Category Archives: Law

The New Union Busting Tactic…Just Drown ’em in Paperwork…

union.jpg

Who is Grover Norquist? He is a GOP hack conservative anti-union lobbyist and President of the tax lobbying group, Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist, along with Bill Kristol, Ralph E. Reed, Jr., Clint Bolick and David McIntosh is one of the so-called “Gang of Five” identified in Nina Easton‘s 2000 book by that name, which gives a history of leaders of the modern conservative movement.

They are all anti-union at their core of mud.  

Every dollar that is spent [by labor unions] on disclosure and reporting is a dollar that can’t be spent on other labor union activities.

Grover Norquist

Well, at least Grover was honest about his motivation for strangling labor unions, and a new in depth report from the Center For American Progress, shows that’s not the case with most of the partisan Republican hacks who have been directed by their corporate masters to drown unions in paperwork.

The CAP report details what all union officials already know. Over the past five or six years, the Bush Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards has systematically and dramatically increased the financial reporting burden faced by labor unions.  Now, no real unionist is opposed to transparency and sensible reporting – but the reporting requirements imposed by the Bush administration have little to do with transparency, and everything to do with forcing unions to waste time and money jumping through hoops.  

Here are some passages from the report: 

Lax regulatory enforcement, however, has not been a government-wide policy. In at least one instance, rigorous and in fact pernicious regulatory enforcement was the course chosen by the Bush administration. That instance involved the regulatory authorities of the U.S. Department of Labor under the Landrum Griffin Act aimed at improving the governance of the nation’s organized labor organizations.

Rather than relax these regulatory responsibilities, the Bush administration shoveled significantly more federal tax dollars into the department’s Office of Labor-Management Standards so that key political operatives in OLMS could expand and exercise regulatory authority to:

-Impose costly and confusing new reporting requirements
-Attempt to increase the number of criminal prosecutions
-Disclose the results to the public in seriously misleading ways
-Mis-characterize the published data through a variety of false analyses

The underlying purpose, of course, is to undermine the reputation of the labor union movement through a classic political misinformation campaign-all under the supervision of a lifelong partisan political operative whose career has been dedicated to the destruction of his political opponents.

Read the whole report here…

Make no mistake. Any conservative who says they are pro-union is lying to your face. I haven’t met a genuine conservative labor supporter yet. Unions and union bebefits eat at the almighty profit margin, and we all know Bush won’t have any of that. This report frames the perpetual greed and complete lack of respect that conservatives have for the American worker. They outsource our jobs, force wages downward, and bust unions all in the name of profit.

Just ask anyone who works at Wal-Mart.

The ideology and actions of the so-called “Gang of Five” is pathetic, short-sighted and patently anti-American. Little do they realize that the artificial pressure they endorse that is strangling unions will ultimately backfire as more and more American workers are realizing that they’re employers are not working in their best interest, only their own.

The cycle will come full circle…it is already beginning. 

  

Advertisements

Ann Coulter Gets a Pass on Voter Registration Fraud in Florida…No Surprise There…

 anncoulter_floridavoterregistrationapplication_tiny.gif

We thought, here at ShadowDemocracy.org, that we would publish Ann Coulter’s long and infamous timeline of voter fraud crime, and how this two year trail of deceit has ultimately led to no conviction…only revealing more corruption at the highest levels. If you had any doubt that the political machine is at work in Florida, there won’t be after you read this…   

(Timeline) 

2/15/06: Ann Coulter Commits Vote Fraud Felony…
Signs another person’s address to voter registration form and votes in the wrong precinct…

2/20/06: Ann Coulter Denies Committing Voter Fraud…

3/30/06: Ann Coulter Given 30 Days to Explain Vote Fraud Felony Allegation…
Palm Beach, FL election supervisor May refer charges to state attorney…
UPDATED: Property records show an ‘Ann H. Coulter’ owning a $1.8 Million House on Seabreeze Ave. in Palm Beach, Fl.

4/11/06: Ann Coulter’s Felonious Florida Voter Registration Application
GOP pundit Ann Coulter latest in a growing list of Republicans accused of fraud…and she may be guilty…
State, and county records show inconsistencies on voter registration form…

6/2/06: Ann Coulter ‘Lawyers Up’ to Face Felony Voter Fraud Charges
A Palm Beach paper reports GOP extremist pundit retains ‘Bush’ law firm to fight voter fraud allegations…

6/9/06: New Attorney Seeks Special Treatment for Coulter…
Letter from Coulter’s lawyer asks that all mail be sent to him instead of address where Coulter admits not living despite previously stating the opposite was true…

11/1/06: Ann Coulter Refuses to Testify regarding Voter Fraud in Florida…Case to be Turned Over to Prosecutor…
Coulter, a well documented rightwing extremist and hate-monger, refused to cooperate with authorities…

1/11/07: Police Report Says Two Third Degree Felonies May Have Been Committed by Coulter…

Palm Beach election supervisor having trouble bringing charges…

5/11/07: FBI Agent Who Interceded in Ann Coulter Voter Fraud Case Alleged to be Her Former Boyfriend…
A Palm Beach Paper says FBI agent attempted to clear Coulter…Conservative Coulter critic Borchers says her ’98-’99 boyfriend has been ‘Her personal FBI resource for her own purposes’…

8/2/07: Palm Beach Post: Florida Election Commission Investigating Ann Coulter’s Florida Voter Fraud
After her FBI boyfriend got her off the hook, will Jeb Bush’s FEC appointees do it again?

12/7/07: Ann Coulter Cleared of Voter Fraud Despite Clear Demonstrable Evidence…

Two years after an initial ‘slam-dunk’ allegation of fraud, the Florida Election Commission rules that the two year statute of limitations on has run out…case closed. Check out more links here, here, here

So what is the lesson kids?

Another Republican felon gets a pass, this time in friendly country, otherwise known as the Sunshine state. It just goes to show that in modern American politics, you can get away with just about anything, as long as you know who d&*k to suck, on…and off the camera. The evidence was obvious, the charges legitimate, and the crime real, but the likes of Ann Coulter, in all of here hate mongering extremist glory, has sunk to an all time low when no one thought it was possible. Even conservative bloggers have thrown her overboard. 

What a disgrace.

An Update on Congressional Investigation into Mega-Churches…

 6ca2lshgocazsmohwcaya61f3ca1t7kpncajde7ivca1ixhjocapje2z8cahxq0izca698ajwca1ebxs6caq5vbhfca12js1cca7q0cgbcapfdg5pcat4l0yqcaoj1u1dcav39cebcar9ajte.jpg

A second Christian ministry is refusing to meet a Thursday deadline for a Senate investigation into preachers’ salaries, perks and travel, The Associated Press has learned.

See related Shadow Democracy post and comment thread here

Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas, said in a statement to the AP on Thursday that he will not respond to the inquiry until next year.

A lawyer for preacher Creflo Dollar of World Changers Church International in suburban Atlanta had said Wednesday that the investigation should be referred to the IRS or the Senate panel should get a subpoena for the documents.

Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent lengthy questionnaires a month ago to six ministries so he could review whether pastors were complying with IRS rules that bar excessive personal gain through tax-exempt work.

Because these are “Religious” Non Profit organizations, the IRS has already deemed that they’re NOT required to turn over information regarding their finances. 

Do you believe in God?

Well even if you don’t, you an I can apply to the IRS for our own Religious non profit status and become exempt from paying federal taxes. Then we can go out and encourage wealthy people to withdraw their investments from 401K’s and other tax shelter investments and funnel their income through our bogus ministry and it will be perfectly legal. You can make a bundle!

Do you know how to sing???

I’ve got some old Jimmy Swaggart Gospel tapes that you can take home and practice from. I’ll brush up on my evangelical street type of ministry lingo and convince a few homeless people to come and visit us every Sunday at a low rent two bedroom house just to convince the IRS that we actually have a congregation. After acquiring our 501(c)(3) provision, we’ll take out business loans in order to hire expert accountants and financial advisors who will counsel our wealthy solicited investors.

We’ll make a fortune, and then we can ignore Congress too 🙂

Posted by: Dimitri Lawrence

Bush Approval Among Military Families Down 50% Since 2004

iraqmarinescoffinflag.jpg

Reprinted from RawStory.com 

Support for President Bush and his Iraq war policy is nearly as anemic among US military families as it is in the general population, according to a new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll.

