Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It's time for stronger unions again in the U.S.

Think we don't need unions? How about in West, Texas, where unions could have saved lives by fighting for safer working conditions? We need unions as much as other nations do.

From Crooks and Liars.

Hey, America - this is why you support unions!

(Click on the link to read more)

Factory Workers Walk Off Job in Massive Protest

Hundreds of thousands of garment workers walked out of their factories in Bangladesh Thursday, police said, to protest the deaths of 200 people in a building collapse, in the latest tragedy to hit the sector.

Grief turned to anger as the workers, some carrying sticks, blockaded key highways in at least three industrial areas just outside the capital Dhaka, forcing factory owners to declare a day's holiday.

"There were hundreds of thousands of them," said Abdul Baten, police chief of Gazipur district, where hundreds of large garment factories are based. "They occupied roads for a while and then dispersed."

Police inspector Kamrul Islam said the workers had attacked several factories whose bosses had refused to give employees the day off.

How easy is it for a felon to buy a gun?

From Gawker

This Is How Easy it Is to Find a Gun-Buying Felon Online

As the Senate prepared this morning to chicken out of tougher background checks on gun buyers, the New York Times plumbed the depths of Armslist, an online "firearms marketplace," and without much trouble turned up felons, fugitives, and random dudes hawking hundreds of guns at a time:

    Over the past three months, The Times identified more than 170,000 gun ads on Armslist. Some were for the same guns, making it difficult to calculate just how many guns were actually for sale. Even so, with more than 20,000 ads posted every week, the number is probably in the tens of thousands.

    Notably, 94 percent of the ads were posted by "private parties," who, unlike licensed dealers, are not required to conduct background checks.

Armslist makes its agenda clear, leading its front page with quick-links to sales listings for what it calls "Feinstein's Favorites": assault weapons targeted for regulation like AKs, AR-15s, Uzis, and MAC-10s.

The would-be purchasers included Omar Roman-Martinez, a double-felon and convicted domestic abuser who in several posts over more than a week sought a handgun and 9mm ammunition, even offering "to trade a tablet computer or a vintage Pepsi machine for firearms." (When contacted by the paper, he said he'd decided not to buy a piece.)

Then there's the Rhode Island fugitive with two felony warrants who wanted an AK-47; the domestic batterer selling his SKS; and the South Carolinian who's put 80 guns up for sale since February, and told the paper he doesn't do background checks or keep any sales records. The reason: "I can just sort of read people."

And the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

From The Political Carnival

(You can read more by following the link)
In one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression, the billionaire Koch brothers who habitually rail against government's unfair burden on the wealthy, have almost doubled their net worth to a combined $64 billion [...]

    During that same time period, some of the bleakest economic news has been reported for the rest of America. Just yesterday, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that between 2009 to 2011 the richest 7 percent of Americans increased their wealth by 28 percent while the remaining 93 percent of households lost 4 percent of their net worth. The study analyzed Census Bureau data for the period.

More on Governor Rick Perry and West, Texas

From Daily Kos

(Read more by clicking on the link)

Days after fatal explosion, Rick Perry tries to lure businesses to Texas for its weak regulations

Not only does Texas Gov. Rick Perry reject the idea that the massive fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, points to a need for more inspections and oversight of sites that store dangerous chemicals, he's spent this week arguing that Texas' lack of regulation is a reason companies should move their business there from other states. Perry paired a trip to the Bio International Convention in Chicago, Illinois, with a lot of big claims about why Texas is better for business than Illinois:

    Perry, in his media campaign which cost some $80,000, said, "I have a word of advice for employers frustrated by Illinois' short-sighted approach to business: you need to get out while there's still time. The escape route leads straight to Texas, where limited government, low taxes and a pro-business environment are creating more jobs than any other state."

You can make it say whatever you want

Reading your Holy Book? There's so much in there - so many contradictory statements - so many ambiguous statements - so many interpretations and reinterpretations of disintegrating scrolls written in archaic languages that scholars had to guess as to the meaning of them. And you accept that as Gospel?

