Thursday, March 31, 2011

POLITICS - Wisconsin, Attempt to Ignore Legal Ruling

"Wis. judge declares union law not in effect" USA Today 3/31/2011


A Wisconsin judge ruled Thursday the state's divisive new collective bargaining law had not taken effect, and officials in Republican Gov. Scott Walker's administration say he plans to comply with the ruling and to halt preparations to begin deducting money from public workers' paychecks.

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued her declaration a day after Walker's aides said they believed the law was processed correctly and that they would continue efforts to enact it, despite the judge's warning to halt such efforts.

Two Walker administration officials who spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the governor hadn't publicly announced his plans said he would announce later Thursday that he would comply with Sumi's ruling.
A spokesman for Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald said he had nothing new to say beyond his previous statement that he didn't believe the judge had the authority to interject herself into the affairs of the Legislature given the separation of powers.

The last excerpt from Assembly Speaker spokesman, the "separation of powers" doctrine does NOT mean the legislative branch can do anything it wants.

The separation of powers exists so our judicial system can act as a check-and-balance against the abuses of legislators or administrations. That is, judges rule on whether or not they have broken the law. Legislators, or administrations, then have the option to correct what was found illegal, BUT they cannot ignore the ruling.

SCIENCE - It's Hot and Cold, Mercury

"In NASA’s Lens, Mercury Comes Into Focus" by KENNETH CHANG, New York Times 3/30/011

It’s really hot, really cold and maybe even a bit icy.

It is the planet Mercury, and this month it is ready for its extended close-up. On Wednesday, NASA showed off the first pictures taken by its Mercury Messenger spacecraft since entering the planet’s orbit on March 17. The Messenger is to spend at least a year photographing, measuring and studying Mercury.

The visit to Mercury is the last frontier of planetary exploration that NASA will reach for quite some time.

“This is the last of the classical planets, the planets known to the astronomers of Egypt and Greece and Rome and the Far East,” said Sean C. Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the mission’s principal investigator. “It’s an object that has captivated the imagination and the attention of astronomers for millennia.”

But never before has science had such a good front-row seat. “We’re there now,” Dr. Solomon said.

The space agency has sent orbiters to five planets — Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — but it will most likely be another decade or two before a spacecraft enters orbit around Uranus or Neptune. (A study on future planetary missions put a Uranus orbiter on the wish list.) NASA does have a spacecraft, New Horizons, that will zoom past Pluto in 2015, but, alas, Pluto is no longer counted as a planet.

Mercury has been seen close up, albeit briefly, in half a dozen flybys by NASA probes: three by the Mariner 10 in the 1970s and three by the Messenger in the last three years. But now that the Messenger has pulled into an orbit of Mercury, planetary scientists will be able to get their first long look at the smallest of the eight planets. The day side of Mercury can broil at 800 degrees Fahrenheit; the night side drops to minus 300 degrees.

Particularly intriguing, scientists say, are the shadows in craters near Mercury’s poles. There, the Sun never shines, and in the frigidity, some scientists expect that the Messenger will find frozen water.

The Messenger arrived at its final destination after a 6.5-year loop the loop through the inner solar system. A 15-minute engine burn slowed the spacecraft sufficiently for it to be captured by Mercury’s gravity.

By design, the Messenger loops around the planet on a highly elliptical orbit, dipping down as close to 160 miles to Mercury’s surface and rising as far up as 9,300 miles.

Since its arrival, engineers have been checking out the orbiter’s systems and gear. Finding everything in working order, they turned on the instruments, including the camera. The first picture, showing a bright crater called Debussy, was taken early Tuesday. By the end of Thursday, 1,500 photographs will have been taken. More than 75,000 are planned over the next year.

The spacecraft’s seven instruments have also begun measuring emissions of neutrons, X-rays and gamma rays, which will allow scientists to deduce many of the minerals of the surface. The extended observation will help them understand how Mercury, which is half the mass of Mars, still has a magnetic field — presumably generated by a molten outer core — while Mars does not.

James W. Head III, a geology professor at Brown University and an investigator on the Messenger mission, said Mercury could even give clues about how plate tectonics — the motion of pieces of crust — started on Earth. On other bodies, like Mars and the Earth’s moon, there is no sign of plate tectonics, with the crust remaining in one piece. On Mercury, however, there are long tectonic ridges extending thousands of miles, which could have represented the first stage of the crust breaking up into plates, although the pieces never started moving as on Earth.

“It’s kind of embryonic, halted,” Dr. Head said. “It didn’t quite get going, but it could give us clues.”

The spacecraft will officially begin its scientific measurements on Monday.

Link to slide show, First Close-Ups of Mercury (opens in new page)

Personal comment, learned something new.... Mars does not have a magnetic field.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WORLD - Japan Disaster and Chernobyl

"Revisiting Chernobyl: A Nuclear Disaster Site of Epic Proportions"
PBS Newshour 3/29/2011

SUPREME COURT - Everything Wal-Mart Supreme Court Case is BIG

"Supreme Court Hears Wal-Mart Gender Bias Discrimination Case"
PBS Newshour 3/29/2011

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Excerpt from transcript

GWEN IFILL (Newshour): Everything about today's Supreme Court case is big, from the scope -- it's the largest gender discrimination lawsuit in history -- to the defendant, the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, and to the financial stakes, estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

EDUCATION - Today's High-School Seniors

"High-School Seniors Predict Their Future" (interactive feature, audio with pics)
Photographs by DANIELLE LEVITT. Interviews by JENNIFER COLLINS, New York Times 3/22/2011

We asked 18 students about their 10-year plans. Hear the answers.

Interesting view of today's students from Patrick Henry High School, San Diego, CA

San Diego is my hometown, but I did not attend high school here.

LIBYA - Air Power and U.S. Role

"U.S. Gives Its Air Power Expansive Role in Libya" by ERIC SCHMITT, New York Times 3/28/2011


Even as President Obama on Monday described a narrower role for the United States in a NATO-led operation in Libya, the American military has been carrying out an expansive and increasingly potent air campaign to compel the Libyan Army to turn against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.

When the mission was launched, it was largely seen as having a limited, humanitarian agenda: to keep Colonel Qaddafi from attacking his own people. But the White House, the Pentagon and their European allies have given it the most expansive possible interpretation, amounting to an all-out assault on Libya’s military.

A growing armada of coalition warplanes, armed with more precise information about the location and abilities of Libyan Army units than was known a week ago, have effectively provided the air cover the ragtag opposition has needed to stave off certain defeat in its de facto eastern capital, Benghazi.

Allied aircraft are not only dropping 500-pound bombs on Libyan troops, they are also using psychological operations to try to break their will to fight, broadcasting messages in Arabic and English, telling Libyan soldiers and sailors to abandon their posts and go back to their homes and families, and to defy Colonel Qaddafi’s orders.