The survey finds that almost 60 percent of the military community — which was defined as active and former service personnel as well as their families — disapprove of the president’s handling of the war. The same percentage of the group disapprove of Bush’s overall performance as president. Meanwhile, only 37 percent of the family members approve of Bush. Among civilians polled, the war garnered support from 32 percent of respondents.

Families that include veterans of wars presided over by the president were found to be just as critical of the war in Iraq as other Americans, with a full 60 percent saying the war was not worth the cost.

“Patience with the war, which has now lasted longer than the U.S. involvement in World War II, is wearing thin — particularly among families who have sent a service member to the conflict,” reports the Los Angeles Times‘ Faye Fiore. “One-quarter say American troops should stay ‘as long as it takes to win.’ Nearly seven in 10 favor a withdrawal within the coming year or ‘right away.'”

The new numbers stand in stark contrast to a poll of military families conducted by the University of Pennsylvania three years ago, in which twice as many individuals approved of the president’s performance.

The poll also finds more support for Democrats than Republicans when it comes to “treatment” of active-duty military personnel, indicating that a “plurality of military-family members, 39 percent, say they believe Democrats are likely to do a better job handling those issues, compared with 35 percent for Republicans,” according to Bloomberg news.

A military sociologist told the Los Angeles Times that flagging support for a president from servicemembers’ families in a time of war wasn’t typical. “You generally expect to see support for the president as commander in chief and for the war, but this is a different kind of war than those we’ve fought in the past, particularly for families,” he said.

One Army mother responding to the poll, whose son was wounded in Iraq, told the Times that she feared casualties in the conflict were for naught.

“I don’t see gains for the people of Iraq…and, oh, my God, so many wonderful young people, and these are the ones who felt they were really doing something, that’s why they signed up,” she said. “I pray to God that they did not die in vain, but I don’t think our president is even sensitive at all to what it’s like to have a child serving over there.”

Complete polling results are available here.

Quick! Who’s Position is This…Bush or Giuliani???

images.jpg images1.jpg

 

Okay, time for a little fun. Can you guess who said the following regarding various issues??? 

U.S. Policy toward Africa

He said the United States should focus its policy toward Africa on increases in trade. “U.S. government aid is important, but aid not linked to reform perpetuates bad policies and poverty.”

In May 2007, he was informed that he held between $500,000 and $1 million in investments in companies that work in Sudan.

U.S. Policy toward India

He views India’s rapidly growing economy as a potentially lucrative market, saying the United States should “take advantage” (CNBC) of the “large number of consumers that are emerging in India.” In particular, he said, the U.S. stands to “make a lot of money in India” in new energy technology.

Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

He said he supports the detention camp at Guantanamo. He said in a June 2007 interview with the Wall Street Journal that he believes the allegations of prisoner mistreatment at Guantanamo have “been grossly exaggerated, and many of the reports that I see are that it’s not terribly different from any other prisons.”

Domestic Intelligence

He defended the domestic spying initiatives, saying “he did it to protect our national security and to try to find out information about people that might attack us and might be preparing an attack on us, in order to secure us, in order to protect us.” He said in September 2007 that electronic surveillance should not be “unrealistically” limited.

War on Terror

He responded to John Edwards’ criticism of the war on terror, saying in June 2007, “This is not a bumper sticker; this war is a real war.” He generally refers to “the terrorist war against us,” lately, rather than the “war on terror,” he told TIME.

Democracy Promotion in the Arab World

He believes in a larger goal of a democratic (AFP) Iraq and Middle East. But, he says, stability takes precedence over democracy. “Democracy can’t flourish unless people are safe. You can’t have democracy when people are being killed,” he said in January 2007.

Energy Policy

He has ties to various energy companies, many of which are fossil fuel-oriented including Duke Energy Corp., the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, Valero Energy Corp, and FPL Energy. He has supported increased use of nuclear power.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

He has held up Israel as “the only outpost of freedom and democracy in the Middle East and the only absolutely reliable friend of the United States.” (Haaretz) In a 2002 speech, he stressed that Jerusalem must “remain the undivided capital” of Israel. He also said at that time that the Palestinian Authority is not a “moral equivalent” to the Israeli government, because “there is a difference between a nation based on law and democracy and one that harbors terrorism.” He called on the Palestinian Authority to create “institutions of political and economic freedom and religious toleration.” More recently, he said that in his view it “makes no difference” whether the Palestinian Authority is run by Hamas or Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas. At a March 2007 fundraiser, he also said that the United States should “not push any peace process” until the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel’s right to exist and condemns terrorism.

North Korea Policy

He supports the policy of China placing pressure on Pyongyang. “I think the strategy has produced enough results so far that you have to stick with it,” he said. He indicated it remains unclear whether Iran or North Korea is further along in developing a nuclear weapons program.

Cuba Policy

He is critical of Castro, which he made clear recently in a speech over whether or not to return Cuban child Elian Gonzales to Cuba in 2000 (He was an outspoken voice for keeping the boy in the United States).

He also attacked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for following Castro’s “model.” (AP) Speaking to a group in Florida, he said the United States must build an alliance with Mexico and Colombia to counteract the shift to the left of Latin American governments.

U.S. Policy toward China

He has not made many public statements on his views of China. However, he said in an CNBC interview that limiting China ’s ownership of U.S. debt is “generally a bad idea and generally self-defeating.” He said that the U.S. should build industries that we can sell” in China.

Defense Policy

He has called for an “offense-as-a-defense” (Journal-Register)strategy towards al-Qaeda, backing the U.S. troop surge and continued presence in Iraq.

He fully advocates the addition of thirty-five thousand troops to the army’s current level of 512,000 (AP).

In September 2007, he said the United States should pursue a nuclear missile defense system, as “America can no longer rely on Cold War doctrines such as ‘mutual assured destruction’ in the face of threats from hostile, unstable regimes.”

Iraq

He says we need a plan by which to measure progress but that does not include troop withdrawals. “You need statistics,” (FOX) he said in January 2007. “You need to be able to determine whether or not you’ve brought the violence down. If it doesn’t work, then you got to put more people in.”

He opposes any “artificial timeline” for troop withdrawal from Iraq, which he says would be tantamount to giving America’s enemies “a printed-out list of how it’s going to retreat (ChiTrib) to its enemy.” He is steadfast in his support for the war, which he considers part of the larger global war on terror.

Trade

In October 2007 he spoke in support of the pending Free Trade Agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, saying they “would be good deals for the United States.”

Homeland Security

In a September 2006 he stressed the need for a nuclear material detection system in the United States.

Iran

He has the United States should proceed diplomatically with Iran, but that “we will use a military option if we have to.” He said a military strike would be “very dangerous”but nuclear arms in the control of “an irrational person” like President Ahmadinejad was more dangerous.

His supporters are vocal advocates for bombing Iran preemptively in order to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons. 

Climate Change

He said he believes climate change exists (SFChron) and that something must be done to reduce pollution. However, he has not said outright that he believes climate change is caused by human activity. His statements with regard to policy on the issue have been rather vague.

Immigration

He supports some type of path (NYT) to citizenship for illegal immigrants. “If you have twelve million people, to thirteen to fourteen to fifteen million that are here illegally, it is much easier for terrorists and drug dealers to hide,” he said recently. He also said that he is in favor of a border fence and a database with which to keep track of all immigrants. 

As mayor of New York City, Giuliani opposed a law (NYT) that would have prevented illegal immigrants from receiving Social Security, food stamps and health care benefits.

United Nations

He has been extremely critical of the United Nations, which, he said, “proved irrelevant to the resolution of almost every major dispute of the last 50 years.” He says the institution’s primary capabilities are in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, but “we should not expect much more of it.”

Specifically, he said the United Nations must hold accountable states that support or condone terrorism. “Otherwise, you will fail in your primary mission as peacekeeper,” he said. “It must ostracize any nation that supports terrorism. It must isolate any nation that remains neutral in the fight against terrorism.”

U.S. Policy toward Russia

He advocates commercial engagement with Russia, but has also expressed support for the planned missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. In October 2007 he called for an increase in military spending to “send a heck of a signal” to Russia.

Recently he traveled to Moscow to promote U.S.-Russian business relations.

And the answer is [dramatic pause…]

Rudi Giuliani

So if you vote for him, you clearly vote for more of the same neo-con nonsense. 

