AlterNet.org: Laura Clawson http://www.alternet.org/authors/laura-clawson en Citizens United and McCutcheon Are Not Enough: Right Wants PAC Donation Limits Abolished http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/right-wants-pac-donation-limits-abolished <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '982575'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=982575" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Another money = free speech case comes from the lawyer who brought us McCutcheon. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_149078822.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>If you were wondering what limits on money in politics would be <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/dan-backer-campaign-finance-case-mccutcheon-105756.html">challenged in court next</a>, here's one place to look. The lawyer who brought you the McCutcheon case is going after political action committee donation limits, because "These discriminatory restrictions impermissibly allow entrenched institutions and interests to engage in protected First Amendment activities to a greater extent than newly formed grassroots organizations that have spontaneously mobilized in response to emergent political issues and developments." His beef:</p><blockquote>PACs that are less than 6 months old are permitted to give up to $5,200 to a candidate in an election cycle, while PACs more than 6 months old can give $10,000 per election cycle.<p>By contrast, new PACs can give $10,000 to a state political party committee and $32,400 to a national political party per year. Those limits actually decrease once a PAC reaches 6 months old to $5,000 each year to a state or local party and $15,000 annually to a national party.</p><p>“The right of groups and individuals to speak are being treated very differently,” Backer said in an interview.</p></blockquote><p>Yes, he straight-up referred to financial contributions of thousands of dollars as speech. And yes, the limits on contributions by new PACs are meant to prevent people from saying "screw these individual contribution limits, I'll just set up a PAC to get around them."</p><p>Of course, Backer's real end game is unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and PACs at all times. An ever-flowing river of undifferentiated money. Because democracy!</p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '982575'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=982575" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 05:55:00 -0700 Laura Clawson, Daily Kos 982575 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 News & Politics The Right Wing pac scotus first amendment Scott Brown Answers Carpetbagger Questions in New Hampshire: 'Whatever!' http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/scott-walker-answers-carpetbagger-questions-new-hampshire-whatever <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '974529'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=974529" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The former Massachusetts Senator points a finger back to his opponent, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who has lived in the Granite State for 40 years. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/scott_p._brown.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><div id="intro"><div>As he faces questions and suspicion over his blatant carpetbagging into the New Hampshire Senate race, former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/brown-faces-history-residency-questions-nh-bid">might want to work on his messaging</a>.</div><blockquote>"Do I have the best credentials? Probably not. 'Cause, you know, whatever. But I have long and strong ties to this state," he told The Associated Press. "People know."</blockquote>Yeah, dude, whatever. I may not have the best credentials, but, you know, whatever. YOLO.<p>Now that's senatorial! Especially when you consider Brown's history with the word <s>whatever</s> <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/28/1182786/-Scott-Brown-Bqhatevwr">bqhatevwr</a>.</p><p>Is "whatever" really going to carry Brown <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/brown-faces-history-residency-questions-nh-bid">through a campaign</a> filled with questions?</p><blockquote>Inside the Red Arrow, Brown claimed a stool at the counter next to Pratt. As he waited for his breakfast, Pratt vowed not to vote for Shaheen. But she also pointedly questioned Brown's devotion to New Hampshire. Behind him, 71-year-old Manchester resident Connie Antoniou whispered, "I wish the Massachusetts people would stay in Massachusetts."<p>Brown told Pratt that "carpetbagger is a derogatory term" in New Hampshire given that roughly 60 percent of its people were born elsewhere, including the current and former Democratic governors. Gov. Maggie Hassan moved to the state in 1989. Shaheen, who was born in Missouri, has lived in New Hampshire for more than 40 years.</p><p>"Sen. Shaheen is not from here, but apparently it's a problem with me?" Brown asked during a brief interview outside the diner.</p></blockquote>Um, yeah, because Shaheen lived in New Hampshire for 17 years before running for office, then worked her way up, serving first in the state Senate. Whereas Scott Brown worked his way up through elected office in Massachusetts. There's a difference between running for office in the state in which you've made your adult life and raised your children and running for office in the state in which you own a vacation home next to the state in which you've made your adult life, raised your children, and only recently been voted out of office.<p>But, you know, whatever.</p></div></div><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '974529'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=974529" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 09:12:00 -0700 Laura Clawson, Daily Kos 974529 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics scott brown new hampshire More Proof Obamacare is Working: Uninsured Rate Drops http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/obamacare-working-uninsured-rate-drops <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '968310'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=968310" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Every fraction of a percent that the uninsured rate drops is a political problem for Republicans and they know it.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_147446714.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div>Two months after Americans started getting health coverage under Obamacare's exchanges, it's working. <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/167798/uninsured-rate-continues-fall.aspx">The uninsured rate is dropping</a>, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index shows. In the fourth quarter of 2013, 17.1 percent of Americans did not have health insurance. So far in 2014, that number has dropped to 15.9 percent.</div><div id="intro"><p>The biggest drops in the uninsured rate—or gains in the insured rate—came among lower-income and black people. In late 2013, 30.7 percent of people earning less than $36,000 a year were uninsured; now, 27.9 percent are uninsured, a drop of 2.8 percentage points. The uninsured rate declined a similar 2.6 percentage points among black people. Latinos lag, with their uninsured rate having dropped just 0.8 points, a disappointment, and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/10/uninsured-rate-obamacare-gallup_n_4932718.html">one perhaps linked</a> to the troubled rollout of the exchanges:</p><blockquote>With the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group, Latinos were expected to be major beneficiaries of the new health care law. They are a relatively young population and many are on the lower rungs of the middle class, holding down jobs that don't come with health insurance.<p>But the outreach effort to Hispanics got off to a stumbling start. The Spanish-language enrollment website, CuidadodeSalud.gov, was delayed due to technical problems. Its name sounds like a clunky translation from English: "Care of Health." A spot check of the Spanish site on Sunday showed parts of it still use a mix of Spanish and English to convey information, which can make insurance details even more confusing.</p></blockquote>Every fraction of a percent that the uninsured rate drops is a political problem for Republicans and they know it, no matter how many so-called Obamacare horror stories they trot out, <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/03/1281761/-Playing-Whack-a-mole-Obamacare-horror-stories">only to have them debunked</a>. The Republican response to this survey may be to celebrate that the biggest drops in the uninsured rate have come among low-income people and black people—groups they've long ignored—but in their partisan world, where repealing President Barack Obama's signature achievement and defeating Democrats are more important than the well-being of non-wealthy Americans, such a noticeable and immediate drop in the uninsured rate is not good news. For the rest of us, and especially for people who can now go to the doctor without fear of bankruptcy, it's very good news.