Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Labor, War, and Lab Animals Edition

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2013-05-2008


The New York Times dreams of a living wage.

On Thursday, the day after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, thousands of fast-food workers in 60 cities walked off their jobs, the latest in an escalating series of walkouts by low-wage workers demanding higher pay and the right to organize without retaliation.

The parallels, though inexact, are compelling. A half-century ago, the marchers called on Congress to increase the minimum wage from $1.15 an hour to $2 “so that men may live in dignity,” in the words of Bayard Rustin, one of the chief organizers of the march. Today, the fast-food workers also seek a raise, from the $9 an hour that most of them make to $15.00 an hour. That’s not much different from what the marchers wanted in 1963; adjusted for inflation, $2 then is $13.39 an hour today.

President Obama has noted, correctly, that increases in labor productivity have long failed to translate into higher wages for most Americans, even while income for the richest households has skyrocketed. His proposed remedies, however, leave much to be desired — a pathetic increase in the minimum wage, to $9 an hour by 2016, plus hopeful assertions that revolutions in energy, technology, manufacturing and health care will create good-paying jobs.

It can’t be said enough. Corporations are pulling in record profits. CEOs are continuing to increase their already ludicrous pay. It’s way, way, WAY past time that workers got to partake in the bounty they are creating.

And hey, let’s hope that you at least have enough time off this morning to come inside and read the rest.

Sunday Talk: White is the new black

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2013-05-2008


This week marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington—when more than 250,000 people descended on the National Mall in support of civil rights, and Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

As much of a visionary as Dr. King was, it is unlikely that even he could’ve imagined just how far we’d come in the time since.

The Republican party, which for decades had denounced him as a radical leftist, has now taken to embracing Dr. King as one of their own.

They have also adopted his strategy of non-violent resistance in the struggle against President Obama’s efforts to enslave us with health care.

And in what is perhaps the greatest sign of progress in Obama’s America, white people are now just as likely to be the victims of discrimination as black people.

Bottom line: Today we are all n*****s. Or something.

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg officiates at same-sex marriage

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2013-05-2008


Saturday marked the first time that a Supreme Court member conducted a same-sex marriage ceremony.Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg officiated at the marriage of a longtime friend, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts President Michael M.

Alan Keyes and Rep. Louie Gohmert say ‘elites’ plotting to depopulate the world

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2013-05-2008




This is one of those sentences that just keeps getting steadily worse with every added phrase:

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) filled in for Tony Perkins on the Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio program [Monday] where he interviewed ultraconservative activist Alan Keyes.

Yep, now that’s a sentence that fish-slaps you with every word. It also counts as a circle of hell. Of all the available people you could get to guest host your radio show, you pick Louie Gohmert? As what, a bar bet?

It turns out that the time was not wasted, though, as Louie Gohmert and Alen Keyes got right down to business discussing the worldwide conspiracy by manatee-loving elitists to depopulate the world via a sinister plan of energy efficiency and increased health care access.

The former presidential candidate said efforts to prevent “global warming, which has been proven to be wrong,” are part of a plan to “cut back the population of the world.” Keyes also made a reference to Bill Gates, who has been attacked by conspiracy theorists for explaining that vaccinations and increased healthcare access slow down population growth.

Keyes told Gohmert that elites are bent on “culling the population” and “actually believe that we’re a blight on the face of the planet, we human beings, and we should therefore be put on a path toward our own semi-extinction.”

I don’t rank as much of an elite, but I assure you my beliefs on who is or is not a blight on the face of the planet is considerably more selective.

“I often try to get people to see that if you think about it, if we actually get back to the levels they’re talking about, it would just be these elitists and the people needed to service them. That’s all that will be left in the world.”

