Published: Saturday 12 January 2013
Published: Friday 9 November 2012
“All of us suddenly sobered folks, who voted for Barack Obama because the alternative was so horridly wrong, have got to accept the moral implications of that choice. ”

Yes, election night was a heck of a party and it’s great that the really bad guys lost. Karl Rove and his reactionary ilk were defeated by a new American majority that is younger, more tolerant, rainbow colored and multilingual and one in which women now trump the depressing ignorance of so many older white men. But morning in America already feels too much like a hangover. The house is still a wreck, the family is dysfunctional and there are enormous bills to pay that are not about to go away.

All of us suddenly sobered folks, who voted for Barack Obama because the alternative was so horridly wrong, have got to accept the moral implications of that choice. We won but at what cost? Fool me once, shame on Obama, but fool me twice and I’m the one responsible. That goes for his promises to right the economy by leveling the playing field as well as to end what Obama termed in his victory speech “a decade of war.”

It is now our fingers on the video game buttons that order the drones to kill innocent civilians, and we bear responsibility if the president maintains the Guantanamo gulag and continues to vilify Bradley Manning and Julian Assange for confronting America with its war crimes. Will he make good on his promise to hold the line on the incessant demands of the congressional defense contractor caucus or will he find yet another “good war”?

What about our expectation that Obama will be more vigilant than his vulture capitalist opponent in reining in the greed of the Wall Street crowd that has caused so much economic turmoil? The good news is that Obama, and his party, are far less beholden to the titans of the financial industry than they were the first time around. His own funding from top Wall Street firms that favored him in 2008 was way down, and across the country voters rejected the deregulation and lower tax on high roller income that the finance industry thought it ...

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
“As in all recent elections, Ohio again is a crucial state to win for either presidential candidate. And once again, Ohio is at the center of charges of systematic suppression of the African-American vote.”

As in all recent elections, Ohio again is a crucial state to win for either presidential candidate. And once again, Ohio is at the center of charges of systematic suppression of the African-American vote. In a report for Democracy Now!, investigative reporter Greg Palast discovers that some early voters in the Buckeye State have received the wrong ballots. Palast is the author of "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps."

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: As in all recent elections, Ohio is a crucial state to win for either presidential candidate. Once again, Ohio is at the center of charges of systematic suppression of the African-American vote. Investigative reporter Greg Palast discovered that some early voters in the Buckeye State received the wrong ballots. He filed this report for Democracy Now!

GREG PALAST: Hallelujah! Finally, it’s Election Day in Ohio. Union workers and rural evangelicals are on the road driving to the polls. Ohio will probably pick our president today, Tuesday, but Democrats hope the election was decided on Sunday.

This is Greg Palast reporting. Here, in the economically wounded heart of ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
Whether because of work constraints, school constraints, or other factors, voters across southwest Ohio were glad to have the opportunity to vote Monday.

“Today is the first day in the last seven that I’ve been outside,” David Ellis, a heavy-set African American man, told me as he waited at the back of the line in Springfield to vote. Ellis had just been released from the hospital earlier that day following major surgery. “I can’t stand out here long,” he said as he leaned on his black cane.

What if there weren’t early voting on Monday, I asked.

“I would’ve been a no-vote,” Ellis said, letting out a hearty chuckle.

Whether he knew it or not, Ellis came within a hair’s breadth of being a no-vote. For the past few months, Secretary of State Jon Husted has fought to eliminate the final three days of ...

Published: Sunday 4 November 2012
Published: Wednesday 31 October 2012
“Ryan’s plan includes the same $716 billion of savings but gets it from turning Medicare into a voucher and shifting rising health-care costs on to seniors.”

Over the weekend, Romney debuted an ad in Ohio showing cars being crushed as a narrator says Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.”

In fact, Chrysler is retaining and expanding its Jeep production in North America, including in Ohio. Its profits have enabled it to separately consider expanding into China, the world’s largest auto market.

Responding to the ad, Chrysler emphasized in a blog post that it has “no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.”

“They are inviting a false inference,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on political advertising.

This is only the most recent in a stream of lies from Romney. Remember his contention that the President planned to “rob” Medicare of $716 billion when in fact the money would come from reduced payments to providers who were overcharging — thereby extending the life of Medicare? (Ryan’s plan includes the same $716 billion of savings but gets it from turning Medicare into a voucher and shifting rising health-care costs on to seniors.)

Remember Romney’s claim that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law, when in fact Obama merely allowed governors to fashion harder or broader work requirements?  

