Archive for February 7th, 2012

Occupy Oakland decry charges against protesters as Stand for Oakland emerges to oppose group’s disruptive tactics


GOP’s War on Voting Continues with Virginia


By: Jon Walker Tuesday February 7, 2012 8:15 am


Efforts to stop voter suppression (Image: Baratunde, flckr)

Virginia is on track to be the next state where the Republican Party creates new restrictions on voting access in the name of preventing “voter fraud.” From Roanoke Times:

Legislation that would tighten Virginia’s voter identification requirements passed a divided state Senate on Monday, despite protests from Democrats who derided the bill as a thinly veiled attempt to suppress the votes of minorities and other groups.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling cast the tie-breaking vote to pass the legislation, providing another measure of the muscle Republicans have flexed since taking working control of the evenly divided Senate last month. Similar bills were killed in a Senate committee the past four years, when Democrats held a majority in the chamber.

The bill should easily pass the Republican controlled House of Delegates and is expect to be signed into law by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell.

The new law would require voters to show proof of ID before their vote will be counted. Not surprisingly groups that are less likely to carry IDs (minorities, elderly and people who don’t own cars, etc…) are also groups that tend to vote for Democrats.

This bill in Virginia is the latest in a wave of voting laws pushed all over the country by the Republican Party after its big wave election in 2010. In the past two years the Republicans have passed similar laws in states like Florida and Kansas that will make it harder for people who mainly tend to vote for Democrats to both register to vote and vote on election day.

7 Comments

Tags: Virginia, Bob McDonnell, war on voting, Roanoke Times, Bill Bolling



FAA Bill includes measures to weaken unions (photo: BrianR, flickr)

Despite fierce opposition from major transit unions, the Senate yesterday gave final approval to the FAA Authorization bill, a five-year extension that removes uncertainty from the FAA, approves a next-generation air traffic monitoring system and, in Harry Reid’s telling, creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. But unions were unhappy about changes to labor law insisted upon by House Republicans, and they expressed betrayal at the hands of Senate Democrats.

The bill avoids the main labor tweak that House Republicans wanted, which would have counted any worker not voting in a union election as a No vote. But it does raise the bar for the number of workers needed to sign cards stating they want to join a union from 35% to 50% of the workforce. Worse, it makes those cards public to the employer, and it weakens the oversight of the lead transit union regulator, the Labor Mediation Board. Eighteen unions with some foot in the transportation sector sent a letter last week protesting these measures in the bill, which was reconciled in a conference committee after almost a year of House-Senate wrangling. But it was to no avail.

The final vote was 75-20, with most of the opposing Senators Democrats. But 37 Democrats supported the bill, including Commerce Committee chair Jay Rockefeller, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and top leadership members Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin. Here were the 15 Democrats who opposed it:

Akaka (D-HI), Blumenthal (D-CT), Brown (D-OH), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Franken (D-MN), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harkin (D-IA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), McCaskill (D-MO), Merkley (D-OR), Mikulski (D-MD), Sanders (I-VT), Stabenow (D-MI)

The conference report now moves to President Obama, who is expected to sign it. How this will affect the on-again, off-again relationship between Democratas and labor in the Obama era is unclear.

5 Comments

Tags: Democrats, Senate, Labor, unions, Transportation, FAA Authorization bill


(photo: mtsofan/flickr)

I didn’t think we had reached the point in America where providing free contraception would be seen as a risky political maneuver, but here we are. Last month, the Administration agreed to universal access to birth control as part of the Affordable Care Act. Insurance companies would need to provide coverage for contraception in both employer plans and on the insurance exchanges without a co-pay.

The ruling from the Department of Health and Human Services actually had a religious exemption to it, but only churches and religious non-profits would be exempt. Other religiously-affiliated employers – particularly hospitals and universities – were given one year to transition to coverage that offers contraception.

This set off a firestorm among the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which we saw during the Stupak amendment is a powerful force in Washington. Many bishops have said they will refuse to comply. The matter will almost certainly get sent to the courts. And of course, the opportunistic Republican Presidential candidates have jumped all over it.

