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14 Reasons Why House and Senate Republicans Have Declared Economic War On Average Americans

March 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

Poll after poll finds Americans want the exact opposite of what the GOP proposes.

If you’re among the millions of Americans who feel bypassed by the economic recovery, you should pay attention to what the GOP-controlled Congress says it wants do to the federal government—via the 2016 budget—because if Republicans get even a fraction of what they have proposed, your living standards will start sliding downhill.

This is the takeaway from economists and experts who know how to ignore the right wing’s ridiculous rhetoric about freedom and opportunity, and instead see exactly who will be hurt, and how that will unfold—if the GOP rips the floor out of virtually every federal social safety net, as they propose, and also raises taxes on already struggling lower wage earners, which they also propose.

“The simplest way to understand these budgets is surely to suppose that they are intended to do what they would, in fact, actually do: make the rich richer and ordinary families poorer,” wrote Paul Krugman, The New York Times’ columnist and Noble-winning economist. “We’re looking at an enormous, destructive con job, and you should be very, very angry.” 

The GOP-controlled House and Senate budgets not only drastically cut spending on education, retirement, environment, road and bridges, climate change, immigration, job creation, Obamacare, food stamps, and other social welfare programs; but it gives the Pentagon a blank check, and includes tax cuts for the rich and corporations while raising taxes for lower-income Americans. That’s the analysis by the National Priorities Project (NPP), not just Krugman, and they make an even more disturbing point.

In almost every one of these budget areas, nationwide polls show that a majority of Americans strongly oppose what the GOP is proposing. In other words, the Republicans are not delivering the kind of federal government that Americans want; they are declaring economic war on average Americans by reshaping government to serve the upper classes and biggest businesses.

What follows is a summary of the NPP’s analysis, with its documentation, showing that Repubicans are brazenly ignoring public opinion and national needs—which isn’t just anti-democratic but reveals how deeply …read more


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Florida Govt. Employee Punished and Told to Seek Mental Health Evaluation After Using Term 'Climate Change'

March 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Katherine Krueger, The Guardian

The worker reportedly included an explicit mention of climate change in his official notes from a meeting.

An employee of Florida’s environmental protection department was forced to take a leave of absence and seek a mental health evaluation for violating governor Rick Scott’s unwritten ban on using the phrases “climate change” or “global warming” under any circumstance, according to a complaint filed against the state.

Longtime employee Barton Bibler reportedly included an explicit mention of climate change in his official notes from a Florida Coastal Managers Forum meeting in late February, during which climate change, rising sea levels and the possible environmental impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline were discussed.

On 9 March, Bibler received a formal reprimand for “misrepresenting that ‘the official meeting agenda included climate change’”, according to a statement from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Peer), a nationwide non-profit that champions public employees’ rights and providers resources and guidance to whistleblowers using its network of members across the country.

Bibler was instructed to stay away from the office for two days and told he could return to work only after a mental health evaluation from his doctor verified his “fitness for duty”, the complaint said. In the letter to Florida’s inspector general, Candie Fuller, the state’s Peer director calls for a full investigation to the matter.

Bibler told the Miami Herald that he “didn’t get the memo” about the gag order, so when he introduced himself by congratulating other officials on the call for the “exciting” work they were doing to address climate change, the “reaction was mostly shock”.

News of the governor’s ban on the phrases first surfaced in early March, when the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting found that the ban came from the top after Scott took office and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr as DEP director.

Guardian requests for comment from Scott, the Florida inspector general and the environmental protection department were not immediately returned on Thursday, but Scott and representatives from his office have ardently denied such a policy exists.

Scott has also long dodged questions …read more


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Crisis Pregnancy Center Tells Woman Her IUD Is Her 'Baby,' Plus Countless Other Lies

March 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Jenny Kutner, Salon

A yearlong investigation confirms that CPCs use a mix of fear-mongering and shame to manipulate women.

Today in totally surprising news that we have never, ever heard before: Crisis pregnancy centers, which are often funded by taxpayer money and have been found time and time again to lie to women, are still lying to women. New results of a yearlong investigation by NARAL Pro-Choice America indicate a disturbing trend among CPCs in California (replicated nationwide) of using whatever means necessary — slut-shaming, fear-mongering, misinformation and straight-up manipulation — to prevent pregnant women from having abortions. Surprise, surprise. 

The report, which was released last week, concludes that CPCs pose a grave threat to public health by falsely posing as medical clinics when, in reality, they actually delay (or prevent) women from accessing prenatal care. NARAL’s investigators visited over a quarter of California’s crisis pregnancy centers posing as pregnant women, and found that often, the centers will have no trained medical professionals on the premises. 

