This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in an effort to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. we believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

FAIR USE NOTICE FAIR USE NOTICE: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for scientific, research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.

Read more at: http://www.etupdates.com/fair-use-notice/#.UpzWQRL3l5M | ET. Updates
FAIR USE NOTICE FAIR USE NOTICE: This page may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This website distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for scientific, research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107.

Read more at: http://www.etupdates.com/fair-use-notice/#.UpzWQRL3l5M | ET. Updates

All Blogs licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Boehner And Republicans Plan To Reverse Growth Numbers and Kill Jobs

more from Rmuse
Saturday, December, 6th, 2014, 3:58 pm

Share on Tumblr
Americans have had very little good news to celebrate over the past two years due to declining wages, unpunished racial killings, a rush toward theocracy, and most recently, the prospect of the most extremist right-wing Congress in the nation’s history. There has been steady good news on the economic front in consistent Wall Street gains, record corporate profits, world-leading oil exports, falling gas prices, and job growth numbers as a result of the Obama Administration’s rejection of Republican economic policies. However, now that Republicans will have control of both houses of Congress, they will start, immediately, passing legislation to revert back to Bush-era economics and undo the economic progress of the past six years. 
Republicans campaigned on, and have lied perpetually about their storied “40 bills” on job creation such as opening up our world leading oil production for American jobs, building Canadian corporation TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline, reducing tax rates for the rich and corporations, balancing the budget, and abolishing environmental regulations. Boehner and Paul Ryan have complained bitterly “that all 40 jobs bills are dying over there in the United States Senate.” 

The problem for Americans is that beginning in January the 40 jobs bills, all gifts to corporations, will be brought to life and instead of creating jobs, will create more wealth for the one-percent at the expense of the poor, the middle class, Americans’ health, and of course jobs; typical Republican economics.

None of the House jobs bills were designed to create even one job. It is difficult, indeed, to imagine any American believes that abolishing overtime pay, giving tax breaks and credits to corporations outsourcing Americans’ jobs, or providing tax incentives for the rich and corporations to conceal their wealth offshore will create jobs; but many are stupid enough to believe lying Republicans and probably think they did pass 46 jobs bills. But for any American capable of a 6-year old’s cognitive ability, or noted economic experts, the GOP’s jobs bills are a joke.

According to five noted economists who reviewed the storied jobs bills, three decades of trickle-down economics, current economic disasters in Republican states, and current economic successes in blue Democratic states, not one of the Republicans’ so-called “jobs bills” will have any measurable impact on job growth. In fact, as history proves, and Republicans intend, the bills serve to kill jobs and economic growth while promoting the Koch, Wall Street, and Republicans’ agenda; enrich the oil industry and corporations at the middle class and poor’s expense.

Some of the more absurd “jobs bills” are worth noting including four of Boehner’s so-called education bills purported to be monumental job creators. According to Cecilia Rouse, the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, “not one of them would affect job growth like Republicans claim.” Two of the bills require colleges to offer loan counseling and push the Department of Education to provide information for potential college attendees. Rouse said all colleges already have dedicated loan or financial aid counselors, and like the second bill, will not create any jobs.
The other two education “job creation” bills “seize control of primary education from the federal government by allowing states to transfer public school funding to underperforming private and religious charter schools; something the  Obama Education Department champions as part of its (not so stealthy) anti-union school privatization crusade. Much more on this in another article.

Republicans claim that cutting social programs is a sure-fire job creator, and they cite two special bills they claim boosts economic growth and creates an explosion of new jobs. One is Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget that every economist not with the Heritage Foundation said would “not only harm poor Americans, but also hinder job creation by depressing demand in the economy.”  The other proposal is a harsh work requirement to qualify for food stamps that will not create jobs for the majority of recipients who already work; including active-duty service members.

An economist at the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Strain, questioned exactly how imposing work requirements will create employment opportunities in a slow economy; particularly for the elderly and children who make up a substantial number of food stamp recipients. Strain said, “The problem with talking about these things is in a depressed economy, the jobs need to be there. If the jobs aren’t there, you can’t impose work requirements.” A Brookings economist, Gary Burtless, said that “pulling people’s fingernails out in order to get them to take a job does not add to the total stock of jobs in the economy.” It is important to note that Republicans are not interested in adding jobs, just cutting food stamp funding to give the wealthy tax cuts.

The largest number of bills are aimed at deregulating the dirty energy sector (oil, coal, and mining) that Republicans claim will create jobs by “saving companies a lot of money.” But according to University of Michigan public policy professor specializing in environmental policy, Barry Rabe, “It’s sort of a classic argument”  from Republicans to claim that any these bills would help Americans who are looking for more jobs.  Rabe said that the bills are a response to Obama’s environmental goals that will put a damper on the Republican goal of “saving energy companies a lot of money.” For example, one “jobs” bill bans the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing emissions standards, and another “job creation bill” requires the EPA to give its authority to Republicans in Congress.  The total number of jobs created from both bills is absolutely zero, but the total profit for the Kochs to decimate the environment, like the other bills enriching corporations, is immeasurable; but that is the whole point of every one of the Republicans’ so-called jobs bills.