The Obama administration has been reluctant to call the operation an actual war, and it has sought to emphasize the involvement of a dozen other countries, particularly Italy, Britain and France. In his speech on Monday night, Mr. Obama, as he has in the past, portrayed the mission as a limited one, and described the United States’ role as “supporting.”

But interviews in recent days offer a fuller picture of American involvement, and show that it is far deeper than discussed in public and more instrumental to the fight than was previously known.

From the air, the United States is supplying much more firepower than any other country. The allies have fired nearly 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles since the campaign started on March 19, all but 7 from the United States. The United States has flown about 370 attack missions, and its allied partners have flown a similar number, but the Americans have dropped 455 precision-guided munitions compared with 147 from other coalition members.

Besides taking part in the airstrikes, the American military is taking the lead role in gathering intelligence, intercepting Libyan radio transmissions, for instance, and using the information to orchestrate attacks against the Libyan forces on the ground. And over the weekend the Air Force quietly sent three of its most fearsome weapons to the operation.

The strategy for White House officials nervous that the Libya operation could drag on for weeks or months, even under a NATO banner, is to hit Libyan forces hard enough to force them to oust Colonel Qaddafi, a result that Mr. Obama has openly encouraged.

“Certainly, the implied though not stated goal here is that the Libyan Army will decide they’re fighting for a losing cause,” said Gen. John P. Jumper, a retired Air Force chief of staff. “You’re probably dealing with a force that may not be totally motivated to continue this for the long haul.”

First, as I read this NYT article the tone seemed to be that what is happening is not a limited approach as stated. The NYT does have a right to its opinion.

Having said that, and viewed President Obama's speech tonight, I see current events as exactly what the President and the military leadership said we are doing. Hitting the Libyan military forces, jamming communications, and providing military intelligence (electronic) support just to name a few. To sum up my view, I consider any U.S. military action that does not involve troops on the ground as limited.

As for the leadership for this action in Libya, I applaud that we finally realize that the U.S. need not lead everything. It's about time we stopped behaving like we had all the answers, especially to others problems.


"Gadhafi's Exit Remains Central to U.S., Coalition Strategy in Libya"
PBS Newshour 3/29/2011


"Qaddafi offered refuge in Uganda" CBS News 3/30/2011

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi is welcome to live in the East African nation of Uganda, the president's spokesman told The Associated Press on Wednesday, in what appears to be the first country to offer him refuge.

An intense diplomatic effort is under way to find a country where Qaddafi can go, as an international military effort against Qaddafi's forces continues.

The spokesman for Uganda's president, Tamale Mirundi, told the AP that Qaddafi would be welcome in Uganda. He said Uganda's policy is to accept asylum seekers, especially because so many Ugandans fled the country during the longtime rule of dictator Idi Amin.

"So we have soft spots for asylum seekers. Qaddafi would be allowed to live here if he chooses to do so," Mirundi said.

Another possible reason Uganda might accept Qaddafi is that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is, like Qaddafi, among the old guard of African leaders. Museveni has been in power for 25 years, though he won re-election in February amid signs that many Ugandans still genuinely support him.

Qaddafi has been in power for more than 40 years.

Museveni had planned to travel to Libya in mid-March, but sent his foreign minister instead. Days later, Museveni issued a nine-page statement denouncing the U.S. and European military action for interfering in what he said was an internal matter. He also praised Qaddafi, though he urged the Libyan leader to negotiate with the rebels.

"Whatever his faults, is a true nationalist," Museveni said of Qaddafi. "I prefer nationalists to puppets of foreign interests."

One complicating factor to Qaddafi's living in Uganda may be the International Criminal Court, whose chief prosecutor has said he will decide by May whether to seek an indictment against Qaddafi. Uganda is a signatory to the statute that created the court.

Muslims in Uganda may welcome Qaddafi as well. Muslim leader Hamuza Kaduga noted that Qaddafi paid for a large modern mosque in Kampala and has supported other projects.

Uganda currently hosts more than 20,000 refugees from Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea and Rwanda.

JAPAN - A Generation of Radiation Effects?

"Long-Term Impacts of Fukushima Reactor Could Linger For 'A Generation or More'"
PBS Newshour 3/28/2011

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Monday, March 28, 2011

HUMAN RIGHTS - Protecting via Computers

"To Combat Human Rights Abuses, California Company Looks to Computer Code"
PBS Newshour 3/25/2011

Nonprofit Benetech Initiative (opens in new page)

SYRIA - Syrian Revolution?

"Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's Corleone Correlations"
PBS Newshour 3/25/2011

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

HEALTHCARE - Massachusetts Was Ahead on This Issue

"'RomneyCare' Facts and Falsehoods" by Lori Robertson, 3/25/2011



It has been nearly five years since Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed the state’s landmark health care law amid the political flourish of a fife and drum corps and 300 guests in Boston’s Faneuil Hall. The overhaul is largely seen as a blueprint for the sweeping federal legislation that followed, making the state a political target for critics of President Obama’s efforts.

Brian Rosman, research director for the advocacy group Health Care for All, still has his ticket from Romney’s signing displayed in his downtown office. Obviously, Rosman’s group is pleased that the state has tried to cover as many of the uninsured as possible. But the law passed with support from a wide range of stakeholders.

Massachusetts’ game plan shares several characteristics of the national legislation, but there are differences, including one major distinction: The level of vitriol directed at the federal law doesn’t exist here. Sure, there are criticisms and compromises, disagreements and disappointments — but they come with a distinct lack of the death-panel-type furor that rose up against the law Obama pushed.

Even the fiscally conservative, but nonpartisan, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is on board. President Michael J. Widmer calls the law “a well thought-out piece of legislation” that his group supported because, “we believe in public investments.” Widmer says: "There have been critics from the left and the right … that have not wanted the Massachusetts experiment … to succeed from the outset for different reasons. Most of those critics are either out of state," or academics or single-payer advocates. "And then, of course, you get the politicians on top of that."

Yes, the politicians. The Massachusetts plan has been attacked by opponents of the national law, liberal advocates of Canadian-style single-payer insurance for all, and conservative Republicans hoping to derail Romney’s presidential aspirations. For example, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, in a February interview with the Associated Press, said Romney should essentially apologize for the law and acknowledge that it “cost more, waiting times were higher, quality of care went down, people were greatly dissatisfied and it ended up having almost the polar opposite effect of what was intended.” We found that there’s not much truth in any of that.

As the 2012 presidential campaign gets under way in just a few months (believe it or not), we expect to see an increasing number of attacks on so-called "RomneyCare." So as part primer and part preemptive fact-checking, this article is our attempt to set the record straight. We found:
  • The major components of the state and federal law are similar, but details vary. The federal law put a greater emphasis on cost-control measures, for instance. Massachusetts is just now tackling that.