Recall Romney’s assertion that he is not planning to give the rich a tax cut of almost $5 trillion, when in fact that’s exactly what his budget plan does? Or that his budget will reduce the long-term budget deficit, when in fact his numbers don’t add up? 

And so on. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” says Neil ...

Published: Wednesday 31 October 2012
“It has unleashed mad-dog corporate bosses to tell employees how to vote.”

As feared, our people's democratic authority has been dogged nearly to death by the hounds of money in this election go 'round, thanks to the Supreme Court's reckless decree in the now-infamous Citizens United case.

That rank political power play by five black-robed judicial partisans unleashed the Big Dogs of corporate money to bite democracy right in the butt this year, poisoning our elections with the venom of unlimited special-interest cash. But there's also been another, little-reported consequence of the malevolent Citizens United decision: It has unleashed mad-dog corporate bosses to tell employees how to vote.

Prior to that 2010 Court ruling, top executives were barred by federal law from using corporate funds to instruct, induce, intimidate or otherwise push workers to support particular candidates. No more, thanks to the five Supremes. Having been given a legal pass, bosses have openly and aggressively conscripted employees to be political troopers for corporate-backed candidates.

For example, CEO David Siegel of Westgate Resorts, a major peddler of time-share schemes, warned his 7,000-strong workforce against voting for Obama. To do so, he wrote in a letter to each of them, would "threaten your job." Obama, Siegel declared, planned to raise taxes on multimillionaires like him, which would give him "no choice but to reduce the size of this company."

Likewise, Dave Robertson, president of the Koch brothers' industrial empire, notified 30,000 workers that they would suffer assorted "ills" if they helped re-elect Obama. In case that message was too subtle, Robertson helpfully included a slate-card of Koch-approved candidates for them to take into the polling booth.

Of course, corporate chieftains say they're not making threats — just suggestions. As Boss Siegel disingenuously put it: "There's no way I ...

Published: Wednesday 24 October 2012
“The real electoral fraud being perpetrated across our country is the GOP’s frantic claim that hordes of ineligible Democrats are voting illegally.”

 

Republican officials across the country are having a major problem with their widely ballyhooed claim that they must create new barriers to voting in order to ensure the "integrity" of the ballot. The problem is this: Their high-decibel effort is completely devoid of integrity.

The real electoral fraud being perpetrated across our country is the GOP's frantic claim that hordes of ineligible Democrats are voting illegally. It just isn't true. Indeed, despite all of their squawking, and despite deploying numerous dragnets to apprehend thousands of these election defrauders, they've produce practically no cases of illegal voting happening anywhere.

Nonetheless, what they have produced is a rash of intimidating, show-me-your-papers voter ID requirements. Thus, the GOP is tainting itself with a sleazy legacy of voter suppression, deliberately trying to diminish Democratic turnout by purging voter rolls and scaring off legitimate balloters.

Rather than meekly acquiescing to the suppression, however, the constituencies targeted by the GOP's hokey poll-integrity campaign (mainly going after darker-skinned voters, poor people, students and others inclined to vote for Dems) have been standing up for their rights and taking the self-serving suppressors to court. And, to the party's chagrin, the courts have been rejecting, setting aside or weakening every one of their repressive laws that have been challenged this year, including those in Florida, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.

In fairness, though, we must concede that fraud does lurk as a threat to our democratic process. Take Sugar Land, Texas, the hometown of Catherine Engelbrecht. A tea party zealot, she founded an outfit called True the Vote, which has run a nationwide witch-hunt to find and indict those imaginary hordes of Democrats casting illegal ballots. No luck there. But rather ...

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
American Crossroads top spender since Labor Day.

 

Since Labor Day, the once-unofficial start of the election season, 70 percent of outside spending on the presidential race made possible by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision has benefited Mitt Romney, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

More than $106 million of the $117 million spent on the Obama-Romney matchup since Sept. 3 has been on negative ads, with President Barack Obama absorbing more than $80 million in attacks, according to the analysis of Federal Election Commission data.

By way of comparison, the Obama campaign has spent $346 million over the entire election and Romney has spent $288 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

American Crossroads, a conservative super PAC co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, is the top anti-Obama spender as well as the top overall spender among outside groups in the presidential election. Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC, is the second-biggest outside spender in the race and the primary source of anti-Romney ads.

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Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
Ohio’s audit report unassailably underscores the basic structural flaw endemic to private corrections.