The only reason there has been consistent job and economic growth since Republicans crashed the economy during the Bush era is because President Obama has rejected their disastrous economic policies. In fact, the Obama Administration has presided over the best job creation streak since 1939, and so far 2014 has been the strongest year for job growth since 1999; all in spite of  Republicans’ Herculean attempts to kill jobs, thwart economic growth, and basically do nothing but bitch and moan about immigration, Obamacare, Ebola, Benghazi, and something about a WTF war on religion.

The President is certainly going to be busy using his veto over the next two years, because as is their wont, Republicans will do everything in their power to decimate the economic gains in jobs, GDP growth, revenue, and  debt reduction as a result of a Democrat in the White House. It too bad the Americans who voted for Republicans according to their promise of enacting the 46 jobs bills that do not create jobs were too racist, too religious, and too incredibly stupid to notice that the only reason there has been record job growth is because Republicans did not control Congress. Next month that changes and for the next two years they will do everything in their power to reverse the past few years impressive job growth numbers, give the rich more tax breaks, kill regulations, and keep Americans’ wages from growing.
Boehner And Republicans Plan To Reverse Growth Numbers and Kill Jobs was written by Rmuse for PoliticusUSA.
© PoliticusUSA, Sat, Dec 6th, 2014 — All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Paul Ryan’s stunning hypocrisy: The little-noticed way the GOP proved it’s full of it


Paul Ryan’s stunning hypocrisy: The little-noticed way the GOP proved it’s full of it

GOP's still banging the "Grubergate" drum -- but an under-the-radar push from Ryan shows they don't mean a word

Paul Ryan's stunning hypocrisy: The little-noticed way the GOP proved it's full of itPaul Ryan (Credit: AP/John Minchillo)
As a general rule, I try not to write about hypocrisy in politics. It’s such a constant, such a fact of life, that it can feel a bit like complaining about traffic or the weather.

But just as there’s a difference between waiting an extra 20 minutes during rush hour and being stranded in your car for five days — or between a typical snowstorm and what’s happening currently in Buffalo — there’s a difference between the routine hypocrisy of politics and the kind we saw this week from Republicans in the House. One kind is an annoyance to be quickly forgotten; the other leaves a mark.

Before getting into why they’re so egregious, however, let’s pause to recap the Congressional GOP’s recent machinations.

Aware no doubt of how President Obama’s announcement this week on immigration reform would dominate both the media and the public’s attention, Republicans in the House, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, have been working to make sure the next head of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — which acts as Congress’s honest broker when it comes to scoring fiscal policy — is not a nonpartisan technocrat, as has usually been the case, but rather a loyal member of the conservative movement. And, as former CBO chief Peter Orszag recently explained, because the CBO has no institutional protections from partisan hackery, and maintains its integrity mostly through tradition, there’s precious little anyone can do to stop them.

While there are no doubt many changes ideologues like Ryan would like to see the CBO make, reports indicate that the main reason GOPers want to install a right-wing hack as its chief is in order to make the agency integrate “dynamic scoring” more fully into its estimations. “Dynamic scoring,” for those who don’t know, is a phrase conservatives like to use to give a tenet of their anti-tax religion — lower taxes lead to more revenue! — an intellectual gloss. More importantly, dynamic scoring is generally the special sauce right-wing “wonks” put into their projections in order to claim that massively cutting taxes on the rich won’t lead to fiscal ruin. Remember the absurd claim that Bush’s tax cuts wouldn’t explode deficits? Thank dynamic scoring for that.

So that’s what’s happening under the radar with the CBO. And if that were the whole story, it’d probably fall under into the “routine traffic and weather” category of hypocrisy I mentioned earlier. What makes this more of a Buffalo snowstorm-level problem is the context — specifically, the fact that Republicans are destroying yet another norm of American politics, the nonpartisan CBO, at the very same time that they’re waging a relentless and disingenuous campaign to persuade the media (and thus the American people) that the way the Affordable Care Act was written was a breach of democratic norms without precedent.

Yes, this is where “Grubergate,” the most recent of the GOP’s seemingly endless supply of manufactured outrages, comes in. If you’re not familiar with this tempest in a teapot, I recommend you catch up by reading my colleague Joan Walsh. But for our purposes here, all you need to know is that Republicans have been devoting a ton of energy toward making MIT’s Jonathan Gruber’s admission, that the White House designed Obamacare with the likely political ramifications of the CBO score in mind, equivalent to the 18-minute gap in the Nixon tapes. Because the president knew that calling something in the bill a “penalty” instead of a “tax” would make it harder for conservatives to scream that Obamacare was the tax hike to end all tax hikes — as they did (and are still doing) with Hillarycare — that means, conservatives argue, that the bill itself was only able to pass through the most dastardly lies.