  • The state law was successful on one big goal: A little more than 98 percent of state residents now have insurance.

  • Claims that the law is "bankrupting" the state are greatly exaggerated. Costs rose more quickly than expected in the first few years, but are now in line with what the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation had estimated.

  • Small-business owners are perhaps the least happy stakeholders. Cheaper health plans for them through the state exchange haven’t materialized, as they hoped.

  • Despite claims to the contrary, there’s no clear evidence that the law had an adverse effect on waiting times. In fact, 62 percent of physicians say it didn’t.

  • Public support has been high. One poll found that 68.5 percent of nonelderly adults supported the law in 2006; 67 percent still do.

A detailed Analysis and source list follow in the full article.

Friday, March 25, 2011

AMERICA - Two on Change

"Many Americans Feel 'Stuck in a Rut' as Economy Improves, But Inequality Grows"
PBS Newshour 3/24/2011

"Census Data Show Hispanic Boom; Blacks Leave Cities for South, Suburbs"
PBS Newshour 3/24/2011

MIDDLE EAST - And Now Yemen

"Dignity, Justice Among Goals of Yemeni Protesters Seeking President's Ouster"
PBS Newshour 3/24/2011

Personal note on what is happening in the Middle East:

As a firm believer in human rights and freedom, what is happening now makes my heart sing.

For my fellow Americans, note that what is happening in the Middle East today is NOT lead by Muslim extremists that attacked us on 9/11, nor the leaders of countries like Iran, nor al-Qaeda, nor the Taliban. What is happening is from the Arab people, and their hopes and dreams.

POLITICS - The Blame Game..... Again

"Is Obama to Blame for $4 Gasoline?" Eugene Kiely, 3/24/2011


Democrats, Republicans spin oil data in dispute over high gas prices.


Conflicting, false and misleading statements on oil production and gasoline prices have become the currency of politicians lately, as oil tops $100 per barrel and gasoline hovers near $4 per gallon. Among some of the claims that got our attention:
  • Top Republicans blame President Obama’s moratorium on deepwater drilling for rising gasoline prices. The moratorium delayed drilling of some new wells, but did not affect the output of wells already in production. A projected drop in total domestic oil production this year should amount to six-tenths of 1 percent of all U.S. consumption of liquid fuels. A Wall Street oil analyst told us the moratorium has had "zero" effect on prices.

  • Obama said domestic oil production last year was its highest since 2003. That’s true — but U.S. oil production is projected to drop this year.

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy said "under this administration our output has gone down 13 percent." McCarthy is wrong — U.S. oil production was up in 2009 and 2010, and is projected to decline only 2 percent this year.

  • Sarah Palin said Obama is "allowing America to remain increasingly dependent on imports" from unstable countries. But there has been a decline — not an increase — in total oil imports from Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as countries identified by the State Department as "dangerous or unstable," since Obama took office.

A detailed analysis and source list follows in full article.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

AFRICA - Morocco Attempts to Stay Ahead of Events

"Fearing Wave of Unrest, Morocco's King Proposes Constitutional Changes"
PBS Newshour 3/23/2011

Morocco (opens in new page)

AMERICA - Our Nuclear Policy Post Japan Crisis

"After Japan Crisis, What's Next for U.S. Nuclear Policy, Plants?"
PBS Newshour 3/23/2011

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

EDUCATION - Federal Dollar Ripoff ?

Nationwide issue with hometown connection. Is this a ripoff of our tax dollars or not?

"Bridgepoint Booms Over Troubled Waters" by Will Carless and Liam Dillon, 3/23/2011


Signs of Bridgepoint Education's newfound prominence in San Diego begin as you're flying into the city's downtown Lindbergh Field airport. A few seconds before you land, you'll swoop past its name and logo, displayed in huge white letters at the top of 600 B Street, a downtown high-rise.

Bridgepoint announced its move into that building last spring, the same year the for-profit higher education company put its name on the Holiday Bowl college football game. The same year it began sponsoring the San Diego Symphony's Summer Pops series. The same year it injected itself into San Diego's political consciousness by donating to a campaign and lobbying city leaders for the first time.

Four years ago, Bridgepoint was barely a blip in San Diego. Today, it's made itself impossible to miss. Its operating profits have increased 5,000 percent during that time, to $216 million last year, and it's now the county's fifth-largest private employer. The latest phase of Bridgepoint's extraordinary growth has been putting its indelible stamp on the city it calls home.

"It was just — Boom! They're here," said Steve Cushman, a prominent businessman who worked with the company to secure the naming rights for the Holiday Bowl.

But Bridgepoint is undergoing another recent boom: Controversy.

Criticism of the company centers on its remarkable ability to attract students and remarkable failure to graduate them, all while receiving hundreds of millions in federal student aid dollars. The complaint: Bridgepoint has set up a system to use federal dollars to line investors' pockets rather than enrich students' minds.

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, held a Senate committee hearing focused exclusively on Bridgepoint, in which he criticized the company for spending considerably more on selling its services than teaching its students. Bridgepoint shouldn't make record profits from federal loan programs, Harkin said, while most of its students were dropping out. The company, whose primary university is located in Harkin's home state, had the highest student withdrawal rates of any for-profit school the senator's committee studied.

"I think this is a scam, an absolute scam," Harkin said at the hearing.

Last month, Iowa's attorney general launched an investigation of the company's business practices and requested three years' worth of Bridgepoint documents to inspect. And, in San Diego, former students and employees of Bridgepoint have accused the company of fraud and violating the state labor code in three class action lawsuits filed since the beginning of the year.

The company argues it's forging new paths in education. By harnessing technology and creating innovative education models, Bridgepoint says on a website it launched after the Senate committee hearing, it's been able to reach vast swathes of the population who might never before have dreamed of getting a college degree.

Bridgepoint has shown no signs of slowing down. But it's also made powerful enemies. As such a strong player in the region's economy, its success or failure in taking on those enemies is likely to resonate throughout the region.

The 'Potemkin University'

Bridgepoint's business model depends on one thing: Getting people into college who wouldn't otherwise go.

That involves paying hundreds of recruiters in San Diego office buildings to call around the country and find tens of thousands of people willing to enroll in a tiny college in rural Iowa. Ninety-nine percent of those students won't ever have to set foot in Iowa, since they'll be studying online.

And the bulk of the revenue Bridgepoint receives for educating students — at least 85 percent last year — comes straight from the federal government in the form of student loans.
Under Fire from Washington, Iowa and San Diego

While Bridgepoint has been winning fans in the local business community, it's faced some severe criticism from government overseers in Washington D.C. and Iowa.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin zeroed in on Bridgepoint two weeks ago in the latest in a series of hearings he has been holding about the for-profit education business. In a lengthy denunciation of the company, Harkin lambasted Bridgepoint for duplicity in its marketing, lavish executive compensation and dismal dropout rates.

