Article 43


Friday, March 30, 2012

Crisis Congress Continues

By Rep Keith Ellison
The Nation
March 29, 2012

On March 31 the current funding for the nations authority to spend money on our transportation needs will run out. This means major roadway and transit improvement projects will be stalled for the foreseeable future and billions of dollars in potential job-creation will be jeopardized, according to transportation officials. Republicans, obsessed with their anti-government ideology, can’t even agree among themselves, and it is costing everyone else. Sadly, it aint the first time.

The REPUBLICAN leadership could have decided to take up Senate legislation which would extend transportation funding for two years. Instead, the House had planned to consider a three-month extension that transportation advocates say could endanger capital improvement programs because transportation agencies won’t be able to plan long-term budgets. As of Wednesday morning they were no closer to a solution.

The last 400-plus days of House Republican rule have been like riding a bumpy road littered with shattered policies that ironically resemble broken down vehicles on a highway. The GOPs transportation bill crisis suggests a trend that is just the latest in a long string of crises that have only damaged our economy and - to some degree - our standing in the world. Worse yet, their serial crises display a philosophy toward government that has nothing to do with actual governing. Instead of actually working to solve problems the GOP is pursuing an ideological agenda that is nothing less than legislative malpractice.

For example, GOP leaders allowed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to go into a partial shutdown at few months ago. That stunt cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion, prevented airport construction, and stalled the FAA’s plans to modernize airports for the entire month of August. In the state of Minnesota alone this failure held up more than 1,200 jobs and caused a loss of $36 million in airport construction. THE REASON? Republicans wanted to prevent Americans who work for the airline industry from organizing a union. 

And who can forget the debt ceiling debacle the GOP caused last August? After decades of approving Presidents requests to increase the debt ceiling and pay incurred debts, Republicans tried to score ideological points by tying the vote to deficit reduction measures. This had never been done before and the cynical action brought America to the brink of defaulting on its debts.  The result? Standard & Poors downgraded the United States’ credit rating citing its lack of political will to resolve its budget issues. It doesn’t seem like this downgrade will permanently hurt the US but guess who would have suffered from the high interest rates and other calamities of a credit default? Yes, the middle class.

No person and no party is 100 percent correct 100 percent of the time. But it’s clear that Democrats make honest attempts to resolve real, systemic problems. The Dodd-Frank financial reform bill is designed to prevent the Wall Street abuses that led to the 2008 housing crisis. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) has given 100 million people more control over their health decisions by forcing insurance companies to cover people who have pre-existing conditions.  Insurance companies also cant cancel a person’s policy once they get sick.

No matter what one may think about the substance of the Dodd-Frank bill or the Affordable Care Act, these are honest attempts to solve real problems. Yet, weve gone from one crisis to another because the Republican caucus ignores problems that have deadlines, such as the debt ceiling and basic annual spending plans. Let’s not even discuss the long-term problems that will eventually have to be solved like long-term health care, our crumbling infrastructure, Social Security, Medicare. Their “solution” is to end Medicare, PRIVATIZE social security, and ignore infrastructure, education, and long-term care.

The ugly open secret (ok, the “elephant in the room") is that this ridiculous pseudo-governing strategy is prone to crisis. In fact, they have already laid another political landmine set to go off this fall by undercutting spending projections in the Budget Control Act. We could be heading for another potential government shutdown. In fact, each time weve had total or partial government shutdowns Republicans had decision-making authority.

If your philosophy says that government should be too small to matter or government doesn’t work, then you decide to ensure it doesn’t work. So there really is no surprise that under this particular brand of Republicanism we are the Crisis Congress.


Posted by Elvis on 03/30/12 •
Section Dying America
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Global War On Drugs


The United Nations’ Disappointing Failure to Address Drug Policy Alternatives

By James Gierach
March 23, 2012

As a former prosecutor and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Ive been heartened by the recent and sudden global awakening to the failure of the war on drugs.