</div><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2014 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '968310'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=968310" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 10 Mar 2014 09:23:00 -0700 Laura Clawson, DailyKos 968310 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Personal Health health obamacare Meet the Heartless Jerk Leading a Project to Eliminate Sick Leave http://www.alternet.org/economy/meet-heartless-jerk-leading-project-eliminate-sick-leave <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '791879'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=791879" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Rick Berman, who is proud to be called &quot;Dr. Evil,&quot; is going after paid leave.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_103338407.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> </p><div id="intro">Opponents of paid sick leave, like opponents of raising the minimum wage, tend to keep their arguments data-free, sticking to vague claims of how bad it would be for small business, no evidence offered. But every now and then they decide to try to make their arguments look factual. Look being the key word. That's the story with the latest from one of Rick Berman's many front groups, the Employment Policies Institute, a <a href="http://epionline.org/downloads/2013_EPI_PaidSickLeaveInConnv4.pdf">laughably weak</a> (PDF) "pilot study of businesses' responses" to Connecticut's paid sick leave law that completely ignores the actual facts of what's happened in Connecticut's economy since the law was passed.<p>The Berman EPI, which just happens to share its initials with the Economic Policy Institute, a reputable and widely cited progressive think tank, would like the takeaway from its pilot study to be that, because of Connecticut's paid sick leave law, businesses are raising prices, laying off workers, and curtailing hiring or expansion in the state. The real takeaway, of course, is that even when they try to make themselves look like they care about facts, anti-worker astroturf organizations can't do any better than a weak truthiness. Take the methodology here. Evil-EPI sent a survey to "roughly 800" of the businesses "most likely to be impacted by the law." The response rate was below 20 percent, so basically, we're talking about the most pissed off fraction of the small fraction of business owners identified as probably caring about this law. And, predictably, they see dire, dire consequences for paid sick leave.</p><p>The reality? <a href="http://www1.ctdol.state.ct.us/lmi/SecEmp.asp">Employment</a> in the two industry sectors most likely to be affected by the sick leave law rose in Connecticut in 2012. Just as, following the passage of a paid sick leave law in <a href="http://abetterbalance.org/web/images/stories/Documents/sickdays/reports/PSDNotHarmEmployment.pdf">San Francisco</a> (PDF), that city did better than the surrounding counties on several employment measures.</p><p>Another reality is this: In March, 2011, the owner of the <a href="http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/LABdata/Tmy/2011SB-00913-R000301-Johnathan%20Smith,%20Owner,%20USS%20Chopder%20Pot%20IV-TMY.PDF">U.S.S. Chowder Pot</a> restaurants testified before the state legislature that if paid sick leave became law, "I would be forced to close both restaurants resulting in a loss of approximately 240 full time and part time jobs." Today, both restaurants are <a href="http://www.chowderpot.com/jobs.html">hiring</a>. Similarly, one of the partners in <a href="http://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/LABdata/Tmy/2011SB-00913-R000301-Philip%20Barnett,%20Hartford%20Restaurant%20Group-TMY.PDF">The Hartford Restaurant Group</a>, hitting the small business angle hard despite his company owning eight restaurants, said paid sick leave was "unreasonable and not practical, and most likely would stunt any growth opportunities." You know, growth like <a href="http://articles.courant.com/2012-08-21/news/hc-woodn-tap-lyman-20120821_1_hartford-restaurant-group-wood-n-tap-property-line">opening another restaurant</a> and buying a large building for storage and corporate offices, which The Hartford Restaurant Group has done.</p><p>The evidence shows that paid sick leave does not hurt businesses. Meanwhile, it keeps workers from having to choose between going to work sick and paying the bills, and it offers public health benefits. So when you hear all these dire predictions from restaurant owners and industry groups, take them for what they are: ideological arguments from low-wage employers who just don't want to treat their workers any better.</p><div> </div></div><p> </p> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2013 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '791879'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=791879" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Fri, 08 Feb 2013 16:37:00 -0800 Laura Clawson, Daily Kos 791879 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy Personal Health The Right Wing sick leave Berman epi union-busters Diane Ravitch Out at Brookings, Romney Advisor to Blame? http://www.alternet.org/story/155910/diane_ravitch_out_at_brookings%2C_romney_advisor_to_blame <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '671231'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=671231" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Did a Mitt Romney adviser get education expert Diane Ravitch dumped by the Brookings Institution?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/images/managed/storyimages_1339984680_dailyshow2.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> The Brookings Institution, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501706_162-57451596/us-russia-sending-syria-attack-helicopters/">often</a><a href="http://www.kansascity.com/2012/06/04/3640803/sen-marco-rubios-foreign-policy.html">described</a>as a liberal-leaning think tank, has severed its relationship with Diane Ravitch, one of the most important education scholars in the country and an outspoken critic of Mitt Romney's education policy proposals. In fact, Brookings has not been liberal-leaning for a long time, if it ever truly was; rather, it's a voice of the Beltway establishment, and that increasingly means it's right-leaning. But that's a crucial point, since reporters are clearly sometimes checking the "get liberal opinion" box in their research by quoting Brookings experts. The Ravitch affair demonstrates how wrong that is.</p> <p> Education policy one of the areas in which establishment Democrats have most embraced right-wing positions, but Brookings' director of education policy takes it a step beyond that. Grover (Russ) Whitehurst is an education adviser to Mitt Romney, and Ravitch <a href="http://dianeravitch.net/2012/06/11/the-day-i-was-terminated/">is wondering if there's a connection</a> between Whitehurst's relationship with Romney and Brookings dumping her.</p> <p> Ravitch writes that she had been affiliated with Brookings in one way or another since 1993, for the last seven years as an unpaid senior fellow. Two years ago, when her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education was released, she contacted Whitehurst about setting up an event at Brookings to discuss the book. Quite unusually,</p> <blockquote> <p> ...he said that I would have to rent the auditorium and pay a variety of expenses, which would amount to thousands of dollars. I decided not to accept this expensive offer, and I soon received a request from Rick Hess to present my book at the American Enterprise Institute.</p></blockquote> <p> The very conservative AEI not only did not charge Ravitch to hold the event, it paid her travel expenses and held a panel discussion. The book became a bestseller, and Ravitch has continued to be a prominent voice in education policy debates. However, she writes, "I was never invited to take part in any panels or public events at Brookings."</p> <blockquote> <p> Then on June 5 came the email from Russ Whitehurst informing me that I would be terminated as a non-resident senior fellow because I was inactive. Understand that it is impossible to be active at Brookings if you are never invited to participate in any of its forums.</p> <p> My first thought was that Russ might be responding to <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/jun/05/miseducation-mitt-romney/">my blog lacerating Mitt Romney’s education plan in the New York Review of Books</a>. It went online that very morning, about four hours before I got Russ’s email. Russ is an adviser to the Romney campaign on education issues. Would he react that quickly? Then I remembered that I had written two other pieces critical of Romney on my own blog, <a href="http://dianeravitch.net/2012/05/25/romneys-absurd-claims/">the first appearing on May 25</a>.</p></blockquote> <p> A Brookings spokesperson claims, <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2012/06/11/diane-ravitch-inactive-in-educational-debates/">in response</a>, that the decision was made before Ravitch's criticisms of Romney, that she was one of three fellows terminated, and that "in each case, the fellows had little contact with the program and were not involved in programmatic activities. Their scholarly views had no bearing in the decision." Pressed on the "little contact and not involved" part by the Wall Street Journal's Christopher Shea, noting that Ravitch says she was not invited to be involved in Brookings activities, the spokesperson continued:</p> <blockquote> <p> We’re not commenting much beyond the statement.