Although I agree with this woman, it would be better to just make a moral argument rather than a religious argument - because you'll never win the religious side of the issue. The best you'll ever get is a stalemate.

Religion - often just plain bat-shit crazy

And the shootings and death continue

Still no new federal gun laws.

Sloganeering like the conservatives

Banning guns and banning abortions are different issues, so I'm not sure the sloganeering below is in the best interests of liberals. I hold the opposite position on both issues described and it would take a lot of deep explaining to make clear why this isn't inconsistent. I post this because it is typical of the kind of easy logic the right would use, but it's probably beyond those with some intellectual capacity.

The NRA paints a new picture of America

Elizabeth Warren speaks for the 99%.

Hey, Democrats, the Christie's are CONSERVATIVES!

Chris Christie has very high poll numbers, but never forget his conservative roots. He is attacking unions and liberal principles in a democratic state and pulling the wool over the eyes of even some progressives. He's a smooth talker and can convince a lot of people of the dire, though incorrect view, that austerity is somehow helping people.

Following Hurricane Sandy, he screamed loudly over the need for hurricane relief from the federal government and his wife (Mary Pat) started a relief fund and asked for donations, raising over $32 million dollars. My information is a little dated, at least 3 or 4 weeks old, but as of that time she had distributed NONE of that money. We can only assume that she is waiting until just prior to the election before releasing it in a flourish to help her husband get elected.

Growth in health care spending

Note that the chart shows the GROWTH in Medicare and health spending each year. The huge drop after part D was introduced does not mean spending didn't remain high, it just means that the INCREASES didn't continue to occur. As an aside, remember when Republicans introduced and passed the drug rider for Medicare, Part D, under President Bush, they never offered a way to pay for it - they just put it on the tab, adding to the deficit they are now crying over.

The Republicans hate Obama

With the administration admitting that there is some sketchy intelligence supporting the theory that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, the conservatives are calling for a new war. Face it - they never met a crisis they didn't think could be solved with guns and war.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Screwed up Republicans

Don't get me wrong - there a re crooks and crackpots among all politicians, all over the world. What make the Republicans such an easy target is their constant assertion that they are the party of morality: anti-abortion; anti-birth-control; anti-gay-rights; party of the Religious Right; etc. So when they DO screw up, it is all the more delicious...

From Crooks and Liars

Paul Ryan Intern Charged with Stalking

Um, Republican family values?

Adam Savader, reportedly a former intern for Paul Ryan, was arrested and charged with Internet extortion and cyber stalking by the FBI on Tuesday. Savader apparently sent anonymous text messages to 15 women saying he had nude photographs and threatening to distribute them unless he was sent more photographs. If convicted, he faces a maximum of five years in prison.


    A 21-year-old Great Neck, New York man was charged in a criminal complaint in the Eastern District of Michigan with Internet extortion and cyber stalking, announced United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.

    Joining in the announcement were Special Agent in Charge Robert D. Foley, III, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Chief John Seto, Ann Arbor Police Department.

    According to the affidavit, from May 2012 through February 2013, Adam Paul Savader sent anonymous text messages using Google Voice numbers to 15 women stating that he had nude photographs of the women and threatening to distribute the nude photographs to the women's friends and family members unless the women sent him more nude photographs of themselves. Savader sent some of the victims links to a photo-sharing website where nude pictures of the victims had been posted.

Speaking of charter schools

When it comes to charter schools and private school vouchers, I have quite a bit to say, and then some evidence to support at least one of my points.

First of all, conceptually, alternative schools aren't a bad idea. They can explore ways to enrich and improve education without some of the constraints placed on public schools or the religion imposed by religious institutions. Great idea, horrible in practice.

Often the money to run these charter/alternative schools is taken from a local school system, thus reducing the resources available to the community and the school district, though there might well not be a corresponding reduction in student population when some of the children in the charter come from other districts. If the funding actually came from a source other than school district funds and state aid to education, I'd be far more impressed with the commitment to improve education.

