Published: Sunday 13 October 2013

Exports from the United States to the the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Persian Gulf support thousands of jobs in Florida.

The exports of cars, trucks, aircraft parts, gold and computers were worth $1.6 billion last year alone. And there could be more on the way following a visit to the Sunshine State by diplomats from the UAE embassy in Washington, D.C., last week.

The diplomats, Dr. Saghira Al Ahbabi and Saud Al Nowais, travelled to Tampa and Orlando where they met local government officials, business executives, community leaders and students.

They discussed the growing bilateral US-UAE trade relationship and explored areas for future collaboration through cultural and educational exchanges.

Florida ranks fifth among US states exporting merchandise to the UAE, and the Port of Tampa is the sixth largest port for trade with the UAE in the United States. The exports support the jobs of more than 16,000 workers in Florida.

From oil and banking in the UAE to huge infrastructure projects, American expertise over many decades has helped turn the United Arab Emirates into the economic powerhouse seen today.

During their visit to Tampa, the diplomats met with board members from the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation's International Trade and Foreign Direct Investment Task Force. They also met senior leadership from the Tampa Port Authority to discuss ways to increase trade and economic ties between Tampa and the UAE.

The diplomats also visited the Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation (CAMLS), to learn more about cutting-edge research and best practices in the medical field, and the University of Tampa's Sykes College of Business, where they spoke to faculty and senior administrators about higher education initiatives in the UAE.

While in Orlando, Dr Al Ahbabi and Mr Al Nowais were received by senior officials from the Office of ...

Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
It seems insane that this nation’s leaders, corporate and political, would even now still be deliberately refusing to take action to protect the Earth, which of course they and their children and grandchildren will also have to live on, and yet almost to a one they are on the side of the deniers or the delayers.

 

What if the leaders of the United States -- and by leaders I mean the generals in the Pentagon, the corporate executives of the country’s largest enterprises, and the top officials in government -- have secretly concluded that while world-wide climate change is indeed going to be catastrophic, the US, or more broadly speaking, North America, is fortuitously situated to come out on top in the resulting global struggle for survival?

I’m not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but this horrifying thought came to me yesterday as I batted away yet another round of ignorant rants from people who insist against all logic that climate change is a gigantic fraud being perpetrated, variously, by a conspiracy of the oil companies who allegedly want to benefit from carbon credit trading, the scientific community, which allegedly is collectively selling out and participating in some world-wide system of omerta in order to get grants, or the world socialist conspiracy, which of course, is trying to destroy capitalism), or all the above. (God, whenever I write anything on climate change these people hit me with flame-mail like mayflies spattering a car windshield in mating season!)

What prompted me to this dark speculation about an American conspiracy of inaction was the seemingly incomprehensible failure of the US -- in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Earth is heating up at an accelerating rate, and that we are in danger of soon reaching a point of no return where the process feeds itself -- ...

Published: Tuesday 27 November 2012
Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
“The patriots have rejected the Republican establishment as governance sympathizers is no longer a concern of the Republican establishment. ”

The tea party now has its own news site. Based at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, the Tea Party News Network describes itself as "the only trusted news source." It focuses on such right-wing heroes as Michele Bachmann and Allen West, who just lost an election for a House seat in South Florida — though perhaps not on TPNN.

That the patriots have rejected the Republican establishment as governance sympathizers is no longer a concern of the Republican establishment. Many GOP leaders blame tea party antics for their recent electoral defeats.

Now they must deal with the "fiscal cliff" and are going to need all the reality-based supporters they can get. Better to have the patriots saying remarkable things far from the Fox News studios in New York and Washington.

The tea party is one reason we're at the fiscal cliff — a kind of witching hour on Jan. 1. It is when the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire, along with a payroll tax cut included in the 2009 stimulus bill. It is kick-off time for $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over 10 years. Taking that much money out of the economy so quickly could send America back into recession.

The spending cuts are a hangover from the debt-ceiling fiasco of a year ago. Recall from that time of national insanity the patriots threatening to send the United States into default on its debt. Recall their stopping so-called Republican leaders from making a deal that included any new tax revenues. Recall grownups from both parties — terrified of economic disaster in the event of a default — agreeing on the above radical spending cuts should a better plan not arrive in time.

The Republican Party 

A new Washington Post-Pew Research poll has 53 percent of Americans ready to blame Republicans if America actually goes over the edge and only 29 percent ...

Published: Saturday 17 November 2012
Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012
“Southeastern utilities are spotlighted in the report as those with the highest number of coal-fired units that are ripe for retirement.”

Today the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released the report Ripe for Retirement: The Case for Closing America’s Costliest Coal Plants, which highlights the financial uncertainty of many coal plants around the nation. It turns out that the Southeast is home to a staggering number of inefficient and uneconomic coal plants.

As of  May 31, a total of 288 coal-fired generating units representing 41.2 gigawatts (GW) of capacity across the U.S. have been scheduled for closure. Many of the owners of these on-the-way-out coal-fired units based their decision to close up shop on economic grounds. Now that there are many cleaner, lower-cost alternatives for electric generation, coal plant owners are concluding that paying for costly upgrades to keep their outdated coal plants running is a bad investment.

UCS’ new report bolsters these ideas as they have identified up to 353 coal-fired electric utility generating units, many with multiple ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
With the cut back of early voting in Florida, the result of lengthy lines was predictable.

If no one else is rejoicing about the systemic inconveniences imposed on Florida voters on Election Day, where waits as long as eight hours to cast a ballot were endured and witnessed by thousands of voters, the state’s former senators Mike Bennett and Ellyn Bogdanoff should be elated.

“I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert,” Bennett said in 2011 when sponsoring legislation to impose stricter voting requirements. His colleague concurred with his view that voting should be made more difficult. “Democracy should not be a convenience,” Bogdanoff said.

With the cut back of early voting in Florida, the result of lengthy lines was predictable. Lee Rowland, counsel with the Brennan Center for Justice, noted that each state that succeeded in limiting early voting, particularly Florida and Ohio, led in the number of waiting hours for the public to vote, according to preliminary reports.

Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, director of the Advancement Project’s Voter Protection Program, said that had her mother been voting in Florida, she would have been unable to endure the wait as she uses a walker. 

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Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
“Twenty-two to 23 million Americans under 30 voted yesterday, with a turnout rate of at least 49 percent among eligible voters.”

Add this to the list of bad bets the GOP placed this year: that young Americans’ support for Barack Obama, and their interest in politics in general, was tenuous enough to break—and that it could be broken through discouragement and voter suppression, rather than by specific appeals to their concerns.

Twenty-two to 23 million Americans under 30 voted yesterday, with a turnout rate of at least 49 percent among eligible voters. That figure is comparable with the estimate at this time in 2008, which later rose to 52 percent as final results trickled in. Nearly a fifth of all voters were under 30 (19 percent, up from 18 percent in 2008), and they voted for Obama by a twenty-three-point margin, 60 to 37 percent.

The president could not have won without them. An analysis from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) suggests that eighty of Obama’s electoral votes  READ FULL POST 1 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“Campaign money can be difficult to track, since states set their own campaign finance laws, and money flows in and out of state and federal political parties, political action committees and non-profits and into campaigns and issue advocacy.”

Local and state campaigns have become a moneyed battleground this year for corporations and special interest groups hoping to sway the results of elections for local and state offices on Nov. 6.

From California to Texas to Florida, global businesses as well as ideological organizations and extremely wealthy groups have helped channel more than 1.6 billion dollars through political action committees and non-profit groups and into local campaigns and issues this year, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that analyses state campaign-spending reports.

Some of the cash went into campaigns of local lawmakers. Other amounts supported campaigns for judges, sheriffs and other offices. More than 6,000 legislators are running for election Tuesday, according to the National Council of State Legislators, with most relying on private funding.

Campaign money can be difficult to track, since states set their own campaign finance laws, and money flows in and out of state and federal political parties, political action committees and non-profits and into campaigns and issue advocacy.

“Money is access, and it definitely influences the outcomes of elections,” Judy Nadler, a government ethics expert at Santa Clara University in California, told IPS. In some states, “huge amounts of money [go] unreported and unregulated.”

This “outside spending” increased 38 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Spending by candidates increased 19 percent during that time, it found.

Large chunks of special interest ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
Voters will be facing many confusing ballots this election.

When voters finally get to the polls tomorrow, they may run into more than a big crowd. Voters in many states will be facing a slew of confusing measures and often overly long ballots.

Here are some of the most striking examples we’ve spotted:

 

Florida has the one of the longest ballots on record in state history

Early voters in Florida have already reported long lines. One potential reason for the delays: Voters have to wade through 11, wordy, constitutional amendments.

Backed by Republican state lawmakers, the proposed amendments among other things ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
Edison Electric Institute, which is incorporated as a 501(c)(6) trade group and does not have to disclose its donors, has driven home similar messages about the potential tax change in other venues as well.

Since August, a dark money group called Defend My Dividend has spent nearly $90,000 running ads on South Florida TV stations warning seniors about a looming increase in the tax rate on dividends.

“You worked hard, saved for retirement, and dividends are a big part of it,” says one of the ads, which Defend My Dividend has posted on YouTube. “But if President Obama and Congress don't act this year, tax rates on dividends will spike, almost tripling in some cases.” Time is running out, the ad intones, as phone numbers for Obama and Congress appear on the screen.

The spot directs viewers to a website that gives few hints about the group behind the ads, which is described as a “national grassroots advocacy campaign.”

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Published: Sunday 14 October 2012
Hipsters yet to be born will laugh at worried talk of “blind spots” and complaints of “backseat drivers.”

Driverless cars are on the horizon, and we can all start feeling ancient now. The youngest among us will remember the days when we had to keep our hands on the steering wheel and foot near the brake. Joining "icebox" and "fire stable" will be such terms as "behind the wheel," "pedal to the metal" and "in the driver's seat."

Hipsters yet to be born will laugh at worried talk of "blind spots" and complaints of "backseat drivers." Windshields with suction-cup marks from primitive GPS devices may become wall art, just as those old blue-glass Delco batteries now hold sunflowers.

I can't wait. The notion of dropping into some soft leather seat, saying, "Take me to the movie theater" (if there still are movie theaters), then pouring a nice glass of cabernet is most appealing. There will be no such thing anymore as drunken drivers because there will be no drivers. Drunken passengers, sure.

Radar will detect objects, including pedestrians and brick walls. Cameras will record lane lines, and infrared versions will see better at night than a raccoon. Some of the newer driverless models go 70 miles an hour.

There will be fewer traffic jams because the computer-run cars will know not to smash into their neighbors. Most accidents are caused by human error, explains traffic expert Tom Vanderbilt in Wired magazine. The driverless car's computer "is better than human in every way."

Driverless cars will reduce the need for new pavement. Did you know that vehicles take up only 5 percent of the road surface on even the most congested highways? "Hyperalert and algorithmically optimized" cars should be able to safely cruise bumper to bumper, according to Vanderbilt.

I keep using the future tense, but ...

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
But let’s consider the strange notion that Hispanic voter registration is falling because the illegal aliens on the voter rolls are running back over the border, back to Mexico.

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Greg Palast's new book: Billionaires & Ballot Bandits

It’s lookin’ bad for the old white guys. Eleven million Hispanic citizens remain unregistered, Americans all, and 15 million kids between the ages of 18 and 24 who can’t be pried away from Facebook long enough to register—at least so the tally of vote registries say.

Now, add to that 16 million ex-cons who can vote but think they can’t. (It’s only in three states in Old Dixie where those who’ve served felony sentences are barred from voting.)

All these un-voters, if they suddenly registered, could rock the planet.

You think the Old World Order hasn’t thought of that?

So, then, how do they stop Americans from taking over America? Easy: first, make registering voters a crime.

In a swing state like Florida with its huge new Hispanic population (no, not Cubans, Puerto Ricans), you make it illegal to register citizens at welfare offices, churches, or voter-registration drive meetings. (Suggestion: sneak voter registration forms into handgun barrels. Guns are allowed at all these locations.)