Several sitting Latin American presidents, members of the U.S. Congress and even televangelist Pat Robertson have all said recently that its time to seriously consider options like legalization.

So you can imagine that I was cautiously optimistic that alternatives to prohibition would at least be discussed at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) meeting held in Vienna last week, which I and several other LEAP members attended.

But it wasn’t in the cards.

Despite hearing supportive comments from delegates during one-on-one conversations in the halls of the UN building, not a single one of them spoke up during the official sessions to question the efficacy of global prohibition.

Forgetting for a moment the bold anti-prohibition comments from the presidents of Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico and other countries in recent weeks, observing the official sessions of the CND meeting would lead you to believe that every Member State of the U.N. is completely in support of the current path of drug-prohibition policy.

While totally avoiding of the central issue of drug policy - whether prohibiting drugs is a good idea - delegates spent several days engaging in bland and uninspired discussions of drug-war-cheerleading resolutions like one introduced by the U.S. to reaffirm the three U.N. prohibition drug treaties and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Hague Opium Convention.  Delegates proposed amendments and the discussions regarding those amendments dealt almost exclusively with form rather than substance.

Disturbingly, the U.N. preaches and teaches the importance of a “single and unified voice” that operates to stifle thought, discussion and debate, making the process look more like a totalitarian process rather than a democratic one. A democratic process invites the expression of divergent opinions, beliefs and strategies, and does not dictate a “party line.”

The core and threshold issue facing the delegates and the world is whether or not the world should continue the failed U.N. prohibition treaties and policies.  Woefully, that discussion is stymied and everything is discussed but the elephant in the room.  These anemic discussions clearly foreshadowed the conference conclusion that reaffirmed the status quo, despite the reports by the U.N. Secretariat reporting the deplorable world situation with regard to drug abuse and drug trafficking, and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) executive directorԒs report detailing a myriad of expensive U.N.-run programs and anti-drug efforts made around the world.  Those latter efforts were to cost $1.036 billion for the biennium 2012-2013 budget period, or approximately $500 million per year.  And this accounts for just the programs run by the U.N. itself, excluding the multi-billion dollar expenditures that individual nations make on an annual basis waging the war on drugs.

In ramming through the status quo drug policies, the discussion of the CND and UNODC officials, delegates and even some NGOs, often repeat the same party-line expressions such as the phrase “evidenced-based treatment,” “evidenced-based incarceration alternatives” and “evidenced-based drug solutions” but the evidence overwhelmingly indicts current drug policies and cloaks it with immunity.

People will little note nor long remember what was said in Vienna last week, because the thought and content of the conversation avoided the heart of the worlds drug policy problem - prohibition, the cornerstone of the war on drugs.

Not only does the war on drugs not work for its intended purpose of saving people from themselves and drug use, but it also exacerbates most world crises. The world is fraught with too much violence, too much crime, too much addiction, too many overdose cases, too many prisons, too many bullet holes, too many AIDS cases, and too many bills related to prohibition. The war on drugs has proved to be public enemy number one, and yet comes and goes daily to Building M at the Vienna International Center, without the need for a delegate badge, and without question or scrutiny.

James Gierach, a board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a former prosecutor in Chicago.


Posted by Elvis on 03/24/12 •
Section General Reading
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Halo Effect


Looking for a job?

Getting your body in shape MAY HELP:

A new study finds that the attractiveness of interviewees can significantly bias outcome in hiring practices, showing a clear distinction between the attractive and average looking interviewees in terms of high and low status job packages offered.

When someone is viewed as attractive, they are often assumed to have a number of positive social traits and greater intelligence.

For MEN:

Female interviewers were found to allocate attractive looking male interviewees more high status job packages than the average looking men. Female interviewers also gave more high status job packages to attractive men than to attractive women.

A NICE TAN helps:

For men, a healthy skin tone may be more important than “manly” facial features in making them attractive to women


Posted by Elvis on 03/23/12 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Job Hunt
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Florida’s Unemployment January 2012


FLORIDA’s UNEMPLOYMENT went down to 9.6% last month.