 

Just over a year ago Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest publicly traded, private prison contractor, made headlines when it became the first company to buy a publicly owned correctional facility. CCA purchased the decade-old, 1,798-bed Lake Erie Correctional Institution located in Conneaut, Ohio for $73 million and negotiated a twenty-year contract guaranteeing an occupancy rate of 90 percent. The deal was brokered, in part, by Director of Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Gary Mohr, who, prior to his appointment in 2011, worked for CCA. 

CCA’s Lake Erie facility made headlines again last week when Ohio’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Internal Management Audit report was made available to the press. The findings, though predictable, are abject.

From September 18-20 Ohio’s Bureau of Internal Audits and Standards Compliance conducted a full internal management audit of the Lake Erie institution. The team “evaluated compliance levels with audit standards by reviewing both prepared accreditation files and observing institution operations throughout the facility.

The privately owned and operated facility was found in compliance with 94.7 percent of the American Correctional Association’s (ACA) relatively accommodating standards. This isn’t exactly laudable, however, because in 2011 all of Ohio’s public facilities achieved an ACA compliance level of 100 percent. Worse is that CCA’s institution only achieved a compliance level of 66.7 percent on more stringent state-based corrections guidelines. According ...

Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
Ohio officials have argued the law is justified by the state's interest in “running elections fairly and efficiently.”

 

Voter ID laws have received plenty of attention recently, but they're not the only controversial changes to election rules this year. Some states have made changes that critics say could impact individuals' ability to vote. Here are four.

Ohio won't count provisional ballots mistakenly cast in the wrong precinct.

Four years ago in Ohio, there were 200,000 provisional ballots cast among a total 5.7 million votes. This was the most among any state other than California. (Federal law requires states to use provisional ballots when a voter's eligibility is in question or if their ...

Published: Saturday 6 October 2012
“The most radical voter suppression efforts — including voter ID laws, voter purges, gerrymandered districts and restrictions on voter registration — have been killed in the courts or delayed till after the election.”

 

The Tea Party organization launching a multi-pronged voter suppression effort this election is under investigation by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) for a possible “criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.”

Cummings sent a letter to True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht warning her that the Ohio branch of the group, in suing to throw thousands of students, trailer park residents, homeless people and African Americans off the voting rolls, may be violating the law:

At some point, an effort to challenge voter registrations by the thousands without any legitimate basis may be evidence of illegal voter suppression. If these efforts are intentional, politically motivated and widespread across multiple states, they could amount to a criminal conspiracy to deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.

True the Vote released a statement affirming their support for the Ohio voter purge advocates on Monday:

True the Vote stands by the well-intentioned efforts of these citizens and is disgusted by the attempts of some within government and media to warp what should have been a simple, legal process into a calculated partisan charade.

The most radical voter suppression efforts — including voter ID laws, voter purges, gerrymandered districts and restrictions on voter registration — have been

Published: Friday 5 October 2012
“Under the tax code, social welfare nonprofits may not have political campaign activity as their primary purpose, though exactly what that means is a subject of much debate.”

 

A dark money nonprofit group that has run more than $1 million in ads in the Ohio race for U.S. Senate told the IRS last year it did not plan to spend any money to influence elections when it applied for recognition of its tax-exempt status. 

ProPublica first reported on the group, the Government Integrity Fund, after information from television station political ad files became available online (see our Free the Files project), showing extensive spending by the Fund.

The group’s filings with the IRS  illustrate how “social welfare” nonprofits, also known as 501(c)(4)s, are playing an aggressive role in this election, pouring tens of millions of dollars into races around the country, while taking advantage of the donor anonymity their tax status provides.

The Fund applied for IRS recognition last December and received the IRS’ approval less than two months later.

Question 15 on the application asks, “Has the organization spent or does it plan to spend any money attempting to influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any person to any Federal, state, or local public office or to an office in a political organization?”

Much hinges on this: Under the tax code, social welfare nonprofits may not have ...

Published: Wednesday 3 October 2012
“Fracking and related activities are permitted by the state and allow corporations to site drilling and injection wells over the wishes of a community.”

On Oct. 1, the Yellow Springs Village Council voted 3-2 to adopt a Community Bill of Rights ordinance banning corporations from conducting shale gas drilling and related activities in the village.

The ordinance was drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) at the invitation of the community group Gas and Oil Drilling Awareness and Education (GODAE), a group of citizens concerned about the potential effects of gas and oil drilling on the environment.

Yellow Springs is the first municipality in the state of Ohio to enact a local Bill of Rights and protect those rights by prohibiting shale gas drilling and fracking and the ensuing injection wells. The first of its kind in Ohio local law asserts the fundamental rights of residents to clean air and water, and to protect the rights of nature.