As BuzzFeed’s Adam Serwer noted, the Grubergate politicking is most likely an attempt to lay the groundwork for defending a possible future Supreme Court gutting of the ACA. (Although Gruber’s confirming the right’s suspicions of liberal technocrat elitism and piggishness, by calling voters stupid, is operational, too.) But when you see it through the lens of Ryan’s dynamic scoring push, you’re confronted with a level of bullshit that is flabbergasting — even in the context of partisan politics. According to Paul Ryan and other Republicans, it is absolutely not OK for a president to design a bill in a way that makes it harder for its opponents to demagogue. It is not OK to write a bill and think of the CBO at all. What is OK, apparently, is corrupting it from within.
Elias Isquith Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research


House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research

The "reform" measure makes room for industry-funded experts on the EPA's advisory board

House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA <em>on their own research</em>John Boehner (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
Congressional climate wars were dominated Tuesday by the U.S. Senate, which spent the day debating, and ultimately failing to pass, a bill approving the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While all that was happening, and largely unnoticed, the House was busy doing what it does best: attacking science.

H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would shake up the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board, placing restrictions on those pesky scientists and creating room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations.
The bill is being framed as a play for transparency: Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, argued that the board’s current structure is problematic because it  “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” The inclusion of industry experts, he said, would right this injustice.
But the White House, which threatened to veto the bill, said it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.”

In what might be the most ridiculous aspect of the whole thing, the bill forbids scientific experts from participating in “advisory activities” that either directly or indirectly involve their own work. In case that wasn’t clear: experts would be forbidden from sharing their expertise in their own research — the bizarre assumption, apparently, being that having conducted peer-reviewed studies on a topic would constitute a conflict of interest. “In other words,” wrote Union of Concerned Scientists director Andrew A. Rosenberg in an editorial for RollCall, “academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.”

Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., summed up what was going on: “I get it, you don’t like science,” he told bill sponsor Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.”

The House, alas, is staying the course, voting this week on two other bills aimed at impeding the EPA, including one that prevents the agency from relying on what it calls “secret science” in crafting its regulations — but which in reality, opponents argue, would effectively block the EPA from adopting any new rules to protect public health. The trio, wrote Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, in an editorial for the Hill, represents “the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”

The White House has threatened to veto all three.
Lindsay Abrams Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Republicans Are The Ultimate Takers Who Only Want To Give To The Wealthy That They Serve

more from Rmuse
Sunday, November, 9th, 2014, 5:05 pm

Boehner McConnell

There are several synonyms to describe the tendency, no habit, of Republicans’ idea of what it means to govern. Specifically, their habit of taking everything from the American people they can lay their grimy paws on. If Americans cannot recall, and it is likely their gross ignorance has taken what little memory they have left, that over the course of the past four years Republicans have attempted to seize, confiscate, rob, deprive, impound,  and snatch any and everything from the people. Regardless if it is their pensions, clean air and water, decent wages, healthcare, or religious freedom, Republicans have worked tirelessly to take everything from the people.

Even if some Americans do grasp the concept of Republicans as the ultimate takers, they likely fail to comprehend that the GOP are ultimately monumental givers; it is that spirit of generosity that drives their habit of robbing the people. Of course, over the past two decades and  leading up to the present, Republicans have never had any intent to give anything to the people, but it is important for the population to understand that their only motivation for taking from the people, besides sheer hatred and contempt, is to give to the people they serve; the rich.

It did not take more than a day after the midterm election results were reported for Republicans to announce in an op-ed the first things they intend to take from the people. No-one but an idiot really expected otherwise. However, if the main stream media were doing their jobs, they would have reported that in their written admission of stealing from the people, Boehner and McConnell were actually announcing what they intended to give to the Koch brothers, big business, and school privatization crusaders; gifts they were promised as recompense for their undying support and millions of dollars in campaign contributions. And, gifts they have attempted to hand over to the filthy fascists since the took control of the House; under the guise of “jobs bills.”

Americans should not focus so much on what Republicans will take from them, they will have plenty of years to look back in remorse and regret putting them in charge of the Congress,  what they need to give their undivided attention to is what they are giving their wealthy masters. The three items Boehner and McConnell listed as “job creation” measures, abolishing employer-provided healthcare for part-time employees, violating the Constitution and approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and privatizing education under the “more charter schools” scam, will provide nothing for the people and everything for their corporate masters.

GOP, and some Democratic, supporters are convinced that gaining an extra ten hours of work each week will lift them out of poverty and make them rich because giant retailers like Walmart, McDonalds, and Target are not required to provide basic healthcare insurance coverage. However, they will still be earning minimum wages until Republicans get around to abolishing it from the law; which will likely be relatively soon, and whether their pea-brains have figured it out yet, they are actually taking a wage cut. Walmart and McDonalds are not going to increase employees hours, and if they do it means they will cut their workforce; less jobs. They will also not provide healthcare that means if a worker wants it, they will pay out of pocket and it means their compensation is reduced. Oh, and for the trailer-park crowd in the former Confederacy assuming that because Walmart and McDonalds pays poverty wages they will still have access to Blue-state-provided food stamps and healthcare, the GOP has already passed legislation in the House to eviscerate those government programs with extreme prejudice. The gift to big corporations is they still get to pay poverty wages and avoid providing healthcare insurance and pad their bottom line. There will be no new jobs, over a million poor Americans will lose their healthcare, and corporations get a gift from Republicans.