The senator pointed out that while Bridgepoint was making record profits last year, 84 percent of the students in its two-year programs were dropping out, according to a sampling of students by his committee.

"In the world of for-profit higher education, spectacular business success is possible despite an equally spectacular record of student failure," Harkin said.

Since the hearing, Harkin has announced that he plans to introduce legislation to tighten the regulation of the for-profit education industry.

Clark declined an invitation to attend the hearing, but the company's new website devotes a lengthy section to responding to Harkin's concerns.

Bridgepoint says its education model serves the needs of "diverse, non-traditional students." Drop-out rates are likely to be higher because Bridgepoint offers education to older students, many of whom work full-time and aren't supported by their parents, the website states.

The Senate committee hearing was just the latest in a series of high-profile dressings-down for Bridgepoint.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General concluded the company paid recruiting staff based on the number of students they signed up for courses, something prohibited under federal law.

Last month, the company disclosed that Iowa's attorney general had launched its own investigation into Ashford University's business practices. It's not clear yet what the inquiry concerns, but the attorney general's asked to inspect three years' worth of company documents.

There are also potential problems in San Diego.

Since Jan. 1, three local law firms have launched class action lawsuits against Bridgepoint.

Bridgepoint students claim in two of those lawsuits that the company lied to them about how much their programs would cost and overcharged the federal government for their education. In the third lawsuit, Bridgepoint employees argued that the company denied them pay for required meal breaks and overtime.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

JAPAN - From Ambassador, Quake Crisis

"Japanese Ambassador to U.S. on Quake Recovery, Nuclear Crisis"
PBS Newshour 3/22/2011

LIBYA - If Not NATO, Then Who?

"Questions Over Control, Future of Libya Mission Split NATO Allies"
PBS Newshour 3/22/2011

HEALTHCARE - Reform Anniversary

"Adding Up Health Reform, One Year Later"
By Lea Winerman, Newshour 3/22/2011

(click for better view, then cursor icon + to full size)

Wednesday marks one year since health care reform was signed into law. The NewsHour takes a by-the-numbers look at some of the provisions that took effect during the law's first year.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MIDDLE EAST - What the Youth Say

Since the current uproar in the Middle East is lead by youth, these videos are insightful.

"A New Arab Generation Finds Its Voice" New York Times video series

Escalating violence has tempered the regional euphoria that followed the youth-led revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. And yet, young people will continue to play an important role in the Arab Spring. This month, The New York Times interviewed more than two dozen of them, from Morocco to the West Bank, to find out how they consider their moment in history and their generation's prospects for the future.

Monday, March 21, 2011

ARIZONA - Win for Constitutional Law

"Birthright citizenship, immigration bills fail in Republican-held Arizona Senate" by Kris Alingod, AHN News 3/18/2011

Arizona's GOP-held Senate has voted down five immigration bills that would have, among others, forced the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on the 14th Amendment. The state last year enacted a controversial immigration law allowing police to detain people suspected of being illegal immigrants.

Republicans split during the vote late Thursday, with some joining Democrats to defeat what critics said would require education and health professionals to become immigration law enforcers.

One bill, SB 1611, was a proposal from Republican Senate President Russell Pearce banning illegal immigrants from state universities and community colleges.

It also would have required kindergarten and grade schools to ask parents for documentation of the legal status of their children. Moreover, the bill would have prohibited aliens from driving in the state and buying a vehicle.

Pearce was the author of SB 1070, which was approved last year, heightening debate nationwide on how to institute meaningful immigration reform.

Two measures introduced by state Sen. Steve Smith related to medical treatment and education.

SB 1405 would have required hospital workers to report illegal immigrants and patients unable to provide proof of legal status. The bill does not deny medical care for aliens who need emergency care but would deny admission to those who do not need non-emergency service.

The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association had urged lawmakers to vote against SB 1405, warning that hospitals would be burdened to check the citizenship of all patents, which amounted to more than 3.4 million in 2009.

The group added that the bill would compromise medical care because patients, including children and the elderly, or their families would have to bring documentation, and the admission of urgent but non-emergency patients could quickly become an emergency situation without proper care. Hospitals also follow "pre-admit orders" from doctors seeking to expedite treatment for patients.

"Since pediatric and elderly institutionalized patients generally do not carry any of the identification," the association had said. "With an average length of stay of four days, many of these patients would be ready for discharge before the hospital can review and confirm the prescribed identifying documentation."

Smith's other proposal, SB 1406, requires the Department of Education to gather data on the legal status of students and submit reports on how much the state is spending to educate students who are illegal immigrants.

The two other bills rejected by the senators would have sought a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the 14th Amendment, which grants birthright citizenship.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry had made clear that it opposed all five bills, citing concerns among business leaders about another immigration controversy affecting their companies and employees.

Chamber president Glenn Hamer said in an op-ed that despite staying neutral during last year's passage of SB 1070, Arizona companies were directly affected by the law.

"Conventions were canceled, companies lost contracts, boycotts were carried out and the state’s image took a hit. There was an economic price to pay for Arizona going it alone," he said.

Hamer said he had received a letter signed by 60 business executives and another from 20 local chambers urging lawmakers not to redefine the concept of citizenship and to "instead direct its energy to pressing Congress for meaningful immigration reform."

"These chambers and executives are not part of some conspiracy to flood the U.S. workforce with cheap labor," he said. "It’s rare for individuals of such prominence to take such a public stance on a controversial issue, but it’s indicative of how damaging they believe passing these laws could be to Arizona’s future."

The five measures are part of a larger push by the GOP in several states to deny birthright citizenship to aliens. But the initiative in the Grand Canyon State faces particularly difficult questions, including the granting of citizenship to Native Americans only in 1924.

In the U.S. Senate, two lawmakers are pushing a resolution to "close a loophole" in the 14th Amendment. Under the proposal from Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Paul Vitter (R-LA), a child born on U.S. soil must have at least a parent who is either naturalized, a legal citizen, an legal immigrant or active member of the military before citizenship is conferred.

The resolution from Paul and Vitter were introduced after the DREAM Act, a Democratic bill providing children of aliens a path to citizenship if they finish two years of either college or military service, failed in the Senate.

Despite having safeguards such as age limits and years of residency before the bill is enacted, Democrats had failed to gain enough support for the legislation.

Republicans had criticized the bill for giving amnesty to illegal immigrants and exacerbating the nation's fiscal problems. They had warned it would promote "chain migration" in spite of a provision banning students from sponsoring members of their extended family.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), had argued, "Young people were brought to the U.S. and should not be punished for their parents' choices."

Anti-Constitution Arizona GOP looses again.