</p> <p> But I would add that programmatic activities with our nonresident senior fellows typically arise in one of two ways: we invite them to participate in research, events and scholarly pursuits in which they can offer expertise and can contribute in substantive ways, and, secondly, nonresident scholars approach Brookings with their own ideas. If it’s the latter, it’s up to the program or center director to agree to pursue and to identify the necessary funding.</p></blockquote> <p> So, Romney adviser Russ Whitehurst runs the education program at Brookings. When Diane Ravitch reached out to him about doing a book event, his way of identifying the necessary funding was to tell her she'd have to pay to do the event. Instead, a conservative think tank did so. Then he didn't invite her to participate in Brookings activities. Then she was terminated for not participating.</p> <p> It's entirely possible that Brookings is telling the truth and the decision to drop Ravitch had been made a month or more before she began actively criticizing Mitt Romney's education policies. But that doesn't mean that the policy positions that led Whitehurst to join the Romney campaign didn't figure in the decision. It's not like Ravitch's criticism of Romney was the first hint that she and Whitehurst were in disagreement on education policy. While Ravitch was an early proponent of testing and test-based accountability in education, she has since looked at the evidence that the programs she once championed are failing and has changed her mind, becoming an aggressive critic of test-driven education. Whitehurst, on the other hand, has had no such transformation since his days working for George W. Bush. Excluding her so that he could ultimately boot her is just as plausible on the grounds of general policy disagreement as it is over a specific candidate.</p> <p> Ultimately, the point goes beyond Diane Ravitch and Russ Whitehurst. Brookings is too often used in the media to present a liberal-leaning viewpoint. In fact it's just about always a voice of establishment centrism, but if its deeply conservative education policy director can effectively exclude a top scholar with a longstanding affiliation with Brookings and policy views sharply opposing his own, that's taking a big step still further to the right. If that orientation isn't broadly recognized, then Brookings' reputation itself becomes a force pushing the debate rightward.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Laura Clawson is the labor editor at Daily Kos. </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2012 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '671231'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=671231" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 18 Jun 2012 00:00:01 -0700 Laura Clawson, Daily Kos 671231 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Education education mitt romney brookings institution diane ravitch Shock Doctrine at the Post Office: How the GOP Manufactured a Crisis and Too Many Dems Went Along http://www.alternet.org/story/155101/shock_doctrine_at_the_post_office%3A_how_the_gop_manufactured_a_crisis_and_too_many_dems_went_along <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '670445'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=670445" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Hold one thought in your mind every time you read about the &quot;crisis&quot; the U.S. Postal Service is in: There is a crisis, but it&#039;s a manufactured one.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> Hold one thought in your mind every time you read about the "crisis" the U.S. Postal Service is in: There is a crisis, but it's a manufactured one. If Congress wasn't busy applying the Shock Doctrine, the postal service would face a challenge, but one it had time to meet. Instead, we're being told by Congress and by high-level management at the post office that the crisis is now and that massive cuts are the only answer—that degrading the services the postal service offers will save it.</p> <p>But before we look at the cuts being proposed, what's so manufactured about this crisis?</p> <p>In 2006, the postal service generated a profit. That was the last time it did so, because in late 2006, a lame duck Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, which among other things forced the postal service to fund its retiree health benefit obligations 75 years into the future, and to do so within 10 years. Taking care of retirees is a good thing, and we've seen far too many workers expected to fill the gaps in pensions and health benefits underfunded through no fault of their own. I'm not arguing that the postal service should reverse course so far that it leaves its retirees without health care. But if you needed a single concrete example to demonstrate that this is a manufactured crisis, here it is: Congress put a burden on the postal service that no other government agency or private corporation faces, and when that causes or accelerates problems, it's taken as evidence of certain doom and the need to make deep cuts. According to <a href="http://www.thenation.com/blog/166103/post-office-not-broke">Sen. Bernie Sanders</a>, not someone who is going to argue for leaving retired workers in the lurch:</p> <blockquote>[T]he Postal Service should be released from the “onerous and unprecedented burden” of being forced to put $5.5 billion every year into its future retiree health benefits fund. Sanders’s office explains that “even if there are no further contributions from the post office, and if the fund simply collects 3.5 to 4 percent interest every year, that account will be fully funded in twenty-one years.” At the same time, the senator suggests, the postal service should be allowed to recover more than $13 billion in overpayments it has made to a federal retirement systems.</blockquote> <p>So the immediacy of the "crisis" the postal service faces is one created by Congress. But there are legitimate long-term challenges, including one in particular we hear a great deal about: the internet. We're all paying our bills online these days, leading to a precipitous decline in mail sent. Right? Well, there's another factor no one seems to talk about: <a href="http://www.savethepostoffice.com/it-was-sad-when-great-ship-went-down-postal-service-heads-iceberg">the recession</a>. It's funny when you think about it, because we know how deeply the recession struck the government at all levels, businesses, and individuals. But again and again we're told that the reason, <i>the</i> reason not <i>a</i> reason, for declining mail is the internet. Yet:</p> <blockquote>From peak first-class volumes in 2001 to 2007, before the recession began, first-class mail volumes declined from 103.6 billion to 96.3 billion — a total drop of 7%, or just over 1% a year.  From 2007 to 2011, first-class volumes declined from 96.3 billion to 73.5 billion — a drop of 23%, or about 6% a year. <p>In other words, first-class mail has declined by 30% over the past ten years.  About 7% of that 30% happened in the six years before the recession, and the other 23% happened in the four years after the recession began.</p></blockquote> <p>The internet should also create possibilities. After all, while people pay their bills there, they also rack up a lot of those bills through online shopping, and someone has to ship those packages. UPS and FedEx don't serve as many doors as the postal service, and in many cases they <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/45049636/Fixing_the_US_Postal_Service_s_Finances">contract</a> with the postal service to provide "last-mile" delivery.</p> <p> </p> <p>For that matter, UPS or FedEx taking a package the last mile can create hassles of its own. I live in an apartment building and work from home. Only our actual mail carrier has a key to the outer door of my building, and I cannot tell you how many times I have gone running downstairs in response to desperate pounding from UPS or FedEx trying to deliver something for the online shopping addict in apartment one. If I didn't work from home, she'd face what she did one day when I was out—a slip from UPS saying they'd be back between the following hours, and be there if she wanted her package. The stress over how to get a package being delivered during working hours by a private carrier who can't get into your building is a not uncommon fact of apartment life. Which is to say, it's not that packages aren't being carried. They are. Surely there's an advantage to exploit here somewhere.</p> <p>But Congress and top postal management aren't looking for advantages or for growth. They're looking to cut, supposedly in the name of equipping the postal service for the long haul. However, <a href="http://www.nalc.org/whitepapers/saving_the_united_states_postal_service.pdf">an analysis</a> (PDF) by the financial advisory firm Lazard, conducted for the National Association of Letter Carriers, notes that:</p> <blockquote>...one of the Postal Service’s own witnesses at a Postal Regulatory Commission hearing on its network optimization plan recently acknowledged the existence of a study that found that the combined effects of all service cuts under consideration would reduce mail volume by over 10% – an amount which would offset most of the proposed savings from these initiatives.