There are many ways the Republican plan to violate the Constitution’s mandated Presidential authority is a gift to the Koch brothers, oil export industry, and Speaker of the House John Boehner. Never mind that unilaterally authorizing the immediate construction of Canada’s KeystoneXL pipeline is a monumental violation of the Constitution, as this column has reported for three years, the only beneficiaries will be Koch Industries’ refineries, exporters shipping Canada’s refined tar sand to Europe and China, and John Boehner’s stock portfolio. Remember, prior to taking control of the House and promising “hundreds-of-thousands of American jobs” in early 2011, Boehner bought stock in seven Canadian tar sand companies in 2010 in anticipation of the windfall from the pipeline’s construction.

The benefit to Americans is nothing.  In fact, it was refreshing, that except for one sentence buried in an interview with President Obama, Bernie Sanders is finally telling Americans fuel costs will rise because the Koch brothers will drain Midwest diesel reserves to expedite Canada’s tar through the pipeline on its way to the Gulf Coast and China to profit the foreign export industry. Americans will not see one drop of Canada’s oil and according to the oil industry, at best 1,500 to 2,000 temporary jobs will be created; for Canadian pipeline specialists and not Americans. Even the steel used in constructing the pipeline comes from Korea, so there is no benefit to American industry. What Republicans are taking is any hope of an environment whether from exacerbating climate change to pouring poison in the air and water when the rupture-prone pipeline begins leaking as every iteration of it has in Canada and America.

The greatest takeaway from the population, and gift to corporations, Republicans listed in their op-ed was robbing public school funding to increase the number of woefully inadequate and horridly underperforming charter schools to profit the private education industry. Republicans claim it is a gift to parents who want their children to be as ignorant, and biblically versed in science, as they are, but it is a huge gift to the privatization advocates. This is most troubling because President Obama said he and Republicans shared a desire for “education reform” that, according to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, privatization advocate Michelle Rhee, and President Obama includes transferring funding for public education to the charter school industry. More on this grossest of American abominations in another article.

Americans will learn that anything the emboldened Republicans are proposing as helping the people” is not-so-subtle code for taking something away. However, they should be well-aware that although Republicans exist to take everything from the people, they are taking it to give to their money-machine. In the case of the Keystone pipeline, Boehner is giving his stock portfolio a big boost in worth. The real travesty is that Republicans are just getting started and if the people are conscious, they should cringe every time the new Republican Congress announces they are helping the people. Because the primary reason they are “helping” by taking something away from the people is to give it their corporate masters; it is what they tried for four years in the House and now that they control the Senate, their largesse to the rich at the people’s expense will be epic.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Here Are Some Things That Soon-To-Be Iowa Senator Joni Ernst Actually Said

 Huffpost Politics

Here Are Some Things That Soon-To-Be Iowa Senator Joni Ernst Actually Said

 Joni Ernst

WASHINGTON -- Voters in Iowa elected Republican Joni Ernst to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, making her the state's first woman senator.

Ernst, a state senator and lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard, catapulted to stardom during the GOP primary with ads featuring her castrating hogs and pulling a handgun from her purse. The spots also helped Ernst win support from prominent Republicans, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. The woman who branded herself a "mother, soldier, leader” convinced Republicans she was the party's best chance to turn red a Senate seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

While Ernst propelled herself to victory by painting herself as a Midwestern woman who grew up on a farm, Democrats pointed to questionable statements to claim she's a hard-right conservative, if not a conspiracy theorist.

Agenda 21
While campaigning last November, Ernst backed a right-wing theory that the United Nations' sustainable development plan Agenda 21 is a conspiracy that would enable the government to strip Americans of their freedom and eliminate private property rights.
All of us agreed that Agenda 21 is a horrible idea. One of those implications to Americans, again, going back to what did it does do to the individual family here in the state of Iowa, and what I've seen, the implications that it has here is moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers, and then telling them that you don't have property rights anymore. These are all things that the UN is behind, and it's bad for the United States and bad for families here in the state of Iowa.
[Agenda 21 is a non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development.[1] It is a product of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. It is an action agenda for the UN, other multilateral organizations, and individual governments around the world that can be executed at local, national, and global levels. The "21" in Agenda 21 refers to the 21st Century. It has been affirmed and modified at subsequent UN conferences. Agenda 21's goal is to help the environment and was agreed at Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Local Agenda 21 is Agenda 21 on a local scale, a saying is "think globally act locally" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agenda_21]