Far too often the charters/alternatives use their existence as an excuse to mistreat teaching staff. Union benefits such as tenure, reasonable pay, limits on class size, length of school day/year, etc. are all tossed out, yet the administrations of these schools all claim that their staff is far more dedicated. As if teachers need to be mistreated in order to be dedicated. I would guess that good teachers want to be well compensated and have reasonable working conditions and will turn to schools who provide that before they look at teaching under substandard conditions.

As an aside while we're talking about teachers, let me point out that numerous studies have shown that 70% of our nation's teachers come from the bottom 30% of college graduates. Why do you suppose that the teaching profession in America does not attract a higher quality of personnel? Low pay (compared with other professions); little community support (voters have to approve their budgets); poor working conditions (run down schools and a lack of supplies); and constant attacks from the right wing political leaders impugning their dignity (publication of their evaluations). Keep it up, America, and NOBODY will teach in your damn schools.

Back to charter/alternative schools. Often these institutions are turned over to private businesses to run and a large percentage of these companies are running the schools for a profit. They want to profit off of the government funding they can get. They are given a per-pupil allotment of state and local tax money to run the school - usually the same per-pupil allotment that is being spent in the local public school. Then the company takes somewhere between 7% and 15% off the top for profits. They are now spending considerably less on the students than the local public school which needs no profit. Do you think money makes a difference in the quality of the education the children will get? Better teachers? Better supplies? Better school environment? Me too.

My last point of this editorial is that study after study has shown that charter/private schools, on average (there are  very few exceptions), perform no better than the public schools and usually they perform worse. Now, I will grant you that the assessments being used to judge both charter/alternate schools suck the big wazoo, but the evidence so far seems to show that we are wasting our money on charters. If we want better schools, we could do our experimenting in our public schools - show them more love and support - create better assessments - treat our teachers better - make education a priority - and get the job done without making it a system to reward the friends of our politicians who want to profit off of your tax money.

Now to the point of proof of my arguments that I wanted to offer up.

From The Daily Page

Last spring, in the statewide math and reading tests known as the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE), students at Milwaukee's voucher schools did worse than their public-school peers.

"The scores released by the state Department of Public Instruction cast a shadow on the overall quality of the 21-year-old Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. "The scores also raise concerns about Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to roll back the mandate that voucher schools participate in the current state test."

And from The Toledo Blade

When charter schools burst onto Ohio's education scene about 15 years ago, proponents claimed they could educate at-risk children better and more cheaply than traditional public schools. Today, the reality is quite different - and alarming.

Charter schools cost the state more than twice as much per student as traditional schools do. And with a handful of exceptions, their academic performance is worse.

Ohio's system of deducting charter-school funding from the amount of state aid to school districts gives charters more money than they spend.

And from Common Dreams

A new analysis of charter schools in the U. S. is out from CREDO, the Stanford-based outfit that found in 2009, when there were 4,700 charters across 40 states, that 17 percent of the nation's charter schools were scoring better on standardized tests than the public schools they were created to replace:

    While the report recognized a robust national demand for more charter schools from parents and local communities, it found that 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains that were significantly better than traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools showed gains that were worse than their traditional public school counterparts, with 46 percent of charter schools demonstrating no significant difference.

You can do an Internet search and find lots more reports like these.  Charter schools are little more than a false hope and a waste of tax-payers money.

Conservatives and the Stupid Things They Say

From Forward Progressives

April 22, 2013 By Allen Clifton

I know this has probably been done hundreds of times, but I felt like putting my spin on it anyway.  After a day in which I went through hundreds of comments from Republicans on my various articles and Facebook page, I felt motivated to write this article to vent a little bit about the ignorance I commonly run across.

And I’m pretty sure most who read this will have seen this same type of stupidity.

Here we go…

    “The government never does anything for me.”– Said by the person who drove on public roads from their job, which provides overtime pay and safe working conditions for its employees, to pick up their child/children from public school.  A trip that was made safe due to a system of well organized traffic signals.
    “Keep the government out of my health care.”– Said by the person on Medicare.
    “FEMA is unconstitutional.”– Said by the person prior to their town, and home, being destroyed by a natural disaster.
    “I’m for a fiscally responsible government.”– Said by the person who voted for both Reagan and Bush twice.