</blockquote> <p>That means the proposed cuts—no Saturday delivery, longer first-class delivery times, closed processing centers and post offices, and more—would set off a death spiral, with cuts leading to loss of business leading to further cuts. This wouldn't just affect the postal service, slowing mail delivery and forcing many people in rural areas to drive long distances to get their mail, it would affect the entire economy. We're talking here about <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/06/1042752/-Postal-Service-to-cut-28-000-jobs-and-slow-mail-delivery?detail=hide">tens of thousands of layoffs</a>that would disproportionately affect <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/29/1040825/-African-Americans-hit-hard-by-public-sector-layoffs?detail=hide">African-Americans</a> and <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/11/1035491/-Unions-urge-Congress-to-save-jobs-at-the-largest-civilian-employer-of-veterans-The-Postal-Service?detail=hide">veterans</a>. And cutting that many jobs, especially in concentrated clumps with closing of processing centers, would hit local economies hard.</p> <p>But that, with the exception of Bernie Sanders and a few other officials fighting to protect the postal service, is where the establishment political discussion is happening. As the Senate debates S. 1789, a bill that would simply put the postal service on a slightly delayed death spiral rather than an immediate one, a number of individual senators have <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/2chambers/post/how-some-senators-would-fix-the-postal-service/2012/04/19/gIQAkle5TT_blog.html?wprss=rss_politics">potentially useful proposals</a>, seeking to protect rural mail delivery, the ability to vote by mail in states that rely on that, prescription delivery for senior citizens who may not easily be able to get to the pharmacy, capping postal executive pay—postal executives are paid more like corporate executives, in many cases far more than cabinet secretaries make—and allowing postage prices to be raised beyond the rate of inflation (our first-class postage is cheaper than in most other countries).</p> <p>There are also proposals for ways the postal service could expand its services. It could potentially return to a postal savings service for the many people who don't use banks. Sen. Mary Landrieu has suggested the post office could become a place to go for <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/02/09/1063162/-Bernie-Sanders-leads-the-fight-to-save-the-Postal-Service?detail=hide">notary publics, copying and handling hunting and fishing license sales</a>. I would love to see fax services at my local post office—the day before tax day, I needed to fax my electronic filing permission. There's a post office less than a five minute walk from my house, but it doesn't offer fax services. I had to go to a private packing and shipping store, where I paid $2 a page. Why can't the post office add fax services and let me pay $2 a page there? In fact, the postal service has tried to expand its services in much larger ways than these, only to be stopped by<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/us/postal-service-seeks-to-widen-activities-and-revenue.html?pagewanted=1&amp;_r=1&amp;adxnnl=1&amp;emc=eta1&amp;adxnnlx=1335045657-YN/noa0ZW8jL54ftgZHFFg">Republicans not wanting it to compete</a> with private business. This happened with online bill paying, money transfers, phone cards, postal meter cartridges, and more.</p> <p>So when the postal service tries to expand its services as a private business could do, it's stopped by Congress. But operating in the restricted ways it's allowed, it's assailed for being an unresponsive money-losing dinosaur. Clearly a number of senators have grave concerns about S. 1789 and are trying to blunt its harm with amendments. But this is a slate that needs to be wiped clean. We need a postal bill that rejects the language of crisis and does not seek to manufacture further crisis. As Lazard notes, "A business plan based on degrading your greatest strength is not likely to be a path to success." The postal service needs a business plan that expands on its strengths and takes it into new areas of service.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2012 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '670445'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=670445" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 22 Apr 2012 08:00:01 -0700 Laura Clawson, Daily Kos 670445 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Labor Economy The Right Wing labor republicans unions retirement benefits pensions service office post fund postal Rush Limbaugh is Wrong About Rising College Costs--But So Are Most Politicians http://www.alternet.org/story/154927/rush_limbaugh_is_wrong_about_rising_college_costs--but_so_are_most_politicians <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '670265'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=670265" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Rising college tuitions and student loan debt are a part of the broader war on workers, not a consequence of misguided liberal policies.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> Recently two competing ideas about college tuition were making the rounds. <a href="http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/30/zakaria-incarceration-nation-2/">Fareed Zakaria</a>, focusing on incarceration rates, noted that:</p> <div id="intro"><blockquote>In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons, versus $5.7 billion on higher education. Since 1980, California has built one college campus; it's built 21 prisons. The state spends $8,667 per student per year. It spends about $50,000 per inmate per year.</blockquote> Also, Rush Limbaugh went on a typical rant about student loan debt and tuition rates. I'm pretty sure Limbaugh is being sarcastic when he says <a href="http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201204030010">birth control is one reason for student loan debt</a>. Because, see, Sandra Fluke and others cited the cost of birth control as a reason it's important for it to be covered as free preventive care, so it's hilarious, in Rush-land, to act as if the cost of birth control accounts for debt on the much larger cost of college. <p>But Rush is definitely serious that liberals should be blamed for student loan debt, and the problem is, too much of his basic account is taken seriously. Not the birth control part, but his real explanation. It appears that his argument is that student loan debt is growing because, first, 1965. The federal student loan program was started in 1965, and what else originated in 1965? Medicare, Medicaid, and other "rotgut." Second, Rush says that President Obama "directly controls" student loans. I'm guessing he's talking here about the fact that the Student Aid and Financial Responsibility Act cut out the middleman on federal student loans, taking subsidies away from lenders and increasing the amount of funding available to students. Which, <i>quelle horreur.</i></p> <p>But the final word on student loan debt, per Rush, is that:</p> <blockquote>Tuition's increasing far faster than the rate of inflation. Yeah, and who's in charge of this? Liberals. Lifting student debt higher? Isn't the rising cost of tuition like the whole problem, other than the birth control pills? Yet there's never any criticism from Obama or the Democrats or the news media about colleges and how greedy they are.</blockquote> So the problem—the whole explanation for more than $1 trillion in student loan debt—is that liberals are in charge and colleges are greedy. Not that Rush Limbaugh deserves to be seriously fact-checked, but college tuition costs and the student loan debt that results are important topics, and Rush's explanation is basically just a crude distillation of Republican policy. What is going on here, then? <p>Well, some colleges are greedy. That would be a solid slice of your <a href="http://harkin.senate.gov/help/forprofitcolleges.cfm">for-profit colleges</a>, which aggressively recruit students, charge higher tuitions than public colleges, have high drop-out rates, and produce nearly half of all federal student loan defaults despite only enrolling around 10 percent of students. But to Rush, that's likely the sacrosanct private market.</p> <p>What about public colleges and universities? It's true, tuition has gone up—<a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2011-10-25/public-college-costs-increase/50919598/1">rising 8.3 percent</a> at four-year schools, on average, in 2011. That's because tuition plugs the gap when state appropriations fall short of covering the costs of educating students, and in 2010, per-student public higher education funding <a href="http://www.sheeo.org/finance/shef/SHEF_FY2011-EARLY_RELEASE.pdf">fell to a 25-year low</a> (PDF). Then it fell again in 2011. Since the 1980s, at the same time as a college degree was becoming more essential to making your way into the middle class, the cost of college was falling more on students, with tuition steadily increasing as a share of revenue for public colleges and universities.</p> <p>Between 2006 and 2011, 43 states decreased per-student funding, and in 17 the drop was greater than 20 percent. During that five-year period, even with increasing tuitions, total per-student revenue dropped in 26 states. So the biggest part of the public higher education tuition story is that more people are going to college and state funding is not keeping pace.