The lack of any real medical insight can lead to the dissemination of (totally inconsequential!) inaccurate information, which appears to be one of the centers’ primary tools for steering women away from abortion care. In one particularly unnerving example, a CPC staffer told one of the undercover investigators that the investigator’s IUD, which showed up on an ultrasound, was actually “your baby.”

“No matter what circumstances our investigators were in, the answer was always to continue the pregnancy,” Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, said in a statement. “The bottom line is that crisis pregnancy centers put their anti-choice agenda ahead of women’s health. They will say anything to keep women from exercising their right to choose abortion care.”

In 91 percent of the centers NARAL visited, CPC staffers told investigators that “having an abortion was linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility, miscarriage, and/or the made-up ‘post-abortion depression’ that results in suicide.” But that’s only one practiced scare tactic — and only one part of CPCs’ anti-choice approach. From the report

One common scare tactic focused on the ability of a woman to

have …read more


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Fact: Netanyahu's Political Party Explicitly Opposes the Two-State Solution

March 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

The Israeli Prime Minister's attempt to “walk back” his pre-election rhetoric does not hold water.

After making remarks prior to the Israeli election that there would not be a Palestinian state under his watch, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since sought to walk back his comments, claiming that he actually does support the so-called “two-state solution.”

This has set off a debate in the rest of the world about just who the real Netanyahu is – is what he's saying now the truth, or what he said before the election? As the Huffington Post notes, Netanyahu has on many occasions denied any possibility of the existence of a Palestinian state.

But it's important to look beyond just Netanyahu's own rhetoric, however contradictory it sometimes seems. He is after all part of a parliamentary system where policy is largely decided by parties not individuals. His party's official platform is opposition to Palestinian statehood, and even beyond that, the top candidates he recruited to run for the Likud slate in this election have a history of opposing the two-state solution.

Here's some history of just some of these candidates on this year's Likud list. All of the ones listed below will be active members of the Israeli Knesset this year:

1. Gilad Erdan: Erdan was #2 on Likud's list of submitted candidates, behind only Netanyahu himself. Last September, Erdan clearly departed from the 2 state framework, saying, “To continue talking about Palestinian statehood with the same determination and the same confidence as 15, 20 years ago is irresponsible.” He offered some support for the plan put forth by the Egyptian government which would relocate Palestinians into the Sinai.

2. Yuli Edelstein: Edelstein was #3 on Likud's list. He told The Jerusalem Post in December: “I don't think it's a great idea to create a Palestinian state.”

3. Yisrael Katz: Katz, #4 on the list, wanted to kick out an Arab lawmaker from the Knesset, calling her a “traitor.” Not only is Katz against a Palestinian state, he has called for total …read more


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Hawks are Winning the Military Budget Wars

March 20, 2015 in Economics

By Benjamin H. Friedman

Benjamin H. Friedman

Running the congressional budget process for the first time since 2005, Republicans must navigate their divisions on military spending. The outcome thus far is militarism badly disguised as fiscal restraint.

On one side are the military hawks. Emblematic is Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Graham is running for president and claims that his first act in that office would “literally” be to use the military to force Congress to give it more money (To be fair, he’s not especially serious about either). Graham recently denied the existence of tension between his fiscal prudence and advocacy of global U.S. military domination by arguing against “the idea that defense spending has anything at all to do with [debt].” This wing, especially its senatorial variety, is prone to work with hawkish Democrats to raise military spending, which, in practice means raising other domestic spending and taxes.

On the other side are budget hawks, who believe that military spending is spending. They are not anti-war, so much as anti-spending or anti-taxes, even when it comes to war. Sizeable portions of the budget committee members, especially in the House, fall in this group.

The fight kicked off when the House and Senate Budget Committees this week released budget resolutions, which set spending levels for appropriators. The House version would provide up to $94 billion for “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO), and non-war Pentagon spending of $499 billion for fiscal year 2016, which starts October 1. Another $24 billion of “defense” spending, most of it for nuclear weapons, falls outside the Pentagon. The Senate resolution provides the same amount for the base. After an amendment from Senators Graham and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), it too provides $94 billion for OCO.

War is becoming the Pentagon’s budgetary salvation…”

In analyzing the budget resolutions, keep two facts in mind. First, they’re binding just next year. Their spending plans for subsequent years occur in a dreamy future where the opposition is weaker and hard choices easier. Those wishes shouldn’t distract us from the real choices proposed for 2016. Second, the resolutions cannot change laws, like the 2011 Budget Control Act, which caps next year’s defense spending at $523 billion (the Pentagon’s share of that is about $499 billion).