MIDDLE EAST - Syria and Turmoil

"Where Does Syria Stand Amid Wave of Arab World Protests?"
PBS Newshour 3/18/2011

"Turmoil in Arab World: Deepening Divisions or Turning a New Page?"
PBS Newshour 3/21/2011

I find the discussion in this last video very informative and insightful.


"U.S.-Led Assault Nears Goal in Libya" by ELISABETH BUMILLER and KAREEM FAHIM, New York Times 3/21/2011


An American-led military campaign to destroy Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s air defenses and establish a no-fly zone over Libya has nearly accomplished its initial objectives, and the United States is moving swiftly to hand command to allies in Europe, American officials said Monday.

But the firepower of more than 130 Tomahawk cruise missiles and attacks by allied warplanes have not yet succeeded in accomplishing the more ambitious demands by the United States — repeated by President Obama in a letter to Congress on Monday — that Colonel Qaddafi withdraw his forces from embattled cities and cease all attacks against civilians.

Libyan government forces continued to engage in scattered fighting on Monday, defying the United Nations resolutions authorizing the allied strikes. The resolution demands an immediate cease-fire by Colonel Qaddafi’s forces and an end to attacks on civilians.

Pentagon officials are eager to extract the United States from a third armed conflict in a Muslim country as quickly as possible. But confusion broke out on Monday among the allies in Europe over who exactly would carry the military operation forward once the United States stepped back, and from where.

In Washington, lawmakers from both parties argued that Mr. Obama had exceeded his constitutional authority by authorizing the military’s participation without Congressional approval. The president said in a letter to Congress that he had the power to authorize the strikes, which would be limited in duration and scope, and that preventing a humanitarian disaster in Libya was in the national interest.

At the United Nations, the Security Council rejected a request from Libya for a meeting to discuss the situation.

LIBYA - UN Imposes a No-Fly Zone

"U.N. Security Council Passes Sweeping Measure to Rein in Gadhafi"
PBS Newshour 3/17/2011

(Newshour) EDITOR'S NOTE: As this discussion was being taped, the U.N. Security Council voted 10-0 to OK a no-fly zone over Libya and employ "all necessary measures" to protect citizens from Moammar Gadhafi's forces. Russia, China and Germany were among the five abstentions.

"U.S. Military Takes Lead Role in Libya, But Endgame Remains Unclear"
PBS Newshour 3/21/2011

Excerpt from transcript

MAJ. GEN. DUTCH REMKES (RET.), U.S. Air Force: We have been working with these coalition partners for many, many years, as you know. And NATO has certainly a very strong and capable command-and-control function. It's been that way for over 50 years. So, I don't see that as being a real challenge.

I think you are always going to see the U.S. involved in some way, whether it's on the sides or as part of the main operation. But as the president said, we're going to start handing out the reins to NATO and the coalition forces to carry on.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

POLITICS - Rift With GOP 'Chicken Littles'

"GOP rift forms as House passes stopgap spending bill. What happens next?" by Gail Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor 3/15/2011


Republican freshmen revolt, saying the three-week spending bill cuts too little – $6 billion – from the 2011 budget. House Democrats who backed the measure say the GOP rift gives them an edge.

In a dramatic House vote, 54 Republicans broke ranks with their own leadership Tuesday to oppose a three-week stopgap measure to keep government funded beyond March 18, when the current continuing resolution expires.

The spending bill, which passed 271 to 178, cuts $6 billion from fiscal year 2010 spending levels. It now heads to the Senate, where the Democratic majority leader promises action this week.

The rift in Republican ranks caps a week of high frustration in which neither the Senate nor the White House brought a plan to the table that makes a dent in a projected $1.65 trillion deficit for the 2011 fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1. Conservatives, including many in the 87-member GOP freshman class, say the time for a showdown with Democrats – and with their own leadership – over the need for significant budget cuts is now.


"Some in GOP grow tired of right wing" by Marin Cogan and Jake Sherman, Politico 3/16/2011


Some veteran Republican House members are pushing back against conservative deficit hawks who are pushing for endlessly deep spending cuts, saying the right wing of the party is creating unnecessary divisions for the GOP majority.

While the 54 Republicans who voted against the most recent stopgap spending bill didn’t derail the legislation, some GOP lawmakers are becoming increasingly wary of a faction that rejects substantial spending cuts because they want deeper ones or the inclusion of divisive social policy riders.

Many of the critics are close to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who struggles more each day to keep his majority unified as a three-month spending showdown threatens to spill into April. The House passed $6 billion of spending cuts Tuesday, to bring the total cut to $10 billion.

“Yep, it is surprising,” Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson said of the difficulty convincing hard-liners that the leadership is cutting large amounts of spending. “I mean, this is three weeks; we’re cutting $6 billion. You know? It is surprising. This is the only time in my life where I can cut $6 billion in a three-week period and be called a liberal.”

SCIENCE - First Rock From the Sun

"First Rock From the Sun: NASA Set to Explore Mercury's Extreme Atmosphere"
PBS Newshour 3/16/2011

JAPAN - Risks and Questions

"Japan's Radiation Leak: What Are Health Risks Locally, Globally?"
PBS Newshour 3/16/2011

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

"Japan's Nuclear Crisis Raises Energy Questions in U.S"
PBS Newshour 3/16/2011

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

"It's too risky to keep Indian Point nuclear power plant open: Gov. Cuomo" by Douglas Feiden and Brian Kates, New York Daily News 3/17/2011


Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday called for shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant after a federal report branded it the most vulnerable to earthquakes in the nation.

"The suggestion is that of all the [104] power plants across the country, that the Indian Point power plant is most susceptible to an earthquake because Reactor No. 3 is on a fault [line]," Cuomo said as nuclear meltdown fears deepened in Japan.

"It should be closed. This plant in this proximity to the city was never a good risk."

Cuomo, who has long opposed the plant, spoke after new data from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission show the Hudson River plant was the most vulnerable to a quake.

It also came about two weeks after a judge let the Indian Point nuke plant - just 24 miles north of the Bronx - cut back on meltdown prevention.

In its 40-year history, Indian Point has suffered radiation leaks, useless warning sirens, transformer explosions and oil spills.

"Spent Fuel Pools: Assessing the Threat at Damaged Nuclear Plant"
PBS Newshour 3/17/2011

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

MIDDLE EAST - Saudi Troops in Bahrain

"What Role Will Saudi Troops Play in Neighboring Bahrain?"
PBS Newshour 3/14/2011

AMERICA - Income Inequality

(click for better view)

"Income Inequality Gap Widens Among U.S. Communities Over 30 Years" by Dante Chinni, PBS Newshour 3/14/2011


In the debate about income inequality in America, many stories miss an important point: rising disparities are not just about investment bankers versus autoworkers. They're about entire communities of "winners" and "losers." As we have noted with Patchwork Nation, as the long-term economic shifts in the United States happen, communities continue to diverge and the idea of "an American economy" increasingly looks like an anachronism.