<i><br /></i></p> </div> <p class="divider-doodle"> </p> <div id="body" class="article-body"><p>That's something even President Obama occasionally pretends he doesn't know; in this year's <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/01/24/1052991/-President-Obama-s-State-of-the-Union-Address-1?detail=hide">State of the Union</a> address he said:</p> <blockquote>Of course, it’s not enough for [the federal government] to increase student aid. We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money. States also need to do their part, by making higher education a higher priority in their budgets. And colleges and universities have to do their part by working to keep costs down. [...] So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.</blockquote> This is why you can't ignore Rush Limbaugh. Obama knows better, and on a press call not long after the State of the Union his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, did emphasize the role of state funding in tuition increases. But the fact that the president, in his highest-profile address of the year, dispensed with state funding in a sentence and then focused on costs at colleges and universities, concluding with the flagrantly nonsensical "If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down," is a good sign of how broken the national discourse is. Because the data show that it's exactly when funding from taxpayers goes down that tuition goes up. Quality education doesn't get cheaper because funding gets cut—instead, either quality declines or tuition goes up. <p>Oh, but what about waste? What about unreasonably high salaries? There is some of that. But it's to be found among exactly the people who would be tasked with making decisions about how to cut costs within a given college or university: administrators. For 12 straight years leading up to 2009, <a href="http://chronicle.com/article/Pay-of-Senior-Administrators/5420/">senior administrator pay</a> rose by more than the rate of inflation. <a href="http://chronicle.com/blogs/onhiring/dont-blame-faculty-pay/730">Their ranks grew</a>, as well:</p> <blockquote>...from 1976 to 2005, the number of full-time college administrators (vice presidents and deans, for example), rose by 101 percent, while the number of full-time nonfaculty professionals (in student services, development, and information technology, for example) rose by 281 percent.</blockquote> But:<br /><blockquote>Over the same period, the number of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty members rose by only 17 percent.</blockquote> Cost savings at colleges are decided on by the rapidly growing ranks of well-paid administrators, and the costs cut tend to be among faculty, the people who actually teach students. That work is increasingly being transferred to low-paid adjunct professors. Not only is the low pay adjuncts face an issue in itself—to pay the bills, they may forced to teach more classes than is good for them or their students—but it goes along with factors that <a href="http://www.alternet.org/labor/154817/disposable_professors_how_the_labor_crisis_in_higher_ed_is_compromising_your_child%27s_education?page=1">very directly affect students</a>:<br /><blockquote>For example, adjunct faculty often have trouble connecting with students because they lack office space, and thus can’t mentor struggling students. Their fragile position as contract workers also means they are less able to be outspoken about campus reform and improvements, and less able to advocate for their students when administrative issues arise.</blockquote> Studies have indeed found both that high numbers of adjuncts, and especially adjuncts with poor working conditions, have <a href="http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/06/21/adjuncts">adverse effects on students</a>. To be clear, this is a systemic problem, not a problem with the individual teachers. But the issue, when we're talking about higher education funding and tuition, is that this is exactly the cost-cutting measure that administrators tend to turn to—they're sure as hell not cutting their own jobs. <p>The miserable wages and working conditions faced by adjunct professors, and the fact that there are so many adjuncts because good college teaching jobs haven't kept pace with the number of students needing to be taught, aren't the only ways rising college tuitions and student loan debt are a part of the broader war on workers. Putting people into the catch-22 of a college degree being a virtual necessity for a middle-class life but one that requires students who don't start off middle class to accumulate large debts helps keep people trapped, struggling not to fall further behind rather than figuring out how to change the system. If we make higher education—the kind middle-class kids have gotten all along, not something with the same name but lacking big parts of the actual education—available to anyone who wants it, without a lifetime of debt, suddenly the economic prospects of the coming generations start looking really different. The fact that instead, investment in college students is going down? That's not an accident.</p> </div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2012 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '670265'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=670265" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 09 Apr 2012 12:00:01 -0700 Laura Clawson, Daily Kos 670265 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Media Labor Education labor media education students limbaugh workers debt college teaching rush university Senate Republicans Want to Force the Unemployed to Work For Free http://www.alternet.org/story/154117/senate_republicans_want_to_force_the_unemployed_to_work_for_free <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '669472'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=669472" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Along with efforts to drug-test the unemployed and deny benefits to those without high school diplomas, Republicans now want to make &quot;volunteer&quot; work a requirement.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> In recent months, Florida and South Carolina have talked about <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/01/10/1053460/-South-Carolina-Republican-proposes-making-people-volunteer-for-unemployment-benefits?detail=hide">forcing</a> people to "volunteer" for their unemployment insurance benefits, only to be told it was against federal law. Now, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/10/unemployment-senate-republicans-richard-burr_n_1269214.html?1328912139">Senate Republicans</a> want to change federal law to allow states to pass such laws but to require all long-term unemployed people to "volunteer" 20 hours a week to continue receiving benefits, with an additional bill introduced by North Carolina's Richard Burr calling for them to spend 20 hours a week looking for work. Those requirements could be added to Republican efforts to allow drug testing requirements and to deny unemployment insurance to people who don't have high school diplomas.</p> <p>The number of job-seekers for every available job just <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/job-seekers-ratio-improves-highest-rate/">dipped below 4 to 1</a> for the first time in <a href="http://www.epi.org/publication/job-seekers-ratio-above-4-to-1/">nearly three years</a>. There are still simply no jobs for more than two out of three people looking for jobs. Job-seekers receiving unemployment insurance benefits <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/16/1046054/-Job-seekers-on-unemployment-insurance-spend-more-time-looking-for-work-than-those-without-benefits?detail=hide">spend more time</a>looking for work and are more likely to have <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/14/1045375/-Unemployment-benefits-recipients-do-more-not-less-to-look-for-work?detail=hide">looked for work</a> through five out of six different methods than people not receiving benefits. A law requiring them to spend 20 hours a week looking for work is nothing but an insult to people who are already searching desperately; making it a requirement would likely add a reporting burden that would either detract from their search or force them to spend time beyond their active job searching.</p> <p>Forcing them to spend 20 hours a week "volunteering" additionally takes time people need for the very hard work of keeping their heads above water on limited means. And of course, creating an involuntary volunteer workforce is no kind of incentive to job-creation—why would any organization being provided free labor by the government ever create a job?</p> <p>The are basically two reasons for measures like this. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/10/unemployment-senate-republicans-richard-burr_n_1269214.html?1328912139">First</a>,</p> <blockquote>"This proposal is very much about 'welfarizing' federal unemployment insurance benefits," said George Wentworth, a senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group. Wentworth noted that the bill borrows language from the 1996 welfare law.</blockquote> <p>That is, it reframes unemployment insurance as something other than an insurance program that exists for all of us and that we work for. Second, such measures simply punish and stigmatize people for being jobless at a time when there simply are not jobs in the economy for them. Because Republicans are mean-spirited like that.