagan supported unions in other parts of the world.

Mark Salter, a top adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign added this comment to an article about Walker on Salter’s Facebook page:

“I want to like him but Scott Walker is kind of a dumb ass.”

Matt Taibbi called Scott Walker, “God’s Gift to the Democratic Party.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) came out the winner of the CPAC with over one-fourth of the votes. Koch-supported Walker got 21.4 percent among the 17 GOP contenders, and Cruz, with 11.5 percent, was third. Fourth and fifth were Ben Carson (11.4 percent) and Jeb Bush (8.3 percent). Some of his votes probably came from the people he bussed in from downtown Washington, D.C. The remainder of the wannabes got under 5 percent. Paul had a position that everyone can agree with: “It’s time for a new president.” That’s because of term limits for U.S. president. Of the 3,007 CPAC voters, 42 percent were students.

A report from Pew Research Center released last week shows that “majorities say the Democratic Party is open and tolerant, cares about the middle class and is not ‘too extreme.’ By contrast, most Americans see the G.O.P. lacking in tolerance and empathy for the middle class, and half view it as too extreme.”

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