Not all of us are jumping with joy.


The statewide unemployment rate dipped in January to 9.6 percent, its lowest level in almost three years. But the state’s job-creation machine appeared to seize up, at least momentarily, as Florida recorded a month-over-month loss of almost 39,000 jobs.

Besides having the FIFTH LOWEST UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION BENEFITS in the country, thanks to SAFETY-NET eroding Governor Rick Scott and his ASSAULT ON THE JOBLESS, unemployment benefits are CUT EVEN MORE this year:

The bill creates a sliding scale for benefits beginning in 2012 by correlating the maximum weeks of benefits available with the rate of unemployment. The maximum amount of benefits available is 23 weeks when the unemployment rate is 10.5 percent or greater, and this scales down to 12 weeks of benefits when the unemployment rate is 5 percent or less.

Speaking of Governor Scott and his PROMISE to create jobs, POLITIFACT REPORTS:

Yes, Florida’s unemployment rate dropped to 9.6 percent in January - its lowest point since March 2009.

But the news isn’t so great for Gov. Rick Scott, who made creating 700,000 jobs in seven years his top campaign promise.

The state created 77,100 jobs from January 2011 through January 2012. The number’s even lower 54,200 jobs - if you exclude the month Scott was sworn into office. Either measure is far short of the deal Scott made with voters who elected him in 2010, when he said he would create 700,000 jobs in seven years.

The 2011 net jobs created was really 115,700, according to revised data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And in January 2012, the state lost 38,600 nonfarm jobs the largest drop in the country.

To add insult to injury - lets say you sign a waiver and release not to sue your former company to get SEVERANCE pay.


Severance pay. The number of weeks that an individuals severance pay disqualifies the individual is equal to the amount of the severance pay divided by that individual’s average weekly wage received from the employer that paid the severance pay, rounded down to the nearest whole number, beginning with the week the individual is separated from employment.

Posted by Elvis on 03/21/12 •
Section General Reading
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Republican Redux 4


Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
- Frederick Douglass

Republicans to the Unemployed: You’re Lazy

By Donna Trussell
Huffington Post
June 23, 2010

Salt, meet wound. Wound being unemployment, and salt being the suggestion that the worst economy since the Great Depression was created by its powerless victims—the jobless.

Republicans, do tell: If so many jobs are ripe for plucking, explain the five applicants for every job. (Down from six a few months ago. Oh joy.)

WHY would anyone believe unemployment is voluntary when there is so much evidence to the contrary? The answer is surprisingly simple: Because that belief makes them feel good.

Life is not fair, we learned in childhood. Apparently we never got over it. The psychology term ”JUST-WORLD PHENOMENON” has been around for only half a century, but the practice of assuming people get what they deserve is not new. You can find examples in the poetry of Robert Browning and the Bible. 

And in politics. A shrewd politician can take advantage of the JUST-WORLD FALLACY, defined as:

The tendency for people to want to believe [in a just world] so strongly that when they witness an otherwise inexplicable injustice they will rationalize it by searching for things the victim might have done to deserve it. This deflects their anxiety, and lets them continue to believe the world is a just place, but often at the expense of blaming victims for things that were not, objectively, their fault.

Many a cancer survivor has encountered the just-world theory firsthand. I myself am a survivor, and from my own experience, I can recreate a typical conversation. It goes something like this: Does cancer run in your family? Were you under a lot of stress before your diagnosis? Do you think the years you lived in Houston had anything to do with it? Etc.

If you want to make your friend happy, you should answer yes, yes, and yes. That’s because 1) she’s not related to you, 2) she meditates every day, and 3) she never lived in Houston. Therefore she will not get cancer. She can then exile you to the land of “the other” and all is right with the world again.

So maybe there’s no science proving self-assurance wards off cancer any better than a voodoo incantation. Facts, schmacts! Feeling is what counts. She feels safer. If you feel worse, that’s your tough luck. Which you already have, obviously. In abundance. Due to some failure on your part.