Ron Paul Appears on ‘The View’ and Gets Grilled on Abortion Position…

ronpaul.jpg

Ron Paul wasted no time crossing the writer’s picket line to defend his anti-abortion position on the daytime talk show, The View…and he took a verbal beating while he did it.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to reach a stage where there will no abortions,” Paul said, before indicating he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Paul also repeated his position on state governments having the right to decide for themselves, “But I want to sort this out the way the constitution mandates, and that is at the local level.”

Ron Paul, a former OB-GYN, said his anti-abortion position was based on his view that a fetus was a human being with the same rights as any other person, just as he advocated personal privacy that would not give people the right to commit murder. Based on this, he does not view a woman’s claim to her own body as superior to the fetus’s right to life.

“It’s a legal position because I honor and respect the rights of the mother. I don’t want any government in your home: no searches without warrants, no cameras. But you can’t kill your baby in your home.”

Paul is the first candidate to appear on the popular daytime talk show since a writers strike began last month. Democratic candidates have said they would not cross picket lines to appear on The View while the strike persists. However, Paul did.

That speaks volumes on his position dealing with organized labor (post for another day). 

Paul’s and all the other candidates who have taken the – let’s-push-the-abortion-issue-onto-the-states, position, fail to understand one basic idea, and that is that the abortion issue has traditionally been used as a wedge issue to divide the electorate with the hope of distracting us from the unabated corruption that is perpetuated by both parties, and that most people know better. In fact, the only people that still seem to give a shit are the radical Christian right, and they’re a bit ignorant and naive anyways in my opinion (i.e. murdering abortion doctors, trying to convince people that the founding fathers were pro-religion and pro-God in government, etc.) 

If the test to see if you are a true liberal is woman’s right to abortion no matter the circumstances, than I guess that makes me conservative too! Can’t people just use birth control? The ‘pill’ can be gotten anywhere for free along with a ton of other free services for both men and women who are sexually active. I mean let’s be real here – they practically give condoms out like candy in most schools around the country. So what’s with the single moms with three kids by different dads?

Laziness I think. 

But the central problem with Paul’s position is that society has always acknowledged that compromise is necessary in circumstances such as rape and health concerns. Paul doesn’t buy into that, and that’s where he is wrong. In modern times there is birth control, contraception, day after pills, in addition to traditional abstinence. If you can’t handle the responsibility of having a child than you should be able to figure out how to avoid that possibility. However, if you are raped, why should you be held accountable? 

The fundamental flaw in Paul’s thinking and in the thinking of other anti-Supreme Court conservatives who claim that ‘liberal’ judges are legislating from the bench,  is that no United States court has ever legislated anything…ever…really! It is traditional in an adversarial legal system as we have in the United States, that the judicial branch is to determine the ‘constitutionality’ of our laws. This is what they did with Roe vs. Wade. They did not write a new law; rather, they interpreted the permissibility of existing law in the light of what the Constitution says. Seeing guys like Thomas Jefferson have been worm dirt for a few hundred years and we really cannot ask them how they feel about the issue in a modern context, we are forced to rely on the courts. Pretty simple really.

With all that being said, I think Roe v. Wade is on pretty sound legal footing. We do have the right to privacy even though it is not explicitly spelled out, and abortion rights should be based on this ideal as well as a woman’s right to bodily integrity. 
Abortion is not a big deal to me. 

I think the question we need to ask is – Why do we live in a world where we feel we might need to kill our children in the first place? Paul, nor do any other Conservatives, address this.  

Extreme Workers and the Ripple Effect of Long Hours on the Job…

 av2ypgcaoze60rcaxg9no5caf0ewwzcawvqmxicaneiy44caf04lgwca9dmjeccavgs0dscaahcaikcavxs04tcaqw7b8icaohyslncaysiqh4caz4i3oecabhmec7ca5ml6dicazyochbcaggpkv7.jpg

I’ve always been perplexed by those who are content with working their lives away. Of course I’m no one to talk. On more than one occasion I have been labeled a work-a-holic. But now there is a new term – ‘Extreme Worker. I first heard it on the radio a few years back but more recently on NPR. In the end, I did what I always do with new buzz words. I filed it under “another meaningless word to describe something equally meaningless that doesn’t deserve my full attention.” 

As it turns out, two reports were released last week, from two well respected organizations, in the field of life and work studies. 

The general message of both studies is that we spend far too much time at work. Moreover, the consequences of that extra work are far reaching, and destructive.

“Extreme Job” is the phrase coined by the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force of the Center for Work-Life Policy. According to this think tank, you have an extreme job if you work 60 hours or more a week and meet at least 5 additional characteristics from a list of 10. These include fast-paced work under tight deadlines, responsibility for profit and loss, a large amount of travel, an unpredictable flow of work, and work- related events outside business hours.

Based on two surveys and dozens of interviews and focus groups, the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force estimates that about 20 percent of high earners in the United States, defined as those in the top 6 percent of income levels, meet the definition of an extreme worker. That means 20 percent of those who make it to the top are working harder than any human can sustain for very long.

A 60-hour workweek, with a one- hour commute each way, means leaving the house at 7 a.m. every morning and not returning until 9 p.m. And more than half of extreme workers log longer hours than that.

Some say they love the thrill, the meaning, the challenge, the oversized compensation packages and the brilliant colleagues.

Of course the term “Extreme Worker” generally refers to those in the white collar world. However, does this phenomena also extend to the average service or blue collar worker as well?

In the U.S., working time has actually been increasing across all sectors. Many workers put in longer hours than the forty hour standard. Two weeks of paid annual leave is standard, with some workers receiving three weeks after long periods of service. Frequently, workers are afraid to take up their full entitlement in case it might jeopardize their job security.

In blue collar industries like service and manufacturing, hours are rising as well, and we all know about the two earner household being the new standard. The United States is an example of a country where workweek policies are not strictly enforced. The U.S. legally allows mainly two types of compensation, those being wage and salary labor. Wage earners are compensated on a per-hour basis, whereas salaried workers are compensated on a per-week basis. The 40-hour workweek, in effect, applies only to wage laborers, yet legally they may be required to work more than forty hours. The kicker…firms are only required to pay time-and-a-half, or 1.5 times the worker’s base wage, for each hour of work past forty.

As you might imagine, overtime is very popular with larger companies.

In some states firms are required to pay double-time, or twice the base rate, for each hour of work past 60. This provides an incentive for companies to limit working time, but makes these additional hours more desirable for the worker. It is not uncommon for overtime hours to be accepted voluntarily by wage-earning workers. In fact, unions often treat overtime as a desirable fringe benefit when negotiating labor contracts. 

Salaried workers however, are not covered by overtime protections. Some have argued, as I have, that the concept of being exempt from overtime is now being abused by many companies, as increasing a salaried worker’s working hours effectively reduces his or her per-hour pay, resulting in cheaper labor for the enterprise.

The current economically conservative and anti-worker political culture in the federal government, doesn’t help the situation much. Unlike Europe, our government doesn’t seem to care much about the health and welfare of the average American worker.

So what do Americans do in the face of constant job insecurity in the form of outsourcing, layoff, and a total absence of union protection that is perpetuated by the government in the interest of big business?

They work longer to keep their job at any cost – even those who say they love it. In reality they have no choice because some other fearful empty suit will be right in line behind them to scoop up their job. What is even more ridiculous, is that they do this having full knowledge of the consequences.  

Sixty-nine percent say their extreme jobs undermine their health, 46 percent say work gets in the way of a good relationship with their spouse, and 58 percent say it gets in the way of strong relationships with their children.

And what about those children?

Catalyst, a research and consulting organization that aims to expand opportunities for women at work, looked specifically at stress on working parents at the office, which they call “parental concern about after-school time,” or PCAST.

All those instances where child care falls through, all the hours children are left alone or with a sitter, all the hours people spent at the office knowing a child is home sick – affects close to 50 million employees in the United States, the Catalyst study says.

The solution, both groups say, is what Catalyst calls “the agile workplace.”

That means a philosophy of flexibility. On the specific topic of PCAST, that could include subsidies for after school care and backup care, and the ability to telecommute.

The alternative, the task force warns, is that today’s distracted and overworked employees will become tomorrow’s drag on the bottom line.