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2012 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '669472'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=669472" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Sun, 12 Feb 2012 12:00:01 -0800 Laura Clawson, Daily Kos 669472 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Labor Economy labor drugs republicans senate jobs unemployment unemployed jobless drug-test How Rich Executives Extract Concessions From Workers -- While Playing the Good Guy in Public http://www.alternet.org/story/154033/how_rich_executives_extract_concessions_from_workers_--_while_playing_the_good_guy_in_public <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '669386'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=669386" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">That&#039;s what&#039;s on the rise: Management attempting to exercise control over their workers -- in a brutal display of power. Give in to us or lose your paycheck right now.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p> When a contract expires and the union and the company bargain over a new one, there are a few possibilities. In the majority of cases, after negotiation, they come to an agreement, in all likelihood involving compromises on both sides. If they can't reach an agreement, a strike by workers is a possible outcome—but one that's declining in frequency, "just one-sixth the annual level of two decades ago," <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/23/business/lockouts-once-rare-put-workers-on-the-defensive.html?_r=1">Steven Greenhouse</a> reports. Another outcome, or perhaps cause, of stalled negotiations is becoming more common, though: The lockout, which has:</p> <blockquote>... grown to represent a record percentage of the nation’s work stoppages, according to Bloomberg BNA, a Bloomberg subsidiary that provides information to lawyers and labor relations experts. Last year, at least 17 employers imposed lockouts, telling their workers not to show up until they were willing to accept management’s contract offer.</blockquote> <p>We've seen it in both the NFL and the NBA in the past year, of course. But in many cases, companies lock out workers who are struggling even to stay in the middle class, because they won't give up the things that might put them in the middle class. Companies lock out workers to get them to give up their pensions, to pay more for health care, to accept pay cuts, to sacrifice job security. They rely on no one noticing (besides the workers, for whom their contempt is already clear), and on any public notice the lockouts do gain assigning blame at least equally to the workers—after all, shouldn't they feel lucky just to have jobs, and be willing to make whatever concessions management demands? As <a href="http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/7290143/it-just-money">Charles Pierce</a> wrote of the NBA lockout:</p> <blockquote>[L]ockouts are, and will always be, things willed into being exclusively by management. They are not natural phenomena. They are never truly unavoidable. They don't "just happen," and they certainly do not occur because "both sides" are at fault. Lockouts occur when management believes that unions are too strong, and they occur when management believes that unions are too weak, and they occur when management doesn't want a union to exist at all. Lockouts are not devices of economic correction. That's just a byproduct. Lockouts are attempts by management to exercise control over their workers. Period.</blockquote> <p>That's what's on the rise: Management attempting to exercise control over their workers—in a brutal display of power. Give in to us or lose your paycheck right now.</p> <p>Greenhouse focuses on the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/23/business/lockouts-once-rare-put-workers-on-the-defensive.html?_r=1">American Crystal Sugar lockout</a>, which has now stretched to six months. "With American Crystal earning record profits before the lockout, the workers strongly opposed its push for concessions," he writes. Management "denies that it is seeking to break the union." But this is the company whose CEO <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/30/1040899/-CEO-likens-union-contract-to-cancer-in-American-Crystal-Sugar-lockout?detail=hide">compared a union contract to cancer</a>, saying "At some point that tumor's got to come out. That's what we're doing." As for the significant costs of the lockout, including the cost of <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/28/1031037/-American-Crystal-Sugar-suffers-a-string-of-fires-while-using-replacementworkers?detail=hide">hiring replacement workers</a> and dealing with accidents resulting from having inexperienced replacement workers doing tasks that require experience and skill, the CEO presented those as an investment.</p> <p>As you'd expect, this is devastating the lives of 1,300 locked out workers, who have gone without paychecks for months because—it bears repeating—they wouldn't just cave when a hugely profitable company demanded that they accept benefit cuts and allow it to outsource jobs.</p> <p>Nursing home workers in Connecticut are in the second month of a similar struggle, having been locked out shortly before Christmas. <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/23/1048325/-Connecticut-nursing-home-workers-to-be-locked-out-through-Christmas-?detail=hide">HealthBridge Management</a> demanded that the workers at the West River Health Care Center in Milford accept a pension freeze, with new hires not getting any pension; pay $1,500 for individual health insurance up to $7,300 for family coverage; lose their paid lunch breaks; accept cuts on sick days and holidays and overtime pay. In addition to those direct hits at workers' wages and benefits, HealthBridge was demanding they make enormous concessions on job security and stability, giving up guaranteed hours so that a full-time worker could be made part-time with no notice or recourse, hours and shifts could be changed without notice or negotiation, allowing management to cut staffing levels to the bare minimum. (Workers report that those staffing levels have <a href="http://labornotes.org/2012/01/seiu-1199-protests-connecticut-nursing-home-lockout">already been cut</a>, from "six nursing assistants for each floor of 60 residents" under previous ownership to "five, and sometimes four" under current ownership.) HealthBridge touted a 12 percent pay raise they were offering in exchange for all of this—but that doesn't come close to covering the benefit cuts, let alone the loss of job security.</p> <p>The workers, represented by SEIU 1199, asked HealthBridge to agree to binding arbitration, but HealthBridge said not unless workers accepted a pension freeze prior to beginning arbitration. The union <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/30/1049942/-Connecticut-nursing-home-lockout-continues-as-company-rebuffs-union%C2%A0concession?detail=hide">offered a concession</a> on health care costs, though not at the rates management had demanded. Management claimed it wasn't a concession at all. This strategy by HealthBridge isn't just about the Milford nursing home—it's intended as a blueprint for the five other unionized nursing homes the company runs in Connecticut. And even beyond—HealthBridge is in turn owned by Care One, which in November was ruled by the National Labor Relations Board to have <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/23/1048333/-Lockout-nursing-home-owned-by-philanthropist-and-founder-of-justice-institute-Daniel-Straus?detail=hide">illegally fired</a> four workers in New Jersey. Workers at the Milford nursing home are waiting for the NLRB to rule on their claim that HealthBridge has not been bargaining in good faith.</p> <p>Here's the best part about HealthBridge and Care One's war on their workers: At the same time as the companies are trying to get nursing home workers earning $32,000 a year to accept pension freezes and health care cuts, Daniel Straus, Care One's owner, is acting as Mr. Benevolent Major Philanthropist. His signature act of philanthropy is that he has endowed the<a href="http://www.nyustraus.org/about/index.html">Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice</a> at New York University, where visiting fellows are paid $100,000 for a year of subsidized living in Manhattan to do research related to a yearly theme, with "a determination not to be merely an 'ivory tower', but to merge premier academic and intellectual conditions with community integration and a sense of public service." Incidentally, while Straus is demanding that his $32,000 a year nursing home workers give up their paid lunch breaks, his $100,000 a year fellows are provided with a weekly lunch.</p> <p>The model of the research institute is a wonderful one that can contribute greatly to scholarship on important topics, like law and justice. But the notion that someone can be accepted and even <a href="http://www.nyustraus.org/about/Daniel_E_Straus.html">fawned over</a> as a believer in and supporter of anything including the word "justice" while doing what Daniel Straus is doing to his workers is a perfect symbol of how our society has come to accept that there are different rules for the 99 percent and the 1 percent. In a just and equitable society, you wouldn't get to be hailed as a voice for public service while trying to accelerate the race to the bottom for vulnerable workers.