With both resolutions, budget hawks failed to hold the line against military hawks. For starters, both resolutions comply with that cap, defying hawks, including the chairmen of the Armed Services committees. Budgets under …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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UVA Student Traumatized but 'Unbowed' After Arrest that Left Him Bloodied

March 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Joanna Walters, The Guardian

Martese Johnson: “The trauma of what those officers did will stay with me forever.”

Martese Johnson, the young student who suffered a bloody head wound as he was being arrested by alcohol control officers near the University of Virginia on Wednesday, stood beside his mother and his lawyer on Thursday night and issued a statement saying he was “unbowed”, his face clearly showing the injuries he had sustained.

Another cut was visible under his left eye.

Johnson, 20, was arrested near the Charlottesville campus of UVA, where he is a third-year undergraduate, in the early hours of Wednesday morning in an encounter with enforcement agents from the state alcohol beverage control (ABC) department.

Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe requested a state investigation, which is now underway, and said on Thursday: “We are going to get to the bottom of this and someone is going to have to answer for it.”

Johnson’s attorney Daniel Watkins said on Thursday evening that he plans to to fight charges against the student of obstructing justice and public drunkenness “with the utmost vigor”.

Watkins said Johnson had talked with agents outside a bar after questions arose about his ID.

“The conversation resulted in my client being thrown to the ground,” he said.

A cellphone video of Johnson being pinned to the ground by three white officers while he yells that he attends the university and that they are racists – all the while bleeding profusely over his face and onto the ground – has gone viral.


Watkins read a statement Johnson had written.

“I trust that the scars on my face and head will one day heal, but the trauma of what the ABC officers did will stay with me forever,” the statement said. Johnson had earlier added in a statement that as he was on the ground, his bloodied head was down, but he was “unbowed”.

Johnson walked …read more


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Paul Krugman Reveals the Outrageous Con Job Behind the Savage GOP Budget

March 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

“The modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics.”

It can be tough, Paul Krugman allows in Friday's column, to keep up the level of outrage at Republican lawmakers who do not seem to be in any way bound to the rules of honor or honesty in their budget proposal. Like, not at all.

“Every year the party produces a budget that allegedly slashes deficits,” Krugman opens, “but which turns out to contain a trillion-dollar 'magic asterisk' — a line that promises huge spending cuts and/or revenue increases, but without explaining where the money is supposed to come from.

“But the just-released budgets from the House and Senate majorities break new ground. Each contains not one but two trillion-dollar magic asterisks: one on spendingone on revenue. And that’s actually an understatement. If either budget were to become law, it would leave the federal government several trillion dollars deeper in debt than claimed, and that’s just in the first decade.”

How bad is it? It is beyond horrendous. It may be tempting to ignore these budget proposals, or convince one's self that such budgets never become law, but the fact is, as Krugman points out, the “modern G.O.P.’s raw fiscal dishonesty is something new in American politics.”

Some of the proposals are well known: drastic cuts in food stamps, Medicaid and a disastrous end to Obamacare health insurance subsidies, both of which amount to a deliberate plan to roughly double the number of Americans without health insurance. Other cuts would have to come from Social Security and Medicare, though the Republican authors do not come right out and admit that. It almost goes without saying that the budgets call for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which includes the taxes that pay for it, or, Krugman estimates, $1 trillion in revenue, with absolutely no hint on how to make up for that. “It’s very important to realize that this isn’t normal political behavior,” Krugman writes. “The George W. Bush administration was no slouch when it came to deceptive presentation of tax plans, …read more


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Jeb Bush Implicitly Endorses Georgia Bill that Would Legalize Discrimination Against Gay People

March 20, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

The potential presidential contender voiced support of Georgia's infamous “religious liberty” law.

This week, potential 2016 presidential contender and former Florida governor Jeb Bush stopped in Atlanta to meet with supporters and tout his ideas.

At one point, Bush was asked about SB 129 – Georgia's infamous “religious liberty” bill that would allow businesses and others to discriminate by claiming their religious faith as a defense:

“I don’t know about this law, but religious freedom is a serious issue and is increasingly so,” Bush said. “People that act on their conscience shouldn’t be discriminated against, for sure. There should be protections.” A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, he said, would “automatically shift the focus to people of conscience,” who may not want to provide services for a gay marriage. “People have a right to do that, just as we need to be respectful for people who are in long-term committed relationships,” he added.

While Bush hedged and claimed to not know the details of the Georgia bill itself, he was endorsing the principle behind it – that people should be allowed to “act on their conscience” and refuse services using religious faith as a shield.