Second, make registering voters ...

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
“David Siegel, who owns Florida-based Westgate Resorts, sent an email to all his employees yesterday to discuss the upcoming election.”

The CEO of a massive timeshare company sent an email about the upcoming election to his employees yesterday, threatening to fire some of them if President Obama wins re-election.

David Siegel, who owns Florida-based Westgate Resorts, sent an email to all his employees yesterday to discuss the upcoming election. “The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job,” Siegel wrote, noting that the company is “the most profitable [it's] ever been.” “What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration.” He went on to say that although he “can’t tell you whom to vote for,” if Obama is re-elected, it would mean “fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.”

Here are a few select paragraphs from the email:

Subject: Message from David Siegel
Date:Mon, 08 Oct 2012 13:58:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: [David Siegel]
To: [All employees]

To All My Valued Employees,

As most of you know our company, Westgate Resorts, has continued to succeed in spite of a very dismal economy. There is no question that the economy has changed for the worse and we have not seen any improvement over the past four years. In spite of all of the challenges we have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever ...

Published: Wednesday 3 October 2012
“This weekend, the Immokalee workers will target a festival in Denver that is promoted by Chipotle, that features music, food, chefs and local farmers -- but no farm workers.”

Members of the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers are urging the fast-food giant Chipotle to sign on to a fair food program already agreed to by McDonalds and Burger King. The Denver-based Chipotle has refused to sign a contract that would ensure a living wage and humane conditions for workers who pick the tomatoes it purchases. This weekend, the Immokalee workers will target a festival in Denver that is promoted by Chipotle, that features music, food, chefs and local farmers -- but no farm workers. We're joined by Gerardo Reyes-Chavez, a farm worker and organizer with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Published: Wednesday 3 October 2012
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for President Obama no matter what.”

The subject of so-called “entitlements” is sure to come up at tonight’s first presidential debate and so perhaps it makes sense to disabuse candidate Romney of his transfer payment fallacies and fantasies before he begins to speak. 

By now we’ve all seen the footage.  First publicized by Mother Jones in September, the infamous seven-minute clip depicts Mitt Romney openly excoriating the “47 percent” of parasitic “Americans dependent of government” at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida. (As an aside, the inflation-adjusted median household income for an American family is currently $50,054.)

I give you, Mitt, in his own words…

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for [P]resident [Obama] no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Although Romney’s claim that “47 percent” of freeloading Americans don’t pay income tax is easy enough to disclaim, his remarks represent a more insidious worldview that many conservatives unwittingly embrace. Romney’s anomic “entitlement society” theory begs the question: Exactly who  do republicans think benefit most from programs like unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps (SNAP), and Medicaid?

Well, remember ...

Published: Monday 1 October 2012
Until most recently with the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, most people knew very little about the organization ALEC.

For over 30 years,  American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) has been working for the advance of corporate and conservative political interests.  Until most recently with the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida, most people knew very little about the organization ALEC.  The death of Trayvon and the controversial "Stand Your Ground" law is one particular issue that has been promoted by ALEC over the years.  Many high-profile US companies that participated and contributed to ALEC have defected following the tragic death of Trayvon Martin.  

Published: Saturday 29 September 2012
Published: Saturday 29 September 2012
The firm’s founder, Nathan Sproul, is a longtime Republican strategist whose reputation was tarred by widespread accusations of voter registration fraud and attempts to suppress Democratic voter turnout.

 

The Republican National Committee is cutting ties to Strategic Allied Consulting, a voter registration firm under investigation for turning in fraudulent voter registration forms in Florida. The RNC hired the firm to do voter registration drives for $3.1 million this year.

The firm’s founder, Nathan Sproul, is a longtime Republican strategist whose reputation was tarred by widespread accusations of voter registration fraud and attempts to suppress Democratic voter turnout. George W. Bush’s campaign reportedly paid Sproul over $8 million for his work in the 2004 election. Sproul, now under new scrutiny, claims he started Strategic Allied Consulting because the RNC wanted to hide his past:

Sproul said he created Strategic Allied Consulting at the RNC’s request because the party wanted to avoid being publicly linked to the past allegations. The firm was set up at a Virginia address, and Sproul does not show up on the corporate paperwork.

“In order to be able to do the job that the state parties were hiring us to do, the [RNC] asked us to do it with a different company’s name, so as to not be a distraction from the false information put out in the Internet,” Sproul said.

The committee is now scrambling to distance itself from Sproul after Florida launched a criminal investigation into the company. Strategic Allied Consulting submitted 106 “questionable” ...

Published: Friday 28 September 2012
The Sacramento Republican Party was found to have hired Momentum Political Services, a firm headed up by a woman described as a “professional con-artist”.

This article was originally posted at bradblog.com

The Republican Party of Florida's top recipient of 2012 expenditures, a firm by the name of Strategic Allied Consulting, was just fired on Tuesday night, after more than 100 apparently fraudulent voter registration forms were discovered to have been turned in by the group to the Palm Beach County, FL Supervisor of Elections.

The firm appears to be another shell company of Nathan Sproul, a longtime, notorious Republican operative, hired year after year by GOP Presidential campaigns, despite being accused of shredding Democratic voter registration forms in a number of states over several past elections.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Strategic Allied Consulting has been paid some $667,000 this year by the FL GOP, presumably to run its voter registration campaigns in the state. That number, however, does not account for another identical payment made in August. The Palm Beach Post is reporting tonight that the firm received "more than $1.3 million" from the Republican Party of Florida "to register new voters."

The firm is not only tied to the FL GOP, but also to the Mitt Romney Campaign, which hired Sproul as a political consultant late last year, despite years of fraud allegations against his organizations in multiple states.

Moreover, the firm is also reportedly operating similar voter registration operations on behalf of the Republican Party, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, in a number of key battleground states this year, including North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado. Strategic Allied has recently taken steps to hide their ownership by Sproul's notorious firm, Sproul & Associates.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Election Susan Bucher confirmed to The BRAD BLOG late this ...

Published: Friday 28 September 2012
Romney arguably lost every possible remaining undecided voter when the “47%” video was uncovered on Sept. 18.

 

Mitt Romney arguably lost Ohio on November 18, 2008, when he penned an oped titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." Today, 64% of Ohio voters call President Obama's restructuring of the auto industry "mostly good."

Mitt Romney arguably lost Florida, with its heavy concentration of older voters, when he picked as his vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the face of the conservative plan to end Medicare as we know it.

The CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll now has Obama leading Romney by 9 points in Florida, up from a 3 point lead in late August.

In August, Romney was ahead among Florida voters 65 and older by 13 points. Now, Obama is ahead among voters 55 and older (don't ask me why Quinnipiac didn't publish the same age breakdowns) by 8 points. This tracks with what the national Reuters poll found. Romney used to have a 20 point lead with voters 60 and over, now it's less than ...

Published: Wednesday 26 September 2012
“Our own supreme court denied our right to choose for ourselves. Shouldn’t our courts protect our rights to choose?”

Last week, the Florida GOP launched a campaign to remove three sitting state supreme court justices who previously ruled against Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL). If this campaign succeeds, Scott will be able to appoint three of the court’s seven justices, giving the Tea Party governor control over nearly half the court.

 

Today, the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity — which is chaired by GOP energy billionaire David Koch — joined this effort as well. The Koch group’s first ad attacks the three justices because they joined a 5-2 opinion blocking an unconstitutional ballot initiative seeking to nullify the Affordable Care Act:

Many states, like Ohio, gave their citizens the right to vote against [the Affordable Care Act]. But not Florida. Our own supreme court denied our right to choose for ourselves. Shouldn’t our courts protect our rights to choose?

 

 

Nineteenth century nullificationist Senator John C. Calhoun

Last week, the Florida GOP launched a campaign to remove three sitting state supreme court justices who previously ruled against Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL). If this campaign succeeds, Scott will be able to appoint three of the court’s seven justices, giving the Tea Party governor control over nearly half the court.

 

Today, the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity ...

Published: Monday 10 September 2012
“Romney’s campaign, however, began walking back his statements as soon as they left his mouth.”

 

This weekend on Meet the Press, Romney said “there are a number of things I like” about President Obama’s health care reform law, including the popular provision on pre-exisiting conditions. Romney’s campaign, however, began walking back his statements as soon as they left his mouth.

After the NBC interview aired, a Romney aide was quick to clarify Romney was “not proposing a federal mandate to require insurance plans to offer [the] particular features” that he suggested he supported. When further pressed on Romney’s stated support for preventing discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions, a campaign aide explained, “Governor Romney will ensure that discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage is prohibited.”

The aide pointed to earlier statements from Romney on the subject, explaining that Romney’s current position is exactly what he expressed at a Florida rally this summer:

ROMNEY: So let’s say someone has been continuously insured and they develop a serious condition. And let’s say they lose their jobs or they change jobs or they move and go to a different ...

Published: Monday 10 September 2012
“In this new Information Age, are local public schools now somewhat obsolete? Do we need a new model for educating our young? Some sort of educational revolution in teaching and learning?”

 

The sounds of September: school bells ringing, looseleaf binders snapping open, sneakers squeaking on gymnasium floors. Next to apple pie, what could be more American than sounds like these — and the local public schools where we hear them?

But times change. Blackboards and chalk no longer grace every classroom. We have whiteboards and classroom computers. We have the Internet, the capacity to share lessons across borders.

In this new Information Age, are local public schools now somewhat obsolete? Do we need a new model for educating our young? Some sort of educational revolution in teaching and learning?

Questions like these demand thoughtful and patient democratic deliberation. But we’re not getting that deliberation. In today's deeply unequal America, we’re rushing instead toward a national educational future that profits the awesomely affluent few at the expense of America's many.

The most striking manifestation of this rush: the near quarter-million students enrolled full-time in the “virtual schools” that now operate — at taxpayer expense — in 27 states. These schools have no physical classrooms, no playgrounds, and no in-person teachers.

In these online “academies,” young students sit in front of home computers. Their parents serve as “learning coaches,” following instructions they read on screen. Remotely located teachers monitor and grade the students. One of these remote teachers at the elementary level can have as many as 60 students.

The results from ...

Published: Sunday 9 September 2012
“Scanning the Republican delegates and convention-goers in Tampa, one labors mightily to find even one black face, or even an obvious brown latino face or an asian face.”

Just looking at the video images of the two conventions -- the Republican one last week in Tampa, Florida, and this week’s Democratic convention in Charlotte, NC -- one can see the fundamental contrast between the rank-and-file of the two parties.

They are really and truly different cohorts.

Scanning the Republican delegates and convention-goers in Tampa, one labors mightily to find even one black face, or even an obvious brown latino face or an asian face. It is a white, and predominantly male, crowd that one sees. It is also an angry crowd, cheering at the venom spewed against Democrats, welfare recipients, immigrants and others who are not part of the “real America,” of allegedly self-reliant white men.

Scanning the Democratic convention’s delegates and attendees, meanwhile, one is immediately struck by what an ethnic stew it is, with blacks and latinos, whites, asians and even Native Americans all mixed together, with straights and gays standing side by side. And these people are cheering passionately when speakers talk inspiringly about the need to take action to support those who are less fortunate -- the poor, the immigrants who came to the US with their parents as little children, and grew up in the US, who could now be deported to countries of their birth where they may not even speak the language, the disabled, the unemployed.

The big difference between these two groups of people, and the masses of rank-and-file supporters of the two parties across the nation, is clear: Republicans are, by and large, a selfish, smug, and angry group of white people who don’t want anyone cutting in on their turf, who don’t want to have the government do anything to help the less fortunate with their tax dollars, and who, by the way, want their own taxes lowered, but also want all kinds of benefits from the government, like tax credits for their businesses, and to ...

Published: Wednesday 5 September 2012
The corporate sponsorship appears to fly in the face of the Democrats’ pledge to host a “people’s convention.”