The Administration has begun its pushback against the uproar, with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius defending the exemption that exists in the law and why they limited it:

Today, virtually all American women use contraception at some point in their lives. And we have a large body of medical evidence showing it has significant benefits for their health, as well as the health of their children. But birth control can also be quite expensive, costing an average of $600 a year, which puts it out of reach for many women whose health plans don’t cover it [...]

In choosing this exemption, we looked first at state laws already in place across the country. Of the 28 states that currently require contraception to be covered by insurance, eight have no religious exemption at all.

The religious exemption in the administration’s rule is the same as the exemption in Oregon, New York and California.

It’s important to note that our rule has no effect on the longstanding conscience clause protections for providers, which allow a Catholic doctor, for example, to refuse to write a prescription for contraception. Nor does it affect an individual woman’s freedom to decide not to use birth control. And the president and this administration continue to support existing conscience protections.

This has a tinge of defensiveness in it. But a more offensive stance was delivered by the Irish Catholic Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley:

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) pushed back against conservative criticism of new White House rules which would require religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for birth control, calling the attacks “too much hyperventilating.”

“This is not about abortion,” said O’Malley during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday. “It’s about covering contraception as part of the healthcare coverage, mandatory basic coverage.”

O’Malley, who said he was a Catholic, stressed that the decision was similar to rules already in place in much of the country. “28 states already require this and in Europe,” he added [...]

“These same rules apply in countries like Italy which have overwhelming numbers of Catholics, yet we did not see the reaction in those countries to these sorts of things,” he noted.

If conservatives want to put the right to birth control up to a public vote, I’d like to see those results. This pushback does make clear the issue of how the Catholic bishops really view women’s bodies, and while conservatives will try to position it as the President having disrespect for people of faith, I think on this issue that’s a hard sell. It’s actually much simpler than that. It’s about imposing religious beliefs on members of other faiths who work at these universities and hospitals.

31 Comments

Tags: Health care, abortion, Catholic Church, Health and Human Services, US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Kathleen Sebelius, birth control, contraception, Martin O’Malley

Childrens Crusade and Food Truck Catering Service
By: TBogg Tuesday February 7, 2012 6:20 am

The Catholic Church is very unhappy that the Obama Administration is going to shove birth control down their throat by making them provide contraception benefits in their health plans for their employees, most of whom are already using it and then conveniently forgetting to mention it in confession. And when the Catholic Church gets fighting mad they turn to rageaholic Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

15 Comments

Tags: insurance, Catholic, contraception, Catholic League, Bill Donohue

The Occupy Pittsburgh encampment is a site of uneasy anticipation as people have gathered to support the occupation during what is probably its last hours at People’s Park (formerly Mellon Green). The day of waiting produced a great deal that is metaphorical of this ad hoc social movement.

2 Comments

Tags: Occupy, Occupy Pittsburgh

Lakeside Diner
By: SouthernDragon Tuesday February 7, 2012 4:45 am

A variety of links to articles/interviews on current topics that may be of interest.

106 Comments

Tags: Palestine, Syria, lakeside diner, women’s health, Mars, brasil

Bring back ye olde wire hanger
By: Attaturk Tuesday February 7, 2012 1:30 am

Having used evangelicals to win Iowa, Rick Santorum is appealing, somewhat successfully, to the same Midwestern strain in Minnesota.

30 Comments

Tags: santorum

Late, Late Night FDL: How To Save A Life
By: CTuttle Monday February 6, 2012 10:00 pm

The Fray – How To Save A Life

36 Comments

Tags: YouTube, The Fray

Late Night: A Post-Racial Society
By: Allison Hantschel Monday February 6, 2012 8:00 pm

This has got to be my all-time favorite excuse for racist behavior EVER. “I wasn’t insulting black people, I was insulting Asian people! Also people with ears, as regards the Linkin Park thing. What, that’s no cool anymore?”