Fracking and related activities are permitted by the state and allow corporations to site drilling and injection wells over the wishes of a community. The ordinance recognizes the rights of community members as superior to the regulatory laws of Ohio and finds the issuance of such permits, in violation of those rights, as illegitimate law.

Although southwest Ohio is far from the Utica Shale in eastern Ohio, where numerous drilling and fracking wells are situated, its geological formations make it ideal for storing fracking wastewater. Such wells caused a number of earthquakes in Youngstown in 2011. Other collateral damage includes water contamination through surface spills and wastewater leaking into aquifers through porous rock; lost property value; ingestions of toxics by residents, wildlife and domesticated animals; drying up of mortgage ...

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: Thursday 20 September 2012
Fracking as a political issue, like that tap water, is catching fire.

 

Western Pennsylvania is considered the birthplace of commercial oil drilling. On Aug. 27, 1859, Edwin Drake struck oil in Titusville, Pa., and changed the course of history. Now, people there are busy trying to stop wells, and the increasingly pervasive drilling practice known as fracking. Fracking is the popular term for hydraulic fracturing, the technique used to extract natural gas from deep beneath the earth’s surface. Fracking is promoted by the gas industry as the key to escaping from dependence on foreign oil. But evidence is mounting that fracking pollutes groundwater with a witches’ brew of toxic chemicals, creating imminent threats to public health and safety. It has even caused earthquakes in Ohio. As people mark the first anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, popular resistance to the immense power of the energy industry is on the rise.

Underlying the problem of fracking is, literally, the Marcellus Shale (which is formally called, coincidentally, the Marcellus Member of the Romney Formation). This massive, underground geologic formation stretches from upstate New York across Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, through West Virginia, Tennessee and parts of Virginia. Unlike the easily extracted crude oil of Saudi Arabia, the natural gas in the Marcellus Shale is captured in tiny pockets, and is hard to get at. In order to extract it with what the industry considers efficiency, holes are drilled thousands of feet deep, which then turn a corner and continue thousands more feet, horizontally. The detonation of explosive charges, coupled with the infusion of high-pressure fluids, fractures the shale, allowing the gas to bubble up to the surface.

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Published: Wednesday 5 September 2012
“Velásquez has been working to organize migrant farm workers in North Carolina — more than 90 percent of whom are undocumented.”

Baldemar Velásquez, founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee of the AFL-CIO, has been organizing migrant workers since he worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. An Ohio delegate at the Democratic National Convention, Velasquez has been working to organize migrant farm workers in North Carolina -- more than 90 percent of whom are undocumented. On Monday, Velasquez was part of a Southern Workers Assembly here in Charlotte that brought together farm laborers along with others who work in the manufacturing and service industries. Their challenge is significant: The South is the least unionized region in the United States and union density in North Carolina is just 2 percent.

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, "Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." We’re broadcasting from Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s the first day of the Democratic National Convention. I’m Amy Goodman. And I want to turn right now to Baldemar Velásquez. He is the founder and president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee of the AFL-CIO. He has been working to organize migrant farm workers in North ...

Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
“Nursing home industry officials have cautioned that while the reports can be of value when choosing a home, they are only a snapshot and don’t highlight good practices in the home.”

 

Today, we are refreshing our Nursing Home Inspect app to include thousands more deficiencies found by government inspectors in nursing homes around the country.

Our tool, based on data from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has already led to an impressive array of news stories.

 

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Published: Saturday 18 August 2012
“Ohio Secretary of State suspended two Democrats on a county election board after they voted to allow weekend voting.”

In a dramatic move, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted immediately suspended two Democrats on a county election board after they voted to allow weekend voting.

Earlier, Husted issued a directive canceling weekend voting statewide. In 2008, Ohio offered early voting on the weekends and thousands of voters cast their ballot during that time.

Husted issued an ultimatum to Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie Sr., members of the Montgomery County Eleciton Board, to withdraw their resolution to maintain weekend hours or face suspension. The Dayton Daily News has more:

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Published: Sunday 5 August 2012
“This year, however, the Republican legislature in Ohio eliminated early voting during this period, except for members of the military.”

 

Today on Facebook, Mitt Romney claims that the Obama campaign is trying to “undermine” the ability of members of the military to vote in Ohio:

President Obama’s lawsuit claiming it is unconstitutional for Ohio to allow servicemen and women extended early voting privileges during the state’s early voting period is an outrage. The brave men and women of our military make tremendous sacrifices to protect and defend our freedoms, and we should do everything we can to protect their fundamental right to vote. I stand with the fifteen military groups that are defending the rights of military voters, and if I’m entrusted to be the commander-in-chief, I’ll work to protect the voting rights of our military, not undermine them.