Politicians love a just world, especially CONSERVATIVES. Take Sharron Angle, Republican candidate for senator of Nevada in the 2010 election.

Angle’s message has all the subtlety of a car-lot sales pitch. Her handlers have scrubbed her Web site, but thanks to technology, we have her words archived for all eternity. She can run (watch Angle trot away from reporter Nathan Baca as he asks what she meant by “Second Amendment remedy” to incumbent Senator Harry Reid), but she can’t hide.

During a speech, Angle was recorded saying, “We did those things growing up that Americans don’t do. We cleaned bathrooms and made beds. Swept floors. Did laundry.” But now, according to Angle, Americans won’t do those jobs, and unemployment benefits, specifically Harry Reid’s vote to extend them, are to blame.

You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job, but it doesn’t pay as much. And so that’s what’s happened to us is that we have put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry and said you don’t want the jobs that are available.

Angle caught some flack for that statement, so a week later she clarified:

I was criticized for saying that Americans won’t do certain jobs and the reason that they won’t do certain jobs is because they get more pay on unemployment than they can get to work those...those good jobs that are really out there. What has happened is Harry Reid has just extended unemployment and when he did that he not only made it so that people are less employable, but he makes it so that they want to be dependent on the government. This entitlement pays them more than getting a real job.

Sharron Sharron Sharron. Girl, I gotta ask: Who taught you how to backpedal? Cuz you suck at it. You’re supposed to neutralize your first comment, not reinforce it. If you can’t backpedal worth a damn, I predict your career in politics will be short and not at all sweet.

Ms. Angle continued:

Harry Reid is not thinking about real solutions. All he is doing is putting on these Band-aid fixes which is to extend unemployment. And when he does that, what happens is that he takes away the incentive to have a job because if you are making more on unemployment than you can if you go to work for Starbucks or some other place where they have a real job available, because you know that you can’t make as much as you are making on unemployment, you’ll stay on unemployment.

So the problem today is not too few jobs. The problem is unemployment benefits are too generous. How do you get people to work if they’re not starving and desperate? (I’ll bet slaveholders in the old South used to chaw tobacco over just such an issue.)

In 1971 average weekly wages were about $331. Some 30 years later the average wage had dropped to $277. And that was 2004, prior to the current recession, which has further decimated the average worker’s earnings.

Where’s the Republican outrage on the minimum wage losing buying power? On the off-shoring of good jobs? On the huge increases in the cost of health care and college tuition? Instead of eliminating the few safety nets we possess, why not reverse course on policies that have, for decades, chipped away at the middle class in favor of banks, big business and the wealthy?

Not likely. It’s easier to assume losers never really wanted to win in the first place. Or didn’t deserve to win.

Which brings us back to the just-world theory. Says the Markula Center for Applied Ethics:

When we encounter evidence suggesting that the world is not just, we quickly act to restore justice by helping the victim or we persuade ourselves that no injustice has occurred. We either lend assistance or we decide that the rape victim must have asked for it, the homeless person is simply LAZY, the fallen star must be an adulterer. These attitudes are continually reinforced in the ubiquitous fairy tales, fables, comic books, cop shows and other morality tales of our culture, in which good is always rewarded and evil punished....The belief in a just world may take the place of a genuine commitment to justice.

Hear ye, Republicans! The unemployed are not lazy. It’s you who are intellectually lazy. Or—even worse—you understand. You know that most of the people losing jobs and homes in these terrible times did nothing wrong whatsoever. You simply don’t care.



Republicans Implode; Im uneasy

By Saul Landau
Progresso Weekly
March 14, 2012

I smiled weakly when liberal Democrat friends guffawed last week over verbal foibles of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

It was sort of funny when Romney said: Michigans trees are just the right height,” and” I Have Some Friends Who Are NASCAR Team Owners.” And his wife drives a couple of Cadillac’s. Both at the same time?

