Feb 122012
 

 

* 5 RIGHT-WING GOVERNORS GUTTING SCHOOLS TO FUND PRISONS, TAX BREAKS FOR THE RICH … AND A BIBLE THEME PARK

By Sarah Jaffe, AlterNet

[…] Here’s a look at five of the governors taking money away from their states’ kids, and a look at some of the things they are still funding.

1. Pennsylvania

Governor Tom Corbett set off a wave of anger this week when his new budget hit—and slashed a full $1.2 billion from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education. According to the Education Law Center, that’s taking a full 15 percent out of the budgets of the state’s already-struggling schools. […]

2. Ohio

According to Policy Matters Ohio, the state’s budget (signed this summer) takes $1.8 billion in funding away from Ohio’s elementary and secondary schools over the next two school years. The new report noted that 65 percent of respondents to its survey of Ohio school districts say they are facing budget shortfalls as a result of state budget cuts—that means pay freezes, pay cuts, not replacing teachers who retire; 45 percent report “reductions in force”–layoffs. […]

3. South Carolina

Kasich’s elimination of the estate tax is certainly one example of policies that favor the 1 percent and leave students out in the cold, but South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has gone Kasich one better and proposes to entirely eliminate the corporate income tax in her state. That would cost nearly $140 million in the first year alone—so Haley’s taking a chunk of that cash out of public schools. [...]

4. Alabama

In no state is it so abundantly clear that the governor is prioritizing other spending over education than in Alabama, where Governor Robert Bentley has proposed taking $230 million from the Education Trust Fund and putting it into the General Fund, which pays for prisons, courts and other parts of the state government. [...]

5. Kentucky

Just to note that it’s not just Republicans who cut education dollars and spend on ridiculous things instead—Kentucky governor Steve Beshear is a Democrat, albeit one who brags on his official Web site about “trimming the state workforce” and “reforming” child welfare. Yet his budget offered up a 6.4 percent cut to higher ed and a decrease in funds to K-12 students as well.

But that’s not the best part. Travis Waldron at ThinkProgress explained that the governor did preserve a $43 million tax break for a “Bible-themed amusement park — which will include a 500-foot by 75-foot reproduction of Noah’s Ark,” as well as $11 million in spending on the highway interchange that will be near the park. […]

READ @ http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/154095

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* MIND-BLOWING CHARTS FROM THE SENATE’S INCOME INEQUALITY HEARING 

By Josh Harkinson, MotherJones

In another sign that Democrats have embraced income inequality as a cause célèbre, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the subject today. The committee’s ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, managed to look concerned during two hours of testimony about the kneecapping of the Middle Class—not that it should have been all that difficult. Here are some of the hearing’s most striking charts: […]

READ and CHARTS @ http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/02/mind-blowing-charts-senates-income-inequity-hearing

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* GOP UPS THE ANTE, INTRODUCED LEGISLATION TO ALLOW ANY EMPLOYER TO DENY ANY PREVENTIVE HEALTH SERVICES

By Igor Volsky, ThinkProgress

[…] But Republicans and some conservative Catholic groups are not satisfied with the accommodation and hope to use their false claim of “religious persecution” to deny women access to preventive health services. Despite Obama’s decision to shield nonprofit religious institutions from offering birth control benefits, next week Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is expected to offer an amendment that would permit any employer or insurance plan to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, from coverage if they morally object to it:

(6) RESPECTING RIGHTS OF CONSCIENCE WITH REGARD TO SPECIFIC ITEMS OR SERVICES —

“(A) FOR HEALTH PLANS. — A health plan shall not be considered to have failed to provide the essential health benefits package described in subsection (a) (or preventive health services described in section 2713 of the Public Health Services Act), to fail to be a qualified health plan, or to fail to fulfill any other requirement under this title on the basis that it declines to provide coverage of specific items or services because —

“(i) providing coverage (or, in the case of a sponsor of a group health plan, paying for coverage) of such specific items or services is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan; or

“(ii) such coverage (in the case of individual coverage) is contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the purchaser or beneficiary of the coverage. […]

READ @ http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/02/10/423346/gop-ups-the-ante-introduces-legislation-to-allow-any-employer-to-deny-any-preventive-health-service/

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* THE 1 PERCENT PRESIDENT

By Peter Hart, FAIR

[…] What is this amazing juggernaut of technological and political progress? The Americans Elect plan consists of two parallel efforts. The first is a Web-based political dialogue that empowers citizen “delegates” to identify key issues and then nominate centrist presidential candidates. The second is a more traditional state-by-state petition drive to get the group and its eventual candidate a ballot line.