Are any of these proposed solutions being implemented? Of course not. Just ask yourself if you know of any free after school programs or care programs designed to help overworked parents?

You won’t find any. 

Harvard professor Juliet Schor (check out our book review here), author of the book, The Overworked American, writes:

A decade of research by Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild suggests that many marriages where women are doing the “second shift” are close to the breaking point.  When job, children, and marriage have to be attended to, it’s often the marriage that is neglected. The failure of many men to do their share at home further problems. A twenty-six-year-old legal secretary in California reports that her husband “does no cooking, no washing, no anything else. How do I feel? Furious. If our marriage ends, it will be on this issue. And it just might.”

Serious as these problems are, the most alarming development may be the effect of the work explosion on the care of children. According to economist Sylvia Hewlett, child neglect has become endemic to our society.” A major problem is that children are increasingly left alone, to fend for themselves while their parents are at work.  Nationwide, estimates of children in “self”—or, more accurately, “no”—care range up to seven million.  Local studies have found figures of up to one-third of children caring for themselves.  At least half a million preschoolers are thought to be left at home part of each day.  One 911 operator reports large numbers of frightened callers: “It’s not uncommon to hear from a child of six or seven who has been left in charge of even younger siblings.”

Even when parents are at home, overwork may leave them with limited time, attention, or energy for their children. One working parent noted, “My child has severe emotional problems because I am too tired to listen to him. It is not quality time; it’s bad quantity time that’s destroying my family.” Economist Victor Fuchs has found that between 1960 and 1986, the time parents actually had available to be with children fell ten hours a week for whites and twelve for blacks.  Hewlett links the “parenting deficit” to a variety of problems plaguing the country’s youth: poor performance in school, mental problems, drug and alcohol use, and teen suicide. According to another expert, kids are being “cheated out of childhood…There is a sense that adults don’t care about them.”

In the end we must ask ourselves as a culture – is it worth it?

Another good link on this topic from Harvard here

Texas Science Director Fired for Mentioning Evolution…

corner.jpg

A Texas science education official was forced to resign in October for doing her job. 

The Austin-American Statesman has reported that. Chris Corner, science curriculum director, was fired following an email she circulated announcing an upcoming speech by Barbara Forrest, co-author of Creationism’s  Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design and an expert witness in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the lawsuit brought in 2005 by Dover, Pennsylvania parents upset with a school board’s decision to teach intelligent design. A federal judge sided with the parents and legally established intelligent design as religion, not science.

However in Texas, we know things run a bit differently.

Hours after Corner used her work email account to forward the announcement to friends, Texas Education Agency adviser Lizzette Reynolds emailed Corner’s bosses and called for her dismissal. A former legislative adviser to President Bush during his Texas governorship and later a Department of Education appointee, Reynolds wrote, “This is highly inappropriate. I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities.

Inappropriate?

Farting in church is inappropriate. Making ‘death jokes’ during a funeral is inappropriate. Hitting on your best friend’s girl is inappropriate. Teaching and promoting ‘science’, and that is exactly what evolution is…’science’, when one is a science teacher, is completely appropriate.

Lizzette Reynolds, and the rest of the legion of Bush loyalist idiots, cannot comprehend or moreover accept the fact that the idea of “Intelligent Design” (I can’t dignify referring to it as a theory), is nothing more than fundamentalist Christian blather, with the goal of squeezing rational scientific thought out of public classrooms, with the end goal of imposing God on those who dare question his existence. Reynolds should be fired, not Corner. Corner was simply performing her duties as a science teacher. Reynolds is trying to peddle a Christian agenda on the back of Corner’s livelihood.   

Education Agency officials mentioned Reynolds’ e-mail in their decision to fire Corner. Informing people about Forrest’s lecture, they said, “directly conflicts with her responsibilities as the Director of Science … [And] implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.”

Neutral? I bet if her email said “We must protest this speaker because God is the almighty creator and his will be done at our hand…”, she would have been promoted. That’s how education works down South…especially in Texas. The problem here is that a science official, supporting evolution isn’t political; it’s scientific! But even if that were not the case, Corner’s views weren’t clear from her email, to which she’d simply added an “FYI” above the lecture’s announcement. Isn’t that “neutral” enough? 

As the Austin-American Statesman editorialized this weekend,

The education agency, of course, portrays the problem as one of insubordination and misconduct. But from all appearances, Comer was pushed out because the agency is enforcing a political doctrine of strict conservatism that allows no criticism of creationism.

This state has struggled for years with the ideological bent of the state school board, but lawmakers took away most of its power to infect education some years ago. Politicizing the Texas Education Agency, which oversees the education of children in public schools, would be a monumental mistake.

This isn’t the space to explore the debate over creationism, intelligent design and evolution. Each approach should be fair game for critical analysis, so terminating someone for just mentioning a critic of intelligent design smacks of the dogma and purges in the Soviet era.

As usual, “neutrality” is now used as the hammer to beat evolutionists over the head. I suppose it is okay to replace intelligent discourse with hearsay, fire anyone who disagrees, then label the hearsay as informed debate. 

All of the radical Christian educational agendas in all states is unsupported by verifiable fact. Government must step in and stop this lunacy or we risk returning to the days of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, where teachers will be tried in court for teaching the truth. With any luck, the Texas Board of Education will be painted as the fools that they are next year when the state reviews the Texas Board of Education’s science curriculum. 

Happy Holidays from Your Friends at the Vermont Department of Social Services…

8ca3nmzywcaqvfjw0cazhavm3cadjenwgcap4a7sdcans2jmscakoc8emca28lifmcadkflumcajj0pg4carai0quca89b719cac7t4y8ca0bqd7hca42gt0rcabozzntcaxd4s27carh30wi.jpg

Reprinted from the Canadian Press… 

A homeless man thought he was doing some good by standing at a supermarket for 10 hours a day to get shoppers to donate money into a red Salvation Army kettle.

The shelter where Paul Tucker lives doesn’t see it that way.

The Good Samaritan Haven ordered him out by Saturday, saying Tucker, 48, is spending his time raising money for the needy instead of finding a place to live or looking for work.

The 20-bed shelter offers emergency housing, clothing and food, and requires clients to leave each day at 7 a.m. to look for housing or go to work, executive director Paul Mascitti said.

The average guest stays 29 days, Mascitti said. Tucker has been there since May.

“If you’re not doing anything 10 hours a day, whether it’s lounging on a beach or working for the Salvation Army or sitting at a Dunkin’ Donuts, you’re breaking your contract with us,” Mascitti said.

“I can’t see someone saying, ‘I’m going to benefit mankind when I haven’t taken care of myself.”‘

The Salvation Army, which runs a soup kitchen he frequents, gave Tucker one of the bell ringer jobs two weeks ago. The gig pays $20 a day for meals.

“He’s a sweet man; he’d do anything for anybody,” said Capt. Louis Patrick, who runs the local group.

Dressed in a knit Salvation Army cap and wearing a Salvation Army coat, Tucker solicits the donations from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. under a sign that reads: “Sharing and Caring. Need Knows No Season.”

“It’s for generosity, really,” he said.

Tucker, who has worked as a painter, a farmer and a maintenance worker at a fast-food restaurant, has been getting well-wishes from shoppers who know of his situation and holds no ill will toward the shelter.

“I don’t find fault with them, but I don’t feel it’s quite right,” he said.

Tucker said he isn’t sure where he’ll go when he clears out of the shelter. There’s a hiking camp he’s heard about nearby and may go there.

Mascitti, meanwhile, makes no apologies. Rules are rules, he said.

“Here it is, the ‘Grinch’ time of the year, and this guy is being asked to leave the homeless shelter, no room at the inn. It’s an old story,” he said.

You think Mascitti is a ‘law-and-order’ Republican?

I think so.

Besides, if Tucker is getting paid by the Salvation Army ($20.00), doesn’t that qualify as work? Furthermore, if you don’t have a real job and no income, how do you find a place to live?

It’s the same old institutional double standard handed down by administrators driving Cadillacs and living in the suburbs, who are trying desperately to make “poor” disappear, or worse yet, criminalize them (another Republican platform). 

I don’t get it.

Merry Christmas.

States Sue Over Poison Released Into the Environment…

 toxic.jpg

This a follow-up to a recent post on illegal chemical testing on U.S. citizens…  

Twelve states sued the Bush administration Wednesday to force greater disclosure of data on toxic chemicals that companies store, use and release into the environment.

