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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 74,128

Journal Archives

John Nichols: How ALEC Is Creating Florida-Style Messes In Other States

from The Nation:

How ALEC Is Creating Florida-Style Messes In Other States
John Nichols on March 26, 2012 - 12:18 PM ET

Wisconsin is a rod-and-gun state, with a hunting history that has fostered traditions of broad gun ownership and respect for the right to bear arms.

So how did Wisconsin get saddled with a “Castle Doctrine” law that mirrors some of the worst aspects of the Florida legislation that's now at the center of the controversy over the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Not because sportsmen and women, law enforcement officers, legal scholars or grassroots citizens decided Wisconsin should borrow bad ideas from distant states.

Wisconsin has a "Castle Doctrine" law because the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded group that aligns special-interest organizations and corporate donors with pliable legislators, made the Florida law "model legislation." Then ALEC-aligned political insiders such as Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, a national ALEC task-force member, and Governor Scott Walker, an ALEC alumnus, introduced, passed and signed “Castle Doctrine” legislation -- despite warnings from Wisconsin law enforcement leaders and responsible gun owners that it was a poor fit for the state. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thenation.com/blog/167041/how-alec-creating-florida-style-messes-other-states

Cash for Cameron: Eat, drink and be lobbied

from the Independent UK:

As I read the news that Prime Minister David Cameron was allegedly available for dinner with donors in return for large sums of money, an affair snappily hashtagged on Twitter as cashforcameron, I did so with a curious absence of shock. I write “curious” since the news was being described as though it should drop every reader’s jaw; but I am struggling to think of a less startling revelation than this. It is a thoroughly unscandalous scandal.

Perhaps my lack of shock had something to do with where I was when this story first broke. I was in New York, a city which feels like that best friend you don’t see often enough. I spoke there with some people who had driven up from Washington D.C. for the weekend, who spoke matter-of-factly about the huge role played by Beltway lobbyists in the shaping of Government policy.

Maybe it was this context that caused me to shrug my shoulders when I saw #cashforcameron. I don’t know. What I do know is that I find it very hard to believe that there are many, if any politicians genuinely shocked by allegations that a Prime Minister would sell his time to wealthy bidders. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/03/26/cash-for-cameron-eat-drink-and-be-lobbied/

$1 Trillion plus for new fighter jets?

by Cora Currier
ProPublica, March 23, 2012, 4:05 p.m.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the Pentagon’s big plan for future warplanes — it’s slated to replace nearly all of the other tactical jets in the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. But getting there is going to be slow and expensive, as a new government report details.

The JSF program is a massively expensive undertaking. It has cost the government $400 billion to date, and is estimated to run more than $1 trillion to develop, buy and support nearly 2,500 aircraft through 2050.

A major problem, according to the Government Accountability Office report, is that the program is charging ahead with procurement while testing is still in progress. As Michael Sullivan, one of the report’s authors, told Congress, “the manufacturing processes are just never able to get stable because there's so much information coming in from testing and so many engineering changes that are going on.” ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.propublica.org/article/why-pentagons-new-fighter-jet-will-cost-more-than-1-trillion

Britain’s Tea Party Budget

from Dissent magazine:

Britain’s Tea Party Budget
Michael Harris - March 23, 2012 12:15 pm

The government of the United Kingdom’s annual budget is set during a moment of pure political pantomime. While drinking an alcoholic drink, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (akin to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury) stands in the chamber of the House of Commons and reads out a list of statistics and figures meant to illustrate his command over the nation’s finances. Under the previous Labour government, Chancellor Gordon Brown’s set speech would be a marathon list of additional public spending. Yet times have changed. The fiscal restraint promised at the beginning of Britain’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government has morphed into a budget that would please grassroots Tea Party activists—with huge cuts to welfare to pay for a tax cut for the richest 1 percent of UK earners. The wildest fantasies of the Tea Party movement are being implemented across the Atlantic, in a chilling warning for U.S. progressives.