The Internet delegates will narrow down the pool of acceptably moderate candidates, who then must pledge to nominate a running mate from another political party. An online convention selects the Americans Elect nominee (or possibly not—see sidebar), and a public apparently hungry to move beyond the stale two-party duopoly sends a bona fide centrist to the White House. […]

READ @ http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4475

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* THE BOOK OF JOBS

Forget monetary policy. Re-examining the cause of the Great Depression—the revolution in agriculture that threw millions out of work—the author argues that the U.S. is now facing and must manage a similar shift in the “real” economy, from industry to service, or risk a tragic replay of 80 years ago.

By Joseph E. Stiglitz, Vanity Fair

[…] If we expect to maintain any semblance of “normality,” we must fix the financial system. As noted, the implosion of the financial sector may not have been the underlying cause of our current crisis—but it has made it worse, and it’s an obstacle to long-term recovery. Small and medium-size companies, especially new ones, are disproportionately the source of job creation in any economy, and they have been especially hard-hit. What’s needed is to get banks out of the dangerous business of speculating and back into the boring business of lending. But we have not fixed the financial system. Rather, we have poured money into the banks, without restrictions, without conditions, and without a vision of the kind of banking system we want and need. We have, in a phrase, confused ends with means. A banking system is supposed to serve society, not the other way around. […]

READ @ http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/01/stiglitz-depression-201201

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* MORTGAGE SETTLEMENT AS ATTORNEY GENERAL SELLOUT: DEAL IS NOT DONE, AND FINAL VERSION GUARANTEED TO BE WORSE THAN ADVERTISES

By Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

[…] As attorneymag-glass_10x10.gif Max Gardner said via e-mail (boldface ours):

I would never tell a client that I had settled a case or claim against a creditor until the ink was on the final written settlement agreement. I would of course advise the client of the verbal offer and secure the client’s acceptance but would always say something like “don’t spend any of the money because as Yogi might say it ain’t over until we have the signed agreement and their check has cleared my trust account.” An attorney would be guilty of serious ethical violations if he or she told a client we have a settlement with BoA and it is final before the deal was closed out by written agreement and in my bankruptcy practice the agreement was approved by the court. The AGs have said this agreement must be approved by a Federal District Court Judge so really why would you make such public announcements before at the least a written agreement signed and inked by ALL of the parties. […]

READ @ http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/02/mortgage-settlement-as-attorney-general-sellout-deal-is-not-done-and-final-version-guaranteed-to-be-worse-than-advertised.html

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* MATT TAIBBI ASSESSES THE $26 BILLION SETTLEMENT DESIGNED TO AID VICTIMS OF FORECLOSURE FRAUD

Source: Countdown w/ Sam Seder

READ @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2gAlcvhXpYs

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* FEDERAL RESERVE MAKES CONTINGENCY PLANS FOR SUMMITS

By Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said Thursday it has “extensive contingency plans” that would allow its employees to “work from home” or from an “off-site location” in the event that demonstrations turn ugly during the NATO and G-8 summits

The bank is located at 230 S. LaSalle in the heart of Chicago’s financial district. It is the first major business to raise the possibility of relocating its employees during the May 19-21 summit expected to draw President Barack Obama and other world leaders to McCormick Place

The Federal Reserve’s carefully-worded statement talked about the “threat of possible disruptions” without mentioning the tens of thousands of protesters expected to descend on Chicago. […]

READ @ http://www.suntimes.com/10541657-417/federal-reserve-makes-contingency-plans-for-summits.html

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* HOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS! BELGIAN FIREFIGHTERS SOAK POLICE IN PROTEST – VIDEO

Hundreds of Belgian firefighters hose down the prime minister’s office as part of a protest against retirement plans

By Guardian UK

Several hundred Belgian firefighters have broken through police lines in Brussels and hosed down the prime minister’s office in protest at the government’s tougher retirement plans.

The firefighters want to keep their early retirement age at 58, arguing their arduous job does not allow them to work into their 60s. […]

READ @ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/10/hose-belgian-firefighters-soak-police

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* OVER 100,000 RALLY IN LISBON AGAINST AUSTERITY

By Andrei Khalip, Rueters

Demonstrators arrive at Terrero do Paco square during a protest in Lisbon February 11, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Rafael Marchante

More than 100,000 people packed Lisbon’s vast Palace Square on Saturday in the largest rally against austerity and economic hardships since the country resorted to an EU/IMF bailout last May, and organizers vowed to step up protests and labor action.