States Can Nullify Federal Laws
At a forum held by Iowa's Faith & Freedom Coalition in July, Ernst suggested that states can somehow nullify laws passed by the federal government.
You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. senator, why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right ... we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the 10th Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators -- as senators or congressman -- that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.
WMDs In Iraq
Ernst told the Des Moines Register's editorial board in May that she believed there were weapons of mass destruction found during the United States' invasion of Iraq. From the Daily Beast:
"We don't know that there were weapons on the ground when we went in," she said, "however, I do have reason to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." When a Register reporter quizzed her on what information she has, Ernst said, "My husband served in Saudi Arabia as the Army Central Command sergeant major for a year and that's a hot-button topic in that area."
Ernst later clarified those comments in a statement conceding that there were no WMDs in Iraq, although the country had used them before.
47 Percent Mentality
Audio recorded by Radio Iowa in 2013 revealed that Ernst, like many conservatives, holds a "makers vs. takers" view toward social welfare programs. But as Greg Sargent reported, her comments went further than former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's infamous "47 percent" video.
We’re looking at Obamacare right now. Once we start with those benefits in January, how are we going to get people off of those? It’s exponentially harder to remove people once they’ve already been on those programs ... we rely on government for absolutely everything. And in the years since I was a small girl up until now into my adulthood with children of my own, we have lost a reliance on not only our own families, but so much of what our churches and private organizations used to do. They used to have wonderful food pantries. They used to provide clothing for those that really needed it. But we have gotten away from that. Now we’re at a point where the government will just give away anything.
Climate Change Skeptic
While hardly unique among Republicans, Ernst has claimed she does not possess the scientific knowhow to weigh in on whether humans are causing climate change. But she did chalk it up to "cyclic changes in the weather" during an interview in May.
Yes, we do see climates change, but I have not seen proven proof that it is entirely man-made. I think we do have cyclic changes in weather, and I think that's been throughout the course of history. What impact is man-made. ... but I do think we can educate people to make good choices.
She Really Likes Her Gun
An ad featuring Ernst shooting at a target that is supposed to represent the federal government isn't the first time she has used such a stark metaphor. Speaking at a 2012 NRA event, Ernst said her firearm would help protect her if the government imposes on her rights.
I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family -- whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important.
Ernst also has suggested that President Barack Obama should be impeached, expressed openness to privatizing Social Security, called for abortion providers to be punished if a fetal personhood bill were passed, and opposed a federal minimum wage hike.


Joni Ernst hits a new low for anti-science conservatives: waving off germ theory

04 Nov 2014 at 09:21 ET     

As Tom Boggioni here at Raw Story reported yesterday, Joni Ernst, whose bugfuck wingnuttery has managed to fly mostly under the national radar this election season, hit a shocking new low in terms of conservative science denial: Claiming that disease transmission is a matter of “opinion”, not biological fact. Charles Pierce of Esquire reported his bizarre encounter with her on this:
“With Ebola, we see he’s very hands-off. He’s not leading. He’s not leeeaaading,” she said, drawing out that last word like a conjurer casting a spell. I suggested to her that, well, at that moment, one person in America — Dr. Craig Spencer — had Ebola. Her eyes went hard, like the wheels of a slot machine fastening on tilt.
“Well, you’re the press. That’s your opinion.”
Say what?
“But that’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. Only one person in America has Ebola.”
“But he’s not a leeaader,” Ernst said, again. “What he can do is make sure that all of those agencies are coordinating together and make sure that he is sharing that information with the American people, that he cares about their safety.”
It’s worth pointing out that, like with all other aspects of this ridiculous ebola panic, the racism driving it is fairly obvious. Ernst’s entire argument against Obama is a variation on ugly stereotypes about black people being lazy, except she uses a synonym—”apathetic”—and hopes the rest of us don’t notice. It’s a charge that’s so ridiculous, when applied to a man like Obama, that giving it a moment’s thought makes the racism of it screamingly obvious.

Alas, we live in a society where it’s considered impolite to notice even blatant racism as long as the racist manages to do a half-assed effort at coding it, by using a synonym for the racist thing she’s saying, in this case. But blatantly denying incontrovertible facts, like what ebola is and whether or not it can be diagnosed by “opinion”? Needless to say, if Ernst wins, she’s going to be a regular producer of WTF headlines, giving prior contenders like Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann a run for their money.

One more observation: One of the oddest things about midterm elections is how frequently politicians, particularly Republicans, will run on issues that the office they’re vying for has little to no power to deal with. Ernst here is running against Obama, not her actual opponent Bruce Braley. But if she wins, guess what? Obama is still going to be in office. Now, running against him isn’t necessarily illegitimate, if the issues were stuff where her vote could sway policy. But how he’s handling ISIS or whether or not he’s panicking over a non-epidemic to your satisfaction cannot be moved by a vote for Ernst. It is utterly irrelevant.

Monday, October 6, 2014

ALEC is coming to a city block near you

Al Jazeera America


Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The conservative think tank known for flooding state legislatures with its agenda is starting to think locally

October 6, 2014 6:00PM ET
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has long made headlines as a conservative policy-sharing network that has pushed an agenda of voter suppression and dismantling of public education at the state level. Now the group, backed by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, is going local with its new initiative, the American City County Exchange (ACCE). Soon, city government or county commission policies could be generated at the same right-wing think tank that has attacked environmental protections, attempted to undermine the rights of workers and made it harder for people to vote.

At a time of congressional gridlock and partisan rancor, local policies are easier to come by at the local level, with business and citizen groups coming together to generate solutions to problems such as affordable housing, public transit, open space and good-paying jobs. At the heart of these efforts is the spirit of regional collaboration among people who will have to live with the consequences of policy.