This certainly sounds outrageous, but it is not true. Since 2005, Ohio has had in person early-voting in the three days prior to the election. This year, however, the Republican legislature in Ohio eliminated early voting during this period, except for members of the military. The Obama lawsuit is attempting to restore voting rights for all Ohioans, not restrict them for the military or any other group. From the Obama lawsuit, filed in federal court:

Plaintiffs bring this lawsuit to restore in-person early voting for all Ohioans during the three days prior to Election Day – a right exercised by an estimated 93,000 Ohioans in the last presidential election. Ohio election law, as currently enacted by the State of Ohio and administered by Defendant Ohio Secretary of State, arbitrarily eliminates early voting during the three days prior to Election Day for most Ohio voters, a right previously available to ...

Published: Wednesday 25 July 2012
“This year, Mountain Justice Spring Break was located in northern West Virginia, where fracking is currently wreaking havoc upon the landscape.”

Listening to the talk in Washington is depressing these days for those concerned about the future of our planet. Democrats join Republicans in trying to roll back environmental regulation, any discussion of climate legislation is dead and everyone wants to expand domestic fossil fuel production. But all across America in the midst of a long hot summer, ordinary citizens are telling a different story by confronting out-of-control energy extraction directly.

When she isn’t busy fighting fracking or organizing communities, Deirdre Lally teaches free health and nutrition classes in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. On Lally’s commute, she passes dozens of gas operation trucks and a number of active strip mines.

“While teaching children and seniors how to stay healthy, I look out the window of the classroom and I see nothing but strip mines surrounding the town,” Lally shared in a meeting between activists fighting mountaintop removal and fracking this past spring. “Poison is running into the streams and water tables and coal dust is in the air. How is a population to be healthy when extractive industries are taking over their towns?”

Lally was at Mountain Justice Spring Break, an annual training camp for anti-mountaintop removal activists. For the past several years, students, community members and activists have gathered together each spring to share skills and fight mountaintop removal, an extremely destructive form of strip mining that scrapes off the top of mountains to get to ...

Published: Friday 1 June 2012
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: Tuesday 29 May 2012
“The bill heading to Gov. Kasich’s desk fails to reinvest in Ohio communities, adequately protect Ohioans from the toxic impacts of the fracking industry and address the growing climate crisis.”

Don't Frack Ohio

On May 24, the Ohio’s State Assembly passed Senate Bill 315—one of the worst fracking laws in the nation—by a 21-8 vote in the Senate and a 73-19 vote in the Ohio House that approves new regulations governing hydraulic fracturing in the Utica and Marcellus shale formations running under nearly half of the state. The shale gas provisions are part of a larger energy bill that also addresses Ohio’s renewable energy portfolio standard.

The bill heading to Gov. Kasich’s desk fails to reinvest in Ohio communities, adequately protect Ohioans from the toxic impacts of the fracking industry and address the growing climate crisis.

SB 315 will allow health and safety loopholes. It requires the gas industry to pay less than almost any other state in the country, exposing our communities to the worst excesses of the fracking industry. Doctors will be prevented from talking openly about the sickness they see in their patients, and the gas industry will keep profits flowing out of our communities.

The rumblings you hear when this bill is signed is not the sound of another injection well caused earthquake—it’s the rumblings of a backlash against the politicians who have been bought by the gas industry and have chosen to sacrifice Ohio in return.

Those rumblings will become an uproar next month when we take over the streets and statehouse in Columbus to tell Gov. Kasich: Don’t Frack Ohio! at a rally on Sunday, June 17.

The industry has told Ohioans to prepare for thousands of new wells. Here are some of the worst things about SB 315 that you need to know:

  • Fracking companies can hide which chemicals they use in the fracking process by calling them “trade secrets.” What little they do disclose is 60 days after ...
Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012
As gambling becomes widespread, clearly more of the money comes from locals.

 

A surprising fact: Gamblers spent more last year at commercial casinos in Indiana than they did at non-Indian casinos in all but three other states — not surprisingly, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The 11 casinos and two racinos (horse racing tracks with slots) are the Hoosier State's third-largest source of tax revenues.

Cleary, the idea that gambling is sinful has vanished in much of the heartland — Iowa has 18 casinos — and increasingly on the coasts. Or let's just say that the immorality attached to the activity and to preying on the working class, lonely elders and other vulnerable groups that flock to casinos has faded before the god of lower taxes. But that easy-come of living off gamblers seems to be vanishing as nearby states get in on the action.