To get a better understanding of the impact of the changing American economy at the community level, Patchwork Nation looked at median family income in 1980 and compared it to the same number from 2010 in our 12 county types. The results indicate just how seriously the last 30 years have affected different kinds of communities.

The numbers, which appear in April's Atlantic Monthly, show that more than half of our county types, seven out of our 12, actually had a lower median family income in 2010 than they did 30 years ago. The figures, 1980 data from the Census and 2010 estimates from the firm Geolytics, were adjusted for inflation. (2010 Census data by county are not yet available.)

That doesn't mean that, for most the part American families are worse off. The most populous county types in the country - the Monied Burbs, Industrial Metropolises and Boom Towns - all saw growth overall.

But it does show that there are communities that are finding the transition to a new economy much more difficult than others. And those challenges raise serious question for policymakers in Washington.

Growing Gaps

Compared to 1980, the communities that have been hit the hardest are the Latino-heavy communities we call Immigration Nation. They saw their median family income fall from $42,795 in 1980 to $38,941 in 2010 - a decline of $3,854. In large part, that's likely due to the influx of immigrants with lower educational and skill levels into these communities, primarily located in the Southwest.

There was also a big drop in the small-town Service Worker Center counties, where the median family incomes fell by about $2,500 between 1980 and 2010. In those places, the story is mostly about the loss of small manufacturing. Those counties, many of which are fairly remote, survive because people in surrounding areas visit to do business. Without an influx of dollars from something else, like small manufacturing or tourism, times can be tight.

Rural, agricultural Tractor Country also took a hit with a drop of more than $2,700 in median family income.

Many of the other county types found their median family income numbers essentially unchanged - with small rises or small declines - but some places have done far better.

The Boom Towns, which grew dramatically at the beginning of the last decade, saw median family incomes rise by about $2,000. The big-city Industrial Metros bumped up by about $2,300. And the wealthy, suburban Monied Burbs saw their median family incomes climb by more than $3,700.

One way to think of the changes is this: The highest median family income in Patchwork Nation in 1980 was the Monied Burbs at $55,688, while the poorest was Minority Central at $36,869 - a difference of $18,819. In 2010, the numbers were $59,404 for the Monied Burbs and $36,130 for Minority Central - a difference of $23,274.

In other words, the already-wide income gap between the wealthiest county type in Patchwork Nation and the poorest grew by more than $4,400 in the last 30 years in inflation-adjusted dollars.

There are a few provisos that come with looking at the numbers this way, of course.

Some places, particularly the Industrial Metropolis counties, have massive disparities within them. American big cities are full of examples of extreme wealth just blocks away examples of extreme poverty.

And remember 2010 was not exactly a banner year for the American economy. It was the depths of recession. These numbers may bounce back some in the years to come. But many economists believe what was lost in the recession may be gone for quite some time - that the "Great Recession" was structural in nature and Americans have to prepare for a new world that may look more like it.

Now What?

One reaction to all these numbers may be, so what? The numbers here reflect what happens when an economy changes and global competition rocks an economic boat that used to be steady.

Maybe. But particularly in the U.S., these numbers have real significance - and not just from the standpoint of equality and fairness.

The U.S. economy, ultimately, is built on the fact that Americans spend money. About two-thirds of the economy is consumer spending. And these numbers raise a few questions.

First, increasingly the weight of the economy is being placed on a few types of places -- for the most part, places that are better educated and wealthier. The buying power of other communities is not only struggling to keep up, it is falling behind. Is that best for a consumer economy?

And second, what happens if the American socioeconomic system, essentially, functions on two tracks? Will the people living places on the lower tracks stand for that and for how long?

(click for better view)

"In Ohio, How 2 Counties' Economic Paths Diverged Over 30 Years"
PBS Newshour 3/15/2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

JAPAN - Quake/Tsunami Roundup

"Japan Reels From Tsunami, Quake: Did Preparations Work?"
PBS Newshour 3/11/2011

Other links:

Friday, March 11, 2011

OPINION - A Good Question, Republicans and Far Right Leaning Toward Fascism?

"Republican Fascism" by Dean Walker, aka Hurricane Dean 3/10/2011


Are the Republicans and the far Right leaning toward fascism? That sounds like a radical question, and certainly not all Republicans are fascists, but let’s consider past and current historical events.

We need to start with a little history. Benito Mussolini is recognized as the father of fascism. When asked how he would describe his movement Mussolini responded, “Fascism should more appropriately be called 'Corporatism' because it is a merger of state and corporate power”. Political scientists have long described fascism as a blend of state and corporate power propped up by authoritarian nationalism. Given Mussolini’s other comments on authoritarianism and nationalism, it is doubtful he would have objected to this characterization.

Without a doubt, Adolf Hitler was inspired by and replicated in his own early rise many aspects of the fascist movement.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting the Republican Party has a master plan in which they are plotting to build gas chambers to kill all the Muslims, socialists, and gays. However, Republicans have been behaving much like the Fascists and Nazis movements during their early rise to power. Essentially, I am suggesting the Republicans and far Right-wing are taking the first few pages out of the Fascist Party playbook.
Once again, I’m not saying that the Republicans are like the Nazi’s or the Fascists in their grand plan toward a “final solution”. However, what I am arguing is that they are embracing some of the same ideological beliefs and tactics that two of the most dangerous political movements the world has ever seen. What I am saying is the Republicans, Tea Party, and other elements of the far Right are creeping toward fascism. What I am also saying is that American’s need to seriously look back history in order to avoid repeating it.

Fox News, radical Right-wing radio, and extremist’s blogs have been purposefully misleading their sheepeople. They are have been propagandizing the flock to believe liberals and liberalism is related to fascism. A recent revisionist history book titled “Liberal Fascism” became a best seller amongst Right-wing ideologues. All the while Fox News stars and talk radio hosts like Laura Ingraham and Glenn Beck, along with a host of Tea Party speakers, have been sinisterly misquoting Niemoller’s profound poem with absurd quotes like, “First they came for the rich, and I did not speak out because I was not rich, Then they confiscated the property owners, Then they took away our right to bear arms, but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t armed.”

I don’t know what is more perverse, the fact that the extremist Right-wingers are flipping history and Niemoller’s poem on its head, or the fact that the very folks misquoting history are all rich, property owners stockpiling guns?

Clearly demonstrated, and contrary to what the crazy Right-wing has been saying, Fascism is simply another word for “corporatism.” It is the empowerment of militant, rich property owners over minority groups like Socialists, unionists, teachers, and press. It is a movement that demonizes liberals and religious minorities, while propping up ardent militant nationalism.