While Democrats have touted their grassroots fundraising efforts for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, deep-pocketed corporate donors are helping underwrite the event.

Among the corporate sponsors at the Charlotte convention: AT&T Inc., Bank of America, Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, UnitedHealth Group, Piedmont Natural Gas, US Airways and law and lobbying firm McGuire Woods.

The corporate sponsorship appears to fly in the face of the Democrats’ pledge to host a “people’s convention.”

The party’s 2012 “host committee” is not accepting contributions from corporations, lobbyists and political action committees. Democrats also capped how much money individuals can give at $100,000.

But the party is accepting in-kind donations from corporate firms. In addition, a second nonprofit, called “New American City” was established in May to “defray” administrative expenses and other costs. New American City does accept corporate money.

The exact levels of these companies’ financial support won’t be known until mid-October when filings will be submitted to the Federal Election Commission.

Like their GOP counterparts, the Democrats received about $18 million in public funding to finance their convention. And both parties raised tens of millions of additional dollars, funneled through nonprofit host committees that help facilitate the events.

Host committees have traditionally relied on corporate funders but top Democratic leaders — including President Barack Obama, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro — all penned ...

Published: Wednesday 5 September 2012
“Over the previous four years, however, Florida cut per pupil spending by $569.”

States have made deep cuts to their education budgets in the years since the Great Recession, and as their budgets remained crunched by lower levels of tax revenues, more than half are spending less on education this school year than they did last year, a new analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found. Overall, 26 states will spend less per pupil in fiscal year 2013 than they spent in 2012, while 35 are still spending less than they did before the recession.

As the following chart from CBPP shows, Alaska, Alabama, and Washington are leading the way in education cuts, reducing funding by at least $200 per student:

Education spending isn’t back to its pre-recession levels in nine additional states, including Florida, which is boosting per pupil funding by $273 this year. Over the previous four years, however, Florida cut per pupil spending by $569. Seventeen states, according to CBPP, have cut their education budgets by at least 10 percent over the last five years.

These cuts actually helped make the economic downturn worse, as they forced states and localities to layoff teachers and other education-sector workers. Since 2009, more than 200,000 teaching jobs have vanished.

But the cuts also have damaging effects on America’s education system as a whole. Cutting education budgets forces school districts to scale back services and programs. The cuts, as CBPP notes, can undermine education reform efforts, and since they are often disproportionately targeted at low-income school districts, education cuts can ...

Published: Saturday 1 September 2012
In Tampa, Fla., meanwhile, the Republican National Convention has produced a party platform with far less “give” for illegal immigrants. It calls for no future amnesty and supports “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.”

 

No balanced talk of immigration reform is expected before the November election. But that need not stop the airing of proposals, some of them semi-formed, some half-baked.

From the left, we have the TRUST Act, a bill passed by the California Legislature and now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown's uncertain signature. It would require local law enforcement to defy some federal requests to hold arrested illegal immigrants pending checks for criminal records. That would force police to break either state law or federal law. The TRUST Act's sponsors should know that immigration is a federal responsibility in California as well as in Arizona.

In Tampa, Fla., meanwhile, the Republican National Convention has produced a party platform with far less "give" for illegal immigrants. It calls for no future amnesty and supports "humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily" — a polite way of saying "self-deportation."

Two different approaches, each unwise in its own way.

Absent comprehensive reform, the Obama administration has done a heroic job enforcing the country's immigration laws as fairly as possible. Rather than raid factory floors, it has focused on employers who hire undocumented workers. Its Secure Communities program puts priority on removing aliens who pose a threat to public safety. At the same time, it is helping illegal immigrants brought here as children to legally hold jobs. The bottom line is that Obama is doing the hard task. His administration has deported 1.4 million illegal immigrants to date.

The TRUST Act was inspired by the case of Juana Reyes-Hernandez, a tamale vendor arrested for setting up shop on a Walmart parking lot. A more sympathetic person would be hard to find. But because Reyes-Hernandez is an illegal immigrant, she was held under a Secure Communities ...

Published: Wednesday 29 August 2012
Published: Monday 27 August 2012
Published: Sunday 26 August 2012
“Using satellite transmitters attached to the birds, researchers tracked one Whimbrel – named Hope – through a large tropical storm in 2011.”

As hurricane season gets under way and Tropical Storm Isaac bears down on the Caribbean and maybe on to Florida, biologists are paying particular attention to this fall’s shorebird migration.

 

Researchers at the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) in Williamsburg, Va., have documented incredible feats of endurance by migrating Whimbrels (large shorebirds with long, down-curved bills) flying through storms, only to fall foul to the guns of unregulated hunting on islands, such as Guadeloupe and Martinique, as well as Barbados, French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana.

 

100 MPH Through Hurricanes

 

Using satellite transmitters attached to the birds, researchers tracked one Whimbrel – named Hope – through a large tropical storm in 2011. She took 27 hours averaging just nine miles per hour to fly nonstop through the storm to get to the center. Then she flew at an average of almost 100 mph for 1.5 hours out the back end, using the power of the storm to “slingshot” her towards land.

 

“Our research is documenting some of the truly amazing dynamics of bird migrations. In addition to the simply staggering distances these birds travel – often thousands of miles at a time, nonstop – we are also observing what could be described as jaw dropping physical feats involving storms,” said Fletcher Smith, lead biologist on the tracking project. 

 

He added, “These herculean efforts leave the birds exhausted and in need of a safe haven to rest and refuel. Unfortunately there are few of these locations in the Lesser Antilles, [small islands in the Caribbean north of Venezuela].

 

Some locals gather at recreational shooting swamps in the Caribbean to slaughter with impunity ...

Published: Friday 24 August 2012
Published: Saturday 18 August 2012
In June, South Carolina officials indicated in federal court filings that they will quickly implement the law before the November election if it is upheld.

 

Raymond Rutherford has voted for decades. But this year, he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to cast a ballot.

The Sumter, S.C., resident, 59, has never had a government-issued photo ID because a midwife’s error listed him as Ramon Croskey on his birth certificate. It’s wrong on his Social Security card, too.

Rutherford has tried to find the time and money to correct his birth certificate as he waits to see if the photo voter ID law is upheld by a three-judge U.S. District Court panel, scheduled to convene in Washington, D.C., in late September.

In June, South Carolina officials indicated in federal court filings that they will quickly implement the law before the November election if it is upheld. Voters without photo ID by November would be able to sign an affidavit explaining why they could not get an ID in time.

South Carolina’s photo voter ID law is similar to a series of restrictive election measures passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures in states of the former Confederacy, including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and Virginia. North Carolina’s General Assembly failed to override Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a photo voter ID bill. 

Thirty-seven states have considered photo voter ID laws since 2010. In November, five states — Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee, Kansas and Pennsylvania — will vote under new strict photo voter ID laws. A judge soon could decide whether the Pennsylvania law violates the state constitution, as voting rights advocates claim.

Supporters argue the laws are important protections against in-person voter impersonation fraud, but civil rights organizations and election historians see evidence of a more sinister legacy. Obtaining certificates of birth, marriage and divorce needed to get a proper photo ID can be an obstacle ...

Published: Wednesday 25 July 2012
“This grand testimonial of our citizens’ rights and liberties will begin with the Republicans in Tampa, Fla. Flags are being mounted, majestic music is arranged, uplifting speeches are being scripted — and, as has now become normal for these spectacles of democracy-in-action, heavily armed police repression of our cherished First Amendment rights is being ordered.”

Ah, it's almost August — time for another quadrennial flowering of America's glorious democratic process, otherwise known as the presidential nominating conventions!

This grand testimonial of our citizens' rights and liberties will begin with the Republicans in Tampa, Fla. Flags are being mounted, majestic music is arranged, uplifting speeches are being scripted — and, as has now become normal for these spectacles of democracy-in-action, heavily armed police repression of our cherished First Amendment rights is being ordered.

Of course, the delegates, candidates, lobbyists and billionaire funders inside the GOP's convention bunker will be perfectly free (as they should be) to gild the promises and lies that will frame their presidential campaign. They will not be bothered by the riot-geared police authorities deployed around Tampa. However, any citizens who come to practice the hallowed freedoms of public assembly and speech can expect to be welcomed by a thoroughly un-American, weeklong police state.

In May, at the behest of national Republican officials, Tampa's mayor and council passed a temporary ordinance to suspend our First Amendment and authorize a crackdown on protestors. Warning ominously that a few vandals might get out of control, the ordinance tries to force all citizen demonstrations into a few restricted parade routes and what amounts to "protest pens." Pre-emptive detainments, indiscriminate mass arrests and police infiltrations of peaceful protest groups can be expected. Ironically, that's the kind of autocratic excess that led to the American Revolution itself.

The city's top lawyer recently barked that "troublemakers ... will not be tolerated." But the real troublemakers are those inside the hall — and inside a police system that's being used to stomp on the very freedoms that America is supposed to ...

Published: Tuesday 24 July 2012
“Sacrifice zones” - endless cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair as a direct result of capitalistic greed - have been destroyed for quarterly profit.

There are forgotten corners of this country where Americans are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair as a direct result of capitalistic greed. Journalist Chris Hedges calls these places “sacrifice zones,” and joins Bill this week on Moyers & Company to explore how areas like Camden, New Jersey; Immokalee, Florida; and parts of West Virginia suffer while the corporations that plundered them thrive.

These are areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. We’re talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed,” Hedges tells Bill.

“It’s the willingness on the part of people who seek personal enrichment to destroy other human beings… And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from creating essentially a corporate oligarchic state.”

The broadcast includes a visit with comics artist and journalist Joe Sacco, who collaborated with Hedges on Days of Destruction, Days ...

Published: Tuesday 24 July 2012
“In these so-called ‘non-strict photo ID states’ — Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Idaho, South Dakota and Hawaii — individuals are requested to show photo ID but can still vote if they don’t have one.”

Voter IDs laws have become a political flashpoint in what's gearing up to be another close election year. Supporters say the laws — which 30 states have now enacted in some form — are needed to combat voter fraud, while critics see them as a tactic to disenfranchise voters.

 

We've taken ...

Published: Sunday 22 July 2012
“Let the world behold: a new teaching from the Angel Moroni and thus a new Mormon Doctrine: Self-Absolution Long After the Fact.”

If one can magically "resign" from any morass after the fact (truly, long after), Mitt Romney shouldn’t only run for president but extraterrestrial, time-shifting Miracle Man. This notorious policy shape-shifter graduates now to time-shifter, as Mitt’s expanding Etch-a-Sketch, with demonic force, dares distort history. Who but a flimflamming devil plays on simultaneous, dual personalities – one, the hard-driving taskmaster who approved Bain’s outsourcing factory (all election documents to the contrary); second, the latter-day, heroic invention: the public-spirited, Olympic overseer who'd never outsource a fly – and who, per one Romney shill, “retroactively resigned” before the mitt hit the fan.    

 

Romney’s transparent evasion “resigns” from something, though not early enough from Bain. How about “reality for the rest of us” and that’s what now slapping this stonewaller upside the head. So, let’s hear the thundering call, “where’s that retroactive resignation,” far more appropriate than yahoos demanding infinite proof of Obama’s Hawaiian birth. 

 

Think of the possibilities, if not imponderables. Wouldn’t everyone love instant free passes from mortifying blunders we need no longer shoulder, especially because most consequences are unknowable in advance? The Romney “resignation” farce is a classic logical fallacy, formally post hoc ergo propter hoc for "after this, therefore because of this." I prefer apt religious jargon, served up as a blameless, self-righteous “immaculate resignation.” 

 

Let the world behold: a new teaching ...

Published: Friday 20 July 2012
“The report explores the connection between stagnant —and falling — wages, and it’s central finding explodes the argument that raising the minimum wage will cause employers to stop hiring, and the hurt small businesses that opponents of a minimum wage increase (and of the idea of a minimum wage itself) claim are the primary employers of low-wage workers.”