The state officials oppose new federal Environmental Protection Agency rules that allow thousands of companies to limit the information they disclose to the public about toxic chemicals, according to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the lead attorney general in the lawsuit.

The change lets 100 polluters off the hook in New York alone, he said.

The EPA, however, said the change improves the Toxics Release Inventory law and eases requirements only on companies that can certify they have no releases of toxins to the environment.

The EPA this year rolled back a regulation on the law signed by President Reagan after the deadly Bhopal toxic chemical catastrophe in India in 1984, according to the states involved in the lawsuit. That law required companies to provide a long, detailed report whenever they store or emit 500 pounds of specific toxins.

The new rule adopted this year requires that long accounting only for companies storing or releasing 5,000 pounds of toxins or more. Companies storing or releasing 500 to 4,999 pounds of toxins would have to file an abbreviated form, said Katherine Kennedy, New York’s special deputy attorney general for environmental protection.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York City seeks to invalidate the EPA’s revised regulations.

“The EPA’s new regulations rob New Yorkers — and people across the country — of their right to know about toxic dangers in their own backyards,” Cuomo said. “Along with 11 other states throughout the nation, we will restore the public’s right to information about chemical hazards, despite the Bush administration’s best attempts to hide it.”

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the EPA’s action marginalizes a 20-year program that required companies to report the amount of lead, mercury and other toxins they released.

“Polluters can release 10 times more toxins like lead and mercury without telling anyone,” he said.

EPA spokeswoman Molly O’Neill had no comment on the suit. Companies that can show they release none of the toxins can avoid filing long and time-consuming reports, she said.

The change, O’Neill said, is “making a good program better.”

Not really Molly.

More than 300 companies in states like California and New jersey can conceal data under the new EPA rule, which is what the Bush administration wants. This rule change has no teeth at all. It is just another example of Republican ‘let-industry-police-itself’ policy not serving the public good.  

To combat this nonsense, states have chosen to file law suits, which I’m sure the Republicans will blame on trial lawyers as well.

“We feel the only course of action was to file suit and remedy this in the courts,” said Cuomo spokesman Jeffrey Lerner. 

Other states suing the EPA are Arizona, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

This is what you get when you pack the EPA with a bunch of convicted ex-industry polluters and old oil executive buddies.

No surprise to me.
 

U.S. School Children Losing More Ground to Other Nations…

sad.jpg 

U.S. fourth-graders have lost ground in reading ability compared with kids around the world, according to results of a global reading test.

Test results released on Wednesday showed U.S. students scored about the same as they did in 2001, the last time the test was given. During the interim, there has been an increased emphasis on reading under Bush’s No Child Left Behind act.

The U.S. average score on the Progress in International Reading Literacy test remained above the international average. However, ten countries including Hong Kong and three Canadian provinces, were ahead of the United States this time. In 2001, only three countries were ahead of the United States.

The loss of academic ground is

The 2002 No Child Left Behind law requires schools to test students annually in reading and math, and imposes sanctions on schools that miss testing goals.

The U.S. performance metrics on an international test of 45 nations differed from results of a U.S. national reading test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card. Fourth-grade reading scores rose modestly on the most recent version of that test, taken earlier this year and measuring growth since 2005. During the previous two-year period, scores were flat.

On the latest international exam, U.S. students posted a lower average score than students in Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Luxembourg, Hungary, Italy and Sweden, along with the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

Interesting how the U.S. metrics showed progress while other countries’ metrics seem to indicate we are getting dumber. 

Hong Kong and Singapore have taken steps such as increasing teacher preparation, providing more tutoring and raising public awareness about the importance of reading, said Ina Mullis, co-director of the International Study Center at Boston College, which conducts the international reading literacy study.

The results:

Countries that improved since 2001 included Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Singapore, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.

Countries that declined included England, Lithuania, Morocco, the Netherlands, Romania and Sweden. Sweden still outperformed the United States this time around, but average scores in England and the Netherlands were not measurably different from the U.S. average.

Overall, girls scored higher than boys in the United States and all other countries except for Luxembourg and Spain, where the boy-girl scores were the same.

The average U.S. score was above the average score in 22 countries or jurisdictions and about the same as the score in 12 others. The U.S. average fell toward the high end of a level called “intermediate.” At that level, a student can identify central events, plot sequences and relevant story details in texts. The student also can make straightforward inferences from what is read and begin to make connections across parts of the text.

Background questionnaires administered to students, teachers and school administrators showed that the average years of experience for fourth-grade teachers in the United States decreased from 15 years to 12 years between 2001 and 2006. The international average was 17 years.

U.S. kids seem to get more reading instruction than others. U.S. teachers were more likely to report teaching reading for more than six hours per week than those elsewhere.

In my opinion the public education has devolved from the classical approach of character plus basics (reading, writing, arithmetic, respect, and responsibility), to skills, to psychological-social engineering. Today, education “experts” celebrate their doctrines of multiculturalism and values clarification, but sadly, the experts have been too preoccupied with experimental education, diversity training, evolution-instruction, to wake up and realize that 68 percent of students are unprepared for college. 

The long and short of it is…what they are doing…isn’t working.

Check the Nation’s Report Card here

Ho, Ho, Ho a No, No, No???

capt_sge_uud81_151107040305_photo00_photo_default-512x305.jpg 

Just when you thought the politically correct straight jacket was pulled as tight as possible, it just got a trifle tighter.

Santa is not allowed to say “Ho, Ho, Ho” in Australia.

No joke.

The reason?

It is offensive to women.

Santa Clauses in Sydney Australia have instead been instructed to say “ha ha ha,” the Daily Telegraph reported.

One disgruntled Santa told the newspaper a recruitment firm warned him not to use “ho ho ho” because it could frighten children and was too close to “ho”, a US slang term for prostitute.

“Gimme a break,” said Julie Gale, who runs the campaign against sexualizing children called Kids Free 2B Kids.

“We are talking about little kids who do not understand that “ho, ho, ho” has any other connotation and nor should they,” she told the Telegraph.

“Leave Santa alone.”

A local spokesman for the US-based Westaff recruitment firm said it was “misleading” to say the company had banned Santa’s traditional greeting and it was being left up to the discretion of the individual Santa himself.

My question is…what women are we offending exactly? Not that I have an overabundance of experience in the area of ‘street-walker etiquette’, but who the hell cares if someone says the word “ho” in front of a woman of high moral virtue. Those women surely know what a “ho” is, and would never be confused as such. Where do we draw the line?

Maybe we should ban mistletoe because we can’t be too sure that women are being treated as sex objects. We probably should scrap the color red because it denotes sexual promiscuity.

Maybe Australia should just ban the U.S. altogether, then our mindless slang wouldn’t be an issue at all.

Truth be told, they probably would be better off…and so would Santa.

  

Atlanta Mega-Church Takes in $69 Million…Who benefits?

creflo.jpg

An Atlanta mega-church took in $69 million in 2006, according to a financial statement the church’s minister released in response to a Senate investigation into him and five other well-known televangelists.

The Rev. Creflo Dollar (excuse me as I snicker a bit) disclosed the World Changers Church International’s financial information to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but said the money he spends is his own.

I’m sure it is. Every last dollar from every last gullible donor.

The good reverand said his income comes from personal investments, but the church gave him a Rolls Royce, which he mainly uses for special occasions.

Don’t pre-judge! It was just a tiny Rolls.

‘Without a doubt, my life is not average,’ he said. ‘But I’d like to say, just because it is excessive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong.’

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa disagrees.

He launched an investigation into the finances of six ministers after hearing reports of some preachers’ excessive lifestyles. In a letter last week, he requested answers by Dec. 6 to questions about their executive compensation and amenities, including use of fancy cars and private jets.

Besides Dollar, the letters were sent to faith healer Benny Hinn, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Texas, David and Joyce Meyer of Missouri, Randy and Paula White of Florida and Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.

Dollar questioned the investigation’s focus on religious groups.

Boy, you gotta love the balls on this guy.

The minister is among the religious leaders who preach the ‘prosperity gospel,’ the teaching that God will shower faithful followers with material riches. But he said he uses only his personal finances to pay for his luxuries.

‘My lifestyle does not come out of the church’s bank account,’ he said.