Indiana has relied on attracting players from neighboring Kentucky and Ohio. Kentucky still doesn't allow casinos, but Ohio has succumbed. The Horseshoe ...

Published: Saturday 12 May 2012
“Apparently, no one had sent the president the memo that charter schools are hugely controversial, particularly with teachers.”

It was Teacher Appreciation Week this week. Unfortunately, someone forgot the appreciation part.

 

President Obama, for one, kicked off the week by proclaiming that from now on the week would also (instead?) be forever known as National Charter Schools Week.

 

Declaring charters to be "incubators of innovations," the president praised charter schools for having "brought new ideas to the work of educating our sons and daughters."

 

Apparently, no one had sent the president the memo that charter schools are hugely controversial, particularly with teachers.

 

What's "Innovative" About Charter Schools?

 

In fact, the week before the president exuded about charter schools, a new study was presented by the National Education Policy Center revealing that one "innovation" that large charter school franchises definitely can not claim is cost savings.

 

The study looked at the per-pupil spending of charter schools operated by major charter management organizations (CMOs) in New York City, Texas and Ohio with district schools and found that many high profile charter network schools outspend district schools of similar size, serving the same grade levels and similar student populations.

 

But probably teachers' biggest beef with charter schools is that they don't have to play by the same rules that public schools do, while they ...

Published: Friday 11 May 2012
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: Tuesday 6 March 2012
Published: Thursday 1 March 2012
Local and national activists groups, along with the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, put intense pressure on Midwest Generation to shut the plants down.

Today was a big milestone for people who care about public health and a livable climate. Two utilities announced the planned closure of nine coal plants in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, bringing total retirements (executed and planned) since January 2010 past the 100 mark to 106.

Today was a big milestone for people who care about public health and a livable climate. Two utilities announced the planned closure of nine coal plants in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, bringing total retirements (executed and planned) since January 2010 past the 100 mark to 106.

Two plants ...

Published: Saturday 25 February 2012
“Human rights’ advocates rightly point out that solitary confinement is designed to break down people mentally. Because of that, prolonged solitary confinement is internationally recognized as a form of torture.”

Today US Army Private Bradley Manning is to be formally charged with numerous crimes at Fort Meade, Maryland.   Manning, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by members of the Icelandic Parliament, is charged with releasing hundreds of thousands of documents exposing secrets of the US government to the whistleblower website Wikileaks. These documents exposed lies, corruption and crimes by the US and other countries.  The Bradley Manning defense team points out accurately that much of what was published by Wikileaks was either not actually secret or should not have been secret.

The Manning prosecution is a tragic miscarriage of justice.  US officials are highly embarrassed by what Manning exposed and are shooting the messenger.  As Glen Greenwald, the terrific Salon writer, has observed, President Obama has prosecuted more whistleblowers for espionage than all other presidents combined.

One of the most outrageous parts of the treatment of Bradley Manning is that the US kept him in illegal and torturous solitary confinement conditions for months at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia.  Keeping Manning in solitary confinement sparked challenges from many groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and the New York Times. 

Human rights’ advocates rightly point out that solitary confinement is designed to break down people mentally.  Because of that, prolonged solitary confinement is internationally recognized as a form of torture.  The conditions and practices of isolation are in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention against Torture, and the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination.

Medical experts say that after 60 days in solidary peoples’ mental state begins to break down.  That means a person will start to experience panic, anxiety, confusion, ...

Published: Monday 16 January 2012
“We honor King today by opposing the new push for right-to-work laws in Northern states and by campaigning to overturn the right-to-work laws passed decades ago by the Jim Crow legislatures of Southern states that were determined to prevent the arc of history from bending toward justice.”

When the Congress of Industrial Organizations launched “Operation Dixie” in the aftermath of World War II, with the goal not just of organizing unions in the states of the old Confederacy but of ending Jim Crow discrimination, Southern segregationists moved immediately to establish deceptively named “right-to-work” laws.

These measures were designed to make it dramatically harder for workers to organize unions and for labor organizations to advocate for workers on the job site or for social change in their communities and states.

In short order, all the states that had seceded from the Union in order to maintain slavery had laws designed to prevent unions from fighting against segregation. The strategy worked. Southern states have far weaker unions than Northern states, and labor struggles have been far more bitter and violent in the South than in other parts of the country. It was in a right-to-work state, Tennessee, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while supporting the struggle of African-American sanitation workers to organize a union and have it recognized by the ...