And that would be different from now … how? Seems like all of human history can be reduced to elites considering everyone else to be nothing more than the servant class. Christ, Mitt Romney practically ran his campaign on the notion. American economic policymakers have been burning incense at that altar for decades, to the point where someone suggesting that they do not believe the world exists primarily so that the rest of us can make nice things for rich people will be met with angry retired people standing on street corners wearing funny hats and yelling communism! at the top of their lungs. And Louie Gohmert and Alan Keyes will be standing right in the middle of that crowd, burbling and asking for donations.

“That’s right, that’s a scary thought,” Gohmert replied.

Helpful hint: every thought that enters Louie Gohmert’s thick skull is a “scary thought”. The inside of his mind looks like an abandoned carnival from an old Scooby Doo episode. This week’s special guest: Alan Keyes!

I have nothing profound to say about this, I just wanted to note that Alan Keyes and Louie Gohmert spent radio time discussing the manatee apocalypse, female fertility rates, and how the “hedonism” of gay marriage is bringing down the American economy. If I have to know it happened, I’m taking you all with me.

New surveillance request data release doesn’t satisfy tech companies

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2013-05-2008


Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before a Senate (Select) Intelligence hearing on

DNI James Clapper

The Director of National Intelligence has said it will release aggregate data each year on the number of requests for phone call logs and Internet chats, in hopes of preventing Google and Microsoft from pressing forward with their suits against the U.S. government, seeking permission to release more information on the demands the companies receive from the National Security Agency (NSA) and others for Internet user data. It didn’t work.

The requests covered include those issued under the controversial Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA — the law at the center of a firestorm caused by Edward Snowden’s leaks. The government also plans to publish new information about its use of National Security Letters. But the administration’s move was not enough for tech firms like Google and Microsoft, which are fighting the feds to reveal more detailed information about surveillance in a bid to assuage users’ privacy concerns.

Announcing the decision, Clapper in a statement pointed to the president’s June directive to “declassify and make public as much information as possible about certain sensitive U.S. government surveillance programs while being mindful of the need to protect sensitive classified intelligence and national security.” He said the forthcoming reports would be “consistent with this directive and in the interest of increased transparency.” […]

Both Google and Microsoft want to share with users aggregate numbers for requests that are specific to their businesses. Microsoft expressed disappointment Friday with the government’s plans and pledged it would continue fighting to disclose more information.

“The government’s decision represents a good start. But the public deserves and the Constitution guarantees more than this first step,” Brad Smith, the software giant’s general counsel, said in a blog post. Smith lambasted “the failure of our recent negotiations” with the feds and said the company would “move forward with litigation.”

The indispensable Marcy Wheeler analyzes the new releases of information, and demonstrates why it’s probably too little for Google and Microsoft. As she says, much of this information is already required to be released by existing statute. What’s new, she says, is “is the number of people ‘targeted’ under the Section 215” of the Patriot Act. But the number of people has little relation to the number of people whose data has actually been collected, since they’ve admitted to collecting three “hops” away from a target—they collect the data of people the target communicates with, who those second tier of people contact, and in turn who those third tier of people communicate with.

It’s not enough for Google and Microsoft. For its part, a Google representative said, “there is still too much secrecy around these requests and that more openness is needed. That’s why we, along with many others, have called on the U.S. government to allow us to publish specific numbers about both FISA and NSL requests.” The suit continues.

Green diary rescue: hummingbirds and tortoises, nukes and bees, fighting ALEC

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2013-05-2008


Every week Daily Kos diarists write dozens of environmentally related posts. Many don’t get the readership they deserve. Helping improve the odds is the motivation behind the Green Diary Rescue. In the past seven years, there have been 240 of these spotlighting more than 13,608 eco-diaries. Below are categorized links and excerpts to 57 more that appeared in the past seven days. That makes for lots of good reading during the spare moments of your weekend. [Disclaimer: Inclusion of a diary in the rescue does not necessarily indicate my agreement with or endorsement of it.]