 

Scratch the surface of just about any economic debate this election year, and you'll find one issue that goes all the way to the core: the yawning gap between the 1% and the rest of us, as skyrocketing income inequality. A new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), "Big Business, Corporate Profits, and the Minimum Wage," shows the extremes of that divide, and makes the case for raising the federal minimum wage as a means of closing that gap, and putting the national economy on the road to a real recovery.

The report explores the connection between stagnant —and falling — wages, and it's central finding explodes the argument that raising the minimum wage will cause employers to stop hiring, and the hurt small businesses that opponents of a minimum wage increase (and of the idea of a minimum wage itself) claim are the primary employers of low-wage workers. 

READ FULL POST 24 COMMENTS
Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
“House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is investigating the frequency with which Cabinet Secretaries appear at super PAC events and whether government funds have been used for travel to and from these events.”

 

Five months after the Center for Public Integrity reported that four of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet members were willing to raise money for Democratic super PACs, the top Republican investigator in the House is asking for details.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is “investigating the frequency with which Cabinet Secretaries appear at super PAC events and whether government funds have been used for travel to and from these events,” according to a July 12 letter obtained byPolitico.

In February, Obama reluctantly embraced super PACs and gave the go-ahead on a plan to allow senior campaign aides and top White House officials to fundraise for the nascent political advertising machines, which are legally allowed to collect unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions.

Issa made a request for travel documents by Cabinet members, despite the fact that to date, none are known to have appeared at any such events.

READ FULL POST 2 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 12 July 2012
“The Hispanic and Latino population in the United States is projected to more than double by 2050 and will account for 24 percent of the future population – more than 102 million people – according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

 

As the Latino population in the United States rises, the demographic shift will affect future as well as current voting habits, and therefore election outcomes, in the United States, according to several experts.

In the highly competitive upcoming presidential elections, “a couple hundred of Latino voters can make a difference,” Roberto Suro, director of the Tomás Rivera Policy Institute at University of Southern California, said Monday. The impact is especially significant in battleground states like Florida, which holds 29 electoral votes, and where 22.9 percent of the populace is Latino.

The Hispanic and Latino population in the United States is projected to more than double by 2050 and will account for 24 percent of the future population – more than 102 million people – according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

American denizens have long been predominantly white and of European descent. However, 2012 marked the first time that minorities – such as Latinos and blacks – have outnumbered the majority ...

Published: Sunday 1 July 2012
Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
We’re joined by environmentalist, educator, and author Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org as he discusses climate and the environment.

With extreme weather fueling wildfires in Colorado and record rainfall in Florida, the Obama administration has moved closer to approving construction of the southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline. We’re joined by environmentalist, educator and author Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org. "Today is one of those days when you understand what the early parts of the global warming era are going to look like," McKibben says. "For the first time in history, we managed to get the fourth tropical storm of the year before July. ... These are the most destructive fires in Colorado history, and they come after the warmest weather ever recorded there. ... This is what it looks like as the planet begins — and I underline 'begins' — to warm. Nothing that happened [at the United Nations Rio+20 summit] will even begin to slow down that trajectory."

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: And we end today’s show looking at corporate money in the environment, as Florida is lashed by drenching rains and the worst wildfires in Colorado’s history continue to rage. We’re joined by Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 23 June 2012
Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation’s drinking water.

Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation's geology as an invisible dumping ground.

No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.

There are growing signs they were mistaken.

Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation's drinking water.

In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation's most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami's drinking water.

There are more than injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.

Federal officials and many geologists insist that the risks posed by all this dumping are minimal. Accidents are uncommon, they say, and groundwater reserves — from which most Americans get their drinking water — remain safe and far exceed any plausible threat posed by injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.

But in interviews, several key experts acknowledged that the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with ...

Published: Saturday 23 June 2012
Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe that doctors should be able to proscribe medical marijuana and 75% believe that the federal government should defer to a state’s decision to legalize marijuana for certain uses.

This November, voters will face ballot questions on a variety of issues. Some initiatives are targeted at denying the rights of working families, women, LGBT people, communities of color, immigrants, and the poor, while others are targeted at implementing better public policy. Ten important issues to watch this November can be found here and here are five more issues to watch:

1.     Marijuana laws in Colorado, Montana, and WashingtonColoradoMontana, and Washington all have ballot questions that could lead to partial decriminalization. In Colorado and Washington, voters will choose whether to legalize and regulate sales of small quantities of marijuana to residents 21 years and older. In Montana, voters will decide ...

Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
“A court filing disclosed Wednesday accuses Florida juvenile-justice officials of lax oversight and asks the court to appoint an independent monitor to investigate the Thompson Academy, a 154-bed “moderate risk” residential center in Florida’s Broward County.”

 

A group of Florida public defenders is asking a state court to remove and stop sending troubled juveniles to a privately run detention facility they claim is rife with abuses. A court filing disclosed Wednesday also accuses Florida juvenile-justice officials of lax oversight and asks the court to appoint an independent monitor to investigate the Thompson Academy, a 154-bed “moderate risk” residential center in Florida’s Broward County.

Gordon Weekes, Broward County chief assistant public defender, said he has long been concerned about conditions inside the Thompson Academy in Pembroke Pines in Florida. To protect his young clients’ confidentiality, Weekes filed the public defenders’ motion in early June directly with a judge in Florida’s 17th Judicial Circuit. Weekes disclosed it Wednesday after the motion was filed with the court clerk and copies were given to a Florida juvenile prosecutor, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and Youth Services International (YSI), the company that runs Thompson Academy.

Broward’s public defenders represent 56 children from that county who’ve been sent to Thompson Academy for housing and treatment, Weekes said.

READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Saturday 16 June 2012
Florida has compiled a list of potential non-citizen registered voters using data provided by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

 

On Tuesday, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Florida over its voter purge program aimed at removing non-citizens from voter rolls. We’ve taken a closer look at the controversy surrounding the program and why the federal government has gotten involved:

So what is Florida doing and why is it so controversial?

Florida has compiled a list of potential non-citizen registered voters using data provided by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. It has sent the list to county election supervisors and requested that the supervisors contact flagged voters to verify their citizenship.

In its suit, the Justice department has claimed the data is “outdated and inaccurate” and may mistakenly identify registered voters who are U.S. citizens, depriving them of their right to vote. In response, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has reiterated his support for the initiative, which he says is necessary to preserve the integrity of voting rolls.

Isn’t it important to perform such voter roll purges to make sure voter lists are up-to-date?

Yes, every state must go through its voter rolls in order to account for death, relocation out of state, or change in eligibility due to a criminal conviction or mental incapacitation. (Read more about purge practices in this 2008 report).

And of course, only U.S. citizens are eligible to vote in this country.

Florida is not the first state to flag the issue of non-citizen voting: both New Mexico and Colorado have 

Published: Thursday 14 June 2012
“Unless people fight to dramatically expand voter participation, not just prevent the purges, our democracy is in serious danger.”

As the election season heats up, an increasing number of states are working to limit the number of people who are allowed to vote. Already we have a shamefully low percentage of those eligible to vote actually participating. Florida, a key swing state, is preparing for the Republican National Convention, five days of pomp promoted as a celebration of democracy. While throwing this party, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott, along with his secretary of state, Ken Detzner, are systematically throwing people off the voter rolls, based on flawed, outdated Florida state databases.

Many eligible Florida voters recently received a letter saying they were removed and had limited time to prove their citizenship.  Hundreds of cases emerged where people with long-standing U.S. citizenship were being purged. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, “of those singled out to prove their citizenship, 61 percent are Hispanic when only 14 percent of registered Florida voters are Hispanic,” suggesting an attempt to purge Latinos, who tend to vote Democratic. Recall the year 2000, when then-Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris systematically purged African-Americans from voter rolls. The U.S. Justice Department has ordered Detzner to stop the purge, but he and Gov. Scott promise to continue. The Justice Department has sued the state in federal court, as have the ACLU and other groups.

For Georgia Congressman John Lewis, efforts to limit access to vote are not just bureaucratic. “It is unreal, it is unbelievable, that at this time in our history, 40 years after the Voting Rights Act was ...

Published: Saturday 9 June 2012
“Among the Stand Your Ground cases identified by the paper, defendants went free nearly 70 percent of the time.”

 

The Stand Your Ground law is most widely associated with the Feb. 26 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old killed in Florida by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who claimed he was acting in self-defense.

But as a recent Tampa Bay Times investigation indicates, the Martin incident is far from the only example of the law’s reach in Florida. The paper identified instances since 2005 where the state’s Stand Your Ground law has played a factor in prosecutors’ decisions, jury acquittals or a judge’s call to throw out the charges. (Not all the cases involved killings. Some involved assaults where the person didn’t die.)

The law removes a person’s duty to retreat before using deadly force against another in any place he has the legal right to be – so long as he reasonably believed he or someone else faced imminent death or great bodily harm. Among the Stand Your Ground cases identified by the paper, defendants went free nearly 70 percent of the time.

Although Florida was the first to enact a Stand Your Ground law, 24 other states enforce similar versions. Using the Tampa Bay findings and others, we’ve highlighted some of the most notable cases where a version of the Stand Your Ground law has led to freedom from criminal ...

Published: Friday 8 June 2012
The group’s new report, “Corruption Risk Report: Florida Ethics Laws,” identifies key policy changes — such as increasing penalties for ethics violations and creating a corruption report hotline — that could help the state move towards an A grade.

A Florida research group released a report yesterday on how to improve the state’s ethics laws, using results from the State Integrity Investigation as a basis for reform. The Sunshine State ranked 18th out of 50 states in the investigation, with an overall grade of C-.

Integrity Florida, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes integrity and exposes corruption in state government, has previously held presentations around the state to share the conclusions of the State Integrity Investigation’s corruption risk scorecard for the Sunshine State. The group’s new report, “Corruption Risk Report: Florida Ethics Laws,” identifies key policy changes —  such as increasing penalties for ethics violations and creating a corruption report hotline — that could help the state move towards an A grade.

“Integrity Florida is using State Integrity Investigation results as a roadmap to focus our state-level research projects and as a scorecard to measure policy results,” the report states. 

Among the reform recommendations is a multi-faceted plan to improve ethics enforcement, a category in which Florida failed on its risk scorecard, particularly by giving the ethics commission authority to self-initiate investigations.

Dan Krassner, Integrity Florida’s executive director, said the new report was timed to precede the Florida Commission on ...

Published: Sunday 3 June 2012
“There’s going to have to be a much more concerted effort to work with the lending institutions and help them take action which is in their best interest and the best interest of the homeowners.”

Mitt Romney won’t offer “targeted relief for the 11.5 million American homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth,” Lanhee Chen, his campaign’s policy director, told Bloomberg’s Al Hunt. Chen described such policies as insufficient for stabilizing the housing market:

HUNT: There are, as you know, 11.5 million Americans with underwater mortgages. Will Governor Romney do anything to help them immediately, or is this something that the market just has to work out? 

CHEN: Governor Romney has indicated that there are some steps we ought to take to ensure that we’re growing our economy. But on the housing market specifically, I do think we have to resist the temptation for short-term approaches. And I think the President has fallen into that trap a little bit…. .

Chen’s comments are a departure in tone from what Romney himself told voters in Florida — the seventh in the nation in foreclosures — while campaigning against Newt Gingrich for the Republican presidential nomination. In January, the former Massachusetts governor said at a roundtable that banks should, in fact, write down mortgage principal — the amount outstanding on a mortgage — for borrowers who find themselves with a mortgage that costs more than their house is currently worth.

“The idea that somehow this is going to cure itself all by itself is probably not real,” Romney said. “There’s going to have to be a much more concerted effort to work with the lending institutions and help them take action which is in their best interest and the best interest of the homeowners.”

Those remarks came after Romney told the editorial board of the Las Vegas ...

Published: Friday 1 June 2012
“Based on recent peer-reviewed scientific literature, the Department of the Navy should expect roughly 0.4 to 2 meters global average sealevel rise by 2100, with a most likely value of about 0.8 meter.”