Published: Thursday 5 January 2012
Recess appointments are common ways for presidents to install nominees the Senate won’t confirm.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that President Obama’s 2012 election strategy would feature a White House battle against an unpopular and intransigent Congress.

Today, the administration fired the first shot. Obama announced this morning his intention to use a recess appointment to nominate Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the new regulatory agency that was created by the Dodd-Frank legislation but has been leaderless since the summer because of Republican obstruction in the Senate. “Today, I am appointing Richard as America’s consumer watchdog,” Obama said at a raucous event in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with Cordray at his side.

Recess appointments are common ways for presidents to install nominees the Senate won’t confirm. So common, in fact, that Republicans took pre-emptive measures and wouldn’t allow Congress to actually go on recess during this break—they held meaningless “pro forma” sessions at least every three days, where the session would be gaveled in and then gaveled out just as quickly.

But Obama went ahead and nominated Cordray anyhow. While the Justice Department under Bill Clinton said that Congress must be out of session for three days in order for a recess appointment to be valid, the White House rationale is that the entire pro-forma maneuvering is a “gimmick,” in the words of White House communications director Dan Pfieffer, and no such three-day timeframe exists.

As Ian ...

Published: Saturday 10 December 2011
“For decades, the Koch brothers and their foundation have funded ALEC and other groups that are now driving the attack on voting rights in states across the country.”

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch finally got their way in 2011. After their decades of funding the American Legislative Exchange Council, the collaboration between multinational corporations and conservative state legislators, the project began finally to yield the intended result.

For the first time in decades, the United States saw a steady dismantling of the laws, regulations, programs and practices put in place to make real the promise of American democracy.

That is why, on Saturday, civil rights groups and their allies will rally outside the New York headquarters of the Koch brothers to begin a march for the renewal of voting rights in America.

For the Koch brothers and their kind, less democracy is better. They fund campaigns with millions of dollars in checks that have helped elect the likes of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich. And ALEC has made it clear, through its ambitious “ READ FULL POST 24 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 21 November 2011
“Occupy Wall Street has already won its first victory its own way - in Ohio, when voters repealed Republican governor John Kasich’s law to slash bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers and gut what remained of organized labor’s political power.”

No headlines announced it. No TV pundits called it. But on the evening of November 8th, Occupy Wall Street, the populist uprising built on economic justice and corruption-free politics that’s spread like a lit match hitting a trail of gasoline, notched its first major political victory, and in the unlikeliest of places: Ohio.

You might have missed OWS's win amid the recent wave of Occupy crackdowns. Police raided Occupy Denver, Occupy Salt Lake City, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Portland, and Occupy Seattle in a five-day span. Hundreds were arrested. And then, in the early morning hours on Tuesday, New York City police descended on Occupy Wall Street itself, fists flying and riot shields at the ready, with orders from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to evict the protesters. Later that day, a judge ruled that they couldn't rebuild their young community, dealing a blow to the Occupy protest that inspired them all.

Instead of simply condemning the eviction, many pundits and columnists

Published: Thursday 10 November 2011
“The Republican/Tea Party moment of 2010 was just that: a moment. The new politics of 2011 is progressive.”

A year after Republican politicians and their media echo chamber claimed that Americans had—with the GOP “wave” election of November, 2010—embraced conservative economic, social and political values, the voters of November, 2011 chose to:

1. Renew Labor Rights.

Ohio voters rejected Governor John Kasich’s assault on collective bargaining protections and public employee unions by an overwhelming 61–39 vote. Said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, “Ohio’s working people successfully fought back against lies pushed by shadowy multi-national corporations and their anonymous front groups that attempted to scapegoat public service employees and everyone they serve by assaulting collective bargaining rights.” The result was not just a win for organized labor. It was a rejection of the crude politics of austerity that would balance budgets in the backs of working families in oder to reward CEO and banksters. “Ohioans from all backgrounds and political parties rejected the crazy notion that the 99 percent—nurses, bridge inspectors, firefighters and social workers—caused the economic collapse, rather than Wall Street.” said Trumka.

2. Reject ...

Published: Tuesday 8 November 2011
Published: Tuesday 8 November 2011
Frustrated Americans now have decided to use the polls to spell out their frustration.

Americans who are frustrated with the broken politics of the moment will have plenty of opportunities to Occupy the Polls on Tuesday.

That’s what happened in Boulder, Colorado, last week, when voters shook things up by backing a referendum proposal that calls on Congress to enact a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision that corporations can spend as they choose to buy elections. The same election saw Boulder voters endorse a plan to end the city’s reliance on private power companies and replace them with a public utility.