So, do you still think these ‘Big Box Retail Churches’, as I like to call them, still shouldn’t be taxed??

Rolls Royce Creflo?

I wonder what kind of Gods work he does in the back seat and with whom?

Wake up my fellow church going sheep!

Anyone who gives money to a mega-church is naive and foolish. Giving money to ANY church benefits very few people as it is, with mega-churches being the worst offenders. Maybe the good minister Creflo could tool around in a Mercedes instead. Maybe a nice “E” Class and use the left over money from the sale of the Rolls Royce to feed 20 or so hungry families in greater Atlanta for oh, I don’t know, maybe two years!!!

The name itself was enough to keep me in laughter until the New Year. “

“Dollar!” You’ve gotta be kidding me!

Can someone please administer an I.Q. test to all of Creflo’s followers? I’m dying to know the results, but I have a suspicion that the average score would be a tad low.

Those “investments” Dollar spoke of were purchased with funds taken from desperate poor people who watch his show while he begs for people to “plant a seed of faith”. These tele-evangelists are nothing but corporate thieves, no different than the ones who have outsourced our economy to China in the name of profit, while taking a giant dump on the middle class.

Think about it for a minute. Most people who watch the program give the church money they’d normally use for medicine, food, shelter, clothes. The minister makes them think they’ll get a windfall blessing in their bank account if they only “plant a seed of faith”. GOD says for us to work, WORK, for a living…so we might give 10% to our church. The Bible states nothing about planting seeds.

www.ministrywatch.com is a great site that tells cold, hard, sinful truth about these tele-thieves.

This is just another tale of people using religion to pad their own pockets, as they prey on the poor and uneducated. Thanks to our government’s unfair endorsement of religion, they do not pay a dime in taxes. Since God apparently will not punish Creflo, we will have to do it ourselves.

He can start by paying taxing his scam operation.

The fact that God didn’t strike Creflo Dollar dead on the spot, in itself, may be proof that there is no god at all!

Theives Not Related to Ron Paul Campaign Caught – Paul Campaign Returns Funds Totaling $3000.00…

bio_sh2.jpg

Overseas theives have been identified as the donors to Ron Paul’s campaign using stolen credit cards according to Frost Bank.

Investigators at Frost Bank discovered that the stolen cards were being used to make $5 contributions to the Ron Paul presidential campaign, in an apparent attempt to test the cards, as previously posted on this blog. Frost Bank refunded money from nearly 100 customers and canceled all 500 of the credit cards that had been stolen from the bank. The Paul campaign has told news sources it has refunded all stolen funds back to the bank from the stolen cards, which amount to about $3,000, considerably more than the figure of $60.00 originally being tossed around and flippantly dismissed by Paul supporters.

Kerri Price, assistant director of communications for the Paul campaign, noted that the donations from the stolen cards represent “a very small percentage of money that was brought in.” She also stated that, “We don’t know anything about the criminals that did this.”

In fact…no one does.

The tactic of ‘test charging’ used by these criminals as confirmed by investigators, is a fairly common tactic among identity thieves, also previously noted on this blog.

Another Ron Paul spokesman, Jesse Benton, emphasized, “Ron Paul does not have anything to do with this.”

This is clearly the case, now that all facts have been presented and confirmed.

As I indicated in my last post and several times in the comment thread – no one ever accused Ron Paul or his campaign of being thieves. That is simply foolish. No serious presidential campaign would ever engage in such activity. But the question put forth in my last post on this issue still remains…who are these people and are any of them possibly inside or close to the Paul campaign? No one is explicitly or implicitly saying they are, but the question does need asking. Were they just fanatical, misguided supporters? Grass roots campaigns are virtually impossible to police, and as of today, no one knows how these thieves got these numbers, where they got them from, or why they were used to donate funds to Ron Paul. The Paul campaign claims they know nothing about these criminals, and I tend to believe them, but others aren’t so easily convinced.

One of the Frost Bank customers, Christine Horton, who had her I.D. stolen is quoted as saying, “He’s getting money, stolen money…Whether he’s affiliated with it or not, I have no clue. But it’s too fishy.”

Horton’s suspicion may be relevant.

Why steal credit card information and donate it to Ron Paul’s campaign? Is the status quo, pro big-government establishment, or perhaps another campaign, as suggested in the comment thread by Paul supporters, willing to commit fraud and be jailed for a felony simply to discredit Ron Paul – using stolen credit cards to do it? Is the anti-Ron Paul element that dedicated to pushing Ron Paul down by any means possible? Maybe so, but the whole ordeal seems odd to me.

Maybe the issue here is simply people not paying attention as usual. How many of the tens of thousands of donors actually check the URL carefully for accuracy before providing their credit card information to the Ron Paul campaign? Were these people duped into visiting a ‘phishing’ site by criminals and that is how their numbers were stolen? Do they have a person inside Frost bank? What assurance do any donors have that the Ron Paul campaign or any other presidential campaign for that matter, does not store credit card information in a database on someone’s laptop that could be stolen at anytime?

While the paul campaign has one of the most comprehensive privacy policies of any campaign and does scan its donation site with Hackersafe to ensure there are no intrusions, these aforementioned scenarios are all valid and open to discussion.

People must realize that presidential campaigns, and if you have ever worked on one you would know, are pretty loose knit operations. For instance, presidential campaigns are not subject to the same rigid credit card security regulations that online retailers like Wal-Mart.com or Borders.com are subject to. Those businesses must carry a substantial credit card security yoke to remain industry compliant. A political campaign site? Not so much. In fairness to the Paul campaign, this is not the first and certainly will not be the last incident of this kind in the world of political campaign contributions.

I only hope that the Ron Paul crowd knows what they are doing. That originally reported $60.00 that Ron Paul supporters were casually dismissing just days ago, morphed into $3000.00 pretty quickly, and could have evolved into something much larger still, given the right set of circumstances.

I remain steadfast in my advice. Be careful when donating to Ron Paul or any political campaign when using a credit card. PayPal, pre-paid debit cards, and money orders are valid and safer alternatives.

Lenders Collude with Appraisers to Push Overpriced Homes Fueling Sub Prime Mess…

home.jpg

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo recented initiated a lawsuit against a real estate appraisal unit of the Fortune 500 company First American Corp.He says the appraiser colluded with Washington Mutual, one of the largest savings and loan companies, to inflate home values. According to Cuomo, the practice is widespread and has contributed to the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

I’ve known that for 15 years Andrew…thanks for the update.

It is no secret that Realtors, appraisers, and lenders have been colluding for years to drive an over-inflated housing market, by selling over-valued homes to people who couldn’t afford them. Result? A giant crap sandwich.

Cuomo claims that during the housing boom, mortgage companies started leaning harder on appraisers to basically lie about home values. “We believe this is a problem all across the industry,” he says. “We believe the federal government has not been effective at regulating it. We believe it has serious consequences long-term.”

As usual, your governing bodies are behind the learning curve. All they needed to do was pick up a newspaper at any point over the past ten years or so and begin reading the classified section in large cities like Atlanta, Dallas, New York, and L.A. To their collective amazement, they would have found hundreds of ‘small’ three bedroom ranch homes selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond their fair-market-value.

Who pays $890,000 for a two bedroom condo? Who pays over $1 million for a three bedroom ranch with no garage at a whopping 2300 square feet?

The foolishness was as plain as day, but no one flinched…not Realtors, not the banks, not the government…no one. Why? The reason is simple. We are living a valueless debt driven economy that is only being precariously propped up by a few vital sectors – over inflated health-care, over inflated housing, and over inflated energy commodities…that’s it.

If any of these cogs few out of the U.S. economy, we would be looking depression right in the face. The sad part is that at the core of this nonsense is the gullible American consumer. As a nation, we are starry eyed and foolish when it comes to consumption. We spend beyond our means and the sky is the limit. As long as we can put hot dogs on the table and keep the cable on, we’ll spend…no matter what. Even if it means abandoning that home you couldn’t afford in cities like Phoenix, where 10,00 homes stand vacant – too embarrassed to face family and friends with your failure…willing to eat your mistake and take the debt to your grave. We’ve been programmed and it’s pathetic. 

Predatory lenders simply identified the stupidity and took advantage of it. Their practices made it easier for people to overpay for a home, or to borrow too much against their current house, or even to borrow on a second and even third mortgage! And now, with home prices falling, homeowners are getting creamed. Some homeowners are taking losses as high as 30%, as they are unable to refinance out of their high-interest sucker loans, that they were fully aware of at closing time. 