Bush's remarks were certainly taken as an endorsement by Republican state senator Josh McKoon, who authored the bill. He tweeted out his approval of Bush's statement:

The ball is now in Jeb Bush's court. Is he really planning on running for president as his words are being used to justify a law that would allow discrimination based on religious faith? If not, he should speak up.


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Three Reasons King v. Burwell Doesn't Constitute 'Coercion' Under Existing Precedent

March 20, 2015 in Economics

By Michael F. Cannon, Jonathan H. Adler

Michael F. Cannon and Jonathan H. Adler

During this month’s oral arguments in King v. Burwell, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy asked whether the Affordable Care Act effectively coerces states into implementing the law’s health-insurance Exchanges. Insofar as such coercion is unconstitutional, the Court’s decision — and Obamacare’s survival — could hinge on whether it exists in the ACA.

Understanding Kennedy’s concerns requires understanding the ACA’s insurance regulations.

In the small share (less than 10 percent) of the insurance market where carriers sell directly to consumers, the ACA imposes so-called “community-rating” price controls, which reduce premiums for the old and sick by dramatically increasing premiums for the young and healthy.

If young and healthy consumers respond by refusing to buy insurance, what results is a market with few carriers and even higher premiums. In some cases, community-rating price controls can cause insurance markets to collapse.

Insofar as such coercion is unconstitutional, the Court’s decision — and Obamacare’s survival — could hinge on whether it exists in the ACA.”

To mitigate these potential harms, the ACA mandates that everyone purchase coverage, and, in that small corner of the market, subsidizes premiums for moderate-income consumers.

The ACA authorizes such subsidies “through an Exchange established by the State.” Yet the IRS is dispensing subsidies in all states — including the 38 states that failed to establish Exchanges. Those states’ Exchanges were established by the federal government.

The King challengers argue that because those Exchanges were not “established by the State,” it is illegal for the IRS to issue subsidies in those states.

Which brings us back to Justice Kennedy. He expressed concern that if the challengers are correct, then withholding subsidies in uncooperative states would make the costs of the ACA’s community-rating price controls transparent to consumers, and those costs might have the effect of coercing states into implementing Exchanges.

But would that really amount to coercion? Consider three factors.

1. The ACA’s Exchange provisions don’t penalize states. They let states make tradeoffs between taxes, jobs, and insurance coverage.

If a state fails to establish an Exchange, the ACA withholds subsidies from a state’s residents, not the state. In New York v. United States, the Court held that imposing burdens on state residents does not coerce states: “The affected States are not compelled by Congress to regulate” when the “burden caused by a State’s refusal to regulate will fall on [private actors], …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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In Defense of Confederate License Plates

March 20, 2015 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

The racist fraternity chant in Oklahoma has unified people of all political stripes around a very American response: condemning the speech while recognizing that it’s protected by the First Amendment. Unlike in most countries, our Constitution prohibits the government—including a state college—from punishing people for the content of their expression.

Coincidentally, on March 23, the Supreme Court will hear a case that raises just this issue. This case, out of neighboring Texas, involves a group whose design for a specialty license plate was denied because it included a Confederate flag.

Although the Lone Star State recognizes April as Confederate History Month and spends January 19 celebrating Confederate Heroes Day, it would spare its citizens in this one context the sight of a flag it otherwise venerates: Texas has empowered its Department of Motor Vehicles to prevent people from being offended.

Yet even if the DMV knows better than anyone exactly what it takes to offend, it pursues its mission—the righteous task of ensuring that no motorist has to endure a half-second of micro-aggression—in a half-hearted way. Just consider the plate designs it has let slip by its censorious filter.

The “Boy Scouts” plate undoubtedly ruffles the feathers of those who consider that group to be an anti-gay menace. The “Choose Life” plate similarly unnerves those who think that its message slanders women who choose abortion. What about “Come and Take It” (with a picture of a cannon) or “Fight Terrorism”? These messages would insult pacifists and those who disagree with U.S. foreign policy even if “Turn the Other Cheek” or “Come Home America” tags were also available. “Mighty Fine Burger” and “Dr Pepper” surely offend Michael Bloomberg’s acolytes. Many Apache, Comanche, or Kiowa would take offense at a good ol’ boy driving around with a “Native Texan” plate. And wouldn’t a PETA supporter have a (soy) beef with the “Texas Trophy Hunters Association” plate? Finally, any true Texan would find the University of Oklahoma plate to be beyond the pale even before this month’s scandal.

Allowing the Confederate flag on Texas license plates would offend a lot of people, but Texas’s decision to nix the Stars and Bars tramples the First Amendment.”

Such is the problem with trying to eradicate offensive speech: Everything offends someone. As the Supreme Court said in the 1989 flag-burning case, also out of Texas: “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it …read more

Source: OP-EDS