Some North Carolina GOP legislators want to stop the use of science to plan for the future. They are circulating a bill that would force coastal counties to ignore actual observations and the best science-based projections in planning for future sea level rise.

King Canute thought he had the power to hold back the tide (in the apocryphal legend). These all-too-real lawmakers want to go one better and mandate a formula that projects a sea level rise of at most 12 inches this century, far below what the science now projects.

A state-appointed science panel reviewed the recent literature and reported that a 1-meter (39 inch) rise is likely by 2100. Many coastal studies experts think a level of 5 to 7 feet should be used, since you typically plan for the plausible worst-case scenario, especially with expensive, long-lived infrastructure.

The 2011 report by the National Academy of Science for the U.S. Navy on the national security implications of climate change concluded:

Based on recent peer-reviewed scientific literature, the Department of the Navy should expect roughly 0.4 to 2 meters global average sealevel rise by 2100, with a most likely value of about 0.8 meter. Projections of local sea-level rise could be much larger and should be taken into account for naval planning purposes,

Rob Young, a geology professor at Western Carolina University and a member of the state science panel, pointed out to the North Carolina Coastal Federation (NCCF) that this proposed law stands against the conclusions of “every major science organization on the globe.” Young notes, “Every other state in the country is planning on three-feet of sea level rise or more.” The Charlotte Observer notes:

Maine is preparing for a rise of up to 2 meters by 2100, Delaware ...
Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
“African-American churches, historically at the forefront of the nation's civil and voting rights efforts, are grappling this election year with how to navigate through the wave of new voting-access laws approved in many Republican-controlled states, laws that many African-Americans believe were implemented to suppress the votes of minorities and others.”

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to attendees at a summit of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of National Black Churches about the importance of voting as well as the significance of new voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect minorities. The summit was designed, in part, to help black leaders learn about the new laws -- yet Rush Limbaugh and a Fox News contributor attacked Holder's appearance as “reprehensible” and “unseemly.”

C-SPAN: “Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers The Keynote Address At A Meeting Of The Congressional Black Caucus And The Conference Of National Black Churches.” From C-SPAN.org:

Attorney General Eric Holder delivered the keynote address at a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of National Black Churches.

The day also features panels on the state of voting rights, protecting a church's non-profit status, and energizing constituents and congregants to vote.

The Attorney General has announced that he will vigorously defend the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including the Section 5 provision that Southern states or those that have historically disenfranchised black voters must clear any changes to voting law or electoral systems with the Justice Department. [C-SPAN.org, 5/30/12]

McClatchy: Summit Was Planned To “Discuss The New Laws, Their Potential Impact On African-American Voters And How Churches Can Educate Parishioners.” From McClatchy:

African-American churches, historically at the forefront of the nation's civil and voting rights efforts, are grappling this election year with how to navigate through the wave of new voting-access laws approved in ...

Published: Monday 28 May 2012
“1638 people in Miami-Dade County were flagged by the state as “non-citizens” and sent letters informing them that they were ineligible to vote.”

 

Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has ordered the state to purge all “non-citizens” from the voting rolls prior to November’s election. But that list compiled by the Scott administration is so riddled with errors that, in Miami-Dade County alone, hundreds of U.S. citizens are being told they are ineligible to vote, Think Progress has learned exclusively.

According to data from the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections obtained by Think Progress:

- 1638 people in Miami-Dade County were flagged by the state as “non-citizens” and sent letters informing them that they were ineligible to vote.

- Of that group, 359 people have subsequently provided the county with proof of citizenship.

- Another 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county.

- The bulk of the remaining 1200 people have simply not responded yet to a letter sent to them by the Supervisor of Elections.

You can see a similar letter sent to alleged “non-citizens” by the Broward County Supervisor of Elections HERE. (“The Supervisor of Elections… has received information that you are not a citizen of the United States.”) If recipients of the letter do not respond within 30 days — a deadline that is mere days away — they will be summarily removed from the voting rolls. The voters purged from the list, election officials tell Think Progress, will inevitably include fully eligible Florida voters.

In short, an excess of 20 percent of the voters flagged as “non-citizens” in Miami-Dade are, in fact, citizens. And the actual number may be ...

Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
Florida Congressman Ted Deutch told ThinkProgress today that Gov. Rick Scott is currently involved in a massive effort to purge up to 180,000 from the voting rolls.

 

Florida Congressman Ted Deutch (D) told ThinkProgress today that Gov. Rick Scott was engaging in a “blatant attempt to supress voter turnout.” Scott is currently involved in a massive effort to purge up to 180,000 from the voting rolls. The list, purportedly of non-citizens, has proven unreliable. Earlier this week, Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, a Republican, posted a picture on Twitter of a voter on the list falsely identified as ineligible, with his passport.

Congressman Deutch said that his office has heard from several constituents who have recieved a voting ineligibility letter in error. In light of these errors, Deutch will soon send a letter to Scott demanding the purge be immediatly suspended. An excerpt:

It is out of grave concern that we write to ask for the immediate suspension of the Florida ...

Published: Saturday 12 May 2012
“With George Zimmerman soon headed to a pre-trial hearing to evaluate whether he will be protected by the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law in Florida, it is important to understand exactly how the law has made permissible the use of lethal force and legalized acts of murder that previously never would have been deemed ‘justifiable homicides.’”

What do you call a law that allows a person to shoot and kill another human being when they could otherwise walk away safely?

I can only call it immoral.

With George Zimmerman soon headed to a pre-trial hearing to evaluate whether he will be protected by the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida, it is important to understand exactly how the law has made permissible the use of lethal force and legalized acts of murder that previously never would have been deemed “justifiable homicides.”

In the wake of Zimmerman’s slaying of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, I have frequently heard people claim, “The ‘Stand Your Ground’ law does not allow you follow someone!” Often, the people claiming this are the ones responsible for the law, like the bill’s sponsor, Florida House Representative Dennis Baxley and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who signed it into law.

But, of course, Zimmerman had been carrying a gun and following — some would say stalking — young black men in his community for months before he ever encountered Trayvon Martin. He even notified police when he did so. More important, however, is the fact that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law removes an individual’s duty to retreat from a conflict in public even ...

Published: Monday 30 April 2012
A really stupid one is called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which masquerades as an “educational” group that simply assists state officials with policy research.

No one likes a smart aleck — or a stupid one, for that matter.

A really stupid one is called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which masquerades as an "educational" group that simply assists state officials with policy research. In fact, it's a corporate-financed, far-right front group that writes and aggressively pushes anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-environmental, anti-immigrant, and other extremist "anti-people" legislative proposals.

ALEC's operatives take these cookie-cutter bills from state capitol to state capitol, getting Republican governors and key legislators to introduce them. Then the organization helps organize astroturf campaigns to ram such ugliness into law.

Gov. Scott Walker's repressive agenda in Wisconsin is an ALEC product. So is Arizona's war on Latinos, as is Florida's murderous "stand your ground" shoot-em-up law. However, all this success led ALEC to get stupid. Its leaders got to thinking they were bulletproof, that they could shove this stuff down people's throats all across the country — and the people would just accept it.

That was wrong. In fact, it was stupidly arrogant. Not only have people rebelled, they've also organized and mobilized. Groups like the Center for Media and Democracy, Color of Change, Common Cause, Occupy Wall Street, and People For the American Way have rallied grassroots people to hit ALEC where it really hurts: its pocketbook. Suddenly key corporate sponsors of this extremist organization were hearing from outraged citizens (and customers) — and now company after company is withdrawing its sponsorship.

Among those recently declaring that ALEC just "doesn't fit our business needs" are Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Mars, McDonalds, PepsiCo, and Wendy's.

 

 

Published: Sunday 29 April 2012
A disturbing survey of the Gulf region, why and where the “BP oil spill” has expanded into the massive disaster widely predicted (but officially denied). And the oil drilling industry adventure is surging, Trickle-down Wreck-economics with a vengeance.

If you care about salt water only when gargling, or annual beach parties, might as well skip this piece. Finicky readers will depart anyway, not drawn to environmental catastrophes, here the potential collapse of the Gulf ecosystem. Right off, two years of research proves the causal catch-all phrase, "BP oil spill," drastically underplays the enormity of effects: the damage from double pollutants (oil + dispersant) carried by waves, deposited on seascapes, then absorbed by an incredible variety of living masses.

Phrasing more consistent with real ends: "BP's toxic sludge inundation," or "BP's fatal frothy flood," even "BP's contagion of contaminated crude" -- crude and indiscriminate indeed when this glut of gunk continues its death march. Even bacteria called upon to consume oil slicks are nixed, slain by two million gallons of the solvent concoction Corexit. Keen observer of the Gulf tragedy, I'd be downright remiss to withhold scandalous news about oil stuck to human skin, eyeless shrimp, fish-scale infections, or rising mortality for marine mammals and previously endangered sea turtles. As famed ocean expert Sylvia Earle teaches, "You don't have to touch the ocean for the ocean to touch you." 

If misguided greed makes for business stupidity, like BP "saving" pennies on cut-rate oil platforms only to fork over $60 billion for liabilities and penalties, then moral stupidity denies blatant, eye-popping lessons from this painful experience. My take: research now proves the infamous trickle-down theory -- laughable when applied to job growth or economics -- is working with a vengeance on the entire Gulf region, decimating industries, adding to unemployment, and bringing millions new, hard-to-treat diseases.  

Drill, baby, drill, Obama-style

For this one-time food cornucopia, ecologically compromised long before 2010, ...

Published: Friday 27 April 2012
Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
“Personal injury firm major donor to Democrats.”

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist made his name in the Republican Party, but his new employer — a personal injury law firm — leans the other way, as evidenced by a $50,000 donation it made to the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action.

Orlando, Fla.-based law firm Morgan & Morgan, known for its slogan “representing the people, not the powerful” and its ubiquitous advertising, made the donation March 31. The gift was disclosed in documents filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

It is one of only a handful of companies to donate to the super PAC, which is allowed to accept unlimited amounts of money from individuals, unions and corporations thanks to legal changes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and a federal court ruling called SpeechNow.org.

Crist, a Republican who served as the Sunshine State’s moderate governor until January 2011, joined Morgan & Morgan after placing second in Florida’s 2010 U.S. Senate race. He works in the firm’s Tampa office handling class action lawsuits.

He was defeated by tea party favorite Marco Rubio, who is now Florida’s junior senator. As Crist’s standing in the polls sank, he opted to forgo a GOP primary race against Rubio and run as an independent. In the three-way contest that also featured Democrat Kendrick Meek, Rubio prevailed with 49 percent of the vote compared to Crist’s 30 percent and Meeks’ 20 percent.

Crist collected more than $98,000 from individual employees of Morgan & Morgan during his campaign, according to

Published: Monday 23 April 2012
Published: Saturday 21 April 2012
“Only last month the same poll was showing Obama with a modest lead, as Romney slugged his way through the last round of primaries.”

A medium-sized thunderbolt has crashed down amid the somewhat torpid early stages of the presidential campaign. A New York Times/CBS poll of registered voters, released Wednesday, shows President Obama and the assured Republican nominee Mitt Romney running neck and neck, at 46 percent each.

Only last month the same poll was showing Obama with a modest lead, as Romney slugged his way through the last round of primaries. The dead-heat news demolishes the house wisdom of the political commentariat, which was that his battles with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich for the right-wing vote in the contest for the Republican nomination had damaged Romney's standing with the broad mass of independents who will actually decide the outcome of the election next November and that it would take him some months to restore his mainstream credibility.

The poll suggests that people were not too bothered by Romney's gyrations. Now that Romney is the assured nominee, awaiting only the formality of coronation at the party convention in Tampa, Fla., at the end of the summer, they're viewing him in exactly the contours that so dismayed his right-wing foes: as a mainstream Republican candidate.

Indeed the poll shows that conservative Republicans — Tea Partiers and Evangelicals — still nourish deep suspicions of the Mormon millionaire. As the pollsters report: 33 percent say they will enthusiastically support Romney if he is the nominee, compared to 28 percent in January and 18 percent last October. Still, more have reservations about him (40 percent) than enthusiastically back him. If Evangelicals — ...