George Osborne, Britain’s current Chancellor of the Exchequer, leaked almost the entirety of his speech in advance. Even so, the details have been truly shocking. Pensioners, children, and welfare claimants will all be hit to pay for tax breaks for the richest 1 percent. There will be a cut in the top tax rate (on incomes over £150,000, or about $235,000) from 50 percent to 45 percent and big cuts in corporate taxes. Middle-class pensioners will lose nearly $500 a year, and the 18 million people in the UK on some form of welfare (usually lower-income families) will lose $800 each. On average, workers earning $30,000 will lose $300 in welfare, with single parents working up to sixteen hours a week losing a staggering $6,300.

Yet Britain’s millionaire bankers will pocket nearly $70,000 a year each in tax breaks, and the corporate sector will see its tax rate fall from 28 percent to 22 percent by the end of this parliament—18 percent lower than the United States, 16 percent lower than Japan, 12 percent below France, and 8 percent below Germany. This is the total tax rate—there are no state corporate taxes in the UK.

Before the budget, the coalition’s mantra that “we’re all in this together” was found to be wanting. The previous budgets redistributed income away from the poorest 10 percent of the population. They lost out more than any other group—except the very richest. The graph below was produced before the top tax rate was cut from 50 to 45 percent. With the reduction, it’s likely that the poorest are paying the most for the economic crisis. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/atw.php?id=716

Chris Hedges: The Polite Conference Rooms Where Liberties Are Saved and Lost

from truthdig:

The Polite Conference Rooms Where Liberties Are Saved and Lost

Posted on Mar 26, 2012
By Chris Hedges

I spent four hours in a third-floor conference room at 86 Chambers St. in Manhattan on Friday as I underwent a government deposition. Benjamin H. Torrance, an assistant U.S. attorney, carried out the questioning as part of the government’s effort to decide whether it will challenge my standing as a plaintiff in the lawsuit I have brought with others against President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), also known as the Homeland Battlefield Bill.

The NDAA implodes our most cherished constitutional protections. It permits the military to function on U.S. soil as a civilian law enforcement agency. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to selectively suspend due process and habeas corpus for citizens. The law can be used to detain people deemed threats to national security, including dissidents whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, and hold them until what is termed “the end of the hostilities.” Even the name itself—the Homeland Battlefield Bill—suggests the totalitarian concept that endless war has to be waged within “the homeland” against internal enemies as well as foreign enemies.

Judge Katherine B. Forrest, in a session starting at 9 a.m. Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, will determine if I have standing and if the case can go forward. The attorneys handling my case, Bruce Afran and Carl Mayer, will ask, if I am granted standing, for a temporary injunction against the Homeland Battlefield Bill. An injunction would, in effect, nullify the law and set into motion a fierce duel between two very unequal adversaries—on the one hand, the U.S. government and, on the other, myself, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, the Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir and three other activists and journalists. All have joined me as plaintiffs and begun to mobilize resistance to the law through groups such as Stop NDAA.

The deposition was, as these things go, conducted civilly. Afran and Mayer, the attorneys bringing the suit on my behalf, were present. I was asked detailed questions by Torrance about my interpretation of Section 1021 and Section 1022 of the NDAA. I was asked about my relationships and contacts with groups on the U.S. State Department terrorism list. I was asked about my specific conflicts with the U.S. government when I was a foreign correspondent, a period in which I reported from El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Middle East, the Balkans and other places. And I was asked how the NDAA law had impeded my work. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_polite_conference_rooms_where_liberties_are_saved_and_lost_20120326/

Working Like a Dog

LA’s Westside Subway is Practically Ready for Construction, But Its Completion Could be 25 Years Off

from the Transport Politic blog:

L.A.’s Westside Subway is Practically Ready for Construction, But Its Completion Could be 25 Years Off

Of the nation’s public transportation improvement projects, Los Angeles’ Westside Subway is one of the most important: It would offer an alternative option for tens of thousands of daily riders and speed travel times by up to 50% compared to existing transit trips. It would serve one of the nation’s densest and most jobs-rich urban corridors and in doing so take a major step forward towards making L.A. a place where getting around without a car is comfortable.

