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'He Wants to Take Kansas Back to the Dark Ages'—Meet the Waitress Who Told Off Sam Brownback

May 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Luke Brinker, Salon

Chloe Hough, whose “tip” to Kansas' ultraconservative governor went viral, dishes.

Located in a towering late Gothic revival building – apocryphally described by locals as the first million-dollar high school west of the Mississippi River — Topeka High School, situated just four blocks from the Statehouse, is the pride of Kansas’ capital city.

The hallowed halls of the 84-year-old building have served as the academic home of Herbert Hoover-era Vice President Charles Curtis, basketball legend Dean Smith, the revered Republican Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, and renowned poet and novelist Ben Lerner. The school’s bevy of Advanced Placement courses and its acclaimed programs in music, theater and debate attract many transfer students who live outside the school district; I was one of them.

Topeka High’s tale, however, is ultimately one of two schools. Its racial and socioeconomic diversity is one of the school’s most trumpeted selling points, but the lived experiences of the school’s poor and minority students are vastly different from those of the predominantly white and affluent students who flock to the school for its robust academics. Nearly 30 percent of Topeka High’s freshmen drop out before graduation, compared with a statewide average of 15 percent. More than two-thirds of studentsreceive free or reduced-price lunches. According to figures provided by the school, about 40 percent of graduates do not go on to any postsecondary education or training.

Those are the students slated to be hit hardest by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s public education cuts, which he has imposed to help fill the massive revenue shortfallscreated by his income tax cuts for the wealthy. Under a block-grant funding scheme Brownback signed into law this winter, Topeka High’s school district is slated to lose $3.6 million in funding this year and over the next two years after that, jeopardizing a wide array of academic and extracurricular offerings; for Topeka High students, athletics programs, arts education, and foreign language courses could be on the chopping block. Other districts have cut short their school years; others still warn they may not have enough toilet paper …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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5 Reasons Why Even Charlie Hebdo Wants Nothing to Do With Islamaphobe Pamela Geller

May 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

Geller is no freedom fighter, as she claims. She's a hater, pure and simple.

Following the Garland shooting last week, anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller has been in the media portraying herself as an advocate of free speech and tolerance. But even the French satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo, which has long pushed the limits of speech with its crude satirical drawings mocking Muhammed, among other topics, is distancing itself, saying that she is “obsessed with Islam.”

Here are five reasons why Geller isn't just another free speech activist ,and why even biting political satirists want nothing to do with her:

  1. She Wants To Ban All Muslim Immigration: Geller's organization the American Freedom Defense Initiative has published a platform that, among other things, “calls for an immediate halt of immigration by Muslims into nations that do not currently have a Muslim majority population.”
  2. She Rationalized Norwegian Terrorist Anders Breivik's Violence: After Norway's terror attack, it was discovered that the attacker was a fan of Geller's work. She herself sought to rationalize his violence, posting a picture of a youth camp in Norway and writing that “the faces…are more MIddle [sic] Eastern or mixed that pure Norwegian” – recall that Breivik's greatest grievance was that his country was letting in too many Muslim immigrants.
  3. She Said Building A Mosque In New York City Was Like Another 9/11 Attack: “The Ground Zero Mosque is the second wave of the 9/11 attack,” she provocatively claimed.
  4. She Has A Bizarre Theory Of Who Obama's Parents Really Are: Geller has speculated that President Obama's true father is Malcolm X.
  5. She Has Launched A Bitter Campaign To Divide American Jews And Muslims: For years, Geller has paid for bus ad campaigns claiming that Muslims are ordered by their faith to kill Jews. This year, the ads drew so much fire that New York City announced that it would be disallowing all political ads in the future.

Geller has a right to her own free, deeply offensive and divisive speech, but it should be clear that she is not really a believer …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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High-Profile Tennessee Republicans Lash Out at Koch Brothers Group: 'We're Aggravated By It'

May 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

More signs of a growing revolt within the GOP against the billionaire brothers' out-sized influence?

The Koch Brothers are America's most powerful siblings, heavily funding both political campaigns and a network of right-wing propaganda. They reportedly plan to spend up to a billion dollars on the 2016 election. But there are signs the Kochs' influence is starting to produce a backlash even in the Republican Party they finance.

Over the past few months, a group of Tennessee Republicans led by the state's governor Bill Haslam, tried to use federal Medicaid dollars to expand the number of people covered by health insurance. They narrowly failed, and much of the failure has been blamed on intense activism by Americans For Prosperity (AFP), a group financed by the Kochs.