</p> <p>Workers joined with NYU students to protest this week at NYU, and <a href="http://labornotes.org/2012/01/seiu-1199-protests-connecticut-nursing-home-lockout">family members of nursing home patients</a> joined a candlelight vigil in Milford, where:</p> <blockquote>One daughter released a letter to Straus, saying scabs at the nursing home had put her family “through hell.” She accused the temporary replacements of administering medications improperly, causing serious side effects. <p>“You are dealing with patients who are frail, insecure, and who depend on the familiar faces and personalities of their caregivers,” read the letter. “How would you feel if one of your family members was treated this way?”</p></blockquote> <p>But Daniel Straus wouldn't have to worry about that. He can afford to endow an institute in his parents' memory.</p> <p>The details of every lockout are individual and appalling: NFL owners demanding that football players play more games in a season, knowing that it will appreciably shorten their lives; NBA owners issuing ultimatum after ultimatum well after basketball players had conceded enormous amounts of money; American Crystal Sugar's CEO comparing a union contract to a cancerous tumor even though his company had been wildly profitable under that exact contract; NYU lavishing Daniel Straus with praise for his commitment to ethics and justice even as he illegally fires workers and locks workers out and in every way works to increase the inequality between his income and the incomes of the workers who keep his businesses running. But the basic story of all of them is the same: Owners thought they could get more profit out of their workers. We know—JP Morgan tells us—that <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/07/14/994667/-JP-Morgan:-Wage-reductions-have-driven-corporate-profit-increases?detail=hide">wage reductions drove corporate profit increases</a> from 2000 to 2007. In the wake of the recession, with high unemployment and workers terrified that they'll be next, corporations have moved decisively to push wages down still more, to extract still more profits from workers through reductions to wages and benefits. Lockouts are just one tool of doing that, and they're visible only because they happen to unionized workers, who can fight back at least a little bit.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2012 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '669386'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=669386" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 06 Feb 2012 11:00:01 -0800 Laura Clawson, Daily Kos 669386 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Labor Economy Activism labor union workers sports wealthy nba rich ceo jobs philanthropy nfl sugar executives nhl 1% lockout Obama NLRB Overturns Bush-era Decisions, Protects Union Rights, Allows Nursing Home Workers to Organize http://www.alternet.org/story/152250/obama_nlrb_overturns_bush-era_decisions%2C_protects_union_rights%2C_allows_nursing_home_workers_to_organize <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '667579'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=667579" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The National Labor Relations Board under Obama continues to quietly make decisions that support workers over big business.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>It looks like the National Labor Relations Board has decided to get in as many decisions as it can before December, when current member Craig Becker's term ends and the Board is down to two members, a level at which the Supreme Court has ruled it can't issue rulings. Republicans, of course, are vowing to block any nominees, so the Board is likely to stay at two members for the foreseeable future.</p> <p>The NLRB has issued three more rulings following last week's announcement that employers would be required to <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/25/1010476/-New-NLRB-rule-requires-employers-to-notify-workers-of-their-labor-rights?via=blog_616729">notify workers</a> of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Two of Tuesday's rulings <a href="http://nlrb.gov/news/national-labor-relations-board-issues-decisions-two-significant-cases-addressing-protection-new">overturn Bush-era NLRB rulings</a>, both having to do with union decertifications.</p> <p>The <i>Lamons Gasket</i> decision reestablishes a waiting period between when workers vote to join a union and when a decertification challenge to that union can occur:</p> <blockquote>For over forty years, federal law had barred challenges to a union’s representative status for a "reasonable period" following voluntary recognition, in order to give the new bargaining relationship a chance to succeed. In its 2007 decision in <i>Dana Corp.</i>, the Board allowed for an immediate challenge to the union’s status by 30% of employees or a rival union. Today’s decision in <i>Lamons Gasket</i> returns the Board to the law as it existed before <i>Dana Corp.</i></blockquote> <p>Similarly, the Bush NLRB had ruled in 2002 that if a company came under new ownership, a preexisting union could be immediately challenged by the new owner, 30 percent of employees, or a rival union. Tuesday's <i>UGL-UNICCO Service Company</i> ruling reestablishes a reasonable waiting period in which the union is protected from challenge.</p> <p>A <a href="http://nlrb.gov/news/board-issues-decision-appropriate-units-non-acute-health-care-facilities">third decision</a> actually reaches back to the George H.W. Bush era, when the NLRB had created a "special test for bargaining unit determinations in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and other non-acute health care facilities." In the <i>Specialty Healthcare</i> case decided Tuesday, a nursing home owner had applied this special test, arguing that the home's Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) could not unionize by themselves but had to be joined by the home's cooks, dietary aides, data entry clerk and other non-CNA support staff. The NLRB overturned that special standard, and "Employees at such facilities will now be subject to the same 'community-of-interest' standard that the Board has traditionally applied at other workplaces."</p> <p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/business/economy/nlrb-eases-unionizing-at-nursing-homes.html?_r=1&amp;ref=business">Predictably</a>, as Steven Greenhouse reports in the <i>New York Times</i>,</p> <blockquote>Groups representing businesses and nursing home operators attacked the decision, fearing it would make the homes more vulnerable to unionization drives. <p>"This ruling makes it easier for unions to gerrymander who is in a bargaining unit to help them be successful in organizing," said Michael J. Eastman, executive director of labor law policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce.</p></blockquote> <p>Employers, of course, have long relied on gerrymandering the bargaining unit. During representation elections, they may call for a group of workers to be included in the vote who don't work with or have much in common with the workers seeking a union—we see that here, where 53 CNAs share pay rates, schedules, qualifications and tasks, while the support staff the owner sought to have included in the election worked on a variety of schedules and tasks and had varying qualifications. Employers also gerrymander bargaining units by excluding large numbers of workers, claiming them as supervisors who aren't eligible to organize, though they may have no power to hire, fire or set policy.</p> <p>In fact, there's actually a good argument that in a small workplace it would be better for the union movement for as many different types of workers as possible to share a union; in the Specialty Healthcare case, for instance, it's not clear what union the 33 service and maintenance employees could join as one unit if they did want to join a union, and splitting them up into several tiny units each belonging to a different union would have its problems. However, that's not the standard that's applied to most workplaces, and the Board decided that nursing homes should be held to that more general standard.</p> <p>With the <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/30/1011838/-NLRB-chairs-term-expires-with-agency-still-under-fire-from-the-right?via=blog_616729">departure</a> of Wilma Liebman, the NLRB is down to three members and just months until the end of Craig Becker's term and paralysis. It will be interesting to see what else they come out with in that time.</p> <p> </p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2011 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '667579'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=667579" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Wed, 31 Aug 2011 09:00:01 -0700 Laura Clawson, Daily Kos 667579 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Labor labor workers unions jobs nursing home nlrb nurses Birthers Defend Conservative Candidate's Bizarre Comment About Obama's Birth; 6 Shocking Discoveries About the GOP Senate Candidate http://www.alternet.org/story/145239/birthers_defend_conservative_candidate%27s_bizarre_comment_about_obama%27s_birth%3B_6_shocking_discoveries_about_the_gop_senate_candidate <!-- iCopyright Horizontal Tag --> <div class="icopyright-article-tools-horizontal icopyright-article-tools-right"> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_content_id = '660524'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/horz-toolbar.js"></script> <noscript> <a class="icopyright-article-tools-noscript" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=660524" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/> Click here for reuse options! </a> </noscript> </div> <div style="clear:both;"></div><!