ALEC, with its new project, plans to interrupt that collaborative policymaking process by coming in from the outside with model bills based on an ideological obsession with privatization rather than on local knowledge about what works.

Progress grows local

Some of the most successful, life-improving policies in metro regions involve partnerships among elected officials, private corporations and grass-roots activists. What has made collaboration successful is the fact that stakeholders come together. I saw this firsthand during more than a decade of work in Silicon Valley. There the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (a business consortium) worked with organized labor and community groups to ask for funding for quality public transit and the development of affordable housing. One result of this collaboration was a sales-tax-funded public transit system that is being built to serve all residents of Santa Clara County.

The business community in Silicon Valley also partnered with organized labor around the issue of children’s health care. In 2001 the Santa Clara County government, at the behest of the South Bay Labor Council and local business leaders, set up a combination of property taxes, tobacco taxes and outside grants to fund a universal health care program for all children in the county. Though its funding was shaky at times, the program managed to cover 97 percent of the county’s children, until it became part of California’s Medicaid program in 2013.

ALEC wants to take the same sort of highly ideological agenda that has stunted progress in Washington and state capitals and impose it at the metro level.
Instead of trying to contribute to locally relevant solutions, ALEC’s new project hopes to take local stakeholders out of the equation. It plans to take cookie-cutter bills thought up by corporate lobbyists and try to push them through local government. From its state-level work, ALEC is known for its attacks on environmental protections, its opposition to employees’ rights such as paid sick days and for promoting “stand your ground” gun laws that have been used as legal cover for violence against young unarmed African-American men and women.

Privatization agenda

For city and local governments, ALEC’s primary focus is on privatization. Its new local push through the ACCE wants to “ease the way for corporations to take over local services,” as Jay Riestenberg, an analyst at Common Cause, recently told Bloomberg News.

Conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute have long pushed a smaller-government agenda of privatizing government services such as mass transit and utilities. They argue that instead of being run by elected public officials using tax dollars, these vital services should be funded and operated by private corporations in a competitive marketplace.

The problem with this is that privatization locks local government into contracts that remove democratic oversight. While city and county politicians face repercussions at the ballot box if they do not deliver services for their constituents, corporations can take the money and run — often leaving voters with few means to reverse bad decisions when services are compromised.
We have already seen at the state level that the negative consequences of ideologically driven privatization can be profound. For example, in Rhode Island, ALEC was successful in persuading state government to hand over its public employee pension fund to private hedge fund managers. As Matt Taibbi documented in Rolling Stone, the regret now runs deep among state lawmakers, who have seen their state pay out millions in servicing fees to these private hedge funds, while the pension fund — and city services — continue to suffer. “They pretty much took the COLA [cost of living pay raises for public workers] and gave it to a bunch of billionaires,” Providence’s retired firefighter union chief told Taibbi.

At the city level, perhaps the most prominent cautionary tale about privatization is Chicago’s move to sign a 75-year contract with finance company Morgan Stanley for the management of its parking meters. A city audit showed that the deal rested on an undervaluing of the meters and lost the city $1 billion as a result. In addition, Morgan Stanley recently sued the city over lost profit because of the periodic shutting down or moving of meters for street cleaning and city events. Chicago lost that lawsuit, to the tune of another $61 million. This means the city incurs additional cost when it wants to add protected bike lanes and bus routes and enact other interventions that could help reduce carbon emissions. And because the deal with Morgan Stanley is locked in for another 69 years, voters have little recourse. Future generations will suffer from this decision, which was made before they were born. They won’t be able to use their votes to reverse the parking meter fiasco.

“Local politics in America is the purest form of democracy,” Pittsburgh city council member Natalia Rudiak said to The Guardian about the ACCE. “There is no buffer between me and the public. So why would I want the involvement of a third party acting on behalf of a few corporate interests?”

Rudiak’s comment cuts to the core of the matter: ALEC wants to take the same sort of highly ideological agenda that has stunted progress in Washington and state capitals and impose it at the metro level. If Americans let them succeed, we will lose the most promising frontier in democratic policymaking today — local government — along with our communities.

Amy B. Dean is a fellow of the Century Foundation and a principal of ABD Ventures, a consulting firm that works to develop innovative strategies for organizations devoted to social change. She is a co-author, with David Reynolds, of “A New New Deal: How Regional Activism Will Reshape the American Labor Movement.”