31 Comments

Tags: race

Occupy Delaware made its march to Spencer Plaza in the heart of downtown Wilmington, Delaware on November 6, 2011. It pitched its first tents on November 10, 2011. With the help of the ACLU, it secured its right to remain in the Plaza by taking its case to Chancery Court where judge Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III issued a restraining order against the City of Wilmington on behalf of the protesters. In an effort to avoid a court case involving First Amendment freedom of speech issues that it mostly likely would have lost, the City then offered the protesters a deal, which in effect gives Occupy Delaware the right to remain as an encampment in Spencer Plaza as long as it chooses.

10 Comments

Tags: foreclosure, Beau Biden, eviction, Spencer Plaza, Occupy Delaware, Sheriff sale

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Corporate Front Group Airs Misleading Anti-Union Ad During Super Bowl


By Travis Waldron on Feb 6, 2012 at 10:45 am

While Super Bowl XLVI will be remembered for its dramatic ending, the issue of workers’ rights and union representation also surrounded the National Football League’s biggest game. A labor dispute nearly cost the NFL its 2011-12 season, and in the days before the game, Indiana passed an anti-union “right to work” law that led to union and Occupy protests at Indianapolis’ Super Bowl festivities throughout the week.

But despite fears from sports columnists and right-wing blogs that the protesters would “ruin the Super Bowl,” the only visible advocacy for some of the game’s viewers came in the form of a misleading anti-union attack ad from a corporate front group. The Center For Union Facts, an organization that has run newspaper ads comparing unions to Kim Jong-il’s authoritarian North Korean regime and endorsed an editorial comparing unions to Nazis, produced and paid for the 40-second ad, which ran in the Washington DC television market just before halftime ended. Watch it:

The ad’s claim that just 10 percent of current union members voted to form the union may be true, but it is incredibly misleading. Federal law mandates that more than 50 percent of a company’s workforce must vote in favor of the formation of a union. Most current union members, however, join unions that were formed years before and know that the union exists when they take the job.

The ad’s implication that the Employee Rights Act would put money in workers’ pockets is also misleading. According to the Economic Policy Institute, right-to-work laws cost workers up to $1,500 a year and also lead to reduced pensions and health care coverage.

Super Bowl broadcasters have traditionally banned ads that advocate for political causes. Year after year, though, it seems that ban doesn’t extend to misleading anti-union ads paid for by corporate front-groups that don’t disclose their donors.
Update

Lee Fang at RepublicReport.org reports that Rick Berman, president and executive director of the Center For Union Facts, was one of the actors in the misleading ad, a report Berman’s company confirmed.

Berman, a multimillionaire lobbyist, owns Berman and Company, a prominent Washington lobbying shop that has crafted “grassroots” campaigns for big corporations. According to its 990 tax form, the Center For Union Facts paid Berman and Company $591,315 for “management services” in 2009.

6 Things You Should Know About Arizona’s Worse-Than-Wisconsin’s Attack on Public Workers


February 5, 2012

Jan Brewer has decided to get in on the union-busting action, introducing a bill that makes Ohio’s and Wisconsin’s attacks on public workers look mild.

Not content to let Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich get all the fame (and recall elections, and ballot referenda) for their attempts to curtail union workers’ rights, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators have jumped into the fray and proposed their own anti-union bills in recent weeks.

Along with South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, not content with making her state the least friendly to immigrants and people of color, has decided to get in on the union-busting action as well, introducing a bill that makes Walker’s and Kasich’s attacks on public workers look mild.

Brewer, the Republican left in charge of the state after President Obama tapped Janet Napolitano to be his Secretary of Homeland Security, has been planning anti-union moves since last spring with the backing of the Goldwater Institute. (Named for Barry Goldwater, the think tank pushes for “freedom” and “prosperity”–as long as it’s not the freedom or prosperity of state workers.)