So I ask you, does this sound anything like what we are seeing in America today? To repeat myself, I’m not saying Republicans are plotting out sites for mass graves. However, Republicans and the far Right-wing in America have been involved in an onslaught of verbal and violent attacks on socialists, unions, and minorities. The radicals on the Right have attempted to paint our school teachers and the press as simple pawns of “Chairman” Obama.
Imagine an America where the Commander and Chief manufactures a crises, declares a state of emergency, and then replaces all the democratically elected officials with corporate shills that support his own personal ambitions. That is how soft-core fascism works. That is also what has now been permitted to happen in Michigan, thanks to the corporate shill Repugs. Are the Republicans and the far Right-wing leaning toward fascism? There is certainly reason to believe this might be true. Nonetheless, only history will tell us if the Republicans will ultimately abandon democracy for the absolute power a fascist/corporatocracy.

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me–
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

- Martin Niemoller, German theologian

On a personal note: My brother-in-law lived through Nazi occupation in Europe (his mother and he came to the U.S. after WWII), and he has the same opinion on what he sees happening in America today. The same thing that happened in Europe in the years preceding WWII. Which is why I take his opinion to heart.

Readers, please consider Dean's article seriously.

AMERICA - The McCarthy 2 Hearings

"Reps. Ellison, McCaul Weigh Radicalization Concerns Against Singling Out Islam"
PBS Newshour 3/10/2010

POLITICS - Sneaky Underhanded Wisconsin Republicans

"Wisconsin Protesters Vow to Fight Vote to Curb Bargaining Rights" PBS Newshour Transcript 3/10/2011 (includes video)


JIM LEHRER (Newshour Editor): Majority Republicans approved a bill to strip most collective bargaining rights from public employees. Democrats had boycotted the Senate for three weeks to prevent a quorum and thus block action. But Republicans finally got around that obstacle with a simple procedural move.
JIM LEHRER: A short time later, the Republican-controlled state Assembly also passed the bill, over the complaints of Democrats.
JIM LEHRER: The measure now goes to Walker, who says he will sign it as soon as he can, legally.
JIM LEHRER: What was this simple procedural move that was used last night by the Senate?

FREDERICA FREYBERG, Wisconsin Public Television: Well, what the Senate did was they called a conference committee of six members of the Senate and the Assembly. Only one was a Democrat, that being in the Assembly.

And this conference committee then passed this amended version of this bill. And under this conference committee, they were able to pass it, over the objections of that Democrat, and then send it directly to the Senate floor. And they said they were able to do this because they were in special session and had good cause.

Now, the Democrats are crying foul, saying that there wasn't adequate notification of this meeting, and so they're saying that it's a violation of the open meetings law. But the Republicans say that it's been all squared with all of their legal authorities, and that under this rule of good cause in a special session, they were able to strip the appropriations out of the original bill and then vote this through, and basically then taking the collective bargaining language and passing that last night and then again today in the Assembly.

JIM LEHRER: By taking the appropriations out, that meant that they didn't need -- they did not need a quorum required when it was in that, correct?

FREDERICA FREYBERG: That's -- that's -- that's what they're saying.

The Democrats reject that and suggest that they may well, in fact, go to court over that, over of the language in the bill, because the governor had been saying all along that this was a fiscal bill. And so the collective bargaining needed to stay in it. And the Senate originally had said that, because it was a fiscal bill, they need the Democrats to be there for the quorum.

But now, apparently, it has to do with appropriations in the bill, as opposed to anything that had fiscal consequence, because, of course, the collective bargaining language in the bill does have fiscal consequence in part because under this bill employees, state employees, local employees, school employees, are required to pay more for their health-care contributions and for their pension contributions.

JIM LEHRER: But, as you say, this is probably going to be sorted out in somebody's courtroom; is that correct?

Republicans; sneaky, underhanded, anti-little-guy, and anti-union. Typical 'we are going to get our way no matter what' attitude.


"In Wisconsin Battle on Unions, State Democrats See a Gift" by MONICA DAVEY and A. G. SULZBERGER, New York Times 3/10/2011


After nearly a month of angry demonstrations and procedural maneuvering in the State Capitol here, Gov. Scott Walker won his battle on Thursday to cut bargaining rights for most government workers in Wisconsin.

But his victory, after the State Assembly passed the bill, also carries risks for the state’s Republicans who swept into power last November.

Democratic-leaning voters appeared energized by the battle over collective bargaining on a national stage. The fight has already spurred a list of potential recall elections for state lawmakers this spring. Protesters are planning more large demonstrations this weekend.

“From a policy perspective, this is terrible,” said Mike Tate, the leader of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

“But from a political perspective, he could not have handed us a bigger gift,” Mr. Tate said of the governor.

In the last 24 hours, he added, the state party had received $360,000 in contributions and volunteers have streamed into offices where signatures were being collected for recall bids.
The Democrats fumed that the Republicans had ended the episode in less than a day, with the Democrats still out of town, by forcing a rewritten bill that needed no quorum through the Senate on Wednesday night and the Assembly on Thursday. Though the outcome of the vote was all but certain, each side made its case one more time in the final hours of debate.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

AMERICA - Transatlantic Health Gap

"England 'healthier than the US'" by Michelle Roberts, BBC News 3/9/2011

People living in England enjoy better health than Americans, despite less investment in healthcare, research published in the US has revealed.

Across all ages, US residents tend to fare worse in terms of diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease markers, data on over 100,000 people show.

The reason remains a mystery, says the US team, and challenges the idea that resources necessarily improve health.

It may be due to the UK's bigger drive on disease prevention, they say.

Transatlantic health gap

Despite the greater use of health care technology in the US, Americans receive less preventive health care than their English counterparts.

They have fewer physician consultations per year.

Acute hospital visits are also shorter in the US, potentially resulting in missed opportunities for follow-up, say the report authors in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

It is also possible that differences in social or environmental conditions or lifestyle play a role.

But despite looking, the researchers did not find any real evidence that differences in obesity, alcohol consumption or physical activity were to blame.

Smoking may be a factor, but Dr Melissa Martinson and colleagues doubt it because even younger Americans who have not yet been exposed to decades of tobacco smoke appear to be in worse health than English counterparts.

And although a larger share of Americans are uninsured or under insured compared to populations in England or other European countries, even groups with good access to health insurance experienced worse health than people in England.

The researchers say: "Why health status differs so dramatically in these two countries, which share much in terms of history and culture, is an unresolved puzzle.

"Given our finding of health differences between the US and England at young ages, a promising focus of future research - one that could help to elucidate the causes of poor health across the life course - is on health differences between countries at the earliest ages."

Public health experts suggested more generous holiday entitlements and more favorable working conditions in the UK might also play a part.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health said: "The NHS offers care free to all at the point of use and based on need.

"Whilst in some areas our outcomes may be favorable compared with those in the US, we are still clear that we have a long way to go before we achieve outcomes comparable with the best performing health systems.

"That is exactly why we are modernizing the NHS."