Published: Friday 20 April 2012
“All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day.”

Sweatshop labor is back with a vengeance. It can be found across broad stretches of the American economy and around the world.  Penitentiaries have become a niche market for such work.  The privatization of prisons in recent years has meant the creation of a small army of workers too coerced and right-less to complain.

Prisoners, whose ranks increasingly consist of those for whom the legitimate economy has found no use, now make up a virtual brigade within the reserve army of the unemployed whose ranks have ballooned along with the U.S. incarceration rate.  The Corrections Corporation of America and G4S (formerly Wackenhut), two prison privatizers, sell inmate labor at subminimum wages to Fortune 500 corporations like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, and IBM.

These companies can, in most states, lease factories in prisons or prisoners to work on the outside.  All told, nearly a million prioners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day. 

Rarely can you find workers so pliable, easy to control, stripped of political rights, and subject to martial discipline at the first sign of recalcitrance -- unless, that is, you traveled back to the nineteenth century when convict labor was commonplace nationwide.  Indeed, a sentence of ...

Published: Wednesday 18 April 2012
“The Buffett Rule, the GOP says, is a gimmick that doesn’t raise enough revenue to merit consideration and is simply a weapon of class warfare, not a means to bring about more equity in America’s tax structure.”

Senate Republicans last night successfully filibustered the Buffett Rule, a minimum tax on millionaires that the GOP has falsely claimed would actually hit small business owners and “job creators.” The Buffett Rule, the GOP says, is a gimmick that doesn’t raise enough revenue to merit consideration and is simply a weapon of class warfare, not a means to bring about more equity in America’s tax structure.

A new report from Innovation Ohio and the Center for American Progress, however, shows that the Buffett Rule is far from just a gimmick. According to the report, some of America’s wealthiest zip codes — ritzy communities like Fisher Island, Florida and Wyoming’s Teton Village ...

Published: Thursday 12 April 2012

45 days after shooting unarmed high school junior Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman is now behind bars and faces the possibility of life in prison. He went free from arrest after shooting Martin in Florida and many rallies about this incident have occurred since. Rev. Jesse Jackson believes that the mobilizing shouldn't end. He goes to say "We must revive the ban on assault weapons and stop these attacks.”

Published: Wednesday 4 April 2012
“The Bush Doctrine distilled into unilateral pre-emptive perfidy, executed by Rumsfeld's dire “shock and awe,” then justified by Cheney’s One Per Cent Doctrine, was domesticated by this in-your-face mandate from a presumptive national leader”

Is there a more incendiary, compact, unapologetic cover for domestic vigilantes than "Don't Retreat, Reload"?  Though domestic terrorism occurred before and after Palin's pandering war cry, her loaded gun imagery decoying as political rhetoric, gave itchy-fingered zealots free passes when "feeling endangered." Overall, what the Bush Doctrine distilled into unilateral pre-emptive perfidy, executed by Rumsfeld's dire "shock and awe," then justified by Cheney's One Per Cent Doctrine, was domesticated by this in-your-face mandate from a presumptive national leader.  

 

With the Christian right playing the chorus, what our rogue government sustained endlessly "over there" has come home to roost, with literal vengeance, a slaughter of innocents. For if this "exceptional" nation has God's consent to smote foreigners any time because a few belligerents "feel endangered," even by fabricated enemies, why can't a Florida punk delude himself that one hooded black boy presents a mortal threat? What shouldn't our no retreat foreign policy inhabit, with poisonous payoffs, all sorts of abuse against the "other," whether minorities, immigrants, or a top dog with Kenyan anti-colonial biases?      

 

Forgive my focus on the Wasilla Witch, but few others, as ardently pro-life, so glorify hunting, guns, and domestic vigilantism, far more a threat to our streets than teens armed with snacks.  What we initiated far away now invades backyard Neighborhood Watchers. Scope aside, can we distinguish irate stalking, warned off by police, from hate crimes and/or domestic terrorism? Indeed, despite our 9/11 victimization by rogue fanatics, 26 state laws now legalize rogue retribution, unconscious or not, in the name of self-defense. That informs avoidable tragedies like the fleeing Trayvon Martin, plus blowing up tyrannical ...

Published: Saturday 31 March 2012
The women, one white and one Latina, say flatly they don’t believe Zimmerman’s story of how Martin had suddenly attacked him, punched him in the face, broke his nose — and that when Zimmerman — larger than Martin — feels he's being overpowered, he pulls out the gun and shoots Martin through the chest.

Like most things that happen in America these days, the Trayvon Martin case is turning into yet another hearse trundling the Republican Party to its doom in November.

Here's a brief outline of the facts. It's Feb. 26. Trayvon Martin is a 17-year-old black kid watching a big basketball game in the home of his father's fiancée in Sanford, a small-town outlier of Orlando, Fla. Sanford has a population of 55,000, about a third black. The fiancée lives in a mixed-race, gated community. At halftime Martin goes to the corner store and buys an iced tea and a bag of Skittles.

It's raining, and Martin has his hood up over his head and is talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone. On his way back, he is spotted by 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a cop wannabe, self-appointed neighborhood crime watcher. Apparently, he has pestered the police station for months with reports of "suspicious 12-year-olds" walking through the neighborhood. Zimmerman — white dad, Latina mother — is wearing a red jacket and blue jeans. In his pocket is a Kel-Tec 9 mm automatic pistol.

Zimmerman calls the local station and says he's following a suspicious character. He describes Martin as black and says he's acting strangely and could be on drugs. The teenager starts to run, Zimmerman says. A 911 dispatcher asks Zimmerman whether he's following Martin, and Zimmerman says he is. The dispatcher says clearly that Zimmerman doesn't need to do that.

There's a lull in the transmission, and you can hear Zimmerman mutter clearly to himself, "These assholes, they always get away." On the call between Zimmerman and the 911 dispatcher, he also says "fucking coons." CNN says the words are indistinct, which they aren't. CNN also says the case is "complicated," which it isn't.

Later, the Martin family lawyer relays Trayvon's girlfriend's account of her last call with him. She ...

Published: Wednesday 28 March 2012
What can be done to stop needless violence like the killing of Trayvon Martin?

For far too long, violence targeting young people of color has been tolerated, even condoned, in the United States. The killing of Trayvon Martin is part of a horrific history—one that can only be stopped if all of us, of all colors, take a stand. That means standing up to individual acts of violence, but also to systematic efforts to make our laws friendly to big corporations that profit from guns and violence.

Slavery was where it all started, of course. But Reconstruction, when former slaves were promised opportunities for education, full citizenship, and livelihoods, gave way quickly to a backlash that returned many former slaves to miserable conditions and forced labor. Michelle Alexander, in her book, The New Jim Crow, recounts how variably enforced laws—vagrancy, for instance—were used to lock up large numbers of African Americans for nothing more than walking while black. Convicts were often forced into labor not unlike that of slaves, leased out to plantations, railroads, lumber camps, and corporations.

African Americans who found fault with this system—or who committed such infractions as daring to succeed in business or failing to yield to a white person on a sidewalk—could find themselves dead, victims of domestic terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Fast forward to February 26, 2012, when Trayvon Martin, age 17, returning to his father’s fiancée’s home in Sanford, Fla., after buying a bag of candy and an iced tea, was followed ...

Published: Monday 26 March 2012
The Florida law is rooted in the centuries-old English common law concept known as the “Castle Doctrine,” which holds that the right of self-defense is accepted in one’s home. But the Florida law and others like it expand that established right to venues beyond a home.

In 2004, the National Rifle Association honored Republican Florida state legislator Dennis Baxley with a plum endorsement: Its Defender of Freedom award.

The following year, Baxley, a state representative, worked closely with the NRA to push through Florida’s unprecedented “stand your ground” law, which allows citizens to use deadly force if they “reasonably believe” their safety is threatened in a public setting, like a park or a street.

People would no longer be restrained by a “duty to retreat” from a threat while out in public, and would be free from prosecution or civil liability if they acted in self-defense.

Florida’s law is now under a cloud as a result of the controversial February shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla. The 28-year-old shooter, George Zimmerman, who was licensed to carry a gun — and once had a brush — claims he acted in self-defense after a confrontation with Martin, and some legal experts say Florida’s law could protect Zimmerman, who has not been charged. The case has inflamed passions nationwide in part because Zimmerman is Hispanic and Martin was African-American. Baxley, whose state party has benefited from large NRA donations, contends his law shouldn’t shield Zimmerman at all because he pursued Martin.

The NRA has been curiously quiet on the matter since the shooting as the nation takes stock — in light of the Martin case and other similar examples — of whether “stand-your-ground” laws are more dangerous than useful to enhance public safety. The gun-rights organization did not respond to requests for comment. But the group’s silence contrasts sharply with its history of unabashed activism on stand-your-ground legislation. Since the Florida measure passed, the NRA has flexed its considerable muscle and played a crucial role in the passage of more than 20 similar laws ...

Published: Wednesday 21 March 2012
“Stand Your Ground Law” brings scrutiny to Florida’s “shoot first” ask questions later law.

We speak with Caroline Brewer of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence about how the killing of Trayvon Martin has brought renewed scrutiny to Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, also referred to by critics as the "shoot first" law. Backed by the National Rifle Association, the law expands the right of citizens to claim self-defense in the killing of others. More than 20 states have similar measures in place. Martin says the law allowed Floridians with criminal backgrounds — including many who plead guilty to assault, burglaries and child molestation — to obtain concealed carry licenses. "You're talking about people who are dangerous, people who are violent, and yet just within a short time after the law was passed, Florida had hundreds and hundreds of these people with these licenses to go out and kill somebody else," Brewer says. "And pretty much it was their word against the other person's."

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2012
Koch acknowledges working hard on behalf of Walker.

One year ago this week, blogger Ian Murphy of the Buffalo Beast pranked Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker by posing as billionaire David Koch on a phone call. As the crowds at the Capitol protesting Walker's bill to end collective bargaining were increasing in size and volume, the fake Koch inquired how Walker’s efforts to "crush that union" were going. Walker's fawning response helped rocket the Wisconsin protests into the national media limelight.

Now the real David Koch reveals that crushing unions is indeed at the top of his agenda. In an interview with the Palm Beach Post, Koch talks about Walker, unions and the historical importance of the Wisconsin recall fight.

"We have spent a lot of money in Wisconsin. We are going to spend more."

Koch didn’t know that when he sat down with Palm Beach Post reporter Stacey Singer that he ...

Published: Monday 6 February 2012
One-third of children who experience homelessness repeat a grade in school, eight times the rate for children who have never been homeless, according to the America’s Youngest Outcasts report.

When it’s time for bed, 10-year-old Miguel Abreu retrieves a deflated air mattress wedged between a bookcase and the wall in his aunt’s tiny apartment in Florida City, south of Miami. He quietly unfolds it in the middle of the dining/living room and hooks up an electric pump.

While the pump is inflating the bed, he gets sheets and pillows out of a stack of plastic bins in the dining room where his family keeps their possessions. He hands his parents pillows and bedding so they can prepare beds in two recliners while he makes up the air mattress he will share with his sister Jennifer, age 13. His younger sister, Maribel, 6, will share a bed with her aunt.

Like thousands of children nationwide, who have no guarantee of where they will sleep on any given night, the Abreu children are homeless.

1.6 Million Homeless Children

According to  READ FULL POST 4 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 6 February 2012
“On Tuesday evening, Romney’s blustering prattle about American military power sounded like former Vice President Dick Cheney at his most disturbed.”

Mitt Romney's convincing victory in the Florida primary erased his earlier defeats and perhaps any serious obstacle to his nomination. The question that still troubles party leaders, however, is the damage he will sustain before returning to Tampa in September for their convention.