The mass rally occurred just four days before Portugal’s international lenders were due to start the quarterly evaluation of the bailout implementation on Wednesday in the finance ministry building which overlooks the square by the river Tagus. They come amid concerns Portugal may need more bailout funds, if not a debt restructuring like Greece.

“We take this opportunity here to make our own evaluation on behalf of those who suffer daily,” Armenio Carlos, head of the country’s largest union, CGTP, told supporters as the crowd chanted: “IMF doesn’t call the shots here!”

“We have to step up the struggle,” he said. Carlos promised the next wave of rallies across Portugal as soon as on February 29.

“The country needs to remove the rope from around its neck,” he said, saying that Portugal should try to renegotiate its debt rather than impose more austerity, an argument he has made consistently. […]

READ @ http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/11/us-portugal-protest-idUSTRE81A0K820120211

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* ONE MORNING IN HOMS

By Amal Hanano, Jadaliyya

It is nighttime here, and I am about to go to bed. Before I disconnect from Syria, I notice Omar is on Skype. I send him a message telling him that his video on Anderson Cooper tonight was impressive. I tell him that he makes me proud to be Syrian. I tell him that I wished I was with them in Homs. A few seconds later, he sends me a link. I open it. Suddenly I am in Homs, at daybreak.  He messages me: This is my livestream from Baba Amr. I plug in my laptop charger. It is going to be another long night.

It is six in the morning (6:00am on the dot) in Syria. I watch the static frame filled with a gray sky and rooftops of buildings. Three large satellite dishes in the foreground and a minaret in the distance. It’s completely silent. Then a rooster begins to crow, over and over, in precise intervals. Birds chirp. It was bliss to watch the stillness, for once nothing was happening. I feel pleasure at knowing these familiar sounds, knowing the exact scent of the winter air, knowing the peacefulness of an early morning in Syria. Omar was with me in the room that I couldn’t see, but his view was my view, his window was my window.

Then, the quiet is punctured with long, thunderous rumbles of rockets, quick shots of bullet fire, panicked voices of a few women, and once, a girl’s chilling scream. The familiar vanishes. I message him: I cannot believe this is my country.

He sends me the following statement from earlier in the day:

“The humanitarian situation on the ground in Baba Amr until this moment is still a mix of rocket launchers, tanks, mortar launchers hitting the area from all sides. More than 500 shells have come down on us since the morning, targeting homes, protest places and mosques. Al-Anwar Mosque was shelled with more than ten shells which led to the destruction of a large part of it; surrounding homes were also destroyed. The humanitarian condition is difficult at the moment, there is no bread, no medication and no nutritional supplies and as we mentioned in our last report, a field hospital was targeted and we lost a number of our medical crew. There is no form of communication inside the area and any moving thing is targeted by snipers surrounding the area.

 Life is at a complete stand still. There is no escape or safe passage from the area and there is no safe shelter inside the area from the rockets and shells. The number of martyrs has reached sixty from the last statistic we received from Doctor Mohammad Almohammad (the head of the field hospital). […]

READ @ http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/4281/one-morning-in-homs

MORE NEWS and VIDEOS: http://www.enduringamerica.com/

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* THE NEOCON’S BIG IRAN LIE

By Matt Duss, Salon

In February 2003, less than a month before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Gen. Eric Shinseki told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” would be required to occupy Iraq in order to stabilize it in the wake of an invasion.

What quickly followed is well known. Several days later, in what journalist James Fallows called “probably the most direct public dressing-down of a military officer, a four-star general, by a civilian superior since Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur, 50 years ago,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz called Shinseki’s estimate “wildly off the mark,” and said that “it’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself.”

The cavalier dismissal by civilian officials and conservative pundits of military analysts’ predictions of the likely consequences of the Iraq war was symbolic of the entire hubristic enterprise. Over $800 billion and tens of thousands of civilian casualties later, the idea that America can deal with its problems and create specific outcomes simply through the application of its considerable military might is rightly understood as a mirage. […]

READ @ http://www.salon.com/2012/02/10/the_neocons_big_iran_lie/singleton/

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* HOW THE ARAB LEAGUE HAS BECOME A TOOL OF WESTERN IMPERIALISM

By Finian Cunningham, Global Research

It’s an intrigue befitting the machinations of classical colonialism in past centuries, such as the Sykes-Picot carve-up of the Middle Eastern Levant territories, or the betrayal of the Arabs after World War I, or the theft of Mesopotamia’s oil by British capitalists.