Green Diary of the Week

The United Progressive Movement Against ALEC—by Phil Radford II Greenpeace: “Corporate money is currently flooding our political system and drowning out the voices of everyday Americans. We are gathering together in Washington to send the signal that this is still our fight-and we have the momentum to win it now.  People from across the country are fighting to tip the balance of power back to the people, and away from big money and bigotry. We want to realize Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of America, but we can’t do it if we’re divided into separate groups.”

••• •• •••

700 Tortoises to be Slaughtered. Because. Austerity—by jpmassar: “The race is not always to the swift… Federal funds are running out at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center, and officials plan to close the site and euthanize hundreds of the tortoises they’ve been caring for since the animals were added to the endangered species list in 1990.
Nor the battle to the strong…The Bureau of Land Management has paid for the holding and research facility with fees imposed on developers who disturb tortoise habitat on public land. As the housing boom swept through southern Nevada in the 2000s, the tortoise budget swelled. But when the recession hit, the housing market contracted, and the bureau and its local government partners began struggling to meet the center’s $1 million annual budget. I can be outraged over people being thrown out of their homes because of bankers follies. I can seethe than none of the banksters are in jail for their frauds. Here, though, I feel no fury within. This is just something unspeakably sad.”

••• •• •••

Florida citrus grower gets slap on the wrist after killing millions of honeybees—by Jen Hayden: “A large, well-known Florida citrus grower has been hit with a $1,500 for intentionally killing millions of bees: One of Florida’s largest citrus growers has been fined after a state investigation found it illegally sprayed pesticide that caused the death of millions of honeybees. For the last seven years, the nation’s beekeepers have been plagued by a malady known as colony collapse disorder, in which bees disappear from their hives. Pesticides have been blamed as one of the causes. The $1,500 state fine last week is believed to be the first time a Florida citrus grower was cited in connection with a bee kill. It might be the first time a fine has been levied, but the $1,500 is angering local beekeepers and environmentalists.”

Midday open thread

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2013-05-2008


Clotho, Lachesis, or Atropos?

Nice knowing you, August. Now get gone.

  • Jamelle Bouie, writing about the conservative drive to drug-test welfare recipients:

    It should be said, however, that the focus on cost and effectiveness obscures a broader point: Mandatory drug testing for welfare benefits is unfair and immoral. Drug use isn’t a problem of poverty; it’s found among all groups and classes. Indeed, if we’re going to test welfare applicants—who receive trifling sums of money from the government—it makes as much sense to test bailout-receiving bankers, loan-backed students, defense contractors, tax-supported homeowners, married couples with children (who receive tax credits), and politicians, who aren’t strangers to drug use.

    In other words, if stopping waste is your goal, then drug screening should be mandatory for anyone receiving cash from the government, which—in one way or another—is most people. But Republicans haven’t proposed testing for church clergy or oil executives. Instead, they’re focused on the vulnerable, with schemes that would embarrass a Bond villain.

    Bouie’s points are well taken, but I think there’s a bigger issue at work. Drug-testing welfare recipients isn’t just about humiliating them, though I don’t doubt that’s an important consideration. See, the GOP’s free-market determinism must blame poor people for being poor–otherwise, it would be an admission of systemic failure. Therefore, there must be some self-inflicted cause, and “drug-induced poverty” fits the bill. The real question is whether the hyper-low incident of positive tests will change the conservative notion that poor people are to blame for their own situation.

  • Some Republican members of Congress are refusing to help constituents get information about health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, even though that’s what they and their staffs get paid to do. Question is…is it an ethics violation?

    Other experts agreed that it would take more than refusal to help on this one program for a Congress member’s conduct to be considered a genuine ethics violation. (They also questioned whether those representatives would actually live up to their promise not to help on Obamacare.)

    “I’m sure constituents don’t get help from their representatives all the time. You’d have to have particular circumstances: ‘I am going to state categorically that I’m not going to help you in any way.’ I don’t think any of them are actually going to do that,” Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, a watchdog group, and former assistant U.S. attorney, told TPM in a phone interview. “But it is incredibly dumb. Who advertises their lack of constituent services?”