In a long article published by The Tennessean, a series of high-profile Republicans finally lashed out at AFP, decrying its disproportionate influence over the state's politics.

First, there's Tom Ingram, top political adviser to Haslam:

Still, long-time political consultant Tom Ingram, Haslam's top political adviser, said what happened is also Exhibit A for outside groups' growing influence on state politics and state government.

“To some degree the same thing is going on nationwide,” said Ingram, who blames the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that removed restrictions on independent political campaign spending by nonprofit organizations and corporations.[...]

“They (AFP) have a full-time staff, they've poured in a lot of money indirectly and directly,” said Ingram, who was registered to lobby last session for a pro-Insure Tennessee business group. “It's largely to push whatever agenda they have and influence, frankly, our elected officials, our issues, disproportionately more than any of us as individual voters can. “I find something out of whack about that,” Ingram added.

Ingram followed up by saying even if the Tennessee GOP isn't “intimidated” by AFP, it's at least “aggravated” by it. Meanwhile, Tennesee's House Majority Leader said AFP represents a small group of people and donors, and isn't a broad organization representing his state:

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who sponsored Insure Tennessee, said he felt AFP …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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40 Million Reasons to Celebrate

May 6, 2015 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

At least two population milestones have been reached in 2011. The most spectacular is that 7 billion people now live in the world. The second, and more meaningful to Americans, is that nearly 40 million immigrants live in the United States today. The increase in our nation’s immigrant population has generated considerable controversy, but that is not new. Amidst all the fears of newcomers failing to integrate into American society, we need to take a look back at how those controversies played out during earlier waves of immigration. We can learn a lot from that history.

Today, immigrants comprise 12.9 percent of the U.S. population. In 1870, 14.4 percent of Americans were immigrants. From about 1860 to 1920, immigrants were a larger share of the population than they are today. Those were the years when our ancestors built enough to fill an entire continent and produce wealth for millions. The 2010 Census reports that nearly half of all immigrants are Hispanic or Latino, which is the largest ethnic immigrant group. Because of that most anti-immigrant sentiments are directed against them.

We should be thrilled to live in a society that is so attractive, wealthy, and prosperous that 40 million immigrants want to call it home and are becoming Americans right before our eyes.”

Immigration politics in the 19th century were much more vicious than today and focused on specific ethnic groups. In 1890 Wisconsin Governor William D. Hoard claimed that German-Americans were engaged in a conspiracy to darken the understanding of the children, and called for native born Americans to fight alienism and selfish ecclesiasticism by closing all German language schools in the state and making education in government schooling compulsory. Catholic and Lutheran German voters threw him out of office. An 1889 Illinois state law required all educators at parochial and public schools in Illinois to teach in English. Outraged German-American voters forced the law’s repeal in 1893. Slowly but surely Germans assimilated, learned English, and became Americans.

American holidays, like Columbus Day, mark the battlegrounds over these conflicts. The controversy over whether Columbus was a courageous explorer or a brutal slave trader and murderer (he was both) is a recent one. In the 19th and early 20th centuries he was a symbol of Catholic heritage and Catholic contributions to America. There was fierce anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant hysteria at the time (most immigrants then were Catholics, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Republicans and the Patriot Act

May 6, 2015 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

So far the Republican campaign for president has been fairly restrained, with the ever-growing field aiming most of their attacks at Hillary Clinton and President Obama. But the upcoming vote in Congress on reauthorizing the Patriot Act could open the first real fissures in the GOP field.

Unless Congress takes action, most provisions of the Patriot Act will expire on June 1. In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing a bill to make the controversial surveillance law permanent, and without any significant revisions. That bill is backed by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R., N.C.) and most Senate Republicans.

However, the House is taking a very different approach. Last week, the Judiciary Committee voted 25 to 2 in favor of a bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the Patriot Act for five years, while imposing greater privacy protections such as reining in the National Security Agency’s bulk-collection and metadata programs. Speaker John Boehner is backing this version of the reauthorization, which is expected to pass the full House within the next couple of weeks.

The upcoming vote in Congress on reauthorizing the Patriot Act could open the first real fissures in the GOP field.