[Click on the link above to read the rest of the article.]

Atheists are offended as well.

All religion is unrealistic

The following happens to describe the beliefs of the Mormons, but is it really more farcical than the belief that there's a magical, invisible kingdom in the sky where where you will reside in peace, harmony and love forever and ever? I don't think so.

Shooting report of the day.

Gun control - just the facts, ma'm

We are a mixed up society

Gun control - what does your heart tell you?

The cost of the Iraq war

And in case you've forgotten how misinformed the Republicans were, remember that Dick Cheney said that Iraqi oil (he assumed that we would get it all) would pay for the cost of the war. 

Obamacare support

I wouldn't have thought this - and don't have the source. I wonder if it is accurate.

Environmental change

Grasping the crazy that is Republican

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Still more on the Sentate gun control debate

From Crooks and Liars

Richard Daley Wants His Contribution Back From Sen. Heitkamp
[View a related video by clicking on the link.]

Bill Daley was not only Obama's chief of staff and a former secretary of commerce, he's a major Democratic bundler. He's really ticked off that Heidi Heitkamp, who ran for the Senate as a progressive, punked out when it came to voting for gun control. He's urging contributors to cut off the Democrats who helped the Republicans filibuster the bill:

    I want my money back.

    Last October, I gave $2,500 to support Heidi Heitkamp's campaign to become North Dakota's junior senator. A few weeks later, she won a surprise victory.

    I have had a long career in government and politics, but I don't donate heavily to political campaigns. When I contribute, it's because I know the candidate well or am really impressed with the person. Heidi Heitkamp was one of the latter: She struck me as strong-willed, principled and an independent thinker.

    But this week, Heitkamp betrayed those hopes.

    She voted to block legislation to make gun background checks more comprehensive. Her vote - along with those of 41 Republicans and three other Democrats - was a key reason the measure fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage.

    Polling has shown that nine in 10 Americans and eight in 10 gun owners support a law to require every buyer to go through a background check on every gun sale. In North Dakota, the support was even higher: 94 percent. Yet in explaining her vote, Heitkamp had the gall to say that she "heard overwhelmingly from the people of North Dakota" and had to listen to them and vote no. It seems more likely that she heard from the gun lobby and chose to listen to it instead.

    Here in Chicago, we know how serious a problem gun violence is. Over Easter weekend, 25 people were shot in Chicago. Last year, more than 400 young people were shot in our city. Our mayor and police are working tirelessly to fight gun crime; over the past decade, the Chicago Police Department has taken 50,000 guns off the streets. But illegal gun traffickers don't respect state lines, and easy access to firearms in other states helps fuel gun violence in Chicago.

    Instead of getting help from Washington, 45 senators seem determined to make it easy for criminals to get guns, no questions asked.

    And the truth is that gun violence is not just some big-city, blue-state problem. Which state has the country's highest rate of death by gun? Alaska.

    Yet both Alaska senators - Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Lisa Murkowski - voted against expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those so mentally ill that they are a danger to themselves or others.

    The other two Democrats who voted against background checks are Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana. Like Begich, they will be running for reelection next year. And no doubt they'll come to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other cities looking for money to fuel their campaigns. These cities, of course, are also too often the destination for illegal guns flowing in from out of state.

    So I'll have some advice for my friends in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles: Just say no to the Democrats who said no on background checks.

Goings on in Texas

From Daily Kos

Toxic Texas politics on display in fertilizer plant explosion
[Read more of this story by clicking on the link]

The cause of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion that killed at least 14 and injured 200, as well as destroying dozens of buildings, is still unknown and the damage is still being assessed, but even without the full story known, plenty of toxic Texas politics has been on display. Texas politicians are eager for the federal disaster aid they voted against when it was New York and New Jersey that needed it in the wake of Sandy, and the zoning laws that let a school and homes be right across the street from a fertilizer plant should be a scandal. And it's become clear that, whatever the immediate cause of the explosion, the plant was a menace to its workers and the town, enabled by Texas-style weak regulation and oversight.