L.A. County’s transit provider, Metro, released the final environmental impact statement for the 8.9-mile Westside Subway project last week, providing the most up-to-date details on a multi-billion-dollar scheme that is expected to enter the construction phase next year. The project received a positive review by the Federal Transit Administration in the Obama Administration’s FY 2013 budget, and it is likely to receive a full-funding grant agreement from Washington later this year. Local revenue sources generated by taxes authorized over the years by voters will cover the majority of the project’s cost.

But questions about the project’s completion timeline remain unanswered: Will L.A. have to rely on conventional sources of financing, or be able to take advantage of federally-backed loans to speed construction?

In addition, the project’s specific plans for station construction suggest that there are opportunities to improve station layout and do more to develop land around certain stops. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2012/03/25/l-a-s-westside-subway-is-practically-ready-for-construction-but-its-completion-could-be-25-years-off/

Bill Moyers Essay: The Dangerous Road of Wishful Thinking

Bill Moyers counsels President Obama not to look at America through the rose-colored glasses of people -- like Robert Kagan -- led by political opportunity and wishful thinking, but by those -- like Andrew Bacevich -- who see the world as it truly is, and are best poised to make it better.

Balancing the budget on students' backs

Balancing the budget on students' backs
Classes cut in middle of term at CCSF

By Michelle Schudel
March 25, 2012

City College of San Francisco recently experienced an unexpected $149 million shortfall in the middle of its school year. The Board of Trustees' reaction to the shortfall was to cut nearly 100 classes, many of which had been in session for weeks.

Students whose classes were cut now cannot use those credits to graduate, and are forced to sell back their books for less than half of what they paid for them, without any increases in their financial aid, while tuition and fees are being increased. Even with fewer classes to teach, the Board of Trustees still increased the number of instructor furlough days—up to a total of 15.

CCSF is the least expensive publicly funded college in San Francisco that provides both vocational training/certificate education and transfer education for the poorest students in the Bay Area. The state of California's attack on CCSF's funding sends the message to the most vulnerable students that the state does not want them to go to college and has no interest in seeing them with more than low-wage, low-skilled jobs. ...................(more)

THe complete piece is at: http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/balancing-the-budget-on.html

City Fruit: Guerrilla Grafting

from Civil Eats:

City Fruit: Guerrilla Grafting

March 23rd, 2012
By Patricia Larenas

San Francisco will experience an unexpected windfall of free fruit thanks to a group of graft-happy gardeners. They call themselves the Guerrilla Grafters, and their vision is to see the trees lining the city streets begin to produce perfectly edible food. When I interviewed one of the Guerrilla Grafters recently, I learned that it’s not all about the grafting.

I discovered that Tara (last name withheld to protect her privacy), an early member of the Guerrilla Grafters, cares deeply about the society in which we live and our relationship with public spaces. We had interesting and engaging chat via Skype, and she explained what’s behind their efforts to crowd-source caring for fruiting trees in public spaces.

Let Them Eat Fruit

The Guerrilla Grafters are splicing productive branches onto the city’s non-fruiting ornamental trees and transforming them into fruit bearing trees. They’re methodically repurposing the city’s once strictly ornamental apple, cherry, and pear trees as food producers.

Why didn’t the city plant fruit producing trees in the first place? It seems that fruit trees in urban centers are undesirable since they attract rodents and because of the potential for rotting fruit littering the sidewalks. The Guerrilla Grafters have a solution to those concerns: they only graft trees that have caretakers who commit to their proper upkeep. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://civileats.com/2012/03/23/interview-with-a-guerrilla-grafter/

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