-- iCopyright Tag --> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We&#039;ve learned a lot of scary stuff about Massachusetts Senate candidate Scott Brown in the past 10 days.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/default.jpg" alt="" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><strong>Prominent 'Birthers' Defend GOP Senate Candidate's Bizarre Remarks About Obama's Parents</strong></p> <p>By Max Blumenthal</p> <p>Leaders of the "birther" movement that has sought to discredit President Barack Obama’s status as an American citizen are defending Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown’s <a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://www.bluemassgroup.com/diary/18410/bmg-exclusive-scott-brown-thought-maybe-obama-was-born-out-of-wedlock">suggestion</a> that Obama was born out of wedlock.</p> <p><a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://www.andyforussenator.com/">Andy Martin,</a> a right-wing polemicist and perennial vanity candidate who <a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://contrariancommentary.blogspot.com/">claims</a> on the front page of his blog that Obama’s real father was the communist intellectual Frank Marshall Davis, said of Brown’s remarks, "I think this shows Mr. Brown is a lot smarter than I realized and he’s a lot more honest." Martin told me that he was planning to publish a defense of Brown on his Web site.</p> <p><a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-07-30/queen-of-the-birthers/">Orly Taitz,</a> the eccentric Orange County-based dental technician who has filed numerous failed lawsuits challenging Obama’s status as an American citizen, told me, "What [Scott] Brown is saying is true, which is that no one has seen a marriage certificate. I think the context in which he was saying this is that a lot of people are asking questions and want answers."</p> <p>Brown made his comments immediately after the Republican National Convention in a debate on the now-defunct local CN8 news channel. The key moment, during an exchange in which Brown was defending the honor of Sarah Palin, went as follows:</p> <blockquote> <p>Brown: Barack’s mom had him when she was, what, 18 years old?</p> <p>Guest: And married!</p> <p>Brown: Well, I don’t know about that.</p></blockquote> <p>Brown’s suggestion that Obama was born out of wedlock echoes claims Martin made during the 2008 campaign. As Blue Mass <a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://www.bluemassgroup.com/diary/18410/bmg-exclusive-scott-brown-thought-maybe-obama-was-born-out-of-wedlock">pointed out,</a> in July 2008, just before Brown made his notorious remarks, Martin <a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://contrariancommentary.blogspot.com/2008/07/new-york-news-conference-barack-obama.html">wrote:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Barack Obama, Senior, and Anne Dunham never married. Obama knows this fact. This is also why he keeps his white grandmother a virtual prisoner; she knows too, and she won’t lie.</p> <p>Through the past several decades Obama has pretended he 'didn’t know' the facts about his illegitimate birth. He thought he could get away with the big lie. And he almost did get away with it….</p> <p>His mother was promiscuous and had a child out of wedlock, in 1961, when that was still scandalous behavior. Is this Obama’s idea of ‘family values?’ Obviously, he has been deceiving the American people and hoping his advertising lies could overcome the truth. He has failed.</p></blockquote> <p>Martin has an extensive history of extreme statements and <a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://www.palmbeachpost.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/palmbeach/jose/entries/2008/10/10/hard_to_believe_but_a.html">bizarre behavior,</a> including a series of <a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://mediamatters.org/research/200810070011">anti-Semitic rants</a> that he described to me as "35-year-old rubbish." When Martin declared his <a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://www.andyforussenator.com/the_hawaii_years.htm">candidacy</a> in the Illinois Republican Senate primary and then <a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/06/andy-martin-gop-senate-ca_n_413624.html">attacked</a> frontrunner Mark Kirk as “a defacto pedophile,” Illinois GOP chairman Pat Brady <a style="color: rgb(42, 93, 176);" target="_blank" href="http://www.wbbm780.com/GOP-disavows-Martin/5986702">dismissed</a> him as "a sick man."</p> <p>Nevertheless, Martin is a prolific and popular figure within far-right Tea Party circles, prompting him to entertain the notion that his writings might have influenced Brown. "I’m not trying to say that [Brown] got the idea from me," he said, "but the fact is my work has had a lot of impact."</p> <p>For Martin, Taitz and the movement they represent, Brown's victory would be a watershed event. Though he has portrayed himself as a moderate, Martin sees Brown as a stealth candidate whose success would help move even the most hysterical birther claims about Obama’s background further into the mainstream.</p> <p>"I said to Obama himself that either you come clean about the truth or there will come a time when people will unelect you and delegitimize you," Martin said. "The mainstream media elected Barack Obama by refusing to tell the truth but I think that we might be witnessing a dam burst here."</p> <p style="margin-left: 300px; text-align: center;"><strong>*** </strong></p> <p><strong>6 Shocking Discoveries About Scott Brown</strong></p> <p>By Laura Clawson, <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/">Daily Kos</a></p> <p>The campaign against Scott Brown has effectively been 10 days long. Ten days is not a long time, but in that time we've learned a lot about Brown.</p> <p>1. Scott Brown suggested on television that President Obama was born out of wedlock, then <a href="http://www.americablog.com/2010/01/scott-brown-denies-suggesting-on-camera.html">tried to claim</a> that Martha Coakley was making things up when her campaign called attention to it.</p> <p>2. Scott Brown voted against aid to <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/1/15/825522/-MA-Sen:-Why-did-Scott-Brown-vote-against-aid-to-9-11-recovery-workers">9/11 recovery workers</a> because it was too expensive, while at the same time he was trying to <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/2010/01/16/justify-denying-911aid/">fund a golf course</a> in his district and give tax subsidies to corporations.</p> <p>3. Scott Brown tried to <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/1/16/825232/-MA-Sen:-Globe-Explains-What-Brown-Stands-For">deny emergency contraception to rape victims</a>. When he was called on it, he tried to deny the truth, then hid behind his daughters.</p> <p>4. Scott Brown claimed he didn't know anything about any <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/1/13/824820/-MA-Sen:-Scott-Browns-naked-ploy">Tea Parties</a>, even though he'd <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/1/14/824925/-MA-Sen:-Video-exposes-Browns-false-tea-party-claim">appeared at their rallies</a> and publicized <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/1/8/822728/-MA-Sen:-Hashtags-and-Teabags">fundraisers</a> they threw for him.</p> <p>5. Scott Brown opposes a fee to <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/1/16/825375/-MA-Sen:-Brown-Wants-to-Protect-Biggest-Banks">get back bailout money</a> from the biggest banks.</p> <p>6. Scott Brown supports a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/15/scott-brown-engaged-in-cu_n_425385.html">constitutional ban on gay marriage</a> and thinks two women raising a child is "just not normal."</p> <p>That's a lot to take in in 10 days. Imagine if there had been a longer campaign in which these stories emerged more gradually so voters had time to absorb them fully.</p> <p>Now imagine what else we'll know about Scott Brown in 10 more days.</p> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-bio field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->Max Blumenthal is the author of <em><a href="http://republicangomorrah.com/">Republican Gomorrah </a></em>(Basic/Nation Books, 2009). Contact him at <a href="mailto:%20maxblumenthal3000@yahoo.com">maxblumenthal3000@yahoo.com</a>. </div></div></div> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> <script type="text/javascript"> var icx_publication_id = 18566; var icx_copyright_notice = '2010 Alternet'; var icx_content_id = '660524'; </script> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://license.icopyright.net/rights/js/copyright-notice.js"></script> <noscript> <a style="color: #336699; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px;" href="http://license.icopyright.net/3.18566?icx_id=660524" target="_blank" title="Main menu of all reuse options"> <img height="25" width="27" border="0" align="bottom" alt="[Reuse options]" src="http://http://license.icopyright.net/images/icopy-w.png"/>Click here for reuse options!</a> </noscript> <!-- iCopyright Interactive Copyright Notice --> Mon, 18 Jan 2010 06:00:01 -0800 Max Blumenthal, Laura Clawson, AlterNet 660524 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics andy martin orly taitz scott brown taitz scott brown birther