    Who advertises a lack of constituent services? Oh, I don’t know, how about the same people who would impose sequestration and shut down the government in a last-ditch effort to stop the law from being implemented in the first place?

  • I think Paul Krugman must be pretty damn tired of being right all the time.

    So next time someone goes on about how we had this huge stimulus that failed, you can tell him that the “huge” stimulus — in response to the worst financial crisis in three generations — peaked at a whopping 1.6 percent of GDP, and was effectively gone in a bit over two years.

  • So you think you can impeach the president: a handy-dandy flowchart on why trying to impeach Obama is doomed to fail. Of course, removing  him from office would never have been the point.
  • Fast food workers walked off the job in at least 60 cities yesterday. The campaign to organize low-wage workers and raise their wages is just beginning.
  • The latest poll from the New York Times in that city’s race for mayor seems to confirm what other polls have been saying recently: Bill de Blasio has a strong lead in the Democratic primary, with Chrstine Quinn and Bill Thompson neck-and-neck to take the second spot in a likely runoff.
  • I’m not sure who decides these things, but tomorrow is apparently international bacon day. Sizzle.

Obama makes the right choice and will present his case on Syria to the whole Congress for a vote

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2013-05-2008


President Obama decided to give Congress
 a say about whether this will happen.

President Obama reiterated the administration’s views Saturday that the Syrian government of Bashir al-Assad has engaged in chemical warfare, must be held accountable for it and that the United States is prepared to strike militarily in that regard. But in an unexpected move, he said that Congress should debate the matter and vote on it, something both Republicans and 60 Democrats, including some of the most progressive in Congress, have been vigorously seeking this past week.

“Some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment,” the president said. “Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are united as one nation.”

Obama’s remarks came as senior administration officials were making a fresh round of calls to congressional leaders on Saturday in an effort to bolster support for a potential military strike on Syria, officials said.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were among the administration officials expected to speak to key members of Congress on Saturday afternoon, amid signs that the White House is close to ordering an attack on Syria to admonish it for its alleged use of chemical weapons last week.

“We’re continuing to weigh our options,” a senior U.S. official said. “We’re confident in our analysis that the United States and our allies can handle any contingencies that come as a result of military action should it be chosen by the president.”

The president made clear, as Secretary of State John Kerry has twice done in the past week, that the administration believes action must be taken against Syria. But what seemed to be the run-up to an imminent is now put off for more than a week. Congress is not slated to return to Washington until Sept. 9.

Obama also carefully made a point of saying that he believes he has the authority to take action without a vote of Congress.

Meanwhile, the team of U.N. inspectors who were sent to Syria to investigate the impact of what almost everyone agrees was a massive and lethal chemical attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21 has returned to The Netherlands. The team’s job was not to determine who launched the attack.

“It needs time to be able to analyze the information and the samples,” U.N. spokesman Martin] Nesirky said. He noted that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said there is no alternative to a political solution to the crisis in Syria. “A military solution is not an option,” he said.

Obama gambles on getting Congress to green-light war with Syria

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2013-05-2008


Obama meets with national security advisers on SyriaSenior aides say Obama still believes he has the legal authority to act without congressional support.

This week in the War on Workers: Workers have a Labor Day message for Walmart

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-08-2013-05-2008


Activists say that if Walmart doesn’t reinstate the workers who’ve been fired or disciplined for speaking out, they’ll ramp up the campaign against the company’s low pay and bad treatment.

Walmart workers are one of 14 worker struggles to pay attention to this Labor Day, including the Wisconsin Solidarity Singers, concert tour dancers and choreographers, transgender workers in 33 states, and 11 million undocumented workers and their families.

Join Making Change at Walmart and Daily Kos in telling Walmart and the Waltons to respect their employees and pay a real wage. And continue reading below the fold for more of the week’s labor and education news.