The split is forcing Republican presidential candidates to take sides. Among the most prominent backers of the House approach is Senator Ted Cruz. Reauthorizing the law without changes “is not acceptable,” Cruz said in a statement. “It is absolutely critical for Congress to balance the privacy interests of law-abiding citizens against the public’s interest in national security.” But neither the current House reauthorization bill nor the USA Freedom Act, introduced in 2013 but never passed during the 113th Congress, goes far enough for Senator Rand Paul, who will oppose reauthorization all together. Paul says that “Our founding fathers would be mortified” by the government’s spying on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

On the other hand, Senator Marco Rubio strongly supports reauthorization and opposes the House reforms. “By and large, I’m supportive of the NSA programs and for extending [them],” Rubio told reporters. “I think they are important for the security of our country.” He will likely back the McConnell version, arguing that “the changes being proposed seem to be a reaction to misinformation and alarmism not rooted in the reality.”

Senator Lindsey Graham has long been a vocal supporter of both the Patriot Act and the NSA surveillance program. He is also expected to back the McConnell bill, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Can Rand Paul Turn America into Less of a Global Busybody?

May 6, 2015 in Economics

By David Boaz

David Boaz

Senator Rand Paul’s presidential campaign is drawing new attention to his “libertarian-ish” views and his less-interventionist foreign policy. His preference for avoiding new wars may set him apart from most of the other Republican candidates, as well as from former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, but it’s in keeping with traditional American foreign policy.

The classical liberals whose ideas shaped America always regarded war as the greatest scourge that government could visit upon society. They abhorred the killing that war entailed, and they understood something else as well: War destroyed families, businesses, and civil society. Preventing kings from putting their subjects at risk in unnecessary wars was one of their major goals. Adam Smith argued that little else was needed to create a happy and prosperous society but “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.”

The American founders, happy to be free of endless European wars, made peace and neutrality a cardinal principle of the new government. In his farewell address, George Washington told the nation: “The great rule in conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible.” And Thomas Jefferson described American foreign policy in his first inaugural address this way: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.”

Our never-ending military involvements around the world are enormously expensive and make us less safe.”

In the 20th century, however, the United States became entangled in world affairs and foreign wars, from World War I through Korea and Vietnam. For 50 years U.S. foreign policy was directed at defeating two totalitarian powers, first Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia. That great crusade ended with the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991; no other superpower remained to threaten U.S. sovereignty or world peace. But the huge diplomatic and military establishment that grew up during World War II and the Cold War refused to declare victory and return to peacetime status.

The American military remained large and expensive. Instead of celebrating the nation’s peaceful triumph, American policymakers expanded their ambitions. Even before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we were told that the post–Cold War world was even more dangerous and unstable than the world that had been threatened by the Soviet Union and its 30,000 nuclear warheads. American troops remained deployed in Europe, Japan, Korea, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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WATCH: Jon Stewart Hilariously Shreds 3 New GOP Presidential Hopeless Cases

May 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

Mike Huckabee sets the record for “lowest bar ever” when he announces he's “never thought of murdering anyone.”

It's perfectly understandable that Jon Stewart feels ready to retire now. With the GOP presidential race for 2016 amping up, the jokes are pretty much writing themselves. Three new jokes—Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee—have all jumped into the race, and they all managed to be hilariously awful when they announced their candidacy. Carson bizarrely had a gospel choir sing an Eminem song, then called Obama a psychopath without looking up from his lunch. Huckabee talked about his beloved bb gun and how he never once thought of murdering anyone with it. An automatic vote-getter that. And Fiorina—well, she's just awful.

Stewart had a grand time marveling and mocking each of the three's unique brand of stupidity. Fortunately for us all, these guys could collectively be named, not Slim Shady, but Slim Chances.

Watch him and laugh:

 

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Source: ALTERNET

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WATCH: Jon Stewart Makes the Perfect Case for 'Getting Rid of Ted Cruz'

May 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

The Republican clown car is way too full. Time for this one to go.

If there is a bigger fool in the Republican clown car of presidential aspirants than Ted Cruz, then bring it. Jon Stewart tried to do everyone a favor on Tuesday night's show when he played a round of, “Let's get rid of Ted Cruz.”

It's a very easy game to play. All you have to do is catch Cruz in a moment of utter demagoguery and hypocrisy, like any time he just talks. He swore to oppose Loretta Lynch, then was absent for the vote. Having accused Obama of being the fundraiser in chief, Cruz missed that vote because he was on his way to a fundraiser.

He accuses Obama of dividing the nation, then brings us all together by comparing people who are for marriage equality to violent jihadis. The man is so abhorrent, one wonders how he can even stand to be in his own car.

Watch Stewart's takedown:

 

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Source: ALTERNET