I’ve been a landlord for 10 years and I’ve seen more criminal activity at the hands of shady Realtors and lenders in the last five or six years than I’ve ever seen before. These people should be punished and I applaud Cuomo for pursuing them, however, in the end, I believe that a good portion of these homeowners should be left to burn if only to set an example to other sheep in the herd. They knew full well what they could afford or not afford and they knew of the potential consequences. Time to be grown ups, face the music, and learn that the land of milk and honey can turn sour if you buy more than you need.

The China You Will See is Not the China That Is…

 7vcxgzcaqb0blacalu28yscauo0cotcaon0h0xcarhq23hcamiqjb5caxfcimwcauf4fu2ca9e50l2caup10z7ca3in49jca7ib8zpcalnpmm2caccfrllcaf3mo2ncaxe6a7gcamzl2n1ca1ps5zp.jpg

Next summer’s Olympics will showcase a China as a modern country of skyscrapers, and Western culture. However the government behind this facade, the same government that has built China into what it is, has acheived modernization by imprisoning political activists, restricting religious freedoms, tightly controling the media and Internet, exposing it’s citizens to deadly pollution, unsafe food and consumer products, and violating international trade treaties with the U.S.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), consisting of nine U.S. Senators and nine members of the House, noted Communist Party leaders authorize political and religious persecution “Against persons the Party deems to pose a threat to its supremacy…” and that party “officials wield the legal system as a harsh and deliberately unpredictable weapon…” 

Here is their overview…

The Commission observed ongoing human rights abuses and stalled development of the rule of law in China during 2006-2007. The Commission also observed increased repression in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and Tibetan Autonomous areas of China, stepped-up harassment of legal advocates, and increased restrictions on Chinese reporters. In addition, across the areas the Commission monitors, the following general themes emerged: (1) Chinese leaders’ increasing intolerance of citizen activism and greater suppression of information on urgent matters of public concern (including food safety, public health, and environmental emergencies); (2) the instrumental use of law for political purposes; (3) the localization of dispute resolution in order to insulate the center from the backlash of national policy failures; and (4) the influence that China’s linkages with the rest of the world have had on some aspects of its domestic rule of law and human rights development.

With the 2008 Olympic Games only months away, China is is under intense pressure from foreign activists to comply with international standards across a broad spectrum of issues. from the workplace to air quality. The CECC not only cited recent issues including food and product safety, which also affects foreign consumers of Chinese exports, but also complained of “inadequate and inconsistent implementation, corruption and a lack of regulatory incentives.” Moreover, the panel found that the Chinese government discourages consumer organizations and harasses people for reporting problems with consumer products. Environmental reforms have been hampered by uncooperative local authorities and outright suppression of green activists that demand the free flow of information. 

Human rights also came under fire by the CECC. Chinese communists continue to detain and imprison democracy activists as well as those attempting to organize workers in labor unions not approved by the government. Police routinely detain people for days without formal charge.

Sound familiar?

2006 saw a tightening of the screws on religion, with communist officials continuing a “campaign of persecution” against the Falun Gong spiritual movement. Protestant church gatherings that didn’t register with the government were shut down, and Catholics were blocked from contact with the Vatican. Independent clergy were also detained, while Tibetan Buddhists faced greater repression. 

Foreign reporters were granted greater freedoms, however Beijing have increased government restrictions on domestic journalists in the interest of preserving order and control before the games. The CECC concluded that, “Developments during 2007 suggests that the prospects for a free press in China remain dim.” 

The Internet has also threatened the Communist Party’s monopoly of information.

In response, it has restricted access to many websites and imposed licensing requirements aimed at curbing politically sensitive data, with the goal of tracking  and arresting online government critics. Chinese officials also continue to impose prior restraints on publishing, and publication of critical books. 

Senator Byron L. Dorgan, the commission’s chairman, said the 360-page study was “sober reading,” a sign that repression is getting worse in China”, despite promises of reform. He called the report a “wake-up call” as well. 

The Chinese Embassy in Washington was called for a comment, but officials did not respond to it.

Western journalists know full well what China is really about as do our political and business leaders. The latter choose to ignore human rights abuses in the name of economic expansion on the backs of Chinese peasants, using their belief in the need for a global economy to cleanse their collective conscious. 

Our actions and reactions as a nation are unconscionable.

I call for a protest and boycott of the 2008 Olympics in China as an act of solidarity and demonstration of support for Chinese people, who are suffering under the yoke of opressive and deadly Communist rule. For humanity sake, we must take a firm stand. 

Taser Happy Cops at it Again…

images2.jpg

The Chicago Police Department is investigating an officer’s use of a Taser last month on 82-year-old Lillian Fletcher. They said she was wielding a hammer when they arrived.

Fletcher was rushed to the hospital after being jolted by a Taser, but has since been released. 

Officials with the city’s Department on Aging went to her home on Oct. 29 to make a welfare check, and called police when they saw Fletcher in a window swinging a hammer back and forth. Officers arrived and attempted to subdue Fletcher. One officer thought it was appropriate to use his Taser, according to a police department spokesman. The department is trying to determine if the officer violated department policy regarding the use of stun guns.

On Tuesday, Fletcher said officers “pushed” their way into her home. ”They shocked me,” she said.

Fletcher at times sounded confused during the telephone interview. Her granddaughter Traci Taylor told the Chicago Sun-Times that her grandmother suffers from schizophrenia and dementia.

”My grandmother is easily confused,” Taylor told the newspaper, adding that the elderly woman can be belligerent but is about 5 feet 1 and no more than 160 pounds.

Clearly a threat to the police. 

Tasers use compressed nitrogen to fire two barbed darts that can penetrate clothing to deliver a 50,000-volt shock to immobilize people.

Law enforcement officials seem to be leaning on the use of Tasers more and more as a way to subdue combative people in high-risk situations…common sense be damned.

These weapons have come under fire around the country as they have been blamed for several deaths.

Amnesty International USA has voiced concerns that police departments are starting to use Tasers more routinely rather than in cases of serious danger. Taser use by police drew national attention recently when police stunned and arrested a University of Florida student after his fervent, videotaped outburst at an event with Senator John Kerry in September.

Could it be that police simply are not exercising good judgement or are they just not intelligent enough to know where to draw the line? In this case, Tasering an 82 year old walks the line of police brutality and Fletcher is well within her rights to seek a punitive legal remedy.

The officers responsible should be fired immediately. There is no excuse for this type of wreckless bravado when dealing with defenseless citizens. It’s almost as if they are running amok with the new toy that’s the “bullet alternative.”

Ron Paul Campaign Supporters Possibly Stealing Credit Card Numbers to Boost Fundraising???

id0123.jpg

Proof has surfaced that the Ron Paul campaign received monies from people resorting to some unscrupulous donation tactics – in short, credit card theft.

According to Jaye Ruffino, a political contributor, identity thieves tried to run a test charge on her account and it was frozen.

“I told them this doesn’t make any sense, because this isn’t a credit card, it’s a check card, and I’ve got plenty of money in there, so what’s the problem?” Ruffino said.

A customer service representative for her bank informed her of a suspicious charge.

The bank representative explained that someone by the name of Ron Paul has been trying to take $5 out of the aforementioned account.

As it turns out, currently unidentified credit card thieves used Ruffino’s card to run a test charge, with the money allegedly going to the Ron Paul presidential campaign fund.

Identity theft usually works this way: Thieves gather up stolen credit card numbers online and run the test charges to see which numbers will work. If the charge goes through, they know they have an active card. Later, the hit the card for more money. It appears that is what happened here.

Representatives for the Ron Paul campaign said they have discovered more than a dozen mysterious $5 contributions in the past three days and said they’re working with banks to return the money.

A representative for the Texas Attorney General’s Office on Friday said these crimes are rarely prosecuted, because by the time thieves are tracked down, they’re often in other counties, and the Web sites are shut down.

We know that there have been campaign contribution improprieties in other campaigns, but those incidents usually involved one large donor. This situation suggests that the Ron Paul campaign cannot be trusted with credit card security or donations from small donors, and appears to be the first time this issue has come up in any political campaign among any of the current presidential candidates.

In the mean time, you may want to think twice before giving your credit card information to the Ron Paul campaign.