Hell is not scary when you're rational.

There's a cure for religious beliefs.

Daily shooting report

We're still shooting each other - no new federal gun laws.

If you think the NRA is interested in your protecting yourself, think again.

Very accurate portrayal of background check debate in the Senate.

Little Red Riding Cat

Rick Perry is running again

Rating the GOP

I don't think they're doing very well...

Who ARE the Republicans?

I think they recruit the Republican representatives by driving up and down neighborhood streets, looking for old white men holding shotguns and yelling at the kids to get off their lawn.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Texas in the news

There was a quick piece on one of the morning news shows today about Gov. Rick Perry of Texas demanding an apology from one of the California newspapers which ran a cartoon of Perry in front of some businessmen proclaiming, "Come to Texas where business is booming." Clearly a reference to the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas last week. The newspaper has refused to apologize and I thought the cartoon was funny.

The following was published a couple of days ago over on Crooks and Liars.

Come To Texas, Where It's Better For Business!

Meanwhile, in the Texan business community …Well, come to find out, the West Fertilizer Company lied to the EPA.

    The fertilizer plant that exploded Wednesday night in West, Texas, reported to the Environmental Protection Agency and local public safety officials that it presented no risk of fire or explosion, documents show.

    West Fertilizer Co. reported having as much as 54,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia on hand in an emergency planning report required of facilities that use toxic or hazardous chemicals.

    But the report, reviewed Wednesday night by The Dallas Morning News, stated "no" under fire or explosive risks. The worst possible scenario, the report said, would be a 10-minute release of ammonia gas that would kill or injure no one.

So the volunteer firefighters at the burning plant had no idea what they were dealing with. Because it's easy to lie in Texas. All ya gotta do is check a box.

And why would they lie? They were storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). They didn't want EPA or the DHS in their business. That might cost them time and money.We all know how Rick Perry feels about the EPA, don't we? He thinks its sole goal is to kill jobs.

    "Somebody has to tell the E.P.A. that we don't need you monkeying around and fiddling around and getting in our business with every kind of regulation you can dream up," he said. "You're doing nothing more than killing jobs. It's a cemetery for jobs at the E.P.A."

So, Rick Perry handed us this mushroom cloud on a silver platter.

I cannot wait to hear hear him and Ron Paul explain how the market forces will correct this. The company will declare bankruptcy, its owners will keep their money and the injured people will hold bake sales to pay their medical bills. That's what we call "Business Friendly" in Texas.

But now Rick Perry, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz just love the Federal Government. I tell you what, I would buy Chris Christie an airplane ticket if he would come down to West, Texas, and shake his finger in Ted Cruz's face.

Cruz voted against aid for New Jersey but now wants aid for Texas.They can all kiss my big blue butt.

Armed security in schools?

Looking at the empirical evidence is important whenever we think of taking something from a small scale and extending it to full scale. What have security officers done in schools where we already have them? We know that Columbine had a security officer - and Virginia Tech had a security force - neither of which saved any lives during their mass shootings. Is there any other evidence?

Gawker reports...
[Follow the link to read more]

What Police Officers Protecting High Schools Are Actually Doing
Maggie Lange   

When police officers first became a common fixture in high schools in the 1990s, school districts presumably had expectations that the law enforcement would protect students from violence. Instead, the police have found themselves mired in problems usually reserved for a constantly exasperated Vice Principal: disciplining trouble-makers, chasing after scofflaws, scolding ruffians, and tracking down truants. As a result, the number of kids sent to court has increased in school districts where police are present at schools. A criminologist at the University of Maryland and expert in school violence, Denise Gottfredson, said:

    "There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety. And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system."

Trying to understand the Christian God.

Can someone explain how this loving God could create us all, love us all, help us find our car keys, yet allow horrible things to happen to the most vulnerable among us? Logic, people, use some freakin' logic!

Still think the Vatican is the center of human morality?