Romney, yearly income of $42.7 million, joked with unemployed workers in Florida last June that he, too, was also un-employed.

Santorum’s attack on the dead Kennedy struck me as less than hilarious. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religious equality in the White House, RICK SAID, “made me want to throw up.”

Newt (Lunacy) Gingrich and his moon colony? Not funny. One wit dismissed Gingrich as a squeezed pimple with “the pus forming at the top of his head (white hair).”

Then came Limbaugh who offered a startling description of Georgetown University law student SANDRA FLUKE. Denied the right to testify before Congressman Darrell Issas House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on “Womens Access to Birth Control,” Fluke then addressed a Democratic Steering and Policy Committee session about common concerns among women. Fluke said women needed access to contraception (now very costly). Some states want to outlaw it. She demanded medical insurance cover the costs.

“What does that make her?” asked Limbaugh on his radio show. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception.”

Rush said since his tax money would pay for her sex he wanted her to watch videos of her having sex online.

On March 3, Rush apologized on air for his name-calling. “My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

Then Rush complimented himself on his 20 years of illustrating the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, “I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.”

Then he went on to un-apologize. “I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit?”

Rush apologized again and lost more sponsors. Some stations have dropped his show. All hes got left are 15 million listeners, far more than any liberal radio or TV personality.

Limbaugh personifies “extremist Republicanism” which has become just Republicanism. His insulting of women cost him sponsors, but it also underlined themes of the major Republican candidates: against contraception, abortion, gay marriage. This, liberals logically deduced, should cost the Republicans the election in November.

Not so fast! Since October, Obama’s job-approval rating has oozed upward, but remains under 50%. On key issues like health care and the economy, the majority disapproves of his performance.

A late February Gallup/USA Today poll had swing-state voters choosing Romney over Obama. In strategic states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Iowa, Obama has difficulty moving to the 50% mark. And 60% claim the country is “on the wrong track.” (Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg News, March 6)

In 2008, McCain and Palin amassed almost 60 million votes. Not all of those who cast Republican ballots were men who thought loading the dishwasher meant getting their wives drunk; or who signed up their four year olds for lifetime NRA membership.

The political core issue - “who gets what from the budget” - has devolved into social issues. Republicans stress the biblical virtues of owning endless amounts of guns; saying no to climate change; making abortion a capital crime; erasing affirmative action, and eliminating activist (liberal) judges.

Republican candidates encourage low-income supporters to focus on the peripheral, not on their own core interests. Try to imagine adults living on less than $2 per person per day Ӕ almost 1.5 million, and 2.8 million children and listening to Republicans debate! (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities March 5)

Comedy? Insanity? Or read the sub-text: - save our white country from that African-born, snobby socialist and his commie Jew advisers. (Gingrich calls Obama the “food stamp president,” who had a guru named Saul Alinsky, a Hebrew resonating name indicating communist tendencies. (In fact, AlinskyӔs biggest backer was the Catholic Bishop of Chicago.)

The preachers of peripheral focus have somehow twisted the minds of tens of millions of low-income Republican voters to demand the government stay out of their Social Security and Medicare.

Republican apparatchiks have also reduced Democratic registration on voter rolls in strategic places. Phony voter ID rules and other scams abound. On Tuesday March 6, polling station officials turned away a former Democratic Tennessee Congressman and his wife because of an order from the Republican Secretary of State. Such hanky panky leads to fewer Democratic voters; the Romney-Santorum chances rise. The February-March verbal screw-ups will fade from national memory as will Rush The Real Republican Limbaughs misogyny. Gas prices? Economic downturn? War? Don’t count on a Democratic landslide or even an Obama victory. It will require lots of work.


Republican Redux
[1] - [2] - [3] - [4] - [5] - [6] - [7] - [8] - [9] - [10] - [11] - [12] - [13] - [14]

Posted by Elvis on 03/18/12 •
Section Dying America
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