There are big issues, big races and big tests of the political potency of organized labor, social movements and progressive politics playing out this Tuesday, on the busiest election day of 2011. In some cases, voting offers an opportunity to make an affirmative statement on behalf of a change in priorities. In other cases, there are opportunities to push back against bad politics and bad policies. In still others, there are signals to be sent about the politics of 2012.

Here are some of the big races to keep an eye on Tuesday:

1. OHIO REFERENDUM TO RENEW LABOR RIGHTS

READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 7 November 2011
“On Friday, across Ohio, county boards of elections shut down early voting for next Tuesday’s election. They did so on orders from Secretary of State Jon Husted.”

When Mitt Romney’s dad was a candidate for president back in the 1960s, Republicans competed on the strength of their personalities and ideas.

It was the same when Newt Gingrich was an up-and-coming Republican leader in the 1980s and the early 1990s.

But no more?

Republicans have a new strategy for competing in tight elections.

They cheat.

In Ohio this fall, the party faces a serious challenge. Republican Governor John Kasich, a GOP “star” for the better part of three decades, has staked his political fortunes on an attempt to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees while undermining the ability of their unions to function.

The move has proven to be massively unpopular. More than 1.3 million Ohioans signed petitions that forced a referendum on whether to implement the anti-labor law. Polls show that Ohioans are ready to do just that when they weigh in on referendum Issue 2.

But Ohio’s Republican secretary of state is trying to make it a whole lot harder for Ohioans to cast those votes.

On Friday, across Ohio, county boards of elections shut down early voting for next Tuesday’s election. They did so on orders from Secretary of State Jon Husted. A Republican stalwart, Husted served as the party’s legislative point man (rising to the rank of Ohio House Speaker), co-chaired GOP campaigns (including that of 2008 presidential candidate John McCain) and has been closely tied to national conservative groups working on issues such as school choice and privatization. While serving in the legislature, Husted was allied with the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, which has been promoting Voter ID laws and other rule changes designed to suppress ...

Published: Thursday 6 October 2011
Bruce Colburn: “One thing you can say, there WILL be a recall of Scott Walker in Wisconsin this year.”

A highlight of yesterday’s conference was a breakout panel on the legendary movements in Wisconsin and Ohio, which have inspired thousands across the country to stand up and fight back.

Featured speakers included John Nichols of The Nation magazine; president of the Wisconsin State Firefighters Union, Mahlon Mitchell; Mike Pyne of the United Steel Workers; Doug Burnett of AFSCME; Courtney Fully from United Food and Commercial Workers; Bruce Colburn from SEIU; Mary Bell from Wisconsin Education Association Council; and social media guru Scott Goodstein.

 

The panel opened with Mahlon Mitchell, who recounted the events ...

Published: Thursday 15 September 2011
After interrogating and strip-searching the three passengers, the FBI determined hours later that “there was no real threat,” excusing the wildly disproportionate response by stating, “The public would rather us err on the side of caution than not.”

On the same day the country gathered together to recognize the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launched two F-16 jets to tail a Frontier Airlines flight from Denver after the crew reported “suspicious activity on board.” That “activity”? The existence of three dark-skinned passengers. Two Indian men and one self-described “half-Arab, half-Jewish housewife” from Ohio — all unknown to each other — made the mistake of boarding a plane on Sept. 11, 2011.

After the crew reported that two people had spent “an extraordinarily long time” in the bathroom, the jets escorted the plane to its destination in Detroit, Michigan. Then, according to reports and the “half-Arab, half-Jewish housewife” Shoshana Hebshi, a SWAT team of about 10 police boarded the plane with machine guns and three dogs, approached Hebshi and the men’s aisle, handcuffed them, and escorted them off the plane:

Before I knew it,  READ FULL POST 10 COMMENTS
Published: Thursday 11 August 2011
Protestors showed up in numbers at Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office in West Chester, Ohio to demand that the Speaker actually start focusing on jobs rather than partisan bickering in Washington.

Protestors showed up in numbers at Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office in West Chester, Ohio to demand that the Speaker actually start focusing on jobs rather than partisan bickering in Washington. Staffers locked the door and even refused to allow protestors to send two people in to give their message directly to Boehner or his staff. When they were informed that Boehner was at a country club fundraiser, the protestors departed for the golf course soiree in nearby Dublin, Ohio. (Inside the fundraiser, donors were reportedly given golf balls with Nancy Pelosi’s face printed on them.) The protesters were told “Boehner chooses not to come out”, and police were called to shoo the protesters away.

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