Only this time, it is Arabs who are helping the neocolonial powers to deceive and subjugate other Arabs. Enter the Arab League.

Over the past year, the 22-member organization has emerged as a useful deceptive cover for Western powers as they seek to redraw the political contours of the Arab World, and beyond, for their own strategic interests.

The momentous popular upheavals that began in early 2011 across the Arab World have in many ways been co-opted or manipulated by Western imperialist powers to minimize democratic gains and to refashion the political map to their continuing advantage. A feat of achievement considering that these same powers have for decades supported the repressive regimes that have inflicted so much misery and suffering.

The leitmotif for Western intervention is “responsibility to protect” (R2P) – the notion that these powers are motivated by concern for human rights and the protection of civilian lives. But given that the United States, Britain, France and other NATO states have been conducting criminal wars of aggression over the past decade in mainly Muslim lands, with a death toll exceeding one million and casualties amounting to many more millions, these powers found themselves with a huge credibility problem when it came to contriving a pretext to intervene in the Arab upheavals.

[…]

The arrangement works like this: foment violence and instability within the country of choice, arm dissident groups, and direct these same groups with covert special forces; when government forces move to quell the insurrection, then accuse them of violating human rights. The Arab League then suspends the country, marking it out for international pariah status, which in turn provides a pretext for Western powers to mount military strikes, committing atrocities in the name of “responsibility to protect”, and engineering regime change in the interests of the Western powers. It’s neocolonialism in Arab lands – with the help of other Arab states.

Libya can be seen as a dress rehearsal for this routine, which is now being played out feverishly with Syria. Recall that it was the spurning of Libya in March by other League members that immediately presaged the seven-month NATO aerial bombardment of that country, resulting in possibly thousands of civilian deaths, a crime that is not yet fully realized because of a corporate-controlled media blackout, but a despicable crime nevertheless with bloodied Arab hands involved.

It appears that the Arab League is now taking on an even more pronounced role as the routine finesses. Clearly in Syria what is happening is an insurrection that is being fomented and armed by foreign governments, with Turkey and Saudi Arabia taking a lead role in arming the so-called Free Syrian Army against the state forces of President Bashar Al Assad.

And it was the Arab League that brought the motion last week at the UN Security Council aimed at shackling the Assad government and setting it up for Libya-style NATO military intervention. The veto by Russia and China has for the moment derailed that plan. No doubt, Russia and China have learnt the lesson of Libya where a similar Security Council sanction was used by Western powers to launch a blitzkrieg on that country – in the name of the specious R2P.

The insidious role of the Arab League as the West’s hound-dog can be gleaned from the comment by British Foreign Secretary William Hague following the Russian and Chinese veto at the UN.

Hague said: “Russia and China faced a simple choice today: would they support the people of Syria and the Arab League, or not? They decided not to, and instead sided with the Syrian regime and its brutal suppression of the Syrian people in support of their national interests.”

This is British spin on facts and truth at its best. Firstly, Russia and China decided to side with the “Syrian regime” because – despite biased Western media coverage – the government of Assad appears to retain the support of the Syrian people, and therefore it retains sovereign legitimacy. And the “brutal repression” that the solemn Hague speaks of relates to violence that Western and foreign Arab states have assiduously fomented in Syria, as they did in Libya. […]

READ @ http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=29174

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* ISRAEL, MEK AND STATE SPONSOR OF TERROR GROUPS

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

One of the most under-reported political stories of the last year is the devoted advocacy of numerous prominent American political figures on behalf of an Iranian group long formally designated as a Terrorist organization under U.S. law. A large bipartisan cast has received substantial fees from that group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), and has then become their passionate defenders. The group of MEK shills includes former top Bush officials and other Republicans (Michael Mukasey, Fran Townsend, Andy Card, Tom Ridge, Rudy Giuliani) as well as prominent Democrats (Howard Dean, Ed Rendell, Bill Richardson, Wesley Clark). As The Christian Science Monitor reported last August, those individuals “have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to speak in support of the MEK.” No matter what one thinks of this group – here is a summary of its activities – it is formally designated as a Terrorist group and it is thus a felony under U.S. law to provide it with any “material support.”