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America's editorial policy.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The 7 strangest libertarian ideas


The 7 strangest libertarian ideas

"Parents should be allowed to let their kids starve" and other notions that lay bare the ideology's extremism

The 7 strangest libertarian ideasRand and Ron Paul (Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta/Cliff Owen)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.
AlterNetFew movements in the United States today harbor stranger political ideas than the self-proclaimed libertarians. The Rand Paul school of libertarianism is at least as far outside the mainstream on the right as, say, a rather doctrinaire old-school form of Marxism/Leninism is on the left. The difference is this: The mainstream media isn’t telling us that we’re in the middle of a “Marxist/Leninist moment.” Leninist politicians aren’t being touted as serious presidential contenders. And all the media chatter we’re hearing about a “Libertarian moment” ignores the very harsh, extreme and sometimes downright ugly ideas that are being disseminated under that banner.
It’s great to have allies like Rand Paul working alongside other Americans to defend our right to privacy, restrain the NSA and reduce the military/industrial complex’s grip on foreign policy. It’s possible to admire their political courage in these areas while at the same time recognize that we may not care for the environment they inhabit.
There’s another reason to challenge libertarians on the extreme nature of their ideology: A number of them seem determined to drive competing ideas out of the free market for ideas—which isn’t very libertarian of them. There has been a concerted effort to marginalize mainstream values and ideas about everything from workers’ rights to the role of government in national life. So by all means, let’s have an open debate. Let’s make sure that all ideas, no matter how unusual they may seem, are welcome for debate and consideration. But let’s not allow any political movement to become a Trojan horse, one which is allowed to have a “moment” without ever telling us what it really represents.
Obviously, not every self-proclaimed libertarian believes these ideas, but libertarianism is a space which nurtures them. Can the Republican Party really succeed by embracing this space? Why does the mainstream media treat libertarian ideas as somehow more legitimate than, say, the social welfare principles which guide Great Britain or Sweden?
Here are seven of modern libertarianism’s strangest and most extreme notions.