Triumph could cost Romney much more than the million dollars or so that bought each point of his 46-32 margin over Newt Gingrich. Already the former speaker has shaped the plutocratic image of Romney now visible in national polls. A furious, wounded Gingrich could go still further — demanding, for instance, that Romney release many more years of tax returns.

But the electorate can also learn much about Romney from Ron Paul, if the Texan ever summons the courage to articulate their profound differences on war, national security and defense spending.

The scorching character assaults that incinerated Gingrich have left him yearning for revenge, and he is a past master of the politics of personal destruction. In Florida, he became the target of the same tactics and rhetoric that he popularized among Republicans two decades ago, when he created GOPAC to take over Congress.

Although Gingrich's own copious ...

Published: Thursday 2 February 2012
“Romney clearly has no idea what the Occupy Wall Street movement is about if he thinks that the tens of thousands protesting, often facing police violence and risking arrest, are there because of envy.”

Although Mitt Romney has yet to win a majority in a Republican primary, he won big in Florida. After he and the pro-Romney super PACs flooded the airwaves with millions of dollars’ worth of ads in a state where nearly half the homeowners are underwater, he talked about whom he wants to represent. “We will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and there’s no question, it’s not good being poor,” he told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. “You could choose where to focus, you could focus on the rich, that’s not my focus. You could focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus. My focus is on middle-income Americans.” Of the very rich, Romney assures us, “They’re doing just fine.” With an estimated personal wealth of $250 million, Romney should know.

Romney’s campaign itself is well-financed, but his success to date, especially against his current main rival, Newt Gingrich, is driven by massive cash infusions to a so-called super PAC, the new breed of political action committee that can take unlimited funds from individuals and corporations. Super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating their activities with a candidate’s campaign. Federal Election Commission filings made public Jan. 31 reveal that the principal super PAC supporting Romney, Restore Our Future, raised close to $18 million in the second half of 2011, from just 199 donors. Among his supporters are Alice Walton, who, although listed in the report as a “rancher,” is better known as an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune, and the famously caustic venture capitalist and billionaire Samuel Zell, the man credited with driving the Tribune media company into bankruptcy. William Koch, the third of the famous Koch brothers, also gave.

Juxtapose those 199 with the number of people living in poverty in the United ...

Published: Thursday 2 February 2012
“After the Citizens United edict, Adelson can go all in to push his willing servant into the White House.”

Wow, January's gone already — time really flies when you're having Republican presidential primaries! And what better time than Groundhog Day to poke into that warren of feral Republican ideologues and see what the heck is going on.

Already, four of the GOP contenders have had to drop out — Michele Bachmann because she was just too wacky, Jon Huntsman because he was too sane, Herman Cain because he was too exposed and Rick Perry because he was too dimwitted.

But the greatest surprise is the sudden surge of the Adelson campaign. Little-known until now, Adelson was the big winner in South Carolina, came from nowhere to a second-place finish in the Florida primary, and looks to have the political kick needed to go the distance.

Never heard of Adelson? It consists of the married duo of Sheldon and Miriam, neither of whom are actually on any ballot. Rather, they are running on the Money Ticket.

Sheldon Adelson of Las Vegas is a global casino baron who holds a $21 billion personal fortune. He has long been a major funder of far-right-wing causes, and this year he is placing an extra-big bet on his old political consort, Newt Gingrich. When Newt's presidential bid nearly flatlined after his electoral collapses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sheldon rushed in with emergency CPR — Cash-Powered Resuscitation. This one rich guy wrote a $5 million check to "Winning Our Future," Gingrich's Super PAC. Sheldon's money was injected directly into toxic attack ads against Mitt Romney in South Carolina's primary, jolting Newt's campaign back to life.

Gingrich still lacked the financial vitality to match Romney's media buy in Florida's pricy primary, however. No worries, though — Miriam Adelson stepped in to infuse Winning Our Future with another $5 million jolt of CPR. The Gingrich campaign, you see, is a vessel for the Adelson campaign, and word is that this one READ FULL POST 8 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 30 January 2012
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania trailed far behind, with little hope of victory in a state where the winner will take all 50 delegates, and the rest will get nothing.

Mitt Romney opened a commanding lead in Florida Sunday, driving his rivals to start shifting their sights to other states as more suitable battlegrounds to keep challenging him for the Republican presidential nomination.

Three new polls showed the former Massachusetts governor seizing a double-digit lead over his nearest competitor, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, in Florida, where voting will end on Tuesday.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania trailed far behind, with little hope of victory in a state where the winner will take all 50 delegates, and the rest will get nothing.

Gingrich planned to barnstorm the state by air Monday in a primary-eve push to close the gap. But he also looked past the likely loss on Tuesday, insisting the anti-Romney vote eventually will coalesce around him. "We will go all the way to the convention," he said Sunday.

Santorum, who suspended campaigning to be at the hospital bedside of an ailing 3-year-old daughter, sent surrogates to Florida. Rather than return to the state, he announced new plans to campaign instead in four other states Monday and Tuesday.

And Paul, who already abandoned ...

Published: Monday 30 January 2012
“Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas-based global casino baron who has long been a major funder of far-right-wing causes, is Newt Gingrich’s very special political pal.”

Already, four of the top GOP presidential contenders have dropped out. Michele Bachmann went first, because she was too wacky, followed by Jon Huntsman, because he was too sane. Herman Cain gave up because he was too exposed, and Rick Perry because he was too dim-witted.

But the greatest surprise is the sudden surge of the Adelson campaign. Little-known until now, Adelson was the big winner in South Carolina, has made his mark in Florida, and looks to have the political kick needed to go the distance.

Never heard of the Adelson campaign? It's the married duo of Sheldon and Miriam, neither of whom is actually on the ballot. Rather, they are running on the cash ticket.

 

Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas-based global casino baron who has long been a major funder of far-right-wing causes, is Newt Gingrich's very special political pal.

When Newt's presidential bid nearly flat-lined after his electoral collapses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Sheldon rushed in with emergency CPR: Cash-Powered Resuscitation. This one rich ...

Published: Sunday 29 January 2012
Romney does well in every part of the state. He has strong majorities in the crucial Hispanic community, where he has a 52 to 28 percent lead over Gingrich.

As Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich dueled across Florida four days before the state's pivotal Republican primary, a new Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald poll showed Romney with a commanding double-digit lead.

"A lot of people may not be charged up about Romney, but they're coming to realize Gingrich is too big a risk to take in the general election," said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, which conducted the poll.

Romney leads Gingrich, 42 to 31 percent. The survey was taken Tuesday through Thursday and completed before Thursday night's GOP debate in Jacksonville.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, spent Saturday elaborating on their chief message at that often raucous debate: That the other guy is unfit to be president.

Romney released a scathing new ad reminding voters how the House overwhelmingly reprimanded Gingrich for ethical lapses while he was speaker of the House of Representatives.

The ad features Tom Brokaw, then the anchorman of "NBC Nightly News," delivering the news 15 years ago about the extraordinary House rebuke.

Published: Thursday 26 January 2012
“Here’s a committed devotee of tooth-and-claw capitalism — replete with 8-year-olds working as janitors — campaigning with a pro-worker film of which Ken Loach would be proud, paid for by a rabidly anti-union billionaire who thinks Israel should bomb Iran and drive the Palestinians into the sea.”

Poor Romney. He's back in the Newt nightmare. Here comes the portly Georgian, brushing aside the guards outside Romney's hotel suite, kicking open the bedroom door, seizing Romney by the throat ... Aaaargh! And then Romney is awake, realizing that this is a cold-sweat nightmare that will last ... maybe until they close in Florida on Jan. 31; maybe until Super Tuesday on March 6, when nine states hold their primaries.

We left Romney amidst the flush of victory in New Hampshire, with polls in South Carolina showing him a solid 10 points ahead of Gingrich, who made a poor showing in New Hampshire on top of a fourth place finish in Iowa below the Catholic zealot Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. Santorum's a faded force now. (The fact that he and his wife boast of having taken their dead baby home from the hospital and placed it between their two living children, telling them that "Gabriel's an angel now" may have sat ill with some voters.)

Gingrich burned for revenge for his rough treatment in New Hampshire by Romney's campaign commercials. But how, on a tight timeline, to acquaint South Carolina Republicans with Romney's infamies?

He needed money, lots of it, double-quick.

In the old days there were certain pettifogging constraints on how much a billionaire could lavish on his favored candidate. But then came the "Citizens United" decision by the U.S. Supreme Court (split 5-4), issued in January 2010, ruling that the First Amendment, protecting free speech, prohibits the government from placing limits on independent spending for political purposes by corporations and unions. As Ralph Nader correctly pointed out at the time, "With this decision, corporations can now directly pour vast amounts of corporate money, through independent expenditures, into the electoral swamp already flooded with corporate campaign PAC contribution dollars."

Enter 78-year-old Sheldon Adelson, the world's ...

Published: Wednesday 25 January 2012
“Casino mogul’s wife gives $5 million to pro-Gingrich group”

The Israeli-born wife of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is matching her husband and placing her own $5 million bet on a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich in the upcoming Florida primary.

The gift came from Miriam Adelson, according to sources familiar with husband Sheldon’s previous $5 million donation to the super PAC “Winning Our Future.” The funds, in the form of a wire transfer, are expected to be received by the PAC on Tuesday.

The second $5 million infusion the pro-Gingrich PAC from the physician-wife of the 78-year-old Adelson could be crucial to Gingrich’s chances of winning the Jan. 31 primary, where Mitt Romney’s campaign and supporting super PAC have an early and sizable head start in advertising spending.

In South Carolina, Sheldon Adelson’s $5 million donation to the PAC basically bankrolled its hard-hitting negative ad blitz, which totaled almost $3 million, according to Federal Election Commission records.

The ads heavily targeted former Massachusetts Gov. Romney’s long career running the buyout firm Bain Capital. In some cases, Bain made tens of millions of dollars in its buyout deals but ...

Published: Wednesday 25 January 2012
“People here are justly proud of their 94 parks, but many of these treasures are now understaffed, open fewer hours and in disrepair because the system's budget was whacked by 21.5 percent in order to spare the wealthiest families and corporations in this enormously rich state from paying a teensy bit more in taxes.”

"Sorry, we're closed." In one of the saddest signs of the times, this message is popping up all across the country, as governors and legislators are cutting off funds (and shutting off access) to one of the finest, most popular assets owned by the people of our country: state parks.

 

More than 6,600 of these jewels draw some 700 million visitors a year to their grand vistas, historic sites, abundant wildlife, majestic forests, cascading waters, expansive beaches, nature trails, campgrounds, educational centers and lodges. Parks are a tangible expression of America's democratic ideals, literally a common ground for every man, woman and child to enjoy, learn, absorb ... or just be. Especially for the middle class and the poor — the great majority of our people who can't jet off to luxury resorts for a getaway for vacation — these spaces offer a form of real wealth, something of great value that each of us literally "owns," knitting us together as a community and nation.

 

Yet so many spiritually shriveled, small-minded and short-sighted state officials are snuffing out this invaluable, uniting social force. They are stupidly treating parks as nothing but a budget number or a piece of the "nanny state" to be axed in the name of ideological purity. Worse, they are sacrificing parks in order to keep the tax-dodging moneyed elites who pay for their campaigns from paying even a dime more in taxes.

 

The majority of states have been closing many of their parks, slashing hours and services at others or simply handing the public's asset to profiteering corporations. Idaho's governor has proposed eliminating the entire parks department; California shut the gates of a fourth of the state's parks last year; officials in Arizona and Florida intend to privatize their parks; Washington state has cut off most of its park funding; and Ohio has okayed oil ...

Published: Monday 23 January 2012
“According to the data, only 10 ‘blue states’ were net recipients of federal subsidies, as opposed to 22 ‘red states.’”

We’ve all heard it: “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.” I often wonder if the same logic applies to electoral politics. Though conflating “the political” with “the sartorial” isn’t at all my intention, I cannot help but believe that we vote for the lives we want, not the ones we have. Politics, broadly understood, helps to bridge the chasm between the immediate and the aspirational, to negotiate the oscillation of our material needs and our magical desires. To this end, I think there is sufficient evidence to argue that politics is what we do when metaphysics fails, what we do when transhistorical categories of supposed universality become unlaced.