Note that "bigger drive on disease prevention" is cited for the success of the Cuban Healthcare system (previous post, opens in new page), as well as other nations.

POLITICS - Evidence of the Real Republican Governor Agenda

"WI Senate GOP Leader Admits On-Air That His Goal Is To Defund Labor Unions, Hurt Obama’s Reelection Chances" by Lee Fang, Think Progress 3/9/2011

A prank call from a man purporting to be petrochemical billionaire David Koch to Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) a few weeks ago revealed that Walker had crafted his “budget repair” bill in a bid to crush the labor unions. The revelation was at odds with the GOP’s public argument, that removing collective bargaining rights has something to do with the state’s budget deficit.

In an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly moments ago, State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI), one of Walker’s closest allies in the legislature, confirmed the true political motive of Walker’s anti-union push. Fitzgerald explained that “this battle” is about eliminating unions so that “the money is not there” for the labor movement. Specifically, he said that the destruction of unions will make it “much more difficult” for President Obama to win reelection in Wisconsin:

FITZGERALD: Well if they flip the state senate, which is obviously their goal with eight recalls going on right now, they can take control of the labor unions. If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.

Fitzgerald’s transparent effort to defund his political opponents by stripping the rights of teachers and nurses is facing a backlash. In a few months, the defunders may be deposed. Following a report by ThinkProgress that several pro-Walker state lawmakers are eligible for recall, progressive activists around Wisconsin began filing the paperwork to remove eight GOP state senators from office.

AMERICA - Influence of the Wealthy, aka Killing the Middle Class

Comments on the Influence of the Wealthy
The Rachel Maddow Show 3/9/2011

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

AMERICA - And Now Mr. McCarthy II, Rep. Peter T. King (R)

"Domestic Terrorism Hearing Set to Begin" by SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, New York Times 3/10/2011

A much-anticipated Congressional hearing on homegrown Islamic terrorism — lambasted by critics as a throwback to McCarthyism — gets under way Thursday on Capitol Hill, featuring testimony from a Muslim member of Congress, the Los Angeles County sheriff and the relatives of two young men who embraced extremist violence.

The hearing, convened by Representative Peter T. King, the Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and represents parts of Long Island, is the first in a series that Mr. King says will explore the threat of Islamic fundamentalism inside the United States. The session, titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response” will also examine what the congressman asserts is the failure of some Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement.

Muslims and some law enforcement officials fear such a line of inquiry could be explosive, and Mr. King has been under intense pressure from critics to either delay the hearing or broaden its scope. He has said repeatedly that he has no intention of doing so — a message he reiterated Wednesday in an e-mail to supporters.

“There have been numerous protests and newspaper articles demonizing these hearings,” Mr. King wrote, “but I wanted to let you know that will not back down to the hysteria created by my opponents and will continue with the hearings.”

Mr. King’s detractors say it is he, not they, who are doing the demonizing. “I don’t see any hysteria; I see some real legitimate questions going on about why he is taking this approach,” Laura Murphy, an official with the American Civil Liberties Union here, said an interview Wednesday. “He started shaking the tree and these are the apples that are falling out.”

Controversy over the hearings has been building for weeks. Many Muslims fear they will be made targets, while religious and civil rights leaders are protesting what they see as ethnic profiling and the singling out of a particular minority. On Wednesday, a group of rabbis announced that they were starting a video campaign titled “Stand Together: Rabbis speak out against Islamophobia.”

Because counterterrorism officials rely on the cooperation of Muslims for tips and to foil plots, some law enforcement authorities are also raising alarms. They are concerned that the sessions will have the opposite of their intended effect, by making Muslims, who may already be nervous about talking to the authorities, even more nervous about doing so.

To drive home that point, Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who is his party’s senior member on the Homeland Security Committee, invited Sheriff Leroy Baca of Los Angeles County, who has deep ties with the Muslim community there, to be the Democrats’ lead witness.

“My witness is the only law enforcement person on the panel,” Mr. Thompson said in an interview Wednesday. “He has an understanding of working in the Muslim community, and his experience is that Muslims by and large are law-abiding people, and so to single them out in any kind of hearing is not good public policy.”

Other witnesses will include Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, who is Muslim and has branded the hearings “McCarthyistic”; Representatives Frank Wolf, Republican of Virginia, and John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, whose districts includes large Muslim populations; and M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Phoenix physician and founder of a group called the American Islamic Forum For Democracy, who has been deeply critical of some fellow Muslims.

But the witnesses who will attract perhaps the most interest are the two relatives of young men who, Mr. King has said, were recruited by terrorist groups.

One is Abdirizak Bihi, who runs the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis. His nephew, he has said, was among a group of young Somalis lured back to their native country by an Islamic extremist group, the Al Shabab. While there, the boy was killed.

The other is Melvin Bledsoe of Memphis, whose son, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, became a deeply observant Muslim in college. Mr. Muhammad traveled to Yemen to study Arabic, but later returned to the United States; in 2009, while working for his father’s tour bus company, he opened fire on a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark., killing one soldier and wounding another. He later sent a note to a judge saying he was a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terrorist group in Yemen.

In an interview Sunday evening, Mr. King said the two witnesses would detail “how this happened, what it did to their families, what it did to the community, how this originated in mosques.”

As tensions have built in recent weeks over the hearings, Mr. King has become as controversial as the hearing itself. Critics, pointing to his past as a supporter of the Irish Republican Army during its bloody campaign of attacking the British Army, say he himself was a backer of terrorism. (Mr. King was ultimately influential in using his ties to the I.R.A. to bring about peace in Northern Ireland.)

And some of his statements, like the assertion in a 2004 interview with Sean Hannity that “80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists,” have landed him in hot water. In a letter to Mr. King sent last month, the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights said it was “‘deeply troubled by the rhetoric” surrounding the hearings, and accused Mr. King of “perpetuating the dangerous myth” that mosques are breeding grounds for terror.

At least, unlike the McCarthy era, there is organized opposition to Congressman King's Islamophobia.


"Opinion: Self-destructing GOP" by Michael A. Cohen, Politico 3/10/2011


If the goal of House Republicans is to ensure their party remains the overwhelming province of white voters, this week’s House Homeland Security Committee hearings on radicalization among American Muslims is an excellent place to start.

Chairman Peter King’s lurid accusations that younger Muslims are embracing Al Qaeda, as well as the New York Republican’s bogus charges that Muslims refuse to cooperate with law enforcement on terrorism cases and that 80 percent of U.S. mosques are controlled by radical imams appear likely to alienate more minority voters. It seems a surefire way to guarantee that Republicans lose the support of yet another minority group it once assiduously courted.

Indeed, the drop-off in support of Republicans among Muslims continues a pattern of failed outreach to minority populations and scapegoating of nonwhite groups that has become a depressing part of GOP politics in the past four decades.