[…]

According to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a NATO airstrike yesterday in Afghanistan killed 8 children. Meanwhile, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar yesterday patiently explained that drone strikes — which Americans widely support, including American liberals — are “completely illegal and unlawful” and “counterproductive” because they “fuel terrorism,” since people tend to become quite angry at the foreign power which slaughters their children, their spouses, their parents, their neighbors, etc., i.e., for every Terrorist the U.S. allegedly kills, it creates five more people wanting to attack the U.S. (see her answers to the two questions beginning at 4:30):

READ and VIDEO @ http://www.salon.com/2012/02/10/israel_mek_and_state_sponsor_of_terror_groups/singleton/

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* LT. COL. DANIEL DAVIS’ TRUTH-TELLING CONTINUES: LONG REPORT PUBLISHED BY ROLLING STONE

By Jim White, emptywheel.net

[…] Earlier this week, Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis published a short report in the Armed Forces Journal and coupled that with discussions with the New York Times’ Scott Shane for an article hitting on the same subject area. In those reports, we learned that Davis had prepared much longer reports, both a classified one which he shared with several members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and a non-classified one which he intended to publish. In the Armed Forces Journal piece, Davis noted that he intended to publish the longer report at his afghanreport.com website, and in an editor’s note, it was pointed out that “At press time, Army public affairs had not yet ruled on whether Davis could post this longer version.” In a very interesting twist, Davis’ long report now has been published, but not at his website. Instead, Michael Hastings, whose The Runaway General article at Rolling Stone eventually resulted in the firing of Stanley McChrystal, has posted Davis’ report (pdf) at the Rolling Stone website, along with a brief introduction from Hastings. There will be a post soon from bmaz addressing Davis’ approach to whistle-blowing and his treatment of classified information.

[…]

Davis’ thesis in the longer report remains unchanged from the original. He maintains that despite persistent claims by top military brass that progress is being made in Afghanistan, there is in fact no progress. Violence continues on a steady increase and Afghan forces are nowhere near a point where they can maintain security in the absence of ISAF forces. On the final page, he has this to say about his “final take-away” from the report. He prepared a graphic based on the one reproduced above:

If there were only one thing I could ask you to take away from this rather lengthy brief, it would be this one page. Below you see charted over time, the rising violence from the end of 2005 through the first quarter 2011 (chart source: ANSO, 2011). All spin aside, you see regardless of who was in command, what strategy they used, or what claims they made, nothing impacted the rising arc of violence from 2005 through today. The one thing, however, that has never changed: the upward arc of violence, which continues its rise and is expected to continue at least through this summer.

READ and CHARTS @ http://www.emptywheel.net/2012/02/11/lt-col-daniel-davis-truth-telling-continues-long-report-published-by-rolling-stone/

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* IT’S TIME TO OCCUPY MAINSTREAM MEDIA

By Dustin M. Slaughter, OpEdNews.com

“Between the public sector and the private sector, we have wreaked untold havoc on the media environment.”

These aren’t the words of a progressive media advocate such as University of Illinois professor Robert McChesney or The Nation’s John Nichols, but of ex-FCC commissioner Michael Copps in January. In an interview on Democracy Now!, Copps attributes his claim to “the abdication of public interest responsibility by the FCC” over the last 30 years and their failure to enforce public interest guidelines and a stronger focus on news.

Here’s another example of how the FCC has failed in their responsibility to the public good: In 1995, the FCC forbade companies ownership of more than 40 stations. Clear Channel Communications now owns over 1,500. This rate of consolidation clearly shows no sign of slowing.

The closing of news rooms and the number of reporters on the street instead of the beat goes on as the corporate state continues its relentless and undemocratic consolidation of America’s media landscape. Layoffs continue despite a number of companies like McClatchy posting a 21% profit margin, according to the book The Death and Life of American Journalism. McClatchy fired a third of their newsroom staff in 2008.

“25 or 30 years ago, only 50 companies controlled more than half of what we see and hear every single day. Now, that 50 – which was alarming enough – has shrunk to six or even five,” says Johnathan Lawson, the co-founder of Reclaim the Media. Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp owns the top newspaper on three continents: The Wall Street Journal, The Sun, and The Australian. According to a 2008 GAO report, the company was operating over 150 subsidiaries in off-shore tax havens. How much of those subsidiary holdings could have gone to funding NPR, or towards community initiatives to help expand minority media in communities?

The assault on our airwaves first began in earnest in 1980, when “the FCC did away with public interest guidelines for broadcast television licenses, and the renewal period went from three to eight years,” according to Copps. Now all a broadcaster has to do is “mail in a postcard” and their license is renewed, because the FCC – against the very reason it was created – has watered down attempts to ensure that the public’s airwaves are by-and-large for the public good. […]

READ and PHOTOS @ http://www.opednews.com/populum/linkframe.php?linkid=145361