If Giuliani’s Opinion About Cheney is an Indicator of His Judgement, then we Better Send Him Back to New York…

cheneyyan.jpg 

Here is what Republican front-runner Rudi Giuliani had to say about the qualifications and character of current Vice President Dick Cheney.

I would want a vice president who was a partner. Someone who was in on everything that was going on, so that that person could take over if, God forbid, something happened. You know, I was working for President Reagan, in fact I had breakfast with him, with a lot of other people, the day he was shot. So, I have been very, very close to a possible presidential assassination and seen how that all worked out that day…

So, immediately it makes you realize that (the) choice of vice president is a choice that you have to do in the best interest of the country-and you owe that to your fellow citizens. In good conscience you have to pick someone that you believe can handle the job as well as you can.

How do you pick a vice president? … I think Vice President Cheney and President Bush’s pick of Vice President Cheney is a good example of picking someone who is qualified to be president of the United States. That is number one — it’s paramount.

Am I missing something? Does Giuliani want Cheney as V.P. again, or does he just want to have gay sex with him?

A presidential administration is made up of many people, all of whom must be accounted for as mandated by law for oversight and budgetary purposes. Cheney has refused for six years to say how many collaborators he employs. In fact, he is on the record on saying that he considers himself to be above the law! If that’s not arrogance and a complete disregard for the law, I’m not sure what is. 

Cheney is an ideal partner for George W. Bush. Both men are liars, both endorse controversial practices like torture of prisoners, pre-emptive war, war profiteering, privatization of the military, etc. Cheney was the Secretary of Defense during the first Gulf War, and is also an entrenched Washington insider. Cheney’s record as V.P is morally questionable and illegal at worst. 

Cheney is frequently designated as ‘the worst vice-president in the history’ of the United States.In a recent column, Sally Quinn, wife of Ben Bradlee who was the Washington Post’s editor during the Watergate era, stated, “The big question today among Republicans is how to get rid of Dick Cheney. He is perceived as toxic.”

In May, Dennis Kucinich, filed a resolution to open an impeachment procedure against the vice-president in the House of Representatives. In three articles, he accuses Cheney of having “manipulated intelligence to invent the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction,” with having “misled citizens about an unproven relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda” and with “openly threatening Iran with aggression without any real threat to the United States.” 

In June, the Washington Post published a long series exposing the vice-president and the role he plays in the ‘shadows.’ Allegations include he has worked to authorize wiretapping of citizens since September 11th, torture at Guantanamo, how he succeeded in intervening in the choice of Supreme Court judges, etc. There are also wide spread allegations that he manipulated CIA intelligence prior to the Iraq War, and some say he pressured spies to provide information that could be used to sell the war. 

No official or agent has yet denounced him, no proof has been provided to damn him, and he’s never been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. 

Then there’s the Scooter Libby thing. His tactics here are consistent with everything else he has done. Cheney’s Chief-of-Staff found himself convicted of false testimony and obstruction of justice and sentenced to thirty months in prison. Of course we know he was later pardoned by George W. Bush. “In the eyes of outside observers,” notes the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, “Cheney is the political equivalent of a black hole, which exerts a powerful but invisible force and emits neither light nor heat that could explain the decision process.” “He is the enemy within,” deems Newsweek. “He has privatized the function of the vice-president,” deplores the New York Times. “The irony,” emphasizes former Reagan Administration official Bruce Fein, “is that the president finds himself with less power than he would have had, had he and Cheney not had such extravagant and monarchical pretensions.” 

This is who Giuliani wants as a back-up, or perhaps someone like him?

I have posted previously on this blog and commented that Giuliani is of the same dangerous and nisguided ideology that plagues George Bush and Dick Cheney. His prior comments and rhetoric clearly illustrate that he supports the war in Iraq and is quoted by many sources to that effect here, here. He also supports many of this administrations other initiatives. 

That’s bad enough. However his endorsement of a criminal like Cheney is foolish and shortsighted. In only seven short years, mainly as a result of Bush and Cheney’s poison policies, the U.S. is weaker and has lost the respect of many nations around the world. Our civil rights are on the back burner, the constitution is lining the cat box and the middle class is suffering.

If Rudi thinks that’s competent leadership, then I hope he winds up on a fishing trawler to a remote area of Alaska before the 2008 election.

Indian ‘Slave’ Children Found Making Low-Cost Clothes for Gap

images1.jpg

Another sad and absurd chapter has been written in the long, destrcutive saga that is the new ‘Global Economy.’

Child workers as young as 10 years old, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids. Children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings. Gap said it was unaware that clothing intended for the Christmas market had been improperly subcontracted to a sweatshop using child labor.

I bet they weren’t aware. 

GAP announced it had withdrawn the garments involved while it investigated breaches of the self-imposed ethical code by the company three years ago.

All this, so suburban American white kids can look more fashionable, as their parents take them to the mall where they can over consume and perpetuate this cycle of exploiting the poor.  

Children working in filthy conditions in Delhi, India, has renewed concerns about outsourcing by large retail chains, and their garment production in third world countries. The United Nations has long recognized India as the world’s capital for child labor, yet little change as there are now an estimated 15,000 garment factories in India. According to one estimate, more than 20 per cent of India’s economy is dependent on child labor.

Despite its charitable activities with an eye on polishing it’s image, Gap has been criticized for outsourcing clothing production to the developing world many times in the past. In 2004, when it launched its social audit, it admitted that forced labor, child labor, wages below the minimum wage, physical punishment and coercion were among abuses it had found at some factories producing garments for the company. In the past year Gap has dealt with 23 suppliers reagarding workplace abuses.

Human rights violations in the form of illegal child labor are a logical extension of globalism, in that they serve to apply downward pressure on retail prices, so a debt driven Western economy can continue to over consume, and keep the world retail industry afloat. There is no other solution anything short of exploitation. That’s why human rights violations and child labor keeps happening…no matter what GAP, Wal-Mart or any other retailer wants you to believe. 

The fact is that companies like the GAP and Wal-Mart, are completely insulated from any legal liability or criminal prosecution as they hide behind nameless and faceless sub-contractors who wholesale clothes to these retailers on the backs of beaten children. When caught, they simply do what they always have done – declare that the practice is an outrage and pull product from their supply channels from that contractor, until they receive another shipment from the next contractor. 

If these retailers were really concerned about human rights, they would shift productions operations to countries where these types of abuses cannot happen – the U.S. might be a solid move in that direction…but we know that will never happen. Instead they continue to willingly sacrifice children in the name of profit. They do not care about these third world children because they own everything there is to own, including most governments, and they are simply above any real prosecution that has any teeth. 

Until consumers take action, this dynamic simply will not change, and there’s no sign American consumers, blinded by false prosperity and vanity, are willing to change their habits. Ensalved children aren’t even a blip on the radar to them.

This  deplorable and overtly criminal situation in India is a clear violation of international trade law as well as a gross violation of human rights. GAP executives should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law based on any knowledge they had regarding the use of sweatshops. Surely we can punish those who abuse children and send a message to the money and power elite that this type of activity will not be tolerated.    

Gap said in a statement from its headquarters in San Francisco: ‘We firmly believe that under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments. These allegations are deeply upsetting and we take this situation very seriously. All of our suppliers and their subcontractors are required to guarantee that they will not use child labor to produce garments. In this situation, it’s clear one of our vendors violated this agreement and a full investigation is under way.’

That’s commendable on their part, but I say consumers in the West should be demanding answers from retailers as to how goods are produced and think twice about where they spend their money. Why you ask? GAP will not police themselves and willingly give up garments made for pennies, even if they are made by enslaved children. Quite frankly, profit trumps all other cards, even a moral conscious or human rights. That’s what globalism is at it’s core of mud – the blind pursuit of ever cheaper labor. It’s happening everywhere at the expense of the poor – child labor in India, wide spread and unrestricted pollution resulting in ‘cancer villages’ in China…all so we can have cheap jeans and lower cost sweaters. 

Proof is embodied in how GAP reacted. They did not immediately cut ties with the supplier it accused of improper subcontracting.

Company spokesman Bill Chandler said the company was taking the breach of its child labor policies “extremely seriously,” and continued by saying, “We’re willing to end relationships with vendors when they don’t meet our standards.” 

The problem is, they didn’t.