It’s not just Arizona’s right-wingers who are pushing Brewer to beat up on unions–John Nichols at the Nation notes that Walker may have had a hand in helping push an anti-labor agenda, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is involved. In a speech to the right-wing policy shop behind many of these anti-union bills last year, Brewer complained about her inability to fire government employees and supervisors’ difficulty “disciplining” workers.

This week, the Republicans in the state legislature introduced moves that would make collective bargaining for public workers completely illegal. Here, we break down what you need to know about Brewer and the GOP’s anti-worker agenda.

1. The bill would go further than Wisconsin’s, making collective bargaining completely illegal for government workers.

SB 1485, the first of the bills to take on union rights, declares that no state agency can recognize any union as a bargaining agent for any public officer or worker, collectively bargain with any union, or meet and confer with any union for the purpose of discussing bargaining.

While Wisconsin’s law bans public employees from bargaining over everything but very small wage increases, Arizona’s bill bans collective bargaining outright and refuses to recognize any union as a bargaining unit. Existing contracts with unions will be honored, but not be renewed if this bill passes.

2. Arizona includes police and firefighters in its ban.

Scott Walker famously exempted public safety workers—police officers and firefighters—from his attacks on union workers, but many of them joined the protests anyway. In Ohio, John Kasich’s bill, overturned by his constituents this past November, included the police and firefighters in its elimination of bargaining rights. Now Brewer and her legislative compatriots have decided that police and firefighters should lose their bargaining rights as well.

Arizona, as Dave Dayen at FireDogLake noted, “is changing to a purple state because of an extreme legislature which first demonized immigrants, in what could start a backlash among the Hispanic community. Now, flush with that success, the legislature will demonize police and firefighters. It’s not exactly a textbook strategy for a lasting majority.”

Walker’s attempt to divide and conquer public sector unions by attacking some and not others didn’t work; perhaps that’s why later attempts at similar bills didn’t bother giving special treatment to public safety workers. But as we saw in Ohio, the support of the traditionally conservative police and firefighters’ unions helped unite the state’s voters and bring out record numbers to vote down the bill. Arizona seems to be asking for trouble by targeting police and firefighters with this bill.

3. The state would ban government employers from deducting union dues automatically from a worker’s paycheck.

Not content with banning bargaining, the Arizona legislature is also out to make sure unions can’t collect any money for the work they do. SB 1487 inserts language into existing law that says “This state and any county, municipality, school district or other political subdivision of this state may not withhold or divert any portion of an employee’s wages to pay for labor organization dues.”

This move obviously is aimed to hit unions right in their wallets—taking away the funding they need in order to do more organizing, and carry out political activity.

4. Arizona would ban the government from allowing employees to do union work on company time.

Laura Clawson at Daily Kos notes that in addition to the other measures, Arizona’s Republicans also want to eliminate “release time,” a practice “in which union stewards and other representatives are allowed to spend work time on certain union functions, such as contract negotiations or handling grievances.”

Union stewards and representatives are full-time employees who take on additional responsibilities on top of their jobs—a move like this makes it harder for them to carry out those responsibilities to their fellow workers without fear of facing sanctions from their bosses. Specifically banned by the bill, SB 1486, are “activities that are performed by a union, union members or representatives that relate to advocating the interests of member employees in wages, benefits, terms and conditions of employment.”

5. Brewer also wants to eliminate any job protections for workers, buying them off with pay raises.

Brewer plans to offer public workers their first pay raise in years, a 5 percent increase. The tradeoff? They have to opt out of job protections some of them currently enjoy, including the right to appeal demotions and protection from being fired without cause – they have to become at-will employees.

Like most “merit pay” arrangements, this one sounds good at first—hard-working people will get raises!–but workers see right through it. Odalys Hinds, who works in the state health lab, told the Arizona Republic, “No way will I do it. I won’t take it — it basically would take away our rights. My retirement’s gone up. My insurance has gone up. There’s going to come a day when I’m going to have to pay the state to work.”