So what exactly constitutes the ground for our political calculus? And what happens when voting for our future aspirations negates our current needs?

Traditional scholars in the field of political science often suggest that our unobstructed self interest (premised on rational choice theory) tends to produce policy preferences and electoral outcomes largely reflective of our material interests. Regrettably, however, according to a 2007 report published by the Tax Foundation entitled “Federal Spending Received Per Dollar Paid by State,” U.S. states that rely most heavily on federal subsidies for public programs routinely elect politicians who are determined to excoriate such funding sources. The articulation of policy preferences and, indeed, the creation and maintenance of a deeply democratic society are co-premised on free and equal access to reliable information, but even a cursory exegesis of the Tax Foundation data compels one to conclude that the particular states most dependent on aid from the federal government are the very same states whose residents voted overwhelmingly for John McCain in 2008. How could this be?

According to the data, only 10 ...

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, all of whose contests will be held this month, won’t know who is paying for much of the advertising they see until after their votes are cast.”

New outside spending groups, dubbed super PACs, that can accept unlimited donations from corporations and wealthy individuals, spent $12.9 million in Iowa and other early GOP battleground states through New Year’s Day, according to an analysis of federal data.

The top beneficiary was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. A total of $4.6 million was spent to help the nominal front-runner, the vast majority for ads torpedoing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Second was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who benefited from $3.7 million in outside spending.

According to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission data,12 outside super PACs spent money, mostly on advertising, with the intention of electing or defeating a GOP presidential candidate. Ten have not yet reported their donors. The two that have did so last summer.

The upshot is that voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, all of whose contests will be held this month, won’t know who is paying for much of the advertising they see until after their votes are cast.

The next reports on donors aren’t due until January 31, the day of the Florida primary.

Federal court decisions in 2010 made it possible for individuals, corporations and labor unions to give unlimited contributions to political organizations (super PACs) and certain types of nonprofits, which can then spend the money to elect or defeat candidates. The groups are prohibited from coordinating their activities with candidates.

The top super PAC spender was "Restore Our Future" — the ambiguously named group set up to help Romney. The group spent $4.1 million, all of it in opposition to Gingrich, who enjoyed a brief lead in Iowa polls last month before the shellacking.

Restore Our Future has moved on from Iowa and spent $622,000 in Florida, a likely harbinger of more to come in that high stakes contest. Almost $100,000 has been spent by ...

Published: Wednesday 30 November 2011
At issue was whether a leading U.S. Army bio-weapons laboratory in Frederick, Md., was negligent in failing to adequately secure its anthrax stocks, possibly enabling a mentally troubled researcher at the lab to carry out the attacks.

While denying negligence by one of its premier bio-weapons labs, the government has agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a wrongful death suit filed by survivors of the first fatality victim of the deadly 2001 anthrax mail attacks, court papers revealed Tuesday.

The money will go to the widow and children of Robert Stevens, a Florida-based photo editor for the National Enquirer and other tabloids who was the first of five people to die after inhaling the tiny spores.

The settlement ended a secrecy-shrouded, eight-year court fight shortly before U.S. District Judge Daniel Hurley of West Palm Beach, Fla., was due to either grant a Justice Department motion to dismiss the suit or to send the case forward to trial. By settling, the government protected from public scrutiny a sizable cache of documents about its secretive biological weapons program.

At issue was whether a leading U.S. Army bio-weapons laboratory in Frederick, Md., was negligent in failing to adequately secure its anthrax stocks, possibly enabling a mentally troubled researcher at the lab to carry out the attacks.

Bruce Ivins,  READ FULL POST 6 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 20 November 2011
“Among the biggest PAC donors to the tea party freshmen are familiar Washington faces, including Honeywell International, which led the way both in number of donations and overall money given.”

On her website, Rep. Diane Black asks constituents to join advisory panels in her Tennessee district. “I believe the best ideas to solve our nation’s problems will come from people like you,” Black writes, “not Washington bureaucrats and special interest groups.”

Black is one of the new Republicans who rode a wave of anti-Washington sentiment into town in 2011, a self-identified member of the tea party wing that has been cast as a new kind of conservative— fiery, unwilling to compromise and determined to downsize the government. But while many say Black and her companions have created a split in the Republican Party, it is not visible among the companies and interest groups that are donating to members of Congress.

A joint analysis by iWatch News and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that the 15 freshmen members of the Tea Party Caucus have embraced many of the same special interests that have supported Republicans for years. The fifteen combined have received over $3,450,000 during the first three quarters of this year from almost 700 different PACs.

It’s an impressive haul for a group of newly elected House members. But it shouldn’t be surprising that these fresh faces found new friends in ...

Published: Wednesday 19 October 2011
On Monday, Mayor Kasim Reed issued a second extension for Occupy Atlanta to stay in the park for three more weeks.

As the Occupy Movement spreads like wildfire across the United States and around the world, protests in the U.S. South are facing unique challenges.

Occupy protests have sprouted up in countless cities across the U.S. South, including Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia; Columbia, South Carolina; Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Miami, Florida; and New Orleans, Louisiana, to name just a few. 

In Atlanta, Georgia, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, the city government has struggled with the question of how to respond to the Occupy protesters who have literally taken over downtown's Woodruff Park with tents and an encampment that has no end in sight. 

On Monday, Mayor Kasim Reed issued a second extension for Occupy Atlanta to stay in the park for three more weeks. 

“Civil disobedience is an appropriate form of expression, provided that it is peaceful, non-violent and lawful,”he said in a statement. 


“As of today, the Occupy Atlanta protesters continue to assemble in a peaceful, non-violent fashion in Robert W. Woodruff Park. Therefore, I have extended the Executive Order allowing Occupy Atlanta to remain in Woodruff Park after the park closes... through the adjournment of the next Atlanta City Council meeting on November 7, 2011,” he said. 

In contrast, other cities such as Boston, Massachusetts and New York have seen mass arrests of protesters. 

However, this temporary resolution in Atlanta was not achieved through a smooth process. 

Occupy Atlanta began its occupation of Woodruff Park on Friday, Oct. 7. The movement consists of several hundred activists, the majority of whom are young, disenchanted college-age activists who have little or no experience in progressive politics. 

This came across when on Oct. 7, Democratic Congressman John Lewis, a hero of the Civil Rights Movement, visited Occupy ...

Published: Friday 16 September 2011
An analysis of U.S. labor numbers by AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that as of July, workers ages 55 and older who lost their jobs stayed unemployed an average of almost 54 weeks, over four full months longer than younger unemployed workers.

Alberto Tarud would like to treat your lawn for pests, notarize your will or provide security at your office.

Really, he’d like any kind of job at all.

Tarud, 63, knows first hand how the recession and the subsequent jobless “recovery” have disproportionately affected people like him. He used to run a plastic-bag factory in his native Colombia. In 2006, he moved to South Florida to be closer to his adult daughters, brother and grandchildren. He has a work permit and was able to buy a home in southern Miami-Dade County in 2008.

But, for two years now, Tarud has been unemployed or underemployed; his home is under water with a mortgage higher than the value of his house, and his grown daughters and his brother have to help him with car payment.

Moving in With Their Children

Although Tarud has been able to stay in his home, many older Hispanics have had to move in with their children.

“Hispanics tend to live in larger households, with more support from each other,” said Rakesh Kochhar, the senior researcher of a recent study of Latino economic security by the Pew Hispanic Center.

“There are cultural reasons for that and economic reasons. The recession has reinforced that trend,” Kochhar said.

Tarud worries what will happen if he gets sick – he has no health or disability insurance – or if he loses his home.

“I guess I’d have to move in with one of my daughters,” he said outside the government building where he works as a greeter three hours a day for minimum wage. “They help me when they can, but they can’t afford to support me.”

Tarud’s situation is not unusual. An analysis of U.S. labor numbers by AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that as of July, workers ages 55 and older who lost their jobs stayed unemployed an average of almost 54 weeks, over four full ...

Published: Friday 2 September 2011
Perhaps it's time for progressives to pick up the freedom banner that was so quickly dropped in the mud of Republican primary politics.

The third week in July, Republican Gov. Rick Perry said that the U.S. Constitution — whose 10th Amendment limits federal power — gives states the right to decide on such matters as abortion and gay marriage. The fourth week in July, the Texan recanted. He now supports a federal ban on abortion and gay marriage. Social conservatives told him they didn't cotton to giving states the right to defy their views on things they care about.

Perhaps it's time for progressives to pick up the freedom banner that was so quickly dropped in the mud of Republican primary politics. Here are examples of intrusive state and federal government, ripped from the headlines:

—"Gun Query Off Limits for Doctors in Florida." Florida recently passed a law forbidding doctors to ask patients whether they keep a gun unless the ...

Published: Thursday 4 August 2011
"It's too early to tell if Wisconsin is the first bird of an American Spring, but one thing's for sure. In the icy grip of corporate winter, Wisconsinites turned up the heat on their corporate-controlled politicians."

People watching the news over the past week might have thought that Congress was the only place where battles for our future were being won and lost. That's wrong. There are other battles, better battles, battles far from the glare of the Beltway spotlights. And more are on their way.

So forget Washington for a minute. (If you feel like I do right now, that'll be a pleasure.) If you want to see where the next wave of corporate-sponsored political attacks is being launched, look to New Orleans. And if you want a shot of optimism, a ray of light, a sign that battles can be won against overwhelming odds, turn your eyes toward Wisconsin.

That's where the action is.

On Wisconsin

Al Gore said this week that we need an "American Spring." It would be a stroke of Carl Sandburg-ish poetry if we were to someday look back and see that the first signs of our spring appeared in Midwestern farm country. And if that image is too corny for your taste, remember: The corn harvest starts around now. I'm just getting an early start.

The Wisconsin uprising began when Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans in the legislature began their ruthless attempt to strip unions of their rights in that state. They had every right to believe it would be easy. The Democrats had just been routed in their state and across the country, as voters discouraged by the lack of jobs and growth took their revenue on the ruling party. Walker and his colleagues thought they had found their "Shock Doctrine" moment in that state's budget crisis, and used it to strip unions of their collective bargaining rights because they claimed the state "couldn't afford" to pay their wages and benefits.

The unions offered Walker virtually all the concessions he wanted, which took the financial argument off the table, but he moved forward anyway. And then a miracle happened ... Voters who had accepted one injustice ...

Published: Thursday 9 June 2011

On May 31st Florida's superlative thug, Gov. Rick Scott (R), signed an executive order requiring all adult applicants for cash benefits from Florida’s welfare system to be tested for drugs. The bill impacts over 233,000 Florida residents receiving cash benefits from the state. Those who fail the test on their first attempt will become ineligible for welfare for a year. And a second failed test will render them ineligible for welfare for three years. Gov. Rick Scott, mind you, campaigned on a platform of less government…laughably ironic.

Most of the reporting on this issue, as you likely have come to expect, has ranged from vacuous to fatuous with very little intervening substantive analysis. Surprising? No. Problematic? Yes.

Scott’s executive order sufficiently confirms the notion that so-called “middle class” Americans (mostly white) are intransigently suspicious of the intentions, merit, intelligence, and cultural practices of poor folk, the overwhelming majority of which are citizens of color. Need proof? Take just one look at the strategies by which Gov. Scott continues to justify his bill. When interviewed by CNN on June 5th Gov. Scott cited studies showing that "people that are on welfare are higher users of drugs than people not on welfare.” Scott's claim is has its "basis" in a study conducting in 2000 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which finds that 9.6% of people in families receiving some type of government assistance reported recent drug use, compared to 6.8% among people in families receiving no government assistance at all. The reliability of this study is dubious because 1)it's over a decade old and 2) the categorical unit of analysis utilized in this study is “families receiving some type of government ...

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