1. Parents should be allowed to let their children starve to death. We’re not making this up. From progressive writer Matt Bruenig (via Sean McElwee at Salon) comes this excerpt from libertarian economist Murray Rothbard:
“a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also … should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die.”
Note the repetitive use of the word “it” to describe the child. This linguistic dehumanization of helpless individuals is surprisingly common in libertarian literature. (See Ayn Rand and the young Alan Greenspan for further examples.)
Rothbard is a member of the so-called Austrian School of economics, cofounded the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and is widely admired among libertarians. He continues:
“The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive. (Again, whether or not a parent has a moral rather than a legally enforceable obligation to keep his child alive is a completely separate question.) This rule allows us to solve such vexing questions as: should a parent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feeding it)? The answer is of course yes, following a fortiori from the larger right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die. (Though, as we shall see below, in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such “neglect” down to a minimum.)”
In other words, society may have moral values, but it may not impose those values on anyone.
To his credit, Rothbard preaches a form of libertarianism which is internally consistent. That’s a virtue some of his peers in that community lack. But people should understand: this idea isn’t an outlier in the libertarian world. It is, in fact, a logical outgrowth of the philosophy.
2. We must deregulate companies like Uber, even when they cheat. So-called ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber are actually taxi services using unlicensed contractors. They’re heavily promoted by libertarians who tout them as ideal examples of the free market as a counter to bureaucratized, more traditional taxicab services.
We now know that Uber is as ruthless in its anticompetitive tactics as it is hypocritical in its public statements. A recent report from the Verge shows that Uber employees frequently hire drivers from competitor Lyft for short, relatively unprofitable rides in an attempt to recruit them. Uber promised to “tone down” these tactics. Instead, in a related move, its employees made and then canceled 5,493 Lyft reservations, reducing the availability of Lyft drivers and hurting its drivers.
Yet here’s what Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had to say about taxis:
“The taxi industry [is] trying to protect a monopoly that has been granted them by local officials, so they’re trying to slow down competition.”
That sounds a lot like what Uber is doing. In a Twitter exchange this week, Kalanick insisted that Lyft drivers were welcome to sign with Uber while keeping their Lyft affiliation. But Uber lied to its own drivers about that recently in New York, when it sent out a text message falsely claiming that New York regulations barred them from signing with Lyft.
Have libertarians expressed their outrage with Uber for its dirty tricks, or for its assault on the idea of competition? Not at all. In fact, libertarian Nick Gillespie wrote in Time last March that, “Letting markets work to find new ways of delivering goods and services isn’t just better for customers in the short term, it’s the only way to unleash the innovation that ultimately propels long-term economic growth.”
Of course, “letting markets work” is precisely what Uber isn’t doing. Gillespie also expresses outrage that California has imposed regulations that include “mandatory criminal-background checks for drivers, licensing via public-utilities commissions, and driver-training programs.”
Which one of those things don’t you want to have in place when a driver comes to your house at four in the morning for an emergency drive to the hospital? But Gillespie equates regulators to “mobsters.”
(Update: Gillespie has been silent about these recent Uber revelations. For its part, Uber has hired former Obama aide David Plouffe, which means nothing politically but will help them leverage their market dominance and suppress competition even more. Expect further radio silence from the libertarian front.)
3. We should eliminate Social Security and Medicare. Libertarian/Republican icon Rand Paulholds with the libertarian faith in his steadfast opposition to both Medicare and Social Security. “The fundamental reason why Medicare is failing is why the Soviet Union failed,” says Paul. “Socialism doesn’t work.”
Except that Medicare isn’t failing. It provides healthcare at lower direct cost, lower administrative cost, and with lower cost inflation than equivalent private-sector insurance. Its biggest efficiency problem stems from the runaway profit motive in the delivery of healthcare. Medicare must purchase goods and services from for-profit medical corporations, hospital chains and pharmaceutical companies. (Conservatives have forbidden it from negotiating prices with Big Pharma.)
In other words: It’s the private sector, not government, which is causing our country’s healthcare problems.
Social Security is entirely self-funded through its own contributions. It has far lower costs than any equivalent private program. Medicare and Social Security annoy libertarians, not because they don’t work, but because they do, putting “free enterprise” in the dust.
4. Society doesn’t have the right to enforce basic justice in public places of business. From Rep. Ron Paul, Sen. Paul’s father:
“… the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.”
This was Rep. Paul’s reasoning in voting against a resolution which praised the Civil Rights Act. The libertarian position, as articulated by the Paul family, appears to be this: a business owner’s rights, even in a public place of business, extend to the ability to discriminate solely on the basis of skin color.
That is a violation of the United States Constitution, and of federal law. The libertarian position is that some laws cannot be enforced on private property. But which ones? If the government can’t forbid discrimination, can it forbid theft? Assault? Murder?
As with so many libertarian positions, the reasoning seems murky and the differences appear arbitrary. After all, won’t the free market eventually make a murderer’s business unpopular and force a correction to the killer’s behavior?
5. Selflessness is vile. From libertarian avatar and prophet Ayn Rand: “The man who attempts to live for others is a dependent. He is a parasite in motive and makes parasites of those he serves.”
Aid workers. Doctors Without Borders. Gandhi. Martin Luther King Jr. Mother Teresa. In this libertarian view, all of them are “parasites” who make parasites of those they serve—because, of course, the free market would eventually eliminate poverty. (Never mind the millions who would starve in the meantime.)
Not only are these good people “parasites” in this libertarian view, they are deliberately parasitical (“in motive”). They lack the nobility of character needed to act purely out of self-interest, like the murderer Ayn Rand so admired. As Mark Ames reported in 2012, Rand,
“became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of a 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation. Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burn… Rand was so smitten with Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation… on him.”
Rand described the child-killer as a “genuinely beautiful soul.” But that aid worker sweating in the Darfur heat, spooning food into a skeletal child’s mouth? Despicable.
This is not fringe libertarianism. Ayn Rand is its heart and soul.
6. Democracy is unacceptable, especially since we began feeding poor people and allowing women to vote. This isn’t a fringe idea, but one that was proclaimed in a prominent libertarian outlet by one of the movement’s leading funders:
Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of “capitalist democracy” into an oxymoron.
In the face of these realities, one would despair if one limited one’s horizon to the world of politics. I do not despair because I no longer believe that politics encompasses all possible futures of our world. In our time, the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms — from the totalitarian and fundamentalist catastrophes to the unthinking demos that guides so-called “social democracy.
Translation: Things have gone to hell with all those black and brown poor people around, especially with all those weak-willed women feeling sorry for them and voting to feed them. This isn’t your lunatic uncle talking. These are the words of Peter Thiel, PayPal billionaire and leading libertarian, not spoken in a drunken rage at Thanksgiving dinner, but published in Cato Unbound, perhaps the nation’s leading libertarian outlet.
Thiel clearly felt the heat on this one, since he was forced to append a statement at the end saying, “It would be absurd to suggest that women’s votes will be taken away or that this would solve the political problems that vex us,” adding: “While I don’t think any class of people should be disenfranchised, I have little hope that voting will make things better.”
Thiel’s prescription? “Escape” democracy by using technology to create spaces where the democratic process cannot go. His ideas include ocean colonization, or “seasteading”; outer space; and inevitably, “cyberspace.”
Unfortunately for the libertarian ethos, cyberspace is a government creation. The Internet, and the core technology which enables us to access it, were both created at government expense using government resources. But Thiel’s dream, the libertarian dream, is one in which publicly created tools, which should rightly be considered the modern “commons,” are usurped by a handful of ultra-wealthy individuals for their own undemocratic and noncompetitive purposes.
7. We can replace death with libertarianism. If they can’t bend us to their will in this lifetime, they’ll achieve the goal by other means. Thiel begins his Cato essay this way:
“I remain committed to the faith of my teenage years: to authentic human freedom as a precondition for the highest good. I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual.”
That’s right. The new libertarian ideology insists that private entrepreneurs will conquer death. Then they’ll force us to bend to their will in the new dominion of eternal life, whether in biochemically preserved flesh or as uploaded spirits in a digital netherworld. Either way, their freedom won’t be ours. Based on their past behavior, they’ll “monetize” our afterlife with advertising and by manipulating our artificial-life experiences.
Life extension has its merits, if handled humanely and justly. But an eternity of “curated content” governed by Silicon Valley billionaires? I’d rather die, thanks very much. And if the Republican Party accepts the “libertarian moment” as its new ideological covering, it apparently has a death wish too.
Richard (RJ) Eskow is a writer and policy analyst. He is a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America's Future and is host and managing editor of The Zero Hour on We Act Radio.