6. Arizona is already a “right-to-work” state

The kicker to all this? Arizona workers already enjoy fewer protections than those in Ohio and Wisconsin. Arizona is a so-called “right-to-work” state, where unions cannot collect a fair share of the direct costs of representation from workers who opt out of joining the union—even though the union is compelled to represent all workers.

This means that unlike the midwestern states, Arizona has few union members already and that means there are fewer people who are likely to be outraged and moved to protest by attacks on collective bargaining. Yet Brewer, the Goldwater Institute and the Republicans in the legislature aren’t content with what they have and are moving to make public sector unions all but irrelevant, by making it nearly impossible for them to do their jobs.

Arizona now has a strong Republican majority in the legislature, and so barring a change of heart by a handful of GOPers, the anti-union measures are likely to pass. But if Brewer continues to antagonize working people in her state, John Nichols notes, Arizona does have something else in common with Wisconsin—provisions that allow for the recall of the governor and state legislators, provisions that were used just last year to remove Russell Pearce, the state senator responsible for the state’s hideous anti-immigrant law, from office.
Sarah Jaffe is an associate editor at AlterNet, a rabblerouser and frequent Twitterer. You can follow her at @s

Fox Regularly Uses The “Racial Code Words” Denounced By Fox’s Juan Williams


Fox News contributor Juan Williams recently wrote that “[t]he language of GOP racial politics is heavy on euphemisms that allow the speaker to deny any responsibility for the racial content of his message,” citing such phrases as “entitlement society,” “food stamp president,” and “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. But this language is not contained to GOP candidates; Williams’ colleagues at Fox News routinely employ or echo these “racial code words.”

Karen Handel, Right Wing VP of Komen Quits Over Planned Parenthood Flap


Here at AlterNet, we’ve been writing extensively about the ties between Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s Karen Handel, the organization’s new Senior VP with right wing ties and an anti-abortion vendetta, and its controversial move to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood–a move that they later apologized for and reversed.

After the strong link between Handel’s hiring and the disastrous policy were revealed, many expected her to resign. An ad for a position that looked suspiciously like hers even popped up on Komen’s site (password protected).

She finally left this morning–a long-awaited victory for the forces of sanity, and an indication that at last, Komen may be reckoning with the seriousness of their mistake.

From the AP’s Ray Henry:

ATLANTA (AP) — An executive with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity has resigned after a dispute over funding for Planned Parenthood. The resignation came in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

Karen Handel (HAN’-duhl) announced her resignation as vice president for public policy in a letter to Komen officials Tuesday.

Handel said in her letter that she had supported cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood.

A link to Karen Handel’s letter is here. She claims the decision to cut off funding was made due to a “a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy”–but of course, as we now know, it did exactly the opposite.

Here’s more on the controversy from AlterNet and our partners:

Busting Through the Media Firestorm: 6 Essential Facts About the Komen Controversy By Sarah Seltzer

5 Important Lessons from the Komen/Planned Parenthood Fiasco (Don’t Mess With Women’s Health), by Lauren Kelley

6 Things You Need To Know About the Komen Foundation/Planned Parenthood Controversy , by Sarah Seltzer

I Will Not Be Pinkwashed: Komen’s Race Is For Money, Not Cure, by Emily Michele, ButterBeliever

Komen Foundation Exploits Breast Cancer Mission to Make War on Planned Parenthood, by Jodi L. Jacobson, RH Reality Check

 Breasts Yes, Vaginas No? How to Fight Back Against Komen “Race for the Cure” Foundation’s Bizarre Capitulation to Right-Wingers, by Amanda Marcotte

By Sarah Seltzer | Sourced from AlterNet

Posted at February 7, 2012, 7:43 am


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Why the Right Wing Is Petrified of Letting Voters, Instead of the Electoral College, Pick Presidents


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New Evidence Reveals U.S. Has Used Drones to Target Rescue Workers and Funerals in Pakistan


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Dennis Kucinich v. Marcy Kaptur: How GOP Redistricting Will Force Out a Top Progressive Congressmember


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How Rich Executives Extract Concessions From Workers — While Playing the Good Guy in Public

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